Well, yes, military equipment

French warplanes and helicopters may be battling jihadists in the deserts of Africa and the Middle East, but the French Air Force on the whole is in a disastrous state, with 56 per cent of all its aircraft unfit to fly at any given moment, according to a senior minister.

“If I compare the current situation … of our planes with a car, it is as if I wanted to have a car every morning that works, I would have to own four cars,” Florence Parly, the armed forces minister, said during a visit to an air base in Evreux in Normandy.

Not that I really know about this area but this doesn’t sound too abnormal.

We have to have 4 Trident subs to have one at sea at any time, don’t we?

OK, slightly less flippancy. But military planes are built at the limits of the technology of the time. This makes them maintenance heavy. I don’t know what you actually expect, that 50% or 10% or what ever are undergoing airframe tune ups or whatever at any one time. But you’d expect – OK, I would – to have a lot more of the fleet out of action at any one time for normal scheduled reasons than you would for a civilian technology, no?

Which leads to, well, what is the correct number?

On the battlefield perhaps

British Isil fighters should be killed in Syria rather than be allowed to return to UK, a Government minister has said. Rory Stewart said converts who leave Britain to fight for the terror group are guilty of horrific acts and the only way of dealing with them is to kill them “in almost every case”.

Not sure we can quite do that later on, after they’ve come back to serve kebabs again.

Military man might know better perhaps?

So forget all the bullshit about “gun control.” Only if the Congress passes a law banning the manufacture, import, and sale of gas operated weapons except for use by the military and police will this be a safer country. The United States Army knows how dangerous these weapons are and controls their possession and use accordingly. It’s time the rest of the country followed the military’s example. One mass killing after another has proven that gas operated weapons are way too dangerous for civilians to own and use. Ban them.

Throughout he keeps talking about semi- and automatic rifles.

Sorta missing the pistols thing.

On the use of Captain as a title years into retirement

Something that slightly puzzles. I can understand someone using Captain RN as a title off into retirement. Significant job, real career progression etc, takes decades to get there.

Captain Army I understand less. It seems to me, and of course this could just be because I’m very blinkered here, that it’s something rather reserved for members of the landed gentry. No, not aristocracy. Capt Chumleyumly, Master of Hounds, sounds about right. But it does seem, in my limited experience, to be only those in that sort of position who keep using the rank.

So, why is this?

Stay in long enough and you’ll be a Major. So, Captain means you left early, or when you wanted to, or something. Or of course that you got fired but that’s difficult. Even today it tends to be not getting promoted which is the signal, not actual firing.

The only thing I can really think of is that as a non-graduate it takes 5 years to get to Capt. Thus retiring as a Capt. shows that you did at least 5 years, not some very short term commission (which, umm, do the three year ones even exist any more?). So, a little more than just Sandhurst and skiing with the Blues and Royals for 2.5 years.

Is that it? Military peeps around here? Or is there something else I’m missing? For as far as I can see it really does seem to be a particular section of sciety which does use Army Captain as a title off into decades of retirement. Why do they?

How joyous about trans and the military

So, Obama said trans people can serve. Trump’s just said nope, they can’t. At which point we get this:

A California congressman fired back at President Donald Trump’s Twitter announcement barring transgendered service members, saying the decision will affect thousands of people.

Hmm, well, no, not really. Because we’re using different definitions here.

Lieu spokesman Jack d’Annabale said the congressman got his estimate from a May 2014 brief by researchers at UCLA’s Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy.

They used responses to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, sent to respondents by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality. The definition of transgender included “those whose gender identity or expression differs from those traditionally associated with their assigned sex at birth,” according to the study.

That’s one possible definition of trans. How people view themselves inside their heads.

Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in September 2015 used data from the UCLA brief and other sources to determine that 12,800 service member would be eligible for transgender health care. The study suggested of those, 188 would use benefits for transition services, at a cost of $4.2 million to $5.6 million.

That’s another possible definition, how many people go under the knife. Neither definition is actually the correct one, with the emphasis on the there. Either definition is useful at times. The trick is to work out which time is useful in what circumstances. No, I don’t know the answer for the military either. But my own prejudices would lead me to the idea that the first definition isn’t the relevant one while the second could be.

My actual point here is the trivial one that we’ve always got to examine the composition of any statistic which is thrown at us. Thousands you say? OK, how are you defining what you’re claiming thousands of? As with that perennial around here, poverty? Yes, but what is it that you mean by poverty? Having to cut back on the tabs in order to be able to afford beer? OK, sure, that’s a form of poverty but are you sure you want to go to the barricades for that one? In the same manner you want to over whether without tabs or beer, or pleasures, someone can get 2,000 calories a day?

Bad idea here, bad idea

Army leaders will be recruited direct from the civilian world rather than rising up through the ranks, under a proposed overhaul to bring in specialist skills for 21st century warfare.

The plan to hire straight into the regular Army’s middle and possibly even higher ranks will overturn generations of tradition and a career structure that has seen leaders work their way up from the bottom.

Yes, I know they’re saying not in the combat arms and yes, I understand the basic problem they’ve got of certain specialist skills. But the answer, I would strongly suspect, is to have an entirely new status, career structure, ranking system even, rather than try to shoehorn into the current structure. Instead of Major (Specialist) something more like Specialist (Major). There are those around here with much moire military experience than myself so what say them?

From memory Doctors and Padres go in directly as Captains, so this isn’t entirely unknown already. But they are considered very, very, different from line officers, aren’t they?

Queen Lizzie uses Windows XP

Navy chiefs boasted the defence system on the UK’s biggest ever warship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, will be NASA standard – rather than like the NHS system that was hacked into several months ago.
But computers in the flying control room on the £3.1billion state-of-the-art carrier showed the system was still running on Windows XP.
This was the same software used by the NHS computers which were hit by a global cyber-attack in May this year.

That’s the Windows XP which is so outdated that it cannot load, let alone pass on, modern viruses?

Seems pretty safe really…..

On balance, no, I don’t think so

Germany’s defence minister has called for the names of Nazi-era figures to be removed from military barracks.

“The armed forces have to make it clear, both internally and to the outside world, that they are not a continuation of the Nazi Wehrmacht,” Ursula von der Leyen said on Sunday.

Seems reasonable enough. But then:

The Marseille air force barracks in Appen is named after Capt Hans-Joachim Marseille, the “Star of Africa”, a fighter pilot who took part in the Battle of Britain and North Africa campaign, and shot down 158 Allied aircraft, more than any other Luftwaffe ace.

The Lent army barracks in Rotenburg is named after Col Helmut Lent, a “night-fighter” pilot who shot down 110 Allied aircaft, 102 of them at night.

The Schulz-Lutz army barracks in Munster is named after Maj-Gen Adelbert Schulz, commander of the 7th Panzer Division, who served in the invasion of Belgium and died on the eastern front.

Umm, actually, no. The cause was bad enough, yes, but then armies don’t get to decide the cause, do they? I’d be worried if they were still calling something Goebbels or Goering, sure, but brave men who fought as they were told?

Recast this to us. The various North West Frontier wars were obviously, clearly, a hateful abomination of colonialism in modern parlance. Brave men would have been those who fought against that extension of the British hegemony.

But Piper Findlater still keeps his VC, right?

Not really quite Frank Whittle’s story

It was an idea given little credibility at the time but pioneering tests on an invention 80 years ago were the beginnings of what brought the world into the jet age.
Bumbling bureaucrats dismissed Sir Frank Whittle’s idea as ‘impractical’, allowing Nazi engineers to peruse plans that could have won Britain the war with ease.
After years of being discredited, the RAF officer eventually tested his crude jet engine at a small factory in Rugby, Warwickshire, on April 12 1937.
Yet it would be years still before the RAF and the world would finally recognise the potential of an idea that allows millions to travel the globe today.
Frank Whittle was once rejected from the RAF, passing the academic test but failing physically, struggling with the physical assessment and measuring just five foot.
But after subjecting himself to a gruelling physical and diet regime, he applied again and was accepted, reporting for duty as an apprentice at RAF Cranwell in 1923.
Academically gifted, he was recommended for a cadetship and began RAF College at Cranwell, where students would write a scientific thesis every six months.
It was here that Whittle, obsessed with the future of aviation, first considered the idea of a jet engine that could fly at high altitudes and unfathomable speeds.

Re the engine itself, no, the RAF realised they had a blinder there. Also that 20s metallurgy wasn’t really going to be good enough. And by the time that was good enough we were in the early stages of preparing for the war (and the Ministry wasn’t that dumb, really, they knew very well that to build jets they needed tungsten the major supply of which was in Portugal – there’s record of a meeting between a Min. bod and Whittle confirming this). At which point, do we expend our resources on an untried new technology? Or build out those Spitfires etc which we know work and we can build in quantity?

For better or worse they took the second decision and it’s not obvious that that was the wrong one. In war good enough in quantity can be better than better but in short supply.

And his cadetship, according to the story, wasn’t quite like that either, as I’ve mentioned around here before. This is how the story goes at least.

Officers were gentlemen, by definition. Therefore only gentlemen could be allowed to become officers of course. An apprentice was someone who worked upon engines ‘n’stuff, an artificer perhaps. Not a gentleman’s occupation, obviously. Pilots were gentlemen, the mechanics were, well, rude mechanics.

The RAF then had a bit of a rethink as they realised that knowing how to pass the port wasn’t really the major qualification they needed in a pilot nor indeed an officer. So they selected 12 artificers to go off through Cranwell to become officers. A test, you see? Whittle was number 13 on this list. And then one of the 12 broke his leg in a cross country competition (look, I’m telling you, this is how the story goes!) meaning that Whittle got shunted up and went to Cranwell.

And that is the story. Proof of this have I none except that one Bill Worstall was one of his fellow artificers sent on the same course as one of the 12. And if that’s how Gramps told the story then that’s good enough for me and it damn well should be good enough for you.

Don’t think Owen understands the US Constitution

So now we know what it takes for an unhinged, bigoted demagogue to win liberal applause: just bypass a constitution to fire some missiles.

A man widely castigated as a proto-fascist only needed to drop bombs without observing due process.

Leadership is shown by a man widely feared to be a) unhinged b) demagogic and c) authoritarian, dropping bombs in defiance of his country’s democratic process.

He bypassed the constitution this time,

They will have legitimised one extra-constitutional military intervention,

constitutional norms can be disregarded at a time of national crisis.

and would disregard constitutional norms.

Current constitutional practice is that, just as every US President has done since WWII, the Pres gets to decide this stuff.

Owen might not be right here therefore

Well, yes, obviously, who didn’t know this?

Army chiefs have launched a probe into whether tough military training is leaving thousands of female soldiers infertile.
They fear gruelling drills could be damaging the reproductive systems of young recruits, after evidence from the sports world showed one in four young female athletes struggles to conceive due to tough training schedules.
Now concerns are rife among leading medical experts in the British Armed Forces that many of the 16,000 serving women soldiers could also be affected.

Women who do gruelling training regimes tend to stop menstruating as their body fat drops.


It’s temporary.

And, umm, isn’t this what we actually want? People who are front line troops don’t take 2 years off now and again?

Something left over from the Empire

At least 200 Indian paramilitary police were hospitalised with suspected food poisoning after eating meals at a training camp in the southern state of Kerala, police said Sunday.
Training cadets and security forces belonging to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) complained of diarrhoea and vomiting after eating rice and fish curry for dinner on Saturday at a training camp in Ernakulam district.

No, not Delhi Belly.

The guard accused senior officials of siphoning funds meant for food rations,

That, rather used to run riot thourgh the Armed Forces, did it not?

Quote of the Day

“There are basically two ways to fight the US military: asymmetrically and stupid.”

HR McMaster

Little thing that interests me here. McMasters is, in that picture, wearing only 6 ribbons. Which is about what you might expect on a seasoned British officer (campaign medals etc without any gallantry awards, around and about these days, no?) but that’s a pittance for a septic. Gongs get handed out for learning how to fold the paper before wiping.

So what’s the story? Does he have some unusually low number of gongs for an American officer of his age and rank? Is he wearing some special short list to not show off? What?

OK, looking at Wikipedia he’s got a much longer list than he’s wearing in the picture. So, what’s the story there? You only wear the important ones with the posh uniform?


Russia plotted to assassinate the prime minister of a European nation and overthrow its government last year, according to senior Whitehall sources.

An election-day coup plot to attack Montenegro’s parliament and kill the pro-Western leader was directed by Russian intelligence officers with the support and blessing of Moscow, to sabotage the country’s plan to join Nato.

This is just me and my prejudices of course but I do tend to think that if this was actually planned from the centre then it would have worked. There’s an amazing number of rather less competent hyper-nationalists out there who might dream of trying something like this though.


Britain’s accounting watchdog has sounded the alarm over the military’s spending plans, warning the MoD’s ability to pay for kit and maintenance is “at the highest risk ever”.

The National Audit Office’s analysis of the MoD’s £178bn spending plans for 2016 to 2026 – which include projects such as the F-35 fighter, Dreadnought nuclear submarines and P-8 Poseidon spyplanes – warns of a series of concerns on the already stretched defence budget.

In the standard analysis of government the purpose of it is to gain those public goods that we cannot gain without it. And defence, against those marauding Walloons, is first on that list.

It’s true that MoD is not notably well run – but then nor is most of government. Yet here the argument is about whether government can afford to spend 2.4% of government revenue on what is government’s first task.

Hhhm, maybe we took a wrong turn at some point?

Sorry about this but we’re going to have to invade Zurich

I think Switzerland is one of the few countries we British haven’t tried to invade so far. That may or may not be correct. But either way, we’re going to have to invade it now.

Fifa has been accused of taking leave of its senses over disciplinary action against the Welsh and Northern Irish football associations after supporters wore poppies in the stands during matches two weeks ago.

Football’s governing body had already charged England and Scotland for a series of alleged offences connected to Armistice Day, including a lone bugler sounding the Last Post at Wembley Stadium and players wearing armbands embroidered with poppies.

The latest disciplinary action goes a step further, however, and threatens to impose fines.

Wales and Northern Ireland had decided that their players should not wear poppies on their shirts or armbands to ensure that they complied with Fifa regulations — instead they wore plain black armbands.

Fans, however, paid their own tributes, and a member of the armed forces held a bunch of poppies in the stadium.

Yes, fans wore poppies.

Fifa is based in Zurich.

Not that we’ve got anything against the Swiss, of course not, it’s just that they’re harbouring a pestilential nest of perfidy which needs to be wiped out.

Action this day I’m afraid.

Well, he’s got a point

An arguable one at least:

Anewly elected member of Berlin’s regional parliament once described Winston Churchill as a “war criminal”, it has emerged.

Ronald Gläser of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party accused Churchill of responsibility for 50m deaths.

Obviously not responsible for the whole thing and I would assume that Ronnie here is being more than a bit of a dick. But certainly some of Churchill’s decisions could be argued to be war crimes. Myself I’d generally put it down to “war is hell” and thank the lord the correct side won. But some of those decisions are a bit iffy.

I dunno about the Mel Gibson movie but….

He was a company aid man when the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment 400 feet high. As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar and machine gun fire crashed into them, inflicting approximately 75 casualties and driving the others back. Pfc. Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying all 75 casualties one-by-one to the edge of the escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands. On May 2, he exposed himself to heavy rifle and mortar fire in rescuing a wounded man 200 yards forward of the lines on the same escarpment; and 2 days later he treated 4 men who had been cut down while assaulting a strongly defended cave, advancing through a shower of grenades to within eight yards of enemy forces in a cave’s mouth, where he dressed his comrades’ wounds before making 4 separate trips under fire to evacuate them to safety. On May 5, he unhesitatingly braved enemy shelling and small arms fire to assist an artillery officer. He applied bandages, moved his patient to a spot that offered protection from small arms fire and, while artillery and mortar shells fell close by, painstakingly administered plasma. Later that day, when an American was severely wounded by fire from a cave, Pfc. Doss crawled to him where he had fallen 25 feet from the enemy position, rendered aid, and carried him 100 yards to safety while continually exposed to enemy fire. On May 21, in a night attack on high ground near Shuri, he remained in exposed territory while the rest of his company took cover, fearlessly risking the chance that he would be mistaken for an infiltrating Japanese and giving aid to the injured until he was himself seriously wounded in the legs by the explosion of a grenade. Rather than call another aid man from cover, he cared for his own injuries and waited 5 hours before litter bearers reached him and started carrying him to cover. The trio was caught in an enemy tank attack and Pfc. Doss, seeing a more critically wounded man nearby, crawled off the litter; and directed the bearers to give their first attention to the other man. Awaiting the litter bearers’ return, he was again struck, by a sniper bullet while being carried off the field by a comrade, this time suffering a compound fracture of one arm. With magnificent fortitude he bound a rifle stock to his shattered arm as a splint and then crawled 300 yards over rough terrain to the aid station. Through his outstanding bravery and unflinching determination in the face of desperately dangerous conditions Pfc. Doss saved the lives of many soldiers. His name became a symbol throughout the 77th Infantry Division for outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty.

I reckon that’s worth a Medal of Honor in anyone’s currency…..