December 17, 2018

Open Thread 15

It's time for our usual biweekly open thread. Talk about whatever you want, even topics unrelated to the subject of the blog.

This week, I'm going to highlight Nomenclature of Naval Vessels, a 1942 publication on all of the terms that get used on ships.

Updates over the past two weeks include Ironclads, The Loss of HMS Victoria, The Death of Force Z, Parts One and Two on Huascar and The South American Dreadnought Race.

December 16, 2018

Electronic Warfare Part 1 - ESM

Over the past century, warfare has increasingly been taking place on the electromagnetic spectrum. A century ago, primitive radio first gave commanders the ability to control forces at sea across great distances. Attempts to thwart enemy communication, or to turn it to one's own ends, swiftly followed. During WWI, both sides tried to jam the other's communication, and set up direction-finding networks to locate the source of transmissions. These set the pattern that has been followed with increasing sophistication ever since.

An RC-135 Rivet Joint, the premier USAF electronic intelligence aircraft

Electronic warfare is usually divided into three parts: Electronic Countermeasures (ECM), Electronic Counter-countermeasures (ECCM) and Electronic Support Measures (ESM).1 ECM is concerned with denying the enemy the use of the electromagnetic spectrum. This is conventionally done by jamming, the electronic equivalent of playing loud noise to drown out sounds you don't want someone else to hear. ECCM is a wide variety of techniques intended to mitigate the effects of ECM. If someone is playing white noise to stop you from hearing a specific note, it might be the use of a signal processor to listen to only the specific frequency you care about. ESM is primarily concerned with locating and characterizing the emitters of the other side. In our acoustic analogy, it would be learning the sounds of someone else's car so you can recognize them if they come after you, or using multiple microphones to locate someone trying to sneak up on you in the dark. Read more...

December 14, 2018

Commercial Aviation Part 3

Earlier, I talked about how airlines sell tickets, to get the most money out of their passengers. This time, I’m going to talk about the mechanical process of getting those passengers where they want to go. The basic problem is that there are an almost arbitrarily large number of combinations of A and B people want to travel between, and it’s obviously impractical to have direct service between all of them. Different travelers want different things, and the whole system is constrained by available airplanes and airports.

MD-83 of Allegiant Air

So, how do we take the planes I talked about last time, plus all of the airport infrastructure, and create a route network that will get people where they want to go? This is hard to describe from first principles, so we’ll examine a couple of airlines to see how they do things.


December 12, 2018

The First South Dakota Class

The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 brought about major changes in the design of the battleship, most notably cancelling most of the ships being built in American and Japanese yards. In the United States, three classes were affected. I've previously discussed the Colorado and Lexington classes, but a third class, the South Dakotas, were cancelled entirely.

The South Dakota class as designed

The South Dakotas were ordered under the massive Naval Act of 1916, a result of Woodrow Wilson's swing towards naval expansion as the World War dragged on. Americans feared that a victorious power would turn its eyes across the Atlantic, seeking economic dominion over the United States. A fleet "second to none" would be vital to safeguarding US interests from a power with millions of battle-hardened veterans and a war indemnity from the loser. It was not apparent at the time the economic toll that the war would take on the participants, rendering any such dreams moot by 1918. The bill, on the floor of Congress when news arrived of Jutland, authorized ten battleships and six battlecruisers. While the first four were to be derivatives of the existing Tennessee class, the last six could be significantly larger, the ships the USN had been asking for since 1914. Read more...

December 09, 2018

The Falklands War Part 9

In early April, 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, a few desolate rocks in the South Atlantic. The British mobilized their fleet, sending it south by way of Ascension Island. On the 25th, a force retook South Georgia, a even smaller and more desolate island that Argentina had also captured, while the main task force closed in on the Falklands. May 1st saw the British launch their attack. The Argentine Navy tried to interfere the next day, but withdrew after the cruiser General Belgrano was sunk by a submarine.

HMS Sheffield

May 3rd was quiet, but May 4th was not. The day began with the second Black Buck raid. While everything went smoothly, the string of bombs fell 600 yds wide of the runway, doing no damage to any of the airport facilities. The carriers closed in on Stanley during the night, planning another set of raids. Harriers flew off for CAP, while the three Type 42 destroyers, Glasgow, Coventry and Sheffield, moved further west, deploying down the threat axis about 20 nm from the carriers in a line 40 nm long. By this point, the fleet was beginning to treat the matter as routine, and at Air Raid Warning Yellow,2 procedure was to be at Defence Watches, with half the crew at their stations. When Air Raid Warning Red was sounded, the entire crew would go to their battle stations. The good performance of radars on May 1st had given them confidence to justify this procedure. Read more...

December 07, 2018

December 7th, 1941

2,403 dead. 1,178 wounded. Five battleships, one target ship, and three destroyers sunk, and many more ships damaged. 188 aircraft destroyed and 159 damaged. And the US drawn into the greatest war the world has ever seen.

This is the toll of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It was, as President Roosevelt said, a date which will live in infamy. More dark days were to come, in Malaya and Singapore, the East Indies, and the Philippines. But eventually, the efforts of the Allies pushed them back. Less than four years later, an American fleet was anchored in Tokyo Bay, and the Japanese came aboard the battleship Missouri to sign their surrender.

December 05, 2018

A Brief History of the Aircraft Carrier

Today, the aircraft carrier is the most powerful warship afloat, a vessel that dominates the ocean's surface and can project power far inland. But it was not always this way, and the aircraft carrier has evolved greatly over the last century.

The first takeoff from a ship

The first man to take off from and land on a ship was an American pilot by the name of Eugene Ely. In November 1910, Ely took off from a ramp on the cruiser USS Birmingham, and flew ashore. Two months later, he landed on a platform built onto the cruiser Pennsylvania. In both cases, the ships were at anchor. While the first takeoff from a moving ship took place the next year, the first landing proved elusive. Read more...

December 03, 2018

Open Thread 14

It's our usual biweekly open thread. Talk about whatever you want, even if it's not naval-related.

This post's thing of interest is Victory at Sea, a documentary series from the 50s using footage from WWII. The 26 episodes (linked from the Wiki article) cover basically the entire war at sea, and there's a lot of interesting footage of men and ships, as well as a really good soundtrack.

Overhauled posts since last time include Iowa parts six, seven, and eight, Russian Battleships Part 1, and both parts I wrote on mine warfare.

December 02, 2018

Japanese Battleships in World War II

Of the major naval powers, Japan had placed the greatest emphasis on its battleships during the years leading up to WWII. The experience of the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars had lead them to conclude that any war with the United States would ultimately be resolved through a Decisive Battle between the battle lines of the two powers. All Japanese war planning centered around this battle, and it is remarkable that they were willing to throw it away and attack Pearl Harbor instead. The idea reasserted itself after the outbreak of war, and even in 1945, after numerous previous "Decisive Battles" had ended in disaster, the Japanese believed that another one could turn the tide.

Yamato running sea trials

12 Japanese battleships fought in the war, spread across five classes. The oldest were the four units of the Kongo class. Originally built as battlecruisers before WWI, all four were thoroughly modernized during the 1930s, being reclassified as fast battleships. Capable of 30 kts and armed with 8 14" guns, they proved very useful ships.3 Read more...

November 30, 2018

Commercial Aviation Part 2

In my continuing discussion of commercial aviation, it's time to talk about class. When I say class, I mean class of service. (Disclaimer: I’m most familiar with the US market, and know a bit about Europe. I’m trying to hold down the research I put into these, so I’m sorry if I don’t understand someone else’s aviation market.) But first, let’s talk about the planes themselves.

Passenger jets are basically divided into three categories (small to large), regional, narrowbody and widebody.

A United E145 Regional Jet

Regional planes are those with up to ~120 seats, and typically fly between major hubs and distant secondary markets or close tertiary markets. The main players are Bombardier and Embraer, both of which make a range of planes from 70-120 seats, and are trying to move into the narrowbody market. For various reasons, these are much more popular in the US than in the rest of the world, but that may not continue going forward, and I suspect that the demise of this market may be behind Embraer and Bombardier looking to build larger planes. Seating ranges from 1-2 (one seat on one side of the aisle, 2 on the other) to 3-3 on some of the largest. Read more...