Thursday, February 28, 2008

Weather and how to tell you're a college student

It's important to keep up on the weather because I'm not a fan to waking up and being surprised with a blizzard. Which happened this morning. I'm all for snow, I just like to know when it's coming.

Also, you're a college student when: you make an emergency Hy-Vee run at 0030 to pick up milk...and two six packs of beer. Not that I needed to drink any, just that we only had three bottles in the fridge and that's a dangerously low number. In case anyone was wondering what I bought, some Shiner Bohemian Black Lager and some Breckenridge Brewery Vanilla Porter. What was left in the fridge was one Sam Adams Cherry Wheat and two Goose Island IPAs.


What is it with the E-2 squadrons and cool videos? Here's another one, courtesy of VAW-115 on the Kitty Hawk

And here's yet another from VAW-113

The USAF needs to get its butt in gear here...we're getting our asses kicked on the YouTube squadron video front.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Roadside Assistance

Add that to jumping jacks side straddle hops on the lists of things Iraqis apparently aren't qualified to do...

h/t: Op-For

Old Glory Robot Insurance

It's an oldie but a goodie.

And when they grab you with those metal claws, you can't break free. Because they're made of metal. And robots are strong.

Mid-Week Rock

Goin back to some AC/DC for this one...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Hallelujah! The USAF has a new ad campaign and, from the first look at it, it surprisingly doesn't suck. Check it out for yourself:

I'm digging the "Above All" slogan. At least it doesn't suck as much as "Do Something Amazing." However, since I'm never without criticism for the USAF's recruiting and PR efforts, a few thoughts. First, other than the slow mo of the retarded bombs hitting the convoy, the missile eye view of the F-16 shooting the Maverick, (which were both sweet, by the way) and the JTAC/A-10 segment, I have seen EVERY SINGLE ONE of those video clips in another USAF ad. I'm all for getting the most out of your film, but this is kind of ridiculous. For some of these clips (the Pave Lows, the honor guard with the fighters flying over, a few others) this will be the third generation of USAF ads they have appeared in. These clips were appearing in ads in the last decade. I know we're short for money, but come on, we aren't THAT short of money. Heck, just use some of the clips from Also, from a joint standpoint, the opening and closing bookends to the ad struck me as a little divisive. "No one is better suited and more prepared to guard America in the century ahead than the U.S. Air Force." "Above all, we stand ready as the decisive force for the 21st Century." Probably being a bit nitpicky, but it just really stood out to me.

Anyway, according to the D-Ring there is still more to come with regard to this campaign, so stay tuned.

A Little Cold

AM's got a must see picture from Afghanistan. I hear it's a little cold there this time of year.

Monday, February 25, 2008

I want one

A belt fed externally powered fully automatic nerf autocannon:

(Ages 6 years & up/Approximate Retail Price: $39.99/Available: Fall 2008)

The top-of-the-line blaster for mission supremacy, the NERF N-STRIKE VULCAN EBF-25 blaster is a 25-dart belt-fed fully automatic blaster that will intimidate any opponent. This impressive blaster comes complete with a fold-up tripod to steady your aim, 25 sonic micro darts that whistle through the air when launched and a 25-dart belt. The NERF N-STRIKE VULCAN EBF-25 blaster features the Tactical Rail System allowing players to customize their blaster for each mission - for example, players can use the green 'night vision' Tactical Light accessory (sold separately) for nighttime missions. Six "D" batteries are required but not included.

SIX D cells?!? That's a lot of power. This would've come in handy for those dorm nerf wars. All we had back then were six shooters and a carbine or two. Now they've got sniper rifles, RPGs, autocannons, and apparently rocket launchers. Hook up one of those rocket launchers with the autocannon and you've got quite the nice dorm room defense set up. Regardless, I'm still buying one. If you're into this sort of thing, Nerf's N-Strike line has some pretty impressive hardware.

h/t: BoingBoing Gadgets via Danger Room.

South Park Monday

Another four parter today, about everyone's favorite little boy, Leopold "Butters" Stotch:

I've got something in my front pocket, for you...

Butters, I hate you with every inch of my body

Everyone knows it's Butters!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Today's blood pressure raiser

Comes from this otherwise well written article on the international law and treaty implications of the US 193 shootdown. While the meat of the article discussing the difficulty in writing and defining international space weapons treaties is good, it starts off by equating the modified SM-3 used to shoot down US 193 with the Chinese ASAT test last year. As anyone who knows what they're talking about can tell you, that's like comparing apples to bananas.


If you're into that sort of thing, check out AM's caption contest involving a rather emo-ish picture of LTC Nagl and some lolcat-esque captions.


That's a long divert

1400 miles, to be exact, with a little something extra tacked on the end. Alert 5 has the story, but the short version is that a BUFF down at Barksdale had something connected to its ILS short out and Barksdale was below minimums, so it diverted to Minot. Minot AFB was socked in as well so they diverted again to Minot Airport.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

US 193 shootdown local connection

There's a local connection to the shoot down of US 193, the malfunctioning satellite: the Captain of the USS Lake Eire, the cruiser that shot down the satellite, is from Iowa and graduated from Iowa State.
A northeast Iowa native who graduated from Iowa State University is the commander of the U.S. Navy cruiser that blasted a disabled spy satellite above the Pacific Ocean late Wednesday with a guided missile strike.

Capt. Randall M. Hendrickson, who grew up in Marquette along the banks of the Mississippi River, has been the skipper of the USS Lake Erie since June 2006.

Hendrickson said in a telephone interview Thursday that he graduated from Iowa State in 1983 and still considers himself a "Cyclone at heart."

He received a bachelor's degree with a double major in political science and naval science and was a member of ISU's Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps.

Hendrickson told The Des Moines Register on Thursday that he never anticipated commanding the type of mission that his crew accomplished in intercepting the spy satellite.

"After about two or three briefing sessions and doing some of the training, I thought, 'You know, this actually could work,' " Hendrickson said.

"It is a pretty sophisticated system, as you might imagine. It was not originally designed to do that. Anytime you try to push a system beyond its limits, it is one of those things that you always have a little bit of a question whether or not it is going to work. The crew performed magnificently and the system did just what it was supposed to do."

Make sure to check out the end of the article for some "local boy done good" sentiment straight out of a small town newspaper.

More Russian stuff

From the site that I got the Afghanistan photos from, a photo set about Russian soldiers in Chechnya. Manages to make that particularly brutal conflict almost look normal.

Also found this set about inflatable decoys the Soviets had to fool us about the status of various missile sites. Cool idea.

Soviets in Afghanistan

Via Chap, a couple of cool photo sets depicting Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan. Substitute NATO equipment and uniforms in the pictures and they would be indistinguishable from ones depicting ISAF forces today. The more things change...

UPDATE: Changed the second link to make it correct. Before it went to the Chechnya link above, now it goes to a more aviation focused photo set from the Soviets in Afghanistan.


"B-2 Stealth bomber crashes on Guam."

Pilots ejected and are fine. For the record, this thing costs as much as an Arleigh Burke class destroyer. Except instead of having 52 and counting, we have 20 and decreasing. At least it crashed on U.S. territory and not somewhere where we would have to be REALLY worried about sanitizing the remains.

Also for the record, the USAF plans on acquiring their next new bomber in 2018. Supposedly. We're also supposedly buying 380 F-22s.

UPDATE: David Axe over at Danger Room adds some more perspective:
Some perspective: there were 21 B-2s. Now there are 20 -- a roughly 5-percent reduction in an instant. In terms of airframes, that's the equivalent of 30 F-15s crashing at the same time, or 60 F-16s, or 6 F-22s. In terms of money, that's equivalent to 20 F-15s, 24 F-16s or 10 F-22s.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Today's blood pressure raiser

Comes from this lovely hatchet job on the USAF courtesy of Time. I would Fisk it, but it's really not worth my time. It displays the same level of understanding of military affairs and budgeting as Lou Dobbs has of economics or immigration. To put it another way, writer Mark Thompson feels that the Air Force TUUK ER MONEY!

Powerthirst 2: Re-Domination

In case you were hopped up enough from the first one, here's Powerthirst 2, complete with a rocket can!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

In which Hezbollah gets called a bunch of gaywads

"The World's 16 Least Inspiring Flags."

Everything from Antarctica to the Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, even the Special Olympics are not exempted. A taste:
Now we know the real reason the Special Olympians aren't allowed to compete in the regular Olympics: These mofos have SIX ARMS. How is that challenged? They can swim a lap in three strokes. They can box you in both kidneys and three spleens. And the hugs--the hugs would last for days.


Clearly, Libya wanted to immortalize the Green Revolution in flag form, but came up short on the "revolution" side, leaving a blank spinachy field. Possibly Moammar Qaddafi's lawn, possibly one of Qaddafi's millions of American petrodollars, possibly a tribute to Mark Rothko.
h/t: Danger Room.

Africa's "unique challenges"

Checklist for deployment to Africa: weapon, Alpha Mobility Bag, personal bag, MREs, bag with $10,000 inside.

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — When airmen arrived in Africa earlier this month to support President Bush’s trip to the continent, they brought their communications equipment; Meals, Ready to Eat; and plenty of power converters.

But they left home without their credit cards.

That’s because while many places in Africa had jet fuel and allowed Air Force planes to land on their runways, they don’t take American Express. They don’t accept Master Card or Visa, either.

Airmen had to carry bags stuffed with tens of thousands of dollars to pay for everything from bottled water to fuel. It’s the reality of operating on the continent, which the U.S. military considers a top priority.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Rod Bishop — who is commanding a joint task force of some 1,500 airmen, Marines, soldiers and sailors from an operations center at Ramstein Air Base — said the mission has been a sobering lesson on “how difficult it is to operate on that continent.”

Something else to remember regarding operations in more austere parts of the world. h/t: Alert 5.

As an aside, we had a running joke at FT calling people "aircrew chemical defense bags." For those of you not well versed in such things, the nomenclature for an aircrew chemical defense bag is a delta bag. I trust you can figure out the rest.

Mid-Week Music, Bill Gates Edition

I hear that when you play it backwards, it says that Linus Torvalds is the anti-christ.

Monday, February 18, 2008

South Park Monday

Special four-part edition this week in honor of everyone's favorite dad, Randy Marsh. h/t: Matt for the first vid.

Real guitars are for old people

I'm sorry, I thought this was America!

Strategy Bleg

I'm (tentatively) starting up a military strategy discussion group here at school (hopefully) among the three branches. The plan is to discuss various aspects of military strategy, both old (Clausewitz, Sun-Tzu, etc.), new (COIN, U.S.-Chinese relations), and everything in between. Right now I'm looking for readings that can be used as a primer for various discussions. Ideally they would be available over the internet and relatively short (10-15 pdf pages). For example, I'll be using Kilcullen's 28 Articles as a part of a discussion about COIN. I'll take anything anyone has to offer, but I'm particularly weak in regards to naval strategy and some sort of primer on Clausewitz and Sun-Tzu. I've got selections from the original text I'd like to discuss, but I'm not sure if I want to unleash that right away without any sort of introduction.

Anyway, thanks in advance.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Be sure to tune in next week for POWERTHIRST 2: Re-Domination!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Upcoming Zombie Invasion

It's only a matter of time, prepare now!

I've addressed zombies before, but in case you have forgotten, I recommend all of the following:
As an aside, that MRE package contains two of the second best items in all of the MREs: strawberry milkshake and cheese spread. Those are only outdone by the chocolate milkshake and JALAPENO cheese spread.

Soldier of Africa

This is a pretty cool blog. I've written about him before, but he's in a new country and is taking a fair amount of pictures. When I last mentioned him, Werner was in Darfur, now he's part of the UN/AU monitoring mission in the DRC. Lots of good pictures from one of the more forgotten regions of the world. Check him out.

Amn. Destructor

If you've ever served in the military and had to deal with a "special" junior enlisted troop or two, you owe it to yourself to go read about Amn. Destructor. Start here (with a bonus about an airman with similar intelligence named Amn. Sucro) and then continue on to the Airman Destructor chronicles here. The second bunch of stories has a guest appearance by the officer equivalent of Amn. Destructor, Capt. Chaos. You won't be disappointed. I think my favorite story is either the time Amn. Destructor inadvertently called an IG team fags, or when he arrested Capt. Chaos after donning his MOPP gear.

Like I said, you won't be disappointed.

Friday, February 15, 2008

International That's What She Said Day

According to Facebook anyway, and we all know that if Facebook says it, it must be true:

You're just a person...Facebook is a website!

Anyway, without further ado...

Not quite what you were looking for? Let's try this:

Make sure to check out the previous posts on the subject.

Cutting it VERY Close

In the words of the controller, "Jesus Christ." h/t: The DEW Line

The Man who Hacked MySpace

This is a funny story. A guy is getting hotlinked by a bunch of MySpacers using one of his images as a background, so he replaces the image with Goatse. (h/t: The Agitator). As Radley says, hilarity ensued.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Mid-Week Rock

Something a little newer for this week's edition...

Catchiest. Guitar riff. Ever.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Thoughts on ROTC

Couple of good posts relating to (AF)ROTC circulating around...

The first is a post over at Op-For from a few weeks ago about the revamping of USAF Basic Training, which in the comments turned into a discussion of AFROTC Field Training. When I went down to Maxwell I spent a whole three days out of a 28 day encampment out in the "field." Even then, the "field" was just the BLUE THUNDER! training facility about two miles away from the OTS Complex where we were in garrison. We "deployed" by doing a road march there. On top of that, once there, the exercise was nominally useful but could've been a lot better. I mean, we did our convoy training in minivans. We didn't receive any sort of actual weapons training beyond the M-9, which is good and all, but I'm pretty sure if you deploy into a situation where you're actually engaging the enemy, you're going to need more than your trusty sidearm.

It looks like that is going to change. They're going to spent two-thirds of the encampment in the "field," with a third at BLUE THUNDER! and a third at JRTC at Fort Polk. They're going to get real convoy training, hand to hand combat training, and weapons familiarization on the M-4 (and possibly the M-249 and M-240). On top of that, when they deploy to Fort Polk they might get flown in on Herks.

It's a start, however, I don't think it's enough. For a really good discussion on the limitations of AFROTC's summer training programs and some suggestions on change, check out the comments of the above linked Op-For post. Some good back and forth between myself and John.

The second post is over at In From the Cold, discussing this article about ROTC at the University of Minnesota. As with the Op-For post, there's some discussion in the comments. The article is a good summary of what life is like for an ROTC cadet: early mornings, higher standards, and more responsibility. The comments contain some good discussion regarding AFROTC scholarships. Suffice to say I don't really agree with the current standard of strong bias in favor of engineering and other technical degrees.

Tornado Queens and ChiPs

h/t: Guidons Guidons Guidons. Make sure to check out his Girl Fridays, which, if you are into that sort of thing, are quite nice.

Monday, February 11, 2008

South Park Monday - Gingervitis Edition

In honor of the two ginger kids we saw at the elementary school carnival we were volunteering at last Friday. Also, for everyone's favorite daywalker. I'm sure she'll appreciate it.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


This is pretty cool:

On January 6, 2000 a group of musicians and music-loving technologists came together with the idea of creating the most comprehensive analysis of music ever.

Together we set out to capture the essence of music at the most fundamental level. We ended up assembling literally hundreds of musical attributes or "genes" into a very large Music Genome. Taken together these genes capture the unique and magical musical identity of a song - everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony. It's not about what a band looks like, or what genre they supposedly belong to, or about who buys their records - it's about what each individual song sounds like.

Pandora is the internet radio application that has resulted from the project. I personally really like the genome/algorithm aspect of it, as a variety of bands that I would not have thought really went together have been offered up for my listening enjoyment as being similar. It's definitely worth checking out if you have eclectic tastes, especially if you only have a few artists that you know of in a particular genre, as all you have to do is input an artist or a song that you are a fan of. The software takes it from there, riffing off of your original input. You have the ability to give thumbs up or thumbs down depending on how well you like any particular song or artist.

I'm currently riffing off of the Red Hot Chili Peppers...I wouldn't have thought that AC/DC, Maroon 5, Tom Petty, and the Smashing Pumpkins had that much in common, but thanks to Pandora I now see that they actually do. Give it a spin, you won't be disappointed.

h/t: Atlas Blogged, via Brad

Tying the Record

This has to be one of the more impressive attempts I've seen to tie the low altitude record. From Ares:

The pilot-in-command of a Swedish air force C-130H Hercules that violated minimum flying altitude regulations last year is temporarily suspended from operations pending an investigation into the incident.

The aircraft performed a very low level fly past at Flugebyn Airfield, outside Karlsborg, Sweden, after completing an exercise with the Swedish armed forces para school -- but dropped to less than 15 ft. above the grass runway while doing so. The minimum altitude allowed for such a maneuver is 100 ft. (emphasis mine)

Impressive. Follow the above link for the video.

Top SonGun

Not sure what else there is to say...

Friday, February 08, 2008

Cold Warriors and PR

There's a lot to think about watching this video series about a theoretical Soviet first strike on U.S. strategic forces (h/t: Op-For). It's a little on the long side, but less than your average TV drama and it's well worth watching.

I can think of at least a few Cold Warriors who I suspect got warm fuzzies watching the first segment. Also did a bit of a double take to see William Perry make an appearance as an Undersecretary of Defense. Definitely a sign of the times when they're discussing a defense budget of 5% of the GDP and the need to increase from there.

However, what I'd like to discuss isn't the direct impact of the video. Regardless of what side you came down on in the MX debate, I think it's fairly obvious that argument is over. Instead, look at the concept. Identify a problem, make a video depicting a worst case scenario if the problem isn't fixed, and then discuss the necessity of fixing the problem. Look at the big names they got for it; James Schlesinger and Paul Nitze aren't exactly some podunk no name think tank members. Why hasn't the USAF done something similar to demonstrate it's need for the F-22 or KC-X? Granted, tankers and fighters don't lend themselves quite as well to a "wake up!" message as nuclear war followed by capitulation, but it could still be done. Given the progression of technology and computer generated animation, this could easily be done on the cheap and put up on YouTube. The Navy's already done it. Hell, check out what this guy was able to do in just his free time:

Now, I'm not saying that this is what the USAF should shoot for, just that it's what one guy working in his basement can do, so I suspect the world's strongest air and space force can do a little better without spending too much money.

Instead, the USAF has been...well, just go to and take a look around. I can see how between informing us about the recent filming of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition at Dover AFB and how driving fast in the rain can result in getting in a nasty accident that USAF PA would be too busy to, you know, DO THEIR JOB and inform the public and advocate with them for the USAF.

Obviously, I sympathize with the USAF and its budget woes and ancient fleet, but it's getting harder and harder for me to do so, as I don't believe in feeling sorry for those that won't help themselves.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Broken (albeit cute) Record

Check out the cute tone this USAF AFPN story begins with:
2/4/2008 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- In the year 1962, The Beatles recorded their debut single, "Love Me Do," "The Beverly Hillbillies" premiered on television, a ticket to the movies cost 50 cents and the first RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft rolled off the Boeing assembly line.

Now, nearly a half a century later, The Beatles haven't had a number-one single since the seventies, "The Beverly Hillbillies" can only be seen in reruns, and the average price of a movie ticket has risen to more than eight dollars, but the RC-135 continues its mission, having participated in every armed conflict involving U.S. assets. The RC-135 boasts a record of being continuously deployed for more than 17 years.
That's one way of looking at it. Another would be that the Rivet Joint is just one of a long list of USAF airframes that are ridiculously old and have yet to be replaced. The RJ is one of the worst as, unlike the KC-135 or heavy bomber fleet, there is absolutely no plan to replace it now that the E-10 fell through before it ever even really got started. But sure, let's be proud of our ancient fleet. Not like we have a war to fight or anything.

(Belated) Mid-Week Rock

Changing things up a bit for this week's edition...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Busy with homework, ROTC stuff, etc., so in the meantime, here's some videos of aircraft flying really fast, really low.

Props on choosing the Vigi to open the video. Also, didn't it seem like that third Tornado to fly by in the second clip was lower than the perimeter fence?

F-104s are officially awesome.

Monday, February 04, 2008

South Park Monday

You may have wondered what exactly it is they're saying in this song. Wonder no longer.

I have a wonderful penis
There is hair on my balls
Is that the sound of a baby monkey?
No! Ninjas are here!

Hey hey let's go! Getting in a fight!
The important thing is to protect my balls!
I am badass, so let's fighting...
Let's fighting love! Let's fighting love!

This song is a little stupid
It doesn't make any sense
English is all fucked up
But that's okay, we do it all the time

Forecast for Today

Today: Periods of snow and freezing rain before 9am, then periods of freezing rain between 9am and noon, then a chance of rain or freezing rain between noon and 3pm, then a chance of drizzle after 3pm. Some thunder is also possible. High near 34. East southeast wind between 8 and 13 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. Total daytime ice accumulation of less than a 0.1 of an inch possible. Total daytime snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

I actually increased speed while applying the brakes in my truck this morning because I was sliding down an incline and the parking lot I was in was literally a skating rink.

I hate Iowa.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Something for the Squids

Since the CDR is on extended hiatus, and it appears that SJS is going to be going to be EMCON Bravo for awhile, I figured I'd step up to the plate.

There was a particularly interesting article in the most recent issue of International Security regarding the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) and its transformation from a backwater life saving service to a near peer security force, complementing the JMSDF. Unfortunately, since the full text is not available, you won't be able to read the whole thing for yourself (unless you've got a subscription), so I'll be quoting liberally.

The basic gist of the article is that the JCG has, beginning in the late '80s and really accelerating in the late '90s and '00s, transformed itself from a relatively minor life saving service into a second navy with significant blue water security responsibilities, arguably eclipsing the JMSDF in some respects. This transformation was undertaken in concert with a larger Japanese strategy to increase their international security presence. Indeed, the JCG has often served as a tool at the forefront of this effort, even to the point where in an era where deploying JMSDF tankers has been a point of contention, the JCG has gotten away with firing on and sinking the vessel of another nation on the high seas.

In the interest of brevity, I'm going to assume everyone has a basic knowledge of the history of the Japanese effort to increase their security presence beyond the post-WWII pacifist stance inherent in their Constitution. If you do need some background, check out these two wiki articles.

So, how did the JCG get to this point?
One answer is that the JCG has tried to remodel itself on the United States Coast Guard. The USCG, originally the Revenue Cutter Service established in 1790, is "simultaneously and at all times both an armed force of the United States and a law enforcement agency." Although administratively located in the Department of Homeland Security rather than the Pentagon, U.S. coast guardsmen are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and receive the same pay and allowances as members of the other uniformed services.


The USCG has participated in every major U.S. war, starting with the 1797 conflict with France. It has been considered the fifth branch of the U.S. armed forces for 200 years, and it has always been tasked with roles and missions "in any maritime region in which [U.S.] interests may be at risk, including international waters." Toward that end, it has been deployed with carrier battle groups to the Persian Gulf and beyond, where USCG are used for interdiction and smuggling surveillance. They also are required to use interoperable communications systems and must avoid unnecessary duplication of equipment and facilities. The USCG operates nearly 100 surface ships and close to 200 aircraft. As more than one analyst has pointed out, its "only comparable 'peer group'" is the naval forces of other nations. For example, the USCG has 300 more ships than the entire Canadian Navy.
The article goes on to discuss the USCG's budget wars and Deepwater program woes. I was a little disappointed that it did not delve into the new Martime Strategy at all, but it appears that the piece was written before the MS was released, so it's understandable that wasn't covered. That explains the USCG model, but to what degree did the JCG follow it?
Impressed with how USCG advocates had reframed its roles and missions, JCG officials and Japan's defense establishment embarked on a similar, if lower-key, initiative. Although the JCG still has a long way to go to achieve an equivalent status as a fully modernized and militarized service branch-with 13,000 personnel, it is barely one-quarter the size of the MSDF-the nascent transformation of the JCG into a de facto fourth branch of the Japanese military may be the most significant and least heralded Japanese military development since the end of the Cold War. The Japan Coast Guard Law was revised by the Diet in October 2001, at the same time that the more prominent antiterrorism legislation authorized the dispatch of MSDF ships to Diego Garcia, a U.S. naval support facility in the Indian Ocean. Unlike the naval dispatch legislation, which was limited to the supply of fuel for U.S. and British operations in Afghanistan, the Coast Guard Law was amended to allow the outright use of force to prevent maritime intrusion and to protect the Japanese homeland. Seizing the same opportunity presented by the September 11 terrorist attacks as Washington, Tokyo moved quickly to enhance the functions of its Coast Guard.

A second clause was added to the JCG's enabling legislation: "In situations where the crew of the vessel refuses to comply with repeated calls to stop, when they resist the captain or vice captain's enforcement of his duties, or when they try to flee, the director-general of the Japan Coast Guard, based on the vessel's appearance, its navigational patterns, suspicious behavior by the crew, and information gathered concerning other surrounding situations, can authorize the use of weapons against the vessel for the purpose of stopping the vessel, within reason and, when all of the following stipulations apply, the captain or the vice captain can then use force, within reason, against the vessel if he determines that there is no other way to stop it." There are four "following stipulations" in the new clause: (1) the ship must be a foreign ship that is taking action other than what is allowed by article 19 of the United Nations Law of the Seas Treaty within Japanese waters; (2) there must be the possibility of repeated offense of the illegal activity if the vessel is not stopped; (3) when it cannot be denied that the crew of the vessel is taking action that would help facilitate a crime that under Japanese law would amount to more than a three-year jail sentence; and (4) when it is determined that searching the vessel would lead to the gathering of information that could preempt the occurrence of a major crime.

David Leheny calls this revision of the Coast Guard Law "the canary in the coal mine," a prototype testing the acceptance of further expansion of Japanese military roles and missions. This, because of the new law delivered powers to the JCG that exceed those enjoyed by the MSDF. Although the MSDF has its own Special Boarding Unit, it is denied authority to fire on enemy ships unless fired on first. The JCG, on the other hand, is now allowed by law to initiate armed conflict with a "suspicious ship" under conditions that are vaguely defined and easily justifiable in retrospect. Local commanders are now authorized to use force under the conditions of "justifiable defense" and during an "emergency." Warning shots, if ignored, can be followed by disabling fire targeted on the offending vessel's crew.
The article then describes the incident I alluded to earlier: a JCG cutter fired warning shots on a suspicious North Korean vessel, eventually firing to disable. The North Korean vessel halted, but then resumed steaming before the JCG Special Security Team would arrive. The JCG vessel attempted to board, resulting in an exchange of small arms fire. The North Korean vessel then fired on the JCG vessel with a rocket launcher, prompting the JCG vessel to open fire with its cannon, sinking the North Korean ship. As I stated earlier, for any Coast Guard this would be a big deal, but it is especially a major incident in a nation where simply deploying the tankers of the Navy has resulted in a Constitutional crisis. For whatever reason, the opposition in Japan, both in the ruling coalition and outside of it have been leery of increased defense spending but have been accepting of increased funding of the JCG under the aliases of "maritime safety and international cooperation."

Moving on to equipment, the JCG has a sizable fleet, but like most coast guard vessels, its ships lack the defenses, weapons, and sensor suites necessary for modern naval combat. They are more than acceptable for long range patrolling and interdiction of unarmed merchant vessels, but would not stand a chance against any sort of modern naval vessel. Similarly, the JCG's air fleet, while potent in search and surveillance, lacks any sort of weapons capability. In summary, the JCG's capabilities in relation to the MSDF are similar to the relationship between most coast guards and navies: the JCG compliments but does not by any means replace the MSDF.

What does this mean for Japanese defense policy? The JCG, due to its apparent lack of an overt military nature, is a much more useful tool. Due to Japan's historical aggressiveness, regional players like China and South Korea are rather reluctant to get involved with the JSDF in any sort of multi-lateral defense agreement or interaction. However, they do not extend this reluctance to the JCG. As a result, the JCG has become the lead agency on maritime relations between Japan and other major players in the western Pacific. In addition, this lack of a military nature has allowed Japan to get away with selling weapons to nations of regional importance like Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines by doing it through the JCG to the respective nation's coast guard, even going so far in the case of Indonesia and Malaysia to set up the nation's coast guard in order to avoid the appearance of selling arms to a foreign military. Also, the JCG's apparent lack of aggressiveness has allowed it to serve as a trip wire with regard to disputed possessions. Where a MSDF vessel would be uncomfortably provocative, a JCG ship is able to ably defend Japanese claims without triggering a larger incident.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the JCG is able to act, as stated earlier, as a "canary in the coal mine" with regard to Japanese defense policy. It is able to help aid in the gradual expansion of Japanese defense policy, acclimating the public to the concept of a more aggressive Japan without the shock of it being done by a military oriented force.

As a preview of what is to come, compare this Japanese effort to the USAF's current "position" on anything. Maybe it's inherent to the maritime services, but this makes two that are kicking our ass right now. Coherent, logical policy that builds on top of previous policy over 20+ years as opposed to reflexive budget demands. Some food for thought...

Fighter Jets

Think I've posted something similar to this before, but here it is again:

What military aircraft are you?

F-15 Eagle

You are an F-15. Your record in combat is spotless; you`ve never been defeated. You possess good looks, but are not flashy about it. You prefer to let your reputation do the talking. You are fast, agile, and loud, but reaching the end of your stardom.

Take This Quiz Again

h/t: Buck

Getting Caught Up

I obviously missed out on a lot while I was gone, including several things which I wanted to blog about. Rest assured, I will be getting to them in good time, including several pieces about what I think is so wrong with the USAF as of late. You can't have as many problems as we do and think you're doing things right.

However, in the meantime, I have a couple of recommendations. First, blog wise, make sure to check out the newest war blog to be created, Kaboom. To me, Kaboom is notable for a few reasons. First, the author is a newly minted Lt. It's rare to see any sort of blog written by a young military officer, much less one who is currently in a war zone. Gives a much different perspective than the usual blogs, which are either written by junior enlisted or field grade officers and higher. It doesn't hurt that the writing is quite good as well. Also, his sense of humor and interests seems rather similar to mine, which, given his relatively junior status, shouldn't be too surprising.

Next recommendations are about movies. First, if you haven't gone to see them yet, be sure to check out No Country for Old Men and There Will be Blood while they are still in theaters. Daniel Day-Lewis will win the Oscar for Best Actor, and deservedly so. There Will be Blood is an excellent period piece, and there's nothing that I can really say against it. However, even it doesn't compare to No Country for Old Men, which is simply amazing. It has great acting and directing, yes, but it also has something more. Suspenseful, absolutely beautiful cinematography, and most importantly, a great story. I would say it's a modern day western, but I'm not sure if that's doing it justice. Just go see it.

The final recommendation is also about movies, but a rental recommendation. If you didn't catch it in theaters (which is likely, as I had never even heard of it until a few months ago), go rent Sunshine, a scifi film by Danny Boyle that was released last summer. A very enjoyable film, with some top notch acting, an interesting story, and some interesting themes, especially regarding the human relationship with the sun. Highly recommended.

Friday, February 01, 2008


No idea what took Blogger so long. I never actually got a response from Teh Google, but apparently someone read my blog and decided it was not, in fact, spam. Have to say I felt a little like Dave:

Or maybe this is a little bit more like the trapper keeper episode of South Park, which I unfortunately couldn't find a good clip of. Regardless, the bottom line is that I'm now back and am probably going to switch over to my own domain soon.

In any case,

Just in time for the weekend...