Senate The Weekly Discussion of Military Technology

Discussion in 'Community' started by Mr44, Nov 27, 2003.

  1. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    There was a HUGE shocker/ bomb-shell ($1.35 for the witty pun) dropped today relating to the defense industry.

    EADS, the aviation company based in the Netherlands that makes Airbus jets and Eurocopters was in merger talks with BAE Systems (British Areospace), which is based in London, and is involved in F-35 production, the Eurofighter Typhoon, as well as the Bradley IFV. The resulting company would have been the largest defense company in the world. (US Lockheed-Martin is currently the largest) I think generally, anyone who was following this story took it for granted that the merger would happen. However, it was announced today that the entire proposal collapsed, and it looks like it was mostly due to German nationalism(!) By itself, the idea of German nationalism is interesting to ponder in 2012. The merger fell apart because Germany was unwilling to cede any governmental control over the newly merged company. To be fair, part of that was simple culture shock. British BAE is a shareholder/traded company, while EADS is more of a governmental/nationalized company, but the larger issue was that the German government wanted to keep control.

    Some interesting points emerged from the process. Weapons sales alone account for a whopping 95% of BAE systems total business (for comparison, arms development accounts for 75-78% of Lockheed's total). Also, and perhaps more importantly, half of all of BAE's sales go to the US military. Now, the talk is that BAE Systems is looking to merge with a US company, of which Boeing would be a good fit. If BAE merged with Boeing Defense, then it would become the world's largest defense company. The downside for the EU is that the the newly merged company would have accounted for 250,000 defense jobs across Europe, but at least any potential jobs under a US-BAE merger would be split between England and the US.
  2. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    Meh. I'm not a terribly large fan of defense mergers-IMO the mergers from the end of the Cold War are a big part of why the defense procurement system is such a mess now; it all but destroyed the notion of competition amongst contractors, IMO. Kudos to the Germans from me for blocking this.
  3. Alpha-Red Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 25, 2004
    star 5
    Didn't the post-Cold War mergers happen because the defense budget overall was downsized? Or was that not a good enough reason?
  4. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    Yeah, it was because of the budget dropping, which was a short-term good idea...but it wound up being squandered over the last decade. We may as well have maintained the 420 billion/year budget levels typical of the 1980s through the 1990s; it would have resulted in a force structure both larger than what we currently possess and a whole lot cheaper to support, given that last year's budget was literally 300 billion dollars more than the budget in 1991.
  5. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Except I'm not sure what you mean there Boba. The Germans didn't block the merger, at least on the BAE side, they just caused it to be shifted to the US, which would seem to work against German interests. It's a good thing from the standpoint of US and Britain, but I don't see the logic from the German POV, because the German government took a very "it's our way or the highway" stance in this. It only makes sense if Germany wanted to get out of the defense business all together, (which is quite possible) so they used their demands as a poison pill. But the result is going to be less competition, not more.

    On one hand, what it ensured was that it all but knocked EADS/Airbus out of being a global defense company. Sure EADS will still have it's local military contracts, but I really can't see it moving forward after this in this area, so it will have to focus on civilian contracts. That's good news for Boeing and Lockheed/Martin. Also, on the other hand, it means that there will be even greater cooperation between the US and Britain with military affairs. It was actually quite shocking to see that 50% of BAE's total business was already going to the US military as a sole customer. It seems like the continuing trend in military alignments is have North America/Britain/Australia (or basically the US and the Commonwealth countries on one hand) vs the EU on the other.

    The big looser in all of this is France. France was the other partner in the EADS/BAE merger. Since it's fallen apart, it will be interesting to see where France starts investing in its large defense contracts. I don't think France could go it alone, but France is just as nationalistic as Germany is. If BAE actually merges with Boeing or another US company, The US is going to easily control the majority of all defense business in the world. Probably even a near monopoly, if not 99% outright, of high technology systems. Things were already moving in that direction, but this certainly pushes it along.
  6. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    It's surprising if you're not still in the military. :p BAE makes all kinds of things I'm issued. Plus of course MRAPs.

    I misread your post; thought Germany kept it from happening. That's what I get for reading whilst on staff duty, I guess.
  7. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    Thought this was pretty interesting:

    analysis of cannonballs on Mary Rose



    Aside from the lack of a full metal jacket, this is exactly how US Army M16/M249 ammo is constructed. M855 is noted for penetration; I imagine this went sailing through French warships of the day.
  8. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    I like how the illustration of the Mary Rose from 1546 has forward facing cannon mounted in the stern. Obviously, that image had to be some form of propaganda, so it's not realistic, but those cannon would fire right through the ship's own rigging and sails, ending the battle rather quickly.

    The cannon ball info is interesting as well. First thought would be that such early ammo makers knew little about such concepts as penetrating rounds, so the speculation that they simply used the iron core to save cost and/or weight, instead of for performance, would be the immediate answer. But one never does know. Not too long ago, I watched a documentary on the History channel which highlighted the Viking "Ulfberht" sword. The sword itself was forged from high purity steel, the process of which was 400 years more advanced than anything else being used in Europe at the time. Some speculation says that they just used an iron ingot that was extremely pure from the source, and so their resulting steel was simply based on natural resource instead of the result of any advanced technique. But it is quite possible that the sword makers had a greater knowledge than commonly attributed to the time (around 710-1000). Since sword makers were fiercely protective of their technique so enemies couldn't use it against their own forces, the truth is probably lost forever. Did the Vikings "invent" an advanced steel making technique which was then lost and rediscovered centuries later? The cannonball info could be similar?
  9. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    I think...it depends, tbh. I mean, let's say that the English somehow did after-action reviews on the effects of cannonballs of different design on ships. I really don't see how they'd do that besides captured ships, and that doesn't seem to have happened a whole lot. Relatively early militaries did have basic understanding of metallurgy, however-the Hittites were the first with iron swords and they conquered the bejesus out of bronze-using nations, for example, and of course the Japanese went absolutely nuts with sword design, although that was much later.

    I'm kinda curious what sort of effect the cannonballs would have had. I'd guess that the lead, already being hot from firing, would have fragmented, but the iron core possibly could have continued on quite a ways-Naval ship wood was not the particle board you see in houses today, and resisted cannonballs quite effectively, but that core isn't really circular from what I can see. It's more elongated, IMO.
  10. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Yeah, the core actually looks hexagonal to me. I wonder if some other sort of machine part used that mold, or that the cannonball makers had a surplus of hexagonal iron ingots, so they threw them into the cannonball mold as a cheap alternative?

    Most of the research I've done (which isn't extensive by any means) indicates that the majority of cannon used on ships during this period fired anti-personnel/anti-rigging fragmentation shot. As you mentioned, every ship tactician knew that it was next to impossible to pierce the heavy wood timbers of ships. Range was still important, but even long range cannon were used to degrade the maneuverability of an enemy ship, rather than blow through the hull below the water line. But more importantly, it was due to scarcity of resources. If you actually sunk a ship, it was gone forever. If you blew off the sails, and/or captured the crew, you could simply refurbish the ship and use it in your own navy. This is why "scuttling" a ship was such an effective last ditch tactic against a foe.

    I think this is where popular movies now get it wrong. It's more dramatic on film to show ships duking it out, while cannon balls are crashing into the side timbers of hulls, throwing men and equipment around the interior, but I think the actual tactics were geared toward stopping a ship dead in the water, closing and boarding it, and then ultimately towing it back to home port.

    Having said all that, it would be interesting to actually find out why the British cast oblong/hexagonal iron inserts into these cannon balls-either through design or through necessity.