Yesterday the United States dropped a GBU.43 on a cave complex in eastern Afghanistan. The bomb is better known by its nickname MOAB, Mother Of All Bombs. But just how does the GBU.43 compare to some of the more common—and not so common—weapons in the US arsenal?
What we do know is that yesterday was the detonation of the largest non-nuclear bomb in warfare. We do have an even larger conventional weapon called the Massive Ordnance Penetrator—phrasing?—but its size and warhead are not as large as the MOAB. MOP is instead intended to be used as a super bunker buster.
So here’s how this week was supposed to go. I was going to write about the Northern Irish election Monday and then Tuesday was going to be a piece from the New York Times that looked at the public’s concerns facing an incoming president. This piece I was going to save for later. But then Sunday night North Korea tested several missiles and flew them into the Sea of Japan. Sort of felt appropriate to move this one up a couple of days.
As you know, I like infographics and diagrams about military things. And in an article about the US cyberwar against North Korea, the New York Times included these graphics to provide context about the scale and scope of the North Korean missile programme.
I don’t have the URL for the page on-hand, but if you can find it. The article is well worth the read.
One of the big news stories yesterday centred on the Trump administration’s budget outline that would expand US defence spending by 9%, or $54 billion. That is quite a lot of money. More worrying, however, was the draft’s directive that it be accompanied by equal spending cuts in neither security nor entitlement programmes like Social Security and Medicare. Nor, obviously, the trillions allocated for mandatory spending, e.g. debt repayment.
White House officials—worth noting of the Trump-despised anonymous type that I suppose that only matters if reporting unflattering news—declined to get into specifics, but pointed out foreign aid as an area likely to receive massive cuts.
Problem is, foreign aid is one of the smallest segments of the federal budget. How small? Well, let’s segue into today’s post—see how smooth that was—from the Washington Post. The article dates from October, but was just brought to my attention to one of my mates.
Beyond this graphic that leads the piece, the Post presents numerous cartograms and other graphics that detail spending patterns. Hint, there is a pattern. But those patterns could also make it difficult to slash said spending.
The reason foreign aid spending is important is that it ties nicely into that concept of soft power. No surprise that over 120 retired generals and admirals told Congress that spending on diplomacy and foreign aid is “critical to keeping America safe”.
But for now this remains a budget outline sent to federal agencies to review. The actual budget fight is yet to come. So I’m sure this won’t be the last time we look at this topic here on Coffeespoons.
Credit for the piece goes to Max Bearak and Lazaro Gamio.
This is based off absolutely one of my favourite infographics out there—Charles Joseph Minard’s map of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. For those unfamiliar with it, he tracks the size of the French army as it invades Russia and gets thinned out along the way. Yes, some are to battles. But, the bottom of the plot also tracks temperature. The temperature of winter in Russia. And you can see how that too impacted French troop numbers.
So this modern work needed to get a shoutout here, even if it doesn’t have the temperature on Hoth. Or in the vacuum of space. I hesitated to post it for a few weeks because of the film and not wanting to post spoilers. But upon further reflection, we basically all know how Rogue One has to end—the plans get stolen and the Death Star eventually gets blown up. So I see no harm posting this now.
Last Friday China seized a US Navy submersible drone—like the drones the Air Force uses but for underwater purposes—in international waters off the coast of the Philippines. This graphic from the Washington Post shows how, while in international waters, the seizure occurred not far outside China’s Nine-dash Line, which they claim as territorial waters.
Credit for the piece goes to the Washington Post graphics department.
In case you missed it, two weeks ago President Duterte of the Philippines had some interesting things to say regarding the relationship between the Philippines and the United States. “America has lost” and “separation from the U.S.” were among the two big lines he spoke to a Chinese audience. But the Philippines are an important part of President Obama’s pivot to Asia strategy as we have been spending money and time improving defence ties. Naturally issues like the the pivot underpin Trump’s claims about poor judgment when it comes to the Obama/Clinton foreign policy.
The pivot’s improving defence ties come at a time of region-wide increases in defence spending. Thankfully Bloomberg put together an article with some nice graphics earlier this year. As someone who has always had an interest in naval things if not military things, see my numerous posts on that here, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the article and digesting the graphics. The one below compares the strengths of the Chinese fleets to those American fleets permanently assigned to the Pacific Ocean region.
Of course the question becomes, beyond making our military stronger, just what would Trump do to counter or affect the arms race in the Asia Pacific region?
Credit for the piece goes to the Bloomberg graphics department.
If you didn’t already know, the Iraqi Army and Kurdish forces are moving on Mosul, a city in northern Iraq overrun by ISIS back in 2014. The New York Times has illustrated a satellite image of the Mosul area to show how the forces are progressing in their assault on the city.
Credit for the piece goes to the New York Times graphics department.
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.
Credit for the piece goes to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.
Or the post’s sub-title could be something like, Boys with Toys, because I have long enjoyed diagrams of military hardware, liketheseexamples. 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.
Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.
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.
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.