Malaysia – Again

Reading NBC news – and listening to their videos – has gotten me kind of annoyed.

First of all, there are the debris sightings – which could be nothing, obviously – and oil slicks – which, again, could be and probably are nothing.

Second, these guys don’t sound very convincing.  The former pilot, Tom Casey, said that there’s always enough time for a mayday call.  He also said, when asked if he thought that the it was credible that plane was taken over and then ran out of fuel, said, “I think the people who are closes to the investigation think it is.”  In other words, he is keeping his opinion to himself.  And here Greg Feith, an aviation expert says explicitly that he is skeptical that what we’ve found is debris from the plane.

Third, if you’re going to claim that it’s a hijacking and the planes were flown south on purpose, then:

a) Where were they going and why were they going there?  Were they going to bring down a tower in Atlantis?

b) A plane is hijacked and the hijackers don’t know how much fuel remains, so they run out in the middle of the flight and it crashes?  Huh?

c) A plane is hijacked and then downed, but they made sure to use up all the fuel first?  Got news for you buddies, if someone is going to down a plane they usually prefer it to have a lot of fuel, not to be on empty.  Give me a break.

d) If you admit that it was hijacked, why under the sun can’t you admit that flying south is useless?  Unless, of course, they wanted to down the plane immediately, but we know that that’s not what they did.

Fourth, time is running out and they insist on exclusively searching useless places.  If the plane is there, then we’re done.  If it’s not, we’ve wasted another week searching exclusively south while terrorists are getting ready to attack.

Go, brilliant governments.  We’re all proud of you.  And Israel will be prouder when we down the nuke over Iraq when you didn’t even know it existed.

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from A.B.C. News

from A.B.C. News

Now the investigators have come up with two possible flight paths delineating and area for search.  Given that the search paths were made by taking the distances for the pings and connecting them on the straightest line possible, while assuming constant speed, Yitzchak decided to try to reflect them north instead of south (using Google Earth, Paint, and Mercator maps with Euclidean geometry) because he suspected that their northern paths would lead to Iran, which would be further proof that the plane might very well be in Iran.  If you remember some of my previous posts, this new piece of information (the ping path) would probably make the green line (Keith’s) the most likely flight path.  Now I am giving the computer to Yitzchak so that I don’t have to listen to him dictating and consequently confusing me with information that is disorganized and slightly contradictory to the ideas in my own head.

Here he is:

As mentioned previously by my wife, I made an extremely approximate effort to find the northern reflection for the suggested flight path, which unsurprisingly ends near Iran’s northeastern corner. This flight path passes over a significant portion of India’s airspace, which is a question for others, at another time.  (See the theory that the plane hid in the shadow of other planes.)

Of course, the question arises, why?  What would be the benefit in stealing so large a plane, if you are not going to crash it immediately?  This has been the questioned brandied about to dismiss the idea of a 9/11 style hijacking, and I feel it lacks imagination.  Whenever we involve ourselves in such questions (in our case, the hijacking possibility) we need to perform a “red team” analysis.  This would mean considering the potential value, or benefit that such a plane might have, and what problems it might solve.

To consider this from another point of view, first generational nuclear weapons are large, often on the order of 5 tons.*  They are also very physically large, almost impossible to carry on an external hard-point.  The missiles which Iran is currently in possession of are woefully inadequate to port anything near this size and weight, which is unsurprising.  The US did not begin mounting nuclear warheads on missiles until the later 1950s, after considerable success in miniaturization. This, amusingly leaves Iran in a comical position: possessing a nuclear weapon, but being unable to use it except to blow themselves up.

They could, of course, design a significantly smaller warhead than the standard starting 20 kt.  Yet, if their target is in fact Israel, according to the US DoD’s manual on the effects of nuclear weapons (3rd edition),  a 20 kt. warhead will  hardly be more effective than putting your finger into the ground hole of a hornet nest.  This will, effectively, give Israel permission to turn Iran into a large work of glassy art.

This leaves Iran (given that they are, in fact, looking to use a nuclear weapon) in a sticky situation, possessing a capacity to create nuclear weapons, but leaving them without a credible or useful delivery mechanism.  Meanwhile, if Israel receives a whiff of an actual weapon on the ground, Iran faces the very real possibility of being subject to a nuclear first strike, so what can they do?

The answer would be to load the bomb onto a civilian plane.  This has the added benefit of being able to mask the assault as a regular passenger flight, either by mirroring a flight, or even downing the flight in question using small bombs while replacing it with the newly painted version while claiming electrical difficulties.  Such a plane might even be placed over a major city.  However, after answering this question, I was struck with the excessive size of a Boeing 777, and then asked myself a question.  If a primitive atomic weapon is large, so too, are hydrogen weapons.  In fact, not only are they large, but early versions were horrifically unreliable.  The test concept, Ivy Mike, was designed to be as conservative as possible, ignoring considerations of size and deliverability, and using liquid deuterium and tritium instead of lithium deuturide.  It was a building that weighed 85 tons.  Sure enough, the 777 can carry 150 tons.  My first question, would be whether or not the primary (atomic trigger for the hydrogen) could be made of a simpler U235 gun weapon.  Such a device might not even require testing to be effective.

(While a 20 kt. weapon would be mostly ineffective against Israeli concrete architecture, a 10 megaton weapons would be much more effective.  Not only would it be more effective, but it could be used as a limited range EMP device or used to destroy an entire American city, even the size of New York.)

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*Explanation for how Yitzchak jumped from talking about a 5 ton bomb to a 85 ton bomb:  If they cannot deliver a five ton bomb because it is too big for anything they currently have available, the size becomes irrelevant.  However, no one would think that Iran would specifically make a bomb the size of Ivy Mike, except that instead of hijacking a 757 (which would deliver their primitive nuclear bomb) they stole a 777.  Which, obviously, means that they must have something bigger in mind.

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6 thoughts on “Malaysia – Again

  1. “Bomb-proof” analysis. No kidding. Really good.

    I can’t add anything substantive to the threat discussion, but something still bothers me about the shockingly irrational efforts by the authorities and the news networks to push the southern route as the “most likely.” You spent some words mocking their stupidity in your first few paragraphs, and justifiably so.

    It bothers me because of how outlandish it is. As you point out, no reasonable, thinking human being could possible justify looking for debris on a route that leads to the South Pole. It is the height of desperation. And yet they have wasted all their resources in searching there. What’s even more disturbing to me, they seem to have concocted a rather obvious fib to justify it. Yesterday or the day before, US and Malaysian sources claimed that – surprise! – they were able to glean some extra info from the Inmarsat ping returns that, by definition, are omnidirectional, and it convinced them the plane took the southern route. By the laws of physics, there’s simply no way to make such a claim. It’s possible they used that “excuse” as cover for the use of additional classified imaging data, but we can’t know that. Given the lack of any confirmation of debris thus far, it looks very much like they have intentionally steered the searches away from where the plane clearly must be, and into oblivion. All for nothing, apparently, but we know such a thing would not be done for no reason at all. But why, then?

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    • Well, they have two routes. And since no one shared any radar info from the northern one, and/or Iran got upset that they were being incriminated and the Malaysians decided to tread on eggshells so as not to upset the delicate nuclear “talks” that go nowhere (why does this remind me of Kerry and Israel?) it makes sense that they just threw out the northern route. Except that it’s really irresponsible.

      It really is outlandish. And I feel stupid wasting so many words and being so cynical. But I really, truly, still do not believe that we can just throw away the northern route.

      As we say in Hebrew, their whole explanation sounds like kasta”ch (kisui tachat, or covering your tush). I hate kasta”chim.

      I wish we had more information.

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  2. Newsflash: No plane found on route to South Pole. Experts “confused.”
    http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-London/2014/03/21/MH370-Search-Team-Finds-Nothing-for-Second-Day

    Good Breitbart link over at iOTW. I hadn’t seen that.

    BTW, I apologize for not seeing your first comment on our site several days ago – the one where you asked to use the satellite plot. I missed it and replied to the second comment only. Of course, you’re welcome to use anything we post, and that was just a Malaysian Gov’t release, anyway. Thanks again for the good analysis from both of you!

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