Wednesday, January 20, 2016

DOOMSDAY... or something else?

Doomsday or something else?

Readers may have picked up that I am not a proponent of the Biblical level TEOTWAWKI type event.  I think things will get worse (perhaps much more so) before they get better.  One of the books I had read previously that triggered my musing was "The Coming Anarchy" by Robert Kaplan.

Robert Kaplan's The Coming Anarchy

One of the main themes Kaplan develops is that the future will look a lot more like Sao Paulo, Brazil than it will resemble a Mad Max movie set.  Don't get me wrong, those 2 in a Venn Diagram intersect more than casually.  Features of such a dystopia are a melding of police, intelligence, multinational corporations and private security contractors to maintain some semblance of order.  This may evoke "Blade Runner" type imagery for you, and you'd not be too wrong.

While I was out driving around Mordor today, I could not help but start thinking about what people will want to drive when that state of affairs comes up.  As I had an hour to kill, I'd like to share with you my musings on the subject.

The well equipped and considered guerrilla will want to drive something ubiquitous.  Something that while being seen, is not "seen".  Think Ford F-150, Suburban or Dodge Ram truck.  Think minivan (the horror!).  The key is to blend in, to plausibly be something else.  These are all popular vehicles, hard to differentiate from similar ones.  What, the local color of choice is silver?  Guess what... you are driving a silver whatever, now.

One consideration is cost.  Acquisition cost, insurance cost, repair costs.  If your local group of guys all drive similar vehicles, you will develop a commonality in parts, tools and specific know how to keep your vehicles running.  You will also develop a boneyard of sorts of commonly replaced line items like alternators, pumps and the like.  That, and you'll want to keep the exteriors as vanilla as possible.  No stickers, weird accessories or body damage.  Keep those vehicles clean, registered, insured and inspected.  Even if your state does not do inspections, have a buddy help you check that all your lights work.  Why get pulled over when you can avoid it with a little preventive maintenance check?

Imagine if you will the utility in some bone stock pickup trucks for resupply, medevac and moving people about in an uncertain environment? Something like this in a vanilla wrapper would go largely unnoticed:

The fold down troop benches in the bed are very handy, if somewhat uncomfortable.
The ability of the maker/tinkerer class to uparmor any of these vehicles will become a useful skill.  Consider the amount of carjacking and mayhem that goes on in such events.  You will want to mull over how to do this.  Take a look at this website to get some inspiration. That cop in Philly who was almost murdered by that Mohammadean madman would have been better off if he had some form of this going on.

I suspect that police vehicles are going to, if not already are, getting upgrades like this as time and budgets permit.  Remember, in such cases, layered and bonded plexiglass/lexan in a hard metal frame can absorb quite a lot.  Think about this next time you are in a bank... see that plexiglass/lexan?  It will stop bullets.  Not too shabby for what is really just very dense floor wax molecules!  Remember, there is acrylic solvent that is used to bond many thinner bits into something thicker.

do not know that Lexan is actually a brand name of polycarbonate ...
Have band saw, drill press and a welder to frame it?

Another vehicle type that is overlooked is the minivan.  I loathe them, personally, but they are completely anonymous vehicles.  Totally vanilla!  There are lots out there, so it is like hiding a grain of sand on the beach.  Security through obfuscation.  Consider that these can carry a few adults with all the tools they need (sunscreen, pool noodles, of course) anywhere and not raise an eyebrow.

The reason minivans are on my list is because I scripted a simulated war game in Southern California at one point in my former career.  The good guys would storm the beach in AAAV vehicles while the dispersed enemy operated in... minivans.  The AAAV crews had issues crossing I-5 due to traffic.  The minivans and their crews WERE the traffic.  They roamed at will.  The AAAV crews had a poorly considered bump plan as the friction of war gnawed at their plans and order of battle.  The need to refuel became an Achilles heel.  FARP sites are not that hard to figure out where they can be.   It was the friction of war and it was in all honesty the red team gnawing at their plans.  They sure did not like what was set up for them as they road marched up to 29 Palms.  Choke points and minivans that seemed to fall back in waves, a defense in depth with a few AT-3 Malyutkas.  There may have even been a few 82mm mortars involved.  Then the V-22 element showed up.  Too bad for that part of the plan as well.  MANPADs and a few DSHK HMG in small pickups did the rest around the CA-62/I-10 split.  In that environment, the red team might have been scripted to use an IR blocking shroud, not unlike what Max Velocity has been developing.   The technology MVT is developing is light years ahead of the Taliban, who pulled off the BASTION attack.  Read that link in particular. 
 pickup car mounted with DShK machine gun – illustration

But I get ahead of myself.  We had to redo that exercise run a number of times until the BLUEFOR could get through.  When one considers the cost expenditure of each approach, REDFOR spanked BLUEFOR hard. 

But, as usual, I get ahead of myself.  We were talking about vehicles for a Sao Paulo type future.  While humble and ordinary on the outside, the objective vehicle will have enough comm gear to stay in touch with all your friends.  It will have enough space to stash all your "pool noodles" and "picnic baskets".  Most importantly, they operate at least in pairs and have a BUMP PLAN (see page 13, a BUMP PLAN in this context means having the space to pick up crews from an inoperable vehicle).  You will have made it durable enough to last, perhaps even hardened it a tad.  You might even add run flat tires like this to it:

Every group has a gearhead or two... they will know what you need to improve.... transmission coolers add capacity. Dual oil filters also add capacity and improved filtration. Remoting the battery to the trunk helps weight distribution.  LED lights are an inexpensive way to add longevity to your lighting as well.  There are many things that you can do, and do as a group to standardize.  This will help you keep things running after the future throws Americans a Brazilian bend.  Think ease of maintenance and durability over pretty much any other consideration.

Now, what DON'T I want after things get sporty?  Something with little ground clearance.  Something that requires premium gasoline.  Something with 2 seats.  Something rare or imported in small quantity.  Something in an oddball color.  You want something boring, common, with good bones.  And definitely something that you can afford to leave in a burning heap someplace.  After all, it is just a car.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you completely about driving a boring/blend in kind of vehicle. I've been telling people this for years now. Even if you can afford a shiny new red corvette, resist the temptation! If you can't resist temptation, be prepared to avoid large portions of most major cities after dark. The vehicle I drive is almost exactly like your description above. My rule is I don't want any vehicle I can't comfortably sleep in, at least for a few nights. Do you have a particular brand of tire you think is tougher/more durable than others?

Partyzantski said...

Anonymous @ 1032,

Tires are an interesting subject. They are given little respect, although a mere few patches of rubber are all that keep you on the road.
Brand is not so much an issue these days as it once was. You will find excellent tires made by major manufacturers that bear the logos of other companies on them, so please understand where I am coming from on this.
My advice to all is to buy the best quality tire that you can afford to. There are some run flat designs out there that won't break the bank. You bring up a good point, I think I'll use your comment to build a post around this.
Take care of your tires, and your tires will take care of you!

Linda Smith said...

Had to laugh - 3 years ago I acquired 3 teenagers (and all their gear) so at 67 yrs old became the owner of a minivan. I've grown to love it. There's room for everything & it's a very boring gold color. Talk about blending in - I still lose my van in parking lots! Thanks for an interesting read; nice to find someone grounded in reality.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 10:32 here. I agree tires are super important. In my younger days, I would foolishly allow my tires to go nearly bald, not smart. The vehicle I drive is a newer economy SUV, I'm tempted to put small truck tires on after the dealer tires wear out. They put very nice touring tires on it at the dealership. They ride great, but don't seem too tough.

Partyzantski said...

Linda Smith,

As you know with teenagers, its not the initial purchase, it's the upkeep!
Perhaps something unobtrusive, like an antenna "jack" ball might help. I went for the full stealth route and just try to park at ends of rows near a landmark, makes my life easier.
I have to say, a gold colored minivan might as well be an F-117 Stealth Fighter for drawing attention! Excellent choice!

Partyzantski said...

Anon @1032,

We have all been there on bald tires. Thank God those days are past us. Rotating all the tires and the spare seem to get me 10k more miles out of a set, so the effort is definitely worth it.

I leave the black sidewalls on the outside of the wheel and try not to nudge curbs. That tends to bend steering gear and hurts alignment & balance.

Inflate a spare in a can is nice to have, but in Summer those cans can rupture. What a mess!

Anonymous said...

Another thing I've learned as I've gotten older, is the importance of keeping the gas tank full. I rarely let my tank get much below a quarter empty. I wish my vehicle had dual tanks.