September 04, 2020

Open Thread 60

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

This weekend would have been LA Fleet Week, and thanks to coronavirus, it's gone virtual this year, so we can all participate. After a significant amount of digging, I was able to find their actual plans, which "include active Navy ship tours, Navy band concerts, and speakers showing their support for this incredible event." This sounds at least potentially interesting, although I don't know what a virtual ship tour looks like. Also, this is all being restricted to their social media. But I'll keep an eye on it and let you know if anything cool pops up.

Also, Data Secrets Lox (a forum spinoff of the blog that spawned Naval Gazing) is holding an effortpost contest to find the best long-form writing there. Some of the entries are excellent. And some were written by me in a fit of ADD. I am definitely not asking you to vote for that one.

2018 overhauls are my reviews of Constitution and Battleship Cove, The Battleship of the Future?, Underwater Protection Part 2, Understanding Hull Symbols and Lushunkou and Weihaiwei. 2019 overhauls are my pictures of Iowa's medical spaces, A Brief Overview of the United States Fleet, the David Taylor Model Basin, the last part of the Spanish-American War series and riverine warfare in North America and Africa.


  1. September 04, 2020bobbert said...

    One thing I have been wondering lately is the US NAVY's readiness/ability to enforce a blockade or raid commerce. My memory is that it hasn't really come up since the second world war - largely due to the reds autarkic tendencies.

    How would it even work now-a-days? I assume a traditional close blockade would be suicide.

  2. September 04, 2020bean said...

    It actually has come up since then, most notably during Desert Storm. The Allies imposed a very successful blockade against Saddam, thanks in large part to the use of the systems developed to target Tomahawk, which allowed them to keep track of everything going on in the area and zero in on the ships that actually had contraband aboard them. Basically, we'd use intelligence and various surveillance systems to pick out the ships that needed to be interdicted as soon as we could, and deal with them well away from the area of interest. Close blockade has been suicide since, oh, 1900 or so, and Jackie Fisher developed the basic methods used to get around this problem shortly thereafter.

  3. September 04, 2020bean said...

    It looks like the LA Fleet Week stuff starts at 10:00 Pacific (GMT-7) with a welcome from Mayor Garcetti. The big thing each day is a ship tour at noon. Today's and Mondays are both on LSDs, while Saturday's is an MCM and Sunday's is a Tico. I am baffled by the use of two LSDs instead of a Burke or something. There's also a tour of the new USS Iowa at 10:30 on Sunday. Obviously, there's more stuff, but most of it doesn't look nearly as interesting.

  4. September 04, 2020bobbert said...

    @bean But what did the actual interdiction look like? Airstike? Detachment of marines to take her as a prize? Polite radio message?

  5. September 04, 2020bean said...

    A ship pulling alongside and asking politely to allow a boarding party to come over. Guns may or may not be trained on the ship, depending on how much trouble the ship is expected to be. Boarding party, Marines or sailors to taste, is shuttled over by helicopter. They gently move the screaming pregnant women out of the way, and find the artillery shells under the cases of baby food.

    No, this is not made up. Iraq actually tried that, and it didn't work.

  6. September 04, 2020bobbert said...

    @bean (I am feeling a bit like a little kid with all of my and-then-whats) Throw the contraband over the side and allow her to proceed to Basra in peace? Take her crew prisoner and scuttle her in deep water? Sail her to Rotterdam to be auctioned off along with her cargo?

  7. September 04, 2020bean said...

    If they found prohibited cargo, they'd divert the cargo ship to a coalition port. I think once it was unloaded, they'd let it go. Otherwise, they'd let it pass.

  8. September 04, 2020bean said...

    Also, LA's isn't the first virtual fleet week this year. Seattle's was a couple of weeks ago, and their schedule (with links to some of the events) can be found here. New York also did one, although I haven't found a similar page for them. There might be others on the East Coast, too, and I'm looking forward to San Diego in a month or so.

  9. September 04, 2020echo said...

    Re. your update to the Navy overview, do you think there's been any thought given to operations near the poles where PACOM,USNORTHCOM,and EUCON might run into jurisdiction issues?

  10. September 04, 2020bean said...

    I'm pretty sure PACOM has all of Antarctica. I'd guess the North Pole would go to EUCOM, as they're basically the Anti-Russia Command, and Russia is the big threat up there. (Unless the big threat turns out to be Canada, in which case I guess it goes to NORTHCOM.)

  11. September 04, 2020bean said...

    So I watched the first ship tour, and it makes me think that the Navy Public Affairs office really could do a better job of giving guidance for this kind of thing. Way too much jargon, and no coherent narrative. This doesn't seem hard to me, but in fairness, I'm a professional at explaining warships to people. Start with "why does this ship exist" and then go through, first the bits that are obviously connected to the ship's purpose, and then other things that are less connected, like anchor handling gear and the flight deck (on an LSD). Be ruthless in eliminating jargon. Tell the sailors who are going to be on camera to imagine they're explaining it to their grandmothers. And then have them practice a few times before you point the camera at them, possibly with someone else to ask questions and point out remaining jargon.

  12. September 05, 2020Blackshoe said...

    To add to bean's excellent answer, all USN surface ships (except for carriers, which aren't really surface ships anyway) are required to have a Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) team (Big Decks may be required to have two). This is a team comprised of sailors who have volunteered to be on the team. They are trained to be able to board, search, and deal with limited opposition from a ship's crew. Additionally, embarked MEUs have the capability, as well the NSW teams (ie the SEALs)

    If a vessel is stopped and has to be detained, at least for experiences in the Gulf enforcing the UN sanctions against Iraq (which was pretty much a close blockade), policy was they be escorted to a friendly port (Bahrain, I think?) and detained until their situation can be resolved (normally by paying a fine).

    If we were ever to get into a fight with a near-peer adversary (coughcough China), blockade would have to be done via distant blockade. Prize crews would have to be formed to sail suspect ships to friendly ports. These prize crews would come from uh...somewhere.

  13. September 05, 2020Neal said...


    Are there various levels of blockade or is a matter of purpose?

    My brain is melting right now as I try to remember the specific language that was used to describe the Naval set up during the Cuban Missile crisis. Here, obviously, the goal was not so much stopping small vessels with general cargoes in and out of Cuba, but, no pun intended, bigger fish.

    In other words, are there specific terms that the Navy uses for various levels of containment? One sees blockade all the time but is that just a catch-all term such as how cordon sanitaire was borrowed from a containment of infectious diseases to also meaning buffering against a potential hostile power?

  14. September 06, 2020Alexander said...

    I think that Kennedy referred to it as a 'quarantine', because calling it a blockade would have been admitting that it was an act of war.

  15. September 06, 2020Johan Larson said...

    Why doesn't anyone start training soldiers at an early age? Not all jobs in the military are very demanding, but all militaries have some positions, such as special ops and the pilot corps, where they push young men (and sometimes women) to the limits of human performance. Why not start selection and training earlier? It's not like all professional training in our culture starts at the end of high school. Eighteen would be ridiculously late to start training in music or sports, for instance.

  16. September 06, 2020bean said...


    That's correct. I believe modern versions are usually called embargoes to avoid the same problem.


    It's not a bad idea (all of our agents speak at least five languages and have experience all over the world, and that's just by the time they hit their teenage years!) but the big issue is cultural factors. Music and sports are seen as things that people can do for fun. For every person who starts violin as a kid and ends up in a symphony, there are hundreds who abandon it or maybe play occasionally as an adult. And while this is true of some of the parts of special operations, it's not true of all of them, certainly not enough to legitimize it that way.

    Although now I'm thinking about what that sort of program might look like. Thoughts?

  17. September 06, 2020Johan Larson said...


    The things that already exist along these lines are the Boy Scouts/Girl Guides and various martial arts/self defence schools. There are also actual military cadet programs, although those don't get a lot of emphasis.

    I'm thinking you'd want something like the Boy Scouts, but with more focus on paramilitary skills and less focus on general interests and good citizenship. Organize training along these lines, with specific requirements for advancement:

    • physical fitness
    • unarmed combat/"martial arts"
    • firearms
    • woodscraft
    • military history

    Encourage high standards by taking part in competitions where possible, particularly the physical fitness, martial arts, and firearms. The woodscraft training would include hunting at higher levels.

    There might also be a role for tabletop tactical and strategic games like Squad Leader, although I'm not sure whether these games actually build useful skills, or bad habits.

    That would be my first cut at it, anyway. It might be possible to run something like this as a Boy Scout troop. Just make it known that you as a troop emphasize some aspects of the larger organization, and deemphasize others.

  18. September 06, 2020echo said...

    So the US coast guard helped with the 1898 blockade of Cuba, in its original form as the Revenue Cutter Service. (Don't you miss when government departments had such forthright names?)
    Have they participated in any blockades since? They have a pretty sizable fleet these days.

    Given that scouting organizations are currently purging the very last of their paramilitary trappings and practical skills badges, I expect you'd be better off starting fresh. Of course, it wouldn't be worth starting until you'd figured out what killed the last excellent attempt at scouting culture, and how to stop the new one going the same way...

  19. September 06, 2020Kyzentun said...

    What would happen to a lighter than air craft that tried to use Voith Schneider propellers?

    Could a Voith Schneider propeller generate useful lift if mounted sideways?

    Seems like there should be some relation between the height of the propeller and the RPM necessary for a given thrust. So a shorter propeller just needs to spin faster.

    If it actually works in air, and can be made shorter, then a lighter than air disc shaped craft could be made with the propellers sandwiched between the discs. Able to accelerate in any direction without turning. No visible traditional air intake or exhaust.

  20. September 06, 2020Blackshoe said...

    @Neal: as noted by several other people above, "blockade" is not even really a doctrinal term; generally, this would be discussed as part of "Maritime Interdiction Operations". It's a very fancy word that I am sure someone got a decent award for thinking up. I don't know remember there being any discussion about levels to MIO.

    I will note that there is at least some understanding or discussion of different levels of effort required for a blockade; ie when these operations revolved around enforcing the UN Oil for Food sanctions against Iraq, the focus of effort was on stopping large and medium ships (commercial merchant vessels and dhows), but it was understood that we wouldn't be worried about small speedboats like those favored by drug runners or Omani smugglers in the Gulf. OTOH, when setting up something like some of the cordons they did off Somalia at various points, or the GAME WARDEN ops mentioned below, you'd have to plan to stop lots of small boats.

    On one level, if your goal is "cut off a country's ability to receive large amounts of cargo, especially cargo that requires special handling facilities (thinking especially oil, LNG, and even containers), you can do a lot of the same things with some PGM strikes against port facilities. Yeah, you can move things around the old-fashioned way...but that takes time and a lot of energy, and you need more manpower to pull off.

    @echo: I know the USCG participated in some of the GAME WARDEN operations in Vietnam (which aren't quite blockades, but are close enough for government work), and participate in Maritime Security Operations in the Arabian Gulf today, including some of the MIO operations against Iraq. I thought they at least had LEDETs involved in boardings for the Oil for Food inspections, but I could be wrong on that. Theoretically, if we were going to try and interdict some nation today, it would almost certainly involve the CG in some way. (I should note I forgot that the CG has VBSS teams as well). One issue might be the ability to get cutters to a location and then to keep them there, but they'd get to be part of the fun overall.

  21. September 06, 2020bean said...

    To second what Blackshoe said, I know the USCG was involved in the embargo during Gulf War I. They provided Law Enforcement Detachments (LEDETS) which familiarized naval personnel (both American and coalition) with both the legal and practical aspects of doing boardings, and received high praise for their work there. I think the current VBSS program post-dates the Gulf War, and might well have been created in response to the needs revealed there.

  22. September 06, 2020bean said...


    I suspect that the problem is that a competitive Voith Schneider system would just be too big and too heavy. A ship's propellers are very small. Even on a tug, they're not all that big, and a Voith Schneider system is generally significantly larger. Because air is much less dense, you need a larger prop. And airships are always insanely weight-limited, because every single pound means more volume.

  23. September 07, 2020Philistine said...

    @Johan Larson I suggest that you might want more, not less, emphasis on "good citizenship" for these proto-soldiers you're training up as such from childhood.

  24. September 07, 2020Neal said...

    Thanks Blackshoe. Good info.

  25. September 08, 2020Ian Argent said...

    One of the reasons Baden-Powell founded the Boy Scouts was due to his experiences in the Boer War, where he believed that the lifestyle of the Boers provided their young men training that Britain no longer did, and he was explicitly trying to replicate that benefit for the British Empire.

  26. September 08, 2020Alex said...


    Are you familiar with JROTC?

  27. September 08, 2020Alex said...

    Thinking out loud:

    If you designed a small warship purely as a floating aviation platform, would that be useful? I’m thinking:

    • < 2000 tons (so comparable to a corvette)

    • Flight deck and hangar space for 2 medium-lift helicopters (SH-60 or equivalent) or alternatively 1 medium-lift helicopter and 1 smaller UAV helicopter

    • All mission equipment and armament is helicopter-mounted: ASW torpedoes, sonobuoys, air-to-ground missiles for attacking ships, etc. Everything is on the helicopters.

    • Ship itself has only minimal self-defense armament - machine guns and maybe a gun-based CIWS.

    • Ship would have minimal “fancy” electronics - maybe just a sea search radar and a navigation radar. Could include a sea-and-air search radar if it doesn’t add a ton of additional cost.

    I have in mind something like a Spearhead-class EPF (aka JHSV), but with the space reconfigured to give it a big hangar instead of a cargo area. Alternatively, something like the USCG Famous-class cutters with a bigger hangar would give you close to the “minimum viable platform” for helicopter operations on a more traditional hull.

    The target market would be navies of mid-sized countries that would otherwise be buying traditional corvettes.

    It’s possible that I’m just re-inventing the Independence-class LCS, but I would be hopeful that you could cut cost and increase reliability by removing a bunch of the electronics and also eliminating the requirement for it to be super fast.

  28. September 08, 2020bean said...


    Your analysis of the problem more or less matches mine. If you want lots of aviation capability on a small hull, then you're going to avoid a traditional monohull. I don't know if the result is a catamaran or a trimaran or a SWATH or what, but all of those offer a lot more deck space for a given displacement, and that's important for the role. The Independence is the closest to this we have today, but I wouldn't be surprised if we saw more in the future. I'm not sure I'd want to cut onboard systems as far as you're proposing, because it would be nice to be able to use it near bad guys.

    And if "must be able to operate near bad guys" isn't a requirement, then there's more than one way to skin this particular cat. Specifically, I'd look at turning a merchant ship into a helicopter carrier on the lines of RFA Argus. Pick up the basic ship second-hand, build a hangar on the deck (so it's at the same level as the flight deck) and stuff it with the equipment you need to maintain the helicopters. You get lots of space for a much lower cost than a new warship.

  29. September 08, 2020bean said...

    Re Johan's proposal, it also reminded me of Baden-Powell's early scouts, and a bit of JROTC. Some of the issue with it is going to be cultural. The BSA has shed a lot of these features in the last 5-10 years, and I'm not sure how well you could push against those drivers.

    The big problem with scouts is that it's insufficiently military (and I say that as someone who had a lot of fun in scouts 15 years ago). The big issue with JROTC is that it's very linked to school, which is why I never did it. (My school didn't have JROTC.)

    To get the most out of this, you're going to need a tiered system. Tier one is basically scouting with a bit more military. Visits to bases and such. More emphasis on competitive stuff like capture the flag. And maybe a bit more shooting. (I usually shot in scouts once or twice a year. Make it more frequent, although probably with air rifles.)

    Tier one basically recruits for tier two, which is more involved and more military-focused. Also more expensive, and presumably subsidized by the military to a greater extent, hence the gatekeeping. A regular event might be "show up, backpack into the woods, play laser tag with gear you brought, camp, hike out to the shooting range and fire real guns, then go home". More access to the actual military, more cool stuff to do, and more definite pressure to get people to actually sign up.

  30. September 08, 2020Chuck said...

    @Johann There certainly are some societal/cultural reasons we don't start the selection process sooner, at least in western society. The obvious one is that there is a strong association with child soldiers, which we generally find abhorrent. A second problem, that particularly hurt the idea when applied to very specialized MOSs (things like pilots where you might see large benefits from early training), that is that in our current legal framework it would be difficult if not impossible to compel a child who had undergone specialized training to enlist if they didn't particularly want to. For something like JROTC that might not be much of a financial risk, but for specialized training it very well might be.

    As for what kind of training might be helpful, I would suggest that besides physical fitness and some rudimentary weapons training/survival skills, the best things to teach children to help improve military aptitude are things like leadership and "how to exist in a hierarchical structure". One of the best things the Boy Scouts used to do is give boys the chance to obtain some familiarity with squad/platoon level organization, and allow them to serve in leadership roles. I have fond memories of being allowed to plan and organize outings as a senior patrol leader with the patrol leaders under me. The idea of being both able to lead and able to follow is something I think needs to be instilled at a young age. (Many people today are unable to do either, let alone both) Poorly performing militaries through the ages have generally shown either the inability to follow orders or the inability to do anything but follow orders, and I think having the opportunity to participate in a system where you are able participate in all levels of "command" can help prevent that.

  31. September 08, 2020Blackshoe said...

    Surprised that a couple of very close equivalents that already exist haven't been brought up: Sea Cadets (I'm sure bean has run into them), Young Marines, Civil Air Patrol Cadet programs.

  32. September 08, 2020quanticle said...

    @bean @Alex

    Regarding small ships used exclusively for helicopter operations, my question is, what would such a ship be used for? I'm not sure that this vessel would be a better anti-submarine platform than existing destroyers. It certainly wouldn't have the same anti-aircraft/anti-ballistic missile capability. And if you want a ship to provide support for low-intensity missions (like, e.g. disaster relief) wouldn't you be better off bringing along something bigger, like an Expeditionary Sea Base?

  33. September 08, 2020echo said...

    Thanks for the detailed info guys. And yeah, the reason I asked was a video of the coast guard boarding one of those semi-submersible drug subs, and they were specifically referred to as a VBSS team.
    Given how much military branches love making up their own acronyms, it made me wonder if boarding teams were a cross-service program. So their origin story as a post-gulf joint ops thing makes total sense.

    The helicopter on a merchant ship idea is one I surprised was never implemented for anti-piracy operations. Perhaps we'll see something done with drones in future, which seem to have smaller hangar & maintenance footprints?

  34. September 08, 2020bean said...


    It wouldn't necessarily be for the US. As echo points out, it would be a very useful platform for maritime security, and it could be useful in conjunction with more conventional ships. Or for someone who doesn't have ESBs sitting around. In a lot of ways, I'm proposing what is essentially a cheap ESB.

  35. September 08, 2020echo said...

    Taking a cheap heliship a step further, I always wondered how small a platform you could use to operate a Firescout with some APKWSs.
    It seems like it might be a good way to add punch to a network of stealthy sensors, especially if the ship itself could be temporarily remotely operated for dangerous operations.

    It would give you a platform for scouting littorals, ASW, blowing up pirates/unlicensed fishermen/FACs, etc., all relatively cheaply and with little risk to crew.

  36. September 08, 2020echo said...

    (And yes, the prompt for this was spending too long staring at SpaceX's rocket landing barges)

  37. September 08, 2020quanticle said...

    Well, the Chinese are playing around with using civilian heavy-lift vessels as mobile helicopter bases.

    Though, given how rare and expensive heavy lift vessels tend to be, acquiring one to use just as a helicopter base seems like a waste. I think China's reasoning is that it has a bunch of these ships in its merchant marine already, and so it might be able to find a use for them in wartime, notwithstanding the US Navy's assertion that doing so is a violation of the laws of war.

  38. September 08, 2020Jade Nekotenshi said...

    Wouldn't that just make them a species of armed merchant cruiser, or maybe a Q-ship? I suppose even an "escort carrier" if you really stretch the definition to the breaking point. Either way, those kinds of repurpose-a-merchie-as-an-ersatz-warship hacks have been considered legitimate, no?

  39. September 08, 2020quanticle said...

    I think the idea is that by flying military helicopters off civilian vessels, China is putting all civilian vessels in the area at risk, even those that are not a party to the conflict.

    Here's a thread by Prof. Peter Dutton of the US Naval War College where he describes the maritime law implications of China flying military missions from civilian vessels.

  40. September 09, 2020Doctorpat said...

    From the law that Prof. Dutton quotes, it does sound like the old Q-ships were in violation.

    Though, I don't know if that law dates back to WW2, or whether the existing state of merchant ships already being targeted for destruction in WW2 meant that this particular rule was moot.

    Meanwhile, how many merchant ships were given a flat top and a selection of aircraft for convoy duties in the battle of the Atlantic? Seeing as proper military ships were somewhat at a premium at the time, if a flat top merchant can work surely they'd have done it?

  41. September 09, 2020quanticle said...

    The law was passed in 1994, so it appears as if the signatories to the San Remo convention decided that World War 2-style Q ships and unrestricted submarine warfare were not civilized conduct, even during times of war.

  42. September 09, 2020Philistine said...

    @Doctorpat - It appears that the specific law being cited is the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which obviously postdates WW2. But the Geneva Convention in turn references the Hague Conventions of 1907, which state in part: "Merchant ships converted into war-ships must bear the external marks which distinguish the war-ships of their nationality." And: "A belligerent who converts a merchant ship into a war-ship must, as soon as possible, announce such conversion in the list of war-ships." So Q-Ships seem to have been at best legally dubious, in addition to dubiously effective.

  43. September 09, 2020Philistine said...

    @quanticle - As I read it, the "San Remo Manual" is not itself the applicable law, it's a handy one-stop reference guide to the applicable law.

  44. September 09, 2020Johan Larson said...


    Yes, I am certainly aware of programs like the Cadets. I was never in them, but since the military requires young people who have successfully completed them to go through the same basic training programs as everybody else, I suspect they're kinda weaksauce, focused more on getting kids interested in the military, rather than serious training.

    What I have in mind is more like the upper tier of competitive sports, usually called "travel teams", but for military skills rather than sporting applications.

  45. September 09, 2020quanticle said...

    I was in Boy Scouts (though I never got my Eagle), but I did hear that if you did join the Army as an Eagle Scout, you could graduate Basic Training as a Lance Corporal, rather than a Private. Now, granted, I heard this from an Army recruiter (who, for obvious reasons, had an incentive to spin things as positively as possible), but it did seem that being an Eagle Scout did convey some advantage in the military, marginal though it may have been.

  46. September 09, 2020bean said...

    I can't tell you how many times my Troop's leadership claimed that the Eagle Scout was the only civilian decoration you could wear on a military uniform, but on further research, it's not true. (Except in the very limited case where you join up before it's formally awarded and choose to wear your military uniform to your Eagle Court of Honor.) This appears to have been a plan by some Secretary of the Army which never actually went through.

    That said, there are benefits to being an Eagle Scout on joining up. I chose the Marine Personnel Procurement Manual because it sounds so delightfully Orwellian, and the contents bear that out:

    EAGLE SCOUT AWARD/GIRL SCOUT GOLD AWARD. This is designed to recognize outstanding achievements of both Eagle Scouts and Gold Award Girl Scouts upon presentation at civic ceremonies. The Recruiting Command has cooperated by designing handsome certificates for presentation by recruiters at appropriate occasions. This allows recruiters the opportunity to gain exposure and foster a more favorable recruiting environment.

    But the table on page 4-39 does indeed cite being an Eagle Scout as a reason to promote to PFC immediately. And if the Marines will make you a PFC, everybody else will also promote you, too. The Air Force will probably make you a Colonel.

    (Another interesting fact. The only way to get higher than E-2 without being prior enlisted looks to be joining the Marine Corps Band at 8th and I.)

  47. September 09, 2020Johan Larson said...

    More about entering at an advanced rank based on previously earned qualifications here.

    The Army will let you start as high as E-4 if you have a bachelor's degree. The Navy will let you do it if you complete SEAL training or nuke school.

  48. September 09, 2020Lambert said...

    How much time do high-level sport kids spend doing sports?
    Compared to maybe a couple of hours a week and another few hours/week worth of weekend camping at scouts or cadets.

    Can't think of any scouts I knew who went into the military. I'm vaguely aware that a few of the people at my school were in the local cadets and were going into the Army. But I think they were already from a military background.

    I think the BSA and US military are percieved as being... on a particular side of the CW... in a way that it's not in the UK.

    If our troop was a feeder school for any profession, it's engineering. Especially civil. Maybe because the best places to go hiking are also the best places to build hydroelectric dams?

  49. September 09, 2020Alex said...


    The helicopter on a merchant ship idea is one I surprised was never implemented for anti-piracy operations.

    You might be interested in

  50. September 09, 2020Johan Larson said...

    How much time do high-level sport kids spend doing sports?

    Some of my friends in high school were on sports teams, and their practices ran 1-2 hours, five days a week. Sometimes they also had games during the weekend. Some of the really hardcore athletes trained in the mornings too. So 8 hours a week on the low end to 15 or so.

  51. September 09, 2020Chuck said...

    On the subject of cheap conversions, how much of damage control/survivability is simply a matter of having a lot of smaller compartments that can be sealed off? I would imagine the biggest issue with converting a civilian ship would simply be having large holds that could flood, could you just start out with a ship slightly oversized for the mission and just divide it up for better ability to manage flooding?

  52. September 09, 2020echo said...


    launch and recover 8 jet skis

    You can't convince me someone in JSOC didn't just watch Waterworld and decide to set himself up as a Smoker king.

    SIGINT off Somalia though, wow. That must be... weird.

  53. September 09, 2020Alex said...


    How much time do high-level sport kids spend doing sports?

    I believe the rise of travel sports has been the biggest factor in the decline of scouting in the US. If you're in one or more travel leagues, it's very difficult to also have time for weekly troop meetings, and you're likely to miss games every time you go on a weekend trip.

    I think the CW issues have actually been a secondary effect from that. Once most of the families involved in competitive sports were drained out, the BSA was left with a sample of the population that were un-representative in various ways. Probably best not to go beyond that here.

    Can’t think of any scouts I knew who went into the military.

    This might be a regional thing. In my troop it was pretty popular to apply to the Naval Academy, and a handful of my friends went there, with a couple more going to the Coast Guard Academy. One or two others I'm aware of enlisted, but that was less common.

  54. September 09, 2020Chuck said...

    @Lambert @Alex

    There are organizational issues at work as well, decisions made by the top management of the BSA have not been good for the organization in my opinion, partially in terms of financial decisions, but in particular how they have allowed the BSA to be positioned in terms of public sentiment. They've been very reactive vs. proactive in terms of their image as a national organization. Maybe this is part of a desire to lie low in turbulent times, but I believe it will eventually require a "rebirth" if they plan to survive.

  55. September 09, 2020quanticle said...


    Okay, interesting. So the San Remo Manual is more like, "Here's how we (where 'we' represents a group of legal and naval experts) interpret the Geneva Conventions and other applicable laws of war in light of advancements in maritime technology?"

    That's significantly less binding than I thought it was. There's nothing, as far as I can tell, that prevents the United States, China, or whoever else from saying, "Yeah, actually we disagree with the San Remo interpretation of the rules, and, as a result, our usage of civilian vessels in conflict is actually legal!"

  56. September 09, 2020Philistine said...

    I had a whole response typed up, then it occurred to me to look for "San Remo Manual" on Wikipedia. It's described there as "a codification of customary international law, an integration of existing legal standards for naval conflict."

    China would still have to comply with the underlying Geneva and/or Hague Conventions, of course. (Or come up with a minimally-plausible justification according to same. Or simply declare that they don't care, as they did with the South China Sea Arbitration a few years ago.)

  57. September 09, 2020Johan Larson said...

    Folks, let me strongly suggest you take a look at the Markdown manual, and learn the syntax for links.

    In most forums, you can just put a URL in the text, and the software will automatically convert it into an HTML link. That doesn't happen here. And what's worse, some characters in URLs are interpreted as formatting and won't show up as actual text, so the URLs can't even be cut-and-pasted correctly. The underscore character is particularly problematic.

    Go. Read. Learn.

  58. September 09, 2020Alex said...


    Good note - thanks. I'll remember the Markdown syntax for future links.

    Bean, if you have edit power, feel free to Markdown-ify my links above to make them clickable.

  59. September 09, 2020bean said...

    Re the San Remo manual, international law is deeply weird, so things like that have more power than you might think. Going all the way back to Grotius, there's a lot of traditional respect for codifications and the like, because there's not an international legislature or serious international courts. So a bunch of scholars sitting down and saying "here's what we think the law is" basically becomes the law, particularly if people comply with it.

    Practical wartime international law is another matter. That tends to be "whatever gets prosecuted afterwards". And that means things the victors did a lot of don't get prosecuted, such as Donitz getting off because the Americans had done the same to Japan.


    That would help a lot, although it's not perfect. That kind of compartmentalization is really hard to maintain, but for short periods, it can work well. The traditional way to check a mineswebeping job is to fill the ship with barrels, remote-control the engines, and put the crew on mattresses.

  60. September 10, 2020Ian Argent said...

    I'm a cub scout den leader.

    Even in elementary school, sports devastated my "entry level" den when the spring/summer season started up. It is a choice of one or the other in a way that didn't happen when I was a Scout lo those many years ago.

  61. September 10, 2020Blackshoe said...

    Re: the note about Doenitz not getting prosecuted for submarine attacks in WW2. There's a book out there by Joel I. Holwitt called "Execute Against Japan" about the decision to use Unrestricted Submarine Warfare against Japan (duh) in WW2, and the process of making that decision (which was interestingly never really approved at the Presidential level, but understood by Navy leadership as being necessary). It's pretty interesting considering "unrestricted submarine warfare" was oversimplified THE reason for the US getting involved in WW1, and was among the greatest crimes the Germans were accused of committing during that war.

    One of the points Holwitt made was that the distant blockade that Britain used in WW1 was as illegal as unrestricted submarine warfare (and probably killed more people, too)...but they won so it became okay.

    Book is highly recommended if kind of dry and academic (IIRC it was basically his PhD thesis, slightly converted for publication).

  62. September 11, 2020Dave said...

    After fair warning from John Schilling's earlier review, I went and watched Midway when it appeared on streaming services. It's pretty bad as a work of cinema, but mainstream press seemed to think it was "historically accurate," which only makes sense if the comparison is Michael Bay's earlier film-that-must-not-be-named: the aircraft carriers were CGI models instead of angled-deck Cold War ships, and the CGI planes were mostly pretty good. Movie reviewers appear to have seen a completely different film than we did.

    On the cinema side: pacing, characters, plot, dialogue, etc. are pretty terrible. Drama among the aviators and among the various admirals was corny storytelling, independent of historical accuracy. The admirals themselves weren't too bad. Many of these actors deserved better than the script gave them.

    John already said most of this, but ... on the naval side: American fighters? Japanese bombers? Torpedoes? Damage control? What are those? Why am I getting Pearl Harbour and the Doolittle Raid again? Why do pilots never ever close their canopies? Zeroes are either invincible or made of paper depending on whether the protagonist is the one fighting them. q But actually it was somewhat less bad than I expected, all things considered. That speaks more to my expectations than to the filmmaking. There was so little exposition of the strategic and tactical situation that there wasn't even all that much to be actually wrong about.

    Now I need to go read Shattered Sword to get this mess out of my mind.

  63. September 14, 2020Alex said...


    I’m not sure I’d want to cut onboard systems as far as you’re proposing, because it would be nice to be able to use it near bad guys.

    What other equipment would you need to add for the "minimum viable platform" that you could use near bad guys?

  64. September 14, 2020bean said...

    Something more like what you have on an LCS (without the absurd speed) or a Type 31. A gun capable of dealing with moderately serious threats, some form of short-range air/missile defense, and the electronics to back it up.

  65. September 16, 2020Blackshoe said...

    So, in kind of "What's everyone reading" news, I just finished a collection of SciFi stories called Future Tense that I collected from uh somewhere. The gist of this collection is all the stories in it predicted some very specific aspect of future technology in a credible way. Anyway two stories were worth mentioning: -"Politics", by Murray Leinster, published in 1932 and predicting how radar-controlled gunnery would affect naval battles (although Leinster's mechanism is electro-optical) -"Solution Unsatisfactory ", by Robert Heinlein, published in 1941 and does a decent job at outlining the political and industrial implications of the development of atomic weaponry (his version is basically a dirty bomb), even having his own version of the Baruch Plan at the end.

Comments from SlateStarCodex:

Leave a comment

All comments are reviewed before being displayed.

Name (required):

E-mail (required, will not be published):


You can use Markdown in comments!

Enter value: Captcha