The Nuclear-Pentand?

The term “nuclear triad” is a familiar one. It means the three main delivery systems-aircraft, land installations, and naval ones. Or rather, the three main American delivery systems. See, it’s easy to see the grouping of three when you have only deployed three types of strategic platforms: Silos, aircraft, and submarines.

From this American point of view, mobile ICBMs in use by other countries fit into the land part of the triad, and the oft-proposed surface ship bases would fit into the naval part. However, the proposed anchored capsules on the bottom of the sea have more in common with silos than mobile submarines.

So in a different world where nuclear basing was more widespread, the term “Tetrad” or “Pentad” could be used. A tetrad of silos, mobile land missiles (whether via truck, train, hovercraft, or Wienermobile), aircraft, and submarines. Or a pentad of all that plus surface ships.

A Thousand Words: Carrier Air Wing

Carrier Air Wing

Capcom’s 1990 Carrier Air Wing is a fairly standard side scrolling plane shooter. Except for one thing that elevated it massively in my eyes. That’s the surprisingly detailed and (in a visual sense) accurate depiction of military hardware. You can control either a Hornet, a Tomcat, or an Intruder (which is marked as an A-6F. Wonder if they knew of the never-was upgrade or if it was a happy coincidence because they chose the next letter after E.)

When I saw Tu-22 Blinders as enemies in the first level, I was in love. When I saw Yak-38s in a later stage, I was even more in love. This is quite possibly the most Fuldapocalyptic shmup there is, and I loved playing every second of it. Yes, there’s the sci-fi superweapons (such as a final boss that includes a Buran shuttle) but it’s otherwise very grounded-looking compared to other games of its time and nature.

This is basically a video game adaptation of a Mack Maloney novel. What’s not to like?

Review: An Untaken Road

An Untaken Road

Steven Pomeroy’s An Untaken Road is officially a book explaining why mobile ICBMs never caught on with the US military the way they did elsewhere. It’s that, but it’s also a history of the many, many, many different proposals for missile basing of all sorts. That alone makes it very good, especially since there’s a huge synergy with Nuclear War Simulator (after all, you can easily build and uh, “test-fire” a lot of the platforms described here).

At times the central argument can get a little pretentious and a little too focused on abstract themes. But as a pure source of information, this is excellent. There were a lot of nuclear missile base proposals right out of cheap thrillers, and this book is a great resource on them. It’s also a serious and informative look at nuclear war strategy. So I highly recommend it.

The Evolution Of The Word “Battleship”

Battleship has an interesting evolution. It originally meant “line of battle ship”, what we now know as “ships of the line” (big armed sailing ships larger than frigates). In fact, some old battleships in the German Navy were deliberately classified as “Linenschiff” (Line Ships).

In the steam age, battleship eventually meant “the biggest and most armored self-propelled ship.” So far so good. It then shifted to leftover World War II battleships that were very distinct from their later missile-age counterparts. However, the specific term has been slipping. Now “battleship” is often used as a synonym for “warship”. Many people mind this. I don’t.

Review: Battle Whale

Battle Whale

Alan Spencer’s Battle Whale is a parody of the “creature feature” monster thriller books that its publisher usually makes. Its premise and plot (to say nothing of its tone) can be described pretty accurately from just the title. It’s a spoof. But it’s not a very good spoof.

The first problem is that it’s very forced. A good spoof in my eyes needs to be deadpan. This just shoves the wackiness forward at every opportunity. The second is that the joke is repeated for a hundred and fifty pages, which is about a hundred and forty nine more than it would need to be fresh. Third-this isn’t exactly Douglas Adams or Mark Twain in terms of prose.

It does know the genre it’s mocking well. I’ll give it that. But only that.

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.

Review: Encore

Kirov: Encore

Like every good concert, the 64-book Kirov series has to have an encore at the end. And so it was made in a book creatively titled Encore. I mentioned in my review of the final proper installment, Journey’s End, that the overarching villains of the aliens and Ivan Volkov were dealt with in an anticlimactic, rushed manner. This hoped to give them proper closure in proper battles.

It did not exactly work. By this point there was no way for the series to conclude in anything but a screeching halt, and all the big set pieces here did was change their fates from “short and contrived” to “long and contrived.” Then again, “long and contrived” describes the whole series well, so (shrugs).

This is only for Kirov completionists.

The Big Amphibs

There have been many proposals proposal to make large amphibious warships. One of the more interesting is the Project 11780 amphibious ship, proposed in the last days of the USSR. Nicknamed the “Ivan Tarava” because of its comparable performance to the American Tarawa amphib, its proper name was, in an eerie coincidence given the recent war, the Kherson class.

The Khersons would have been built in Nikolayev, not far from their namesake province. Besides the collapse of the Soviet Union, what doomed them even before that was that the yard was chosen to build the Kuznetsov carriers instead. One interesting quirk is that the Kherson designers reportedly loathed the idea of their ship being converted to a fixed-wing carrier and thus moved a gun turret in one of the drafts so it would block the flight deck and prevent a simple conversion.

The Khersons were designed to carry 1000 marine infantry and up to around 60-70 “pieces of equipment”. They could hold both helicopters and landing craft.