June 17, 2019

Open Thread 28

It's time for our biweekly open thread. Talk about anything you want.

Also, note that play has begun on our RTW2 game, which is being continued in a separate thread. The report was posted in the OP last night.

The highlight of the OT is the splendid Okieboat website, dedicated to the guided missile cruiser Oklahoma City. There's a tremendous amount of information about everything from the very interesting Talos missile to life aboard. It's one of the very best descriptions of the complexity of a modern warship that I've ever seen.

Overhauled posts include the history of the New Jersey, my review of Alabama, Falklands Part 3 - Logistics at Ascension, the Battle of Pungdo, So You Want to Build a Modern Navy - Aviation Part 1 and Jackie Fisher.


  1. June 14, 2019Alexander said...

    Knowing that I enjoy this website, can anyone recommend some podcasts (preferably free) that I might appreciate? They don't necessarily have to be maritime or military themed - at the moment I'm enjoying "13 minutes to the moon" which is neither, but perhaps appeals to a similar audience.

  2. June 17, 2019bean said...


    Apologies for making your post disappear for a while. I set this to Publish without setting the date correctly, so it showed up.

    And I also can't really answer your object-level question. I don't really do podcasts.

  3. June 17, 2019redRover said...

    Procurement posts: a number of aircraft (C-130, B-52) are supposed to be in active service for something approaching 100 years. To be sure, they've been through enough SLEPs and overhauls that they're probably not very original, but the fact is that the same basic design is still soldiering on. So, if and when the B-52 hits end of life, does it make sense to further remanufacture them, or if not, what path should we go down for a high capacity and cheap non-stealth aircraft?

  4. June 17, 2019bean said...

    The C-130 and the B-52 are in very different positions. The C-130 is still in production, so a lot of the fleet is pretty recent and the C-130J was a major update. The B-52 hasn't been produced in 55 years, and while pretty much everything inside it has been changed twice, the structure is still original. I once got to talk to the B-52 structures chief, and immediately resolved never to have his job. I think he said that they had one airplane with like 17 doublers on the spar. Which is a terrifying number, because any other airplane with that many cracks would be parked immediately.

    Long-term, the bomber plan is essentially to replace first the B-2 and then the B-1 with the B-21, and leave the B-52 for last. I'm not sure if it will be replaced by B-21s or by the follow-on bomber (which is apparently in the early stages of development now). In theory, there's nothing stopping further remanufacture, but given the amount of new stuff that's going onto the B-52 today (I've even heard the name B-52J being floated) there's going to be a serious block obsolescence problem in the various systems if they try.

  5. June 17, 2019ADifferentAnonymous said...

    Given the importance of splash sighting to aiming battleship guns, were decoy splashers ever used or seriously considered? Eyeballing some numbers it seems plausible for a secondary gun to deliver a big-gun-equivalent bursting charge a short distance, and in a long-range duel those secondary guns won't have anything else to do.

    The main issue I can think of is that the firing ship knows when its shells will land, so I guess it depends on how well the defending ship can guess that. They wouldn't have to get it exact, though, just narrow things down enough that they can make sure the real shells land amid a barrage of decoys.

    Dye packets would also make things interesting, but decoys could try to imitate them too. I suppose at that point you'd have to manufacture a large palette of shell colors and keep it secret which one ships are deploying with.

  6. June 17, 2019Johan Larson said...

    It's safe to say the coolest type of warrior today is the fighter pilot. But fighter pilots have barely existed for a hundred years. What was the most celebrated type of warrior before that?

  7. June 17, 2019bean said...


    That's a very interesting thought, but I suspect the basic problem is that it was too hard to implement. The shooter knows when their shells are going to land, so if you plan is to create decoy splashes, you have a very tight time window to fire them. Probably too tight for the age before radar, possibly before computers. It's also going to take a lot of decoys. The pattern is several hundred yards across, and you're going to need enough false splashes that they can't see the real ones in an area at least a thousand yards across. That might take a hundred or more decoys, which is too many for the secondary guns.


    The cavalryman. No question at all on that. Many early fighter pilots were former cavalrymen, for similar reasons.

  8. June 17, 2019David W said...

    @Johan: Cavalry. Pretty sure that was the preferred branch up through the lead in to WWI. Even when ineffective cavalry have still been cool, and they are often quite effective. You get to move fast, exercise independent judgement, don't get as muddy or tired as everyone else, and it's even been the natural home for the wealthy recruit. There is a reason statues of generals are equestrian.

  9. June 17, 2019quanticle said...

    Wow, the formatting got messed up in my previous post. Hopefully this is fixed

    @Alexander Podcast recommendations:

    • The Brookings Events Podcast has a lot of lectures and panel discussions about geopolitics and grand strategy. I can specifically recommend the following episodes:
    • War on the Rocks -- Ryan Evans, a scholar at the Texas National Security Review talks to various people in the defense establishment about current events
    • Power Problems -- a CATO institute podcast that takes a skeptical look at US foreign policy. I mention this one specifically because the many of the other national security podcasts have an internationalist viewpoint, but this one disagrees with the premise that the US ought to be involved in global affairs
  10. June 17, 2019quanticle said...

    To follow up with the others re: cavalry being the highest prestige warrior class, early fighter aces were known as "knights of the air" for a reason. They were portrayed the true heirs to the independent knight-errant, fighting one-on-one duels with their enemy counterparts literally above the fray, with a code of honor that, like chivalry, was honored more in the breach than in the observance.

  11. June 17, 2019ADifferentAnonymous said...

    you’re going to need enough false splashes that they can’t see the real ones

    Is the assumption here that the spotters will be able to tell the difference between a real and a fake splash if they get a good look at both? I was thinking in terms of shooting simulated patterns in the hopes that even one landing at about the right time would be give the opposing spotters a 50/50 chance of entering a bad datum.

  12. June 17, 2019bean said...

    It might work early on in the engagement, or if you were maneuvering a lot. Otherwise, the spotters are usually able to predict approximately where the next salvo will land and will ignore anything that is too far off. (For instance, they spot in bearing and then in range, so if they're lining up range and get one cluster that's right for bearing and one that's off, they're likely to (correctly) assume that the one that's off in bearing is the decoy.

    Of course, this assumes that the decoys work. No clue on that. Even finding a picture of shell splashes is surprisingly hard, and I couldn't find one with dye, no matter how hard I looked. (I wanted one to illustrate Shells Part 3).

  13. June 17, 2019redRover said...

    More topically, though bean may say it's too close to culture war:

    War with Iran, or at least some sort of kinetic activity to go full euphemism, seems to be more prevalent in the press as a result of the tanker attacks.

    So, do you think it will come to blows? If so, do you think it will emphasize more deniable forms of engagement? Finally, what are your thoughts on the tactics/strategy?

  14. June 17, 2019redRover said...

    For myself, I think it's a bad idea. Maybe a sort of Desert Fox or Earnest Will type thing will be necessary, but a larger scale engagement seems ill advised, especially given how poorly we handled Iraq.

  15. June 17, 2019Chris Bradshaw said...

    If we do come to blows, it would probably resemble Operation Praying Mantis in 88, when the USN sunk most of Iran's surface fleet without suffering a single combat fatality. Maybe this blog might want to a writeup of that engagement.

  16. June 17, 2019IsANobody said...

    Is StanFlex (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/StanFlex) something that larger, richer navies should look into? Mission modules seemed to be a big draw of the LCS, but supposedly the swapability isn't really used much. To make it worse, it seems like a bunch of the more commonly produced modules are covered by the broader set of post-80s VLS loadouts.

    The maintenance related benefits seem harder to evaluate. Does anyone have a reference to a study on that?

  17. June 17, 2019bean said...

    "What would happen militarily if we went to war with Iran" is definitely not culture war here. "We should(n't) go to war with Iran" or "We will go to war with Iran" may or may not be, depending on how heated the discussion gets.

    I'm in agreement with the comments so far. This isn't the first time Iran has messed with tanker traffic in the gulf, and it lead to some strikes last time. It might well do so again. Not the end of the world.

  18. June 17, 2019bean said...

    Re writing up Preying Mantis, that isn't something I have sources to hand for, and my personal life is rather busy for the next couple of months, so hunting complex new posts is low on my priority list.

    As for StanFlex, and modular stuff in general. It's great during overhauls, but the idea of a plug-and-play warship pulling into port for two days to change modules has never really worked. If nothing else, the crew needs to be able to use the systems and that takes time. They can be OK for something that requires minimal integration and has its own crew, but that means you're dealing with something like pollution control or maybe minehunting.

    Where it really shines is during said overhauls. It's a lot easier to unbolt a module, carry it into a workshop for refurbishment and bolt in a new one than it is to do the work in situ. And the overhaul is the appropriate time to switch modules around. This is how most navies, including the Danes, actually use the systems now.

  19. June 17, 2019Alsadius said...

    War with Iran, in the "2003 war with Iraq" sense of the term, is impossible. That needs to clear Congress, and the chances of a Democrat House voting for an invasion of Iran are right up there with the odds of them saying nice things about Trump's hair without sarcasm. Bush's invasion took a year-long PR campaign that was plastered over news media, and even then it wasn't a slam-dunk. Right now, unilateral invasion of Iran is polling at 12%, and invasion even after a hypothetical Iranian attack is polling at 39%.

    Drone strikes are possible, but drone strikes are the modern US equivalent of a sternly worded letter. They do that with allies on occasion, so it doesn't mean much if they do it with enemies.

  20. June 17, 2019Neal said...

    What recommendations does the commentariat here have for WW2 submarine books? I have found this to be a decidedly mixed bag. Not quite ready to give up on it and thought a good vector could steer me toward the better stuff. Certainly there has to be a good mixture of scholarship, cracking good narrative, and readability out there.

    Bean I have to laugh, in a gallows humor sort of way, as to your description regarding the number of doublers on the B-52 spar. Perhaps cringeworthy might be a better word than laughter. Yes, yes, yes, certainly there is all the engineering that stands behind those mods, but the visual image of all the reinforcement is what sticks in the mind and it isn't exactly the most warming. Sort of like the C-141's original tail flutter when they stetched it and begin refueling ops. Only so many times you can bend a hanger after all.

    That reminds me of a safety report I stumbled across in which a crew returning to Diego had some type of fuel issue. I did not fly the Buff, but apparently they need to keep some fuel in the outer wing tanks for structural integrity.

    With this crew they found they had either venting/leaking in one wing or there was an uncommanded transfer going on-I can't remember. Either way, they were very concerned about wing failure. Very little as bad as a wing off light as they say. They got back in time, but there was grave concern to say the least.

  21. June 17, 2019bean said...

    Thunder Blow, a memoir by Eugene Fluckey, captain of the USS Barb. This is on my list of all-time great books, period, and anyone else who has read it will agree with me. He was a late-war skipper and holds the tonnage record, as well as a lot of other firsts. Just read it now.

    Run Silent, Run Deep is very good. The author was a submariner during the war, and it's somewhat better at describing the day-to-day life aboard a submarine.

    Roscoe's US Submarine Operations in WWII is well-regarded, although my copy is still gathering dust because of time constraints.

  22. June 18, 2019Alexander said...

    @bean - no problem! @quanticle - thanks Ü

    Could a Poseidon variant replace the B52? It's much smaller, and shorter ranged, so wouldn't be as capable, but might be good enough, and should be affordable.

  23. June 18, 2019bean said...

    I'm not sure that a BP-8 would be a good B-52 replacement. For one thing, you couldn't fit it with wing pylons like the B-52 has, so you're seeing a major drop in bombload. For another, the bay as currently configured can't support that many weapons. This might be solvable, but unless you go really wild (multiple rotary launchers with a system to pass weapons between them, say) it's going to be maybe 8 weapons to the B-52s 20. You'd also need a tremendous amount of work to put the bombing systems on it, and you'd get a plane that would never be as capable. It might make a decent bomb truck for Afghanistan, but the B-52 has capability for direct attacks on defended targets, and the BP-8 never will. If I had to do a replacement bomb truck today, I'd probably pick a 767 variant, although that will likely be off the table by the time the Buff actually retires.

  24. June 18, 2019cassander said...


    the P-8 has 6 external stations already, but they carry a lot less weight than the B-52s. Not sure if that is for structural reasons on the wing or because it hasn't been integrated with weapons that weigh more than 1,500lbs. Maybe both.

  25. June 18, 2019bean said...

    I’d guess it’s structural. The wing of the 737 isn’t designed to carry weapons. Also, note that the B-52 can carry 12 3,000 lb ALCMs, so there’s a huge disparity in useful load there.

    There's also the problem that the B-52 is getting all sorts of hypersonic weapons, which are far too big and heavy for a BP-8.

  26. June 18, 2019redRover said...

    If they just want a big but cheap bomb truck, the 747 seems big enough and capable enough that they could make that work without too much trouble. External stores would still be something of a problem, but there is enough room for internal stores that you could make a trapeze type thing that gets you close enough. Plus, there is a huge base of retiring 744s for parts and support.

    But that might be too large.

  27. June 18, 2019Tony Zbaraschuk said...

    There's a lot of good submarine stuff out there. The best I've found for narrative was Dick O'Kane, Clear the Bridge!: The War Patrols of the U.S.S. Tang. (He was the skipper.)

    Good data: Clay Blair, Silent Victory. The definitive history of the US submarine war against Japan.

  28. June 18, 2019Neal said...

    Thanks for the recommendations on the submarine reading. Anything worthwhile on the German side?

  29. June 19, 2019quanticle said...

    I came across this really detailed article about MH-370 which goes over all the evidence recovered so far.

    The conclusion is that the elaborate flight path of the airliner speaks to a deliberate suicide (murder-suicide) on the part of the lead pilot. The evidence we've collected indicates deliberate sabotage from inside the cockpit, and the only people who would have been able to do that without sending off a distress signal were the pilot and co-pilot. Of the two, the co-pilot is not a likely suspect, because he was a trainee who didn't seem to have any ongoing mental health issues. The captain, on the other hand, had just gone through a divorce, and was reportedly estranged from both his ex-wife and his two grown children.

    Debris from the aircraft that has washed up on beaches in Madagascar indicates that the aircraft shattered when it hit the water. This means that the aircraft was in a steep dive when it hit (something which is corroborated by reasonable inferences from satellite evidence), further indicating that the crash was a deliberate act.

  30. June 19, 2019bean said...

    Things I did not expect to see: A review of Norman Friedman's new book on British Submarines (which is still not available to order through USNI) in the Daily Mail. I'm wondering if the reviewer got more than a chapter in, because while all of that stuff is in a typical Friedman book, it's often concentrated towards the front and followed by several hundred pages of the naval staff wrangling over design studies. I love that and want to buy the book very badly (why USNI?), but anyone who buys the book on the strength of that review is likely to be surprised.

  31. June 19, 2019sam said...

    Anyone feel like buying a battleship? There are four going, pre-owned and collection only.

  32. June 19, 2019bean said...

    Interesting. Also, good timing on that, as he's likely to get a lot more interest than he normally would. Bump should last a week or so.

  33. June 20, 2019Tony Zbaraschuk said...


    Clay Blair also did a two-volume set, Hitler's U-boats, which is pretty exhaustive on details of U-boat operations. It's a little shorter on analysis than Silent Victory, but you won't lack for reading material.

  34. June 20, 2019quanticle said...


    Your description leaves out the fact that they're also ever so slightly sunk.

  35. June 24, 2019bean said...

    Splendid news, although I'm somewhat tardy in reporting it. The Texas Legislature has authorized $35 million for drydocking and repairs on the Texas. These are sorely needed, and I'm very happy that she's going to survive long-term. The information I have says she'll close in September and be under repair for over a year. Bravo Zulu to Texas for taking care of their ship.

    (And yes, I am considering an emergency trip down there to see her before she closes.)

  36. June 24, 2019John Schilling said...

    "Your description leaves out the fact that they’re also ever so slightly sunk"

    Also, who pays money for sunken warships these days? I thought the thing to do was to just scoop them off the sea floor when nobody is looking.

    Yeah, yeah, they're in Scapa Flow, but it's not like the Brits could keep people from sneaking in at zero-dark-thirty and doing nefarious deeds even when it was the Royal Navy's main operating base in the middle of a war.

  37. June 27, 2019quanticle said...

    It looks like the US Navy might be getting back into railguns after all.

  38. June 27, 2019Silverlock said...

    Just a slight correction on bean's book suggestion above: the title of Eugene Fluckey's book turns out to be "Thunder Below," not "Thunder Blow."

    I am afraid to see what Amazon might have as my recommendations the next time I visit.

  39. June 30, 2019bean said...

    I just put my post on Vanguard into publication. It's not going up until late July, but this marks the end of my giant history of British and American battleships, which began in April 2017 on SSC. I'm proud of it, but also happy to have it done.

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