The F-16 and other armament issues

Biden does not want to play into Putin’s hand, whose narrative is that Ukraine is the aggressor. Of course, Ukraine is vastly outnumbered in the battlefield, so this is plainly absurd. But, Putin’s narrative is that Ukraine with NATO is a threat to Russia. NATO is a defense organization and because Ukraine is not a member, is not obligated to come to Ukraine’s defense. When US and Russian forces are on the same battlefield, you have the real possibility of World War III. Similarly when NATO and Russian forces meet in combat in Ukraine, there is not stopping the potential escalation that will occur.

So, from the onset of hostilities, the US has tried to make this an Ukrainian war, arming Ukrainians to defend themselves with limited range arms beginning with the Obama administration, and then ramping up quickly during the Trump administration. Then on February 24, 2022, the Russian army with the cooperation of Belarus, made their initial tank assault from the Ukraine-Belarus border. (To first occupy the site of the abandon Chernobyl nuclear reactor, was a terrible error, as the ground is still radio-active in many parts).

The bellicose nature of Putin, his autocratic rule and his hostilities towards NATO did not go unnoticed. NATO expanded into Eastern Europe in 2004, with the admission of seven countries, under President George W. Bush. I believe this was the right decision, approved by all members of NATO as required.

Link: Wikipedia, Members of NATO

Sending fighter jets to Ukraine will be viewed by Russia as arming Ukraine with offensive weapons which could be used to attack Russia. I believe this is exactly what Ukraine wants to do, principally to knock out the Russian supply bases on the Russian-Ukraine border. So, there are some really scary escalation scenarios.

It maybe a surprise to many, to know that the F-16 is a single engine plane, with just one pilot, first produced in 1978. But of course, it has been modified many times, so they refer to it as the Fighting Falcon or F-16C. Military experts give it high praise against the Russian MiG-29 in dogfights. Experts also conclude that if the US provided F-16’s, it could be a real game changer in knocking out Russia’s superiority in the sky. It would not stop the constant missile attacks.

Link: MiG 29 verses F-16

Ukraine is not trained to fly F-16. And there will be all sorts of issues with maintaining the aircraft. For those who remember the Vietnam war, the escalation began with the US providing helicopters and pilots to South Vietnam. Then more US troops were needed to defend these bases which we built.

The US has supplied helicopters to Ukraine, and a very long list of military equipment and funding for their defense. Other countries, most notably the UK, Germany and France, have been constantly helping Ukraine, but it is really a worldwide effort. See link below:

Link: List of Military Aid to Ukraine

At the very end of this list, a summary of future US aid to Ukraine is provided. The number of countries is long, and honestly, I didn’t expect to see New Zealand, Taiwan or South Korea on the list of countries.

I have commented in prior blogs on the automated battlefield weaponry including the suicidal drone like the switchblades, javelins and the HIMAR missile launchers. Military equipment is not my forte, but there are plenty of websites which go into extensive details.

I believe some countries are helping Ukraine, but through other countries and doing it quietly, so not to get on the bad side of Putin. Then there is a lot of Russian arms left behind by retreating Russian (or mercenary) soldiers. So, Russians are being killed sometimes by their own weapons.

There’s a lot of politics, and misinformation around which is bound to get worse as we approach the 2024 elections. In general, there has been bipartisan support of military aid to Ukraine, with some exceptions some select members of Congress, who want either less money to be spent or approval for the F-16. A number of guests on conservative Fox News, have advocated less money to Ukraine and more to stop illegal immigration. My thinking is we should not short change foreign policy because spending more on domestic policy is more popular with voters.

Trump has bragged about the 250 million dollars of aid given to Ukraine in 2019, but leaves out the fact that he held up providing the aid, in an attempt to pressure President Zelensky to lie to his people and announce that Ukraine was investigating Hunter Biden for possible violation of the law regarding Burisma. In exchange, Trump would unfreeze aid to Ukraine. This was the basis for his first impeachment. It was clearly an abuse of presidential power and grounds for impeachment.

Trump also exaggerated how little aid Obama gave Ukraine. Trump’s claim that Obama gave the former president only “pillow and sheets” has been debunked.

CNN: Fact-checking Trump’s claim that Obama gave Ukraine ‘pillows and sheets’


Both of these links are from 2019. Going back in time and spreading disinformation does not help.

I guess there are enough real issues going forward, on whether more weapons will bring this war to an end, or broaden the conflict. The latest developments in regards to Moldova are scary. Hopefully, there are some countries in the background, helping to broker a ceasefire, as a first step to a Russian withdrawal.

Stay tuned,


Moldova and Transnistria

Ukraine’s President Zelensky has often stated that if Russian aggression does not stop at Ukraine, more countries will be invaded or will become Russian puppets because they fear the military presence of Russia. I agree, and it is the smaller and more unstable countries to go first. It will not necessarily be countries that lie on their borders. There are a number of smaller countries in Africa, which for the right price can be bought off.

Transnistria is a region on the southeastern border of Moldova. It is a breakaway state from Moldova, occupying a narrow strip of land on the Moldova-Ukraine border. Its capital is Tirispol. The Council of Europe considers the territory to be under military occupation by Russia. It is internationally recognized as a part of Moldova, but it is independent in many aspects. Per Wikipedia:

“Transnistria is an unrecognised but de facto independent presidential republic with its own government, parliament, military, police, postal system, currency, and vehicle registration. Its authorities have adopted a constitution, flag, national anthem, and coat of arms. After a 2005 agreement between Moldova and Ukraine, all Transnistrian companies that seek to export goods through the Ukrainian border must be registered with the Moldovan authorities.”

It was created by a ceasefire agreement in 1992, the first year with Yeltsin in office. It is a ceasefire agreement designed to end the violence broke out in 1990. The population of Transnistria is divided, with 29% Russian, 29% Moldovan and 23% Ukrainian. It has a higher percentage of Russians than the rest of Moldova.

Per Wikipedia:

The language laws presented a particularly volatile issue as a great proportion of the non-Moldovan population of the Moldavian SSR did not speak Moldovan (Romanian). … Some described the language laws as “discriminatory” and criticized their rapid implementation. Others, on the contrary, complained the laws were not followed.

Wikipedia Transnistria

Wikipedia Transnistria War


My concerns that Russia would use unrecognized Transnistria region to attack Ukraine appears to quickly becoming a reality. Putin is using a standard ploy of posing as the defender of Transnistria instead of the invader. This was exactly the same pretext as used a year ago. Russia had to invade the Dunbas region, to defend the populace against the Ukrainian “nazis.”

The President of Moldova, Maia Sandu, who wants her country to join the European Union, accused Moscow this month (February 2023) of planning a coup to topple Moldova’s leadership. Moscow denied the allegation. “The Kremlin’s attempts to bring violence to Moldova will not work. Our main goal is the security of citizens and the state. (The Guardian)

What has maintained the peace between Transnistria and Moldova, is the Joint Control Commission, which included both Moldova and Russian troops as a peacekeeping force. Of course, Putin wants to invade Transnistria and control it, and the ceasefire agreement is in his way. Transnistria will be critical to attacking Odesa and controlling the Black Sea ports.

The headline in Reuters, February 24, 2023 read, “Russia told the West on Friday that it would view as an attack on itself any actions that threatened Russian peacekeepers in Moldova’s breakaway Transdniestria region, one day after Moscow accused Ukraine of planning an invasion.”

Link: Russia warns West over threatening its troops in breakaway Moldovan region

So, Russia now is setting the stage for invading Transnistria (note minor spelling differences) on the absurd pretext of protecting its peacekeeping force of perhaps 1700 troops.

It is a terrible development as Russia is set on expanding the conflict, really just like President Zelensky said he would. Romania is strongly allied with Moldova, in its support of Ukraine. Romania has been part of NATO since 2004.

This small sliver of the breakaway state of Transnistria looks to become a red hot point of contention with Russia acting like they own it.

Stay tuned,


Norfolk Southern is to blame

National Transportation Safety Board does a slow through job of investigation accidents. In the case of Norfolk Southern accident in Ohio, the cause of the accident was so plain to engineers, that they issued a preliminary report and provided a hearing on the accident.

NTSB spokesperson Jennifer Homendy stated during a press conference that this derailment was 100% preventable, and the cause was an overheated wheel bearing. She said:

“We call things accidents. There is no accident. Every single event that we investigate is preventable,” she said. “So our hearts are with you know, that the NTSB has one goal and that is safety and ensuring that this never happens again.”

My last post was about how politicians duck important questions to peddle their own agenda. NTSB is just the opposite and I really like this agency. I also give high marks to the EPA who were onsite hours after the accident.

National Public Radio reports on the spill of vinyl chorides:

“There were no reported fatalities or injuries caused directly by the derailment, and responders were able to mitigate the fire within two days. But rising temperatures in one tank car carrying vinyl chloride — a toxic chemical that grows especially volatile at high temperatures — prompted concerns of an uncontrolled explosion. To prevent that, responders evacuated residents of the immediate area and performed a “release and burn” of five tank cars’ worth of the chemical, some 115,580 gallons.”

The plastic placards marking cars with hazardous materials have also been identified as an area of concern by both Buttigieg and NTSB officials. The fire following the derailment melted the plastic placards, making it difficult for first responders to discern which trains contained dangerous chemicals.”

Link Fox News: NTSB calls Ohio train derailment ‘100% preventable,’ says operators were warned of overheated axle

The overheating warning came too late for the train to safely stop. In the preliminary report, NTSB finds no fault of the operator. The heat sensors probably need to be placed closer together. The increases in temperature of wheel bearings instead of just the temperature estimates should also trigger warnings.

There is also the accusation from Democrats that a rollback in regulations during the Trump administration, could have prevented this accident. The NTSB stated that this is not true as follows:

“The ECP braking rule would’ve applied ONLY to HIGH HAZARD FLAMMABLE TRAINS. The train that derailed in East Palestine was a MIXED FREIGHT TRAIN containing only 3 placarded Class 3 flammable liquids cars.”

Nice. NTSB is just stating facts. But, the Department of Transportation is likely to make stricter regulations on this more dangerous trains.

There is a lot more work to be done, by the various federal agencies. Many local water wells need to be tested. Norfolk Southern is cooperating and working with residents to test their water. I like the fact that the various agencies are staffed by professional career specialists who do not descend into the political fray.

Stay tuned,


How to Pivot

Politicians pivot, which means they find a way to change the subject, when answering questions. It becomes almost reflexive. Then there is the grand pivot, which allows the politician or whoever is being interview free reign to bring up a host of subjects, all designed to make the president or opposition party look bad. A good interviewer will catch this, and get the guest to answer the question. Or at least try.

I watched a bit of Fox News. If the host of the program is Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, or Laura Ingraham, you can ask them any question, and it will come back in a minute to several favorite topics such as immigration, illegal drugs and our national debt. Sometimes all in one quick response. This is the grand pivot.

Case in point. Question given to one of the guests on Fox News, “What do you think of Biden’s trip to Ukraine?” and the guest came back, “Biden hasn’t a clue of what he is doing in so many areas, immigration, national debt and funding for Ukraine.” The guest avoids totally Biden’s very successful trip to Ukraine and the huge crowds he attracted in Warsaw.

This particular politician then took off in in his attack on Biden stating that he should get the Europeans to fund the war, so we can solve our problems at home, lower inflation, stop illegal immigration, and of course, lower the national debt. ” So, in a blink of an eye, the guest sees the question as a Segway to a host of other “issues” usually issues with few solutions. And of course on Fox News, the grand pivot is pretty normal.

Of course, the guest has really not answered the question. It got pretty silly, as the guest claimed that we were subject to an invasion on our southern border. Last I checked, Mexicans were not shooting missiles or bombing apartment buildings. When you have a southern border that stretches nearly 2,000 miles, you are going to have illegal immigrants.

I like the quote from John Kennedy: Domestic policy can only defeat us; foreign policy can kill us. John F. Kennedy

What Kennedy is talking about is bad policy. Doing less than we can do for Ukraine, will change the balance of power around the world.

It is true that politicians pivot, and Democrats will often change the subject. Frequently, the interviewer brings the guest back on track.

And just for the record, Biden and his administration, is trying hard to bring other allies to contribute to stop Putin. And war is extremely costly. We are paying with dollars, but the Ukrainians are paying with their lives.

Stay tuned,


Chinese Balloon Shoot Down – Additional Comments

I wrote it was a perfect shoot down because pieces of the spy balloon could be salvaged. Nothing I have read has changed my mind. The military can not divulge a lot of their information, but have made it clear that this is not an isolated case. We will learn very valuable information from the debris which includes the balloon itself and as much as possible the hardware inside.

When the balloon was first observed, it was over the Aleutian islands in the Bering sea. Mean depth of the Bering sea is about 5,000 ft, but the Aleutian trench, approximately 100 miles long and 50 miles wide, has a maximum depth of 25,000 ft. The shifting sheets of ice and snow are enormous and finding even pieces of the balloon was be extremely difficult.

Biden did the right thing as he gave permission for the military to shoot the balloon down, when they could do so without endangering Americans. It was then a technical decision of when to shoot it down. The Generals would turn to “modelers” for some estimate of the size of the debris field and the potential damage that could be done with falling bits of hardware. I know this field, because I spent a lifetime modeling physical phenomena. If one knows what is falling and has some prior experience with similar incidences, then analysts have something solid to build their models. In this case, there was only very limited information of what was shot down, and certainly no prior analogous experience.

So, prior to the destruction of the balloon, it would be very hard to know where pieces of metal might land and cause harm to residents below. So, when they were deciding the right time to shoot down the balloon, they were dealing with a debris field based on just a bunch of guesses. Intelligent guesses, for sure, but the hard data were missing.

But, now there is a debris field, much of which is yet to be discovered. Currents will distort the field, so the modelers will still have to factor this into their analysis. In the modeling world, the forward solution is to project from 10 miles in the sky down to the impact on the ocean surface. This solution is then can be refined when the debris is found. This can be called the inverse solution, or model validation. Modelers will undoubtedly try to assess the uncertainty in results. This is called sensitivity analysis.

From various sources, the debris field is likely in terms of miles. Pieces of the big white balloon were easy to find as I expected. The modelers will be hard at work, adjusting their models, to help the dive teams and unmanned subs to search of the pieces of debris.

Stay tuned,


The balloon shoot down – It was the perfect response!

Shoot something that’s 10 miles up over mountainous areas, or the Artic, and your salvage efforts will be nearly impossible. When I heard the balloon was shot down very close to Myrtle Beach, SC in 47 ft of water, I couldn’t have been happier. Perfect conditions to run a recovery operations. Recovery vessels could get to the site within hours. Time is of the essence.

Senators and members of the House held a closed door briefing. “There was nothing in there that I learned that would’ve said that we shouldn’t have shot it down when it was over Alaska,” added GOP Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas, exiting the briefing.

Assistant Secretary of of Defense Melissa Dalton testified at the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing:

“A key part of the calculus for this operation was the ability to salvage, understand and exploit the capabilities of the high altitude balloon.”

Without salvage of the equipment aboard the spy balloon, China would continue with their absurd cover story of an off-course weather balloon shot down by the US. And certainly other countries could go along with it, just to keep good relations with China. Now we’ve got the evidence to the contrary.

The Assistant Secretary further stated (summarized by CNBC):

“If we had taken it down over the state of Alaska … it would have been a very different recovery operation,” she said, noting that the deep, freezing water of the Bering Sea “would make recovery and salvage operations very dangerous.”

The temperature of the Bering sea is 40 degrees, and the Aleutian trench is 25,000 ft deep, approximately 50 to 100 miles wide. The Assistant Secretary was too kind. There would have been no recovery operation. It would be far too difficult at these depths.

Sure, blowing the balloon up over Alaska would be great for headlines if that’s all you’re interested in. But it would have destroyed the evidence of China’s illegal spy operations which is occurring in many countries. I am certain the Defense Department will be sharing what they know about China’s new generation of spy balloons with our NATO allies and allies in South America. I would love it if Secretary Austin makes a presentation at the UN Security Council. However, there is no need to turn up the heat at this point and our salvage operation is ongoing.

Stay tuned,