The Origin of StarMercs?

ottarrus

Banded Mongoose
The Mercenary box set [which I personally give a resounding 'meh'] didn't cover one important aspect of the Traveller mercenary space-scape: the StarMercs, those privateers of fortune who operate privately owned licensed warships-for-hire.

So, is THIS the beginning of StarMercs? An Australian by name of Don Kirlin has bought the ENTIRE RAAF stock of F/A-18 Strike Hornets with the intention of operating them as paramilitary contractor. [Story link below] Now, this goes way beyond Air America of the Vietnam era or the Executive Outcomes COIN operations... those were mostly government funded and had a lot of grease applied on both the legal and diplomatic fronts to allow them to operate. Kirlin, OTOH, intends to operate as a purely private for-profit venture.
There's a lot of weaknesses in his plan. For one thing, unless the customer provides tanker support he can only operate in one-third the world without taking incredible risks with his aircraft. Just packaging his aircraft for sea shipment would be a hugely expensive undertaking and any ship transporting the aircraft [capable of flight or no] would legally be a 'combatant vessel' according to the 'Lusitania rule' of common Admiralty law. It would be bait for any opponent who can get a launch platform in the sea lanes... and there's an important detail; all merchant ship by law must transmit a transponder signal both over radio and to a GPS tracking service that is open information. All you have to do is have the name of vessel and it's maritime tracking number and load ShipTrack on your phone.
So how the Hell does Kirlin plan on getting his private air force to his conflict sites? Rent-a-Carrier?

[link to story article]
https://getpocket.com/explore/item/this-man-owns-the-world-s-most-advanced-private-air-force-after-buying-46-f-a-18-hornets
 

Condottiere

Cosmic Mongoose
1. Escort carrier: old tanker, passenger liner, or container ship.

2. I think I recall the concept from a while back; privatization of combat pilot training.

3. Speaking of which, StarMERCs probably originate from privateers.
 

phavoc

Cosmic Mongoose
ottarrus said:
The Mercenary box set [which I personally give a resounding 'meh'] didn't cover one important aspect of the Traveller mercenary space-scape: the StarMercs, those privateers of fortune who operate privately owned licensed warships-for-hire.

So, is THIS the beginning of StarMercs? An Australian by name of Don Kirlin has bought the ENTIRE RAAF stock of F/A-18 Strike Hornets with the intention of operating them as paramilitary contractor. [Story link below] Now, this goes way beyond Air America of the Vietnam era or the Executive Outcomes COIN operations... those were mostly government funded and had a lot of grease applied on both the legal and diplomatic fronts to allow them to operate. Kirlin, OTOH, intends to operate as a purely private for-profit venture.
There's a lot of weaknesses in his plan. For one thing, unless the customer provides tanker support he can only operate in one-third the world without taking incredible risks with his aircraft. Just packaging his aircraft for sea shipment would be a hugely expensive undertaking and any ship transporting the aircraft [capable of flight or no] would legally be a 'combatant vessel' according to the 'Lusitania rule' of common Admiralty law. It would be bait for any opponent who can get a launch platform in the sea lanes... and there's an important detail; all merchant ship by law must transmit a transponder signal both over radio and to a GPS tracking service that is open information. All you have to do is have the name of vessel and it's maritime tracking number and load ShipTrack on your phone.
So how the Hell does Kirlin plan on getting his private air force to his conflict sites? Rent-a-Carrier?

[link to story article]
https://getpocket.com/explore/item/this-man-owns-the-world-s-most-advanced-private-air-force-after-buying-46-f-a-18-hornets

Yah, he bought all 48 (only 36 flying though) F/A-18s from Australia (and spares - a deal!). He already has plans on how to use them though - as aggressor trainers for western air forces. He has multiple licenses to won automatic weaponry, too, because that's part of the business he has. He's even purchased 4 MiG 29's previously to use for aggressor trainers. USAF and others prefer to outsource these efforts and he's happy to take their money.
 

phavoc

Cosmic Mongoose
MongooseMatt said:
It is possible that Mr Kirlin played Strike Commander when he was a kid...

Please, please, PLEASE don't let Chris Roberts make a movie over that title too. Wing Commander (the movie) was just sooooo terrible. But terrible in a bad way, not like a schlocky B-reel Ed Woods bad.
 

ottarrus

Banded Mongoose
Yah, he bought all 48 (only 36 flying though) F/A-18s from Australia (and spares - a deal!). He already has plans on how to use them though - as aggressor trainers for western air forces. He has multiple licenses to won automatic weaponry, too, because that's part of the business he has. He's even purchased 4 MiG 29's previously to use for aggressor trainers. USAF and others prefer to outsource these efforts and he's happy to take their money.

Ah, ok. I thought he was planning on deploying them in combat. I'll grant you that there are a lot of pissed off jet jockeys out there who can fly but eff'ed up all the other requirements of being an officer and I'm sure that every one of them would just love to quit trash-hauling and fly high performance again. Some of them might just be worth the time, effort, and money. Most of them won't. But then, I'm an ex-tank crewman and I have a ground trooper's conceit about pilots generally and fighter pilots specifically: that 95% of them should be getting warrant officer pay instead of Capital O-grade pay. They're not 'officers', they're technicians with a demanding skill package; and most them couldn't 'command' a stag party at a strip club.

As for 'starmercs and privateers', there are consistent rumors at a lot of the open source sites that there are indeed private companies on the water hunting Somali, Indonesian, and Filipino pirates for pay. The rumors say that the letters of marque come from Third World countries, but the money comes from big kids on the block. Wow. It's like the Cold War never ended! :shock: But you can take as much or as little of that for Gospel as you'd like.
 

ottarrus

Banded Mongoose
phavoc said:
MongooseMatt said:
It is possible that Mr Kirlin played Strike Commander when he was a kid...

Please, please, PLEASE don't let Chris Roberts make a movie over that title too. Wing Commander (the movie) was just sooooo terrible. But terrible in a bad way, not like a schlocky B-reel Ed Woods bad.

With the proviso that I never played the W-C franchise and therefore don't have the fanboy love for it, I thought the movie wasn't bad... for a B-movie. It was about as good /bad as 'Starship Troopers'. And I presume by the grief the movie gets that it's about as accurate to the source material as 'Casper the Unfriendly Grunt' too :wink:
 

Condottiere

Cosmic Mongoose
1. Plausible deniability.

2. One major difference is that there's capital tied up in combat vehicles.

3. You could probably force a decision on the ground, if circumstances necessitated it, compared to the vastness and emptiness of space.

4. A lot of available Soviet surplus is likely to end up, now, in Ukraine.

5. Depending on the analysis, most in Russian hand has rotted away, or been liberated on eBay.

6. Someone joked that the Central Intelligence Agency probably created a gray market for Russian equipment essential to operating weapon platforms.

7. Likely the same for American equipment, so that they plug leaks.

8. Retired North Atlantean equipment is likely to end up in Ukraine, as well.

9. Maybe not Germanic.

A. It's certainly made me reconsider what Confederation Navy policy would be on mothballing.

B. And what kind of compromised armoured fighting vehicle could just squeak by in combat effectiveness.

C. Wing Commander movie is bad, seems just an attempt at a cash grab.

D. Starship Troopers has a charm to it, though I wouldn't draw any strategic or tactical lessons from it.

E. Besides the parody stuff.

F. You can't make a sequel to it, because Heinlein made it a one off.

G. In theory, if you go by Heinlein's collective works, Carmen should be more manipulative and brilliant, and on the fast track to Admiral.

H. My guesstimate why no one bothers to build escort carriers is that the real cost is the air group.

I. So you might as well host them in a survivable and combat effective hull.

J. And carrier construction requires a set of knowledge and experience, that's limited to a rather small circle.

K. The Chinese, of course, reverse engineered the British and Russian carriers they acquired, though their newly constructed ones have yet to be combat tested.

L. It's unlikely that even the Chinese wouldn't build an aircraft carrier for a private paramilitary company.

M. It looks like the Russians no longer have the technology, facilities or expertise to do so.

N. Not to say that theirs were any good in the first place.

O. And were hoping for a technology transfer by buying up some of the French amphibious carriers.
 

phavoc

Cosmic Mongoose
Condottiere said:
H. My guesstimate why no one bothers to build escort carriers is that the real cost is the air group.

I. So you might as well host them in a survivable and combat effective hull.

J. And carrier construction requires a set of knowledge and experience, that's limited to a rather small circle.

K. The Chinese, of course, reverse engineered the British and Russian carriers they acquired, though their newly constructed ones have yet to be combat tested.

L. It's unlikely that even the Chinese wouldn't build an aircraft carrier for a private paramilitary company.

M. It looks like the Russians no longer have the technology, facilities or expertise to do so.

N. Not to say that theirs were any good in the first place.

O. And were hoping for a technology transfer by buying up some of the French amphibious carriers.

The original escort carrier was built upon civilian hulls and was meant to get more hulls into the water during WW2. After the war they were retired quickly for a number of reasons. First the USN already had enough strike carriers. Second the CVE's that were built were slow and were not built to strike carrier standards (speed & protection). Third jets were developed and deployed and the existing CVE's were too small and the flight decks too flimsy to take the heavier jets. That and the stowage issue for aircraft below the flight deck didn't work very well.

Other navies built smaller strike carriers, that the USN might classify as a CVE, but their carriers were actually meant to be smaller versions of strike carriers - but other navies just didn't have the money to build them like that. And there were some operational idea/views that prevented navies like the UK from building larger carriers. The made a conscious decision to build their carriers smaller than the USN or IJN did. Some of that reasoning was operational needs and how they deployed their units, but the other part was just how their leadership viewed carrier strike forces. I think part of it also had to do with the fact that the UK was more focused on Atlantic ops than the Pacific, where you needed a larger carrier since you could not depend on land bases. The UK's naval policies after WW1 seem much more fragmented as the change from big guns to aircraft changed the nature of naval warfare. I think also that the infighting between the RAF and the Royal Navy helped cause problems in the advancement of naval aviation.

The US, arguably, may still be building CVE's - they just call them amphibious assault ships (LPH, LHD) and throw in some marines to the mix. :) Jump-jet / ski ramp carriers are again an attempt by navies to field a cheaper version of the strike carrier. Plus, aside from the USN, no other navy really has experience in building and operating a full-size strike carrier. The UK has finally moved away from their Ark Royal-class carriers and built the Queen Elizabeth class - though at roughly 60-65% the size of a Nimitz class, it still only normally carries around 36 aircraft, compared to 90-100 that a Nimitz might. The ships crew is far smaller though (~700 vs. ~3,000). I'm guessing they built more automation and things into the design to minimize crew needs.

I've not read about any US planned purchase of French carriers. I have read that they are looking to sell the EMALS catapult tech to France, since France is looking to build a new carrier to replace the CDG. Their new one is supposedly going to be nuclear power and in the old Forrestal class range (about 60k tons). That would be a scaled down strike carrier. The French do have some very good navalized versions of their jets, so they would not be pursuing US F-35s for them.

And Wing Commander... just a terribad movie! Das Boot... in space! :( And no, it wasn't like the video game at all (which for it's time simply rocked!)
 

Condottiere

Cosmic Mongoose
1. There have been other aircraft carriers based on civilian hulls, usually fast passenger liners.

2. Which is probably where we see the first difference, speed.

3. I think the Indians had the last Great Patriotic War aircraft carrier operational, the Hermes.

4. So until recently, you had a healthy used market, relatively speaking.

5. One item of equipment that would be really helpful would be the catapult.

6. There are different types, but I don't think even the Chinese are still manufacturing the steam variant.

7. Short Take Off being a necessary feature for aircraft not assigned to aircraft carriers that have either steam or magnetic catapults.

8. Outside of the Lightning To Be (or not to be), Harriers and Forgers are retired.

9. Arguably, the Gripen could be adapted.

A. So, considering that Lightnings are likely to be a hundred million bux a pop, not to mention operating costs, you won't be stationing them permanently onboard escort carriers.

B. Except as lilypads.

C. Exceptionally, really light fighters, or medium fighters with very low loads, could do short take offs.

D. Arguably, helicopters and tilt rotors could perform the original function of the escort carrier, anti submarine warfare.

E. Light fighters could chase off maritime patrol aircraft.

F. But I very much think that the (Super) Hornet(s) need a catapult, not a ski jump.

G. That's the other thing, fighter/attack carrier aircraft aren't that many around, outside of the United States Navy.

H. It really does become a cost benefit analysis, in that you'd want to protect as far as possible your rare and expensive air group.

I. In which case, you might as well build an aircraft carrier with military specifications and defences.

J. On the other hand, if you need that carrier in a hurry, and you have more aircraft than fleet carriers capacity, the prospect becomes attractive.

K. Especially once drones go mainstream.

L. The Russians wanted to buy the French amphibious ships, and make two plus copies in their own shipyards.

M. Magnetic catapults still seem to have some bugs to work out, besides being very expensive, and requiring a lot of power, which a nuclear power plant probably shrugs off.

N. Steam seems to have corrosion issues.

O. So a throwaway carrier could have a (or more) steam catapult(s), if you have a cheap enough air group.

P. Which comes back to the issue if anyone is still manufacturing them.
 
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