Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Installment 4.8: Chopping at the roots

That evening...after Cali forces converged on I-5 south of Sacramento....

Trucks pulling trailers came to a stop beneath many of the bridges between the Bay Area and Sacramento.  Like much of the heavy infrastructure in the Old United States, the bridges had been built over a fifty year period.  During that time a multitude of materials and techniques came-and-went, driven as much by fashion as anything else.

After due consideration, the military planners for SD-LA decided that the Achilles heel for most of the bridges were the concrete columns that supported the spans.

Most of the bridges had steel spans that flexed.  That flexing allowed them to survive torqueing dynamics of the frequent earthquakes.  Steel is very hard to cut with non-military grade explosives.  SD-LA was using AN-FO which was a medium strength explosive.  It simply lacked the intensity to reliably cut steel, however it had more than enough brisance to shatter concrete.

Furthermore, steel structures are easy to repair.  Steel is ductile and the fractured regions are clearly defined.  The damaged structure can be lifted back into position with a crane and braces can be welded across the fractures.

Concrete is brittle and not easily repaired.  A concrete element that is broken must be replaced or the entire span is compromised.

The planners knew that they did not have the resources to guarantee that all 146 spans that were targeted would be destroyed.  It would be enough if twenty percent of them were destroyed as long as it was the right twenty percent and if Cali responded by diverting resources to protect the remaining bridges.
A section through the "hamburger". Pink "meat" is AN-FO.  Blue is pallet.  Gray are sandbags or concrete depending on severity of the drop.

Each trailer held four pallets.  The pallets were connected to ramped skids with a well-greased pin.  Atop each pallet was a “hamburger”.  The top and bottom of the buns were both 240 pounds of sandbags.  The meat was about fifty pounds of ANFO (Ammonium Nitrate - Fuel Oil medium grade explosive).  The “meat” was not centered between the buns.  It was offset toward one side, the side that would be closest to the concrete column after the ropes were cut and gravity pulled the pallet slid off the launching ramp.
A top view of the "hamburger".  Red and Green lines represent aiming lights.

After weeks of night-time practice the crews settled on a “two light” system.  One member of the unload crew was at the front of the pallet and had a narrow beam, red flashlight and he snapped it into clips embedded along the front top edge.  The other skidder had a green light and he snapped it into clips aligned with the center of the pallet.  The truck driver positioned about four feet off the row of columns and crept forward while watching his outside, rearview mirror.  He started pressing on the brake when he saw the targeted column lit by the red light and stopped the vehicle when he first started to see the front of the column lit by the green.

The skidders removed their lights and yanked the pins holding the pallets on the "launch rails".  The driver eased forward to the next target after he heard the pallet hit the ground.

It was important to be at least four feet from the column.  Practice runs had shown that the pallets could wedge between the trailer wheels and the column if the trailer was too close.

The skidders yelled at the families camping beneath the bridges.  They warned them away in both Spanish and English.

Most families fled.  A few were too lazy to leave.  Some took the opportunity to loot the belongings of those who left.  One man was prying boards from the pallet when the "hamburger" detonated.

Darwin may occasionally go on vacation but there is hell to pay when he comes back.  Everybody who failed to vacate the spaces beneath the bridges died.
The detonating ANFO is mass-reacted by the surrounding sandbags or concrete.  A wide, flat jet of explosive force lances out from the edge of the exposed ANFO.

Bridges that crossed rivers received special attention.  Rivers are natural choke points.  The tactical difficulty presented by bridges across rivers is that the concrete columns are inaccessible making it necessary to attack the actual horizontal span.

This was done by turning the “hamburgers” on their edges with the meat of the hamburger, the AN-FO explosive, pointed downward.  The cutting jet would fan out and downward.

The planners attempted to cut the span in two places so a segment would drop into the river.  That would deprive the other side the easy fix of winching up one end and welding it back into place.

Tunnels were also attacked.  In this case the hamburgers were turned on the edge and the meat was biased upward with the plane of the meat aligned with the axis of the tunnel.  The goal was to cut through “hoop” of the wall and let the water pressure collapse the tunnel, something a circumferential cut would not achieve.  Like the bridges, the planners planned two breaches of each tunnel to complicate the repair.

The interest rate of the benchmark 10yr Cali bonds rose to 7.8% as the scope of the attacks on the infrastructure became apparent in the light of the morning.  The cost of repairing the damage ran into the billions as did the cost of "lost work" to the economy.  The 7.8% was just short of the 8% that would have triggered McDevitt’s and the Cartel’s CDOs.

Bona-Brown was pounding his fist on the conference room table with little effect.  The three inch, granite slab silently absorbed the blows.  It only made Bona-Brown’s mood worse.

“What do you mean, ‘They all no-bid the work?’” He demanded.

Cali’s Minister of the Interior was sweating.  “We put out a Request for Quote to repair the damage from the most recent attacks and all of our usual suppliers and contractors acknowledged the RFQ and declined to bid on the work.”

“And did they tell you why they chose to ‘no bid’?” Bona-Brown asked with menace in his voice.

“As a matter of fact they did.  They said that Cali is now considered to be embroiled in a civil war…”  the Minister of the Interior held up his hands defensively as Bona-Brown bristled “Their words, not mine.  And they said that they cannot risk their assets.  They did, however, offer to sell them to us.”

“Well, where the hell are those ‘assets’?” Bona-Brown asked rhetorically.

“Umm, they refused to accept Callors and demanded hard-currency, preferably US dollars, Chinese yuan or Euros.” the Minister deflected.

“Did you tell them that we can simple confiscate their equipment?  Did you think to mention that little fact?” Bona-Brown belittled his subordinate.  Frankly, he found most of them dumber than a rock.

“Yes sir, I did.  And to a man they replied that they could not stop us.  They also pointed out that most of the equipment is leased from major, international corporations and confiscating the equipment…they used the term ‘stealing’…would have major repercussions.  At a minimum we would be cut off from all parts needed to maintain that equipment and we would quickly run out of concrete and re-bar.” the Minister replied.

“Dammit!  We need that equipment.  Spirochete, cut loose the money needed to buy the damned supplies and equipment.  I shouldn’t have to deal with micro issues like this.” Bona-Brown fumed.

Spirochete’s eyebrows shot up.  One of the factors that underpinned the stabilization of the Callor, that is, stopped the rampant inflation, were strict controls on capital flight.  In particular, it was very difficult to get hard currency out of Cali. 

Unless, of course, you were a member of Bona-Brown’s inner circle.  But even they learned to be a bit less greedy.  They were extracting tens of billions of US dollars a year, not trillions of dollars a year.  They subscribed to the belief that “Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered.”

Spirochete knew better than to contradict Bona-Brown in public.  He merely stated, “Those international corporations are going to want to repatriate the money.  Are we going to let them?”

Bona-Brown frowned.  “They got us over a fucking barrel.  Just do it!” 

And the matter was closed.

“The next item on the agenda is the purchase of military hardware.” the clerk announced.

DeTroy Williams had been demoted to bus driver.  He had been replaced by Larry Dascher a career military officer who had graduated from West Point.

Bona-Brown glared at him.  “What do you need?”

The officer was not intimidated by Bona-Brown.  “We found work-arounds for the loss of the helicopters.  We figured out ways to unmask the stealth features of the mortars. We have enough buses and other equipment.  What we lack are self-propelled artillery to counterbattery the mortars.”

“How much?  How many? How long?” Spirochete asked.

“We need Soviet era 2S1 Godzillas.  They can be had for $400,000 US each.  You can get them cheaper but they will not be running or have computerized fire control systems.  We need 100 of them along with 122mm ammo, which we do not have in inventory and we need spare parts to keep them running.  It is ten days to ship from Vladivostok to San Francisco.  We can be unloading them twelve days after you cut the check.” Larry Dascher said.

The actual name of the mobile artillery was 2S1 Gvozdika which was Russian for “Carnation” but Dascher was enough of a salesman to realize that “Godzilla” sounded like far more intimidating than “Carnation”.

“Turn-key, how much?” Spirochete persisted.

“One hundred million, US.” Dascher responded.

Spirochete winced.

Bona-Brown said, “Do it.  We can balance the budget by freezing all the food ration cards in the rebel areas.”  Nobody pointed out that cancelling the food ration cards was a meaningless gesture.  SoCal was a net producer of food while northern Cali was a net importer.  Besides, domestic food production made no demands on foreign reserves.

The meeting was adjourned.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Readers who are willing to comment make this a better blog. Civil dialog is a valuable thing.