Thomas Wictor

Don’t be like my father

Don’t be like my father

My father was a very complex man. When he was in the Coast Guard, he climbed to the tops of LORAN (long-range navigation) towers that were 620 feet (189 meters) or more in height.

LORAN_tower

He did it for fun. In 1949 he was stationed on Bikati Island, Makin Atoll, in the Gilbert Islands (red arrow).

Butaritari

The water was waist deep, so Dad would walk a mile or two over to neighboring islands to explore. He took this photo from Bikati before he set off for the island in the distance.

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Since the water was crystal clear, you could see the sharks coming, so they weren’t a problem, my father said. Coast Guardsmen assigned LORAN duty were called “LORANimals.” They were a rough bunch.

Lavalava

In Venezuela, the dictator Marcos Pérez Jimenez was overthrown in a military coup on January 23, 1958. The country became so lawless that my father carried a pistol with him at all times. He once engaged in a shootout at work, after a Venezuelan oil-field supervisor murdered his American boss in the office next to my father’s. My father never admitted this, but it’s clear from his description of the event that he killed the Venezuelan.

Even though my father calmly did things that are beyond my comprehension, he was also deathly afraid of theoretical geopolitical catastrophes.

“It’s really scary!” he’d say about…everything. The prospect of war with Russia, war with China, the collapse of the dollar, famine, global warming, global cooling, and so on. I tried my best to reassure him, but by the end of his life, I realized that somehow his fear comforted him. Whenever I’d try to explain what was really happening, he’d get up and walk out out of the room.

The reason it was so frustrating is that he made real-world decisions based on his fears. I had to buy guns because he acquired a giant gasoline-powered generator in case we had a devastating earthquake.

“We’ll hook it up to all three houses and have power and lights while everyone else is in the dark,” he said.

“We live in gangbanger heaven,” I told him. “What do you suppose is going to happen when the power goes out, and suddenly three houses light up on this street full of career criminals?”

He just stared at me.

“About 25,000 gangsters are going to descend on us,” I said. “It’ll be like a zombie movie, but for real.”

Well, then I’ll stand guard with a ball bat!” he shouted. At seventy-eight years old, with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, emphysema, numb hands and feet, and high blood pressure. So I bought several firearms to protect my obstinate, fearless, fearful father.

FlowerEd

Now everybody’s in a panic, sending me articles about this.

[O]n Oct. 4, our sources reveal, another Russian super-weapon was brought to Syria by Russian cargo ships: Nine MT-LB armored personnel carriers [APCs] fitted with the Borisoglebsk 2 electronic warfare systems, which are among the most sophisticated of their kind in the world.

These APCs were secretly driven aboard tank carriers to Nabi Yunis, which is the highest peak of the Alawite Mountains along the coastal plain of northwest Syria, and stands 1,562 meters (5,125 feet) above sea level. To render the highly complicated Borisoglebsk 2 device system impermeable to attack, our electronic warfare experts describe it as fitted into the interior and walls of the nine APCs, along with receivers that can pick up transmissions on a wide range of frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum.

From their mountain aerie, its antennas and powerful transmitters are designed to intercept and jam almost any radio signal carried by the electromagnetic waves in military or civilian use.

Russian strategists posted this top-of-the-line system in Syria to enable the Russian air force to operate unhindered in Middle Eastern skies and, just as importantly, to neutralize US-led coalition special forces operating deep within Syrian territory, and block or disrupt the operations of rebel groups and Islamic State forces.

The Borisoglebsk 2 system has only just started rolling off top secret Russian assembly lines. It took five years to plan and manufacture the system, which went into service for the first time at the beginning of this year on the Ukraine battlefield.

From its vantage point in Syria, the Russian electronic warfare system could seriously impair the performance of Israeli intelligence and communication networks arrayed across the Golan and along the northern border in the upper and western Galilee. It could run interference against the IDF’s use of unmanned aerial vehicles (unless they were autonomous), the field operations of Israeli Special Operations forces and air and naval networks, which depend on communications networks in their defense of the country’s northern borders.

An Israeli wanted me to read an article written in Hebrew. Every time I opened it, my browser got completely screwed up, so I won’t post a link to it. This is the “important” part.

NATO forces commander US General Philip Breedlove warned in a lecture in Germany a month ago that the Russians are deploying a network of electronic obstruction over the coast of the Russian and Eastern Mediterranean, and that the Russians had in the past used this method of establishing a bubble of blockage over the city of Kaliningrad in the Baltic Sea and over the Crimea on the Black Sea. This Russian ability was also demonstrated in 2014, when the Americans launched the Black Sea destroyer USS Donald Cook, and it was “attacked” by a Russian electronic blocking airplane Sukhoi 24. The result was an electronic neutralization of the destroyer’s radar.

Well, no on all counts. We’ll take the last one first.

On April 14, 2014, an unarmed Russian Sukhoi SU-24 made twelve passes close to the USS Donald Cook in the western Black Sea near Romania. The ship was in international waters. That’s all that happened. The American radar was not jammed. And guess what? The American Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer can’t be sunk by Russian SU-24 aircraft.

USS_Donald_Cook

The ship has missiles and cannons that would make short work of any aircraft and its weapons. The flyby was like Putin sending his ancient turboprop TU-95 Bear bombers off the coast of California on July 4, 2015.

Tu-95

It’s a magnificent aircraft, and I love it to pieces, but it would last about four seconds in combat with the US. Putin is doing this for domestic consumption. The Russian economy has tanked, so all Putin has left is cheap propaganda.

Now, what about NATO commander General Philip Breedlove warning about “Russian bubbles of electronic obstruction”? Here’s what he was actually talking about.

While Russia’s stated goal in moving into Syria is to fight the Islamic State, NATO’s top commander believes Russia’s new presence includes the first pieces of an intricate layer of defensive systems deployed to hinder U.S. and coalition operations in the region.

“As we see the very capable air defense [systems] beginning to show up in Syria, we’re a little worried about another A2/AD bubble being created in the eastern Mediterranean,” said Breedlove to an audience at the German Marshall Fund Monday. A2/AD stands for anti-access/area denial.

So how will the US handle the Russian A2/AD?

“We tend to take some things for granted, like air superiority,” Breedlove agreed. “In an anti-access/area denial environment” — aka A2/AD, the kind of layered long-range defense being built by Russia, China, and to a lesser extent Iran — “we would have to earn air superiority.”

In other words, we’d have to fight for it…

“We built tactics around a permissive environment,” Breedlove acknowledged. “Now we’ll have to adapt those tactics to get through the initial stage of a battle, where we fight down the integrated air defenses, we establish air superiority, and then we can reinsert our more permissive tactics.”

Assuming we ever actually achieve air superiority, I said skeptically.

“We have the capability,” Breedlove said. “I lot of confidence in our troops.” Of all the differences between today and the Cold War, he said with a smile, one stands out most: “Let me tell you, be very clear, the young people today are far more lethal and far more capable than we were.”

Russian air defenses will be defeated. Again. Saddam had them, and Bashar al-Assad has them. Israel regularly bombs targets in Syria.

Now what about this Russian “super-weapon,” the Borisoglebsk 2 electronic warfare system?

Well, the only people saying that it’s a super-weapon are the Russians. They put it in Syria on October 4, 2015. On October 13, 2015, the Israeli Defense Forces shelled two Syrian army posts in the Golan Heights after mortar rounds landed in Israel. No reaction from Russia. Not only that, I’m guessing that the IDF used the GPS-guided Top Gun round.

Top_Gun_artillery

The Borisoglebsk 2 is supposed to make GPS-guided weapons useless.

Trust me: This is all crap. The Russians sent 30 aircraft to Syria. Since September 30, I calculate that they’ve launched fewer than 1000 air strikes. That’s window dressing. It’s kabuki.

If facts don’t matter, think of it this way: Russia is all-powerful, and we’re doomed. There’s nothing whatsoever you can do about it, so why worry? Have a nice cheeseburger and watch a movie.

Cheeseburger

While you’re eating, ponder the words of Colonel A., who commanded the IDF electronic warfare center during Operation Protective Edge.

The whole world was watching what we were doing in the Gaza Strip. Consequently, we did not employ the full spectrum of our capabilities, so
as not to expose our entire arsenal.

You must accept that the IDF is invincible. I’m not just saying that. It’s actual fact. Israel has capabilities that make the Russians look like medieval crossbowmen.

I’m extremely tired of Chicken Littles. If you’re afraid that the sky is falling, inform yourself. If you’re still afraid, start taking psychotropic medication, like I do.

psychotropic_medication


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