Airplanes in Hangars

Today’s post features a simple set of graphics on the BBC, however the creators were actually the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative. The background? The increasingly tense geopolitical situation in the South China Sea, where China claims numerous islands and reefs claimed by other countries—and to a smaller extent other countries make similar such claims. Just a few weeks back, the Hague ruled against Chinese claims against islands within the Philippines territorial waters. But as these graphics show, it takes more than a legal decision to effect change on the ground.

Satellite photography shows military installations on numerous Chinese-held islands. But what makes the images potent in the communicative sense is the simple overlay of white plane illustrations. They show how many fighter jets, support aircraft, patrol aircraft, &c. that China can base at the various military installations. It is a simple but incredibly effective touch.

Fiery Cross Reef
Fiery Cross Reef

Credit for the piece goes to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

The T-14 Armata

Or the post’s sub-title could be something like, Boys with Toys, because I have long enjoyed diagrams of military hardware, like these examples. Today’s post is about Russia’s new main battle tank, the first new design since the 1970s: the T-14 Armata. It premiered in last year’s parade and is expected to enter service soon. This BBC article from last year’s parade shows the various new models expected to enter the Russian Army.

Russia's new toy
Russia’s new toy

Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.

China’s New Islands

Okay, so the title might be a bit hyperbolic, but the point that China has spent the last few years expanding minor reefs into major military installations still stands. This New York Times piece is a few months old at this point, but through a combination of maps, photography, and diagrams, it illustrates what has been going on in the South China Sea.

Fiery Cross Reef
Fiery Cross Reef

The screenshot above is of the first still in a short time lapse video introducing the article If you do not have the time to read the entirety of the piece, just watch the video. A lot can happen in one year.

Credit for the piece goes to Derek Watkins.

Types of Nuclear Weapons

When I was in high school I began to listen to music. To find music. To find artists. A guy who owned and operated the store next to where I worked recommended David Bowie, that guy whose songs I had heard on Philly’s classic rock radio stations. Back in those days we still had record stores—not that I knew what a record was—and I found a few used CDs—now that kids today would know what a CD is. Over that summer, I picked up a lot of new music. But what struck me about this David Bowie guy is that Space Oddity, Tonight, and Heathen all sounded so different from each other. He was a great one. And while I’m certain there will be some graphic in the future about his timeline—how can there not—today I am going to follow up once more on the North Korean nuclear test after coming across this graphic from Reuters.

You will recall how last week I looked at a New York Times post that explained the differences between a few different types of nuclear weapons. Well, here Reuters illustrates those differences.

Types of nuclear weapons
Types of nuclear weapons

Credit for the piece goes to S. Scarr.

Sailing Through Southeast Asian Waters

Today the US sent a guided missile destroyer through what China claims—but few recognise as—its sovereign territory, twelve nautical miles off the coast of semi-artificial islands. This piece from Quartz illustrates just some of the overlapping claims of the Spratley Islands. In the end, nothing happened to the destroyer as China did not counter it with ships or aircraft.

Who owns what now?
Who owns what now?

Credit for the piece goes to the Quartz graphics team.

The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

On 6 August 1945, the United States dropped one of the only two nuclear weapons used in combat on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. 70 years later, the city has been rebuilt and the war is long since done and over—the atomic bombings playing no small part in changing the Japanese calculus of surrender. But, what happened on 6 August and then 9 August (when we used the second of two nuclear weapons on Nagasaki)? The Washington Post has this nice piece with illustrations and maps and diagrams to explain it all.

The damage in Hiroshima
The damage in Hiroshima

Credit for the piece goes to RIchard Johnson and Bonnie Berkowitz.

ISIS Throughout the World

ISIS is still a threat to the Middle East, evidenced by the US announcing yesterday that it is intensifying strikes against the quasi-state in both Syria and Iraq. But just where has ISIS spread? And are its attacks spreading? This New York Times piece looks at just those two questions. The first through an obvious map.

The geographic reach of ISIS at all points over time
The geographic reach of ISIS at all points over time

What the map does is show you where ISIS has attacked around the world over all time. So yes, it has global reach. But the map alone cannot show you if things are improving or getting worse. For that you need a visualisation type that can plot things over time. And as aforementioned, the piece includes that as well.

A spike in attacks this winter presaged a summer of terror
A spike in attacks this winter presaged a summer of terror

Unfortunately, it appears that yes, ISIS is attacking or at least attempting to attack more targets in more countries both within and without the Middle East and its declared provinces.

Credit for the piece goes to Karen Yourish, Derek Watkins, and Tom Giratikanon.

Battle of Mons Graupius

I just finished reading Tacitus’ account of his father-in-law Agricola. Agricola is the Roman—more likely from a family of Romanised Gauls—general who conquered Great Britain for Rome. His crowning victory was the Battle of Mons Graupius. It should all be taken with a grain of salt, because there are no other corroborating sources—to my knowledge. For one thing, nobody knows for sure where this battle occurred—if it did—other than somewhere in what is now Scotland. So, I decided to attempt to illustrate the battle as I couldn’t find a satisfactory one on the internets. Again, with the knowledge that Tacitus’ account is not the most thorough.

Battle of Mons Graupius
Battle of Mons Graupius

Organising and Structuring ISIS

Yesterday we looked at the Russian sale of advanced surface-to-air missiles to Iran. Let’s stay in the Middle East and look at one of the forces that Iran—among many others, the US included—is fighting: ISIS, or Islamic State.  We all know it from its ruthless, zealous, brutal application of Islamic law to the territories it controls. But is the organisation itself really that “religious”?

Der Spiegel obtained documents in late 2014 that had been in the possession of Hajj Bakr, who had quietly outlined much of the structure of ISIS and how the group would function. The article is a thrilling read, if you are into these kinds of things, and depicts an ISIS different than what many would possibly suspect.

So why are we talking about it here? Because organisations require diagrams or flow charts of responsibilities. The folder of files that Spiegel obtained included just such things, and below is an example included in the article.

Organising ISIS
Organising ISIS

Credit for the originals go to Hajj Bakr.

S-300 Surface-to-Air Missiles for Iran

Russia has agreed to complete its years-old sale of advanced S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran. What does this mean? Well, it does not make Iran’s airspace invulnerable, but it will be a significant upgrade with the potential to deter Israel from launching an air raid against Iranian nuclear sites. In a nice, illustrated piece the Washington Post explains what the S-300 system is.

S-300 SAM system
S-300 SAM system

Credit for the piece goes to the Washington Post graphics department.