Saturday, September 28, 2002

I just became aware of a really interesting company named Trident Maritime. A consortium of three companies, Trident will help shipping companies with all sorts of problems. Fleet management and communications, legal services and crisis management, support for luxury yachts such as training the crew, and security for fixed installations such as oil rigs and berths in port. One of the things I also like about their services is that they provide emergency medical training as well as their own medical staff. I'm sure that all of these services come with a massive price tag, but they sound very professional.

But what really got my eye was the anti-pirate training that they provide. Unfortunately they don't "advocate the use of firearms", just evasion and survival skills after the pirates catch you and throw you overboard. Nothing wrong with survival skills, they're good to have if things go horribly wrong. But I'd rather have the skills necessary to keep them off my boat in the first place. If some pirates should make it on board, then the only survival skills I'm interested in are those I need to convince them to leave.

Came across this web page for a husband and wife artist team that specializes in U.S. Coast Guard ocean scenes. Loading from the page is kinda slow, but some of the works are very striking. But the print that got my attention was the one in the upper right corner.

It's a painting of the U.S. Coast Guard training vessel Eagle. Originally built by Germany in 1937 to train Naval Cadets and named the Horst Wessel, the Eagle was seized by the U.S. as part of the war reperations. It has done a fine job of training our own ever since.

Besides being one of only five sailing ships being used for training in the world, the Eagle was also featured in one of the best time travel novels I've ever come across. Entitled Island in the Sea of Time, it's a very exciting adventure story written by S. M. Stirling.

It's worth a read, if you're into that kind of stuff.

I was looking around for some news about modern day pirates when I came across this item about a new armed cigarette boat that the United States Coast Guard is going to have in it's inventory.

In the last few decades the U.S.C.G. has been tasked with search and rescue, a job that I'd bet it does better than any other agency in the world. Added to this is the drug interdiction missions that it carries out every day, and the Coast Guard has shown a high degree of professionalism in this difficult law enforcement role.

9/11 turned the spotlight on some deficiencies, though. Physical protection of ships in public harbors wasn't high priority before the terrorist attack, but it certainly is now. The law enforcement work horse of the Coast Guard is the medium endurance cutter, an ocean going vessel armed with an automatic 5" gun on the bow. Perfect for running down smugglers, and with enough firepower to disable their vessels, it was obviously too big, slow and with a gun too powerful for in-harbor defense. The 110 foot patrol boats, as well as the 87 foot and 82 foot patrol boats, are geared for rescue missions. They don't have any armament at all excpet for small arms issued to the crew. Something better had to be found.

Though the Coast Guard has small, extremely fast and nimble pursuit boats for their drug interdiction missions, these boats are also unarmed and very vulnerable to gun fire. That's where the Guardian Transportable Port Security Boat comes in. Made with a rigid, bullet resistant hull, the Guardian is armed with a .50 caliber heavy machine gun mounted forward and a M60 light machine gun mounted aft. Designed to be air transportable in the Coast Guard's own cargo planes, the Guardian is a very capable craft for harbor defense.


Except it's not fast enough. With a top speed of only 25 knots, the Guardian could be outrun by many of the faster motor boats.

Enter the Defender, which is so new that I can't find a picture of it yet. Nothing I know of can outrun it's 50 knot top speed (that wasn't a typo, I said 50 knots!). It's more lightly armed than the Guardian, with 2 M60 light machine guns instead of one M60 and the .50 cal. Somehow I don't think anyone who get's on the Defender's bad side will notice.

In case anyone's interested, the fact sheet for the U.S. Coast Guard's vessels and aircraft can be found here.

And just to show you that the whole Defender idea idea is probably a good one, that muck raking rag in England called The Guardian has come out against it.

Friday, September 27, 2002

Last week I commented on a report by the American Physical Society that there was no real reason for the International Space Station to be funded any more. Scientists weren't using it for experiments, the public wasn't interested in it, and it took a pile of money to keep that bird up there above the clouds.

Today the APS reports that Russians want to shut the ICC down (scroll down to Item #3).

I've supported the ICC for years, mainly because it's the only game in town as far as space exploration goes. Unfortunately, the performance of the project has been dismal. The Russians, needed not for any advanced technology but for their large rockets needed to lift heavy payloads, have been buttheads about it. To be fair they don't have any money, so they've had a terrible time meeting their end of the ISS agreement. Components meeded for the construction of the space station have been delayed, and NASA finally had to put it's foot down. All in all, the fact that they managed to get as far as they did is an impressive achievement.

When the station first became operational I knew that it wasn't very impressive to look at, and even worse to live in. But I still had visions that maybe, someday, we might have the space station from the movie 2001 way up there. instead we're going to get something different.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Another item from is this chart that shows the relative combat power of the 40 most powerful navies. Notice the United States, which is listed at the bottom, has 53% of the world's combat power afloat.

Some points can be made about the methods used to calculate combat power, which would shift the percentages here and there by minuscule amounts. But there's little point in debating the fact that the U.S. could probably impose it's will on the rest of the world at least as far as the world's oceans are concerned. The fact that we don't is a good indication that recent claims about how the U.S. is an imperialistic power out to destroy dissent is simply not true.

One last point. Notice how both Russia and Britian have a combat power rating that's almost identical. I'd be very interested to see how this changes once Britian get's it's Future Aircraft Carriers on line and on station.

SrategyPage Roundup is a blog run by James Dunnigan, author and wargame designer (among other accomplishments).

There's always something of interest there. Today I found this item that discusses why the Special Forces are so successful at gaining trust from the local population. It's part of an impressive number of insightful articles on thr War on Terror.

We see that the U.S. is making demands about the ICC to any country that is trying to join NATO. Seems that the money needed to buy NATO standard equipment and train the troops in combined manuevers is too much for many countries to afford. The U.S. pays the tab, but now demands that the countries agree to never turn a U.S. soldier over to the ICC before the purse strings are untied.

All of the computer geeks out there should be interested in this item. Seems that there's been a series of statements by government officials about increasing defenses against information warfare, but little has been done. This subject has been explored in many articles in the past. It's a major item of interest to the authors.

As a followup to the item above, also has procedures for encrypting your data and increasing your PC's level of security. You can find the how-to pages here and here. If you want the entire list of articles about computer security that is on StrategyPage then you can find them here.
I was just reading Reynold's blog where he has a link to this article from the U.K. Spectator. It's a first person account of a mugging that occurred in London.

The woman who writes the article was walking alone when confronted by two drunk youths who stole her earrings. She had been repeatedly warned that walking alone in London was dangerous, but she had simply ignored the advice. While the assault was taking place she found herself hoping for a passerby to stop and help her. Of course no one seemed to pay the slightest attention.

This illustrates something that I try and tell my students: Nobody Cares. During an assault you're definately on your own. A very famous case in New York in 1964 illustrates that perfectly. In that incident, a woman was brutally attacked and raped while she lay dying from stab wounds in the full view of at least a dozen witnesses. No one even bothered to call the police. When you're the victim you have to rely on your own resources. There isn't any cavalry to come charging over the hill to your rescue.

Prof. Reynolds thinks that this illustrates an urgent need for the U.K. to repeal some of it's gun control laws. It's hard to argue with that. All credible research indicates that an armed public deters most violent crime.

Another point is that the police in England have justified restrictions on private gun ownership by stating that the public simply doesn't need to defend themselves. The police have stated that they're all that's needed for protection against criminals.

This is obviously false, as we in the U.S. have known for a long time. Criminals rarely plan their crimes, instead seizing the moment when a helpless victim appears and there's no chance of the police interfering. Few of us can afford armed bodyguards full time, and the police are never going to be numerous enough to be everywhere they're needed ("Never a cop around when you need one").

What's even more alarming is the way the police in England have reacted to these very sensible objections. They've tried to blanket the cities in the U.K. with cameras so they can watch everywhere, all the time. This has obviously been a complete failure in keeping crime from increasing, which is why they spent the money and installed the system in the first place. The police, not surprisingly, have insisted that crime isn't really rising. The apparent increase is just due to new ways of counting and recording the crimes.

So there you have it. Banning virtually all private ownership of firearms has done nothing except to make more victims for the rising number of violent criminals. The police have responded with levels of surveillance that the characters in 1984 would recognize. This has done nothing to reduce crime, and violent crime is increasing.

Jolly old England. Think I'll take my vacations here in the U.S.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

I'm reading Reynold's blog a few minutes agor and he has a link to this page from the Cristian Science Monitor. Glenn was talking about the first item, but a line from the second item, the one that talks about the recent attack on a Hindu temple, caught my eye.

"Two gunmen, armed with assault rifles, grenades, and energy snacks, stormed into the temple and opened fire on worshippers and police during a siege that lasted 14 hours."

The terrorists were killed by Indian commando's, but it was the mention of the energy bars that interested me. These guys were expecting to die in the attack, and they took along enough provisions to whether a long one. Letters were found in the pockets of the dead terrorists explaining their reasons for the attack, which would indicate that the perps were well aware of the propaganda value.

Scary guys.

Monday, September 23, 2002

Just saw this article about how France has sent troops in to try and maintain security for foriegners in civil war torn Ivory Coast.

The motives for doing this are admirable. Protect French citizens and other innocent lives that are at risk. But where is the U.N. resolution? Why didn't they consult with their allies? How come they didn't ask Germany's permission before they moved troops around?

I'm just being a smart as, of course. With events like these any waiting will cost lives. I'm just wondering why the U.S. get's savaged in the foreign press while France gets a pass.

Anyway, enough politics. Take a look at some of these bad boys, and I'm not talking about the soldiers. I could use some of those full auto, squad support guns. Not because I need them, just because they'd be neato. The guys at the range would all want a chance to shoot one of those.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

You guys should go on over to Megan McArdle's blog. She starts off talking about the German elections and sort of rants her way through international politics (ie: anti-Americanism).

She compares the United Nations to our Senate......."if two thirds of our senators were appointed by one or the other sort of non-representative government. And a large majority of the senators came from tiny states filled with illiterate subsitence farmers dying like flies. How anyone ever thought that this was going to be the basis for world government is beyond me."

She talks about the European political climate......."the Europeans have spent 50 years basking in our military protection, and they've gotten increasingly belligerent. They've forgotten that you need a quid to get some pro quo."

Megan points out what why the Germans would have to spend more on defense if the American people get pissed off....."then our troops are leaving. And that would devastate the German economy. Not just from the large amount of money we pump into various localities through our bases, but because they don't have an actual defense system that would, like, stop anyone from invading."

She states that the Germans think the Americans will never leave due to military reasons, but the U.S. ....."are not going to consider all the no-doubt sterling arguments about Germany's strategic importance. They are going to consider the fact that the leadership of their new government just told us to go piss up a rope, and return the favor."

Geez Louise, she shore writes purty!