June 23, 2020

RIP Slate Star Codex

Today is a sad day. This blog started in the comments of Slate Star Codex. Its author, a psychiatrist named Scott Alexander, has just shut it down because the NYT was threatening to dox him. Most of you probably already know this, but some of you came from elsewhere on the internet, and I also wanted to show support to Scott in this. I've contacted the NYT and expressed my displeasure, and I'd encourage you to do the same.

I was actually one of the people who the reporter contacted, and I agreed to speak to him. But I asked that he not use my real name, because it makes it easier to speak on certain topics here. He readily agreed, but wasn't willing to extend the same courtesy to Scott, who has far better reason to keep his real and internet lives separate. Shame on them.

There's also a petition/open letter on the subject, for those who want to sign.

Said Achmiz, who handles the technical side of Naval Gazing, has set up a forum for the SSC diaspora, Data Secrets Lox. I'd recommend anyone who misses the community to go and check it out.

July 03, 2020

The Pearl Harbor Rant

I recently decided to watch the movie Pearl Harbor. I wish I could blame alcohol for this decision, but unfortunately I don't drink. It was fairly painful. Major errors so far: why did you label the air base as being on Long Island when you are extremely obviously somewhere in California? Lots of use of an Iowa for battleship backgrounds. I suspect Missouri, but I can't be sure. And in the background of many of those shots are what are extremely obvious Knox class frigates. In some cases, it's just the mack, in others, it's the whole ship. This is almost painful to watch. They don't look like ships of that era. Then there was a comment about "I don't understand how two whole carrier divisions can just disappear". The next shot? A bunch of CVNs with extremely obvious angled decks, and at least one Burke. I do not think you understand how this works. Spy camera shots of modern ships. Those ships are named for someone who is still an active-duty Admiral. And the flyover of a redressed Essex as a Japanese aircraft carrier, with planes taking off over the stern. Why? Oh, and the radar screen they show has a PPI. Not at that time. Read more...

July 01, 2020

Coastal Defenses Part 4

During the first half of the 19th century, the US developed probably the most sophisticated and advanced system of coastal defenses in the world, a system which largely failed its test during the American Civil War. But coastal defenses were hardly limited to America, and the events of the Civil War were presaged by another war a decade earlier, on the other side of the world.1

Fort Alexander, a sea fort near Kronstadt

When Peter the Great established St. Petersburg in 1703, his intention was to give Russia an outlet to the rest of the world via the Baltic. Unfortunately, sea access works both ways, and one of his first actions was to set up fortifications on Kronstadt, 30 miles to the west of the city, to control the channels leading to his new capital. The Swedish, Russia's main enemy at the time, quickly began their own program of coastal defenses, composed not only of fortifications, most notably Sveaborg outside of modern-day Helsinki, but also a dedicated "archipelago fleet" of galleys and other coastal vessels under separate command from the main navy. After several wars throughout the 18th century, Russia finally took Finland in 1808, capturing Sveaborg after a short siege from the landward side. By this point, in a mental leap peculiar to Russia, the existing defenses of Kronstadt, despite being modernized to keep pace with changing technology, needed forward defenses to protect them, turning the entire Gulf of Finland into a Russian lake. Read more...

June 28, 2020

Pictures - Iowa Goat Locker

I've previously pulled pictures from my collection of Iowa's officer's quarters, enlisted quarters and enlisted mess. Now, it's time to look at the last group of men on the ship, the chief petty officers, who had their own separate quarters, known as the "Goat Locker".2

Bunks in the chief's quarters, which are more spacious than those in the regular enlisted quarters

The Goat Locker is a unique institution, referring not only to the spaces, but also to the men (and now women) who occupy them. Chiefs are famous for being the people who make the Navy work, although they allow the officers to believe otherwise. It's forbidden for any non-chief, even the ship's captain, to enter without permission, and all covers (hats) have to be removed. Read more...

June 26, 2020

Aurora Tutorial Part 14

Now that I've covered combat in Aurora, it's time to once again turn our attention to colonization and the economy. My earlier introduction was focused on the mechanics of how to do things, and occasionally skimped on what to do, an oversight I now intend to rectify.

How to manage your construction facilities is a matter of personal taste. There's a lot of options, depending on what you want out of the game, and you'll be in a much better spot to find and fix bottlenecks than I am. I've had games limited by construction capacity, by shipyards, by minerals, and by officers. There's also a couple schools of thought on how to build things. Steve seems to prefer focusing on one or two things at a time, and queuing the next thing to get built behind them. I tend to favor having everything building in parallel at once. Either way can work. Read more...

June 26, 2020

Open Thread 55

It's time once again for our regular open thread. Talk about anything you want that isn't culture war.

First, the USNI's coronavirus sale is set to end soon, so if you want member prices and free shipping, shop before June 30th.

Second, to partially fill the void that SSC's demise has left in our lives, would anyone be interested in doing a Naval Gazing virtual meetup over Zoom or some other service? If so, I'll set up a time for next week.

Overhauls for 2018 are The Battle of Pungdo, So You Want to Build a Modern Navy-Aviation Part 1, Jackie Fisher, Battlecruisers Part 2, Auxiliaries Part 2 and Did Iowa Move Sideways During a Broadside?, now with new math on rolling. 2019 overhauls are Alexander's review of the Newark Air Museum, Battleship Aviation Part 4, Lord Nelson's review of Soya, The Scuttling of the High Seas Fleet, The Spanish-American War Part 5 and Information, Communication and Naval Warfare Part 3.

June 24, 2020

Tom Clancy

It was the summer of 2000. I was about to start 2nd grade, and I was already fascinated by the military. I'd already exhausted the military books available in children's section of the Rock Hill Public Library, so I ventured into the adult section. There, I found one of the most important books I would ever read.

I wanted to fly F-16s for the Air Force (who among us wasn't an idiot at some point in our youth?) and discovered a copy of Tom Clancy's Fighter Wing. Here was a book with a long chapter on the F-16, as well as all sorts of stuff on other aircraft and air warfare in general. Both my mom and the librarian were somewhat skeptical that I'd be able to read it, but they let me check it out, and I devoured it. Here was a book written by someone who knew the subject really well, knew how to write, and perhaps most importantly, knew how to talk about the subject to an outside audience. Who else would start a book on the subject by talking about the fundamental forces of flight and how jet turbine blades were built, and then spend the majority of his time on Desert Storm discussing the planning process, not hazardous missions over Baghdad? Read more...

June 21, 2020

Merchant Ships - Specialized Cargo Ships

Most solid cargoes carried across the oceans are handled by either containers or bulk carriers, but some cargoes have requirements that can't be satisfied by either kind of ship. Much like unusual liquid cargoes, these are transported by specialized ships, designed for the purpose.

Loading frozen meat aboard reefer Clan McDougall

In the second half of the 19th century, the British faced a problem. The rapidly-growing population had made it increasingly difficult to produce enough food in the British isles. Grain imports could make up for some of this, but other products, most notably meat, required a great deal of land and couldn't be practically shipped in from overseas, where Argentina and Australia produced great surpluses. Mechanical refrigeration could change that, but while work on freezing carcasses began as early as 1861, it would be twenty years before a refrigeration plant was created that could be fitted to a ship and used to reliably and economically carry meat halfway around the world. Read more...

June 19, 2020

Aurora Tutorial Part 13

In our journey through Aurora so far, we've covered everything from the basics of the economy to the details of the ship logistics systems. But while I've spent about half of the series talking about how to build warships, I haven't really discussed tactics that much, and with good reason. Basically, your meaningful tactical options are fairly limited, because the AI isn't smart enough to appreciate it, and the game itself isn't really set up to support it.

Let me start by saying that any tactic which requires so much micromanagement you don't use it is a bad tactic. To give an example, I once came up with the idea of thickening my AMM defenses by fitting 3 AMMs as a second stage on a size-1 booster and firing that out of my size-4 missile launchers that I used for anti-ship missiles. It seemed like a good idea in theory, but then I realized that it wasn't going to work for several reasons. First, the game isn't set up to fire less than 1 AMM at each incoming missile, and it would count each pod as a single AMM. So I would be effectively shooting 3:1, gross overkill with the AMMs I had, and if I wanted to use it, I'd have to fire them manually. This would be a ton of work. Second, the pod would also count as an AMM for the game's automatic targeting, even though it had the anti-missile properties of a ball of paper. The second problem could be dealt with to some extent (raise the speed of the pod to get it to "intercept" earlier and have an inner ring of 2v1 AMMs), but the first one would have required so much micromanagement that I threw the idea away and moved on. Before you get fancy, it's a good idea to know how much micromanagement you're willing to tolerate and make sure this won't breach the limit. Read more...

June 17, 2020

Naval Rations Part 1

I've recently3 taken a look at Iowa's enlisted mess, but the broader subject of food at sea deserves a look. The challenges of providing and preparing food at sea are quite different from those of doing so on land, particularly before modern developments like canning and refrigeration.

A mess table aboard HMS Victory

During the age of sail, naval rations are generally reputed to be quite bad, but running a sailing vessel is hard work, and malnourished men could not do it effectively. The Royal Navy of the era actually recognized this, and put a great deal of work into providing ample, healthy food for its sailors. The French were less careful about doing so, and their effectiveness at sea probably suffered as a result. British feeding of their sailors was coordinated by the Victualling Board, who operated major industrial enterprises including bakeries, breweries, and slaughterhouses. They were generally honest, setting strict standards for the quality of provisions and carefully auditing the accounts of ship's pursers, who would have their salaries docked if their books were wrong. Read more...

June 15, 2020

Aurora Tutorial Part 12

So far in our discussion of Aurora, we've covered everything from the basics of combat up through command structures, but there's one thing that has been overlooked: logistics and the fleet train. Aurora, much like real life, has auxiliaries, and it's time to take a look at how those ships work.

But first, we need to take a look at the logistical needs of the ships. Essentially, a warship has four different things it can run out of: fuel, maintenance supplies (MSP), ammunition, and deployment time. Fuel is self-explanatory. Without it, ships don't move. Maintenance supplies are used to repair stuff that breaks. This normally happens during the build cycle, with the chance depending on the complexity of the ship and the number of engineering spaces, but weapons have a 1% chance of failing every time they fire,4 and a ship with battle damage can patch itself up with enough MSP. Ammunition, in the form of missiles, obvious gets used up, and it's a good idea to have colliers to support the fleet. And any ship with stays out longer than its rated deployment time suffers from reduced morale, which lowers the accuracy of weapons and increases the time taken to follow orders. Read more...