Monthly Archives: March 2012

That Was the Week that Was: 2012 Week 13

So week 13 is over. March is (just about) over. And that means that the first quarter of 2012 is over.

The good news: we still love blogging about this stuff, and are enjoying the conversations that are starting up. That will only grow with time.

The bad news: this wasn’t supposed to be work or take time, and oddly enough, it is and it does. Oh, well. So let’s take a look back at what we took a look at, shall we?

  • Almost 6 million rifles later… Sturm, Ruger and Company is still going strong (indeed, it’s a stock-market darling right now), and its 10/22 rifle, introduced in 1964, remains popular. A great kid’s first gun, if the kid is large enough (the pull — the distance from the trigger to the buttplate — might be too small for some youngesters). Of course, many parents and mentors still want to go with the traditional single-shot first rifle. Nothing wrong with enforcing a stately pace on youthful beginners.
  • U.S. Coast Guard out of Counterterror? They will be if the new boss has his way. But it might be for the best, for the Coast Guard, its usual clients, and the counterterror war. They’ll still be available for their most important CT function, spotting anything that just doesn’t look right in the ports and waterways that they know best.
  • There’s a new tool for history buffs…. ChronoZoom is a new way to visualize history in context. It’s got great potential, but that depends on how it develops. It appears that the developers’ intent is for it to be community edited.
  • The Victory Two Rifles Won… was the battle of Pleven in 1878. Although technically, the Turkish forces’ clever use of a long-range single-shot and a short-range rapid-fire repeater for each man didn’t win the battle, they let the Turks save time and avoid complete defeat.
  • Tom von Kaenel and the Sea2Sea 2012 Challenge… is raising money for American and British veterans’ causes. Help out if you can.
  • Handlowali Polską? Trans.: “Did they sell out Poland?” Well, yeah, they did. You Poles should be used to it by now. It’s now our country’s turn to apologize for our President for a change.
  • Ohio Ordnance Works was the Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week (aka W4). If you want a semi-auto M1918A3 BAR, they’re your answer. Explore the website to see some of the other cool things they sell and do. (Need an MP44 rewatted, they’re your huckleberry).
  • Kid shoots herself jumping on a mattress, that some idiot left a gun in. Now You Know Why Mom Said, “Don’t Jump on the Mattress.” Mom: don’t bring home goons who leave guns in your kids’ beds. Honest, at some time you have to ease up the self-actualization and take responsibility for your progeny. It’s not like the guy is going to.
  • A seafood-restaurant employee fights off a violent burglar with any weapon that comes to hand. If he’d really been thinking, he’d have skipped the 911 call and just fed the second-story man to the lobsters.
  • This was the threat: Remington (and Freedom Group) out of New York? The reality is, the bill that had them looking for the exits failed in committee… they’re staying put, for now.
  • SF Inside Joke: Adolf and the CONOP. This is one of those jokes that isn’t really all that funny, but what are you gonna do? So you laugh.
  • Saturday Matinee 013: Battle: Los Angeles. One real plus about the movie, not mentioned in the review: seeing the People’s Republic of Santa Monica get wrecked by space aliens.
  • That Was the Week that Was: 2012 Week 13… brings us full circle back here. Nice place to be.

Statistics: 19 posts, roughly 12,300 words, 8 comments on this week’s posts. (To date: 131 substantive comments, about 4,000 spams).  Currently, most spam comments are coming from Brazil for some reason.

Saturday Matinee 013: Battle: Los Angeles

OK, what’s a sci-fi flick doing in our war-movie theater? At ease, troops, let us explain. Battle: LA is to the USMC what Act of Valor is to the SEALS — a nonstop action-fest that also serves as a pretty decent recruiting film.

(Not that the USMC needs any lessons on that from Hollywood. If Hollywood had been paying attention to what the Marines are selling the young moviegoers of America, they wouldn’t have made money-losing turkeys like Lions for Lambs, Stop-Loss, In the Valley of Elah, Redacted, The Messenger, OK, OK, we’ll stop now).

Indeed, director Jonathan Liebesman made it clear that he was not making a sci-fi flick with Marines, but rather a war movie with aliens. The difference is subtle but real. Here’s the trailer.

The movie is so unabashedly pro-American and pro-Marine that the pro-fessional critics hated it. It had a 35% score at Rotten Tomatoes, less than RT’s audience rating of 49%. RT’s “top critics,” which is their term for the major, primarily legacy media critics, gave it only 19%. Roger Ebert, who flies his far-left politics and dislike of our forces in lieu of the US flag, and gave three-plus and four star reviews to several of the above mentioned dull and witless anti-military agitprop films, hated it in remarkable shades of purple: “noisy, violent, ugly and stupid.” He gave it half a star. (He gave Act of Valor, which he also hated, two and a half, and devoted a good chunk of that review to praising an obscure anti-war documentary).

Anyway, the movie begins with the everyday activities of a group of young Marines getting ready for a combat deployment. You see the kid lieutenant and his worried wife, the young guy about to get married, the confident guy they all look up to, the youngster who might be a Marine but still doesn’t have a real girlfriend… the old sergeant with a troubled past, whom the troops have heard bad rumors about, who’s been talked into doing one last thing before his retirement papers go through. Sure, it’s all stereotypical as anything ever filmed, but it’s actually a slice of real life in a combat unit, where you have a 22 year old lieutenant and an elderly-feeling 32-year-old sergeant leading a bunch of 19 year olds with the mistaken idea they’re immortal.

The enemy comes screaming in quickly, and little is known about them… but as information is gathered,the Marines react to it, and never give up even as the enemy seems invincible. At the end — is it really a spoiler to tell you that the Marines win, in part through the sacrifice of characters we’ve come to like and hate to see go?

The director Jonathan Liebesman is reportedly in the early stages of preparing a sequel, and Aaron Eckhart, who plays the battle-hardened and burnt-out Staff Sergeant Nantz, has said he’s up for it. Eckhart is absolutely great in the role, bringing depth to what otherwise would be a clichéd, dull script. Indeed, even Ebert, while bagging on the clichéd, dull script, also praises Eckhart: “Eckhart is perfectly cast, and let the word go forth that he makes one hell of a great-looking action hero.”

The science of the movie is abysmal. The enemy’s reason for invading earth makes absolutely no sense. We will risk throwing a spoiler at you: they’re here for the water. Chew this over in your mind: these aliens have mastered interstellar travel, but the only way they can get water is by raiding from planet to planet for it. They want Earth in particular because our water, you see, is liquid… it being more of a hassle for them to melt ice or condense steam than it is to pack up and travel light-years. What’s that you say? Hollywood screenwriters are dropouts who were majoring in English, not astrophysicists? Stipulated, but understanding that interstellar travel is a bigger deal than melting ice does not require  advanced education, does it?

Still, you let the inane premise go, because the stuff happening on the screen is so gripping. (Kind of like the Matrix conceit that humans would be useful as storage batteries. No wonder there are people who think windmills and Chevy Volts will replace oil by next Tuesday).

The weapons and tactics are fairly accurate. Movie troops can never move like real troops, or you’d never have enough of them in the frame to know what’s going on. But these guys do a pretty good job of acting like Marines. They did the now-standard (thanks to retired Marine grunt and PAO Dale Dye, who revolutionized the industry) pre-filming boot camp and used real Marine equipment and real Marines as extras.

In a couple places, it’s the individual Joes of this platoon that have to figure out where the vulnerabilities of the enemies are and how to defeat them. This is exactly what American troops really do. In history, it recurs over and over, fighter pilots launching against orders into the teeth of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, individuals scrambling up the dunes and organizing to flank the bunkers at Omaha Beach, a cut-off advisor defending a bridge singlehandedly and holding it against a battalion of NVA tanks.

To see them do it against aliens is probably the price of Hollywood making a film in which Marines are good guys (in Ebert’s interview with The Progressive, linked above, he notes that the only acceptable Hollywood enemies are Nazis, now that Arabs have been taken off the table by PC — something which he approves, even though he laments the limits this places on moviemakers. I’d have thought he’d have stipulated that space aliens are OK, too, but in his review he actually complains that the motivations of the aliens are not sufficiently believable. Great Googly Moogly, Roger, we’re talking about a space alien movie, and do we need to remind you, you liked The Day the Earth Stood Still?)

If you’re not conflicted about the idea of Marines as good guys, and you don’t think “action”  is a put-down in a movie description, you’ll never have a high-profile career in film criticism, but then, you’ll be able to enjoy Battle: LA.

Can computer code be a weapon?

A snippet of reconstructed Duqu source code. Double-click to expand and read. Image: Kaspersky Labs.

A weapon of the future, say many technologists. A weapon already in use by someone — as with the Stuxnet worm that attacked Iranian uranium-processing centrifuges, or the Duqu worm whose mission appears to be cyber ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) vis-a-vis Stuxnet’s sabotage suicide mission. (The program was supposed to delete itself after ruining the Iranian centrifuges and their nuclear-weapons-material payloads). Infosecurity Magazine says this about attempts at understanding Duqu:

[I]s Duqu the first example of a government intelligence agency built cyberweapon? Many suspect it is; nobody knows for certain. (We should include Stuxnet in any discussion since Kaspersky has also demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that Duqu and Stuxnet have come from the same team.)

The language ‘found’ by Kaspersky inside Duqu is just an old language – object oriented C, or OOC. But the discovery adds further fuel to the unproven conjecture. Kaspersky believes there could be two reasons to use OOC rather than the more popular C++. Firstly, ‘old-school’ programmers believe it to be a more reliable framework with less opportunity for unexpected behavior than some more recent languages; and secondly, it offers wide portability without any of the platform limitations that arise with C++.

Kaspersky Lab also suggests that some of the code may have been reused from other projects. “The code could have been reused from previous cyber-operations and customized to integrate into the Duqu Trojan,” said Igor Soumenkov, Kaspersky Lab malware expert. “However, one thing is certain,” he adds: “these techniques are normally seen by elite software developers and almost never in today’s general malware.”

via Infosecurity – Duqu: a government intelligence agency built cyberweapon?.

Dell SecureWorks disagreed with Kaspersky and argued that Duqu and Stuxnet were authored by different authors or different teams.

Duqu — which Kaspersky and Infosecurity seem to suspect is a US cyberweapon — has resurfaced in a new version this week after months of delay. (Older versions are now defunct, their servers disabled or taken offline). According to a Kaspersky analyst, the new version was found by Symantec — in Iran.

Duqu (and Stuxnet) rely for their propagation on innate vulnerabilities in the design of Microsoft Windows and only infect Windows systems — so far.

Richard Clarke, the failed counterterrorism czar behind the brilliant Clinton-era approach of blowing up empty huts and  disused obstacle courses to send “messages” to bin Laden, thinks he knows who’s behind Stuxnet (and, presumably, Duqu): the United States. Here he is in a discussion with Smithsonian magazine:

Stuxnet is a digital ghost, countless lines of code crafted with such genius that it was able to worm its way into Iran’s nuclear fuel enrichment facility in Natanz, Iran, where gas centrifuges spin like whirling dervishes, separating bomb-grade uranium-235 isotopes from the more plentiful U-238. Stuxnet seized the controls of the machine running the centrifuges and in a delicate, invisible operation, desynchronized the speeds at which the centrifuges spun, causing nearly a thousand of them to seize up, crash and otherwise self-destruct. The Natanz facility was temporarily shut down, and Iran’s attempt to obtain enough U-235 to build a nuclear weapon was delayed by what experts estimate was months or even years.

The question of who made Stuxnet and who targeted it on Natanz is still a much-debated mystery in the IT and espionage community….

When you’re dealing with virtual espionage, there is really no way to know for sure who did what.

Unless you’re Richard Clarke.

“I think it’s pretty clear that the United States government did the Stuxnet attack,” he said calmly.

Clarke’s reasoning is fully explained in the link, but basically he believes that the worm is too cautious, the marker of design constraints imposed by risk-averse American lawyers.

Clarke further argues to the interviewer that the US has a strong cyber offensive capability, but hardly any defense to speak of:

“The picture you paint in your book,” I said to Clarke, “is of a U.S. totally vulnerable to cyberattack. But there is no defense, really, is there?” There are billions of portals, trapdoors, “exploits,” as the cybersecurity guys call them, ready to be hacked.

“There isn’t today,” he agrees. Worse, he continues, catastrophic consequences may result from using our cyber­offense without having a cyberdefense: blowback, revenge beyond our imaginings.

“We hack our way into foreign governments and collect the information off their networks. The same kind of information a CIA agent in the old days would try to buy from a spy.”

Clarke, of course, has been retired since his bungling of 9/11 warnings. He has no way of knowing some of these facts he asserts so boldly. Either he’s wrong, in which case he’s merely irritated our cyber-warriors, or he’s right, in which case he’s really irritated our cyber-warriors.

Federal experts that testified before a Senate Armed Services Committee subcommittee this month seem to agree with Clarke that the US has extremely weak cyberwarfare defensive capabilities, according to Constantine von Hoffman in

Those expert[s] claim that the billions spent by the government on cybersecurity have provided only a limited increase in protection; attackers can penetrate DoD networks; and the defense supply chain and physical systems are at high risk of attack.

Of course, some of the dire warnings may be nothing more than the age-old Pentagon tactic of hyping a threat to plump up a budget:

It is difficult to know how many of these warnings are hyperbole, since some, but not all of them, were accompanied by pleas for more funding.

But NSA’s R&D director, von Hoffman notes, says the money’s enough, it’s just not being spent wisely.

So… back to the original question in the title of this post. Can software be a weapon?

All of these guys seem to think so. Food for thought.

Iranian She-ninjas Attack!

Iranian she-ninjas - each has one sword, one dagger, and one eyebrow. Image:

It’s not often we get two ninja posts in one week.

Actually, it’s a first. But along with the ninja pot pilferers of hippy-dippy California, we now have Iranian she-ninjas in the news. Can you say “Kill Bill, Vol. 3”? All kinds of Hollywood moguls will be hard at work developing the idea… as soon as their dealer replaces the stolen weed, wellspring of the creativity that lets them do sequel after sequel and comic book adaptation after another sequel.

The Iranian she-ninjas are going to war over a Reuters dispatch that called them “ninja assassins” and was headlined “Thousands of female Ninjas train as Iran’s assassins,” but they haven’t taken up the straight sword or the throwing star. Instead, they’re vowing to use that most Western, passive-aggressive weakling’s weapon: a lawsuit.

Reuters brass, hoping to keep their heads atop their shoulders, their insides inside, and, not least, their bonus money in the company,  have tried goverling, self-abasement, and amending the headline, but the she-ninjas are not mollified. The Iranian government, which generally treats women as livestock in accordance with ethe priciples of sharia, is backing the she-ninjas and has pulled the press credentials of the entire Reuters staff in-country.

Not reported if Iran’s actual assassins are also suing Reuters for defamation, and for getting “girl cooties” on them.

The Iranian women vowed to sue Reuters for defamation over the incident, Iran’s state television reported on Wednesday.

Reuters today said it had corrected the story’s original headline, which said, “Thousands of female Ninjas train as Iran’s assassins” to read “Three thousand women Ninjas train in Iran.”

That was not sufficient for Iranian authorities, however, who today demanded that Reuters’ 11-person staff return their press cards. The only Reuters report currently available seems to be a slideshow. It was not clear whether any other report accompanied the photos.

A Reuters representative told The Atlantic’s Max Fisher in an email today that “there was indeed an error” in the original Reuters report, citing a mistake in a “video script that was promptly corrected.” However, Fisher and others have been unable to locate the video. Press TV’s selection of the claimed Reuters video, meanwhile, features a British narrator describing the Iranian female athletes as possibly “the West’s worst enemy” and “ninja assassins,” according to The Atlantic.

We found this story here:  Iranian female ninjas suing Reuters over report: state TV | GlobalPost, and their report depended heavily on Max Fisher’s adolescently-earnest and characteristically (for Fisher, not the magazine) humorless report here. (Everyone at the Atlantic can write well, but not all of them can think, and Fisher’s proof is living proof that above-average ability to write and think is no guarantee that you will use that latter ability, let alone of having a personality).

Fisher did make some very good points: not every Iranian hates us, and a significant minority actually like us, and most of them go about their daily life uninterested in harming a hair on anyone’s head, including the she-ninjas, who are simply indulging in one of the very few athletic endeavors that the terrorist government allows to Iranian ladies. But he overreached by saying the whole thing was illustrative of Iranian-American intergovernmental hostility. For one thing, Reuters isn’t American, and the photojournalist whose work the disputed piece is based on is as Iranian as Khamenei himself.

An Eric Randall follow-up at the Atlantic shows that not all Atlantic writers are quite as dry as Fisher was yesterday.

Still… Iranian state-sponsored she-ninjas, versus Reuters ink-stained wretches… can’t they both lose?

SF Inside Joke: Adolf and the CONOP

Hitler finds out it takes a 45-slide CONOP to go out the gate.

This may be a rare case where something will make sense to the current SF readers of this blog, but will go over the heads of the civilians and old timers. Sorry about that.

Hitler Response to the CONOP process – YouTube.


Without going too deep into our business here, the early and successful freewheeling SF operations that had the war won by December, 2001, were replaced by increasingly bureaucratic and centralized, top-down micromanagement. Commander’s discretion gave way to informational 5Ws, to must-be-approved 5Ws, to opord-format CONOPS, to must be approved 48-hours-in-advance massive Powerpoint decks that are graded not on content but on grammar and graphics.

We’re losing the war, but some future historian will have a hell of a collection of graphics to illustrate his papers — if anything exists then that can open early-21st-century Powerpoints.

When this video first appeared in circa 2009, at the CKSOTF at Bagram, did this cause the micromanaging, otherwise-idle CJSFOBbits to inject a dose of reality into the mission-planning process, dial back the bureaucracy, and let the teams get on with the war? That’s a rhetorical question. Instead, it sparked a furious manhunt as the then-CJSOTF commander and CSM let the mission drop, and the whole war go by the wayside, so all hands could focus on identifying the heretic and burning him at the stake.

Since actually pursuing the enemy is not and hasn’t been a priority, the command element might as well chase something besides their own tails. (They haven’t caught the heretic yet. No one affiliated with this blog, gents. And it wasn’t the guy who uploaded the video, either).

But this refocus on command priorities makes perfect sense, honestly. Really, it’s not like the enemy won’t sit still until the assistant staff judge advocate comes back from his mid-tour R&R, or chasing rugs on chicken road, or chocking chicken in the port-a-john. Is it?


Legendary Knives of SF

Over the years and the decades, certain knives have come to be associated with Special Forces. Unlike the SEALS, we haven’t endorsed thirty different Rambo knives and toad-stabbers, and we’ve never associated with anything as impractical and, well, ugly as the Buckmaster. But hey, the frogs are alright, you gotta love them for what they are, cause they ain’t gonna change. Anyway, as people who know where to find wine that doesn’t have a screw-on top, and speak a foreign language other than Loud Slow English, you’d expect us to have a little more class. We do, and it shows up in our choice of cuttin’ irons. We’ll take them in rough chronological order.

The V-42 Commando Stiletto

Case V-42 1992 Reissue. Image: Knife

This weapon, made by Case Knives, was issued to the SF forerunner The First Special Service Force, a unique Canadian-American combined unit. It shows up on the crests of many SF-related units today. While all SF men are still trained to fight with knives, daggers like this are very rare, with multipurpose blades having replaced them. The V-42 was an update on the double-edged British Fairbairn-Sykes fighting or Commando knife, with some subtle human engineering and quality improvements. It had a spiked pommel, a leather-disc handle like a contemporary bayonet, and a serrated place to plant the thumb for a couple of the knife strikes that were in the Fairbairn-Sykes bag of tricks. It was a fighting knife, a killing knife; it was also a beautiful work of industrial art. An original V-42 is worth a small fortune today, and even one of a short run of numbered copies Case made in the 1980s and 90s (photo) has appreciated enormously.  But there’s a decent Chinese copy available.

The Randall Knife

From the top: Randall #1, #15, #14. Bottom one most common in SF. Image: Randall Made Knives catalog.

Starting in Vietnam, or maybe even earlier, SF gear included a near-compulsory Randall knife, Rolex watch, and star sapphire ring. The knives are less beloved today, but they’re still handcrafted by the Randall shop in Orlando, and they’re still damn good knives. These days, they tend to be utterly wasted on the collectors who lock them in safes or glass display cabinets. With a Randall, you could cut just about anything that needed cutting, including (in one well-known case) through the skin of a burning helicopter wreck to safety. Randall Made knives take and hold an edge (especially the carbon steel blades). They are as vital a piece of SF history as the green beret itself. Particularly “SF” models are the No. 1 and No. 14 “Attack” (illustrated) and 15 in 5 1/2″ and 7 1/2″ blade lengths. Some do swear by the tubular-hilted No. 18, wrapping the hilt in “550” cord. The knives are built like a bank vault. No Chinese copy of one could do it justice, we fear. A Model 14 is $385 from Randall, plus options; plus a long wait (From the website: “Current order deliveries are being scheduled for delivery in 56 MONTHS, year 2016.” If you need one now, dealers can help you but expect to pay nearly double the price — seriously. If you want a used one with “character,” good luck — SF-used Randalls are much more pricey, and almost all new Randalls are locked up by collectors and never even put in the sheath. Pity that.

The Gerber Mark II

SF/SOG legend Jerry "Mad Dog" Shriver (MIA-PFD.RIP) with Gerber MkII and suppressed Grease Gun at Mission Launch Site. Image:

This knife was another staple of Vietnam operators. It was a 1966 update of the classic fighting dagger, and so it fell into disuse — and all but out of Gerber’s catalog — in the 1980s. It’s back in production now; in case you have one, a serial-number history of the first 35 years of so of production is here, and a comprehensive history of the Mk II is at Military Carry

The thing with daggers is, they’re highly-evolved fighting knives, but 99% of the time you need a knife, you’re cutting cardboard, parachute cord, webbing, or dressing an animal. All can be done with a double-edged knife optimized for cutting human throats, hamstrings and livers, but it’s awkward. That leads the dagger-wearer to carry two knives, and if there’s one thing an SF guy already has and doesn’t need more of, it’s weight to carry. That said, the wasp-waisted, elegant Gerber was a remarkably beautiful design, even in its odd first-generation model with the blade and hilt set at a 5-degree angle for more comfortable waist carry. Apocryphal stories claimed a number of buyers indignantly returned “bent” knives, and Roy Gerber soon threw in the towel and made them straight (an anniversary model once reprised the bend for collectors). Mark IIs can be found with and without sawteeth on the wasp-waist. Ask a late 1960s-1980s SF vet, he’ll have a Gerber story. (He may still have the knife in a closet).

The Yarborough Knife

Yarborough Knife. Issued to SF graduates since 2002, available to earlier graduates. This was the first. Image: Anne Reeve via USASOC.

In 2002, Special Forces senior leaders decided that a specific SF knife needed to be issued once again. After considering over 100 entries (including, we are told, Randalls), Special Forces Command selected a Bill Harsey design, to be manufactured by Chris Reeve, and called it the “Yarborough Knife” after the SF General who started with the Airborne Test Platoon in 1941 and was instrumental in winning approval for the Green Beret from President Kennedy in 1961. Reeve and Harsey sell a generic version of the knife, but a “Yarborough” marked knife is only available one way — earn Special Forces qualification. Every knife’s serial number is recorded along with the name of its owner at Special Forces Command and/or the Special Forces Branch Museum.

While the knife has been presented to every SFQC graduate since August 23, 2002, the taxpayers aren’t the ones paying for them in the end — the SF candidates who sweated to earn them in the first place, reimburse the Government for the knife, and it becomes their personal property — with one limitation. SF soldiers, and their heirs, are not permitted to sell the Yarborough Knife, and a private citizen who is in possession of one may be prosecuted for theft or receiving stolen property. If the cops find him before the SF mafia does.

A soldier who qualified before August 23 may also obtain a Yarborough, although the process is more involved and the Command has to check him out and establish his bona fides. If you’re SF and want one, go here. If you need more help, drop us a line in the comments. Here are two threads on the knife: Symbol of a Legacy and . Designer Bill Harsey is a member there and comments.

Most SF men store their Yarborough away, which is a pity as it is an extremely strong, practical field knife. We know of at least one soldier who has beaten his like a gong on multiple combat tours, and it’s still going strong. And honest, it has nothing to do with him being one finger short. We know of another who inadvertently plunged it into his thigh, and it penetrated all the way to the bone. The knife was so sharp (from the factory!) that the wound was near painless and healed with a very faint scar… but it let out over a pint of blood before he got the bleeding under control.

So today, in 2012, the Yarborough is the definitive Special Forces knife, but each of the others has a very special place in SF history. Also, because a knife is a personal item, you’ll find plenty of guys who like a Ka-Bar, a Glock knife (it’s like a mini Ka-Bar), an AK bayonet or some other piece of exotica. We tried some oddball knives over the years, with mixed results. And there are a lot of guys who don’t use a sheath knife at all, preferring to use a multi-tool. There’s something wrong with those boys. A sheath knife is needed if only for style points. Ideally, a V-42, Randall, Mark II, or Yarborough.

Missile Defense, Japanese Style

Illustration of Japan's layered BMD System. Image: Japan's Ministry of Defense. (Double click to expand, but it's still not quite legible... that's JMOD's doing, not ours).

We still see people claiming that ballistic missile defense is impossible. That’s silly; it was impossible, or very very difficult, in 1962, but that was 50 years ago. Since then every aspect of interception technology has improved, but missile defense opponents still cling to their 1962 arguments that ultimately brought down the first US ABM (anti-ballistic missile) system over the next decade.

While the President seems eager to cancel missile defense research and deployment, not above a little groveling to appease the Russians, other nations that are directly threatened by intermediate-range or intercontinental ballistic  missiles (IRBMs/ICBMs) in the hands of rogue regimes are less blithe about the prospects of being nuked, and are taking precautions. One of those nations is Japan, frequently the target of saber-rattling by the cannibal cabal running North Korea. In Popular Mechanics, Joe Pappalardo runs down the mechanics of how a Japanese defense would unfold against a Nork strike, or Nork loss of control of one of their missiles launched in Japan’s general direction.

At this point in our scenario, the Taepodong is aloft and the Japanese are nervous. What can they do about it?

Missile defense works in layers. The first layer is a fight in space, led by Japanese destroyers armed with SM-3 interceptors. These weapons deploy a kill vehicle into space that use the launching ship’s targeting data and long-wave infrared seeker to hunt down the missile as it streaks outside the Earth’s atmosphere. It kills the missile with a kamikaze plunge into its path. Japan says it will deploy three destroyers with SM-3s in response to the threat of a North Korean test.

Japan's PAC-3 anti-missile system. It also has an antiaircraft capability. Image: Japan MOD. (This one is legible if double-clicked).

If those interceptors miss the target—and they certainly might—then land-based interceptors are on hand to target the dummy payload or debris from the rocket’s stages as it reenters the atmosphere. These Patriot Advanced Capability-3 systems use millimeter wave guidance to track and collide with cruise and ballistic missiles. The Japanese have owned these systems since 2008. The PAC-3s for this test would launch from Air Self-Defense Force bases on three islands. The Japanese government is also considering rushing the deployment of PAC-3 systems in Okinawa, which was planned for 2014.

via The Weapons of a North Korea–Japan Missile Standoff – Popular Mechanics.

He also covers the Norks’ missile technology, and some of the sensitive ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) satellites that maintain a global vigil for, among other anomalies, missile launches.  Read the whole thing.

What he doesn’t mention is that the Japanese defensive systems are based upon US technology. However, experts seem to believe that the Japanese have added some tweaks of their own to the missile software, which they do share with their American counterparts. The Japanese Ministry of Defense has an informative page (in English) about Japanese ballistic missile defense systems and planning.

The US system that was under construction in 2009 also was to include ground-based interceptors on the American West Coast, whose readiness has been reduced over the last three years, and an airborne laser capability, development of which was canceled, despite successful tests, as a diplomatic lagniappe, part of the “reset” of relations with Russia.

The same advances in technology that make Standard SM-3 and Patriot Advanced Capability missiles more effective than the Sentry and Safeguard missiles cancelled 40 years ago, are worth examining for students of ground combat, because they are likely to lead, given Moore’s Law, to active defense technology that works against light rockets and rocket-propelled grenades in the short run and against “dumb” projectiles before too long. Can you hit a bullet with a bullet? In 2012, the answer is… “soon.”

Hopefully we will not need Pappalardo’s information to pry the facts out of news stories in the days ahead, as the Norks prepare to launch… something. But if we do, you’ve got it now.

Hat tip: the Professor.

Remington (& Freedom Group) out of New York?

.22 rimfire round from a Ruger MkII showing microstamp. Image: microstamping blog.

The New York Daily News is  reporting that Remington (which is the flagship of the Freedom Group, including Marlin, Bushmaster, and many other brands) is threatening to shutter its plant in Ilion, New York, a plant considered the oldest continuously operated weapons factory in the Western Hemisphere.

Occasion for the threat: a bill requiring all newly produced weapons to incorporate proprietary “microstamping” technology. In theory, microstamping leaves a mark on every cartridge case which positively identifies the exact weapon that fired it. (A moribund blog by the microstamping promoters hasn’t been updated since 2008). It’s an extension of the forensic pseudoscience of “ballistics.”

Critics of the bill point out that, even if weapons serial numbers somehow identified criminal users of those weapons, microstamping does not do what it says it does. Stephen P. Jackson, Jr., the Remington official who warned Cuomo of the company’s conditional intent to exit New York and idle the 1,100 workers in Ilion, offered a précis of those arguments in his letter.

Three independent studies to examine the sole-sourced concept of firearms microstamping have concluded that the would-be technology should not be mandated.

Results obtained by researchers at the University of California at Davis and the National Academy of Sciences echo those of an earlier independent, peer-reviewed study published by New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice Professor George Krivosta. Professor Krivosta conclusively established that microstamping technology is unreliable, does not function as the patent holder claims and can be easily defeated in seconds using common household tools.

Mandating Firearms microstamping will restrict the ability of Remington to expand business in the Empire State. Worse yet, Remington could be forced to reconsider its commitment to the New York market altogether rather than spend the astronomical sums of money needed to completely reconfigure our manufacturing and assembly processes. This would directly impact law enforcement, firearms retailers and consumers throughout New York- if not the entire country.

Jackson’s letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo is posted at the Daily Caller. At this writing, there was still no press release from Remington on the subject.

In addition to the technical problems Jackson describes, microstamping technology — assuming for the sake of argument that it actually did work — is trivially defeated by criminal users, requires police labs to invest in costly electron microscopes (just to see that gangbangers have defeated the microstamp with a $30 Dremel tool), and requires a royalty agreement with the inventors, reportedly Bloomberg cronies.

That last may explain the whole thing.


Hat tip: Dan Zimmerman at TTAG, (Hey, Dan-o, what’s up with cousin George?)

Update: While the Daily News said that passsage of the microstamping language was unlikely, Robert Farago at TTAG reports that it has indeed been taken out. Those 1,100 jobs are safe — for now.

Any Weapon that Comes to Hand

It would probably have been a lot easier for Anthony Brisbane to deal with Trevor Pufall (mugshot left) if he were one of the many Floridians licensed to carry a gun, but instead he found himself in the fight of his life with just the objects he could get his hands on in his workplace: Captain Steamer’s Oyster Bar in Daytona Beach.

As WeaponsMen, we urge the carrying of weapons at all times. But if you haven’t got one for whatever reason, found or improvised weapons may be the difference between going home to watch the news and having the chalk outline of where you came to rest appear on the news. Mr Brisbane faced just that choice — and survived.

Now, we’re willing to stipulate that Daytona is a slightly weird place. There’s the whole NASCAR thing, the swarms of students both native and transient. the gated golf communities, the folks at nearby Spruce Creek where the house has a garage for the three cars and a hangar for the two planes. A slice of American life. But it just doesn’t get weirder than Brisbane’s story, as several local news outlets retold  it.

We’ll quote from the News-Journal’s story by Lyda Longa, which seems to be the source for the broadcast reports that displayed such headline-writing imagination.

Anthony Brisbane was working at Captain Steamer’s Oyster Bar at 5:20 a.m. when he heard a thud, police said.

Arming himself with a sword that has a broken handle, Brisbane walked out into the dimly lit kitchen area of the eatery at 1500 S. Atlantic Ave., and saw a masked man standing in the shadows of the kitchen, police said.

The employee asked the suspect what he was doing there and the suspect — identified as 29-year-old Trevor Pufall — replied with: “Don’t kill me. Don’t kill me,” an arrest report shows.

When Brisbane noticed that the suspect had a tire iron in his hand, he pressed the sword into the suspect’s stomach, police said.

Still holding the sword against Pufall’s abdomen, Brisbane called 9-1-1, police said. Pufall begged Brisbane to put the phone down and offered him money, police said. The suspect then struck Brisbane three times on the head, police said.

Pufall then dropped his tire iron and he and Brisbane fought over the sword. Brisbane dropped the sword after getting cut. He then shoved Pufall to the floor and slammed a beer bottle into the suspect’s head, police said.

Brisbane then grabbed a screwdriver, pointed it at Pufall’s neck and walked him outside to the front of the restaurant. By then, police had arrived on scene, the report shows.

Now, there’s a creative use of found objects as weapons… a sword that must have been part of the restaurant’s tacky pirate decor, a beer bottle, and a screwdriver, against a criminal armed with a tire iron. Not to mention a pretty good spirit of never-give-up on the part of Anthony Brisbane, who got whacked three times upside the head with a tire iron, and cut with the sword, but still delivered his burglar up to justice. We sure hope that Captain Steamer puts a little something extra in Anthony’s pay packet this week.

The bizarre thing here is that Pufall is charged only with burglary. Looks to us he ought to face the music for a violent, armed assault as well. As it is, he’ll be back out committing more crimes soon.

An outcome that might not have obtained, had Brisbane had a revolver. Not to mention, Brisbane’s situation also shows the weakness of relying on found weapons for self-defense: he did keep himself alive until the cops came, despite Pufall’s energetic efforts to kill him, but he suffered non-trivial injuries in the process. That’s the nature of combat with edged or blunt force weapons: you are by definition within range of the opponent’s edged or blunt force weapons. QED.

Dope Dealer’s Delivery Dude gets his bag nicked by ninjas

Only in California. A legal dope dealer’s runner gets held up — by two tong fa wielding ninjas. Lord love a duck. Could we jam more California stereotypes than that in one story? Well, insightful question, thanks for asking, and the answer is hell, yeah.  The picture of the grey-maned hippie that we thought was the dope dealer’s delivery dude turned out to actually be the reporter. Sigh. Only in California. We’ll let KNX 1070 take it from here, because we’re still trying to suspend disbelief. Kind of like when Matt Damon is pretending to be somebody else on the screen, disbelief has dug in like an angry tick and can’t be pried loose.

WEST COVINA (CBS) — A medical marijuana deliveryman was still shaken up on Monday after what he described as a robbery by two men allegedly dressed as ninja warriors.

KNX 1070′s John Brook reports the robbers used the martial arts getup to conceal their identity as they got away with a big bag of marijuana.

The assailants were reported dressed in all black with masks over their faces and wielded martial arts batons — known as tong fa — to intimidate the deliveryman around 10 p.m. last Friday at an apartment house along the 800 block of South Sunset Avenue in West Covina, police said.

via Medical Marijuana Deliveryman Robbed By Baton-Wielding Ninjas In West Covina « CBS Los Angeles.

They didn’t want the guy’s money, just the “big bag” of weed. That was the first clue that maybe these two worthies weren’t real ninjas.

Well, that, and that the guy saw them. If you can see ’em, they ain’t real ninjas.

So now how does the guy feel? Knowing he got punked by a couple of fake ninjas?

We’re guessing… pretty mellow. That seems to be a pretty good baseline among the members of the recreational pharmaceuticals industry.

But on the bright side, he wasn’t armed. Or the 2nd paragraph would have ened: “they got away with a big bag of marijuana, and a gun.” Only in California!