So yes, it's my birthday today (5th January). And you know what I'll be doing for most of my birthday? Sleeping.
Because as I start this post I have now been up for about 26 hours, which I can only presume is some sort of ironic and karmic(?) punishment for laughing at the host of Think Defence a few weeks ago when I heard he'd pulled a 30+ hour job.
This of course means that I still haven't finished my planned post. And on that note I'm going to try and keep you sweet with a link and some videos!We'll start first with the link, which I stumbled across while researching my coming article and found quite interesting. Marine Traffic.com is a site that use GPS data to track a large amount of commercial marine traffic, from oil tankers and cargo vessels to fishing boats and tugs, plotted onto a map of the world and updated every 100 seconds or so.
I'm pretty sure it doesn't track every ship in the world on there, as some areas do seem to be highly trafficked and then go dead a few miles down the shipping lane for reasons unknown to me, but it does have a lot of them.
What's most interesting to me is that you quickly realise just how many choke points of major world maritime traffic there is. The assumption when you look at a map is that the sea is a completely free environment, a wide open expanse just waiting to be explored.
This data shows that in reality, due to certain constraints on shipping lanes and the need to reach destinations by the most economically viable route, maritime traffic has a tendency to bunch up enormously along predictable routes all across the world and not just at a select few high profile sites like the Straits of Hormuz.
These routes are pretty easy (in the modern context) for small groups like pirates and terrorists etc to identify, interdict and potentially exploit, and unfortunately a lot of areas that have been hot beds for past and present terrorist/pirate/sub-national groups sit right astride many of these key shipping lanes.
Food for thought. Now let's blow some s**t up with the Russian army!
You have to admire the Russians in many regards. Ok, so their record on economic management over the last 60 years or more has not been great. Nor has their human rights record. And they struggle with the whole "democracy" thing. But what the Russians are quite good at is designing and building military equipment. Well, sometimes.
Let's not forget that this is the nation that brought us the AK-47, the MiG-25, the Shtora passive tank defence system, the first helmet mounted cueing systems for combat pilots, the worlds largest transport aircraft (followed by breaking their own record in that regard), the worlds largest transport helicopter, and now, a single man portable 30mm grenade machine gun.
Yes. Yes they really have.
Well I say single man portable. Really it's designed for two men to carry in its broken down form, but it is light enough that in a combat environment one man can pick up the whole launcher/tripod piece and move it rapidly to a new location.
And in fairness, it has been around for about 15+ years now, but the Russians appear to be on a sales drive at the minute, which means sales videos. Quite impressive though; 30kg all up loaded weight, 16kg unloaded, 29 round drum magazine, 2km range in indirect fire mode, and can put down almost 400 rounds per minute.
To finish a couple of videos that caught my eye from the British Forces News Network. First, a quick piece on the BAE deal with Oman;
And to finish, a couple of videos about Exercise Urban Warrior that has been taking place on a large French urban warfare training facility, looking at some of the technology that underpins it, and perhaps a slightly hopeful comment from one officer that we might invest ourselves in such a large and sophisticated facility.