PAK-FA

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The T-50 – probably soon to be the Su-37 – is Russia’s first true fifth-generation fighter, and will probably enter production just after the first of the year. It’s official designation at this stage is PAK-FA, short for Perspektivny Aviatsionny Kompleks – Frontovoy Aviatsii (literally “Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation”), meaning that is an undertaking of their experimental aircraft bureau, rather than purely a Sukhoi project. It is reportedly a low-observable (read: stealth) air superiority fighter that is highly maneuverable and equipped with clean-paper new engines. PAK-FA is, in other words, Russia’s answer to our F-22 Raptor.

It is said to be a Mach 2.3 platform that can supercruise (fly without afterburning) at Mach 1.6, will be armed with six air-to-air missiles, six air-to-mud bombs, and a 30mm cannon mounted in the wing root to the pilot’s starboard. It will reportedly be capable of carrying four anti-ship cruise missiles – all the above mentioned ordinance stowed in internal weapons bays. The platform will also be fitted with six removable (for stealth) under-wing hard-points for externally carrying an additional six missiles or bombs.

This aircraft will be added to the Changdu J-20 (PRC), as will the soon to be procured European fifth generation fighter, as the world’s air superiority fighter platforms. All very capable fighters (assuming all goes well with development and acceptance testing), but when you think about it, if one is clearly better – the other’s aren’t really “air superiority” platforms, are they?

The concept of air superiority became a clear doctrinal aspect of war planning during World War II when sweeping the skies of enemy fighter-bombers in the Pacific and obtaining denial to the Luftwaffe over the Normandy beaches yielded outcome-relevant advantages to blue forces. The idea is uncomplicated – deny the enemy air-access to the battlespace, and you spare your ground forces the perils of vertical assault. You convert the battlespace into a battleplane. You remove the Z-axis as a tactical concern. And if you have air superiority, you can undoubtedly menace the enemy in Z, converting the enemy’s defensive battleplane into a battlespace. Air superiority is a tactics-changing option to have, hence all major powers are trying to provide that capability to its military.

All of these platforms perform in rough equivalency; any qualitative difference will be found in the avionics – the sensor-to-pilot transfer of situational awareness. How far out can I see red forces? How far out can I lock on red forces? How close in can I get before red forces see me? Those kinds of things. The Raptor has the edge in all of these criteria – somewhat narrowly in the case of the European effort, more so with the Russian and Chinese offerings. The AN/APG-77 radars can detect a one square meter target at 150 miles, lock on to it at 93 miles, and fire on it any time after that. This in an aircraft that has the radar cross-section of a marble. The PAK-FA’s radar cross-section is ~0.5 square meter, slightly larger than a basketball. The F-22 will need to get within ~80 miles of a PAK-FA to see it, but can’t be seen by the PAK-FA until it’s within ~16 miles of it. Fatal difference for the PAK-FA. The F-22 would have long ago fired a missile at the PAK-FA and be off engaging another target.

Air superiority opens blue forces up for air-cav and armored-cav operations ahead of walking infantry, and allows for increased aerial surveillance of red force locations (while denying that ability to the enemy). As I say, it becomes an outcome-relevant advantage.

It is important to recognize that our technological advantage is still difference-making, but the window is closing. PAK-FA is a closer match to the F-22s performance envelope than the MiG-29 was to the F-15’s. It is imperative that we not begin to cut back on the research and development of advanced weapons systems at a time when our near-peer adversaries are increasing theirs. We have spent the last six years handing away America’s advantages and leadership, but this one – technological superiority – is of generational importance. Because technology is synergetic in nature (we use high-tech to invent higher-tech), a gap in capability tends to grow exponentially. Losing the lead here could take a generation or more to re-close (and more expensively than just maintaining the lead).

This is not just an Air Force problem. One of the reasons that it’s important that we maintain unquestionable military superiority is for Command of the Commons. As a result of winning World War II, America has assumed responsibility for assuring free travel and trade by providing area-denial to adversarial forces over the world’s sea lanes and within the world’s air lanes. These are known as the Commons – areas of space out of any nation’s control but necessary to peaceful interactions between them. This is why we need a 12-carrier Navy. This is why we need to base air assets in all theaters of national interest. This is why we need a rapid-response force, forward deployed somewhere on each oceanic shore. This is why we need the world’s best hunter-killer submarines. I would far rather have the United States guarding the Commons than, say, the Russians or Chinese. To understand how important Command of the Commons is, imagine how life complicates if Iran gains control of the Straits of Hormuz – 80% of Europe’s oil and 40% of its gas pass through those waters.

Rome, for all its flaws and arrogance, was a better steward of Europe than the Visigoths, Vikings or Hun. I am more comfortable for the world’s people with America, for its flaws and arrogance, being steward of the world’s trade routes than Russia or PRC – or having regional turf battles over them.

Groundhog Day all over Again

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NEWS FLASH! Donald Trump announced that is seriously considering running for president. What is this? Run number five? Six? The first few times can probably be chalked up to “… because I can.” The last one was a brilliant contract negotiating ploy – give me the deal I want, or I’ll run for office and leave you with a Golden Egg-sized hole in your schedule. This time might be different.

For starters, he has declined to renew The Apprentice franchise for another season of shooting. Now, the analyst in me wants to get a four-year Arbitron on the shows and Advertising’s spot-price for the shows, and how they compare to the last few seasons. Is he sacrificing a viable commodity or jumping off before the bottom falls out?

Nothing new or enlightening showed up in his announcement – the country’s going to hell in a hand-basket, the incumbent is an idiot, all others running for office are naïve, and so on – the usual campaign rhetoric. Only this time around … a case can be made. It seems a Venn diagram of Reality and Trump’s Rambling Screeds are beginning to show some overlap.

The true test will be the deadline for submitting detailed financials to the FEC for vetting divestitures (which could cause some problems with running his properties), this is when he jumped ship last time around. He has Chinese Walls around some investments, keeping some investors “our of sight” of other investors, and I don’t know how willing he is to make all of it public (financial records of candidates become public records).

In any event, a Donald Trump candidacy is always fun – he’s the Joe Biden of the right … always saying something you can’t believe any adult actually said that out loud. The only way he could become a threat to a serious candidate is if he self-financed more energetically that the PACs that will be running against him. For that, he would need to sell a lot of golf courses and hotels.

eGate Revisited

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Well, I thought this would be a news-cycle, maybe two, and not much beyond that. But then Ms Clinton had her presser on the subject and lied her tuckus off. The photo above is of Secretary Clinton on a C-17 flying to Libya in 2011, using her iPhone to examine something sent to her. If this was from someone at State, I’ll guarantee you it was classified. Hold that thought.

She began her treatment on eMails by saying, “There are four things I want the public to know. First, when I got to work as Secretary of State, I opted for convenience to use my personal eMail account, which was allowed by the State Department, because I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal eMails instead of two.” As it turns out, she carried four – her iPhone, a Blackberry, an iPad and a Mini-iPad. So that leaves one wondering what the hell she’s talking about. Plus, it takes about 30 seconds to set up a second eMail account on a cell phone. This first thing she wanted us to know makes no sense.

“Second,” she said, “the vast majority of my work eMails went to government employees at their government addresses, which meant they were captured and preserved immediately on the system at the State Department.” Well, again, not true. Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for DoS, acknowledged that auto-backup only started last month. There was no such system at State during Ms Clinton’s tenure. She lied.

“Third,” she continued, “after I left office, the State Department asked former Secretaries of State for our assistance in providing copies of work-related eMails from our personal accounts. I responded right away and provided all my eMails that could possibly be work-related, which totaled ~55K printed pages, even though I knew that the State Department already had the vast majority of them.” Two things here. First is a repeat of the second lie (that State had archived her eMails to fellow State officials), and second, she supplied her version of official eMails by printing them onto 110 reams of printer paper instead of placing them onto a flash drive, where they would be a searchable, transferable record. This means that they must be gone through by hand, and entered by hand, drastically slowing down the process of searching for relevant documents. I would argue that, knowing the Clintons, this was the idea.

“We went through a thorough process to identify all of my work-related eMails and deliver them to the State Department.” It would be interesting to know just who “We” is. Turns out, it was her legal team, and they sorted the eMails by using key-word searches and deleting those which didn’t sift-out. Nobody read through them for content, just sorted by key-words (and we don’t know what key-words were used).

“At the end, I chose not to keep my private personal eMails … ” This violates the Federal Records Act’s non-destruction clause, which prohibits the employee from deleting anything that has not been vetted by DoS records security personnel. Here, she broke the law, minor infraction as it may be.

“Fourth, I took the unprecedented step of asking that the State Department make all my work-related eMails public for everyone to see.” Well, of course, eMails that have been scrubbed and vetted by her and her legal team could be released to the public. An “unprecedented step” without distinction.

During the questions from the press, Kahraman Haliscelik with Turkish Television asked, “[I]f you were a man today, would all this fuss being made be made?” To which she answered, “Well, I will – I will leave that to others to answer.” I might suggest ex-US Ambassador to Kenya Scott Gration, who was fired after “The inspector general’s report specifically noted that Gration violated State Department policy by using a private, unsanctioned eMail service for official business.”

Later during the Q&A, a reporter was asking about the Secretary using a private server – one that she owned and operated – and asked if the State Department had “full access to it when you were secretary.” Ms Clinton simply ignored that part of her question and answered the second part, but the short answer is “No.” They had to ask her to send them in when they discovered they had no eMail traffic from Ms Clinton at all.

And still later, a reporter wanted to know, “Why did you wait two years? Why – why did you wait two years to turn those eMails over? The rules say you have to turn them over … ” To which Ms Clinton answered, “I don’t think – I’d be happy to have somebody talk to you about the rules. I fully complied with every rule that I was governed by.” Not true. Ms Clinton herself issued a department-wide edict that all personnel were to use .state.gov eMail (and fired an ambassador for not doing so), so there’s a rule she did not abide by. Also, her own records management handbook for DoS, which sets out a very specific process about how you remove records from the department’s control. Those rules require an exiting employee to “prepare an inventory of personal papers and non-record materials that you are proposing for removal” and then “request a review of those materials that you’ve proposed for removal.” She simply deleted “non-official” eMails from her server. Another rule she violated. Additionally, form OF-109 (part of the separation package upon leaving office) asks if you have turned over all materials and documents before leaving – if she checked “Yes,” she lied (a felony), and if she checked “No,” she would have been instructed to do so before leaving, so there’s a law she did not abide by. The Government Oversight Committee should subpoena her OF-109.

In answer to another question, Ms Clinton offered, “I did not eMail any classified material to anyone on my eMail. There is no classified material. So I’m certainly well-aware of the classification requirements and did not send classified material.” I have a problem with the “There is no classified material” part of her answer. Remember the photo at the top? She was on her way to Libya, reading her iPhone. If that was an eMail from someone at State, I’ll guarantee you it was classified. Also, her calendar, her itineraries and her daily agendas are all classified, and I guarantee she kept those on her server.

Additionally, Justin Cooper, a longtime aide to former President Bill Clinton, registered the clintonemail.com domain on January 13, a little more than a week before Hillary Clinton took office as secretary of state on January 21[1]. The first SSL certificate was issued for clintonemail.com on March 29th, according to Venafi, a security company that analyzes encryption keys and digital certificates. The SSL certificate is necessary to encrypt connections from smartphones and computers. Without that security, data would be flowing across the internet in plain text. During her first months in office until the certificate was obtained, Ms Clinton traveled to Japan, Indonesia, ROK, PRC, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Belgium, Switzerland, Turkey and Mexico [2].

In a rare example of making things worse by “explaining” them, Hillary Clinton managed to take the situation from about to be forgotten to a major concern for Democrats, who have placed all their 2016 eggs in the Clinton basket. Her performance raised so many more questions than it answered, and provided Trey Gowdy’s committee with a couple of new subpoenas to be sought.

I’m now not so sure this is just another Clinton-esque misadventure … this one could have legs.


[1] Meghan Keneally, Liz Kreutz and Shushannah Walshe, Hillary Clinton Emails: A Timeline of What Rules Were Allegedly Ignored, ABC News, March 6 2015, 1355EST.

[2] Martyn Williams, Hillary Clinton’s eMail system was insecure for two months, in ComputerWorld, March 11 2015, 1606PDT.

eGate

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The latest Clinton kerfluffle concerns Hillary’s use of a private eMail account during her tenure at State, for official as well as personal communication. More to the point, it is all kept on a private server located in her Chappaqua [NY] home.

With anyone else, this would probably be chalked up as a bad decision for which an explanation shouldn’t even be asked (any explanation could only cheapen “reason” to “excuse”). But the Clinton’s aren’t just anyone else. They could find a loophole in a stop sign. “That just means they’re good lawyers,” you say (which is probably what drove Shakespeare to intone “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,” in Henry the Sixth). But one only looks for loopholes if one wants to do whatever it is that the law prohibits.

Plus, we have the justification in her own words. During an August 12 2000 über-event – $1,000 a ticket, $25,000 per couple if you wanted dinner – which was to benefit New York Senate 2000, a joint committee consisting of Hillary Clinton’s campaign committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the New York Democratic Party.  Event producer Peter Paul is videotaped sitting next to Hillary Clinton. The video begins with shots of the glitzy Hollywood fundraiser, about 13 minutes in, we hear[1]:

Ms Clinton: As much as I’ve been investigated and all of that, you know, why would I – I don’t even want – why would I ever want to do eMail?

Mr PAUL: No, no.

Ms Clinton: Can you imagine?

This would not be the first nor last time that Hillary Clinton expressed disdain for leaving paper trails. When it became inevitable that a department head couldn’t function in modern Washington without eMail, I think she thought she found a work-a-round: a totally captured system, under her control at all times. And that’s today’s problem. She’s turned around 55,000 pages of eMails over to State for clearance. Is that all of them? We don’t know. Any fundraising for the Clinton Foundation done here? We don’t know. Do any of them cover Benghazi? We don’t know. If not, are we to believe that while that catastrophe was unfolding no one – no one – eMailed anything to her? We just don’t know. The only way critics will be satisfied is for the physical server to be subpoenaed and examined by a computer expert to assure that no erasures had been made, and then for a trusted neutral party (an inspector general or judge) to vet the eMails before they go to State to clear for release, or the relevant committee. That probably won’t happen, and we probably will never know how forthcoming Ms Clinton will be in this matter. That is important because of the Clintons’ history for parsing, obfuscating, obstructing and generally resisting candid clarity, almost as a sport.

They have forfeited the presumption of innocence.

The degree of entitlement donned by the Clintons is demonstrated by her issuing a department-wide order that all personnel should use official eMail (*.state.gov), while she used clintonemail.com.

Now, is too much being made of all this? Absolutely. I would be shocked if anything untoward were to be found among the hidden eMails. I’m sure that Ms Clinton made sure that anything incriminating or embarrassing was conducted over secure lines (unrecorded satellite phones, etc) or face-to-face. One area that will have to be cleared up though, is Benghazi. She appointed the Review Board to “investigate” her department on the matter, and they conveniently didn’t call her or any of her top aides to testify. She is a blank slate on the subject (except for spreading the video lie). Trust me when I say that Chairman Gowdy will insist on seeing any and all Benghazi-related eMails. The press will be interested in anything relating to fundraising for the Clinton Foundation. Beyond that, all else is Republican preparing the 2016 battlespace.

This is being delightfully portrayed by Democratic pundits as reflecting a visceral fear of Hillary by Republicans, but I see it as exploiting the perceived weakness of the post-Hillary bench of Democrats. If Hillary can be discredited, Republicans see a politically weak field remaining. Aside from Jim Webb, I concur.


[1] Chad Merda, Hillary Clinton in 2000: Why would I ever want to do e-mail? Can you imagine?, in Chicago Sun-Times, March 4 2015, 1400CST.

the Roberts Court – Maybe

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Everybody knows that the “Roberts Court” has, in reality, been the Kennedy Court, in that Mr Justice Kennedy has been the swing vote in most important cases before the Court for quite a while. In 2012’s National Federation of Independent Business v Sabelius, Chief Justice Roberts took control of the Court and found for the government in broadly defining as a tax that which the letter of the law called a fee. A case in which Justice Kennedy sided with the conservatives in voting to strike down the entirety of the Affordable Care Act.

I think that the Court is going to line up pretty much along party lines on King v Burwell – the conservatives agreeing that Congress meant what it wrote, and the liberals arguing that Congress was bluffing/careless in writing the Act – leaving Roberts as the deciding vote.

Pundits have been engaged in much hand-wringing over the implications of striking down the practice in favor of the language – “Oh, the carnage … the carnage!” is the tone of the hue and cry of the consequences of taking Congress at its word. That may be, but as Chief Justice Roberts noted in questioning counsel during orals on Wednesday, “it’s not beyond the ability of the states or Congress to fix it.” Besides, the job of the Court isn’t to help make a situation “better”, it’s to rule on the legality of actions taken by the defendant (i.e., the US government).

Roberts has gone to great lengths to not characterize the Court as a political body – hence his tortured ruling in NFIB v Sabelius – so I really won’t be surprised by a ruling, either way. But ruling against very plain language, coupled with public statements about the intent of coaxing states (“legislative intent”) to set up their own exchanges, will come close to sacrificing the Court’s credibility in favor of not deciding with the conservatives, even if they are right.

the Enemy that Dare Not Speak its Name

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Now to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s second topic for his March 3rd address to Congress – the shape of today’s Islamic jihad against the civilized world.

President Obama’s pathological revulsion of saying “Islamic” and “terrorism” in the same breath is near clinical denial. He’s the only adult in the world who can’t seem to connect the only two dots in the puzzle – ISIS, al Qaeda, Boko Haram, al Sahbaab, Hizbollah, Hamas, Abu Sayyaf, Ansar al Shari’ah, Haqqani Network, Islamic Jihad, and many, many more, have but one thing in common – they are all Islamist terrorist organizations determined to liquidate the Western World and its influence. The Islamic State (ISIS) has actually established what it considers to be the beginning of the new khalifat, or homeland for the khalif (the Islamic pope, if you will) and all the world’s Muslims. This effort, at times, takes precedence over the centuries-old Sunni-Shi’ite internecine war within Islam, as Shi’ite Iran cooperates with Sunni al Qaeda, Shi’ite al Quds fights side-by-side with Sunni Kurds, and so forth. To consider each of these groups separately and devoid of religious motivation is to cede victory to the movement as a whole.

Islamic apocalyptic supremism is a clear and present danger to all who do not buy into their hallucinatory worldview.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is dismayed at America’s new worldview because it comes at a time, and against an enemy, which maximizes Israel’s vulnerability to, not just a clear and present danger, but to annihilation. President Obama’s curious take on Islamic terror, in general, and Iran, in particular, all but throws Israel out into the street at a time of extreme peril. Mr Netanyahu is used to American (and European) child-like pursuit of a mythical Two-State “solution[1],” but Mr Obama’s desperate grasp for an Iranian deal, just any deal, presents a frightening prospective future for Israel – and ultimately for Europe and America itself. Mr Netanyahu sees the timelines for an Iranian bomb and the next American president as crossing too close for comfort. There is a real chance of either happening first. I think he wants to give Congress all information he can – some, I’m sure, from Mossad – so it can do what it can to delay the culmination of bad Iranian deal for as long as possible.

The Islamist movement shares with communism the belief that those who believe otherwise pose a mortal threat their ideology – it recognizes that it can’t compete in the marketplace of ideas – so those unbelievers must be destroyed. The difference between Islamism and communism is that the Islamists are far more overtly brutal then the communists. They are an armed force that has no compunction about overrunning sovereign states and slaughtering the inhabitants. The call for a return to some imagined Golden Age of Islamic rule is tempting to the dissatisfied youth of Muslim countries worldwide, and the highly publicized brutality is tempting to anti-social thugs wherever they are found. We are not at war with ISIS, we have been declared a mortal enemy by a worldwide Islamist movement. And while it may not be based on the majority of Muslims’ idea of proper Islam, it resonates with enough to pose a widespread danger that is based in the Qur’an. It is Islamic. They view it as a religious war. If we don’t, if we continue to take each instance in isolation, we will have no chance to defeat it.

You can’t beat an enemy you are afraid to admit exists. It’s just that simple.


[1] Which neither the Palestinians (who favor a One-State solution) nor the Israelis (who don’t see the Palestinians anywhere near ready to establish the civil institutions necessary to be a free-standing state) see as a realistic path.