VTOL Landing Zones

Finding the (ideally) safe landing zone radius for hypothetical VTOL transports is a little hard because there haven’t been that many of them. The first precedent is the ideal landing radius for a V-22.

From a Marine Document, we get:

V-22s are about 84 feet wide at their widest. So that ranges from 2.1 times their width/wingspan to 4.1 times.

The second is an EASA draft regulation on “vertiports”. The “D” value is defined a circle around the aircraft when its thrusters are in takeoff/landing mode.

Credit EASA

The draft describes the safe landing area as at least 1.5 times the D-value of the aircraft plus a safety buffer of at least 3 meters or 0.25 times the D-value, whichever is greater. These are of course just guidelines (and keep in mind they’re for constant civilian travel, not military action), but they’re still good rules of thumb.

Review: World War III 1987

World War III 1987 Blog

Now that the main war has finished, I feel comfortable reviewing the World War III 1987 blog. Now, I must admit that I’m benefiting a lot from the context I’ve learned since I’ve started Fuldapocalypse. Part of it is that there are too few 198X Cold War Hot works of fiction instead of the too many. But another part of it is that web serials (which this ultimately is) and traditional books are apples and oranges. Or, to be more accurate, the relationship between them is like that between baseball and cricket, boxing and mixed martial arts, or rugby and American football. All involve hitting a ball with a bat/pileups of burly players/beating one’s opponent up, but anyone with knowledge of both would admit to big differences and often a lack of overlap.

Likewise, writing a book and writing a serial both involve creative writing, but they also have different priorities and require different skillsets to really excel at. And I can say that as a serial, the WWIII87 blog succeeded very. The first thing a serial needs to do-and I mean needs, is be punctual with updates. While there were understandable human slip ups, the update schedule was nonetheless brisk.

The update schedule was good, and so was the content of said updates. I could quibble with a lot of things, but I don’t really have the heart to go “no, the combat power of that division was (X) instead of (Y)” or nitpick minor technical details or circumstances. There are just too many soft factors and confounds in a hypothetical Fuldapocalypse to really call any one outcome plausible, especially given the unlikeliness of a sustained conventional conflict (Cold War era field manuals from both sides are very clear-a third world war is likely to start off conventionally, but highly unlikely to end that way). Let me just say I’ve read substantially worse and leave it at that.

I do have to take issue with the plotnukes, which do the Hackett style of “trade two cities” (Madrid and Gorky/Nizhny Novgorod), and which serve as a Deus ex Atomo at the end. Though even there there isn’t a real good way to do them. I think the least contrived option, which I really haven’t much of in other fiction is to have them deployed tactically against field formations but not strategically against targets in cities or deep beyond the front (kind of like a local version of Arc Light’s skewed extreme counterforce strikes to make a large exchange survivable). Like faster than light travel in science fiction, you just have to try and stay consistent and run with it. And I’ll admit the nuclear ride, when the story goes there, is a little bumpy to me. There’s also a little too much focus, IMO, on detailed actions in the peripheral theaters, which made the pace on the truly important Centfront somewhat slower than I would have liked.

That being said, this is a good effort and my hat’s off to the writer. My personal journey since starting Fuldapocalypse and reading so many books has broadened my mind, and the serial has progressed throughout this blog’s existence. Congratulations and good work!

Review: Luxury Fleet

Luxury Fleet

Professor Holger Herwig’s Luxury Fleet is the single best book on the Imperial German navy that I’ve read. It manages to be both detailed and fun, going into political squabbles and technical details while remaining easy to read. Reading it really gets you a feel for the “Luxury Fleet”, or “Tirpitz’s Folly”.

It’s great to read this alongside Andrew Gordon’s The Rules of the Game, an equally effective study of its adversary. But if you’re into naval history at all, this is well worth a purchase on its own.

SOF Infiltration Techniques

I’ve decided to kick off the new year on Fuldapocalypse with my current “I justify it by claiming it’s for book research, but really it’s mostly for its own fun sake” obsession. This is the way special forces teams are infiltrated (moved in to their target, almost always with the intention of stealth).

Granted, there are elite teams moving about in All Union (without spoiling any specific element), and the Soviet-Romanian War saw the biggest deployment of special forces in modern history. But it’s still a fascinating topic. So in rough order from least to most complicated…

  • On Foot. This is the most basic type, with very obvious limitations. In this case the borders are already packed with conventional troops (including recon ones), so very few to no SPF teams would go in that way.
  • Helicopter/VTOL. This needs little explanation. Both its strengths and weaknesses are pretty obvious to those with basic military knowledge.
  • Boat. This also doesn’t need much explanation. In this specific case, it’s hindered by Romania having only a small amount of coastline suitable for amphibious landings. One 1970 CIA analysis put it at only nine miles (page 10), but this admittedly would be far less a problem for small SOF craft as opposed to large landers.
  • Ground Vehicle. AKA the Desert Rats. This gives the force a lot more mobility once in the target area, but it also makes it more noticeable and adds to their logistical areas. And especially for the more prosaic role of most spetsnaz, this also overlaps to a large extent with the horde of BRDMs and long-range patrols in “conventional” units.
  • Static Line Parachute. This is less precise than helicopters but can take advantage of (often) longer range or higher-performing aircraft. The type of aircraft also differs-I have a soft spot for planes like the An-2 and C-145 Skytrucks that are small for mass paradrops but quite able to release small teams.
  • Infiltration in Peacetime. This uses secret agents and other “peaceful” means to help bring the SPF in before the fighting starts. The problem is that you need a good network of secret agents to succeed this way.

These are the mundane, usual, “boring” techniques. Now for the “interesting” ones.

  • Free fall parachute jumps. Requiring more skill and risk, this is further divided into the “easier” HALO (High Altitude, Low Opening) and “harder” (High Altitude High Opening) jumps. The former is mostly intended for unconventional war to keep the drop plane hidden (in a visual and sound sense) and less vulnerable, while the latter is an extreme jump that involves the parachutists gliding a considerable distance.
  • Ultralight aircraft and paramotors. Mentioned in both the GENFORCE-Mobile and TC 7-100.2 manuals for special forces insertion, these seemingly silly devices have been considered a serious way of moving in. The performance of motorized paragliders and ultralight planes varies, but can be “increased” if only a one way trip in is needed.
  • Wingsuits. The most exotic yet, these are mentioned in TC 7-100.2 and the various Worldwide Equipment Guides. Still conceptual as of this writing and the absolute hardest to use, these squirrel-gliders are nonetheless, well, awesome. Especially the powered ones.

It’s important to note that the majority of historical spetsnaz from the 1950s to 1991 were still two-year draftees. The best and most motivated two-year draftees, but still two-year draftees. Infiltrators in the second category in a Soviet-style military would have to be officers or professional volunteers with longer-term contracts to get the time to master such exotic techniques.

A massive number of Soviet, Bulgarian, and Afghan special purpose forces participated in the invasion of Romania. The very first substantial Soviet casualties in the war came when a Romanian MiG-23 shot down a transport carrying SPF for a parachute insertion, killing all eighteen people on board. While those three nations are well known, there have also been rumors of other SPF as well as western mercenaries disguised as employees for humanitarian NGOs.

Fuldapocalypse Year In Review

I had a good 2022. I’ve read and reviewed a lot of books and other stuff, and managed to publish my second full-length novel, The Lair of Filth. My third, All Union, is coming along nicely (even if I’m in a bit of a holiday break at the moment). So yeah, it was a pretty good year. Even if a lot of it was wasted doing horrible things in People Playground.

Glad to keep doing this blog that has been such a great experience for me!

The Zombie Gym Leader Who Never Was

It’s no secret that all kinds of fictional works change from their beginning to their final product. And a minor character in a classic video game embodies this very well. In the Kanto Pokemon games, Erika is the grass-type specialist leader of the Celadon City gym. Wearing traditional Japanese clothing, her characterization is that of a graceful flower lady (who has a tendency to fall asleep).

But apparently she wasn’t always that way. And some of the changes made to her were after her Gen I artwork had already been drawn.

Development and concepts assets that have emerged have shown a picture of the original Erika. She would have been placed in what would have been Lavender Town (which in the final version didn’t have a gym at all). And, unsurprisingly, she would have specialized in ghost types. The sole ghost specialist who actually emerged in Gen I was Agatha, portrayed as a normal person who just happened to use ghost types.

At least judging from her art design, Erika would, uh, not have been. Her eyes were closed and the Poke Ball in her sprite was in midair, which could be justified as her juggling it but which was likely meant to have her hovering it with supernatural powers. Finally, her clothes were folded in a way that was only used for the dead in her initial sprite. (A pretty big implication of this is that her design was changed in Yellow and all later appearances to be folded the correct way).

In other words, she was heavily implied just from the visual assets alone to be some kind of undead. Since no final text dialogue was made, there’s no 100% confirmation, but it’s pretty clear. Would this design carrying over really change much?

Probably not. Unlike a few other Gen I leaders, Erika did not become a superstar in her own right. At the time, not much would really change. Except for her prominence. See, spooky Lavender Town became a centerpiece of internet creepypasta campfire stories immediately. And having someone who was an outright zombie? Oh yeah, she’s definitely getting featured in them. So even if official media stays out, Erika the Zombie would become a star of the internet.

Since a multiverse canonically exists in Pokemon, Zombie Erika probably lives in some variant universe. Much as how creepy supernatural anime Sabrina exists alongside normal actress game Sabrina. Who knows, maybe this Erika starts conventional Fuldapocalypses as a hobby. Has the zombie sorceress been found?!?

Review: Special Reconnaissance and Advanced Small Unit Patrolling

Special Forces (specifically MACV-SOG) veteran Edward Wolcoff has created a masterpiece in Special Reconnaissance and Advanced Small Unit Patrolling. Despite the long and clunky title, the book itself is very accessible. The goal was to create a list of tactics, techniques, and procedures determined by both theory and practice. It was also to present them in a way that was easily accessible and not written in field manualese (indeed, taking issue with official doctrine is stated in the introduction as a big motivation for the entire book). Wolcoff succeeds admirably in both parts.

This is not just for people who actually do light infantry patrols. Even armchair writers like me will find it very useful for both research and curiosity. Few stones are left unturned. This aims to be comprehensive and it succeeds. It does arguably focus a little too much on the past, but given the author’s Vietnam service, this is quite understandable. While “tone” isn’t the most relevant for a book like this, I enjoy how this comes across as being critical of official doctrine and often greatly so, but not in a bitter or axe-grinding way (Wolcoff has said that he submitted this book to a security review and cooperated with the Pentagon in its publication, FWIW).

What I particularly like is how Wolcoff makes it very clear that failure is as big a teacher (if not more) as success. Survivorship bias can skew things massively, so it’s important to look at what didn’t work as well as what did. This is a great resource for well, anyone, and well worth a purchase.

Review: Spetsnaz The Inside Story

Spetsnaz: The Inside Story

There are few Cold War authors who I have less respect for than defector Viktor Suvorov (pen name), nor are there more who’ve influenced the thought and discourse around Fuldapocalypses in a such a negative way. Since Suvorov was one of the biggest popularizers of the mega-super Spetsnaz , I felt that his Spetsnaz: The Inside Story would be an excellent first book to review.

Now defectors, confidential informants, and the like are generally not the best or most reliable people. Some may be and have been deliberate double agent sneaks to muddle the waters. But more have had mundane issues. Issues like exaggerating their own importance and telling their new handlers what they want to hear. There’s a reason why American military officers in the cold war considered intelligence defectors not noble dissidents but unreliable weasels while having far more respect for enemy field commanders who stayed loyal until December 1991. Suvorov fits this negative stereotype to a T (and I’m not the only one to say this).

The story begins with a description of shovels. Yes, military entrenching tools are important for digging in, other utilities, and make for a good enough melee weapon. Then Suvorov dives deep and talks about how spetsnaz train with their shovels as weapons and that it involves putting one alone with only a shovel against a crazed dog. Woof.

So yeah. If Suvorov says that a bicycle has two wheels, walk around and count them. There’s accurate points here and there, but remember what they say about a broken clock (or that he just grabbed it from an accessible source that others would soon do with less embellishment, or took information that wasn’t that controversial). Suvorov also introduces the “Icebreaker Theory” where he states that Stalin was going to invade west and Germany simply preempted him. (You know who else said that?). The Icebreaker Theory, which he would later expand into a full book, goes from “questionable” to outright uncomfortable in my eyes given how it echoes the Germans own justifications for Barbarossa.

Then there are the psychologically iffy parts. Perhaps the least credible sentence in the book is “In the spetsnaz soldier’s opinion the most dangerous thing he can do is put faith in his comrade, who may at the most critical moment turn out to be a beast.” It’s not like successful war has always relied about trusting one’s colleagues in crisis, and that demanding special operations would demand more of that. I can believe them to be ultra-cynical, cold, and hard-edged (to say nothing of having grown up in an autocratic society), but Suvorov generalizes every single one of them to be those mixed with (in another dubious quote) “A spetsnaz soldier knows that he is invincible.” This strikes me as playing to the crowd, because it’s what an armchair observer with little knowledge of actual battle dynamics would think the ultimate warrior mindset would be like. Even some of the accurate statements come across as being aimed too low: For instance, his (correct) emphasis that a safehouse keeper/secret agent should be someone who blends in and doesn’t have any profile to attract attention is accompanied by a swipe at the likes of James Bond, with Suvorov apparently figuring that most of his audience gets their knowledge of spycraft from that.

Even leaving plausibility issues aside, Suvorov’s writing is rambling, pretentious, and sensationalist to the extreme. This is not aimed at people who would actually have to make a serious plan about dealing with the serious, legitimate threat of opposing special forces. This is giving a general audience the treasured “inside peek” that Bill James recognized and criticized. It’s the Cold War equivalent of someone from the Pakistani intelligence services talking about Osama bin Laden’s giant mountain fortress and his army of countless infiltrators throughout the world in the early 2000s.

The biggest problem is that there’s now basically no point to read this for solid information. In an age where you have western analysis done with much greater access and info (ie, Heavy OPFOR/GENFORCE-Mobile) and translated real primary sources (ie, Voroshilov Lectures), including those on the spetsnaz themselves, having a dated “I WAS THERE” “expose” like this is basically worthless as a practical source. One of my biggest pet peeves is that Suvorov has been cited far too often by Cold War wargamers despite better sources having long been available now.

What it does show is the tone of the times, and of the kind of sensationalist book that appears to stoke every zeitgeist. In this sense, it (and Suvorov’s other books) are surprisingly close to the stereotypical true crime paranoia book. Except with spetsnaz instead of serial killers or whoever.

Review: Blown Cover

Blown Cover

The fourth book in Mark Hewitt’s Hunter series, Blown Cover is a book where I did not want the crazy to stop. The crazy was the entire point of the series, and for it to become just another middling thriller would be taking the “Captain Beefheart Playing Normal Music” issue to extremes. Thankfully, the crazy becomes, if anything, even crazier.

There’s Amelia Earhart conspiracies, Hindenburg conspiracies, the same conspiracies in the last three books, and more. And this book even has a -shock- actually well written action set piece. There’s a genuinely effective action scene where the protagonist has to struggle his way to the cockpit in a depressurizing plane that’s truly well written. Yes, there’s hundreds of pages of clunky crazy surrounding it, but still.

So yes, I had genuine fun with this book. It might even be my favorite so far in the series, just because of how excessive it is. I like excessive cheap thrillers.

Review: The Eleven Days of Christmas

The Eleven Days of Christmas

For Christmas, I feel like I should review a Christmas book. A Christmas book that’s also a Fuldapocalyptic history book is Marshall Michel’s The Eleven Days of Christmas, about the final significant bombing campaign in the Vietnam War. Michel, himself an aviator veteran of the war, left no stone unturned to try and get the full story. To try and find the truth about Linebacker II, he went not only to American sources, but as many North Vietnamese ones as he could access, and even esoteric ones like the memoirs of Joan Baez (who was in Hanoi at the time).

The result is a masterpiece that illustrates Strategic Air Command as this clunky newbie that had sat out the war and then blundered into it. And also spun its clumsy, ineffective performance into a great victory. This is perhaps the biggest unintentional weakness of the book: The claim that Linebacker II was mixed at best and ineffective at worst is a lot less controversial now than it was at the time he wrote it.

Still, anyone interested in the Vietnam air war has to get this book. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all!