Saturday, July 29, 2006

Weapons Win Wars

Unfortunately few politicians understand this – Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars was a shining exception. Recently, pols in both the US and Israel decided not to deploy essential weapons, and people will die as a result. The president and Mr Olmert should reverse these foolish decisions immediately.

First, a historical example:


The great victory naval over the French and Spanish at Trafalgar was a consequence of one superior Brit weapon – the carronade. This was (p139):
...a short, light, wide calibre gun, with little recoil, known informally as "The Smasher" and…mounted on a fixed carriage. The bores of the guns could be machined with greater accuracy because they were short…as a result, less powder was necessary...

The largest carronade fired a 68 pound ball, making a large ragged and splintered hole in the enemy’s hull, difficult for enemy carpenters to plug. Carronades were, however, useless at long range; Nelson’s tactics were to bring his ships as close as possible to the enemy before he opened fire.
Like all weapons, the carronade was a compromise – devastating, but you had to get in close. It was successful because the Brits had Lord Nelson’s courage, tactical brilliance and leadership to have the Brit ships hold fire until they were very close.

Now consider here's a modern carronade:
On Thursday, July 20, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee cut funding for the Navy’s Conventional Trident Modification Program, a Bush administration plan to arm Trident-2 ballistic missiles deployed on submarines with conventional, as opposed to nuclear weapons.

Opponents have argued that such a weapon could cause Russia, China, or another third party to mistakenly perceive a U.S. nuclear missile attack.
That means that the US will not have the option of using kinetic weapons to take out the Iranian nuclear program.

So now the US must use nukes (which it won't), or lose B-2s and F-15s to the Russian/Iranian missile defenses. The Senate Armed Services Committee’s decision is particularly idiotic because the US can deal with the Russia/China concern (no doubt raised by State pinkos) by just extending the protocol the 3 nations now use to warn each other of test firings.

The Israelis can be doltish too (my ellipsis):
Uri Rubin, former head of the Arrow project (ABM system deployed against SRBMs), told me in an interview from Israel this week that the relatively poor accuracy of the cheap Katyushas has been an argument against investing in an expensive anti-Katyusha defense system. This cost-comparison calculus was one reason Israel shelved plans to deploy Northrop Grumman's THEL system, whose lasers routinely have shot down Katyushas at the Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Speaking this week about the earlier decision, Mr. Rubin said, "You also have to compare the cost of no defense"--for lives or infrastructure.

Mr. Rubin shared with me an unpublished paper he wrote with Dan Hazanovsky on "The Emerging Threat of Very Short-Range Ballistic Missiles," or VSBMs…the same dynamic that makes cheap, fast electronic products available to consumers will do the same to electronic missile weaponry.
Rubin is saying that Israel shouldn’t spend money on shooting down Katyushas – 1500 have hit it recently – but instead worry about an as-yet nonexistent threat of GPS guided short-range rockets. His is a common engineering management failing – he wants to solve tomorrow’s problem rather than use today’s boring and imperfect technology. Especially because solving tomorrow’s problem brings lots of nice R&D contracts! Brits call this reasoning "The best is the enemy of the good".

Israel is fighting for its existence, and the US faces a high mid-term risk of losing cities to Iranian and/or NoKo nukes. Neither nation can afford to entrust its weapons procurement to incompetents.

The president should immediately fund the Trident kinetic warhead as a black program – it’s so inexpensive, nobody will notice it. And put a John Bolton type in charge of the Russian/Chinese negotiation – State will just block it.

The Israelis should deploy THEL immediately – it won’t be perfect, but the IDF will quickly find how to use it best – positioning, provisioning, decoys etc. And, quite possibly, they'll find all they need to de-fang Hezbollah is a THEL screen in S. Lebanon, which will greatly improve Israel's political options.