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December 01, 2006

Oops. A chicken comes home to roost for the Coast Guard.

From the NYT's Eric Lipton:

After spending $100 million to renovate eight of its workhorse cutters, the Coast Guard will announce Thursday that it is suspending the use of the Florida-based patrol boats because of chronic hull cracking and engine problems.

And here's the message traffic on a subject you *don't* want to have been the Program Manager on...

ALCOAST 567/06
7. POC: CAPTAIN J. X. MONAGHAN, COMDT (CG-37RCU), (202)372-2321.

I can see the finger-pointing already between Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, and their subcontractor, Bollinger Shipyards of Lockport, La, with everybody probably ending up pointing at the Coast Guard.

The problem? The cutters had extensive hull modifications and were equipped with upgraded electronics and a 13-foot extension to accomodate an automated rear-boat launching system. They have been a problem since they came out of the refit in 2004. The hulls developed cracks, especially when subjected to heavy seas. One can understand the concern about being in a ship whose job it is to rescue people in things like... heavy seas... being prone to developing leaks or potentially having the stern fall off (which might be overstatement on my part, admittedly). Efforts to strengthen and reinforce the hulls with steel strips and to limit their use in heavy seas did not prevent the cracks - not to mention kinda obviated their purpose.

More details from the Navy Times, if you've the interest!

H/t, Larry K, whose son is a Coastie.

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! »

by John on Dec 01, 2006 | TrackBack (0)

July 04, 2006

USA, 230 years old today...

Fireworks over the National Mall


...and still behaving like a rebellious teenager, sticking our thumb in the eye of European plutocrats.




Despite the pinchfaced nose-in-the-air bemused disapproval of our maple-syrup-sipping sibling...


And we still hang around with Mom, though we did move her into the Carriage House out in back.


Apparently, we've annoyed a lot of family members with our antics of late.

Oh well. There was a reason we left, and many of them still exist. And lots of people still want to come live in our neighborhood.

Other's blogging it today...

Princess Crabby
Fuzzybear Lioness
Adjutant Barb
Alan (Hey, he's Canadian, give 'em a break)
Murray (who's a Kiwi) celebrates mid-winter in his own idiom.
Trias (The New Kid, and an Ozzie, has this to say)
Sanger (late, as usual)
SeawitchDaisy Cutter (okay, not a Denizen mebbe, but we likes 'em! And, um, came recommended by Seawitch, whom we likes!)

From Greyhawk's Milblogs group
Austin Bay
The Stupid Shall Be Punished.
CDR Salamander
Neptunus Lex
Miserable Donuts
Soldier's Mom
The Will To Exist

by John on Jul 04, 2006
» She Who Will Be Obeyed! links with: Happy Independence Day!
» The Glittering Eye links with: Catching my eye on the Fourth of July, 2006
» Echo9er links with: Challenger

January 26, 2006

Black Jack, can ya hear me?

Given that certainly *some* of these are actually smugglers posing as Mexican authorities - one can imagine the International Outcry™ among the Usual Suspects™ if these incursions were going the other direction? If the Mexicans *want* us to put the military on the border, this is certainly a way to go about it. Actually I'm sure it's all part of a shadowy international anti-war activist/rogue government cartel to compel the US to return its forces to the US to secure our Southern Border. Hmmmmm. Now - do we have to look at that Canadian revitalization of their military thingy in a new, more sinister, light? Will they stab us in the back as our attention is turned south, and seize Detroit and Seattle? Not to mention, Minot. Of course, we've got experience taking down badly-run corrupt Third World nations, perhaps a little Thunder Run to the nearest Mexican Army base would impress upon the soldados that they should stay on their side of the line. Punitive Expedition, anyone?

Heh. Dave points out he got here WAAAAAAY ahead o' me!

by John on Jan 26, 2006

September 02, 2005

New Orleans, Katrina, Louisiana, the Feds.

UPDATE: For those of you who may be looking for contact info in helping to find family and friends impacted by Katrina, or if you are a refugee who wants to let people know you are okay - Dawn's Early Light has a round-up of websites and phone numbers to help you pass the information along.

UPDATE 2: Chuck Simmins is tracking the giving.

To date: Cash: $161,619,257.00

Goods and Services: $12,169,000.00

Update 3: Greyhawk lists the webpages that military people affected by the Hurricane might find useful. - contact info for military families displaced by Katrina (also a great collection of news releases on the military efforts in hurricane relief) - info for Guard families impacted by the storm. - info for getting deployed Guard members in touch with their families who might be displaced by the storm - and vice versa.

Update 4: As Alan so helpfully points out:

Hey - you have 1,000 guys from Halifax, Nova Scotia heading down there. The Canadian navy is on the way.

OK - it is a small navy...we all know it is a small navy...but at least
they carry their own beer wherever they go.

And we appreciate it Alan, eh? Alan is also a fan of Russ Honore'...

This is the original post....

I actually took today off so I could do some emailing, phone-calling, web-surfing, etc, trying to build a more coherent picture (flawed as it is) of what's going on down in Louisiana.

My thoughts on the subject are informed by the fact that I spent two years as one of those guys in the Army whose job it was to do the generic plans for incident responses (from a DoD perspective, and *ALWAYS* subordinate to FEMA - they're the Big Dog), designing and executing training events to rehearse the plans, and, now and then, implement them, though during that time there was no event ever approaching the magnitude of what's happening in Louisiana right now. But ask me about that exercise we did with Seattle that resulted in 10,000 notional dead and injured, with a concomitant breakdown in social control... my point being - we actually *do* planning (or at least did) for events of this size.

Some of the New Madrid earthquake scenarios, especially the winter ones... were visions of Apocalypse. Imagine flattening good chunks of St. Louis and Memphis - in January. And losing the bridges over the Mississipi (which means you can't barge people and equipment, either), and we don't want to even *think* about the economic impact of losing the I-70 and I-40 bridges... much less the rail bridges.

The weather makes your response focus completely different, because the shelter requirements suddenly become astounding and compelling. You're thinking tent cities in 10 degree weather become nightmares. Clothing, keeping pipes from freezing, sanitation.... I'm thinking 10,000 suddenly homeless people dumped into that weather... in the clothes they had on at the time... There's no spending the night wandering around in a daze, because you'll freeze to death before that - the looting starts 5 minutes after the shaking stops. It *has* to - because they aren't going to live through the night otherwise. But I digress. If you are going to have disasters of this magnitude, the Gulf Coast is a moderately benign place to have them, weather-wise, but I digress again.

Keeping an eye on National Review's The Corner blog, you can watch a fairly well connected group of people, who have jobs that allow/require them to keep an eye on the news, comment on what's going on.

And obviously, it doesn't look good for the people in charge. And I fault the people in charge.

John Derbyshire's arrogant ignorance kept pissing me off. Until I realized what I just said. Ignorance. Lack of knowledge. Derb isn't stupid, he's ignorant. And whose fault is that? Not his.

In order -

The Government of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, Governor. It was their job to get the ball rolling. The Federal government doesn't respond, by law, until the Governor asks them to. (If you think FEMA in their Ops Center at Weather Mountain wasn't already alerting you're wrong, but *acting* is governed by law).

The Federal Government, George W. Bush, President.

Because neither of them have got the Public Face of the Government getting out the info. Believe it or not, that, to my mind, is actually the Most Important Thing to be doing up front and early. Because the professionals will be handling the details of getting the response moving. That isn't the politicos job.

The MSM, a distant third. For being so focused on the sad and compelling stories, that they haven't been asking the right questions of the right people, and putting the heat on the public officials to give out the details.

I'll forgive the initial flounders, when something like this starts, you get huge amounts of data... most of it wrong, or at least out of context. You aren't *really* sure what's happening, and the magnitude. Yes, the Guy on the Ground does - except he really only knows what he sees... and while it's a horror in his immediate area, doesn't mean it's a horror everywhere else. Until is becomes apparent it is. But you *still* have to assimilate the data.

Crying on camera is fine - as long as it's preceded or followed by "This is what we're doing, this is how we're going about it, and this is how we're coordinating for more help." Not just being stunned. Getting.Out.The.Word. Guys like me will be getting out the Stuff.

I think the President should have called off the California gig and headed for Washington.

WTF? Donovan is saying getting talking heads out putting out info is more important than Boots on the Ground, rescuing people and delivering aid?

Yes. That's what I said.

Why? Because Controlling The Perception of The Disaster in it's early stages will help shape the form of the follow-on actions. Guys, I've worked with FEMA. They're smart people and well-organized.

BUT IT TAKES 3-5 DAYS TO GET PEOPLE IN PLACE AND FUNCTIONAL. Minimum. Not the prepositioned people in the waiting-to-be-activated DFO, Disaster Field Office... the Outside Responders.

Plus, remember - WE ALL THOUGHT THEY'D DODGED THE BULLET. For a whole day. Then the levees broke. FEMA's attention was on the area to the east, where the brunt of the storm went in.

So that's where the initial focus was. And *that* still has to be dealt with too.

So. Why don't we have tens of thousands of troops IN THERE RIGHT NOW!?!

And all the volunteer and paid relief workers?

They are on their way, they really are. And, today, they are starting to arrive. But WHY WEREN'T THEY THERE THREE DAYS AGO!?!

One. The tyranny of distance. You have to mobilize, do final pack-outs, and start driving. 500 miles a day, if you're lucky. So what? Fly! That requires aircraft, on short notice. Even if we weren't using the TRANSCOM's transport fleet to support OIF and OEF, it takes time to get crews to aircraft, aircraft to place where people need to be picked up. If you are using non-mobilized reservists/Guardsmen, they have to be mobilized - not hard, but they've got to drop what they're doing and get to the aircraft, while the ground crews have to stop what they're doing and get to the aircraft and get them ready. Then there's the problem with the local airports being flooded. So if you fly them in to Baton Rouge, say - you have to have transport to get them to New Orleans. Ships? See the Tyranny of Distance argument. The getting ships and people/supplies matched up, etc. Yet all of that is happening, and stuff is moving that way.

So what? The Army has all those troops at Fort Hood and stuff! Well, yes and no. There *is* a war on. But heavy mech forces don't wear well if you road-march them hundreds of miles - at least if you want them to be working when they get there. And they'll require fuel when they're there... which we know is a problem already. So, mech forces aren't a good choice - but to further confuse that issue, a lot of Fort Hood's gear is in transit or in theater. And mech forces don't have a lot of soft transport for troop movement. Hey, they're built for fighting wars, eh?

Okay, use light guys. They don't have that much organic transport, either.

Two. Life support. Remember, this place just got hammered. You have tens of thousands of refugees, milling around, and moving outward. This in an area which has had it's infrastructure hammered. Now you want to bring in thousands of more people. Where do they sleep? How do they get fed? Water? Toilets? Sanitation? So, in addition to having to find a way to feed clothe and house 10s of thousands of refugees on short notice in an area that is by definition under stress and possibly unable to cope - you have to *bring in* additional life support for the supporters. That takes time. And again, the tyranny of distance. FEMA keeps regional storage sites with the stuff they need - but it *still* takes time. Even more so if one of the regional storage sites is involved in the disaster. I don't know that that is the case here, I'm just pointing it out.

3. Social Control. There is an implicit assumption that local authorities will be able to maintain some level of local order. That assumption obviously wasn't valid in this case. Some of it due to the devastation, some of it due to the horror that is apparently NO politics and police. But that's kinda outside my bailiwick.

4. Add to all that, the GWOT, and the impact that's had on the Guard. There's going to be lots of room for discussion about reorganizing things in the light of dealing with this disaster, and lord knows the recriminations over that stuff have already begun! But unless you are essentially going to say that "We can never send the Guard overseas because they might possibly be needed in the US." and accept that limitation on foreign policy, that's not a useful frame for the debate. But that's a post of a different color, too.

This has rambled - but here is my bottom line as I see it this morning.

1. The response *is* massive, and it's moving about as fast as it can, in aggregate, lots of details can be quibbled. But in the main, the machinery is in motion - and it's moving about as fast as it can. And this is about as good as we can expect in many respects, I think. It's simply not possible to have everybody in the response tail stood up ready for instant deployment every time a tropical storm manifests itself.

2. The politicians have fumbled badly thus far. In the end, they will in a sense get redeemed by the people who will clean up the mess. The Professionals who are doing their job at the moment. But, to this voter, The President and the Governor have done an abysmal job in their very public duties.

That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it - until I change my mind because of new data or more reflection.

by John on Sep 02, 2005
» EagleSpeak links with: Another Navy Hospital Ship Heads to Gulf
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» Searchlight Crusade links with: Links and Minifeatures 09 07 Wednesday (morning)

July 10, 2005

Homeland Defense, on the Front Burner. Well, kinda.

The bombings in London couldn't have been timed better to support the release late last month of the Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support. I found the document interesting - not least because my last job on active duty was as an Army planner for just this stuff.

You can get the pdf document here.

The plan considers some changes in organizational relationships that will impinge upon the restraints of the Posse Comitatus Act, though I expect the intent will be to use the National Guard (properly) as a way around that - with Regulars in a back-up role, unless directly impinged in an initial attack, where the right to self-defense trumps Posse Comitatus.

The changes are afoot already, with the Contintental United States Armies - CONUSA's in milspeak - gettting ready or going through a reorientation. 1st and Fifth US Armys used to split responsibility for the US along the Mississippi - 1st east, 5th West. Both had identical responsiblities of Reserve Component readiness and mobilization, and the MSCA, or Military Support to the Civil Authority, which includes WMD and disaster response. Now, as I understand it, that will be 1st Army's job, and 5th Army is slated to become the army component of Northern Command, a real war-fighting organization. Significant changes.

All well and good, better integration and a rationalization of effort (though I'm not convinced of that yet, but it's outside the scope of this post...) is generally a Good Thing. But what about the people who already have a *huge* chunk of responsibility, right now, 24/7, for Homeland Defense.

The Coast Guard? The *Forgotten Service*?

First off, this article suggests that the Coast Guard has been forgotten and neglected for so long, under first the Department of Transportation, and now under the Department of Homeland Defense, that they have forgotten how to play the budget game. Admiral Collins better learn quickly - but I also fault Homeland Defense for letting the Admiral go to Congress with such a feckless (however well intentioned) approach.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Fisheries and the Coast Guard, also lashed out at the Coast Guard's revised plan at a hearing last week, saying that everything seemed to have changed since Sept. 11 except the Coast Guard.

The new plan "shockingly, says it actually needs fewer ships, planes, and helicopters than before Sept. 11," Snowe said, noting that the Coast Guard's original proposal had sought to enlarge its fleet.

"That violation of common sense is at the crux of today's hearing."

Snowe said technological improvements to the fleet are important, but are no substitute for "actual, on-the-water presence."

She also criticized Collins for embracing the President's 2006 budget proposal.

However often Collins affirmed that "his men and women can get by" with what the Administration has requested, she said, "the cold hard truth remains that the Coast Guard is experiencing a record number of casualties and mishaps."

Here is an article from USA Today that provides further highlights on the Coast Guard's equipment problems. I know several Coasties - they are as professional and dedicated as you can ask for - but you now have to wonder if they shouldn't be sending some of their best and brightest to work on the Army, Navy, and Air Force Staffs in the Pentagon - especially in the budget world, to get a handle on how to do this better. As an Departmental entity, it's starting to look like the Keystone Kops are in charge - and while that is unfair, in truth, to dedicated public servants - they need to learn how to play in the big leagues. Because this - well, this is simply unacceptable. Read that, then read what the Coast Guard has to say about the DECISIVE.

Lest you think the problem is only at sea... I assure you that is not the case. Facilities ashore have their own problems.

The Coasties deserve better. The nation deserves better. And no, the Navy doesn't need to add this to their plate.

But the leadership of Homeland Defense and the Coast Guard need to stand up, and lead - or get the hell out of the way.

H/t to Larry K, who has a son in the Coast Guard - who loves his job and his service... and deserves the right tools for the job.

Mebbe the Puddle Pirate will have an opinion to toss in here.

by John on Jul 10, 2005

February 16, 2005

A fight with a cannon - The USS San Francisco grounding.

I asked the submariners I know visit the Castle to come comment on the my post regarding the USS Jimmy Carter. The responses thus far have been interesting, but I am most interested in the post over at Unconsidered Trifles. Not because he discusses the USS Jimmy Carter, which he does, and not favorably from a naming perspective, but rather for his Update to the post, in which he discusses the apparent fate of CDR Mooney, Captain of the USS San Francisco when she ran aground. Apparently things are not going well for the Commander.

At Unconsidered Trifles, the Submariner notes (emphasis in original)

But, look it, before this investigation we all agreed that it would be precipitous and arrogant to assume wrongdoing on the part of the Captain or crew without having all the facts. So why can't we extend the same open-mindedness to the head of the investigation, Vice Adm. Greenert, Commander of the 7th Fleet? That's all I'm asking.

I am not competent to judge. What I've had to say on the subject was covered in this post on the subject. I said in my close:

Update II: Rumblings among the submariners is that CDR Mooney's future may not be all that bright... and there is some discontent in the ranks over what is seen is a hazard of navigation being treated as a failure in command. I'm not fit to judge, so I won't, and we'll see what we see and hear what we hear. We certainly don't have the whole story yet.

All of this brings to mind a story, illustrative of Command and Duty, and Responsibility. I've posted it in it's entirety in the Flash Traffic/Extended Post. Before you make up your mind - I invite you to read one of my favorite war stories - A Fight With A Cannon, by Victor Hugo. Remember, in some ways, the rules are different for the people who go down to the sea in ships. Read this before you judge. Then feel free to offer your thoughts. It's long for a blogpost - but worth the effort if you want to look into the mind military.

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows »

by John on Feb 16, 2005

February 15, 2005

Paradigm shifts.

Jeff Quinton at Backcountry Conservative has a post up about the possiblity (it's really a marketing ploy by the locals and their Congressman) of bringing the 1st Foot or the 1st Tank to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, when the divisions are returned to the US from Germany. As an alum of both divisions I have a passing interest. Fort Jackson being one of the few major Army installations I've never been to, I gotta wonder - does it have the maneuver space, range infrastructure and environmental resilience to support high-density mech unit training? Perhaps the Heartless Libertarian, currently commanding a company at Fort Jackson, and who had a good gun day will follow his trackback and enlighten us...? While you are there, you should scroll down a post and read his latest on little guys fighting to keep their property from being taken from them by government and given to developers - a personal sore point of mine, given the behavior of the Wyandotte County executive here in the KC area for the NASCAR racetrack.

Getting back on point - Fort Jackson certainly seems to be close to the other requisite infrastructure - especially rail and seaport for the heavy vehicles of the divisions, and with sufficient total ramp space and turn time (i.e., ability to handle transport aircraft in enough numbers to move the troops quickly in reasonable numbers) to make it a better choice than the large installations in the interior of the nation, like Fort Riley or Fort Carson. Closer to sea ports is a Good Thing for the heavy divisions.

Continuing the theme of paradigm shifts, now seems a good time to post a link to an article about a briefing on 4th Generation Warfare that CAPT H passed along a while ago.

Then - the briefing itself. The Instapilot should approve, being a Boyd fan. I've had discussions with the authors and posted an earlier version of the brief here. This is the kinda stuff I get to fiddle with and test for a living, at the moment, though not this particular bit in any direct sense.

Take a look - tell us what you think. I mean come on, 1400 or so of you a day, 15 regular commenters. Surely some of the rest of you have *something* to share?

Perhaps the Instapilot has thoughts about this: Fighter Pilots - be afraid, be very afraid. And who is driving the demise of manned fighters? Tanks? Artillery? Those bleeping Crunchies! Hat tip to Strategy Page for the last.

by John on Feb 15, 2005

January 20, 2005

While I'm sure there's more to this than meets the eye...

...stories like this, this, and this do make me assume the RCA Victor Dog pose.

If you've only got time for one, go with the last one.

I'm not a judge, though I've been one before, in UCMJ terms. But I suspect I'd have handled this differently.

But why am I not surprised to find Ramsey Clark in the muddle [sic] of it?

Hat tip to CAPT H.

Unrelated note to save posts... Some of you are being mean and using dirty language dealing with Chadrock over at Simon's place (check the comment stream). Naughty naughty! I thought I'd taught you better manners than that!

Update. I think I won my debate.

by John on Jan 20, 2005
» Electric Venom links with: Un.Freaking.Believeable!

January 19, 2005

This annoys me, for some reason.

Even though I spent my adult life in the mode of defending the homeland - the notion of having to do so here is, well, maddening. I really prefer doing it elsewhere, at the source of the problem. Of course, there are some (of the stripe now sporting blue wristbands and the like - the Democratic Underground Wing of the left) who would suggest we are at the source of the problem, we just have the weapons pointed in the wrong direction.

The military has deployed anti-aircraft missiles within range of the Capitol as part of security enhancements for tomorrow's presidential inauguration.
Full story here.

Of course, this is irrational - here at Fort Leavenworth, up through the late 60's, we had a battalion of Nike Hercules missiles. A battery at the Fort, a battery north of Kansas City near Lake City Army Ammunition Plant, and another one south of Kansas City at Lone Jack, providing coverage for Lake City, Allied Signal (where nuclear bomb triggers were made), the line of communications (rail, road, river and telecoms) infrastructure, as well as Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant, the Marine Corps Finance Center, and the Federal Reserve Bank, enough high-payoff targets to make the place worth hitting. But, still.. pictures like this irk me.

While in contrast, I have no problems with this one - the Statue of Liberty. I like the visual - Liberty stands on an old harbor defense fort - a visual representation of the contention of many old-school political theorists about Liberty - it rests on a solid defense of the principles against those who would be tyrants, for "good" (see Nanny State) reasons or bad.

by John on Jan 19, 2005

January 18, 2005

To protect and to serve... and to lip off, now and then!

Update: Welcome to all the Cops and others from the SIG Forum! Check around - ya might like the Gun Pr0n and firearms related archives over there on the left. Or click that Castle or the picture of the Maxim machine gun for easy navigation. Which, I just noticed, depending on how you came in, to possibly scroll up.

Anudder update: Heck, why should the SIG'er's have all the fun? They're adding to the funny stories... go read 'em!

From an email today:

Police Quotes

The following were taken off of actual police car videos around the country.

"Relax, the handcuffs are tight because they're new. They'll stretch out after you wear them awhile."

"Take your hands off the car, and I'll make your birth certificate a worthless document."

"If you run, you'll only go to jail tired."

"Can you run faster than 1,200 feet per second? In case you didn't know, that is the average speed of a 9mm bullet fired from my gun."

"So you don't know how fast you were going. I guess that means I can write anything I want on the ticket, huh?"

"Yes, Sir, you can talk to the shift supervisor, but I don't think it will help. Oh .. did I mention that I am the shift supervisor?"

"Warning! You want a warning? O.K., I'm warning you not to do that again or I'll give you another ticket."

"The answer to this last question will determine whether you are drunk or not. Was Mickey Mouse a cat or a dog?"

"Fair? You want me to be fair? Listen, fair is a place where you go to ride on rides, eat cotton candy, and step in monkey sh*t."

"Yeah, we have a quota. Two more tickets and my wife gets a toaster oven."

"In God we trust, all others we run through NCIC."

"Just how big were those two beers?"

"No sir we don't have quotas anymore. We used to have quotas but now we're allowed to write as many tickets as we want."

"I'm glad to hear the Chief of Police is a good personal friend of yours. At least you know someone who can post your bail."

and the best one . . . . .

"You didn't think we give pretty women tickets? You're right, we don't. Sign here."

Hat tip, Rich B.

by John on Jan 18, 2005

December 13, 2004

That Muffled "Bang" You Heard...

...was probably the intercepted pilot's a*shole slamming shut when he saw a 68,000-pound, 64-foot-long, 43-foot-wide, 19-foot-high blue-grey jet go zipping by, straight up at minimum legal spacing (a definition subject to interpretation).

After about 5 seconds of looking at this picture, I sort of wondered how it was taken at all. This was obviously a's staged. The shot is too perfect. The shutter speed, film, lighting, focus, etc., etc., is Brian Shul quality.

Now, I'm sure that maneuver looked really cool (and God knows it's fun to take advantage, on occasion, of the Eagle's greater-than-one-to-one thrust ratio), but I'm sort of wondering what purpose such a tactic serves. To be honest, I doubt if they use it very much. Strikes me as a truly last-resort move (duh). If it it had in fact come to that, rest assured my general aviator friends, it would have been after trying to signal an intercept and land-on-my-wing visual command and after numerous calls on VHF Guard from Center and the interceptors. So, I'm sure it's in their bag of tricks (sometimes that's what it takes) but rarely employed.

Having been on the range, dropping bombs and shooting the cannon when a Cessna 172 decided to wander through our airspace, I can appreciate the urgency of getting the guy's attention. And sometimes that's harder than you might think. In that case, after numerous calls on Guard, one guy in the flight tried to get close to shoo him off visually, flying close enough and slow enough for the interloper to see him and realize something was amiss. The response was not what we expected or wanted...we scared him so bad he damn-near split-s'd into the ground. (Note: Scroll to the bottom if you want to watch what that looks like from the cockpit and show-center. Hint: not pleasant.)

So, shining one's arse to get a general aviation pilot's attention might feel good and look impressive, but I wonder if that's standard procedure. Probably not. Flares? Flares are a great idea of you have a little spacing on the guy, but blowing by at 500 feet going straight up probably makes 'em a little redundant. Usually, there's a safety "knock-it-off...knock-it-off...knock-it-off" call in the flight (assuming the restricted area is a military training area--the usual case) followed by coordination with Center to unscramble the situation and get the tresspasser to clear the area. I can think of about ten places in the entire country (scroll about three-quarters of the way down the page) this would probably be most dangerous for the innocent/clueless aviator:

As for the wall-to-wall AIM-7s on the belly of the jet, yeah, he's loaded for bear. AMRAAMs (commonly referred to by many as "I-wish-you-were-dead missiles.") would be nice, but for something as strafe-rag-like as a commercial airliner or light GA airplane, they would be severe overkill.

Now...all that said, the intercept mission today has, obviously, been made much more relevant than it was up to 9/11 but the challenge isn't interception. Instead, it's the need for adequate warning to actually make it to the merge before the potential attacker/suicidal maniac can do anything with his airplane, and the decision-making process associated with actually pulling the trigger in deadly earnest.

The former is hard enough. The latter is, methinks, even harder. "Splash the Airbus" is not what anyone wants to hear. Frankly, I think we have decision makers willing to say it, but I wonder how many times they practice the end-game scenario. I find it a near-stumper. Before you decide to smoke 100+ (200? 300?) people, you have to make damn sure the airplane is obviously a threat--it's actions must be clear. THEN you ask for instructions--and expect the VERY long pause as the wheels turn in someone's head and the decision is made. THEN the target's engaged. Where is it by that time? By definition, near a lucrative target. Knowing al Qaeda, that's in a populated area...which means the disabled airplane/wreckage is going to impact there. I guess that's why the 1AF/CC and the SecDef get paid the big bucks to be ready for that kind of thing.


by Dusty on Dec 13, 2004