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Sunday Battleship Blogging: RFS Pyotr Velikiy

[ 0 ] July 16, 2006 |

The Soviet Navy emerged from World War II a tiny force, possessed of a few ancient battleships and numerous smaller, obsolete craft. Geography has not been kind to Russian maritime endeavours, as the Black and Baltic Seas are easily choked off, the Russian Far East is distant from the industrial base, and the far north is both often choked with ice and very far from conventional shipping lanes. Nonetheless, naval power was considered important by Stalin, and the Soviet Navy became a formidable force in the 1950s and 1960s. The Soviet Navy differed in important ways from the USN, however, as the Soviets never fully adopted a Mahanian outlook on naval power. Rather than pursue the construction of a few large capital ships designed to attack and destroy their Western counterparts, Russian efforts focused on submarines, patrol boats, destroyers, and cruisers. As the Soviet SSBN force developed, naval doctrine began to concentrate on the problem of defending Russian submarine patrol areas from US submarines, surface combatants, and aircraft carriers. Thus, even the Soviet aircraft carriers designed late in the Cold War focused on defensive fighter squadrons rather than on strike aircraft.

The Kirov class represented something of a break from this philosophy. Designed in the early 1970s, the Kirovs were the largest class of surface combatants built anywhere in the world since the end of the Second World War. Yuri Andropov, fourth ship in the class, was laid down in 1986. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War led to neglect of the Soviet (then Russian) Navy, and the ship was not completed until 1996, when it entered service as Pyotr Velikiy (Peter the Great). Pyotr Velikiy displaces 26000 tons, can make 32 knots, and carries a main armamament of 20 P-700 Granit surface-to-surface missiles. Pyotr Velikiy is powered by a nuclear reactor, allowing her to maintain top speed for considerable distances. The ship also carries significant anti-air and anti-submarine armamaments.

Pyotr Velikiy is capable of carrying out multiple operations. Her surface armament (the P-700 is a large, heavy missile) makes her a danger to US carrier battle groups. Pyotr Velikiy can also defend Russian naval task forces, as well as SSBN patrol areas. The very size of the Kirovs disturbed the US Navy, and strengthened the hand of elements desiring to reactivate the four Iowa class battleships, three of which had been in reserve since the 1950s. As surface combatants the Kirovs were no match for the larger, more heavily armed, and more heavily armored Iowas (indeed, the Kirovs had little if any armor) and it’s unclear that even a P-700 missile could do much damage to USS Iowa, a ship designed to resist 16″ shells. However, the anti-air and anti-submarine capabilities of the Kirovs were much greater than that of the Iowas, making them more flexible ships.

Pyotr Velikiy has had a spotty career since her commissioning. As Russia really has little need for a deep water Navy, funds have been scarce. All three of Pyotr Velikiy’s sisters have been decommissioned, although one is about to be recommissioned. Named flagship of the Northern Fleet upon completion, she has participated in several notable exercises. In 2000 she was the designated target ship for RFS Kursk, the submarine that exploded and sank with all hands. An exercise off Iceland in 2004 was designed to simulate an attack on a US carrier battlegroup, and involved Pyotr Velikiy, the carrier Kuznetsov, and several other major assets. Because of mechanical problems, PV remained stationary off the Iceland coast for the duration of the simulation. It was later decided that the exercise went so badly that, in order to minimize embarassment in the future, the Russian Navy should exercise as little as possible.

Perhaps most disturbing, in 2004 the chief of the Russian Navy said that Pyotr Velikiy could “explode at any moment”, a troubling statement at any time, but particularly when made in reference to a nuclear powered battlecruiser. Admiral Koroyedov later withdrew the statement, and it has since been argued that the statement was more about internal Russian Navy politics than about the actual state of Pyotr Velikiy. In any case, Pyotr Velikiy remains in service as the flagship of the Northern Fleet. Although not technically a battleship, she serves a similar symbolic purpose to the dreadnoughts of the early twentieth century, and her sisters helped spur the reactivation of the Iowa class. At 26000 tons, she is likely to be the last large surface combatant constructed by any navy for a very long time.

(Images courtesy of FAS)

The Barbary Wars

[ 0 ] July 15, 2006 |

Make sure to read Kingdaddy’s excellent series on the Barbary Wars:

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

Kingdaddy has some good observations, and makes some interesting parallels between the dilemmas facing the early Republic and the modern empire.

Stabbed

[ 0 ] July 14, 2006 |

Make sure to read Kevin Baker’s brilliant essay on the “stab in the back” myth. My favorite bit:

The POW/MIA flags, with their black-and-white iconography of shame, now fly everywhere in the United States, just under the Stars and Stripes; federal law even mandates that on at least six days a year—Memorial Day, Flag Day, Armed Forces Day, Veterans Day, Independence Day, and one day during POW/MIA Week (the third week of September)—they must be flown over nearly every single U.S. government building. There has been nothing else like them in the history of this country, and they have no parallel anywhere else in the world—these peculiar little banners, attached like a disclaimer to our national flag, with their message of surrender and humiliation, perennially accusing our government of betrayal.

Yes, it’s really time to get rid of the POW/MIA flags. There’s not a scrap of evidence that any POWs were left behind in Vietnam, yet the flags remain, reminders of a narrative that was strongly evident in 1980s pop and political culture.

Smallish Media Rob

[ 0 ] July 14, 2006 |

I’ll be on WVLK at 10:07am Eastern to discuss the Israel-Arab dispute. As readers of this blog know, this is a subject that I’m well-versed in and love to talk about in public fora. Listen in if you want to hear a man make a fool of himself.

Sigh. I suppose it’s too much to ask to devote a show to interwar Soviet military doctrine, but they could have called me on North Korean missile day. Missiles are cool and uncontroversial, and people don’t yell at you for talking about them…

…Ugh. Did anyone listen?

[ 0 ] July 14, 2006 |


Friday Cat Blogging… Frodo and Pip

HBO Future

[ 0 ] July 13, 2006 |

Variety reports…

  • The Sopranos will not return until March. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the first of several delays.
  • Rome will return in January, but will only have one more season. Maybe they’ll get to Actium? Max Pirkis is going to have to do some aging, and that’s a lot of civil war to have in only thirteen episodes.
  • Alan Ball is putting together a vampire series. I’m skeptical.

The upshot is that the next year will see the death of Deadwood, the Sopranos, and Rome, three of my favorite series. I would also wager that Entourage is not long for this world; I love it, but there’s only so much you can do with the premise. The same might be said of Lost. Let’s hope that Battlestar Galactica has a long and fruitful life.

Chinese Missiles

[ 0 ] July 13, 2006 |

Good Defense News article (subscription only) on the deployment of the DF-31 and the DF-31A. These are the first Chinese missiles capable of MIRVing (3-5 warheads each of up to 150 kilotons). The former have an 8000 mile range, which simply reinforces and expands existing Chinese strategic capability. The latter, however, has a 12500 mile range, which makes possible the targeting of the entire United States and all of Europe. Defense News says that the deployment of 60 DF-31s is expected, but doesn’t give figures for the DF-31A. In any case, we can expect that the number of Chinese missiles capable of reaching the US will triple or quadruple in the next four or five years.

China has also begun construction of the Jin class, its first group of genuine SSBN. My guess is that the first will enter service in 2008 or 2009. Each will be able to carry 16 SLBM versions of the DF-31. It will be interesting to watch how the PLAN deploys these boats in the next ten to fifteen years. Soviet naval doctrine was designed primarily to protect SSBN sanctuaries, but the Chinese seem to expect the PLAN to play a more active conventional role. We’ll see how they weigh those two roles.

None of this matters too much for US policy, although the prospect of a couple hundred Chinese missiles, as opposed to 24, should serve to further discredit the idea that a missile defense system will ever be able to provide security to the US.

Mickey Kaus is a %%$%@ Moron, Part LXXIV

[ 0 ] July 13, 2006 |

Yes, I realize this is an unhealthy obsession.

Mickey has responded:

Numerous readers email to note Plano’s very Republican voting record–Collins County, of which it’s a part, went 71% for Bush in 2004, for example. It’s certainly a Bush bastion. It’s less clear to me that it’s a “conservative” bastion if by that you mean social conservative (gay marriage, school prayer, abortion, etc.). Nor does it seem to be a “pickup” truck, chewin’ tobacco bastion in the classic sense. More of a Bobo Boomburg. Either way, the use of Plano to demonstrate red state outreach is still a PR-man’s con because, as mentioned, the Angelika Film Center, where the Gore movie is showing, draws from the entire Dallas metro area. It’s an art house featuring standard art house films–such as (currently) “Keeping Up with the Steins” and “Wassup Rockers.” If a film does well there that says no more about any subversive appeal to conservatives than if the film sold out the NuArt in West L.A.. Or the Angelika Film Center on Houston St. in Manhattan, for that matter.

Shorter Mickey: If we redefine conservative to mean what I want it to mean, then Plano is kind of not conservative.

What an idiot. Conservatives should loathe Mickey even more than I do; for Mickey, it appears, conservatives are ignorant hicks who’ve never heard of sushi, shop every day down at the Wal*Mart, and who all drive aging pickup trucks with “I Hate Queers” bumper stickers on the back. Moreover, while the “Plano ain’t social conservative” line could explain why Brokeback did well, it certainly doesn’t explain An Incovenient Truth, which hardly touches on any social conservative questions. If anything, libertarian conservatives should hate the latter even more than the former.

Just to add to the frivolity, Mickey’s claim that “people from all over Dallas go to watch movies in Plano” is somewhat undermined by the fact that there appear to be five theaters in the Dallas metro area showing Inconvenient Truth. The Angelika, it seems, is 20 miles from downtown Dallas. Pending further evidence, you can color me unconvinced that Plano is drawing all the raving liberals in the area…

Last Kaus post today, I swear. I should stop reading Slate.

UPDATE: I’ll grudgingly allow that I’m mildly impressed that Mickey linked to a post titled “Mickey Kaus is a %%$%@ Moron, Part LXXIV” without engaging.

Argh

[ 0 ] July 13, 2006 |

The Reds had a tendency to blow late inning leads. This was a problem. They have now solved this problem by ensuring that they will never again take a lead into the late innings.

Mickey Kaus is a %%$%@ Moron, Part LXXIII

[ 0 ] July 13, 2006 |

Mickey is railing again about Plano, Texas. Apparently, An Inconvenient Truth is doing well in Plano multiplexes, which has given Mickey conniptions. Plano, he would have his readers believe, is not, in fact, a conservative town. Indeed, according to Mickey, it’s not even really a Texas town:

Plano [is] not alll [sic] that much of a “conservative bastion”**–and certainly not the good-ol’-boy cow town its characterful name conjures for clueless coastal types

Mickey made the same remark about Plano when it was discovered that Brokeback Mountain was doing well. Here is what I commented at the time:

Plano, Texas is part of Collin County, Texas. It is genuinely affluent, with a median income of over $75000. In 2004, Collin County gave 71.2% of its vote to George W. Bush, and 28.1% to John Kerry, a percentage that exceeded Bush’s margin in Texas as a whole. In other words, Collin County is conservative for Texas.

Plano also rated as the fifth most conservative city in the United States with a population over 100000.

… I have sent an e-mail to the distinguished Mr. Kaus with the following query:

In spite of this, you continue to insist that Plano is a liberal, coastal elite bastion. I’m wondering: Did you not bother to do any research, or do you just not care?

We’ll see if I get a response. It should be noted that while Kaus precedes Weisberg’s tenure as editor, Weisberg’s stated policy of not requiring any fact-checking by his authors enables this kind of garbage.

Self-Parody at Slate

[ 0 ] July 13, 2006 |

In the smartest column he has ever written (or will write) Jonah Goldberg described the Slate ethos as “liberals are wrong but not for the reasons conservatives think they’re wrong”. Today come two classics of the genre. Richard Ford helpfully points out that people who oppose gay marriage may not be bigots; they just want stable gender roles:

If I’m right, there are two reasons someone might oppose same sex-marriage: anti-gay animus or a desire to protect traditional sex roles. It’s no secret that traditional sex roles are in crisis. They’ve been battered by feminism’s attacks on male privilege and feminine mystique. Macho women have mocked female virtues (consider the gun-toting Thelma and Louise, the oversexed Samantha Jones of Sex and the City, or the wooden-stake- and holy-water-wielding Buffy). And house husbands, Mr. Moms, and “metrosexuals” have similary rejected or lampooned traditional masculinity. Today both men and women reject the constricting and unequal sex roles of past generations, but most still desperately want meaningful sex identities.

In other words, gay marriage advocates ought not to blame anti-gay zealots for political defeats. Rather, they should blame feminists (and also Joss Whedon, apparently). Ford is apparently oblivious to the two larger, obvious questions that this invokes. First, why are traditional gender roles worth defending in the first place, and how is it that defense of them is somehow more respectable than not liking gay people? Second, does Ford think that traditional anti-gay bigotry isn’t founded on the same preference for those traditional gender models?

Jacob Weisberg then launches a “liberal” attack on the New York Times for publishing SWIFT. The following passage really defines the Slate project:

The first thing to say about this fight is that conservative claims about the media’s supposed motivations in publishing both the NSA and SWIFT stories reflect only ideology and ignorance. . . . All that said, let me depart from the liberal consensus and argue that the New York Times, while acting in good faith, made the wrong call by printing the SWIFT story.

Fill in different nouns, and that passage could literally be included in every story that Slate (and probably the New Republic as well) has ever published. What’s even more irritating in the specific case is that Weisberg fails to then produce a “liberal” argument against publishing the SWIFT information. He allows that the notion that the disclosure will aid terrorists is exceptionally unlikely, but nevertheless argues that since the program probably isn’t illegal, it should have remained secret. This hardly strikes me as much justification for his position, and I’m left with no other conclusion than that Weisberg just really wanted to be disagreeable.

Thank God for Times Select

[ 0 ] July 12, 2006 |

Because of Times Select, I can rise each morning happy in the knowledge that I won’t have to read John Tierney.

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