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14 April 2010

my Yota my Technical / Lo-Tek Rulez! / difference between hay & straw / long wars & non-state actors / Depleted Uranium

Click image, maybe bigger.
Maybe smaller.
Maybe stays the same size.

Okay, I lied. I don't drive a Technical anymore. Now I drive a Honda International Space Station 4x4 SUV that has a 400-page instruction book. And plays little tricks on me, like the manufacturer designed elves and trolls and gremlins in it. Twice its electric doorlocks have taken it upon themselves to lock the car with my keys laughing at me on the inside and my violently angry ass outside, for malevolent reasons known only to the trolls. I now wear a very expensive copy of the key on a lanyard around my neck. (The key's cheap enough and simple enough to copy, but without the $$$ coded electronic chip, it can only unlock the door, but the engine won't start.)

I donated my beloved fun Technical, one of the very Funnest vehicles of my life, to the Smith Vocational and Agricultural School's farm program. Their pickup (a Chevy, I think) was on the verge of Irreversible Machine Death.

I'm afraid to ask if my beloved Yota is still hauling hay, straw (I don't know the difference, but there's a difference, if you know the difference, Leave A Comment) and manure for the Ag students, or if it finally died.

But with this vehicle, the odds are, even when driven and horribly abused by evil moron unsupervised teenagers, and with the help of the school's Automotive Department (which repairs and maintains Northampton's emergency vehicles), my Yota is still schlepping farm drek for the Ag students, who keep dairy cows. (They used to keep egg-laying chickens, and I loved their brown local eggs, but they had some rough financial times and they had to get rid of the egg flock.)

When I drove it to the Automotive Department garage early one morning, before the teacher showed up, the auto students surrounded my truck, and began to make ooo-ing and awwww-ing noises of adoration. "A Yoda! It's a Yoda!" Teenage boy motorhedz thought Bob'S ride was phat and awesome, teenage boys thought Bob's 4x4 pickup truck was Way Cool. (There were two girl students working in the garage, but they didn't come out to drool all over my pickup.)

When I told them I was donating it to the school, one of the boys tried to buy it quick on the spot for cash, and couldn't understand why I was giving away a perfectly good Yota.

They told me why they love Toyota 4 x 4 pickups.

I told them about Technicals. Just like my Yota, but with a 50-caliber machine gun mounted in the flatbed. They thought that was very cool.

* * *

This thread on my favorite e-list, IonizingRadiationAffacianadi, began with a news article about the recent progress made in hardening tank armor by a skin of depleted uranium (DU) sandwiched inside steel. DU is more dense, hard and massive than iron (steel) and lead. DU bullets and artillery shells do more damage, are more penetrating, are harder to defend against. DU armor is tougher and harder to penetrate.

For bullets and artillery shells,

F = MA
Force = Mass x Acceleration

so if the density of DU is greater than the density of traditional lead

metal ....... density
......... (kg/meter³)
copper ......... 8930
bronze .. 7700 - 8920
iron ........... 7850
steel ... 7480 - 8000
lead .......... 11340
uranium ....... 18900
plutonium ..... 19800
Table 1.

then the impact "punch" of a DU bullet or artillery shell or flechette will be greater than the same size ordinance of traditional lead.

And it's not very radioactive. It's depleted.

(I wouldn't sleep on it or wear DU jewelry or underwear, though.)

The USA and NATO military alliance have been shifting dramatically to DU weapons, and already the world has two or three, maybe more, battlefields with a new signature: the low-level but ubiquitous and lingering radioactivity and chemical toxicity of Depleted Uranium, much of it pulverized in powder form. After the soldiers leave, the local civilians have to keep living in and near these special areas.

Verdun is a battlefield well worth a visit; because the area was so devastated after the battles of 1916 it was declared a Zone Rouge after the War -- so destroyed and with so many munitions still around that unlike the Somme and Flanders, the villages that had been destroyed were not rebuilt. Hence there are a lot of features still to see, and the sites of the destroyed villages themselves are particularly moving. Verdun was the scene of one of the bloodiest and most intense battles of the Great War. One infantry soldier wrote, "If you haven't seen Verdun, you haven't seen anything of war."

Peace isn't just the cessation of military activities. War has irreversible consequences, all bad.

Anyway, after the post about DU in tank armor, a very interesting and knowledgable and accomplished guy opined:

----- Original Message -----
From: cbver_eh
Sent: Sunday, April 04, 2010 3:04 PM
Subject: [IonizingRadiationAffacianadi] Re: Depleted uranium armour

65 tons, over $1 million apiece and totally useless in anti-insurgency operations.

Bob replies:

Yeah, tanks are evolving into much better tanks -- but the nature of warfare and the nature of the threat "tank nations" face have changed radically. I don't see the extinction of tanks, but I see them as being more and more marginalized and no longer of central importance in the warfare we'll actually be encountering.

In the 1980s Libya invaded Chad, its neighbor to the south, with conventional European-manufactured tanks. Since World War II, tanks had been regarded as the perfect mobile weapon of the desert.

Chad met the invading tanks with what clearly seemed a pathetic, laughable response: Toyota 4x4 pickups -- just like mine, but with a 50-caliber machine gun mounted in the flatbed.

The Toyotas dramatically outmaneuvered tanks, literally ran circles around them, and managed to disable and destroy them, eventually driving the conventional tank force out of Chad and back to Libya. They do double-duty as "Jeeps," as personnel carriers, and bring light, cheap anti-tank rocket weapons within striking range of the slow, lumbering tanks. A hit to the tracks puts the tank out of service.

Toyota pickups used in lo-tek Third World combat acquired the term "techicals." They were the most sophisticated weaponry used by Mogadishu's warlords which forced a large US-led military force with Blackhawk helicopters out of Somalia in 1993.

Technicals are cheap (I can afford one, that's cheap), and the Toyota in particular has earned a reputation of being nearly indestructible. (BBC's "Top Gear" has an episode in which the car guys try to destroy one by abusive driving through wild terrain -- and can't.) A military force -- "non-state actor" -- faces no international restrictions or bans on buying pre-owned Toyotas.

When combat ends, tanks have no other uses; the Toyotas go back to the farm and a limitless range of civil uses and transport.

When they break, they're put back in service by ordinary auto mechanics. Tanks and helicopters require expensive maintenance and repair support systems, usually far from the battlefield. Hi-tek weaponry is hors de combat for weeks. The Toyota is back in battle
in a few hours.

Finally there is the financial drain on an industrial superpower and its allies which wage war with a conventional hi-tek military, a major bleeding of the economy of a combatant engaged in a "long war" against lo-tek non-state actors.

In open societies, the drain shows up in increased taxes, diversion of economic activity from profit production to military weaponry, and destabilizing deficits -- even if popular political opposition to the long war doesn't significantly materialize.

The enemy pays cash for pre-owned Toyotas. Western hi-tek militaries raise taxes for DU-armored tanks, IED-hardened Hummers, A-10s, helicopters, Predator drones, and their necessary support systems and extensive and expensive specialized training requirements. (I can drive a technical.)

We're certainly right to demand the best weaponry for our combat forces. But in our weaponry choices and long-term development, are we still fighting World War II and preparing for a Soviet Cold War tank invasion of Germany, while the actual enemies we'll encounter for the next decades keep victory out of our grasp at the used Toyota lot and the discount Big Box hardware store?



Anonymous said...

If my memory is correc t then the french Foreign Legion did help Chad with, eh, some supplies.

Another thing worh noting is that the infamous Touareg like these utes, VW here in Europe named a 4x4 after them, VW Touareg. dunno if they sell this model in North America tho. Looks a bit like a soccer mom ute, but you will get the idea.

Arctura said...

Oh I didnt know you were still blogging here!
I just stumbled upon that old chart we messed with in #tokyochat years ago.

Hay is straw that animals will eat btw :p


Vleeptron Dude said...

Hiya Arctura!

Oh yeah, the labor force pie chart! Yeah, thanks for the help!

Vleeptron always blogs, Vleeptron will blog forever. The number of Vleeptron posts is infinite.

THANKS for straightening out the hay/straw thing.

Baron von Steuben (he made up the "von" and the "baron," I think) was the drillmaster of Washington's Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.

The first thing you teach soldiers is to march: Left Right Left Right

But these were all illiterate farmers and most didn't know right from left.

von Steuben tied hay to the right boot and straw to the left -- because every farmer (unlike me) knows the difference between hay and straw, and drilled them: HAY FOOT! STRAW FOOT! HAY! STRAW!