FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day February 1st through 7th 2018

Saying of the Day

I thought growing old would take longer

Friends of FOD

Running a bit late with this edition.  Actually I tried to publish last night, but the internet connection in my hotel was too slow to make it work, so I went to bed. Working on the ’31 Chevy is …. It’s almost like a job, but costs me instead of pays me.


How China Could Takeover Taiwan Without A Shot Fired

I’ve mentioned here in FOD how freedom of the seas and in particular the South China Sea is important not only to the Asian nations in the region, but for all nations who depend upon the free exchange of goods and services through those contested waters.  China’s ability to restrict trade to selective nations of their choice is a weapon as old as the sea.  Taiwan has long been a thorn in the side of China since the communist government has been in place.  And while Taiwan has military ties with Japan and the US there are likely limits established as to what we might do if China were to act militarily.  A few days ago Asian Times reported rumors have swirled on both sides of the Taiwan Strait since the beginning of last year that Chinese President Xi Jinping was mulling taking back the wayward, self-ruling island of Taiwan in one fell swoop amid growing militancy among the Chinese masses.  Some have gone so far as to suggest that by the early 2020s the two sides would be in a state of belligerence as Xi, unlike his predecessors, has no scruples against waging a full-blown war to recapture what Beijing considers a renegade province.  They say that the year 2022, the end of Xi’s second tenure as the general secretary of the Communist Party of China, would be the deadline for him to exert his unrestrained powers to redeem the glory of the Middle Kingdom, after Xi has made “China dream” and “great revitalization” the tag lines of his rule.  “Xi’s grand visions will become empty platitudes if he fails to take back Taiwan before his second term ends, and in that case his ‘China dream’ will become a pipe dream, and he is fully aware of that,” said one analyst.  No one will doubt that China’s Central Military Commission and the People’s Liberation Army have in place a host of all-encompassing combat plans of tactics and deployment to suit all war scenarios, as well as stratagems to deter or fend off intervention by the US or Japan.  The Chinese military must have been updating these plans from time to time to reflect changes in geopolitics and Taiwan’s own defenses, for Xi to choose from should he feel that the time is ripe for a once-and-for-all, momentous action to tame and reclaim the island.  Meanwhile, Beijing has also been on a spree of building or inaugurating aircraft carriers, missiles, corvettes, destroyers, amphibious battleships and stealth fighters, fueling further speculation over whether Taiwan stands a chance when Xi, armed with the will of the rank and file, is girding for a new Chinese civil war.  While many observers believe Xi is readying the military and the nation for a showdown, a bid that will decide how he will go down in history, veteran military commentator Andrei Chang noted in the Kanwa Defense Review that the PLA’s big guns and ships may be for show to make Washington and Tokyo think twice before stepping in, and a trigger doesn’t have to be pulled now that Xi has a slew of non-military options at his disposal.  The Hong Kong-based current-affairs monthly SuperMedia also reported that among the many diplomatic and economic means to subjugate the island is issuing Taiwan Special Administrative Region passports and granting hukou (Chinese household registration) and permanent residency to the 2 million Taiwanese already residing in mainland China.  Previous reports also suggest that the PLA’s first overseas base, which sits right on the Horn of Africa in Djibouti (and discussed here in FOD previously), is aimed at Taiwan, since the resource-scarce island relies substantially on the narrow waterway linking the Suez Canal and the Arabian Sea for oil imports from the Middle East as well as trade with Europe. From the Djibouti base PLA troops could intercept tankers ferrying oil to Taiwan and seal off the island’s trade artery in no time.  Beijing’s frenzied investment and acquisitions targeting stakes in mines, oilfields and energy firms in the Belt and Road countries could also jeopardize Taiwan’s economic security should Beijing decree an embargo of crude oil and other natural resources, according to Chang.  Something they have been unwilling to do when it comes to dealing with North Korea.  The raft of economic, trade, financial and logistical measures short of a shooting war to contain Taiwan won’t provide an opening for Washington to weight in, yet given time, they could work to coerce Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen into coming to terms with Xi and accepting whatever he has in store for a treaty to create a future Taiwan Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day February 1st through 7th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day January 31 through February 2, 2017

There’s a new FOD photo above.  Now there is some of that other fod.  I don’t know how long it will stay, but it’s something different to grace the opening of today’s FOD.


The comments box is working.  If you send a comment, after I see it, I can post it.  The subscribe box is still a work in progress.  It’s there, but not really functioning ….. yet.


Well it’s Ground Hog Day.  Well it’s Ground Hog Day.  Well it’s Ground Hog Day.  Dobber, a friend of FOD noted this morning: “So, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and said there would be 6 more weeks of winter.  Many activists decided to protest Phil’s position with crowds chanting “Lock him up” and “Shot him and eat him”.  In a related story Staten Island Chuck emerged from his lair today and said ‘eh…..I tink winter is over.  You get me?’  The White house declined to comment on either.” Likely Trump was in the midst of creating discontent with the PM of Australia and was unavailable to Tweet.  Australia has fought side-by-side with the US in every conflict since WW I.  Norm’s dachshunds, Max Throttle, Ben Norman and Floyd we bred to hunt badgers, prairie dogs and other burrow-dwelling animals.  The first Groundhog Day was in 1887 and Punxsutawney Phil has had his successes in predicting the coming of Spring, but it’s a secret as to how/if/when he actually sees his shadow.  Bill Murray was nowhere to be seen at this year’s event.  In the movie Ground Hog Day, starring Bill, the “Cherry Street Inn,” is and was a private home at the time of the filming and is on Fremont Street.



On Tuesday night, President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to become a Justice on the US Supreme Court.  He would fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016 (third from the left in the photo left).  Perhaps it is fitting to point out that on February 01, 1790, the Supreme Court met for the first time in the Royal Exchange Building on Broad Street, a few steps from Federal Hall, in New York City.  (right).  A few months earlier, on September 24, 1789, the  Judiciary Act of 1789 was passed by the First United States Congress and called for six justices.  The next day President George Washington appointed John Jay to head the Court as Chief Justice, John Rutledge of South Carolina, William Cushing of Massachusetts, John Blair of Virginia, Robert Harrison of Maryland, and James Wilson of Pennsylvania to serve as associate justices.  Two days later, all six were confirmed by the Senate.  I’m sure Neil Gorsuch would wish for that simpler confirmation process.  Article Three of the Constitution established the Supreme Court and granted the Court ultimate jurisdiction over all laws on cases involving US treaties, foreign diplomats, admiralty practice and maritime.  While the Supreme Court is the final interpreter of federal constitutional law, it can only act within the context of a case in which it has jurisdiction.  The Constitution does not prescribe the number of justices and Congress has added justices to correspond to the number of judicial circuits:  seven in 1807, nine in 1837 and ten in 1863. When the Court initially met, they had no cases to consider.  They waited a few days, adjourned and went home till September.  Justices have a life tenure , unless they retire, resign or are removed after impeachment.   Non have been removed by impeachment. Justices are addressed as “Justice” rather than “Judge.”  The Court meets in the United States Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C, and I hope to be able to attend a session one of these days.




Mission STS-107 was the 113th Space Shuttle launch. Planned to begin on January 11, 2001, the mission was delayed 18 times and eventually launched on January 16, 2003, following STS-113.  Columbia was on her 18th mission. About 82 seconds after launch from Kennedy Space Center‘s LC-39-A, a suitcase-sized piece of foam broke off from the External Tank (ET), striking Columbia‘s left wing reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC) panels. When Columbia re-entered the atmosphere of Earth, the damage allowed hot atmospheric gases to penetrate and destroy the internal wing structure, which caused the spacecraft to become unstable and break apart. As demonstrated by ground experiments conducted by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB), this likely created a 6-to-10-inch (15 to 25 cm) diameter hole, allowing hot gases to enter the wing when Columbia later re-entered the atmosphere. At the time of the foam strike, the orbiter was at an altitude of about 66,000 feet (20 km; 12.5 mi), traveling at Mach 2.46 (1,626 miles per hour or 727 meters per second). A few previous shuttle launches had seen minor damage from foam shedding, but some engineers suspected that the damage to Columbia was more serious. NASA managers however limited the investigation, reasoning that the crew could not have fixed the problem if it had been confirmed.  The crew included:  Commander: Rick D. Husband, a U.S. Air Force Colonel and mechanical engineer, who piloted a previous shuttle during the first docking with the International Space Station (STS-96); Pilot: William C. McCool, Commander USN; Payload Commander: Michael P. Anderson, a U.S. LTCOL Air Force, Payload Specialist: Ilan Ramon, a colonel in the Israeli Air Force and Israel’s first astronaut;  Mission Specialist: Kalpana Chawla; Mission Specialist: David M. Brown, Captain USN; and Mission Specialist: Laurel Blair Salton Clark, a U.S. Navy captain and flight surgeon.  I knew Willy McCool (right) from my fleet days when he was a  EA-6B Prowler pilot and a Landing Signal Officer (LSO) with (VAQ-129) at NAS Whidbey IslandWashington, aboard the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea.  I also knew Dave Brown (left).  I remember him as a very funny and was a really smart guy. He was a good friend of a good friend of mine.  He was an M.D. who completed flight surgeon training and then was one of the very few flight surgeons to be selected for pilot training.  He flew the A-6E Intruder and later the F/A-18 Hornet.  He later went on and  graduated from U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland.  It’s good to remember them both.  After the disaster, Space Shuttle flight operations were suspended for more than two years, as they had been after the Challenger disaster. Construction of the International Space Station (ISS) was put on hold; the station relied entirely on the Russian Roscosmos State Corporation for resupply for 29 months until Shuttle flights resumed with STS-114 and 41 months for crew rotation until STS-121.  In a risk-management scenario similar to the Challenger disaster, NASA management failed to recognize the relevance of engineering concerns for safety and suggestions for imaging to inspect possible damage, and failed to respond to engineers’ requests about the status of astronaut inspection of the left wing. Engineers made three separate requests for Department of Defense (DOD) imaging of the shuttle in orbit to more precisely determine damage. While the images were not guaranteed to show the damage, the capability existed for imaging of sufficient resolution to provide meaningful examination. NASA management did not honor the requests and in some cases intervened to stop the DoD from assisting.  The CAIB recommended subsequent shuttle flights be imaged while in orbit using ground-based or space-based DoD assets.  Throughout the risk assessment process, senior NASA managers were influenced by their belief that nothing could be done even if damage were detected. This affected their stance on investigation urgency, thoroughness and possible contingency actions. They decided to conduct a parametric “what-if” scenario study more suited to determine risk probabilities of future events, instead of inspecting and assessing the actual damage.  On August 26, 2003, the CAIB issued its report on the accident. The report confirmed the immediate cause of the accident was a breach in the leading edge of the left wing, caused by insulating foam shed during launch. The image left shows debris coming off the left wing of Columbia.  The image below shows the debris reentering the earth’s atmosphere over Texas. The report also delved deeply into the underlying organizational and cultural issues that led to the accident. The report was highly critical of NASA’s decision-making and risk-assessment processes. It concluded the organizational structure and processes were sufficiently flawed and that a compromise of safety could be expected no matter who was in the key decision-making positions.  The CAIB report found that NASA had accepted deviations from design criteria as normal when they happened on several flights and did not lead to mission-compromising consequences. One of those was the conflict between a design specification stating that the thermal protection system was not designed to withstand significant impacts and the common occurrence of impact damage to it during flight.  This phenomenon was termed “normalization of deviance” by sociologist Diane Vaughan in her book on the Challenger launch decision process and is a term used widely today when discussing risk analysis. The board made recommendations for significant changes in processes and organizational culture.  The Columbia disaster has been used as a very good Crew Resource Management (CRM) exercise as well.  Several technical and organizational changes were made, including adding a thorough on-orbit inspection to determine how well the shuttle’s thermal protection system had endured the ascent, and keeping a designated rescue mission ready in case irreparable damage was found. Except for one final mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, subsequent shuttle missions were flown only to the ISS so that the crew could use it as a haven in case damage to the orbiter prevented safe reentry.


On February 2, 1876, the National League of Major League Baseball (MLB) is founded.  The American League was not established until 1901 and the first World Series was played in 1903.  The National League was formed from the  National Association of Professional Base Ball Players  (N.A.) and had eight original members: Chicago White Stockings from the N.A. (now the Chicago Cubs, not to be confused with the current Chicago White Sox of the American League); Philadelphia Athletics; Boston Red Stockings, the dominant team in the N.A. (now the Atlanta Braves, not to be confused with the present-day Boston Red Sox of the American League); Hartford Dark Blues from the N.A. (folded after the 1877 season); Mutual of New York from the N.A. (expelled after the 1876 season); St. Louis Brown Stockings from the N.A. (folded after the 1877 season, having committed to Louisville stars for 1878); Cincinnati Red Stockings, a new franchise (expelled after the 1880 season) and the Louisville Grays, a new franchise (folded after the 1877 season when four players were banned for gambling).  The teams now known as the Cincinnati RedsLos Angeles Dodgers (originally Brooklyn) and Pittsburgh Pirates have their beginnings in the original National League as well as the Chicago Cubs and the Atlanta Braves (originally in Boston, and later Milwaukee). The Cubs are the only charter member to play continuously in the same city. The other two pre-1892 teams still in the league are the Philadelphia Phillies and the San Francisco Giants (originally New York), both of which joined in 1883.  And of course the Cubs have played within the “Friendly Confines” of Wrigley Field since 1916 and were last year’s World Series winners.  It’s on my list of places to see a game.




2 February 1974: Test pilot Philip F. Oestricher made the first test flight of the General Dynamics YF-16 Light Weight Fighter prototype, 72-1567, at Edwards Air Force Base, California. During the 90-minute flight the airplane reached 400 knots (740.8 kilometers per hour) and 30,000 feet (9,144 meters).  In that first flight photo (left) you can see EAFB off the right wing.  The Fighting Falcon has key features including a frameless bubble canopy for better visibility, side-mounted control stick to ease control while maneuvering, a seat reclined 30 degrees to reduce the effect of g-forces on the pilot, and the first use of a relaxed static stability/fly-by-wire flight control system which helps to make it a nimble aircraft.  it is the second most common currently operational military aircraft in the world.  While many F-16s were produced according to various block designs, there have been many other variants with significant changes, usually due to modification programs. Other changes have resulted in role-specialization, such as the close air support and reconnaissance variants. Several models were also developed to test new technology.  Generally speaking the F-16 has a moderate wing loading, reduced by fuselage lift. The F-16 design also inspired the design of other aircraft, which are considered derivatives. Older F-16s are being converted into QF-16 drone targets by Boeing.  Over 4600 F-16s have been built.  It’s a great aircraft to fly.