Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: This time it's Syria

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  • Alex Coleman, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    And an order of magnitude more difficult to ensure that the “good” gain power.

    And then there is the fact that it is already a regional war. the death toll in Iraq is about 2000 over the last two months. The flow of refugees between the two countries over the last decades numbers in the millions. That's a lot of potentially radicalised people who will wanting a homeland to call their own.

    And then there's Hezbollah and Lebanon. Will Hezbollah stay in Syria? Will the Lebanese government seize the chance to assert its authority into the south where Hez. rns the show? It's thorny mess that western leaders need to be clear about with their people as to what it is they are potentially getting themselves in for.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 247 posts Report Reply

  • Alex Coleman,

    About half way through this:

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player/2568245

    Josie Pagani on the panel lays out her case for why doing something is imperative, gets the Powell doctrine almost completely wrong, ignores the idea that even if you do this to stop CW use that there will be other consequences to it than that, and generally makes me despair. Thankfully Gordon McLauchlan and a ethics prof(?) from Aklnd University are there to provide some thought.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 247 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Alex Coleman,

    The measure would ban the use of ground forces in Syria “for the purpose of combat operations”

    I read a couple of days ago, can't remember where, that the US is moving an amphibious assault ship carrying a few hundred marines towards the Syrian coast. I doubt the marines would be putting their boots on Syrian ground, but I also suspect that "for the purpose of combat operations" may be interpreted liberally and creatively.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Alex Coleman, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    Yeah, and “change the momentum on the battlefield’’ can mean anything as well, that possibly authorises hitting other rebels than those we like.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 247 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    in from the bewilderness...
    It strikes me that the voice I’m not really hearing, or seeing, that much of in the mainstream media, is the ’Whoa, things have just gone too far, lets all step back, cool down, take stock and talk to each other. Let’s not get rushed into reactive lashing out. voice
    Less of the ‘OTT O.T.* punishment shtick’ .
    It’s as if Obama, Kerry & McCain just want some of that old time religion retribution…
    …and then it’s not far to regime change and decapitation.

    and then what?
    an ICBM for an ICBM
    all from old Abraham
    ya could write a book
    (or 3) about it…


    *Old Testament

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7950 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    errata/edit
    what I meant to say above was "It strikes me that the voice from the politicians I’m not really hearing, or seeing, that much of in the mainstream media, is..."

    one day I'll take the time to write less...
    :- )

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7950 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    I am so reassured that John McCain knows how high the stakes are...
    <h/t boingboing>

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7950 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    an amphibious assault ship carrying a few hundred marines

    That sounds like a "target". Send a ship with minimal self-defence capabilities and an expendable crew of jarheads into Syrian waters in the hope that it'll get sunk and create a casus belli.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Attachment

    that might ‘creep the mission’ a tad too far!

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming,

    In trying to explain the baffling complexity of the US position over Syria to someone over dinner tonight, having already waxed poetical over the NSA, It occurred to me that Syria may be misdirection for the NSA releases.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to nzlemming,

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7950 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Has the US demonstrated capability of exerting air superiority against maintained modern fighters without allied support over hostile territory using carrier based forces? I don’t think they have, not since Korea/Vietnam, at best.

    I wouldn't imagine we'll be seeing many fighters taking on fighters in any war. Stealth bombers, drones and extensive use of missiles to take out command and control, radar, missile defence etc. Once those are gone, any Syrian air force has limited ability - they can't see much to know what to engage, and we'll see some airfields having their buildings and runways turned into rubble.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    I wouldn’t imagine we’ll be seeing many fighters taking on fighters in any war.

    Not in a war against a superpower, anyway. Between two similarly armed non-superpowers, you might have an actual air battle.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    But modern fighters are designed with knowledge of likely enemy counter-measures in mind. Simon mentioned austere runway capacity above, and there's a bunch of stuff like that built into these machines, especially Eastern ones. So while I'm not expecting crazy dogfights over Damascus, I think mistake to over-rate US power, especially when operating pretty much alone.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Sorry to interrupt you guys in your plans to build a new Airfix "Syria Attack 2013" collection, but it seems that:
    1. The US and Assad are eagerly taking up the opportunity for the latter to give up some nasties to the Russians and obviate the need for any attack
    2. Any attack is expected to be limited to sea-launched cruise missiles. Other toys will be kept in the toy box

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    But modern fighters are designed with knowledge of likely enemy counter-measures in mind.

    Sure they are, just as modern bows and arrows are designed with laser sights. But they're still a weapon that has had its day. In terms of cutting edge offensive power, unpiloted devices really do have the edge. They're cheaper, you don't morally care if they get destroyed, and they can perform a far higher specification, can take more g's, have less weight so they can go a lot faster, and they're smaller, harder to see coming, or circling around. They can hit with high accuracy, and can be guided from spotters on the ground, using drones, or even satellites, or from pre-programmed coordinates. Fighter jets would fly around aimlessly, with nothing to fight, whilst their entire ground based infrastructure is destroyed under them. If they were spotted they could pretty much be followed back to where-ever they need to land and blown up there, even if they have the capacity to evade a sudden storm of homing missiles.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to BenWilson,

    If they were spotted they could pretty much be followed back to where-ever they need to land and blown up there, even if they have the capacity to evade a sudden storm of homing missiles.

    I really do think you are overstating the ability of US technology to take these out. Firstly, unmanned vs. piloted aircraft simulations are still seeing the manned aircraft when flown by an experienced pilot take out the drones every time. At the moment and in the foreseeable future drones only work in a benign environment (see link below). The current drones are also not fighter aircraft, they are ground attack and reconnaissance aircraft and have no air to air capacity (see link below).

    And there is no ground infrastructure to destroy, that's the point of the Swedish model. Yes you can take out the airfields but that's all you've done. Once the jets have dispersed then you can use all the pre-programmed coordinates, satellites and spotters you like and they'll do little.

    And I disagree that the day of the jet fighter is gone. Keir is right, these things are designed to counter all counter-measures. Which is why they are still made in such numbers.

    Here's an interesting thread on UAV air-to-air from folks who might know. Conclusion - don't hold your breath.

    Wasn't the F-104 Starfight supposed to be the last manned fighter jet? That was 1964.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    I wasn't suggesting air to air combat, which is what the whole detail about tracking them back to landing points was about. By homing missiles I meant surface to air, or possibly air-to-air, which would be a response to their aircraft attempting, say, to attack one of the ships that is launching missiles.

    Once the jets have dispersed then you can use all the pre-programmed coordinates, satellites and spotters you like and they’ll do little.

    Dispersed to where? Once they're in the air they're on radar, then you can quite literally just watch them from a satellite, so long as it's not cloudy (which is when you'd begin your attack). There's still no such thing as an actual invisible jet, nor a cold one so they can be pretty much watched to where they land, and picked off on the ground.

    I'm curious what you mean by the Swedish model, with no infrastructure. You mean no radar installations at all? How do they see any kind of incoming aircraft then?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Oh, and of course Assad will have missiles too, but it would be an extremely ballsy move to attempt to strike at one of the American ships. Even shooting at the American planes would be something that was thought carefully, especially if they are just circling ominously, encroaching bit by bit into the airspace.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    Surely the Syrian dispersal plans are more for attack by an external power in a classic style attack, rather than during a deep insurgency, where their dispersal bases/sites/etc may be rather compromised or of uncertain loyalty.

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1027 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to BenWilson,

    I’m curious what you mean by the Swedish model, with no infrastructure. You mean no radar installations at all? How do they see any kind of incoming aircraft then?

    The Swedes and the Swiss developed a model, which the North Vietnamese also used successfully, of mobile radar units. Networks of on and off mobile units are really really hard to to track and take out. Satellites and drones don't work against them (and as above, it would not be a drone friendly environment anyway).

    Pushing a hot jet into a building in an urban setting - land on the road and into a house or commercial building - is pretty good camouflage. What are you going to do if you do spot it too? Take out an apartment building?

    The Swedes and Swiss also use caves. Hard to track a hot jet under a mountain.

    Fact is (as others stated above), the last time the US came up against a fighter hostile environment and won was 1953 and that was primarily because the F-86 was a vastly superior aircraft to the MiG-15.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    Surely the Syrian dispersal plans are more for attack by an external power in a classic style attack

    Yes, there is that. So that really comes down to terrain control.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    Kerry shocked to be taken seriously

    Secretary of State John Kerry said today that he was “shocked and flabbergasted” that the Russians heeded his suggestion about Syria’s chemical weapons, telling reporters, “After four decades in public life, this is the first time someone has taken me seriously.”

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    Networks of on and off mobile units are really really hard to to track and take out.

    I'm surprised by that, since radar is a very powerful electromagnetic signal. It's like turning on a strong beacon to anything tuned even nearly into the wavelength. You can be nearly instantly triangulated. Any spotter in the area can then sight it, follow it, and guide in any number of munitions that are nearby, from mortars to cruise missiles to smart bombs dropped by stealth bombers

    What are you going to do if you do spot it too? Take out an apartment building?

    I certainly would not put that past the US military.

    The Swedes and Swiss also use caves. Hard to track a hot jet under a mountain.

    No, but it's not that hard to put a bomb into the cave mouth, collapsing it, burying everyone who isn't killed by the blast. This is "infrastructure", extremely expensive to build, and once destroyed, your capacity is "degraded".

    the last time the US came up against a fighter hostile environment and won was 1953 and that was primarily because the F-86 was a vastly superior aircraft to the MiG-15.

    I think you are massively overestimating the effectiveness of a fighter force in defending against the kind of attack that I'm talking about. Are you saying that they'll be shooting down drones and missiles all day long, and not losing anything themselves? That somehow they'll be able to launch thousands of missions without ever once giving away the locations that they are landing at? Every plane they lose is a plane they won't get replaced, if they have become diplomatically isolated. They might go for an all out fight like that, which could rage for a few days, at the end of which they would be severely damaged, whilst the Americans would simply be bringing in more force from practically every direction. I think it's more likely they would just stay hidden, and the air would be lost without very much fighting at all.

    Of course there's a chance of a real fight. That's at least a part of the reason Obama should not be striking. But I'm just trying to be realistic about how fighting the US with a conventional military is likely to play out, given the events of the last 20 years. They have nothing at all that can deter a sustained bombardment other than a humanitarian appeal, and that becomes very hard to maintain if you've been using chemical weapons.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to BenWilson,

    g. But I’m just trying to be realistic about how fighting the US with a conventional military is likely to play out, given the events of the last 20 years.

    The events of the last few years have more or less shown that not much has changed from WW2. Iraq and Libya proved that you can throw all the ALCM and other distantly launched weaponry at a target but all you'll do is degrade. Saddam survived the shock and awe and Gaddafi did too. The threat to Assad would be ground troops taking advantage of an airborne attack by missiles.

    Even Afghanistan in 2003 relied on Northern Alliance troops after perhaps the most massive rolling bombardment in history.

    whilst the Americans would simply be bringing in more force from practically every direction.

    From where? They have no regional land bases. They're carrier dependent.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

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