Category Archives: Sailing

China Claims U.S. Aircraft Carriers Can’t Hide From New AI on Satellites

A new report out of China suggests it’s using AI on satellites to find and constantly track U.S. aircraft carriers, rendering them easy prey.

When USS Harry S. Truman was heading to a strait transit drill off the coast of Long Island in New York on June 17 last year, a Chinese remote sensing satellite powered by the latest artificial intelligence technology automatically detected the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier and alerted Beijing with the precise coordinates, according to a new study by Chinese space scientists.

This is a long predicted shift from “on the ground” processing power for analysis, working through logistics issues (e.g. bandwidth performance, data integrity), to instead doing “real time” analysis on-board sensors in the air.

A core tenant of aircraft carriers has been, of course, they sail hundreds of miles away undetected while unleashing massive airborne devastation.

The threat of constant tracking using new global sensor networks means in simple terms naval strategist have to expend far more effort to engage carriers safely.

Submarines and fast attack boats, beyond the reach of satellite technology and able to sail undetected more easily towards targets, become a more logical physical platform for launching airborne attacks from the sea. It’s the kind of thing both Iran and Ukraine have been proving grounds for lately.

Such developments mark a potential inversion of logic behind massive build-up of the U.S. Navy that stretch back to the 1980s. Allegedly a June 1977 dinner with Graham Claytor (Navy secretary under President Carter) led to a famous “Ocean Venture” exercise that reamins relevant even to this day.

Mr. Lehman notes, the U.S. fleet participated “in a sophisticated program of coordinated, calculated, forward aggressive exercises—all around the world.” The Soviets would thereby see that, with any aggressive move they made, “the might of the U.S. Navy would be off their coasts in a heartbeat.”

Over 250 ships and more than a dozen countries in 1981, then under the racist President Reagan, set out to demonstrate to Soviet leaders that a giant NATO alliance could achieve dominance of the sea such that Russia would not detect navies (aircraft carriers in particular) until it was too late.

That’s a premise China would like to believe they have finally shattered by following a long-coming trend of on-board image processing with inexpensive sensors in the air.

As a footnote on blustery news about advances in technology, if you dig into a “dominance” narrative of the U.S. Navy technology during the 1980s you’ll also find surveillance history gems.

For example, ships in the Norwegian fjords were trivial to spot visually when covered in snow (bright white) sitting in deep dark waters yet at the same time hard to detect with even the best radar of the day because sitting beneath mountains.

British aerial reconnaissance of German battleship Tirpitz, near Bogen in Narvik Fjord, Norway, 17 July 1942. Click to enlarge. Source: IWM

This was well known in WWII and of course still true when NATO ships closed in on Russia in the Norwegian waters decades later. Moreover, nobody had bothered to heat modern ship antennas so NATO sailors had to climb in frigid weather to remove ice with hand tools.

There’s technology… and then there’s ignoring history while deploying technology into a world of already experienced variables. That’s a huge hint about why China is probably wrong, given how bad AI tends to be when pressed into actual service.

The reality of big data security (e.g. vulnerabilities in AI due to trivial integrity flaws, made even worse by satellite platform limitations) is another way to look at this.

China is doing what should be expected. They follow easy and obvious trends in big data, moving analytics to the edge and improving the sensor resolution. Yet China (let alone Russia) isn’t particularly known for being able to handle adversarial creativity and the unexpected (possible perturbations to defy expectations).

Carriers may sail another day, in other words, just by returning to the lessons of a bold “Ace” Lyons deception maneuver — ignore academic theorists decrying the end of carriers in 1981 by flying a dozen jets 1,000 miles from the USS Eisenhower to surprise buzz adversaries right in the middle of their naval exercises.

[Soviets] were particularly taken aback by the prowess of our commanders at sea in cover and deception operations. To kill a ship you need to find it first, and our commanders stayed up nights thinking up ways to bluff, trick, hide, and conceal their forces at sea so that they couldn’t be found.

Mercedes Issues “Stop Driving” to 300,000 SUV Owners: Complete Brake Failure

Mercedes in the wild

The 2006-2012 ML, GL and R-Class have a moisture related corrosion issue with the brakes, which can result in total failure.

…brake force support might be reduced, leading to an increase in the brake pedal forces required to decelerate the vehicle and/or to a potentially increased stopping distance. In rare cases of very severe corrosion, it might be possible that a strong or hard braking application may cause mechanical damage in the brake booster, whereby the connection between the brake pedal and brake system may fail. In such a very rare case, it would not be possible to decelerate the vehicle via the brake pedal.

Not possible to decelerate the vehicle via the brake pedal.

I believe that officially means these road bathtubs should be classified as a boat instead of a car?

The issue is so serious Mercedes says drivers should immediately call and a tow truck will come take the vehicle to be repaired.

MBUSA is advising affected customers to stop driving their vehicles. MBUSA will also offer complimentary towing to owners of affected vehicles to attend the workshop.

I suppose what’s hidden in the details is how Mercedes took a single report and extensively researched the causes until they arrived at a decision to recall vehicles even 16 years old. Consumer Reports tells the story:

The automaker began its investigation in July 2021 after a report of a customer from outside the U.S. experiencing reduced braking during a stop. After conducting numerous field studies and tests, including discovery of a single similar situation in the U.S., Mercedes-Benz informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Association of the recall on May 5, 2022.

That’s an impressive response narrative.

Mercedes shows a duty of care completely opposite to Tesla’s negligence from “false and reckless” management (notorious for failures to stop and harming people and property) as witnessed yet again just last week.

A Columbus police crash report states that the driver of the Tesla, 63-year-old Frantz Jules, told police that he was unable to slow the vehicle as it hit speeds of 70 mph on a Downtown highway, so he exited and smashed into the center.

Jules told police he was driving on Ohio Route 315 when he “lost control of his brakes and was unable to stop,” according to the police report. He exited Route 315 at the Neil Avenue exit, which leads directly onto Vine Street toward a T-intersection and traffic light at North High Street — with the convention center directly in its path.

Three witnesses to the crash, one of whom was stopped at the red light at North High Street, told police that the driver of the Tesla appeared to speed up in order to beat a red light. They also said it did not appear he applied brakes before the building was hit.

Lost control of his brakes and was unable to stop… or sped up to run through a red light, or BOTH? Tesla likely doesn’t care and will spend its time trying to find ways to avoid being responsible.

Fascinating Twist in Discovery of 200-year-old Sunken Ship: America’s Caste System

NOAA has posted an interesting write-up of deep sea excavation for the “Industry”, a whaling ship that sank centuries ago.

The remains of the 64-foot long, two-masted wooden brig opens a window into a little known chapter of American history when descendants of African enslaved people and Native Americans served as essential crew in one of the nation’s oldest industries.

It begs the question of how ships of non-white American sailors might treat their own coastline, given the regressive white police state policies of the early 1800s.

The ship reportedly went down after “a strong storm snapped its masts and opened its hull to the sea on May 26, 1836”.

While Industry eventually sank, there was some mystery about what happened to the crew. Thanks to new research by Robin Winters, a librarian at the Westport Free Public Library, the crew’s fate is finally clear. Winters tracked down a June 17, 1836 article in the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror that reported the crew of Industry was picked up at sea by another Westport whaling ship, Elizabeth, and crewmen were returned safely to Westport.

“This was so fortunate for the men onboard,” said Delgado, who worked closely with Winters and several other local historians to confirm the identity of Industry. “If the Black crewmen had tried to go ashore, they would have been jailed under local laws. And if they could not pay for their keep while in prison, they would have been sold into slavery.”

In other words this ship reveals how American sailors would have been jailed and enslaved if they had touched nearby American shores.

“Deck of the schooner John R. Manta” Source: NPS.gov

Men of African ancestry and Native Americans served side-by-side with men whose families had originated in Europe. Pay was based on shipboard position, and opportunities for advancement were largely based on merit and experience.

Some museums try to suggest it was integrated races working side-by-side that led to the equality on ships, yet that defies basic logic since the same could be experienced on land. Something was different about the sea.

Instead there were two major factors.

First the lack of pressure away from land — racism is a massive inefficiency terrible for the market that requires constant externalized costs (including harms known as “externalities”, taxing others), which is problematic away from land where self-sufficiency is essential to survival (similar to wilderness on land, which is why the frontier was far more diverse than encroaching settlements).

Second, because of high-risk jobs that demanded competence to survive it naturally attracted diverse groups of out-casts and risk-takers far more than any privileged and often incompetent abusive whites who depended on racism to force others to do hard work. There is thick irony in the fact that Black Americans are credited with winning the 1815 Battle of New Orleans (a turning point in a war with England) yet Black Americans repeatedly are unable to set foot in the country they did the actual hard work of defending.

Americans had to be rescued not only from the sea but also from domestic terror groups impeding rescue — an historic racist “go back” footnote that underscores how Black Americans served as “essential” workers and decorated veterans yet were denied even basic rights.

This also has been documented in the 1800s when Black American sailors who touched American shores would have their books seized before they were brutally tortured to death in attempts to reveal their social networks.

Or perhaps the best way of explaining it comes from an analysis of the American system of hierarchy. The origin story of America was unquestionably a slaveocracy intended to late 1700s block abolition movements; restrict liberties with a caste system in a new country of tyranny for profit.

“Symbol of Russian Naval Power” Moskva Catches Fire and Sinks

I’ve written before here about the sorry state of the Russian Navy. Today we have yet another example in the sinking of a dirty 1970s “Slava-class” bathtub built in 1983.

…a huge morale and propaganda boost for the Ukrainians not only because the Moskva is the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, but also because this is the same ship from the famous Snake Island incident, when soldiers were recorded telling the Russian warship to “go f*** itself” before being bombarded. The warship is a “symbol of Russian naval power in the Black Sea,” Michael Petersen of the Russia Maritime Studies Institute told to BBC reporters. “The Moskva has been a thorn in the side of the Ukrainians since the beginning of this conflict. To see it damaged so badly… I think is going to be a real morale boost to the Ukrainians.”

Speaking of propaganda, the Moskva (Moscow) symbolically was repaired and modernized in 2020 after being unwisely renamed in 1996 from its original name Slava (glory).

Now, what a ship was christened, so let her stay, I says. — Long John Silver

Perhaps some of the “glory” was gone from this “pride of the Soviet navy” after it was implicated in the 1989 “Seasick Summit“.

Things were even worse 400 yards away aboard the Soviet cruiser Slava, chosen to co-host the summit because of its space-based communications systems that have made it the pride of the Soviet navy. Gorbachev was forced to abandon several attempts to reach the 11,000-ton cruiser, taking refuge on the Soviet passenger liner Maxim Gorky, which was docked in the harbor.

While carrying the admiral’s flag, one of the most important features of Moskva was its Soviet-era S-300F wide-area radar defense capabilities meant to protect the Black Sea fleet.

Source: The Aviationist

Loss of radar is a huge setback. Russian defense capabilities had been fraught with incompetence already, and now have even less to work with. This potentially shows again Ukrainian defense dominance using light and agile air campaigns to destroy even the largest and most expensive Russian offensive operations.

What we know mainly is that on April 13th a fire broke out with still uncertain causes.

Ukraine naturally suggested it deserved some credit, saying it had diverted the ship using a Bayraktar TB2 drone before hitting it with a modern anti-ship missile (a R-360 Neptune, arguably based on a Soviet Zvezda Kh-35 / AS-20 Kayak).

If true it would be their second successful coastline defense move.

Earlier reports on sinking of the Russian amphibious landing vessel Saratov indicated Ukraine hit it with a Tochka ballistic missile

Notably that Neptune missile was commissioned in 2013 by Ukraine (preceding the 2014 invasion by Russia) specifically to defend its southern coast against Russian ships, and went into service by 2019.

Like a sea bird using “ground effect” as it flies just above the water the Neptune skims the Black Sea surface, meaning targeting during notoriously stormy weather works in its favor in two distinct ways. A water skimming feature makes it even harder to detect in waves and waterline damage in storms is even more likely to cause sinking exactly like what was observed here.

The Pentagon initially had suggested “the ship is able to make its own way, and it is doing that”.

Yet Odessa OVA Maxim Marchenko observed a serious fire was still burning, and the cruiser indeed sank soon after. It sank quickly enough and in rough conditions such that a nearby cutter reported it rescued only about a dozen of the more than 500 on board, taking them to Sevastopol.

LiveUAmap adds that the Russian Defense Ministry reported it only as “sank while being towed in a storm“.

Source: LiveUAmap

Given Ukraine mentioned their drone in the operation, and other ships nearby, it is at least plausible that there will someday be footage available to confirm whether a Neptune was involved.

Even more to the point perhaps, given how out in the open cyber warfare (intelligence operations) have been during this war, Jeffery Carr provocatively suggests Ukraine hacked Russian communication channels over two months ago enabling them to seek and destroy the Moskva. He offers evidence of the hack, such as this Russian diagram, for a fee.

Source: Inside Cyber Warfare

Feudalistic Threats to Web 3.0

When I’m asked to explain Web 3.0 I always try to start by explaining that the world is far more diverse than just coins and financial assets.

This is similar to my old saw about history being more detailed than just who won what war and why. Culture is not just coinage.

The entirety of the human experience, which arguably will be predominantly expressed via the web if anywhere in technology, is vast and rich beyond monetary action. Only about half of transactions even involve money at all.

Yet, for many people their only topic of interest or focus on technology is how to capitalize as quickly as possible on anything “new”. Beware their depictions of the Web solely as finance instead of encompassing our most rich and interesting possibilities.

Geolocation data, as just one facet, has long been recognized as a source of power and authority. Think of it in holistic terms of the English and Dutch cracking the secretive Portuguese spice trade routes and upending global power, instead of just focusing on the spices being traded.

Knowledge is a form of power, which have been expressed as political systems far more vast than markets alone could ever encompass.

Here is an example to illustrate how oversimplification of humanity down to financial terms becomes an ethical quagmire, highlighting some very important mistakes of the past.

Ukraine cancelled a Crypto airdrop.

…“a lot of people” were abusing the possibility of an airdrop by sending minuscule donations “just to benefit” themselves. This is a common tactic among crypto investors, known as airdrop farming.

Farming is in fact the opposite of what is described here. Growing food at low margin so that others may gain has somehow been framed backwards: extraction of value from someone else’s plan to help others.

In other words “airdrop farming” is far more like “airdrop banking” as it has nothing in common with farms but a lot in common with banks. It begs a question why there there was any direct return and benefit of “donations”, given what has been said in past about that loop.

Appropriation of the term “farming” in this context thus reads to me as propaganda; we may as well be in a discussion of Molotov’s WWII bombs as a delivery of bread baskets.

Likewise in the same story Kraken’s CEO displayed complete ignorance by saying his company would be on the side of Russia in this war and could not help Ukraine because in his mind political Bitcoin only has “libertarian values”.

Exchanges including Coinbase, Binance, KuCoin, and Kraken all refused Fedorov’s February public request that they freeze all Russian accounts, not just those that were legally required by recently-imposed sanctions. The companies said such an action would hurt peaceful Russian citizens and go against Bitcoin’s “libertarian values,” as Kraken CEO Jesse Powell put it.

Calling Bitcoin libertarian is like calling diamonds bloody.

In fact, Bitcoin is notoriously slow-moving (terrible for payments) and notoriously volatile (terrible for currency) just like blood diamonds being extracted from dirt at artificially low cost to artificially inflate their value to a very small group desperate for power.

Mining doesn’t have to be an exercise in oppressive asset hoarding with a total disdain for the value of human life, but Kraken clearly displays here they operate intentionally to repeat the worst thinking in history.

So what values are we talking about really? Proportionality (tailoring response to the level of the attack, avoiding collateral impact) is not a libertarian concept, obviously, because its a form of regulation (let alone morality).

Note instead there is complete lack of care for victims of aggression on the principle of protecting “peaceful” among aggressors, with absolutely no effort to prove such a principle.

It’s sloppy and exactly backwards for a Bitcoin CEO to claim he cares about impacting others. The inherent negative-externality of Bitcoin means it carries a high cost someone else has to pay, proving that if Kraken cared about “peaceful” Russian civilians it would shutdown all Bitcoin since it harms them all while benefiting few if any.

Systemically redistributing transaction costs from selfish individuals to society instead, while claiming to be worried about societal impact of an individual action is… dangerously reminiscent of “nobles” and “clergy” of pre-revolutionary France who ignorantly stumbled into their own demise.

The Web already is so much more than a narrow line of thought from the ugly past of feudal thinking, and 3.0 should be more broadly representative of the human condition instead of boxed in like this by selfish speculators trying to get rich quick through exploitation and manipulation of artificially constrained assets.