FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 16th through 18th 2018

Fireball Saying of the Day

Be strong, I whispered to my WiFi signal.

 

Yanny vs. Laurel

I hear Lauel!  In the tremendous rush to understand the single greatest topic of conversation since that time nobody knew whether a dress was blue and black or actually white and goldPopular Science has taken up the cause. Brad Story is a professor of speech, language, and hearing sciences at the University of Arizona, and he did a quick analysis of the waveform. That first waveform is of the actual recording, which features the primary acoustic features of the “l” and “r” sounds. That leads Story to believe that the voice is really saying “laurel.” The fuzzier image below shows that the recording is of the third resonance of the vocal tract. As your vocal tract changes shape to form different sounds, it produces specific resonances, or natural vibrational frequencies. It’s these resonances that encode language within a sound wave (and thus how you can analyze a waveform and determine speech sounds).  He also recorded himself saying both words to demonstrate how the waveforms vary. You can see (though maybe only with the added arrows and highlighting) that the acoustic features match up between the actual video recording and the recording of Story saying “laurel.” It starts relatively high for the “l” sound, then drops for the “r” and goes back up high for the second “l.” Story explains that the “yanny” sound follows a similar path, just not with quite the same acoustic features. That wave also goes high-low-high, but the whole thing is shifted into the second resonance—not the third.  Britt Yazel, a researcher at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain, agrees. “I honestly think after looking at the spectrograms and playing with some filters that this is just the word “Laurel” with some high frequency artifacts overlaying it,” he says. At first he thought it was two overlaid voices, but then he started cleaning up the audio a bit. Now he thinks that the overlaid frequencies above 4.5 kHz are what sound like “yanny” to some people.  So what started off as just a fun thing has degenerated into just way way too much information.

 

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 16th through 18th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 2nd through 7th 2018

Fireball Saying of the Day

In beer there is freedom, in wine there is health, in cognac there is power and in water there is bacteria.

 

Congrats On Your Retirement Taco

My congrats go out to Friend of FOD Taco who is retiring as the KC-46 Chief Test Pilot.  It was a good run my friend.  I can tell you there is a lot of fun to be had in retirement.  And congrats to another Friend of FOD Dobber who now takes over as the head of the KC-46 Flight Test Effort. All the best my friend!

 

New Possible Ship Deployment Schedule Ahead For Navy Ships

Defense News is reporting A typical carrier deployment from Norfolk goes like this: A tearful goodbye on the pier, a trip across the Atlantic, then one or maybe two port visits in Europe before heading through “The Ditch” and into U.S. Central Command territory. There you will stay for the bulk of the cruise before returning the way you came.  Those days might be coming to an end.  The Navy and Pentagon planners are already weighing whether to withhold the Truman Carrier Strike Group from deploying to U.S. Central Command, opting instead to hold the carrier in Europe as a check on Russia, breaking with more than 30 years of nearly continuous carrier presence in the Arabian Gulf. But even more fundamental changes could be in the works.  Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has made clear as the military’s top civilian that he has a very different vision for how the military will be used in the future. And recent comments have hinted at big changes on the horizon for the Navy and how it deploys.  In testimony last month, Mattis twice compared that kind of predictability to running a commercial shipping operation, and said the Navy needed to get away from being so easily anticipated.  “That’s a great way to run a shipping line,” Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee. “It’s no way to run a Navy.”  But as Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford drive towards new ways of employing the fleet, changing the way that fleet deploys will put pressure on its existing deployment model, forcing the Navy to rethink a structure that governs nearly everything it does — from manning and training to its maintenance cycles.  In an era of great-power competition with China and Russia, Mattis describes the Navy showing up where it’s not expected, making deployments less burdensome to the fleet and its families but more worrisome to a potential adversary.  “The way you do this is [to] ensure that preparation for great power competition drives not simply a rotational schedule that allows me to tell you, three years from now, which aircraft carrier will be where in the world,” he told House lawmakers. “When we send them out, it may be for a shorter deployment. There will be three carriers in the South China Sea today, and then, two weeks from now, there’s only one there, and two of them are in the Indian Ocean.  “They’ll be home at the end of a 90-day deployment. They will not have spent eight months at sea, and we are going to have a force more ready to surge and deal with the high-end warfare as a result, without breaking the families, the maintenance cycles — we’ll actually enhance the training time.”  Experts contend that what Mattis is describing, a concept he’s labeled as “Dynamic Force Employment,” would necessarily create tension with the Navy’s current deployment model known as the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP), an iteration of similar plans that have been in place since the Cold War.  Under the plan, introduced in 2014 by then-Fleet Forces Commander Adm. Bill Gortney, ships operate in a 36-month cycle that carves out 16 months for training and maintenance, a seven-month deployment and 13 months where the carrier and its escorts are to maintain a high level of readiness in case it needs to deploy again.  Around that model the Navy builds everything from when it brings in new recruits to boot camp to when an aircraft carrier needs to come out of its years-long reactor overhaul. It’s also a system that builds in a significant dip in readiness where, during maintenance phases, ships lose sailors with critical skills to other commands and shore duty assignments.  The dip in readiness is deliberate and informs both manning levels on the ship and the Navy’s overall end strength. Simply put, there are not enough trained sailors in the Navy to fill every job on every ship, and that’s all built into the plan.  The key to the whole plan working, however, is at least a degree of predictability. Shipyards need to know when they will have a ship and what the scope of the repair work will be so it can prepare in advance. School houses need to know when to convene classes. Commanding officers need to know that when they get ready for deployment, sailors with critical skills lost during a readiness dip will be replaced before the next cruise.  Predictability, however, is precisely what Mattis is trying to have less of in the face of a rising threat from Russia and China, said Bryan McGrath, a retired destroyer skipper and consultant with The FerryBridge Group.   “[OFRP] was designed to be predictable,” McGrath said. “From the outset it was touted for bringing predictability to the shipyards and to sailors and their families. Secretary Mattis, in the face of great power competition, seems to value those things less and I could not agree with him more.”  What Mattis seems to value is a system that would bank more readiness. Indeed, his National Defense Strategy says as much when it describes dynamic force employment.  “Dynamic Force Employment will prioritize maintaining the capacity and capabilities for major combat, while providing options for proactive and scalable employment of the Joint Force,” the strategy reads.  His suggestion of sending ships on more 90-day deployments would put less strain on ships’ mechanical and electronic systems and would likely make shipyard availabilities shorter.  But his example of putting three carriers in a place like the South China Sea, even for a couple of weeks, would eat an enormous amount of readiness under the current deployment model. Not only do you need to gather three fully manned and trained carriers with all their escort ships present, but three air wings full of tactical aircraft that have been struggling with their own readiness issues, as well.  “You can bank readiness by decreasing forward presence,” he said. “That is, if you have fewer forces forward deployed for the hell of it, you have more to push forward when you want them.  “In other words, its punishment rather than deterrence — you surge after the enemy has made its move. Whereas if you want to deter them — to convince the enemy that the success of their planned attack is dubious, you have to be there, and be there powerfully, and that means a carrier strike group forward.”  Another way to put three carriers forward in one place on a semi-regular basis is to use the sustainment period that is built into OFRP. But sending a carrier group back out during 13-month period after a deployment where the group is held at a high state of readiness undermines one of Mattis’s stated goals of trying to put less wear on the ships and ease the burden of eight-month deployments on families.  Double-pump deployments for surge carriers is precisely the kind of unpredictability and strain that has caused a mountain of maintenance problems for the Navy through the 2010s — problems that then reduce operational availability of ships that are stuck in the yards for repairs.  “The Navy has not done much with the sustainment phase in OFRP, but presumably that will be one of the go-to moves to create flexibility and unpredictability in the schedule,” McGrath said. “There will, of course, be costs: fuel costs, less time with families, etc.  “It remains to be seen the degree to which Mattis’ plans are doable within the current readiness model. My sense is the readiness model is somewhat brittle and additional requirements will put pressure on that model. The current OFRP was designed to create predictable, sustainable levels of readiness. SECDEF wants to be unpredictable. There is going to be tension.”  Another potential stumbling block for Mattis’ vision for a retooled deployment model is his desire for shorter deployments, specifically his 90-day deployment idea.  Clearly, shorter deployments would reduce the strain on the ships and their sailors and families. But at some point, basic geography would seem to get in the way of this idea, said Thomas Callender, a retired submarine officer and analyst at The Heritage Foundation.  “I think the Navy needs to look hard at the proposed 90-day carrier strike group deployments,” Callender said. “It takes about six months to train and certify a CSG, including the aircraft carrier, its escorts and the Carrier Air Wing for potential combat operations. It also takes about a week (minimum) to transit from Norfolk to the Mediterranean. That means you would only have approximately 2 months of presence in the Med. To transit to the Arabian Gulf from East Coast takes almost three weeks more.  “When you look at the West Coast CSGs transiting from San Diego or Washington, it takes close to a month to transit to the South China Sea. At first glance, I do not see how six months of training for a three month deployment is an efficient use of [the Navy’s Operations and Maintenance Funding] resources, or its platforms and personnel —especially with the high Combatant Commander demand for global CSG presence.”  Addressing COCOM demand for Navy forces, which has been unrelenting over the past few years, would have to factor into any plan that Mattis and Dunford and trying to cobble together.  Under the Goldwater Nichols Act of 1986, forces are assigned to the combatant commands by the secretary of defense, meaning if Mattis wants to change what COCOMs get and when they get it, he can do that. But COCOMs do have the authority to outline what they think they need based on the operational environment — to set the requirements.  It’s unlikely that COCOMs will be satisfied with a month of carrier presence here or three weeks there, if that’s what Mattis wants to give them under his authorities. But that might just be what Mattis is going after in the firsts place with dynamic force employment, said Dan Gouré, an analyst with the Arlington, Va.-based think tank The Lexington Institute.  “I think this is bigger than just the Navy and how it deploys, I think this is about clawing back power from the combatant commanders,” Gouré said. “We have been living in a COCOM-centric world. Because they generate the force requirements, they are the ones setting the terms.”  In order to adjust to global great power competition, Mattis sees a need to assert more control over who goes where and when, especially with a smaller force than the U.S. had during the Cold War, Gouré said.  “With great power competition and a limited force pool, the decision seems to be to have an operational capability that can be deployed when a crisis emerges,” he said. “The COCOMs are going to have to take their lumps on this one.  “It also raises the questions of what exactly are the real COCOM requirements? COCOMs are a black hole of requirements to the point where you run out the readiness string trying to fulfill them. But the assumption shouldn’t be that all requirements are equal. What’s critical?”

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 2nd through 7th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 16th through 21st 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

Give a man a beer and he drinks for a day.  Teach a man to hang out with guys who brew beer and he has beer for a lifetime.  Thanks Friend of FOD Roger for a great FOD Saying of the Day suggestion.   This evolved from the famous fish saying:  Give a man a fish and he eats for a day.  Teach a man to fish and he’ll buy a boat, poles, reels, waders, tackle, bad boat beer, and numerous ‘fish whisperer’ guides; all far surpassing the cost of buying fish from your local fish monger.  But – when you catch that fish – it’s all worth it.  This parable goes along with sell a man a streetrod and he has a car to show and be proud of.  Teach a man to build a streetrod and he’ll spend years and thousands of dollars trying to build a better one, or two or more of them.  What’s up with that?

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 16th through 21st 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 12 through 15 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

I would like to apologize to anyone whom I haven’t offended yet. Please be patient, I will get to you shortly.

Air Strike on Syria – Comment

First let me say I applaud President Trump’s decision to launch what appeared to be a successful surgical strike on Syrian chemical weapons infrastructure and capabilities.  In aligning our efforts with those of Britain and France we establish a unified position against the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian supporters.  The Pentagon   boasted Saturday that its coordinated show of military force obliterated key chemical weapons facilities in Syria and set back the country’s chemical weapons capabilities “for years.”  I have severe doubts in that regard.  Russia has already publically stated it will replace weapons lost during this US led strike with more viable weapons.  See my thoughts on Operation El Dorado below.  But military and Middle East experts say the predawn onslaught — touted by the Defense Department as “precise, overwhelming and effective” — appears to have been little more than an empty gesture and likely did not do much to alter Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military calculus.  Gen. Douglas Lute, the former U.S. ambassador to NATO, said that Assad’s threshold for pain is very high because “he’s in a fight for his life” to maintain control of his country, which has been mired in a seven-year civil war.  He doesn’t fear a mid-term election.  The airstrikes, which targeted three facilities involved in research or storage of chemical weapons in western Syria, won’t disable him from taking further action — whether chemical or conventional, Lute said.  “I think he’s feeling reasonably good right now,” Lute said of Assad. “Some of his facilities were struck, but it doesn’t really challenge his hold on the country.”  President Donald Trump on Friday ordered the military to strike targets in Syria in conjunction with France and the United Kingdom after a suspected chemical weapons attack reportedly killed dozens of Syrians. According to the Pentagon, those targets included a scientific research center in the capital of Damascus, a chemical weapons storage facility near the city of Homs, and a chemical weapons equipment and military outpost also near Homs.  Syria and all the issues surrounding the conflict in the area is a complicated issue.  We have allowed it to become much more complicated because US administrations, past and present have been unwilling or unable to take a leading role. Into that vacuum have stepped Russia and Iran.  If we want regime change, then we need to be strong in our efforts to effect that change.  That means stronger sanctions, a possible no-fly zone, a possible shipping blockade and border embargos. It would be most inappropriate to call it “mission accomplished.”  Oh, it’s too late for that!

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 12 through 15 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day March 24th through 27th 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

Be careful when you follow the masses. Sometimes the M is silent.

 

 Russians Supplying Arms To The Taliban

In the 1980’s insurgent groups known collectively as the mujahideen, as well as smaller Maoist groups, fought a guerrilla war against the Soviet Army and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan government, mostly in the rural countryside. The mujahideen groups were backed primarily by the United States and Pakistan, making it a Cold War proxy war using the infrared-homing surface-to-air “Stinger” missile. Between 562,000 and 2,000,000 civilians were killed and millions of Afghans fled the country as refugees, mostly to Pakistan and Iran.  By mid-1987 the Soviet Union, now under reformist leader Mikhail Gorbachev, announced it would start withdrawing its forces after meetings with the Afghan government. The final troop withdrawal started on May 15, 1988, and ended on February 15, 1989, leaving the government forces alone in its battle against the insurgents, which continued until 1992 when the former Soviet-backed government collapsed. These actions certainly weakened and led to the fall of the Soviet Union.  The US failed to assist the new Afghanistan government with schools or hospitals or a rebuilding effort that could have assisted Afghanistan to become a more modern nation.  Move to the present day.  In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Gen John Nicholson said he’d seen “destabilizing activity by the Russians.”  He said Russian weapons were smuggled across the Tajik border to the Taliban, but could not say in what quantity. Russia has denied such US allegations in the past, citing a lack of evidence.  Does anyone see an irony here?

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day March 24th through 27th 2018”