The Three Amigos (Collaborative TL Between Joe Bonkers, TheMann, and isayyo2)

The Legacy of the Legends: The Middle East War, Part 6

By the time the Iranians re-entered the Wars of the Middle East in June 1996, the situation for the Saudis and Iraqis had become a desperate one. Both sides were continuing to try to export oil (though this had become extremely dangerous for ships of other flags, leading to few tankers being willing to go anywhere near the Red Sea or Persian Gulf) but the war efforts of both nations were a pretty much hopeless cause owing to their two largest foreign suppliers of weapons - Russia and France - both being involved in the conflict. While both countries did their best to develop sanctions-busting techniques, it meant nothing for the weapons they needed most, namely aircraft and missiles. Both sides were continuing to make some weapons, but by this point they were having a hard time of this owing to the trade embargoes that both sides were trying to live with. These, of course, didn't matter a whit to any of the nations lined up against them - the Amigos, NATO, the Commonwealth, Iran, Israel - and it showed in one side being able to easily replace its losses. Both Saudi Arabia and Iran had vast numbers of weapons and soldiers who could use them, but they were burning through ammunition in a massive hurry, and the losses in their capabilities were substantial. Iraq made a an attempt to acquire aircraft from Kazakhstan that earned the ire of Moscow - and on an second attempt, the Russian Air Force intercepted some ten of these aircraft over the Caspian Sea, forcing them to divert to southern Russia. That ended such attempts, and companies in numerous countries were by mid-1996 learning the hard way about the consequences of attempting to break embargoes.

The Saudis' undisguised panic at the invasion of northwestern Saudi Arabia by Jordan and Israel led to a mad scramble to deploy units westwards, the House of Saud being absolutely sure the Hashemites would make an attempt to sweep down the west side of the Arabian Peninsula and take back the cities of Mecca and Medina. Countless zealot groups also believed this, including the infamous al-Qaeda group of millionaire construction magnate Osama bin Laden, and they also deployed to the areas around the holy cities to await the "Armageddon of the unbelievers" that they were sure was inevitable. In reality, Jordan and Israel both sought to end the war as rapidly as possible, and they (and by June 1996 they were fully engaged with several other countries in the region with regards to war goals and plans) felt that tying down tens of thousands of Saudi troops in area around Tabuk was likely to end the war more quickly. The rapid withdrawal from Iraq and Kuwait proved how true this point was almost certain to be, but the Iraqis' ability to take advantage of this had been shattered by the Iranian invasion. Saddam, left in a no-win situation, was forced to withdraw units north to face the Iranians attacking into Iraq proper. Saddam made a point of launching hundreds of Scud and Al-Hussein missiles at Iran in an attempt to forestall the inevitable, starting by firing on Iranian armed forces positions and, when that failed to do more than slow the Iranians down, Saddam began launching the Al-Husseins on Iranian cities, firing missiles as far as the Iranian capital of Tehran. The atrocious accuracy of the Al-Hussein made this little more than an attempt at terrorizing the Iranian population, and any possibility of the Iranians accepting limited victories over the Iraqis evaporated with the terror missile campaign.

On the night of June 28, 1996, five Al-Husseins were fired at the Iranian city of Esfahan, of which two were shot down by Iranian Army Patriot missile batteries and one slammed into a mountain west of the city, while the other two landed in an industrial zone north of the city, but it was soon found out that these missiles had warheads containing Sarin and Tabun. This knowledge quickly reached the desks of world leaders, and the result was the same from all of them - that would not be allowed to happen again. When Saddam made two more attempts at attacking civilian areas with chemical weapons on June 30 and July 3, the war got stepped up in a big way, courtesy not so much from Iran as from the United States.

On July 6, 1996, over fifty United States Air Force B-52J bombers took off from bases in the continental United States and flew all the way down the Mediterranean, who upon reaching over Jordan loosed over 350 cruise missiles at targets into Iraq. The massive air strikes were the first act of Operation Desert Storm, an operation that lasted just over 120 hours but saw co-ordinated air strikes by heavy bombers from the United States, Britain, Russia and Canada and strike aircraft from those nations as well as Iran, Israel, India, Mexico, France, Germany, Spain and Australia, with later operations seeing Japan, Vietnam, South Africa, Egypt, Italy and the Netherlands joining into the campaign. British and Canadian B-1Bs, escorted in by USAF "Wild Weasel" SEAD aircraft and Israeli fighters, introduced the Iraqis to the idea of bases being carpet bombed by bombers armed with JDAM bombs, while over 1000 attack aircraft - F-4s, F-15Es, F-16s, F/A-18s, A-6s, Tornados, Mirage 2000s and 4000s, Super Etendards, F-111s, TSR-2s, Su-24Ms, Su-30s - were involved in the attacks on Iraq. The attacks were so massive that Iraq's air force, already badly bloodied by the previous month's fighting with the Iranians, simply didn't have the aircraft or air defense weapons to even begin to counter the strike, and while their dramatically-overwhelmed air force made a desperate attempt to hold back the attacks, this accomplished little despite more than losing over 120 fighters in the space of just over 96 hours. Saddam's forces continued to fire ballistic missiles, and with the attacks on the country, there were multiple attempts to also attack the Iranians with bombs loaded with chemical weapons, despite the Iranian heavy units all using NBC-protected vehicles. The chemical Scud attacks also included firing on Israel, which led to Israel making a statement of their own on July 14, when they launched three Jericho II ballistic missiles armed with hard-target penetrator warheads on an Iraqi bunker complex in the middle of Baghdad, hitting the bunker directly with two of those missiles. Despite 50 feet of overhead earth and ten feet of reinforced concrete, the penetrator went into the bunker and detonated, killing everyone inside of it and turning the bunker's location into a pair of craters over one hundred and fifty feet across and fourty feet deep. The shot initially terrified much of the world - they felt that the strike may well have been a nuclear retaliation by the Israelis for Saddam's firing chemical weapons towards Israel - but the Israelis instead made a statement with the Jericho Mazkhalt (Mazkhalt roughly translating to 'Sledgehammer' in Hebrew), and Saddam fired no more chemical weapons on Israel, though he kept attempting to attack the Iranians with chemical weapons.

That continuation lasted only another few days, as by July 21 the air strikes had flattened all of the possible units that could deploy chemical weapons. By the end of July, though, the Iranians had a surprise of their own - unbeknownst to many, the Israelis and Iranians had been co-operating for years on the Jericho program, and while Iran's missiles had been scheduled for a 1997 delivery, in the aftermath of the attack by the Turks, Five Iranian missile batteries had trained in the shooting of the Jericho (the Israelis were surprised to discover that the Iranians had even created a first-class TEL for their missiles in a tractor-trailer unit) and Israel Aerospace Industries built an initial batch of 60 missiles for the Iranians. The first Iranian Jericho Battleaxe flew on July 22, armed with a 1000 kg conventional warhead, launched against an Iraqi military supply dump and fuel dump at Abu Gharib, northwest of Nasiriyah. The next day two more landed on Iraqi Navy's facilities on the Shatt al Arab, and one more day after that the 1st Corps HQ in Kirkuk ate another Jericho, this one killing two four-star Iraqi generals.

The destruction of the Iraqi Air Force hadn't been the biggest effect of Operation Desert Avenger, as the destruction of hundreds of Iraqi facilities during the bombing campaign had been matched by attacks of numerous logistics units and facilities, and the Iranian missile strikes had only made these problems worse. The new air superiority of the Iranians and their allies combined with logistics problems crippled the Iraqi war efforts. Having already cleaned up in the southern marshes and having cleared Basrah within a few days of the initial attack by the Iranians, the Iranian Army swung north, their armored units and huge artillery superiority adding to the damage done from the air to cripple the Iraqis. The Iranians captured the city of Nasiriyah on July 24, meeting units that had entered Iraq from launch points further north and then the whole army turning north. Iraqi units made multiple attempts at establishing defensive lines, each one being plastered by air power or Iranian artillery before they had a chance to fully form, and the vengeful Iranians made a point of destroying every piece of equipment they could, though they were much kinder to prisoners of war than many of the Iraqis expected.

Despite the huge effort and the threats posed by Iraqi missiles, the Iranian people were remarkably steadfast in their desire to finish off the Iraqis, not hurt by their country's being willing to put all they could on the line. Fuel was rationed for the first month (until improvements in the local oil refining and distribution systems allowed for this to be removed), many consumer goods were held off on in order to supply the armed forces and despite Tehran being willing to introduce conscription (and passing a law to enable this), it never needed to owing to there being a more than sufficient supply of volunteers. Iranian press were remarkably forthright on what happened in the war (both good and bad), Iran's industrial firms produced plenty of new equipment on their own and supply drives among the population gathered huge quantities of supplies for their soldiers. Reserve officers, some of whose service had been as far back as the 1960s, offered to return to the colours and lead their men, and the Iranians' well-known reputation for hospitality extended to foreign visitors as well, as foreign units . Even the Shah himself, who had qualified to fly the Tomcat and Viper in the 1980s, was able to get himself into the cockpit of a IRAF Tomcat and fly actual missions, something that had a marked positive effect on his popularity with his men. Iranian commanders, most of whom were trained in Britain or the United States, proved as a whole capable and effective leaders, and Iranian soldiers proved far better in pound for pound terms than their Iraqi rivals.

The success of Operation Desert Storm's crippling of the Iraqi Air Force and the Iranians' pushing through Iraq in July and August 1996 led to a gradual winding down of the allied air efforts, but this turned into merely an operational pause....something that became clear why on August 16, 1996.

Qatar's occupation by the Saudis had been anything but smooth, as the Commonwealth air forces - in particular the Indian Air Force - had harassed them to no end. But the slowdown of air operations in late July and early August 1996 had been a sign that something big was coming to observers, and while the Saudis had rushed units to stop the Israeli-Jordanian attack on Saudi Arabia and watched the blasting the allied nations brought down on the Iraqis, the Commonwealth had quietly pulled back a lot of its units to its Socotra, Israel, Cyprus, Lakshadweep, Mumbai, Diego Garcia and Zanzibar, with the Commonwealth carriers having withdrawn to Australia in April 1996 to plan for the amphibious invasion meant to make good on the Commonwealth's promises to liberate Qatar. The massive amphibious fleets of the Commonwealth gathered in Socotra and Mumbai to ready for an assault, and the operation gathered numerous support ships, ranging from the replenishment ships for the Navies all the way to numerous ships that had been requisitioned for support, famously including ocean liner SS Canberra and cruise ship MV Sovereign of the Seas, both of which were operating as troop ships. The operation also included British battleships Lion and Vanguard, operating together for the first time since their recommissioning in the mid-1980s, which famously fired the first shots of Operation Ascension on the early morning hours of August 16, their 16-inch guns firing on Saudi positions on the Qatari Peninsula. Both the battleships and numerous Canadian, British and Australian warships equipped with 155mm guns fired thousands of rounds of ammunition onto the shocked Saudi defenders, while carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth, HMCS Canadian Shield, HMAS Australia and INS Vikramaditya joined the Indian Air Force in countless air strikes on the Saudis. The Royal Saudi Air Force attempted to secure the air against amphibious assault but failed miserably at it, and while early landings were interdicted by artillery fire, the combination of air strikes, communications jamming and naval gunfire support finished off the Saudi artillery, allowing a flotilla of landing ships over thirty strong to land two complete divisions in Qatar. No sooner had the landings begun than a complete division of Canadian, British, Australian, South African and Indian airborne troops jumped into Qatar on their own, their attack aiming directly at the air base at Al Udeid, these units having dozens of attack helicopters and tiltwings for support.

The attack was a massive success, and it took just six days for the Saudi forces garrisoning Qatar to either run for their lives out of Qatar, be captured or be blown to bits by the giant amphibious and airborne assaults. Salwa Road between Abu Samra and Al-Kiranah became a scene of carnage as a massive convoy of Saudi defenders running for the Saudi border was bombed to bits by fighter-bombers from the carriers, hundreds of destroyed pieces of military equipment being mixed with in with hundreds of civilian vehicles carrying fleeing Saudi soldiers that had been looted from Qatari civilians. The landing of over three divisions of troops from the Commonwealth was followed rapidly by the arrival of heavy engineering crews to clear the docks at Doha, while in the meantime the successful airborne assault on Al Udeid resulted in the airfield being used as a vital supply station for aircraft of all shapes and sizes - even two Ukrainian An-225s, the largest jet aircraft ever built, made visits to the air base to help with supply efforts. The successful liberation of Qatar ended the Saudis' threats to the Persian Gulf and left it completely in allied hands, and Saudi units in coastal regions quickly got away from it to avoid attacks from the Sea. After the success in Qatar, the United States Army's 82nd Airborne Division was deployed to Dhahran and Ras Tanura, landing in the region from take-off points in southern Iran on August 27, capturing the vital supply facilities in the city almost completely intact, in part because of help from HMS Lion, the battleship's guns being used here as well. The 82nd Airborne took just over 36 hours to clear Dhahran and Ras Tanura and another three days to clear Jubail as well, gaining a wide foothold in northeastern Saudi Arabia.

The capture of Dhahran and Ras Tanura came the same day as the Iranians wiped out two Iranian Republican Guard divisions south of Abdali in northern Kuwait, ending the last possible line of resistance for the Iraqis now trapped in Kuwait. Four days later, the Iranian 21st Mountain and 88th Armored Divisions entered Kuwait City to a surprising jubilation from the Kuwaitis, and the day after that entry the commander of Iraqi Forces in Kuwait and southern Iraq surrendered to his Iranian counterpart, but in a highly-symbolic action (and meant to be a PR coup), the formal surrender of the Iraqi three-star General was done to Shah Reza Pahlavi II himself on September 10, 1996, who specifically flew to the Red Palace at Al Jahra to receive the Iraqis' surrender.

The surrender of the Iraqis allowed the Iranians to move up to the border with Saudi Arabia as far west as the Rafha border crossing, with Iranian infantry units being assigned to handle the security of this section of the border as the Al-Sabah Clan returned to their country - but not before making a point of meeting Shah Reza Pahlavi in Khorramshahr to express their sincere thanks to Iran for liberating their country. Indeed, while the predominantly-Shi'a Iranians and the predominantly-Sunni Kuwaitis had for some time been somewhat antagonistic towards each other, that relationship turned 180 degrees in the years after the liberation of Kuwait, with the Iranians growing to have a much better view of the Arabs of the smaller states of the Persian Gulf region and the Arabs gaining a considerable respect and admiration for the powerful, resourceful, intelligent Iranians. It was a similar story with the Commonwealth and Qatar, as the awe-inspiring assault on the Saudis who had taken over Qatar and who had managed to clear Qatar of the Saudis with remarkably little loss of innocent life - only five Qataris lost their lives in the amphibious assault - and stunning speed. Qatar formally made its application to join the Commonwealth at the meeting of the Commonwealth's heads of state in Jerusalem on October 22, 1996, and the Al Udeid and Sumaysimah bases becoming important transit points in the Middle East. As membership in the Central Commonwealth required a number of societal requirements (including a functional democracy and a wide collection of legally-enforceable civil rights) Qatar would be some way from the Central Commonwealth in 1996, it wouldn't remain that way for long. As with Kuwait, the Emirates, Bahrain and indeed Iran and the North African Arabs, the years after the Middle Eastern War would be marked by a steady increasing of civil and human rights in the region, and Qatar would ultimately join the Central Commonwealth as one of the new members in 2018.
The Legacy of the Legends: The Middle East War, Part 7

By the time the 82nd Airborne Division finished their clearing out of Dhahran, Jubail and Ras Tanura on September 2, 1996, the Saudis were very much in a no-win situation. With their Navy destroyed, the Saudis were finding getting supplies almost impossible, with their seaborne commerce reduced to almost nothing and their ability to supply their forces all but eliminated in most aspects, the Saudi Land Forces were digging in where they expected to be attacked. Perhaps not surprisingly considering the geography and their significance, the Saudis kept large portions of their forces focused on the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, even as their forces in the Northwest faced a bitter onslaught from the Israelis and Jordanians and the II Commonwealth Corps - led by Canadians, with British, Indian, Australian, Malaysian, New Zealander and Irish troops involved in the operation - steadily moved out of Qatar, aiming due West towards the crucial Ghawar oil field and the petrochemical industry city of Haradh. This would have involved going straight across the desert, but as part of their invasion of Qatar the Saudis had established additional serviceable roadways across the Desert, roadways followed by the Commonwealth as they entered the Kingdom. The Americans rapidly reinforced their operations at Ras Tanura and Dhahran in early September, aiming to use the massive port facilities there as a supply base and Saudi Highway 40 as a way to go to the Saudi Capital of Riyadh. With the flat, wide open terrain of the western half of the Kingdom, there was little that the Saudis could even conceive of doing to try to halt the giant invasions, but they made a real attempt at doing so in any case, garrisoning Haradh and Al Hofuf and Judah and Urajarah along Highway 40, knowing their enemies were going to be coming in that direction.

But neither the Americans or Commonwealth had any intention of playing like the Saudis figured they would. With complete control of the air and the use of GPS down to company level, the units of the allied armies could - and did - co-ordinate ways of encircling the Saudi forces, who even at their strongpoints where grossly outnumbered, particularly on the Commonwealth side. The Saudis were to find out that their T-80s were simply no match for M1 Abrams, Challenger 2 and Leopard 2 tanks of the allied forces, and their frequent use of cheap steel penetrator rounds on their tanks didn't help, as these simply didn't have the power to punch through the armor of the Commonwealth armor - while some tungsten penetrator rounds were available to the beleaguered Saudi tankers, they simply didn't have the ammo supply for all of their forces. Showing just how far they had taken the expend things rather than people ethos, both huge movements brought with them vast amounts of 105mm, 155mm and 203mm self-propelled artillery and rockets with which to plaster targets from a distance with frightening accuracy. With the Russians' knowledge and approval, a number of American GLCM launchers for Tomahawks followed their troops to Saudi Arabia, with the objective of the cruise missiles being used a strategic weapon against the Saudis, and armored mortar vehicles and wheeled gun vehicles followed the infantry units for support, while in the ambush-prone regions of Saudi Arabia the supply vehicles all got armoring and mine-proofed vehicles came out to deal with the prospect of ambushes, IEDs and minefields. The 155mm M982 "Excalibur" and 203mm M984 "Thor's Hammer" GPS-guided rounds made field artillery a capable weapon for strategic strikes, something the Saudis began to learn the hard way.

The result spoke for themselves. Saudi air force fighters did their best to handle air support for their own troops but found that almost impossible thanks to Allied fighters and AWACS, and the liberal use of SEAD aircraft, usually F-4s, F-16s or Tornados, meant Saudi air defense systems prime targets and air control radars for fighters rarely lived long before a HARM or ALARM missile found them. The Indian Air Force's Su-30MKI fighters proved particularly capable here, the Russian-developed Indian-built two-seat strike fighter proving the equal of just about anything the allies had, aside from the Americans' awesome F-22 Raptor, which simply had no equals. The first big battle of the move inland was the Commonwealth units facing off against the Royal Saudi Land Forces' 11th Mechanized Brigade to the south and east of Al Hofuf, the first shots in that battle kicking off on September 11, 1996, that battle kicking off with more of the massive air attacks that characterized the invasions of the Saudi Kingdom, before the Canadian 1st Armored Division slugged it out with the Saudis, taking just over 18 Hours to destroy the brigade and reinforcements sent to it, resulting in the city falling to the Canadians and British on September 16. The day after that, the first Commonwealth units opened up on Haradh, with the Indian 50th Parachute Brigade and the Australian 16th Aviation Brigade jumping into the locations around the Haradh Gas Plant and several other key facilities, overwhelming the Saudi defenders and capturing the facilities almost intact, while the Australian 1 Armored Brigade and 2 Cavalry Brigade, their brand-new Leopard 2AU tanks leading the way, first plastered the Saudis with a vast series of artillery barrages before rolling right over them, the 1st New Zealand Brigade riding alongside their Australian comrades. The successful attacks on Haradh and Al Hofuf took the Ghawar Field out of the equation for the Saudis, adding to their existing supply problems.

But it was at the end of September that the Saudis faced their greatest nightmare.

Since the beginning of armed conflict in the Middle East, the Western allies had been arranging ways to get more of the Muslim world on their side. In truth, this hadn't proven particularly difficult, namely due to the poor reputation the Saudis and Iraqis had in the Middle East. Much of North Africa's Arabs had little good to say about either, but the War and invasion of Jordan by Saudi Arabia had been a key point where the tables turned, with the key lynchpin being Egypt. Once the greatest enemy of the West in the Middle East, Egypt had swung 180 Degrees in later times, as Anwar Al-Sadat, who led Egypt from 1970 until 1988, had recognized that the Soviet Union was a dead end for development support, and had seen others who provided funds, supplies, equipment and technical support for the developing world and went that way. The Treaty of Asheville had been the turning point, as Egypt, a signatory of the Treaty, saw itself with the ability to access vast Western support and it had taken it. This had also resulted in Egypt's shifting to democratic rule in the late 1980s, as Sadat passed power to his chosen successor, Hosni Mubarak, who had been elected as Egypt's President in April 1988. Mubarak had been re-elected in 1992, but he had lost the 1996 elections to Mohamed El Baradei and his Constitution Party, and had gone peacefully, with the elections judged by observers as fair and impartial. Egypt's political scene was raucous at the best of times but it was doing the job of getting the country's advancement moving, and after his success in 1996, El Baradei had sought out President Heinz, with both him and Mubarak wanting to have a part of the destruction of the Saudis, who had in all three elections openly funded the despised Muslim Brotherhood - which after having been decisively defeated in the 1988 and 1992 elections had made real attempts at disrupting the 1996 ones. By 1996, the improvements in their standards of living from Sadat and Mubarak, the loud freedom calls from El Baradei and the peace of the Middle East after the Treaty of Asheville had combined with the campaigns of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1994 and 1995 followed by their attempt to cause trouble during the 1996 elections had made for Egyptian society wanting to see the Brotherhood and their Wahhabi backers ground into dust. Far from expectations of the Saudis (and fears of the West), the invasion of Saudi by the Jordanians and Israelis had been seen as a positive by most Egyptians, some even asking in Egypt's parliament how "The Middle East's most powerful nation" had had to "delegate the duties of destroying the Islamists to the Jordanians and Israelis?" But what those parliamentarians didn't know then - because El Baradei had wisely kept his cards close to his chest here - that Cairo wanted a bigger job, and on October 2, 1996, they got it. Big time.

On that date, the United States Marine Corps' II Marine Expeditionary Force and Mexico's 3rd Marine Brigade made its arrival in the region, landing troops in Jeddah, with three aircraft carriers and three battleships providing support for the landings. The two Saudi brigades stationed there, including the famous 4th "King Fahd" Armored Brigade, wilted under the naval assault, and it got worse for the Saudis when tank landing ships of both the American and Egyptian Navies, dock landing ships and Ro-Ros arrived in Jeddah, allowing the Egyptian 6th Armored Division and 33rd and 35th Republican Guard Armored Brigades to land in Saudi Arabia right behind the American and Mexican Marines, their recently-acquired M1A1 Abrams and rebuilt M60A4E "Ramses IV" tanks ready to rock and roll. This was followed by the 7th and 16th Mechanized Divisions just as quickly as ships and airplanes could deliver their equipment, as well as the Egyptians' special forces Corps, basically sending the best they had to Saudi Arabia.

This was for a reason - the Egyptian units were there for the capture of the holy cities.

Everyone involved knew that Mecca and Medina were sites sacred to all Muslims, and the fear of reprisals from the Faithful had kept air attacks mostly well clear of the holy cities and had originally been something the West desired not to have to go anywhere near. But as the Saudis dug in around the holy cities in spring 1996, it was clear that that wasn't going to happen, and that taking them was going to have to be done sooner or later. This was where Cairo came in - and for El Baradei and indeed the vast majority of Egyptians, the possibility of "liberating the Holy Cities from their oppressors" was a powerful incentive to get into the conflict. Knowing what was asked of them, the Egyptians responded with gusto, and after getting organized in Jeddah, on October 8, 1996, the Egyptians began marching southeast from Jeddah, headed for Mecca, which was only 70 kilometres away.

This sent the Saudis into a panic. Already having to rebuild defenses destroyed by the losses of Al Hofuf and Haradh and wanting to keep the Westerners as far away from Riyadh as possible, the Saudi units guarding areas west of Riyadh were quickly raced towards Taif and Al Kabeer, though in the process they faced almost constant air interdiction and attacks on roadways and tunnels meant to slow their progress down. The units assigned to the defense of Mecca also quickly formed perimeters, and Riyadh quickly sent messages to terrorist groups around the world to go after the Egyptians. Within 36 Hours of this, the Egyptians were facing problems with the Muslim Brotherhood, which did little except harden the Egyptian resolve. The march to Mecca took barely over a day, and on the morning of October 11, the fight for Mecca began. Well remembering the infamous Grand Mosque Seizure in 1979, residents of Mecca fled the city in all directions, most of them wisely fleeing eastward towards Taif and into the mountains and southwards along the coast. The Egyptian Air Force and their supporters in the air took extreme caution to not target holy sites, but there proved to be problems with this as Saudi infantry units were quick to do just that, most infamously at the vast Grand Mosque in Mecca. Egyptian armor made short work of their undersupplied Saudi counterparts, but Saudi infantry was a tougher nut to crack, though the number of civilians who had fled the city did help matters, though the number of armed militiamen who supported the Saudi infantry most certainly did not. The Egyptians got around many of these problems though the use of clever tactics, such as having tanks follow the infantry, helicopters inserting troops onto building rooftops, liberal use of flashbangs and stun devices and shorter-range weapons such as carbines, submachine guns and shotguns.

Despite the Saudis' fanaticism, the Egyptian numbers and total control of the areas around Mecca as well as the air above it made the end result inevitable, and on October 19, 1996, the Egyptian Army finally cleared the last of the Saudi Land Forces out of the holy city, and thankfully did so without causing serious harm to many of the holy sites, most of all the Grand Mosque and the Kaaba, which were almost entirely undamaged, despite Saudi artillery firing into areas around it. The Egyptians' victory was widely celebrated in Egypt itself as well as in many other areas of the Middle East, and on October 24 El Baradei, Mubarak and Sadat all visited their troops in Mecca, the images of the three Egyptian Presidents praying side by side with their men at the Grand Mosque making headlines around the Middle East and indeed much of the world.

If the fall of Mecca was a massive moral victory, what happened just over two weeks later had much more of an effect, when a group of Iraqi Army officers assassinated Saddam Hussein in his command bunker outside of Baghdad on November 6, 1996, the assassination the result of a well-placed bomb inside the bunker. The following morning both of his sons were gunned down by troops led by those defiant officers, a collection of colonels and brigadiers who were loudly demanding an end to the ruinous war with Iran, and with the Iranians by then just 50 kilometres from Baghdad and over two-thirds of the Iraqi armed forces having been destroyed in combat with the Western allies, Saudi Arabia and Iran, it was clear to the plotters that they needed to negotiate a peace with Iran, pointing out that the Iranians had by then developed a massive numerical and qualitative superiority over them and that continuing to fight was just ensuring the destruction of the Iraqi nation. The news of the coup, which was after a chaotic start supported by support from Iran, Israel and the West, quickly resulted in a number of changes in Iraq's leadership. With the feared former order being attacked by its own people, within three days of Saddam's death the people of Iraq, long since tired of fighting for the Ba'ath Party leadership, turned on them en masse, supported by their troops. Within two weeks, the party's officials had all fled or been killed by their own people. Saddam's cousin, the infamous Ali Hassan "Chemical Ali" Al-Majid, got probably the worst fate of all, as he and his son were discovered by a mob in Tikrit attempting to go to ground, and both of them were brutally lynched by their own people, strung from telephones with electrical wire after being beaten nearly to death. On November 17, the provisional Iraqi government surrendered unconditionally to the Allies, with a desire that they keep Iran on a short leash - the predominantly Sunni Iraqi provisional government was still fearful of the mostly-Shi'a Iranians. They would be happy to discover that the Iranians were by that point much more interested in ending the conflict as quickly as possible than continuing to exact revenge on people who had had little to do with Saddam's aggression against them.

The end of Saddam and the Ba'ath Party brought dramatic changes to Iraq, as the Iranians demanded it. They demanded the Kurdish region of northern Iraq be allowed to join Kurdistan if they wished (this was decided in a plebiscite in April 1998, and a sizable chunk of Iraq joined the formerly-Turkish regions of Kurdistan on January 1, 1999) and a representative democracy be established in Iraq, as well as allow international investigations into all Iraqi weapons programs, including the destruction of all WMD sites and capabilities. The obvious aspect of a representative democracy in Iraq - with the Kurdish section gone, the country's population was now roughly 70% Shi'a, in a country that had always been governed by a Sunni elite - was a turn towards Iran by the new Iraqi governments. That suited the West just fine, particularly with Iran in the process not only becoming Iraq's largest benefactor but in the process becoming the primary power of the region, its reach stretching across not only the small states to its west and northwest but rapidly also extending across the former Soviet Republics of Central Asia. Iraq would rapidly want as little to do with its Ba'athist past as it could, and with the ability to export oil now without question, Iraq would have a powerful path forward in its future.

The end of the Iraqis predated the Saudis by a mere few weeks. King Fahd died of a second stroke on October 28, 1996, and six days later the newly-enthroned King Abdullah was assassinated by a Islamist as the Islamists long tolerated by the House of Saud began to turn on the state after the loss of Mecca. For their part, the Americans and Mexicans who had landed at Jeddah gave Mecca a wide pass - the Egyptians had that situation well in hand, and their performance genuinely impressed the Americans and Mexicans - instead focusing on the city of Taif to the southeast of Mecca, beginning their assault on it on October 26, the same day the II Commonwealth Corps began their assault on Al Kharj, the city that anchored the south end of the line of communities centered on the Saudi capital of Riyadh. While this happened, the Egyptians strengthened their hold on Mecca and the Jordanians and Israelis strengthened their hold on coast of the Gulf of Aqaba and Tabuk, and all began to come under increasing attack from a number of Islamist militias, the largest being the Al-Qaeda Group of multimillionaire Osama bin Laden.

Both the American attack on Taif and the Commonwealth on Al-Kharj showed just how serious the problems the Saudis faced really were. Their supplies depleted and air support non-existent, in Taif the Saudis had forced the Americans to dig them out of the city's edges, while in Al-Kharj Saudi artillery was strangely silent during approach marches only for it to become clear that the Saudis, clearly understanding that their T-72 and T-80 tanks couldn't begin to punch through Commonwealth units, were using their Soviet 152mm and French 155mm artillery guns as anti-tank weapons, which in some cases did indeed work, something the British 2nd Royal Tank Regiment and the Canadian Fort Garry Horse both found out the hard way - 152mm and 155mm shots claimed over two dozen of the awesome Challenger 2 tanks both were using. Despite this, in both cases the desperation tactics had some effect but not nearly enough. Al Kharj fell to the Commonwealth on October 30, while Taif held out for another three days. The taking of Al Kharj put the Commonwealth within 90 kilometres of Riyadh, and it was expected by all involved that the Commonwealth would swing north and attempt to do just that, though after the taking of Al-Kharj and expecting trouble, Commonwealth units focused on building up forces in the areas around Al Kharj, expecting the taking of the big city of Riyadh to be a vast challenge. The deaths of King Fahd and King Abdullah, however, threw the Saudi forces into disarray, with units sent to protect Riyadh turning on each other starting on the morning of November 16. The following day, after a full day of nasty fighting, the survivors of two Saudi infantry battalions fled south to Al Kharj and surrendered to the Commonwealth forces, in the process giving the Commonwealth all of the details of the capital's defense.

The Saudis would learn of this on November 21, when American, Commonwealth and Israeli attackers began massive air strikes against the Saudi positions in the city. Their disarray causing a breakdown in communications that proved crippling, on the morning of November 25 the Commonwealth's paratroops landed again, this time directly onto King Abdul Aziz airport in Riyadh, while the American 75th Ranger Regiment and 101st Airborne also deployed to the north side of Riyadh and the American units on Highway 40, given a clear road by the Saudi pullback to Riyadh, raced from Sa'ad to the outskirts of the city, a distance of some 75 kilometres, in just over four hours, a cavalry charge led by the M1A2 Abrams tanks of the American 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and the Mexican 2nd Armored Division. The Saudis, stunned by these quickly shifted positions to suit, leaving the south of the city open, an opening that the Canadians, led by the famed Lord Strathcona's Horse and 2nd Ontario Armored, the former with a history going back to the North American War and the latter being the descendants of the majority-Jewish 2nd Royal Toronto Armored Regiment that famously took Hamburg from the Nazis in 1944, ably took advantage of.

Led by their armored spearheads and wanting to make sure the urban warfare of earlier battles wasn't repeated, charged into the city with the goal of shocking the Saudis into fleeing and running. This tactical had successful, sparing much of the city from the worst of the fighting. The Saudi King's Guardians Regiments held and fought in the center of the city, but these mechanized infantry units were simply overpowered by the incoming Allied units, with the American and Mexican attackers from the east able to link up with the Commonwealth airborne units and the Canadian charge followed by a veritable flood of other following Commonwealth units, the Commonwealth units making a point of moving around the city's south and southwest, aiming to prevent escape by the units trying to escape Riyadh. The ferocity of the battle meant that a battle expected to take weeks lasted just over 72 Hours, with the Saudis surrendering by noon on November 28.

The Fall of Riyadh was the last straw for the House of Saud. Those who escaped Riyadh fled the country in a big hurry, usually heading first for Yemen and then for Africa, though those who had been deeply involved in the fight quickly were picked up by a vast number of dragnets. The Saudi government's collapse resulted in a rather messier situation in the country, though members of pro-Western Saudi opposition groups - which by 1996 were considerable - quickly moved to consolidate power. While in the short term the various countries which owned territory quickly established civil order and military police jurisdictions over the territories they held, these groups were almost always in constant communication with each other. One of the most prominent of the Saudi dissidents well-known to the West, former university professor Doctor Abdul Waahid el-Amini, would be the best organizer of an effective government in the country, and with the fleeing of the House of Saud, large chunks of the remaining Royal Saudi Land Forces soon began seeking to surrender. The last of these units surrendered to the Egyptians south of Medina on December 16, 1996, ending the active war portion of the Middle East War at long last.

The war may have been over, but 1997 and 1998 would be taken up for both units established in the new Arabian Federal Republic defeating their first real problem - the collection of militias and extremist groups long courted by the House of Saud. These groups proved most troublesome in Saudi Arabia and proved a much more long-lasting problem in Arabia than they did in Turkey or Iraq, though by mid-1998 much of their strength had been sapped. Learning lessons from previous operations, the new Republic was the ultimate authority for operations in the Republic, and was given the ability to call up units of other nations stationed in the country if they felt it was necessary. By the millennium this didn't happen often due to the growing strength and legitimacy of the Federal Republic, and with Doctor el-Amini winning the first elections for the Arabian Federal Republic's government, held on August 26, 1997. Over time, the raucous politics of the Egyptians made their way to Arabia, and the images of the House of Saud disappeared rapidly. Those members of the House of Saud uninvolved with the government of the country were granted amnesty by the new government in March 1998, and one of these, Adila bint Abdullah Al Saud, one of the late King Abdullah's daughters, was elected to the nation's parliament in elections in 2005, but the House of Saud would never again be able to make the nation their own like before. While a societally-conservative nation in general, like its neighbors Saudi Arabia would make vast progress in the fields of human rights and equality under Doctor el-Amini and his successor, Mansour Baasid al-Makirah, who took over from el-Amini when he suffered a stroke in June 2006 as was forced to resign from the office of the Prime Minister of the Arabian Federal Republic.


Monthly Donor
Well, there goes the Baathists and the House of Saud.

Of course, I have a bad feeling that OBL is out for revenge.

PS: Just to clarify, does the AFR control all of the former Saudi Arabia, or are some parts till under occupation? And I presume Jordan is taking over the parts up to Tabuk
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Well, there goes the Baathists and the House of Saud.
Yep, and good fucking riddens.
Of course, I have a bad feeling that OBL is out for revenge.
He will be for sure. Exactly what happens yet we haven't quite entirely figured out yet.
PS: Just to clarify, does the AFR control all of the former Saudi Arabia, or are some parts till under occupation? And I presume Jordan is taking over the parts up to Tabuk
The very northeast corner, basically a line from Duba to Tabuk, and then a straight line from there to the border, is going to Jordan. The small section between Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (including the communities of Al Batha and Alkwifriah and the Ras Abu Gamys peninsula) is ceded to Qatar. Everything else is part of the AFR. There will be occupiers there for a few years yet, but that's only until the AFR is stable enough to handle its own security.

Ultimately the Commonwealth will have the naval and air base in Qatar and the United States will built a major air base in the AFR, located at the former Prince Sultan Air Base in Al Kharj, which will be expanded to four runways with 4000-metre runways.


Monthly Donor
Hopefully, the Gulf States progress further than in OTL, especially Qatar. Perhaps Dubai may instead focus on more sustainable projects that would still revitalize that city.

Also, are the Indian battlecruisers ex-Soviet Kirovs, or perhaps were former RN vessels passed on after Independence?
Hopefully, the Gulf States progress further than in OTL, especially Qatar.
They will. Remember what was said at the end of Part 6 of the Middle East War - Qatar eventually becomes a member of the Central Commonwealth, and membership in that elite group requires not only economic progress, but also major progress in civil and human rights and a democratically-elected government. Qatar began heading in that direction the moment the first British, Canadian, Indian and Australian troops set foot in Doha in August 1996, and like with Singapore, the progress will be slow but steady, to the point where Qatar eventually becomes a major desert oasis in the Middle East.
Perhaps Dubai may instead focus on more sustainable projects that would still revitalize that city.
A certainty, particularly since in this world they will be competing for investment and support money with a bunch of other countries in the region - Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Arabia itself.
Also, are the Indian battlecruisers ex-Soviet Kirovs, or perhaps were former RN vessels passed on after Independence?
The Indian battlecruisers are indeed Kirovs. India bought three of them along with a bunch of other vessels - two Slava-class cruisers, five Udaloy-class destroyers, the three Ivan Rogov-class landing ships and the SSV-33, as well as the license to build Improved Kilo and Akula class submarines. All of the ex-Russian ships are get through refits before they enter Indian Navy service, but the overall objective is that the Kirovs are a combination of battle group leaders in their own right and when escorting a carrier are the chief escort of it. The Slavas are support vessels for the Indian Navy's amphibious assets (including the Ivan Rogovs of course, but the Indians are building their own amphibious ships as well), the SSV-33 is a command ship for such operations and the Udaloys are carrier anti-submarine escorts, while the Indian Navy is developing its own anti-aircraft escort vessels. In the process of the submarine fleet buildup the Indians also built two submarine tenders to a modified Emory S. Land design (primarily modified to allow fuel transfer to a submarine as well as all of the other services a tender can provide), and the Indian Navy has a sizable collection of resupply ships, all of which by the 1990s are either built in India or had one or two pattern vessels built in a foreign shipyard before additional vessels are built there.

After being a critical player in the Middle East War, the Indian Navy will soon be showing up all over the place. One particularly-big example will be the review of the fleets for Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee in 2002, and seeing an Indian Navy ship show up in Norfolk or Halifax or Portsmouth or San Diego will soon not be a horribly-uncommon occurrence, but it won't be long before Mumbai and Kochi and Visakhapatnam become regular ports of call for American, Mexican and Commonwealth vessels as well....
The Decadent Times, Part 1

The surrender of the final units of the Saudi Land Forces on December 16, 1996, became known as a day when a true 'Age of Possibilities' for so much of the world began. Having seen among the last of the USSR's legacy vanquished from the Earth, the victorious world immediately began its efforts to ensure the peace won at such a massive cost in Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe over the previous decade would never, ever be squandered. It began in March 1997, when the newly re-elected President John Heinz welcomed his Russian counterpart, Alexander Rutskoy, for a massive state visit. Rutskoy, a decorated Air Force pilot and something of a pragmatist, had been responsible for Russia's involvement in the Middle East War, which had been good for Russia in that it both gave them capital to deal with the West and scored one of the victories that the Russian people desperately needed. The 1990s hadn't been kind to them, and while Rutskoy and his allies were working to make things better for average Russians, they needed help with this and his first priority in meeting with the Americans was to get that help.

He had picked a good time and had a good partner for it. President Heinz had been throughout his career a steadfast supporter of American industry, but since becoming President in 1993 he had engaged in a foreign policy based around supporting American allies not only with military power but also with finances, knowledge and connections. Heinz was very much aware that a future peace with Russia was absolutely reliant on Rutskoy and his supporters succeeding in building an entirely new, democratically-governed Russia, creating a stable democracy out of a place that had only known authoritarianism for its entire history. With so much of Russia's economy dating from Stalin and much of it damaged badly by the Year of Tragedy and the difficulties of the 1990s, Russia needed to build an economy as well as a democracy, and Washington knew it. The end result was that Rutskoy got the financial support he needed, not only from Washington but also from Brussels and from Tokyo, to finance a rebuilding of Russia.

It didn't hurt his cause that by spring 1997 the private sectors of nations around the world were already well ahead of their governments. There had been an immense brain drain from the former USSR in the first few years after the end of the Soviet Union, but by 1997 there were so many joint projects, ventures and plans that it was hard to not see how Europe, India and the Amigos alike were jumping to make deals with Russia. Wisely wishing to avoid the resource wealth trap and Dutch Disease that usually followed it, Russia sought to turn its vast natural resource wealth into higher-value products, exporting refined fuels instead of oil and metal products instead of raw minerals, while their aerospace industries, atrophied by the decay of the 1970s and 1980s and the troubles of the 1990s, began to come back in a big way. Ilyushin's IL-86 and IL-96 airliners became the subjects of a project with Rolls-Royce Orenda for new engines and electronics, which in turn led to Aeroflot using them on global routes and with luxurious new interiors installed. The Sukhoi Su-30s that the Indians used in the Middle East War got everyone's attention and the Yakolev Yak-41M ended up being completed as a joint partnership between Yakolev and Lockheed Martin. Beyond the flying machines, General Motors and Peugeot-Citroen both bought large stakes in AvtoVAZ, gaining access to their immense (if antiquated) auto manufacturing plants at Tolyatti, while the Russians extensively mined the American and French vehicle technologies for their own products. Russian makers of trucks quickly teamed up with counterparts in the West (finding European partners in Scania and Leyland and North American partners in Pacific Truck and Freightliner), and the land vehicle businesses saw their industry joined by smaller companies and entrepreneurs seeking to enter the market, with companies like A-Level, Silant, Marussia and Paragon entering the market. These companies generally did so on a smaller scale than the large former Soviet state enterprises, but they generally had an easier time developing positions in their markets.

Russia had never been a nation of dumb or uneducated people, and they would show it in the 1990s and 2000s. The country's education system got a lot of money from home and abroad in the 1990s and 2000s, and with that came the desire to improve conditions for average Russians. Major housing programs improved conditions people lived in first in the major cities but soon all across the country, and the education system by the turn of the century could boast of more STEM graduates than all but a handful of countries in the world. The Gorbachev-era pushes to reduce alcohol consumption were supported heavily by Rutskoy, who was all too aware of the corrosive effect of substance abuse, and Russia's drug and alcohol enforcement policies got stricter and more intelligent with time, as Russia adopted the harm-reduction strategies common in Europe and the Amigos, to good effect - helped along by harsh treatment for the dealers of drugs. The improvements in health policy began to show results by the 2000s as well, as the country's health improved and its life expectancy, which plummeted in the late 1980s and through the 1990s, bottomed out by the late 90s and steadily improved after that as substance abuse rates began to sink, health care facilities and access to them improved across the country and rates of infection of everything from HIV to tuberculosis began to fall. These efforts were well-publicized by Russia's highly-active media both for their successes and for their failures, the post-Soviet Russian media gaining a well-deserved reputation in the 1990s and 2000s for hard-nosed dogged reporting, adding to a public square that from the Soviet times to the modern times shifted from a society once infamous for its citizens unwillingness to speak about issues to one where raucous debates were seen and heard everywhere from coffee shops and home kitchens to the floor of the Duma. This enthusiasm stemmed from the fact that under Rutskoy and his government, Russians had freedoms that they hadn't really ever had before, and having had to shed blood to get those freedoms, they had every intention of taking full advantage of them.

While the damaged and decayed Soviet-era enterprises got the bulk of early money for economic development, it was obvious that the new Russia needed to be known for far more than that, and the country strove for this in countless markets. The new companies and success stories ranged from the fairly obvious in winter clothing companies Elysium Adventure and Parallel Outdoors and conglomerate Russian Standard (most well-known in the West for its high-quality vodka), to the somewhat likely in tool manufacturer Shadow Tool Works, stereo equipment manufacturer Mystic Technologies, industrial equipment maker Russian Machines, mining firm Polymetal and boat builders Vanguard Watercraft, to the less likely in internet security company Kaspersky Labs and high-power-computer maker T-Platform. Russian children's toys retailer Detsky Mir proved a capably-run company and soon spread its operations across Europe and to large portions of Asia before opening its first stores in North America in New York, Boston, Montreal and Toronto in 2014, while Moscow's move into higher-value products led to the establishment of a major semiconductor manufacturing industry in Russia which became an increasingly-successful export for them, particularly as their unit cost often was capable of undercutting producers in Japan, China and the Amigos. But perhaps their greatest success story of all came with a little help from Europe, as EADS and SNECMA assisted the Russians with the reactivation of both the Energia launch system and the Buran spacecraft, the latter flying only its second mission (and its first after reactivation) on May 18, 2000. When combined with other space launches allowing Russia to begin the reactivation of its GLONASS satellite array two years earlier, it was a sign of how far and how fast Russia and its new allies had come.

In the Amigos, 1997 and 1998 were the years of the visitors, as Rutskoy was merely the first big-name visitor to make a visit to the Amigos. July 1997 saw Queen Elizabeth II make a highly-public visit to Canada and, following in the footsteps of her father sixty years before, she made a point of making a tour of the United States and Mexico while she was on the other side of the Atlantic, including a famous visit to a World Cup qualifier soccer match between the English national team and their American rivals at Soldier Field in Chicago (where the rather-partisan crowd famously sang a few bars of "God Save the Queen" to taunt the English, something her Majesty reportedly got a rather good laugh out of) and visiting her Navy's aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales as it was docked in the US Navy's base at Mayport, Florida. Emperor Akihito of Japan followed later that summer, while the new President of Egypt and the Shah of Iran were early 1998 visitors to the United States. It kept the President and his staff busy, but it was hardly a surprise that these visits were more than a little productive at shaping relationships across what was by then a very busy and connected world.

Indeed, the latter years of the 1990s were massively defined by the word connection and all of its connotations. With the telecommunications boom of the 1990s being fed by the vast growth in computer technology in the 1980s and beyond, the boom in the internet world led to vast quantities of fiber-optic cable being laid in order to handle the anticipated demand. While these projects proved massively optimistic at first, the infrastructure would be put to good use by the proliferation of communications in the prosperous 80s and 90s - the number of news outlets, magazines, television channels (cable, satellite and terrestrial) and movie productions - and the growth of the communications sectors was massively pushed by the internet boom, which during the 1990s opened countless new avenues for commerce, knowledge and culture. Perhaps two of the biggest moments of this came to the Amigos in 1996 and 1998, with the first even being the Atlanta Olympics and the second being the FIFA World Cup's being hosted by the United States.

The Atlanta Olympics were held on the 100th Anniversary of the first games, and while the Middle East War overshadowed it to an extent (and in an act of spite, Turkey, Iraq and Saudi Arabia refused to send teams, something much of the rest of the world saw as enormously counterproductive), the games were very much Atlanta's announcement to the world. While well-known to denizens of the Western Hemisphere, America's fourth-largest city and its clothing style capital hadn't really been known as much around the world, despite the massive clothing and avant-garde design sectors, multiple top-grade universities, one of the world's largest airports and a massive communications sector (including the headquarters of CNN). The Olympics changed all of that, and like Barcelona in 1992, the Atlanta Olympics had directly led to a massive revival of much of the city's infrastructure and civic spaces, and while the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics had been seen as more of a triumph of commercialism, the 1996 Olympics were anything but, with multiple world records set by the competitors and spectacular rivalries put to use in multiple sports. The Atlanta Olympics also proved a high-water mark in terms of the locals, as like Calgary's hosting of the Winter Olympics in 1988, the local community was encouraged to be a part of the games and part of the experience for visitors, and that call was answered in spectacular fashion. To the surprise of nobody, the United States topped the medal count in Atlanta, but the games were seen by all as a sign of the co-operation of the public and private sectors.

Indeed, the Atlanta games exposed just how far as a society the once-agrarian South had come. Air conditioning and a favorable climate had combined with a society which had been forced by a combination of geography, history and fate to find an equilibrium between multiple different groups of very different people - White Europeans, black Africans and Caribbeans, Native Americans and Spanish-speaking Latino Americans - to make for a part of the world that had long sicne decided that its benefits applied to everyone who played their roles in it. By 1996, Atlanta had one of the most-diverse population makeups of any city in the Amigos - the title of the most diverse city of the Amigos in ethnic background repeatedly bounced back and forth between Atlanta, New York, Toronto and Los Angeles - but the culture of the South was a universal thing, from the expectation of dressing well (easier there than just about anywhere else) and being polite to others to the eye-wateringly-good barbeque food, country and western music, a love of sports and the outdoors, church on Sundays for many and respect for those of other faiths. The once-prevalent belief of the "Redneck" in the South for the most part died with the Atlanta Olympics, it was clear as a summer day to all who could see that no society of lazy people could create as much as the residents of Atlanta had, and the residents of Atlanta at all levels of society, fully aware of this, did much to make this viewpoint disappear. Taking a page from the book used by Calgary and Barcelona, the citizens of Atlanta made a point of organizing countless cultural events big and small and inviting the visitors to be a part of it, from the big events - the famed This Georgia Country country music festival held its first edition the week before the games' opening, and the first Petit Le Mans sports car race was held two weeks after it - to the countless smaller events. Visitors from abroad eating in restaurants very often got extra courtesy from staff, multiple hotels advertised specifically to visitors from various countries and provided special touches for their guests and many Atlantans went to great lengths to include many of the visitors feel welcome in their city. The city's nightlife was so wild that many Olympic team coaches began to have to force athletes back to the village to allow them to stay in peak form. The American men's basketball team made a point of practicing in front of enthusiastic crowds of visitors, and several of them, including star players Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal, made a point of regularly visiting the city's nightlife, leading to a famous chance encounter when the Lithuanian team for basketball, led by NBA champion Arvydas Sabonis and countryman Šarūnas Marčiulionis, ran across Shaq and Barkley in an Atlanta nightclub, leading to the two Lithuanians organizing a team from visitors to the games from Eastern Europe for pickup games. Shaq and Barkley, not to be outdone, did the same thing with some of the best from Atlanta's street ball scene, leading to a memorable series of street ball games that became a part of Atlanta folklore. (The Lithuanians won the bronze medal, the Americans the gold.)

Visitors absolutely ate it all up, and what Atlanta did became the template that the next three Summer Olympics hosts - Sydney, Australia in 2000, Cape Town, South Africa in 2004 and Toronto, Canada in 2008 - stuck closely to, though with some surprises of their own. The infrastructure improvements for the games included the completion of the "Crescent Belt" high-speed train lines from Atlanta west to Birmingham and Montgomery and north all the way through the Carolinas and Virginia to Washington and the Northeast Corridor, as well as the extension of the Florida HSR network through Georgia to Atlanta, all passenger rail lines that ended up being massively patronized in the years following the Olympics by locals and visitors alike, which helped as the air travel scene in Atlanta saw a vast number of additional countries one could fly directly to the city from.

The World Cup two years later supercharged this. Having been a middle market for association football (though having a thriving soccer league in the form of the legendary NASL, developed it's Major League Soccer top league in 1996), FIFA was keen to see the sport succeed in the United States when it awarded the Cup to the United States for 1998. What they got blew their minds - the United States Soccer Federation proposed a 48-team World Cup for the 1998 Cup and got it, with the qualifiers playing in sixteen different cities - New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Detroit, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, Boston, Seattle, Kansas City, Havana, Las Vegas and Washington, DC - in stadiums that drawfed the sizes that FIFA had hosted many matches in in the past. Despite the sizes of most of the stadiums - Chicago's 64,460-seat Soldier Field was the smallest of the sixteen - they were almost universally filled up to capacity. Happily for the Cup both Canada and Mexico qualified - Mexico and the United States both won their groups, and Canada finished second to Argentina in its group stage but eliminated Tunisia - and to the surprise of no-one, games where Canada competed in were held in cities nearest to Canada (Detroit, Seattle and Boston) and were mobbed by red-and-white clothed Team Canada, while games for Mexico in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Houston got a similar reaction from their supporters.

As if the enthusiasm wasn't enough, in the elimination stage all three of the Amigos played very well indeed. Mexico buried Ireland 4-0 in the Round of 32 in Dallas and fought eventual runner-up Brazil to a 3-3 draw that Brazil had to win on penalties in Atlanta, while Canada ripped off two spectacular upsets, first eliminating England 3-1 in the Round of 32 in front of a very partisan crowd in Philadelphia and then doing it again to Belgium 2-0 in Miami in the Round of 16. The United States absolutely destroyed Ecuador 5-0 in the Round of 32 in Chicago and then beat out South Africa 2-1 in Kansas City to meet Canada in the quarter finals, the Americans defeating their Amigos brothers in a 4-3 shootout at West Side Stadium in New York City to make the final four. They fell to eventual champions Germany in the semifinals, losing 4-2 in a hard-fought match in San Francisco, before earning a remarkable third place by defeating the Cinderella story of the 1998 World Cup in Ukraine (competing in only their second World Cup) 3-1 in the third place game in Los Angeles, before the world watched Germany defeat Brazil 4-3 at the newly-built National Stadium in Washington, DC, down the road from the United States Capitol. Every single one of the 80 games of the 1998 World Cup sold out, and the attendance counts for the game absolutely buried any previous records for the World Cup, highly-enthusiastic fans filling up even the biggest of stadiums. It may have seemed hard to imagine for FIFA to see a stadium the size of the 102,250-seat Lone Star Dome in Dallas, Texas, filled up for a group stage game between Australia and Korea, but that's what happened, complete with the crowd singing "Waltzing Matilda", to the delight of the Australians.

If the connections had been created by the internet and deepened by the great events of the 1990s, it was pushed further with the growth of the information space. The Telecommunications Act of 1995 in the United States not only massively expanded the private sector markets for telecoms, it explicitly provided for communities to establish their telecommunications networks and, over the second half of the 1990s, this happened regularly in several states, including California, Texas, Florida, New York, Washington and Cuba, with the enshrined "net neutrality" provision of the law making it explicitly illegal to throttle the speed of internet hosts or users based on what content they are seeking out. The general unpopularity of several internet service providers in the United States (particularly Comcast and Bell Atlantic) certainly contributed to the growth of the local and co-op internet providers in the early years of the 21st Century. Mobile phones grew dramatically in both number and capabilities during the 1990s and 2000s, often with the standards and systems for such phones often only barely keeping up with demand.

The media sectors of the Amigos saw dramatic changes with the internet age, particularly as the World Wide Web expanded dramatically across the world and into the homes of an ever-growing number of people in the Amigos. Whether it was people who surfed the web on dedicated home computers with monitors, smaller computers made for hooking up to televisions made by the likes of Commodore, Fairchild and Compaq (which by the late 1990s were catching up to their tower cousins in capabilities) or the ever-growing number of portable computers (by 1997 most commonly referred to as 'laptops'), more people got connected with their interests in this way. The giant news media sectors of multiple countries quickly got on the web and began to use it as a way of providing additional content that didn't make it into the newspapers. By the end of the 90s, the newspaper industry actually found itself with a whole bunch of newcomers with the likes of Canada's new National Post and The Guardian from the United States (which shared nothing with its the British newspaper of the same name at first, though that would change years later), and like counterparts in other parts of the world, both the new papers and those long-established expanded their reputations for story-digging, both with regards to public officials but also with private companies, something that got more than a few in more than a little trouble in the late 90s.

While America was clearly the largest and most powerful of the Amigos, by then the other two Amigos had made more than a few friends of their own, with Canada's deep ties with the Commonwealth and Mexico being the big shot of the Spanish-speaking world. The ties were unbreakable, but both saw vast opportunities in their circles of friends and allies and were keen on expanding them. Canada's position was perhaps the best - after the Central Commonwealth's rights integration with the European Union in 1995, Canada was quick to establish itself as a player in Europe and the Europeans equally quick to return the favor. One result of this - an expected result but one that had been hoped for by the Europeans - was the massive expansion of the transatlantic oil trade, with many tankers being loaded up in Nova Scotia and Quebec from the Trans-Canada Pipeline (and in Newfoundland from the Grand Banks) and shipped east to the old world, joining a already-huge trade in goods, resources and foodstuffs that grew Canada's trade surplus with much of the rest of the world to almost-absurd heights - by 2000 Canada's trade surplus with Europe, Japan and the United States combined was in their favor to the tune of nearly $200 Billion a year, an insane number for a country that recorded a population of 73.3 million in its 2001 Census. This also led to the growth in the world's currency baskets, as by the 1990s the United States Dollar, Japanese Yen and British Pound had been joined as stable reserve currencies by a number of others, with the Euro being the biggest one but also the Mexican Astral and Canadian and Australian dollars having such status. Always quick to follow their Amigos cousin-from-the-same mother, by the 2000s Australia was doing many of the same things as Canada (though on a smaller scale, but that was changing too) and getting similar results, though Australia's primary destinations for its raw materials, minerals, foodstuffs and manufactured goods were Japan, India and Iran.

For Mexico, their position as the finance center of the Latin world was unassailable by 2000 - by that point, Mexico City was considered the world's fourth-most-important financial center, having overtaken Hong Kong, Berlin, Paris and Toronto and chasing only New York, London and Tokyo, and the glittering skyscrapers that lined the Paseo de la Reforma and Avenida Chapultepec gave clear and obvious sight to this, as did the concentration in Mexico of so many of wealth. The naturally-beautiful Yucatan Peninsula and the luxury of the famous Riviera Maya, by this point every bit a rival to the famous French Riviera in terms of visitor appeal and the wealth of its residents (by 2000 Cancun was, on average, one of the richest cities in the world, with an average income for residents of north of $115,000 US a year, and the villas and luxury cars of the region made clear the region's vast wealth) was itself a sign of how far Mexico had come. For Mexico, the crossing of the divide between Spanish-speaking and Brazilian-speaking Latin Americans in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries had been one of the key ways of establishing the nation's influence over South America, and while there were other centers of economics in the region - Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Caracas - the varsity was in Mexico, and Mexico made a point both of ensuring this but also providing help to its Latin brothers. While once upon a time this somewhat-paternalistic attitude had caused more than a little bit of distaste in South America, a century plus of Mexican investment in the continent - which by 2000 held over 65% of Mexican investments abroad, and Mexico City had long since cleared New York in influence in the region - had led to vast progress in the region, a fact well known to residents of these countries. The Amigos' working with the European Union in the 1990s had seen Mexico dive head-first into its former colonizer in Spain, to such a degree that by the end of the decade more than a few Spanish citizens would make jokes about Mexico having come to lay claim to its former colonial master. (British visitors to Spain could relate to this.)

Like Canada, Mexico advocated bilingualism in its education system, with English being the most common second language (more than a few chose Portuguese or French as well) with the idea of the additional language being useful for communication with other places and peoples. Like Canada, oil meant that Mexico by the end of the Century ran a massive trade surplus with the rest of the world, though the Mexicans also were strongly connected with China, more so than the other two Amigos. For Mexico, it's densely-populated central Altiplano by the 1990s was seeing migration of it, with migrants headed for the warm west coast states of Nayarit, Sinaloa and Sonora, the industrial states of Nuevo Leon and Coahuila as well as south into the states of Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica, aiming for additional opportunities and cheaper land and living costs. Mexico didn't mind this, as it had long feared the concentration of wealth and power in the Altiplano.

The Spanish-speaking media, if anything, was more active than the English-speaking ones, influenced as it was by the passionate nature of the Latin societies. Mexico's vast numbers of post-WWII arrivals had changed that a lick - indeed, in many places they only supercharged it - and while Canada and America could by the turn of the millennium show off four national newspapers apiece, Mexico by then had seven, and the country's television networks fought a cutthroat competition not only over viewership but also over breaking stories and informing the country's population, an enthusiasm for information that would have impressed any university professor, and done with a ruthlessness that would have impressed William Randolph Hearst. While Mexico City was clear that laws had to be followed, the Mexican media was famous for its dogged pursuits, though many of the more dubiously-ethical tactics began to be cracked down on during the Presidency of Vincente Fox (1997-2003), though Fox's successor, the often-controversial Andrés Manuel López Obrador (2003-2009), caused a lot of the media to focus their pushing on him, something that rather relieved many other Mexican politicians. This stubborn chasing of the truth and intense competition for viewers, readers and respect meant that few issues in Mexico could stay hidden for long, which lent itself well to the passionate nature of Mexican politics and the desire by its civic leaders to show just what they had accomplished.

It wasn't unlike this in much of the world. Even countries with a history of much stronger central control of the societies they led, particularly in Asia, began to see the light in the 1980s and 1990s in democracy. Korea's transition to democracy had been (along with that of South Africa and the final end of the People's Republic of China) been one of the great success stories of the democratic movement in the 1980s, and China's steady opening up in the 1990s led to the Republic of China at long last embracing the power of its people with its first true elections in 1997, judged as free and fair by observers who watched the five-day affair as nearly one billion people cast ballots in what was up to that point easily the largest elections ever undertaken by the human race, with China's new President, Zhihao Teng of the National Spirit Party, gaining more votes in the election than the entire population of the United States at the time. China's transition to democracy came with it a continuation of the dramatic shifts in Asia's politics, as the mutual emnity that had defined the long history of the region began to slink away. Teng, while a devout Roman Catholic and a conservative who epoused a rising of China's national spirit (many American commentators referred to Zhihao Teng as being "a believer of the Second Great Awakening in China"), began his time as China's leader by settling one dispute after another on good terms with China's neighbors. While China had diplomatically ended its demands for Formosa's return in 1964 (as part of negotiations to effect the Amigo's intervention into Vietnam) it had been left as a lying sleeping dog until Teng's high-profile visit to Tokyo in September 1997, where China formally and in very-public fashion renounced any and all claims to Formosa, with Teng recognizing it as the southernmost of Japan's Home Islands. The shocked Japanese - who had not been expecting that - responded by beginning negotiations between China and Japan on a wide variety of economic and social platforms, with Chinese citizens having visa requirements all but eliminated by the Japanese in February 1998, a move done in kind by China a week later. It was a similar story with Vietnam and Korea in 1998, in both cases Beijing conceding their past demands in return for a reset of relations, something enthusiastically-given by the nations involved.

Russia and China's progress was followed by India, as well. Having begun the dismantling of the License Raj under Indira Gandhi in the 1970s, India's turbulent 1980s had culminated in 1984 being an ugly year for them - Operational Blue Star and Indira Gandhi's subsequent murder by her own bodyguards combined with the infamous Bhopal Disaster to see to that - and after the murder of Indira's son Rajiv Gandhi by the Tamil Tigers in 1991 and the infamous destruction of the Babri Masjid in December 1992 (resulting in the infamous Mumbai bombings the following February), India was forced by the times to face up to numerous unhappy realities in its society. The election of Manmohan Singh to replace P. V. Narasimha Rao in 1993 after the Babri Masjid riots saw the normally-conciliatory Singh come down hard on both Islamic and Hindu hardliners alike, loudly stating "What have the fanatics brought us? They seek heaven but then deliver hell." Singh's efforts were hugely helped by India's game-changing involvement in the conflicts in the Middle East, where the Indian Army, Air Force and Navy, long drawn from all of India's myriad of classes and religions, successfully vanquished the Muslim fundamentalists of Saudi Arabia and Iraq, giving Singh and his allies a powerful argument in favor of laying down the law on the hardliners. (Predictably-unstable Pakistan next door's regular problems with Islamists also helped Singh and the cause of the secularists.) While Muslim extremists were the first problem India faced with its social changes in the 1990s, it wasn't long before the Hindutva believers began to be targets as a result of their problems.

Indeed, India changed socially more than probably any other country on Earth in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. While strong economic growth had had a marked effect on India's standards of living, it was clear in the aftermath of the pogroms after the Babri Masjid that the country had a lot of demons to face, and Singh and his government made the first steps to face them, much of the rage of their primary political rivals, the Bharatiya Janata Party, which had been long connected to more hardline Hindu causes, particularly the infamous Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which was banned (for the third time since independence) after the Babri Masjid pogroms. Singh's success in the war and India's newly-powerful position among the Commonwealth resulted in his victory in elections in April 1997, and over time many of India's endemic social problems began to fade as younger generations got support from their government to fight back against past poor policies. India's infamous caste system began to fade in the 1980s and 1990s, but the social earthquakes of the 1990s turbocharged this, and by the late 1990s a large portion of Indian society was steadily being united under the banner of "India For All Of Us", which steadily pushed for changes to the law in many regards. After a particularly vile gang rape and murder of two girls, Kanti and Arpita Holkar, by a collection of known RSS activists in Ahmadabad on February 26, 1998, this was put to the ultimate test as the local community, disgusted, lynched three of the men involved on March 4, 1998. This violence forced the authorities in Maharashtra for quickly round up the others to avoid a pogrom. Support for the girls' families became a cause celebre for the local activists, but within days the news had spread across the country, to the degree that Singh was forced to deploy his country's army to Bihar and Hyderabad to stop attacks against hardliner activists. The funeral for the Holkar sisters on March 10, 1998, ended up being attended by nearly 400,000, making headlines around the world, while the other five men involved were all convicted of the crime in high-profile trials in 2001, earning lengthy prison sentences. This wakeup call led to a complete overhaul of the country's laws on violence against women - Singh's justice minister, Hansraj Bhardwaj, stated loudly "no parent will ever again have to suffer what the Holkar family has if we have anything to say about it" - and a major shift in India's police and justice system. The effects would take years to truly be seen, but Indian historians steadfastly hold the belief that the crimes committed against the Holkar sisters were just as much as the Babri Masjid a point where India's fight against its social demons became a highly-public affair.


Monthly Donor
With permission of @TheMann,

The History of the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow, Part I (Development History and Initial Entry To Service)

The Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow program was one of Canada's defining contributions to the Commonwealth and to the efforts of NATO during the Cold War. The program also became one of the symbols of the Commonwealth's increasing cooperation. Despite its impressive service record, it had survived problems in development that nearly derailed the program. Several historians believed that the program was saved due to a number of prescient changes that turned what was originally a dedicated interceptor into a more rounded combat aircraft that could perform a variety of missions.

As the development of the Arrow began in 1953, a major setback came with the failure of the Velvet Glove project. Velvet glove was originally designed as a short-range semi-active radar-guided missile, but soon began work on a long-ranged variant. Unfortunately, cost overruns and waning interest led to its demise. The latter was largely due to the Sparrow II, a long-ranged active radar-guided missile being developed by Raytheon at the time. Despite the project being cancelled in 1954, researchers from Velvet Glove and their knowledge would go on to both the Sparrow II and the fledgling Sparrow III projects, the latter in particular benefiting from the research as it was also a semi-active radar missile.

However, the collapse of Velvet Glove led to some within the Department of National Defence and even the RCAF worrying about the Arrow and the risk of cancellation. This led to more restraint within the RCAF to avoid asking too much from Avro Canada while the Arrow Project had yet to build a prototype. Along with known developments in ballistic missiles, there were also calls to adapt the project for a more versatile design in case the interception role became obsolete.

After discussions and negotiations between Ottawa, Avro Canada, and other parties, two critical changes were made to the airframe. The first modification was thicker wings designed to carry internal fuel tanks and capable of fitting external hardpoints. The second was designing the wingtips with missile rails, allowing for at least two missiles to be carried externally. These two modifications would noticeably reduce the top speed of the Arrow but would expand its combat radius and ferry range, along with greatly expanding the payload should hardpoints be installed.

In a rare event, political oversight proved beneficial as the Minister of National Defence overruled RCAF officers who wanted to use the more advanced but unproven RCA-Victor Astra fire-control system in combination with the Sparrow II, and instead continue with the MX-1179 and the AIM-4 Falcon as recommended by Avro Canada. However, the Arrow would also be designed with the ability to easily replace the radar and avionics systems, with its massive avionics bay and nose having plenty of room for accommodating future systems.

The Arrow project gained the attention of the Commonwealth, as several members were already looking for high-performance combat aircraft. The Royal Air Force was having problems finding a suitable aircraft that would fit their Operational Requirement F.155, while Australia was also looking to replace its Korean War-era fighters. The British realized that the Arrow, while not an exact fit, would fulfill most of their requirements, and the improved range after the wing redesign also made it attractive to Australia, which was looking for an air-to-air platform with the range to protect its vast airspace.

By late 1955, the British and Australians entered talks to join the Arrow project, which led to plans for the adoption of the Arrow as a common aircraft among the three nations. The British aerospace industry was desperate for work, and the Arrow was seen as a possible way to continue to build upon the legacy of the British Commonwealth. However, in the summer of 1956, they were joined by another interested party.

By the 1950s, Pakistan and India were on the brink of war, and both nations sought to dominate the skies over the Subcontinent. In 1955, The Pakistanis requested the purchase of ex-Luftwaffe Canadair Sabres via Iran. However, the deal stalled after Pakistan made remarks supporting the government of Gamal Abdel Nasser. Nasser had threatened to seize the Suez Canal and began to import weapons from the Soviets, with rumours of some weapons being passed on to Syria and other Arab states. Iran was not happy with the prospect of the Sunni Nasser having the ability to cut off the Shiite Iranians from its lucrative oil trade with Europe, and with the Arabs talking with the Soviets, Iran now considered its own defence needs with Pakistan to the east and Iraq to the west. When Egypt attacked the British positions along the Suez, Iran decided that they would instead adopt the ex-German Sabres for their own defence until a longer-term solution could be found.

While India was not happy about the joint British-French-Israeli operations in the Suez in response to Nasser, it was equally not happy about the growing ties between Pakistan and Arab nationalists. In 1956, with reports of increasing Soviet support for Arab Nationalists, India was looking for any advantage it could get over Pakistan. The Pakistanis were also courting the Americans, so India turned to the Commonwealth. The Indians were interested in the Arrow as it had the speed and range to engage external threats, primarily from Pakistan. Private talks between industry and military leaders led to word of the potential for the Arrow to perform air-to-ground missions, with a few tweaks to its avionics enabling the use of bombs and guided munitions.

In 1956, there were further developments as it became clear that Sparrow II was unviable for the foreseeable future. Contemporary technology simply could not fit all the electronics needed for active-radar guidance in the Sparrow airframe. However, the Sparrow III project was showing a lot of promise with the US Navy planning to introduce the missile by 1959. As a result, the Arrow would now be designed to operate with the brand new AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and AAM-N-6 Sparrow III, carrying a derivative of the Hughes AN/APG-51 radar and an upgraded MX-1179.

There were some concerns over the need for the US to approve any sales to potential customers, due to the presence of the Hughes radar and fire control system. The British proposed fitting British radars as a stopgap until approval could be given or until a non-US radar system could be developed for the Arrow. The Canadians also entered discussions with the Americans, who would approve most customers, but indeed had concerns about any Indian purchase.

Late 1957 saw the successful test flights of the Mark I prototypes, with RL-206 demonstrating the performance of the PS.13 Iroquois Engine. The next six Mark Is prototypes would end up having several modifications implemented on Mark II, the initial operational version of the Arrow. These included the ability to carry bombs or the AGM-12 Bullpup missile, software updates, and regular upgrades to the avionics. Even as the first production aircraft were prepared for delivery, engineers were already starting work on iterative updates and further improvements.

The Orders began to come with Canada ordering 200 Mark II aircraft to replace the venerable but obsolescent CF-100 Canucks. Britain would initially order 100 aircraft, half to be licensed-built in Britain, while Australia and India entered negotiations for possible licensed production. The RAAF would initially order 48 Arrow Mark IIs, as well as 60 Mirage IIIOC, which was modified to fit the PS.13 Iroquois engine for parts commonality. Rolls Royce would end up working with Orenda to help produce the PS.13 Iroquois engines, improving the manufacturing process, and assembling engines for the British orders. With Avro Canada being a subsidiary of the Hawker Siddeley Group, Hawker Siddeley Aviation would produce the British Arrows. The Indians decided to talk with several European nations about alternative radar systems, as negotiations over the Hughes systems stalled. Eventually, it was announced that their plan would be to produce their Arrows in India after purchasing a half-dozen Arrows to be built in Britain. Unlike other purchasers, the Indians would choose between a variant of the French Cyrano RA 423 radar and associated systems, similar to those on the new Mirage IIIs and the Saab 35 Drakens, or use a Marconi-built radar. Either option would be combined with a fire control system originally developed for one of the contenders for Operation Requirement F.155.

In Canada, the first CF-105 Mark II Arrows would enter service in mid-1960 with No. 425 Squadron, which would serve as the operational training squadron for the Arrow. Also transferred were two Mark I Arrows, RL-207 and RL-208, which had been modified as trainer aircraft with the navigation position fitted with flight controls. In early 1961, No. 410 Squadron would transition to the CF-105 Arrow at CFB Cold Lake, with subsequent squadrons following suit. By the fall, the first Arrow Mark II to be assembled for Britain was rolled out to great fanfare. What was less noticed was the purchase of three Arrows, the Mark I prototype RL-204, and a pair of Arrow Mark IIs, to Hughes Aircraft. The Mark IIs were ordered without the fire-control radars and carried out a stripped-down avionics set; Hughes intended to use the aircraft as flying testbeds.
With the massive prosperity in the world came a number of realizations for many of the world's nations. While energy was cheap and the ever-growing recycling industry and improved environmental remediation technologies made for steady improvement in supplies of raw materials, much of the world's concerns in the later years of the 20th Century was focused on resources in the world and a growing concern over climate change. Despite these concerns, even amongst the various major conferences on the subjects, targets and desires for them quickly turned into ideas and plans for how to handle the issues in question. These ranged from the honest to the fantastical, but all were thought about during the grand debates on the subject that went on across countless nations, including the Amigos.

There was few doubts of humanity's continued prosperity, however. The post-war era had seen its hiccups, but the "Decadent Times" that were in full effect as the Millennium approached were very much a widespread thing. Nuclear-powered desalination, first developed by the United States, Mexico and Australia in the 1960s, had by the turn of the millennium spread out to a number of other countries - count Argentina, South Africa, India, Iran, Israel and much of North Africa in this club - and made usable (if not entirely always easy to produce crops from) farmland out of tens of millions of hectares, often producing crops once not as commonly seen in many of these nations - coffee, citrus fruits, Acai, kiwifruit, olives - and allowing for agricultural production in these countries to soar to new heights. In addition, a number of countries had gone to considerable lengths to develop the infrastructure for alcohol fuels made from cellulose and biodiesel from food wastes, these by the 1990s all but eradicating the concerns about growing food as opposed to growing plants to make into fuel. As the growth of the world's standards of living all but crushed the possibilities of sweatshop labour - by 2000 few nations could even begin to desire such work - the result was that the cheap goods categories began in the 1990s to begin their basically-unavoidable decline, something that in itself did lead to a resurgence in fields where goods that were once considered disposable, such as appliances and home electronics, began to become rather less so and thus requiring service personnel and parts distributions. Electronics shops hammered by the 1980s and 1990s saw themselves in more than a few cases pivot from just new goods towards repair parts, and the traditional neighborhood hardware store of times past, shellacked by the growth of do-it-yourself giants like The Home Depot and Lowe's, also began to see something of a resurgence as customers would patronize such stores to seek additional advice and, in many cases, personalized service in ways that a big box store would seriously struggle to provide.

Indeed, one of the true signs of change in towns and cities the world over in the later years of the 20th Century was the return of what was often affectionately referred to as the "High Street", a term whose usage had been born in Britain but had spread first to the Commonwealth and then eventually into lexicon the world over. While it was hard to beat the efficiency of big box shopping plazas, the sameness of said places was something that both the Baby Boomer generation and their Generation X and Millennial children came to find stifling, which led to problems for many of the big chains of stores and restaurants, the latter taking a particular hit due to the shifting times, while changes to tax codes, a surplus of good commercial property (that resulted in quite-reasonable rents and property prices in many areas) and plenty of enthusiastic entrepreneurs willing to have go and banks and credit unions prepared to stake them into their chosen business led to a steady growth in the number of smaller businesses in these areas. As the cost of goods swelled money began to be spent more on experiences than on physical goods, which led to these places becoming filled with new restaurants, lounges and clubs, bars (with these in multiple places in the Amigos came a huge growth in craft breweries), coffee shops, second-hand stores, unique stores for everything from books and music to sporting goods, computer components, unique food and beverage experiences and smaller gyms and fitness clubs, all of these concentrating into ever more interesting neighborhoods, this true both in big cities and smaller and medium-sized towns. These would be followed in the early 21st Century by the growth in the "custom made" fields, with expert tailors, clothing designers, watchmakers and jewelry designers taking their places on the high streets. The shopping malls built in the 1960s to 1980s were forced by these trends to change themselves - the once single-minded focus on selling merchandise evaporated in many of these malls as it became clear that customers wouldn't come to just shopping machines, and so the idealized urban feel originally intended for such shopping developments by their early creators would indeed come to pass decades later, as movie theaters, nightclubs, restaurants and even such ideas as sporting event arenas and indoor water parks began to appear where there had once been vast storefronts, and where there had once been vast parking lots there were now landscaped parks and walking trails, transit terminals, apartment buildings and condominiums, tennis courts, soccer fields and baseball diamonds.

Having raised their own children and reached into the higher echelons of their society, the "Greatest Generation" that had fought World War II made way for the Baby Boomers in the 1980s and early 1990s, the Boomers by then having a great many children of their own, an ever-larger number of them reaching adulthood in the 1980s and 1990s. While their parents idea of rebellious music had been rock and roll, the Gen X and Millennial generations had a strong taste for a number of new styles of the 80s and 90s, from the fast-paced hip-hop of the likes of Grandmaster Flash and Run-DMC, the New Wave Rock of the 1980s popularized by the likes of Tears for Fears and Corey Hart (that gave way to power ballads through the decade and again into alternative rock as the 1980s evolved into the 1990s), the Punk Rock of The Ramones and Green Day and grunge rock of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. (Even as these groups made it to mainstream popularity, all made a personal point of being good citizens and advocates. After the massive success of Live Aid in July 1985, crossovers between musical and genres exploded in popularity, with "Generations" by Michael Jackson and the Beatles in March 1986 (easily the biggest song of the year) being the taste of what was to come. As more and more of the famous artists of the past discovered what could come with modern sounds, the 1990s would be littered with likely and unlikely collaborations alike.) These youngsters had their own ways of dressing, their own slang, their own interests and ideals and their own desires for a better world, though as their world was even more materially prosperous than their parents had been, their desires for achievement on both societal and personal fronts became a theme of the times.

However, such validation didn't - couldn't, really - lead to vanity, as the world they had grown up in had taught them very clearly the benefits of a society that thought in terms of all benefitting from its successes and all assisting in recovering from its failures. Students of history all - the education systems of most modern nations made quite sure of that - it wasn't hard to see that the peace and prosperity of the end of the Millennium had been earned by those before them, and while the Boomers had taken it upon themselves to build a better world, those who followed them understood how far they had come and that it would soon be their responsibility to maintain the progress their parents had created. Vanity was seen as something that would derail that world, and so vanity was seen by many as being a bridge too far. Their clothes may have changed, their hairstyles may be different, the goals may have been new, but the principles remained the same.

And for many of these people, securing the long-term future of their species became the goal, and so cleaning up the world around them, a long-held viewpoint in some parts of the West, became a bigger one over the decade. While this began with low-hanging fruit such as car emission standards, recycling, composting and dealing with contaminated sites (though some of those proved tricky to deal with), it only expanded with time. Climate Change-fighting ideas from this generation tended towards the large scale, but only the foolish didn't temper it with the desire to maintain as much of the world's prosperity as they possibly could.
Well, I am just rereading after a long while (well, the lack of threading kinda make it REALLY hard for me to read IMHO).
But for me, it is by far (by a long mile) my favourite collaborative thread, with each of your contributions flows nicely with each other. Keep it up.
Well, I am just rereading after a long while (well, the lack of threading kinda make it REALLY hard for me to read IMHO).
But for me, it is by far (by a long mile) my favourite collaborative thread, with each of your contributions flows nicely with each other. Keep it up.
I would make threadmarks, but since I didn't start the thread I can't do that, unfortunately. 🙂 Thanks for the compliments, though, and I'll see if Joe can get threadmarks on it.
Since @TheMann put out such a fantastic series on the Middle East conflict of the 90s I thought I’d round him out by talking about Equipment and Organizational changes the US Army went under following Vietnam.

Army 76 and the Big Five Procurement

As the troops came home victorious from the Southeast Asian “Brushfire Wars” of the 1960s, the United States returned their focus to combat in Central Europe. Awash in new tactics and technology, the Army would spend the 1970s developing its AirLand Doctrine and procuring its “Big Five” acquisition program: Heavy Maneuver, Medium Maneuver, Wheeled Maneuver, Vertical Maneuver, and Air Defense Modernization. The Army’s Training and Doctrine Command under General DePuy launched the Army 76 initiative, which would capitalize on the technology and tactics gained in Southeast Asia. In short, much top-end bureaucracy would be trimmed with a general personal reduction, while units at the Division and below would grow. Combined Arms would be brought down to the Company level, while leg infantry units would standardize on composition and grow in size to sustain causalities. The Brigade became the primary tactical unit for deployment, while the Division gained capabilities once reserved for the Corps and above.

Most notable was integrating an Aviation Brigade into each Division, which drastically increased the flexibility of our Armed Forces. Army 76 would change the Reserve component once more, with the National Guard providing “Round-Up” Battalions and Brigades to active Divisions. While the Army Reserve would drastically trim its combat units made up of Selective-Service Draftees. Never before had Active, Guard, and Reserve units been so tightly interwoven into one Total Army.

Bottom-Up Review

Deployment to the Middle East and Southeast Asia uncovered tremendous feedback from enlisted and officers in the field about their unit composition. The most prominent feedback: More Infantry and artillery, less higher headquarters. The Army conducted a bottom-up review, starting at the squad and then upwards for all combat units leading to an evolutionary development of maneuver, fires, and logistics units. Beginning with the squad, a return to 12 men was needed for all infantry formations. Light infantry squads would have two imbalanced teams of five and seven soldiers. With the five-person team consisting of the Squad Leader, a machine gunner, his ammo bearer, as well as a Grenadier and their ammo bearer, which provided ranged fires, the seven-man section would be the assaulting element consisting of the assistant squad leader, a combat lifesaver, and five riflemen, some equipped with under-barrel grenade launchers and disposable LAWs. Rather than having two identical teams of 4 and the squad leader, the 12-man squad allowed for an organic base of fire with machine guns and explosives, as well as enough men to assault an enemy position and sustain casualties. An infantry platoon comprises six sections: one headquarters, one support weapon, and four infantry squads. The platoon headquarters would have the commander, his radio operator, the platoon medic, artillery observers, the platoon guide, and any associated attachments needed. The support weapons squad would consist of two medium machine guns and a 60 mm mortar. The heavier weapons and additional combat supplies were usually mounted on updated “mechanical mules," the heaviest vehicle found in the Light Infantry Company. The four rifle squads would all be identical. However, individual weapons of the squad could be tailored to specific missions. For example, the squad's machine gun could either be a heavy barrel rifle or a full medium machine gun. Likewise, the squad's grenadier could be equipped with various explosive weapons, from a revolving grenade launcher or recoilless rifle to an antitank guided weapon or even a stinger missile for anti-aircraft defense. All ground personnel and vehicle crew members were reequipped with the PASGT body armor system consisting of a kevlar helmet, load-carrying vest with optional ceramic plate inserts, and improved webbing for reducing body strain and combat exhaustion. An Infantry Company would look much the same as a rifle platoon with a headquarters platoon, heavy weapons platoon, and the four rifle platoon, making up a company of six elements.

The concept of six units within a single organization was expanded upon at the battalion and brigade levels. Increased training was given to NCOs and officers to broaden their breadth of control. At the same time, new digital radio technology allowed units to be displaced from further to one another. Infantry battalions would find roots in the Pentatomic test units of the 1950s. An infantry battalion consisted of a Headquarters and Service Company, four identical Rifle Companies, and a Combat Support Company which held the battalions Scout Platoon, 120mm mortar platoon, Sapper platoon, 106mm recoilless rifle platoon, and two antitank missiles platoons, armed with .50 cal MG’s and TOW and later EFOGM. The Headquarters and Service company held the battalion’s staff, Intelligence, Signal, field feeding/hygiene, medical, maintenance, and other logistical platoons. The entire Light Infantry Battalion could cross the most terrain by foot and their mechanical mules, with Bv206 SUSVs available for arctic and jungle terrain. The Army 76 plan reorganized all Infantry, Airborne, and Airmobile Brigades under one Light Infantry Table of Organization and Equipment. All complete Infantry Brigades had three to four infantry battalions, a cavalry squadron, a composite towed artillery battalion, a special troops battalion, and a support battalion. Active duty infantry brigades were rounded up with one national guard infantry battalion per Brigade, and the Division received a guard brigade; Active separate brigades, Guard, and reserve brigades had the full complement of four maneuver battalions. The Cavalry Squadron was a massive jump in capabilities, giving leg infantry an armored recon force with three medium (M200 APC based) armored cavalry troops that are heli-slung and airdrop capable with a dismounted cavalry troop for long-range foot patrols. The ACAV Troop was unique for having combined arms at the platoon level with a medium Cav Platoon having 10 tracks: 2 APCs for leadership, 2 AT missile carriers, 3 recon vehicles, and 3 light tanks. The ACAV Troop also held a mortar platoon, HQ and Service platoon, and a Surveillance platoon with SIGINT/EW sensors and ground surveillance radars mounted on APCs. Complimenting the ACAV Troops was the Dismounted Recon Troop for infantry inflation missions and combat outpost manning. The DRT could be mounted on motorcycles and mechanical mules when needed and based its organization on the preceding long-range patrols and HUMINT units. In addition to nominal support platoons, the Squadron's Headquarters Troop held a QH-50 RPV platoon and an NBC recon platoon. The support company for combat support and logistics duties hauls fuel, ammo, and provisions in tracked articulated carriers. The artillery battalion was fully airmobile with two 120mm gun-mortars batteries, one 155mm Battery, and one lightweight MLRS battery for a total of 24 gun-mortars, 6 155mm howitzers, and 6 towed MLRS trailers; the gun mortars were towed by the 1-1/2 ton Humvee, while the 155mm and MLRS battery were towed by 7-ton trucks when not being airlifted. The artillery battalion headquarters company held Aquila UAVs and Firefinder radars for target acquisition and a support company. The special troops' battalion had the Brigades intelligence company, signal company, combat engineer company, and Brigade Headquarters company. Finally, to round out the formation was the Support Battalion, which held the Quartermaster company, field maintenance company, medical treatment company, rear security company + an MP platoon, and the battalion HQ. When all put together, these 7-8 battalions make up a “Brigade Combat Team," and the explained below Motorized, Mechanized, and Armored units have similar BCT structures.

Infantry Divisions with three to four Brigades are further supported by the Aviation Brigade, Artillery Brigade (Division Artillery), and Support Brigade (DisCom). The Artillery Brigade for the Infantry is entirely towed for air mobility with two 155mm battalions (48 pieces), one 203mm battalion (24 pieces, one LW-MLRS battalion (24 pieces), and one Patriot air-defense battalion. The Support brigade, in addition to logistical battalions, also held the Engineering and Combat Intelligence/EW battalion and the Signal, Military Police, and NBC companies. The Aviation Brigade described further below, is uniform to most Divisions. However, it is essential to note that Cavalry Divisions have two aviation brigades: one for attack and reconnaissance helicopters (one Air Cavalry, three attack, and one Fixed-wing battalion). And one for the lift helicopters (three air assaults, one medium-lift, one heavy lift). While Active Duty Infantry Divisions were limited to the 10th Mountain, 25th Jungle, 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne, and the air mobile 1st Cavalry, the Army also set up four Infantry (193rd, 196th, 198th, 199th), two Airborne (163rd, 173rd), three Mechanized (11th, 170th, 190th), and one Armored (194th) Separate Brigades for strategic needs.

Furthermore, the National Guard and the Army Reserve had several separate brigades and separate individual battalions that could be activated and attached to regular army units in a process known as “Round-up” when additional Infantry was necessary. The National Guard also reflagged their 17th Airborne Division as the 2nd Cavalry, giving the Guard an independent Airmobile capability. All light Infantry were capable of airmobile operations; however, the First and Second Cavalry Division was the only proper air mobile unit within the United States military. With their new Cheyenne and Blackhawk helicopters, the cavalry divisions could self-deploy to Continental Europe in case of escalation with the Soviet Union. Cavalry divisions were fully self-mobile within their means of transportation, with half the amount of ground vehicles and twice the amount of helicopters with the ability to lift an entire brigade in one combat lift.

Armored and Mechanized units were similar in composition, while only differing from their equipped vehicles and some organizational differences at the Company level. Both units traded Infantry for additional firepower and heavily protected tracked vehicles. Armored Divisions held lineage from the WWII and Korean eras of Tanks and Armored Infantry under one command. The post-Korean period saw Armored Division's bulk up once more as Soviet tactical nuclear weapons came into service along with the T-54 series tank en-masse. The M48 tank family had been developed to fully replace the M4 Sherman and M46/47 Patton series with specialized combat engineering, bridging, 155mm and 203mm artillery pieces, heavy cargo carriers, and most importantly, personal carriers and infantry fighting vehicles armed with a 40mm cannon. The 40mm Heavy IFV provided tank-like protection to an Infantry squad, with enough firepower to overpower most fortifications or armored vehicles. All vehicles use the same turbodiesel drivetrain and suspension, though depending on the variant, the engine is located at the front or rear.The Heavy family was carried over to the M60 cousin with its exotic silicious-core composite armor, and now the XM1 family. With the weight and expanse of the M48/M60 heavy family of vehicles in the Armored Divisions, the remaining Infantry divisions could not be mechanized for a reasonable amount of money. This led to the Mechanized Infantry Division, which was mounted on the Light Tank chassis M24 and M41, and later the M100 series. Light tank chassis were strategically mobile via airlift in the massive C-132 transport and tactically mobile with lower ground pressure and lesser maintenance needs. The M100 series developed by FMC introduced the decently amphibious M113 APC and M108/M109 Howitzer, an airmobile M107 gun, M110 howitzer, and M112 Light Tank based on the T-92 prototype.

Based on the experience of Armored Cavalry units in Vietnam, the Army 76 Mechanized and Armor Brigades would evolve into permanent fixtures with combined arms at the Company level. Replacing ad-hoc task-organized formation and purpose constructed Armor and Mechanized combined arms, Battalions, and companies would combine tanks, Infantry, combat support and logistics at the smallest level feasible. No longer were divisions made up of separate armor, engineering, and mechanized infantry battalions. Brigades would consist of three to four combined arms battalions, all made up of three combined arms companies, one combat engineering company, one Headquarters, and Headquarters Company, and a permanent Forward Support Company for organic logistical needs. A Heavy combined arms company was similar to that of the leg infantry company consisting of six elements: a headquarters and service platoon, two mechanized infantry platoons, two tank platoons, and one mortar platoon. The medium combined arms company differed by having three Infantry and one tank platoon. The Infantry squad remained at twelve, though here the vehicle crew counted as part of the squad. The Mechanized Squad had two vehicle crew and ten dismounts, while the Armored Squad had three crew and nine dismounts. The tank and the mechanized infantry platoon consisted of six vehicles, a departure from previous organizations. Depending on whether it was a heavy or medium battalion, the motor platoon would either have the twin barrel or single barrel 120 mm turreted gun-mortar system, capable of indirect and direct fire when necessary. The mortar platoon consisted of six vehicles: four mortar carriers, one fire direction center, and one ammo vehicle. The headquarters platoon consisted of organic class three and class five replenishment, recovery, with recovery and maintenance assets too. Combat vehicles could also tow 5-ton logistics trailers with additional supplies. The HQ platoon also held organic medical evacuation, fire observation support, and intelligence gathering teams. The battalion’s combat engineering company brought two engineer platoons in IFVs, an obstacle reduction platoon with bridging and breaching vehicles, and a pioneer platoon for limited construction support. The headquarters company of the battalion held air defense, intelligence, signal, medical, scouting, and other headquarters duties. Rounding out the battalion was the forward support company that gave the battalion organic supplies for a week's worth of limited combat with water, fuel, and ammunition supply platoon carried in large articulated carriers, a field fielding, and hygiene platoon, a maintenance platoon, and security platoon for route protection. A combined arms battalion could deploy on its own and be done regularly with sealift assets. Like the Light Infantry Brigade, permanent Armored and Mechanized Brigade Combat Teams had a cavalry squadron, a composite artillery battalion, special troops battalion, and a support battalion. Organizationally, these were similar to the Infantry Brigade but featured significantly increased logistic carrying capacity for fuel, munitions, and spare parts, as well as most personnel carried by armored vehicles; many combat vehicles could tow 5-ton modular trailers for additional supply carriage. Cavalry Squadrons differed on Medium and Heavy vehicles, though they retained their dismounted troop. The composite artillery battalion had three tracked 155mm batteries and one MLRS battery; the special troops' battalion did lose its combat engineer company as each maneuver battalion had its own engineer company. The Support Battalion held the most changes to meet the voracious supply consumption. The Quartermaster company would split off Fuel and Ammunition haulage into a separate bulk liquids company hauled by large articulated carriers and 10x10 trucks. The rear Security Company would up-armor with medium or heavy APCs.

For Army 76, Active Heavy units were most concentrated in the three Armored Divisions and four Heavy Armored Cavalry Regiments. All six Mechanized Divisions would also have one Heavy Brigade for 15 Heavy Brigades in the Active component. The National Guard held one Armored Division, four Heavy ACRs, six Separate Heavy Brigades, and 20 separate Heavy Combined Arms Battalions, while the Army Reserve also had four Separate Heavy Brigades. Armored Divisions would have two Armored and one Mechanized Brigade, often accepting a Guard Armor Brigade and separate battalions as its “round-up” component. Divisional support would reflect the Armored Brigade's increase in supply consumption. The Artillery Brigade would use self-propelled pieces for its two 155mm battalions, one 203mm battalion, one MLRS battalion, and one Patriot AD battalion. The Mechanized Division was the inverse, with two Mechanized Brigades and one Armored Brigade, and took a Guard Mechanized Brigade as its round-up unit. Mechanized Divisions had similar supporting units at the Divisional level, though they were based on the lighter medium-tracked chassis for better strategic mobility; one Mechanized Division was organized with the 18th Airborne Corps and often hitched rides in their massive C-5s and C-132s transports.

Also to note are the Motorized Infantry Brigades and Divisions found within the Guard and Reserves. Motorized Infantry is similar to the Soviets Motor Rifle units as a relatively inexpensive way to protect Infantry on a nuclear battlefield. As it was too expansive to mechanize every infantry division, the Guard and Reserve elected to transport its units in organic armored 6x6 and 8x8 vehicles with armored cars and towed artillery for fire support. These initial vehicles were the Cadillac Gage “Commando” series which maximized commonality with existing 5-ton trucks. With Army 76 and the new Piranha 8x8 (described below) coming into service, the motorized units have reorganized as a hybrid of the Mechanized and Light infantry forces. Like the mechanized company, the motor rifle Company would have an HQ and Service platoon, armored car platoon, mortar platoon, and three motor rifle platoons. The battalion, however, would have four Motor Rifle Companies, a support company, and HQ company. The supporting battalions also resemble the Mechanized Brigade, though the special troops' battalion would host the only engineer company for mobility support. The Artillery Battalion and Brigade for the Motorized Brigade and Division would eschew towed artillery for new 6x6 truck-mounted guns using soft-recoil and rockets. The Composite artillery battalion would feature three 155mm batteries and one light MLRS battery on 6x6 7-ton trucks. The artillery brigades' two 155mm battalions would also use the 6x6; however, the 203mm and MLRS battalions would use heavier 10x10 trucks. The Corps artillery Brigades would also use these truck-mounted artillery pieces to reduce acquisition and training costs. Though with higher sustainment costs, these motorized units carried nearly as much Infantry as the Light Infantry brigades. Motorized units also had marginal cross-country mobility compared to a tracked unit, though road marching abilities on the highway were a strategic asset; the new Piranha also came with a limited amphibious capability for calm water crossing.

The necessity for above Corps echelons was severely reduced with increased radio and artillery ranges and the stark reality of personal and budget cuts. From its bottom-up review, the Army found significant savings in deactivating numerous higher headquarters units and pushing down assets to the Corps and the Division that were historically unavailable to those commanders. Vietnam was a war of Battalions and Brigades, not one of the four-star generals duking it out as seen in World War II. Battalions and brigades became increasingly self-reliant with organic logistics and fire support assets permanently when deployed overseas. Divisions were now the primary combat unit of the Army, capable of commanding up to six maneuver brigades, with the Corps providing additional surveillance, combat support, aviation, logistics, and fire support for the Division's main effort. This major restructuring was called Army 76, which coincided with the nation's 200th anniversary. Divisions gained much firepower, with former Corps artillery units moving down a level. With two 155mm battalions, one 203mm battalion, one MLRS battalion, and one Patriot AD battalion, a modernized Division held a battle space that once belonged to a WWII-era Corps or larger. New Garland Bull-derived cannons pushed fires to 50km, with “smart” laser-guided Paveway and Copperhead shells giving pinpoint accuracy. While Rocket artillery, with their new modular MLRS, gained the JTACMS tactical ballistic missile for fires out to 170km with various payloads. The Military Intelligence Battalion invested heavily into Electronic Warfare for defensive and offensive operations with ELINT recon while also pushing down an MI Company to each Brigade for HUMINT collection and exploitation. The divisional Signal Company was now tasked with emplacing the new “Mobile Subscription Equipment” for the divisional area for wireless fax, phone, and radio communications.

New to the Division was an aviation brigade from the Vietnam conflict. Helicopters provided a third dimension to army forces previously unavailable in strength. Divisional air-cavalry brigades consisted of one air-cavalry squadron, one attack helicopter battalion, one air assault transport battalion, one leg infantry battalion, one command battalion, and one support battalion. The cavalry squadron consisted of four identical troops with a light attack and organic utility transport, consisting of two recon platoons, one aero-rifle platoon, one UAV platoon, one headquarters, and one support platoon. Each Air Troop had 14 UH-1Vs, 12 RAH-Rs, and 4 QH-50s, with a small number of ground vehicles for logistics. The attack battalion also consisted of four identical companies, each consisting of 16 AH-56 Cheyenne attack helicopters in four attack platoons, with respective headquarters and support platoons also using 4 UH-60s. The air assault battalion consisted of three medium assault companies with 22 UH-60 Black Hawks and one heavy assault company with 16 Chinooks. The leg battalion was a standard light infantry unit that could be used for airmobile operations, quick reaction force, or rear security as the division commander saw fit. The command battalion saw a mixture of units with light organic lift for command staff, one aerial company with 16 MV-11 aircraft, one heavy crane company with 16 CH-54Cs with the brigade signal and military intelligence companies, and an aeromedical evacuation company for divisional use. The support battalion consisted of maintenance, fuel, and ammunition companies for the entire Brigade. All elements of the Brigade were airmobile by design. The Divisional Aviation Brigade also held the Long Range Surveillance Company. The LRSC were descendants of the LRRP and separate Ranger companies; these infiltration units also doubled as Pathfinders giving each Division a Ranger and Airborne qualified unit.

At the Corps level, a commander had their aviation brigade, consisting of an attack aviation regiment and additional lift support. The attack aviation regiment featured two attack helicopter battalions, one fixed-wing battalion, and one cavalry squadron. The Lift Group had one Medium CH-47 battalion, one Heavy CH-54 battalion, and two light utility battalions. The Lift Groups were majority National Guard formations, while the Attack Regiment were mostly Active duties, with round-up support from the Reserve and Guard. The reinforced Army Corps consisted of 4 to 6 divisions, 2 to 3 artillery brigades, an air defense regiment, an armored cavalry regiment, and the Corp aviation brigade. Army Corps also had combat support of Brigade sized Engineering, Military Police, Signal, Intelligence, and other logistic. Each Active Corps could rely on the Guard providing 1-2 artillery brigades and a portion of the combat support, while reserve forces augmented the logistic units.

Corp artillery brigades could feature many different compositions of MLRS, 155mm, and 203mm battalions, though each Brigade was guaranteed to have an “Assault Breaker” short-range ballistic battalion. The Assault Breaker is a 21-foot two-stage missile armed with cluster munitions, BLU-108 “Skeets," or a unitary thermobaric warhead with a range of 400 km. Assault Breaker is carried on a 10x10 truck with three missiles designed to attack second-echelon and logistic forces. The Armored Cavalry Regiment was a brigade sized force dedicated to reconnaissance and screening the Corps, as well as the economy of force mission. Each Regiment had three Cavalry Squadrons, an Air Squadron, Artillery Battalion, Special Troops Battalion, and Support Battalion. Each Cav Squadron has three ground troops and one air troop supported by a headquarters and forward support troops. The Air Squadron had two attack troops, one assault troop, and one dismounted cav troop supported by the HQ and support troops. The Artillery Battalion was identical to the Mechanized and Armored Brigades. The Regiment as a whole brought aviation to the battalion level and combined arms at the platoon level. Regiments would either be Heavy or Light, with Heavy Regiments having two Squadrons with heavy armor and one Squadron with medium armor and Light Regiments having the converse organization. Two Light Regiments would be assigned to X and XVIII Corps, while Three Heavy Regiments were a part of III, V, and VIII Corps.
Five Corps would exist in the Active Component, with V and VII Corps forward deployed to Germany, X Corps deployed to Korea (and heavily augmented by Korean forces), III Corps based in Texas as part of NATO’s REFORGER reinforcements, and the XVIII Airborne Corps as the nations rapid-reaction force. The Army Reserve and National Guard co-manned three Corps Headquarters (I Corps, II Corps, IX Corps) in case of national mobilization, primarily as a reserve of officers that could be filled out by draftees.

Army 76 Force Structure circa 1980
5 Active Corps + 5 Armored Cavalry Regiments
15 Regular Divisions + 10 Separate Brigades
  • 1 Air Cavalry
  • 2 Airborne
  • 2 Light Infantry (Mountain and Jungle)
  • 3 Armored
  • 6 Mechanized
3 NG/Reserve Corps + 4 Armored Cavalry Regiments
6 NG divisions + 24 Brigades + 60 Battalions
  • 1 Air Cavalry
  • 1 Armored
  • 4 Motorized Infantry
5 Reserve Divisions + 12 Brigades + 13 Training Divisions
  • 1 Airborne
  • 4 Light Infantry
The most significant part of the Army 76 reorganization involved the Reserve Forces of the National Guard and Army Reserve. Never before had Active, Guard, and Reserve units been so tightly interwoven into one Total Army. The gradual transition of the 1960s from Manpower intensive to Technology intensive organization shows that the large-scale mobilizations planned after the Second World War were not feasible for nuclear warfare. In light of this, the Armed Forces gradually decreased its reliance on the Draft for Active Duty force levels, and Draftees would only be found in Army Reserve Combat Units. The National Guard became the primary combat reserve as the “National Militia." However, Army 76 shrank the Twenty-Seven Divisions of 1960 into Six Divisions (One Air Cavalry, One Armored, and Four Motorized Infantry), 24 Separate Brigades (Two Airborne, Three Light Infantry, Eight Motorized, Five Armored, and Six Mechanized), and 60 Separate Battalions; these were further supported by Three Composite Corps Headquarters manned by Guardsman and Reservists with Four Armored Cavalry Regiments. The use of Separate Battalions and Brigades was Army 76 realization of the “Round-Up” Concept in which every Fifteen Active Divisions receives one Guard Brigade, and each Maneuver Brigade receives an additional Guard Battalion. The Active Separate Brigade did not need reinforcement. Though breaking up Guard Divisions was politically contentious with State Governors, separate Battalions and Brigades allowed tighter control over training, mobilization, and equipment than geographically dispersed Divisions. Round-Up units were co-located with their Active parent units and synchronized training schedules in addition to the periodic overseas rotation for six months. The additional Battalions and Brigades not used for Round-Up acted as a strategic reserve and rear security for the Five Active Corps. Guardsman also supplied about half of Corps level Artillery, Air Defense, Aviation, Combat Engineer, and Military Police units. The Army Reserve further saw a similar force reduction to the Guard, with Twenty-Five Reserve Divisions, reduced to Five Divisions (One Airborne, Four Light Infantry), Thirteen Training Divisions, and Twelve Separate Brigades (Four Armor, Four Mechanized, Four Motorized) consisting of Reserve Officers and Enlisted Draftees serving 24 Month commitments. Each of the Five Reserve Divisions was for the Five Active Corps, while the 12 Brigades acted as Cadre units that could expand to Division-sized units in the event of full-scale mobilizations. The Thirteen Training Divisions traced their lineage to former combat units and were responsible for all Basic and Advanced training for Army Forces; these units were also capable of active deployment for training friendly forces. The existence of Reserve combat units was politically two-fold; it allowed a pool of part-time officers to continue effective service and qualified for the Peacetime Draft to continue, albeit on a smaller scale. The Draft and Selective Service Agency, first enacted in response to the 1937 Japanese attack on the USS Panay, had remained in effect and was politically popular with WWII and Korean-era Veterans serving in Congress and the Senate. Following the Korean Conflict, President Kirk sought competitive pay, increased “fairness” of draft selections, and expanded non-combat options through the Civilian Conservation Corps and Peace Corps establishment. Though the Army was the most voracious consumer of Draftees, all Reserve Components of the Armed Forces were available as potential destinations. Conscientious objectors had non-combat service military positions or the Civilian Conservation Corps and Peace Corps as options. All eligible Draftees were men aged 19-29 of good mental and physical health. The Draft term was for 6 months of training and 18 months of service in a reserve unit, followed by 24 months in the Individual Ready Reserve. The Individual Ready Reserve was made up of all prior-service personnel with 24 - 48 months of commitment that can be called up during National Emergencies to make up for personal shortfalls. In addition to drafted combat units, the Reserves also held the majority of the Theatre level logistic elements: port, railroad, and general transportation, as well as Civil Affairs, Psychological Warfare, NBC defense and smoke generation, and construction engineers.

Vertical Maneuver Modernization

The Vertical Maneuver Team had much to do in transforming the counter-insurgency Airmobile platforms into deep battle armor killers for Europe. Tremendous success was seen in the Lockheed-Sikorsky AH-56 Cheyenne attack helicopter. The Cheyenne, from the outset, was an armor killer with its TOW and Bullpup missiles while still supporting the CAS mission with a minigun, 30mm cannon, and rocket fires. With its high-speed pusher prop and long range, the AH-56 could self-deploy from CONUS to Western Europe with minimal preparation. Electronics were space age for the Late 60s with doppler navigation and terrain-following radar, night sighting, and laser range finding for pinpoint accuracy. The initial design featured four wing pylons rated at 2,000 pounds for TOW missiles and 70mm/127mm aerial rockets, along with two fuselage pylons for fuel tanks or larger munitions like Bullpup and free-fall bombs, napalm, or cluster munitions. Its firepower and range requirement was dictated as the Cheyenne replaced the aging A-1 Skyraider and interim AH-1 Cobra. The Lockheed-Sikorsky team was further tapped to replace the UH-1 Huey with their UH-60 Blackhawk.

The Cheyenne's initial deployment to Vietnam in 1967 was significant as the helicopter was nearly double the size and weight while carrying four times the amount of firepower as the existing AH-1G and AH-1Q Cobra TOW. While powerful, the developmental electronics fit of the Cheyenne showed pitfalls when deployed overseas. The reliability of the mixed solid state and mechanical fire control, as well as the navigation radar, did not meet field expectations; the maintainers did, however, praise the accessibility built into the airframe. Much like the Air Force’s Combat Lancer F-111 deployment, data from the field testing was returned to Sikorsky and Lockheed for improvements on the Cheyenne. For the next three years, the Cheyenne underwent development to a new variation, the AH-56B. The B model was built primarily from feedback in Vietnam, featuring fully solid-state electronics, additional armor for the cockpit and drivetrain, and expanded weapons selections. Most notably, the drivetrain was improved from a single-engine 3800 SHP T64 to a twin-engine 2500 SHP T700; an optional refueling boom was also plumbed in for every airframe. A Piasecki-designed ducted fantail also replaced the pusher and tail-rotor prop combination. The fantail offered mechanical simplicity as well as improved ballistic tolerances. The wing design was expanded, with the hard points now capable of four triple 19-shot rocket pods or four 4-shot TOW pods for 228 rockets or 16 TOW missiles. Additionally, wingtip rails were added for AIM-9 and later AIM-95 missiles, as well as the light AGM-122 for self-defense shots. Armament was generally expanded to match all ground attack inventory, including the latest Paveway guided bombs, Bulldog missile, and the Maverick antitank missile. The B model would finally enter service in 1972, nearly 11 years after the Cobra’s first flight. As with other acquisition programs, the nation of Iran was a significant monetary influence on Cheyenne's success. The Cheyenne was an enormous paradigm shift for the Middle East, and its range allowed Iran to strike deep into Arabia or the Soviet Union and deter Soviet-built ground attack planes. The Cheyennes' deployment to Europe was a further deterrent to the conventional modernization of the Warsaw Pact as the Cheyenne acted as a close support aircraft and a deep interdiction attack plane with significant nighttime capabilities. Fully embracing the concept of a deep battle, the Cheyenne allowed Corps Commanders to strike at the soft rear of a Soviet Operational Maneuver Group.

To match the Huey in general transport capabilities, Lockheed and Sikorsky develop the UH-60 Blackhawk. Much like the Huey, it uses the entire drivetrain developed from the AH-56B to match Cheyenne‘s speed and agility while still carrying a payload of 16 troops and four hardpoints for various rocket and fuel tank combinations. Based on feedback from Vietnam, a door gun was also located on either side of the forward fuselage, and extensive armor was built for the pilot and cabin. The seating could also be removed to carry 9 stretchers with medical attendants or a loaded “mechanical mule” for infantry support; Cavalry Scouts are known to bring their motorcycles aboard as well. To match the Cheyenne in range, the Blackhawk was equipped with a drooping wing located above the cabin, which significantly improved lift and allowed weapons carriage. When equipped with external fuel tanks, the Blackhawk could fully self-deploy to Western Europe; an optional refueling boom was plumbed in for every airframe. In a tactical setting, the Blackhawk could sling lift 8000 pounds, over twice what a UH-1H could lift. Armament of the door guns were usually .50 Cals, though Miniguns, grenade launchers, and the much lighter GPMG were just as common. Offensive armament was originally 70mm and 127mm rockets for smoke and high explosive fires. Though the armament was later expanded to include the Stinger and various laser-guided missiles for precision fires; additionally, air-scatterable mines could be carried for terrain denial. The UH-60 would enter service in 1973 with the 1st Cavalry Division as they continued their Airmobile mission.

Not to be left out of the Army 76 acquisitions, Bell continued the development of their Huey-Cobra family for the international market while still racking up sales to the Amigos. With the increased range and firepower offered by the Cheyenne, the existing OH-6 Loach was woefully inadequate as a scout helicopter. Bell offered their 206 models Ranger as a combat scout, though trials in Vietnam proved to be underpowered and unwieldy for the scout role. Undeterred, Bell had a breakthrough in their rotor technology for existing airframes. Developing a four-bladed rotor system that could be easily installed into existing airframes and increasing the T53 engine and transmission to 2000 shp, already built Cobras and Hueys could be significantly upgraded for a fraction of the price of new Blackhawks or Cheyennes. Bell would launch their 245 and 249 helicopters with increased power and improved aerodynamics. Bell quickly developed a reconnaissance helicopter out of the existing AH-1 Cobra; its electronics were significantly increased with day-night sight in a unique mast-mounted dome featuring a laser rangefinder and designator with a 20 times zoom. The mast-mounted sight made up for its lack of speed, as a Cobra could hide under a tree line with its sight barely exposed. Armament was also improved, though it was a secondary function as a scout. The minigun and grenade launcher combination was replaced by the same 30mm canon found at the Cheyenne, with only 1/4 of the ammo capacity at 500 rounds. With the four-bladed rotor, improved aerodynamics with tailboom strakes, as well as electronics. The 249 Cobra was a powerful attack helicopter in its own right and found success on the international market. The Army, however, with its main funds devoted to Cheyenne and Blackhawk, was very impressed with the upgrade package offered by Bell. The new Cobra, designated RAH-1R, was to be the primary cavalry scout helicopter. While the Huey, now designated UH-1V, was the primary light assault helicopter for general support and MedEvac duties. The four-bladed UH-1V could still carry a payload of 3000 pounds while fully fueled and armed with two side door guns and two 7-shot rocket pods for general support.

For heavy support, Boeing would modernize its CH 47 Chinook into the D model, which featured significantly more powerful T64 engines putting out 4300 shaft horsepower, a mid-fuselage wing, and four-bladed main rotor that increased lift and decreased vibration throughout the airframe. These upgrades were trialed on Boeings 347 model, with the mid-fuselage wing increasingly lift and speed, while decreasing power needs while hovering. A triple underslung hook arrangement was installed, allowing a total carrying capacity of up to 12 tons when fully fueled and armed. Additional armor plate was available for the cabin and cockpit, and four larger gun ports for up to .50 caliber machine guns. On the other hand, Sikorsky modernized their CH-54 into the C model, which was, in reality, a brand new airframe. The new CH-54C has the same drivetrain as the CH-53E with three T64 engines and 7 main rotor blades. The payload of the sky crane was increased to 18 tons, allowing for most light and medium armor to be airlifted into tactical objectives. The jump in lift capacity allowed for more light armor within the Airmobile Division, such as the Swedish-made armored SUSV for weapons and logistic duties.

The final piece of the Vertical Maneuver modernization was the MV-11 Cree, a Joint development of the Canadian CL-84 and primary replacement for the OV-1, OV-10, and A-48. The Army had piggybacked off the Navy’s development of an SH-3 and the Air Force's requirement for a CSAR helicopter resulting in the MV-11. The Cree was about twice the size of the CL-84 and OV-1 with twin T64 engines while nearly twice as fast as the Cheyenne. For the Army’s purposes, the MV-11 had a smaller multi-mission bay that could be equipped with various payloads. Primarily used for surveillance and observation, the Cree would use a sideways-looking radar hung under the fuselage and a FLIR sensor under the nose with real-time data transfer back to the Division. Various cameras could also be equipped in the payload bay for day and night operations. Different sensors could be SIGINT and electronic attack payloads. Alternatively, the Cree could be used for combat aircrew rescue with space for six personnel, three litters, and a hoist and rear gun mounted on the ramp. Like the OV-1 and -10, a light attack was an organic capability with the same 30mm gun and ammunition feed found on the Cheyenne. Weapons carriage had four hard points on the landing gear struts, conformal bomb shackles on the fuselage, and wingtip mounted rails for AIM-9s. Each Aviation Company in the Division with its 16 Cree’s was always in demand.

Heavy Maneuver Modernization

The Heavy Maneuver Team received the most attention in terms of budget. Despite initial reports that Vietnam would not be a good “Tank Country,” the Patton family of Tanks, IFVs, and self-propelled artillery gave Maneuver commanders the heavy punch needed against armor and fortifications. The XM-1 Family of Heavy Vehicles was based on lessons learned in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Designed to replace the extended Patton Family with M46/47, M48, and M60 based Tanks, IFV/APCs, Artillery, Engineering, and Logistic tracked vehicles, the XM-1 would significantly exceed the Patton in survivability, range, and tactical mobility. A transversely mounted gas turbine provided power for the XM-1 with 1500 Horsepower connected to four 300hp electric motors. Initial combat weight was 57 tons, with a top speed of 50 miles an hour riding on torsion bars with 7 road wheels. The new heavy family was entirely electric, with under-armor batteries and an APU providing unparalleled “silent-watch” capabilities. To combat the rumors of future Soviet tank designs, the XM-1 Tank had not only advanced levels of firepower with a smoothbore 120mm gun, independent 30mm cannon, under-armor 60mm mortar, and two additional .280 machine guns, but a highly sophisticated fire-control system with day/night thermal sensors and laser rangefinders. The commander's 30mm cupola was equipped with independent laser range finding and designations, with a fast electric traverse and elevation rate. Armor was entirely composite to protect against ATGMs while being thick enough to ward off kinetic penetrators comfortably from 115mm guns. All main-gun ammunition was stored in the turret bustle, which were equipped with “blow out panels” that directed explosions away from the crew. The rear-engined tank chassis would include combat engineering, recovery, and bridging vehicles for the heavy maneuver force. The tank had a traditional crew of four, though the loader was assisted with a semi-automatic magazine in the bustle. Designed to replace both the missile-armed and gun-armed M60A2/A3 and M48A4/A5 vehicles, the NATO standard 120mm smoothbore gun had beyond line of sight capabilities replacing the Shillelagh with the Glaive and fired very high-pressure depleted uranium sabot shells. Due to the renewed need for infantry support, the 120mm guns’ HEAT shell had a fragmenting sleeve, and a new demolition shell featured a thermobaric charge; A white phosphorus round was also made available. Combined with the laser range finder, the HEAT and demolition shells could air burst against Infantry or inside fortifications. The Glaive missile was laser-guided, with backup command guidance, and ranged to 4000 meters; it was quick enough to be used against helicopters in a pinch. The XM-1 would be christened as the M-1 Abrams main battle tank in 1972, and by 1976 the 1st Armored Division and 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment of VII Corps were finishing their modernization with the Abrams chassis.

The IFV would significantly upgrade it's 40mm armed M60 and M48-based predecessors; the main gun would be the M724 75mm developed by Eugene Stoner and AAI. The 75mm gun, with its cased-telescoped ammunition and airburst capability firing 60 rounds a minute, proved to be an immense danger to Infantry, light armor, and low-flying aircraft. The gun was backed up by a coaxial 30mm cannon and 7.1mm machine gun, while either side of the turret contained hardpoints for either TOW or Stinger missiles; an independent machine gun was located on the roof for use by the Squad Leader or Vehicle Commander for additional suppression. While the Heavy IFVs armor was not as concentrated as the MBT, frontal protection was provided against 100mm rounds while side armor protected against 23mm API rounds with spall liners. The total squad size remained the same at 12, with 3 vehicle crew and 9 dismounts. The IFV chassis is also used to carry the twin-barreled 120mm turreted gun-mortar capable of direct fire as an assault gun or indirect fire out to 10km with mortars bombs or 20km with based-bleed shells. High-roof versions of the front-engined chassis were developed for armored command and ambulance vehicles in the combined-arms company and battalion. The Cavalry branch developed the IFV into their premier heavy reconnaissance vehicle, with half of the troop bay dedicated to an elevating mast with electro-optical, radar surveillance, and signal direction-finding sensors. A team of four Cav-Scouts could be dismounted, and the full armament was still available for “recon by fire” operations. The IFV and Cavalry versions were designated as the M-2 and M-3 Bradley, while the high-roof APC was designated as the M-4 Marshall.

Combat Engineers would quickly appreciate the new heavy chassis as its sapper platoons were re-equipped with the new IFV. Based off feedback from Vietnam, all heavy vehicles could be equipped with dozer blades or mine rollers, with dozer blades equipping at least two tanks or IFVs per combined arms platoon. With each combined arms battalion equipped with an engineer company, new bridging, breaching, and construction vehicles were required. The armored bridge vehicle carried a four-part 70-ton bridge that was longer and quicker to deploy than the M48 AVLB. The breaching vehicle ditched the 165mm gun for two modular racks with rocket launched mine clearing charges or Volcano mines for terrain denial. The construction vehicle held a rotating telescopic arm that could be equipped with a bucket or crane, and air tools for construction needs. Both the breacher and construction vehicles had a constant depth plow for obstacle reduction, and were armed with the 30mm cupola.

Heavy artillery consisted of 155mm and 203mm gun-howitzers that were confidently armored and possessed greatly improved range and firepower to replace the 175mm and 240mm cannons. Gerald Bull designed both the 155mm and 203mm guns each with 45-Caliber barrels. The new guns shot Base Bleed-Full Bore ammunition that pushed ranges over 50km for both guns, base-bleed was fitted to all manners of ammunition from Copperhead to SADARM. The 155mm gun sat in a rotating turret capable of all-angle automatic loading with a crew size of four and 60 rounds of ammunition. The 203mm gun was casemated with 30 degrees of traverse owing to its sheer size while still being equipped with an autoloader; the 203mm chassis also had a crew of four while carrying 28 rounds of ammunition. With the auto-loader and cooled barrel, the 155mm had a sustained rate of fire of 10 rounds per minute, while the 203mm could fire 3 rounds. Both artillery pieces shared the same front-engine chassis, being designated the M9 and M10 Crusader. The self-propelled artillery was supported by the all-terrain and armored articulated carrier that featured two modular payload bays for ammunition and fuel for a payload total of 30 tons. The use of advanced TACFIRE datalink, improved fire rates, and armored resupply vehicles gave a single Battery the firepower of a WWII artillery Battalion. Rocket artillery received a severe overhaul from inaccurate mass fires too long-range “Grid-Square Killers” with Heavy MLRS vehicles developed on the heavy articulated carrier. The MLRS, heavy and light, carried two identical pods, each holding either 16 127mm, 6 227mm, or 1 ATACMS rocket.

Additionally, when operational needs arise, two RIM-66, two RGM-84, or six RIM-7-sized missiles could be carried for supplemental air defense, anti-shipping, or SEAD operations. The Heavy MLRS has one additional reload on its forward section, while the rear articulated section takes the launcher unit. As a replacement for the Sergeant, Lance, and Honest John rockets, ATACMS was developed to unify short-range ballistic weapons onto one self-propelled platform. The ATACMS semi-ballistic missile could be conventionally, chemically, or nuclear-armed with unitary thermobaric or anti-armor cluster bomblets as its most common payload. With initial ranges of 180km, ATACMS allows Corps and Division commanders to shape the deep fight in their favor.

Medium Maneuver Modernization

The Medium Maneuver Team received much fanfare and medium armor: the M113 APC and M115 light tank took the brunt of the counter-insurgency fighting. The Medium Maneuver Team was found in the Mechanized Infantry Brigade, Division, and the Cavalry Squadron, located in the Light Infantry Brigade. In contrast with the Heavy Team and Armored Brigade/Division, the Mechanized Brigade traded the shock firepower of the MBT with additional infantry platoons for a better ability to seize and hold ground. Medium armor proved more than a political ploy but was very deployable to unprepared developing nations. Compared to heavy tanks or resupply trucks, the low ground flotation allowed cross-country mobility that surprised even the native Vietcong. The M113, in particular one great put praise from the south Vietnamese for its ease of use and low price point. The M115 light tank with a slow silhouette turret made a significant enemy for the Vietnamese PT-76 and T-54 tanks. Proving the vulnerability of existing Soviet armor and based on lessons from their employment, the M200 series of medium tactical families was developed to replace the M113. Unsurprisingly FMC, with its significant expertise in light track vehicles, was awarded the contract to develop its replacement. The M200 was a growth development of the extended M113 family, lengthened with one additional road wheel and powered by a new eight-cylinder diesel engine. Like the new heavy force, the medium chassis also uses an electric transmission and drivetrain with two 250hp motors. Designed for air transport with the C-14, C-5, C-141, and C-132 with a combat weight of 18 tons or a maximum weight of 25 tons when kitted with additional armor with dozer blade and could be airdropped when properly rigged. Due to an amphibious requirement, base level armor protected all-around against 12.7mm API rounds with spall liners. The M200 series was designed for field repair with modular armor plates and stand-off “cage armor” for RPG protection. Like the heavy force, provisions for a dozer blade or mine roller were standard for all vehicles, along with an external tank phone.

The primary armament for the APC would be a lightweight 30 mm canon along with a coaxial 7.1 mm machine gun in a one-man turret; the 30mm turret was also found on the Heavy APC and wheeled APC as well. An under-armor 60mm mortar and an additional remotely operated machine gun were mounted towards the rear for under-armor suppression fires. External hull mounting points existed for other weapons, as with the M113. The crew would remain the same with a driver and vehicle commander and 10 dismounts for a standard squad size of 12. Due to the APC’s lack of organic AT weapons, each Rifle Platoon had a “Weapons Carrier," which had a crew of four carrying a 30mm turret with two hardpoints for either TOW or Stinger; half of the troop bay was converted to ammunition storage for the missiles and ammunition while still allowing for seating in case of casualties. However, the light tank development was a new chassis with its 75 mm cased telescoped and automatic gun. With a crew of three, the light tank also carried a coaxial and independent machine gun within a cupola. Sighting for the light, IFV and Tank had thermal imaging with a laser range finder and automatic target tracking for on-the-move fires. The gun would also be found on the heavy IFV and the new armored car. Unlike the Heavy chassis modernization, the existing M113 supply chain was utilized in its development and featured significant commonalities with the outgoing chassis. Electronics integration was reasonably straightforward as most parts also had substantial commonality with the heavy and light chassis. Drivetrain compatibility was a significant factor in the eight-cylinder diesel, which could be found in all matters of new tactical trucks and the lightweight wheel chassis family. Support vehicles, such as artillery, engineering, and cavalry vehicles are lightened counterparts of heavy vehicles with most of the same capabilities albeit with lower protection.

Artillery for the medium force was a mix of modernized and new systems. The M209 155mm Howitzer recycled M109 turrets by modernizing them with a 45 caliber barrel and autoloading system in the turret bustle. The diesel electric drivetrain was a speedy improvement, while on board ammunition was increased to 40 rounds with a crew of 4. The M210 203mm Howitzer was visually similar to the outgoing M110, though on a new 6-wheel chassis carrying the 45-caliber 203mm piece. Total crew was reduced to 8 as mechanical assistance improved ammo handling, and the new chassis carried 10 rounds on board. The gun and crew were protected by a light shelter against rifle rounds and shell fragments. The M270 MLRS was, in most places, similar to the heavy MLRS minus the additional reload space offered on the heavier articulated carrier. The preceding M548 was replaced by a 10-ton articulated carrier but provided over twice the payload with better maneuverability. Medium armor was primarily found in mechanized combined arms battalions in the regular Army and the National Guard.

Wheeled Maneuver Modernization

The Wheeled Maneuver modernization effort aimed to update all logistic vehicles and the combat vehicles found in the motorized infantry battalion. Motorized Infantry arose from the threat of nuclear warfare, where previous leg infantry divisions proved incredibly susceptible to fallout, radiation, and general danger from Soviet atomic and biological weapons. The Soviets countered these similar threats with their BTR series of wheeled 8 x 8 vehicles in massive motorization and mechanization of their armed forces. In parallel thinking, the Army took their 5-ton truck chassis to develop a similar capacity motorized Infantry that was significantly cheaper than either heavy or medium armor. Well, 4 x 4 and 6 x 6 assault guns and infantry carriers had an extreme amount of commonality with already existing five-ton trucks. Armored cars also found great utility with military police units throughout the entire department of defense, whether it be the Air Force, Navy, or even the Coast Guard, for installation defense, convoy escort, and general armored security roles. Cadillac Cage, the developer of the 1st generation armored cars, marketed them as their “Commando” line up which saw success on the export market. However, by the 1970s, the Soviets had launched their up-gunned BTR-70 series, and conflicts in Southeast Asia exposed flaws in Army wheeled vehicles. Though inexpensive, the Commando series was found to be underpowered for off-road mobility, with appliqué armor against mines and RPGs seriously eroding mobility during the monsoon season. Logistic vehicles and jeeps had it even worse; carrying next to no armor, they became the primary target for the Vietcong. Destroying, or even just hampering, a resupply convoy could cripple an offensive or isolate a firebase. Convoy escorts quickly became massive manpower drains as Infantry and Mechanized battalions were withdrawn from combat operations to keep supply lines clear. Requirements for new logistic vehicles would be steep: 2.5 and 5-ton trucks would be replaced by a 7-ton 6x6, a 12-ton 8x8, and a 15-ton 10x10 with armored cab with armor against mines, NBC overpressure/Air Conditioning, radios for all vehicles, and provisions for armament. The various Jeeps and trucks under 2 tons would be replaced by a standardized 1-1/2 truck family, while the new Mechanical Mule would have an improved payload of 1500 pounds.

The Canadian selection of the Swiss-designed Mowag Piranha was a significant factor for the Army to replace its wheeled combat vehicles in conjunction with Canada. General Motors Defense, the Piranhas licensed builder, adapted to the armored car to army needs in both 6 x 6 and 8 x 8 chassis as the M1000 Piranha family of vehicles. Armament over preceding vehicles would be significantly improved and aligned with the new M200 series of medium-weight vehicles. The Piranha 6x6 armored car would be armed with the 75 mm automatic gun, and the wheeled 8 x 8 APC was armed with the single-man 30 mm turret developed by Cadillac Gage. The new Piranha had significant commonalities with the M200 series in automotive and armament pieces, including the SPAAG and turreted mortar. The diesel-electric drivetrain for wheeled vehicles considerably improved torque and off-road mobility. Base-level armor had all-around 7.62mm API protection, with frontal 12.7mm + optional cage armor against RPGs. The total loaded weight was 15 tons allowing for lift by the CH-53E and CH-54C. The Piranha also improved crew comfort with air conditioning, improved NBC defense over the preceding Commando, and a shallow V-hull diverting mine blasts away from penetrating the troop bay. Artillery for the Motorized Brigade would be carried on the new 6x6 truck, 155mm 45 caliber guns would use soft-recoil, and rocket artillery would use single MLRS pods for commonality. For Corps Fires Brigades, the new 10x10 truck would carry 45 calibers 203mm gun found on the Crusader, while Corps MLRS battalions would use the M270s twin pod launcher. The usage of truck-based artillery for Corps Fires significantly decreased operational and procurement costs. In addition to the motorized Infantry, the Piranha family would also be adopted by the Military Police tactical units and the Air Forces security units based in Europe and Asia for airfield defense. While lacking the armor and cross-country mobility of Medium Armor, the motorized units still carried the same amount of Infantry with lower operating and procurement costs. These wheeled armored cars could rapidly self-deploy on Europe's expansive Highway network, while tracked vehicles usually require rail or heavy transporters. The drastic increase in capability with the M1000 Piranha family saw motorized units shed their negative stereotypes as a secondary defensive unit.

Air Defense Modernization

Air defense is the final pillar of the "Big Five" modernization. Air defense could be made of local, general, and secondary. The stinger missile for infantry units provided local air defense at the lowest level. As a man-portable shoulder-fired weapon, Stingers could be trained for any heavy weapons infantry team. Stinger could also be mounted onto vehicles already equipped for tow missiles, as well as a variety of rotary-wing aircraft. Stinger on helicopters was agnostic whether they be troop, Cavalry, or attack. The new 75 and 30 mm guns on most combat vehicles also offered a significant secondary air defense capability, equipped with laser sights and auto track features against helicopters or low-flying aircraft. Specialized combat vehicles, such as the SPAAG, combined a 40 mm gun with either Stinger, Sidewinder, or the new RAM missiles. The 40 mm gun has a long history of army air defense and is well respected by its potential enemies. The SPAAG had a self-contained search radar with a laser rangefinder for air-bursting 40mm rounds. The turret would be mounted on various platforms, tracked, wheeled, or even on patrol boats. Each battalion would feature a platoon of six SPAAGs, the only difference being the platform they were mounted to.

General air defense for the Army would replace the tracked HAWK missile batteries in the Division's air-defense battalion and Corps air-defense regiments. With most funds dedicated elsewhere, an off-the-shelf procurement was conducted with the Navy and their new SM-2 series of active radar missiles. The SM-2 offered a significant engagement capability over HAWK with twice the range, and its active seeker did need constant guidance in most scenarios. New phased array radars could accomplish the work of several pre-existing tracking, guidance, and search radars. Furthermore, the missiles would be vertically launched from an Mk41 VLS system obviating the need for any rotating launching arms, another headache for maintainers. The SM-2 RIM-66 and RIM-67 would be modified with a Track-via-Missle control system as a backup when under heavy electronic jamming, redesignated as the MIM-66 and MIM-67. The phased array radar system would lead to the system's name: Patriot, as an acronym for Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target. A Patriot battery was self-contained and could be data linked into a much larger picture with Air-Force E-3 Sentry and the Navy’s AEGIS system. The Patriot battalion allowed the Division to cover a much larger area than before and provide significant coverage against aircraft, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles. The vertical launch cells, identical to Navy standard, could also host many offensive payloads, such as anti-ship or anti-radiation missiles. The Patriot system could be tracked or truck-based, depending on the Division. Tracked Patriot would be based on the 15-ton articulated carrier, While truck base systems were on the Army’s new 8 x 8 have a family of trucks. The Patriot Battery held one long-range platoon for MIM-66 and 67, and a short range platoon for vertically launched MIM-7 Sparrow and MIM-116 RAM these two firing platoons were supported by the Headquarters and Service platoon and the Fire Control platoon containing the radar. Like the new Crusader and MLRS, a Patriot Battalion greatly expanded the frontage a single division could cover. A modern Armored Division could now cover a front line previously assigned to a World War II Corps or greater. A Patriot battalion consisted of a headquarters company, a support company, and four identical firing batteries, each equipped with fire control, maintenance, and logistics elements. At the Corps level, an air defense Regiment consisted of three Battalions that could cover a significant theater under its AD umbrella.
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Enter Century 21

By 2000, the shockwaves of the end of the Middle Eastern War had for most part died down, though with the end in 1996 came a terrorism problem that would last for many years to come. Despite this, the optimism of the times was a powerful force, and with the changes the world had seen much of the Third Great Awakening's ideals and goals had spread worldwide and adapted to many different cultures, religions and ideals. The idea of "Advancement Through Technology", a term that had first been born in the Western United States in the late 1950s as a result of the Energy Crisis, had by then expanded across the world, and it showed in a vast number of ways. From nuclear power and desalination, the hydrogen economy, modern recycling and pollution controls and modern logistics to more mundane advancements such as alternative-energy cars and trucks, better food processing technologies and cooking techniques, advanced communications and ever-better image technologies, the world's pace of technological improvement was fast and only getting faster, particularly as economic growth in many nations had both swelled demand for consumer products, made the market for higher-end goods quite a lot bigger and made for many new countries and companies alike that wanted a piece of the markets in many areas.

Aerospace was one of the big ones, as the Boeing/McDonnell Douglas twins in the United States, Airbus in Europe (which integrated the Ukrainian Antonov Aerospace in 2003, adding to its already-formidable range of products), Vickers in the United Kingdom and Canadair and Bombardier in Canada were joined by a growing number of competitors, with Kawasaki Heavy Industries in Japan, Embraer in Brazil, Ilyushin-Sukhoi Aviation in Russia, China Aerospace and Aviation Corporation in China and HAL Aerospace in India joining the world's ranks of airliner producers. While this rivalry was real, by this point the rules were well-established, which made it easier for buyers as well as builders. Ilyushin-Sukhoi would make evolve its four-engined IL-86 and IL-96 airliners into more modern products before developing the remarkable IL-104 in the 1990s, it first flying in 2003. The IL-104 "Starliner" had been designed for much the same purposes as the Canadian Bombardier WA Series, flying higher and faster than other airliners while avoiding the sonic boom of supersonic airliners, and it was also designed with made-for-the-purpose hydrogen-fueled turbofans, joining the Bombardier WA, Vickers VC-27, Boeing 747-600 and 777-400, Airbus A330-500 and Kawasaki Ki-200 airliners of various sizes in offering hydrogen-fuel options for customers, though the use of liquid hydrogen forced new wing designs on many of these designs (though not the delta-winged WA Series or the fat-winged Ki-200) to provide the volume capacity for the higher volume of hydrogen needed for a similar journey. Despite the challenges of this, aircraft manufacturers were aware that customers wanted it, and with General Electric, Pratt and Whitney, Rolls-Royce Orenda, Samsung Techwin, Ishikawajima-Harima, Aviadvigatel and Volvo Aero having such engines available (or were working feverishly to do so), it was clear to the manufacturers that hydrogen would be an aviation fuel for the future, particularly as the ever-increasing use of composites in aircraft reduced static electricity buildup concerns and desires for better aircraft only grew.

The growth of wealth combined with the desires for a full, enriching life led to a steady growth in the world's air travel industries, a growth that absolutely took off after the Madrid Summit on Global Rights and Responsibilities (often just called the Madrid Summit) in June 2001, where representatives from the EU, the Amigos, the Central Commonwealth and a number of other allied countries, including Japan, Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam, came to a number of agreements with regards to the rights of persons of other nation states who signed the Madrid Treaty. This treaty dramatically reduced the restrictions in a number of countries on citizens of other countries to their living, working and investing in these nations and what protections they can expect from the countries in question. For The Philippines, it was very much the culmination of its over a century of relations with the Amigos (and it was not lost on the Filipinos that the Treaty was named after the capital of its former colonial power, whom the Amigos had vanquished to assure the Philippines their independence) in that it basically allowed the Philippines to be joined at the hip with the Amigos, and for Japan, Korea and Vietnam it was an admission that their nations were very much tied to the nations of the West, but by 2001 that position was widely believed in these countries in any case, particularly in Vietnam, which had been a proud advocate of working with the Amigos and the British since they had been such a help to the Vietnamese government pushing communism out of the country in the 1960s.

For Korea and Japan, both countries saw the Madrid Treaty as the admission that they were indeed linked, though by then much of Japanese society (up to and including Emperor Akihito) had admitted that the Japanese and Korean peoples were cut from much of the same cloth, and for the proud, nationalistic Koreans they saw their invitation and inclusion in the Treaty that they were a power in their own right (and being the country by then had a population of 82 million and an economy of nearly $3 Trillion a year, this was obvious to observers), and both the Koreans and Japanese (and the Vietnamese and Filipinos to an extent) saw the Treaty as opening the door to their countries expanding their cultural influence in the rest of the world. For both, it was certain to result in a massive influx of newcomers to their societies, but both saw that as a major benefit, and their societies (particularly Japan) looked at the prospect of investment from abroad as a major positive of the Treaty.

The Amigos were all also looking at the possibilities of newcomers coming to their countries with cash in hand. One of the signature goals of the Clinton Administration (2001-2009) was expanding America's influence to the world, and the Americans saw the possibilities of expanding tourist trades first and foremost, as well as seeing its citizens travel more and experience more of the world. Clinton, very much a believer in the ideals in the Third Great Awakening and America's first Baby Boomer-generation President upon his inauguration in January 2001, was one of those who sought to expand many of the cultural aspects of modern America to more of the world, and among Clinton Administration's accomplishments was a massive expansion of the United States' aid agencies that saw service abroad, with the long-existing Peace Corps (which dated to Marshall Kirk's time in the White House) and United States Agency for International Development joined by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (which was aimed at individual countries and projects) and the Public Service Advancement Agency, which was aimed at more-educated and higher-skilled individuals to give them the opportunity to both serve their country and help those less fortunate in other places. The PSAA would prove remarkably successful and would spawn imitators in multiple other countries, including Mexico, Japan, Germany, France, Argentina and South Africa, connecting skilled individuals with projects that needed their expertise. Also introduced by Clinton was a pledge that America would lead a program to create a viable AIDS vaccine and to start making once-endemic diseases disappear, Clinton referencing the global eradication of smallpox as something that could and should be emulated.

Canada and Mexico also saw their government leaders change in 2001, with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador taking power in Mexico City and John Gilbert "Jack" Layton becoming Canada's Prime Minister. While Lopez Obrador would at times be a controversial figure, he was indeed a capable third partner to the charismatic Clinton and Layton, the American President and Canadian Prime Minister having a famously-good rapport that was surely beneficial for their countries. It said a lot that the press conference in Madrid over the Treaty was done by the three men jointly, initially raising eyebrows among the reporters attending until it was discovered that Lopez Obrador was fluent in English and both Clinton and Layton did speak and understand Spanish. Over their time, agreements over power grids, telecommunications laws and regulations (including the removal for local ownership of such companies in both Canada and Mexico), regulations on food, drink and medications (including agreements between the three countries' medical regulators) and regulations on motor vehicles, which in the latter case would be harmonized with those of the European Union by 2010. All three countries would expand their volunteer corps, the United States in 2005 seeing some 140,000 volunteers for the Peace Corps as part of their selective service program (this not including the nearly 17,000 who were involved with the PSAA), Canada's Katimavik program expanding to over 30,000 volunteers in 2006 and Mexico's Programa de Especies Humanas (Human Species Program), founded in 1986 and incorporating Mexico's other international support programs, expanding to nearly 75,000 involved in it by 2007. Canada went so far during Layton's expansion of the Katimavik Program to develop a specialist program for the deployment of medical personnel in specialist fields (particularly ophthalmology) to less fortunate areas, this group in 2007 getting a remarkable new ability when four ex-Canadian Airlines Boeing 747-300s were acquired by the Royal Canadian Air Force and were then rebuilt into flying medical treatment centers that, starting in 2008, would put a lot of miles on flying around the world providing services to less-fortunate nations.

2002 saw a milestone of sorts in the Amigos, as the final large-scale coal-fired power station in the United States, the Robert W. Scherer Power Plant in Juliette, Georgia, closed for good on April 27, 2002, marking the end of an era. As by this point the low-sulfur coal mined in most parts of the United States was a valuable feedstock for synthetic fuel and rising emissions regulations had made such power plants uneconomic, the end was widely celebrated by environmentalists, particularly those in Metro Atlanta who had long complained about the facility adding to the region's air pollution. Like many other such facilities, the Robert W. Scherer facility was converted to the burning of biomass and unrecyclable municipal waste, and its smokestacks were imploded in June 2003. (The facility would subsequently gain Georgia's first examples of the Canadian-designed CANDU heavy-water nuclear reactors, which went online in 2013, as well as major recycling facilities.) The environmental movement in the United States considered the end of coal-fired generation as a major victory, and less than a year later, on March 19, 2003, the final coal-fired plant anywhere in the Amigos, the Petacalco Generating Station near Lazaro Cardenas in central Mexico, shut down and with it closed the book on such power stations in the Amigos. Like America, nuclear reactors, hydroelectric dams, wind turbines, geothermal power plants and other cleaner sources of power had made the burning of coal unnecessary, and it was another victory for the environmental movement in the Amigos.

The transport sector was also a busy one by this point. After trials by the Electric Truck Development Corporation (a consortium made up of Mack Trucks, Siemens, Western Electric, California Energy, Southern Pacific and a number of food companies as well as the California DOT), the first section of the "Electric Interstate" opened along Interstate 5 from Bakersfield to Ensenada, California, in May 1991, leading to a steady growth in the interstates that saw wires strung up over it, as well as copycat systems developed in Florida, Georgia, the Northeast (run by a consortium from the New England states as well as New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) and the Upper Midwest by the end of the 1990s, and the first fully-transcontinental route went online along Interstates 5, 15 and 70, the route becoming operational in its entirety in May 2004, while by then one could buy suitably-equipped trucks from Mack, Freightliner, Kenworth, Peterbilt, Pacific, Western Star and Volvo, with Kamaz, Mercedes-Benz, Scania, Caterpillar, Oshkosh and Mitsubishi soon joining the market and startups Tesla, Challenger and Nikola join the market. The system uses 1200-volt three-phase AC power and two parallel wires, with the trucks having overhead pantographs and some form of power for off-battery use (all Nikola and Challenger trucks used hydrogen fuel cells, Teslas all had battery banks and everyone was a mix between conventional diesels, fuel cells and battery banks) for pulling cargo when not under wires. Regulations under this system allowed trucks on these routes to use double trailers, and while there was a coast-to-coast line, the efficiency of railroads had long since taken away the vast majority of long-distance truck traffic, but the system would end up being very well patronized, and drivers of the system particularly liked the system on the section between I-15 at Cove Fort, Utah, and Denver, Colorado, where the high altitude of much of the region (peaking at 11,158 feet in the Eisenhower Tunnel) and its lower air pressure as a result sapped the power of diesel engines and fuel cells alike but had no effect on the electric trucks. The electric truck infrastructure also began to be widely used by intercity bus companies as the system expanded, with Prevost's H5-64E, introduced in 1995, being the first coach bus equipped with the pantographs and equipment to run under the wires.

Alternative-fuel cars had a major growth at the same time. The development and subsequent commercialization of lithium-ion batteries in the late 1980s made possibilities the new generation of electric vehicles, both from a collection of newcomers to the world of the automobile - Tesla, Lucid Motors, Rivian, Detroit Electric, Faraday, Rimac, Nikola, Corsair Power - and from all of the world's major auto manufacturers. The market for such vehicles absolutely exploded in the early 2000s as the modern vehicles developed by these startups and the major automakers made their way into the market, while the mid-2000s saw the first turbine-electric sports cars from the likes of Fisker, Jaguar, Lotus, Porsche, Vector, Pagani and Koenigsegg, using micro-turbines made by one of Ansaldo, MAN Turbo, Rolls-Royce Orenda, General Electric and Pratt and Whitney, and by the end of the decade major makers of hydrogen fuel cells had reduced their size, weight and cost and improved their reliability to where they were feasible in a lot of regular production cars.

While vehicles in many parts of the world (including the Amigos) had long been able to use a variety of fuels - cellulosic ethanol is widely available in North America, biodiesel is very common in warmer regions of the Amigos and isobutanol is commonly available in Mexico and large portions of the United States and Canada - the rapid expansion of hydrogen for aircraft usage inevitably led to an ever-increasing number of fuel stations for hydrogen fuel for cars, which also combined with the dense power grids of much of North America allowing for widespread installations of electric vehicle charging points. As these stations and their vehicles got more common, the term "gas station" began to be obsolete by the end of the 2000s, while the newcomers to the industry often took a lot of differing approaches to interior design and systems to many of the major automakers. This did, however, see rapid improvement of the breed, as cars and trucks in North America got more efficient, faster, longer-ranged (for the electric ones) and better for the environment. By the middle of the decade, electric motorcycles were also appearing on the market, both from established makers like Harley-Davidson, Kawasaki, Indian, Honda, Triumph, KTM, MV Agusta and Ducati as well as startups like Brammo, Damon, Zero Performance and ATK, offering guilt-free (and usually very, VERY fast) riding.

While the development of electric and hydrogen vehicles meant that emissions from cars would fall dramatically with time, it clear by the 21st Century that the once-prevalent "Two cars in every garage" viewpoint was dead, as the community spirit of so much of the Baby Boomer generation was simply incompatible with the types of suburbia once envisioned. Cities in the Amigos had shifted dramatically, with smaller pieces of property for homes in virtually all neighborhoods but with the homes built taller in order to give the same living space on three or four floors. Garages and utilities often occupied the bottom floors of such homes, with more utilitarian rooms above that, the third level occupied by kitchens and living rooms and bedrooms on the top floor, and in many cases the bedrooms were equipped with large windows and/or skylights for additional natural lighting. Such arrangements allowed for higher population densities and improved quality of services both public and private. Spurred on by numerous state governments wanting to sort out local government issues, many cities consolidated municipalities into one larger whole in the 1980s and 1990s and in return for that often gained new powers they hadn't had before, leading the mayors of major cities in the Amigos in the 1980s and 1990s becoming much more influential individuals on a national scale. The ever-improving transit of major cities that had begun after the Energy Crisis by the 21st Century had shown its effect - large cities all had subway systems, medium-sized ones often had ground-level or elevated mass transit lines and LRTs to back them up, the development of lithium-ion batteries and then hydrogen fuel cells led to a dramatic increase in emissions-free bus services in addition to the trolleybus systems which were extremely common in North America by the 1980s. Even newer cities used to prosperity rapidly showed off similar development patterns, as North American cities that grew dramatically in the later years of the 20th Century - Denver, Las Vegas, San Diego, Austin, Kansas City, Phoenix, Sacramento, Monterrey, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Lazaro Cardenas, Cancun, Winnipeg, Lethbridge, Halifax, Sudbury - ably demonstrated. Cities with limits placed on them by geography - San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, Vancouver, Guadalajara, Honolulu, Anchorage, St. John's, Montego Bay - took this rather further, improving their infrastructure and design in order to make sure there was plenty of places for people to live.

The travel boom of the 21st Century would create new opportunities still. Sleeper trains, long used by all of the Amigos for travelers, grew dramatically in the 2000s, and multiple companies began offering sleeper bus services that ended up being highly successful. Internal traveling grew the train networks of both long-distance and high-speed variety, and all three of the Amigos came up with ever-more-inventive ways of creating new train experiences, ranging from the more frequent support trains between smaller cities and bigger ones to truly-incredible train journeys developed by private operators, such the Mayan Princess, Rocky Mountaineer, Spirit of the West, Minuteman, Northern Lights and Western Gateway. Airlines very quickly discovered that fliers wanted better accomodations not merely in first class and business class but also in coach classes, and they showed by the 2000s a willingness to pay for this, resulting first in airlines already with a strong repute for better comfort - Cathay Pacific, All Nippon Airways, Singapore Airlines, Qantas, Air Canada, Pan Am, Air France, British Airways, Royal Mexico - increasing the space available to passengers even in coach class, resulting in even the widebody aircraft quickly reducing its coach seating capacity in order to provide better accomodations for the passengers. As more and more aircraft went to hydrogen fuel (which was far less expensive than jet fuel), the trend accelerated. Airbus' giant A380 widebody and Boeing's 747-8, both introduced in the mid-2000s, were designed with this in mind and ended up becoming quite successful as travel demand grew. Coach seats grew and their amenities improved dramatically as airlines fought for passengers, and the more modern airliners raised their cabin pressures and humidity in order to improve comfort for passengers.

For Latin America, the end of the 20th Century had been marked by ever-growing levels of economic integration. While they were unlikely to ever consider political unions, alliances by then were highly common, even as the differences between Portuguese-speaking Brazil and the rest of the Spanish-speaking continent slowly melted away and the differences between the nations primarily settled by Europeans (Argentina and Chile most of all) and the countries much more populated by descendants of indigenous populations also sank away. With the region's highest per-capita income (and equal to many parts of Western Europe), oil-rich Venezuela led the charge in this regard, aiming to see the prosperity brought on by more open trade and borders seen in Europe and Asia spread to the Latin American world, with neighboring Colombia (which Venezuela had begun settling differences with in the 1960s and continually worked with since then) joining this, the latter helped by its proximity to the Panama Canal and the Americans, knowing (as they had for decades) that Colombia only needed to get its products for the Amigos over or around the Darien Gap before selling to any of the Amigos. Seeking the same advantages, in 2002 Venezuela proposed a bridge-tunnel project to cross the Columbus Channel (which is at its narrowest point about 14 kilometres across) between Venezuela and the Canadian province of Trinidad and Tobago, the proposed project including an oil pipeline and electric power interconnectors, hooking the Trinidadian and Venezuelan power grids. The Columbus Crossing would indeed be approved by treaty between the two governments in 2004, and would be one of the major infrastructure projects of the early 21st Century, opening in 2016.

Roughly 5000 miles to the northwest, another massive bridge project was in the planning stages, this one running from Washington state in the United States to Vancouver Island in Canada, joining the proposed bridge to the mainland further to the north between Lasqueti Beach on Vancouver Island and the mainland. Both were originally proposed by railroads - in this case, Burlington Northern for the south crossing and Canadian Pacific for the northern one - but both were combined crossings for road and rail traffic, and wisely considering the environmentalism and the tourist trade of the region both included separated pathways for pedestrians and bicycle traffic. With the railroads willing to chip in on the project - BN and CP had an agreement on a new ocean-going port for Vancouver Island - both Washington and Ottawa, as well as the province of British Columbia and the state of Washington, came to agreements in 2005 to build the Vancouver Island Project, which included the two new crossings. Like the Columbus Crossing, both ended up being works of architectural genius, the plans for construction getting the green light from the Canadians in January 2007 and the Americans two months later. The south crossing was finished first, being opened by Prime Minister Trudeau and President Chavez in 2017, while the northern crossing followed a year later.
On The Roadways Of The Amigos (Part 1)

It is perhaps unsurprising that in lands of great wealth, vast spaces, spectacular vistas, relatively cheap and plentiful fuel supplies and long histories of seeking both to explore for fun and to discover new places for one's own growth, that ever since the first automobile in the Americas was built in 1893 that the nations of the Amigos would create a vast culture centered around private vehicles and all of their uses. While the Amigos boast probably the most efficient and reliable goods transportation systems on Earth, excellent public transportation systems (and communities designed to be as inviting as possible for as many people as possible, from small towns all the way up to the largest of cities) and highly-efficient airlines, passenger trains and bus services to allow travelers of all descriptions to easily travel to where they wish to go quickly, easily and at reasonable cost, the culture around the automobile (and indeed around other motorized vehicles of all kinds, from motorcycles to all-terrain vehicles, trucks to boats and even aircraft) is stronger in the Amigos than just about anywhere else in the world, and it shows in people's vehicles in a great many cases being as much about their personal styles, desires, interests and self image as it is about their needs. While the selection of vehicles available to the customer of modern times in the Amigos is absolutely vast, the systems of transport in most places in the Amigos makes it possible to live a very fulfilling life simply through the use of public transportation, and as payment cards for public transportation systems have been virtually universal since the 1980s and accessible vehicles and stations have been developed over the decades (Federal law in all three Amigos nations requires their transit vehicles and stations to be accessible and has done so since 2004), private cars are for a great many residents of the Amigos and luxury and not a necessity, which has had vast impacts on the car market and on their makers.

The Amigos are home to a wide selection of their auto manufacturers. The United States has four large-scale makers of vehicles powered by internal combustion engines (General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and American Motors) and is home to the world's largest maker of electric vehicles (Tesla), while Canada boasts another large manufacturer of internal combustion-powered cars (Westland-Reynard) and another large manufacturer of electric vehicles (Rivian), a story shared with Mexico and their Latin Automotive Group and its internal combustion cars and electric car maker Lucid. (Indeed the electric car market is a big one for the Amigos, as while there are makers of electric cars around the world, the five largest newcomers to the industry of the electric car era - Tesla, Rivian, Lucid, Detroit Electric and Carbon Motors - are all based in the Amigos.) In addition to the large scale automakers, the Amigos boast a large collection of smaller-scale car producers, usually of luxury or sports cars - DeLorean, Duesenberg, Vector, Panoz, Saleen, Rossion-Mosler, Campagna, Felino - selling more exclusive (and pricey) vehicles to connoisseurs, as well as vast operations owned and operated by foreign manufacturers to supply the markets of the Amigos. It's a similar story with motorcycles, though in the Amigos the motorcycle makers that are larger in terms of sales - Harley-Davidson, Indian, Victory, Excelsior - tend towards the larger-displacement motorcycle market (though all involved also make smaller motorcycles), giving up some in some markets to the major motorcycle makers from Europe and Japan, though thanks to the efforts of a number of smaller firms allied with the bigger ones - Buell, ATK, Polaris, Rokon, Can-Am - the Amigos makers have products across virtually the entire range of motorcycles demanded by consumers, and many newcomers (as well as H-D and Indian) have developed all-electric motorcycles as well. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's a similar story with larger vehicles, as while the makers of large trucks do focus on their vehicles' capabilities for their commercial users, the use of them for personal and recreational uses once their commercial service is over does indeed happen, with this growth being helped considerably by the movies Smokey and the Bandit, White Line Fever, Convoy and 18 Wheels of Justice in the mid to late 1970s.

The modern car world in the Amigos begins with roots in the post-war era and the original "hot rodders" of the 1940s and 1950s, who used stripped-out pre-war cars with newer engines to go considerably faster than before, and the prosperity of the Amigos in the 1950s led to the development of many spectacular automobiles, the classic "land barges" of the era, with their Jet Age fins and excesses of chrome trim, large vehicles powered by increasingly-powerful six and eight cylinder engines. While the classics among these designs would become iconic symbols of American motoring history, the Energy Crisis of the late 1950s dramatically changed the course of the industry, forcing a change to smaller, more efficient vehicles. However, the fins and chrome were rapidly replaced by the "coke bottle" styling of the 1960s, which produced a large collection of handsome designs as Richard "Dick" Teague, William "Bill" Mitchell and Gale Halderman got to work making new designs. The Chevrolet Corvair of 1960, totally different from past designs of car with its rear-engined design, 24-valve flat-six engine and independent suspension, proved incredibly popular, and the engineering advancements of the decade set the tone for the future. After a time building crude-but-effective designs, the North American makers embraced technological advancement in a big way in the 1960s, and as the Baby Boomer generation began to get drivers licenses and enter the car market in the mid-1960s, they demanded cars that fit their own style, and automakers delivered, creating the "pony car" (often named for the Ford Mustang, though the AMC Javelin predated it by over a year and a half) and a growing sense of cars as style and image symbols. Sports cars grew dramatically in popularity during this period (both made in the Amigos and those imported from abroad), while car-based pickup trucks (like the Chevrolet El Camino and Ford Ranchero), more civilized off-road vehicles (notably the Chevrolet K5 Blazer, Ford Bronco, Dodge Ramcharger, Jeep CJ, International Scout and Westland Cheyenne) and lifestyle vehicles such as outfitted vans (and GM's famous GMC Motorhome, which debuted in 1970) became popular.

Like so many other things, the Baby Boomers and the Second Great Awakening changed much of the car culture of the Amigos. Clubs for various car types and communities became ever more common, taking what the hot rodders had done and bringing it to places far beyond what they had accomplished. During this decade would see the genesis of many of the organized "clubs" and "teams", drivers and cars as often as not unified under the banner of their chosen chariots. While street racing and dry lakes had defined the early hot rodders, their successors took a much more pragmatic and intelligent approach to their thrill seeking and adventuring, resulting in established organizations like the United States Auto Club (USAC), the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), Canadian Auto Sport Clubs (CASC) and the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) all dramatically growing in membership and with it demands for new competitions more easily accessible to those getting into racing for the first time. The SCCA's difficulty with this led directly to the formation of the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) in 1969 and the National Auto Sport Association (NASA) in 1972, the former becoming the premiere professional sports car racing organizing body by the end of the 1970s and the latter rapidly becoming the organizer of choice for semi-pro and amateur competitions by the 1980s.

An accident of history ended up coming to everyone in the Amigos' aid for the racers. After an attempt to purchase Ferrari fell through (and Enzo Ferrari having a few choice words for the Americans), a very-angry Henry Ford II set about using the resources of his family's empire to bury Ferrari on their own turf. It didn't take long for General Motors to get the message and take on both their crosstown rivals and the Italians, leading to the spectacular battles at the world's racetracks in the 1960s, particularly as Jaguar and Porsche chose to fight Ferrari and the Americans head on. The much-improved handling of American cars and the pony cars' power led to them dominating the world's touring car circuits by the late 1960s, and Ford's ultimate FU to Ferrari was the development of the Ford-Cosworth DFV Formula One engine, which debuted with Lotus in 1968 and would go to become the most successful F1 engine of all time.

The crossovers were endless. While by the end of the decade the first true Japanese heroes had come to North America in the form of the Datsun 240Z and 510, the Toyota Celica and the Mazda RX-3, the battles were still very much Europe vs. America, with both sides winning and losing some. Importers of cars like the Ferrari 250 GT, Jaguar E-Type, Porsche 911, Jensen Interceptor (which used Chrysler V8s for power), BMW 507, Mercedes-Benz SL and Lamborghini Miura were quick to discover that the Chevrolet Corvette, Apollo 5000GT and the fastest of the pony cars could give them all they could handle on the racetrack and plenty of love on the road. Enzo Ferrari is said to have called the Jaguar E-Type "the most beautiful car ever made" and the Corvette Sting Ray "a masterpiece", but that didn't stop him using every trick in the book to compete against their rivals, and the racing events in North America benefitted. By 1972 concerns about the speeds of the top cars at Le Mans led organizers of the world's biggest sports car race to limit its prototype races to engines of under 3 litres, but IMSA courageously stuck to its guns (and didn't want to force its competitors to allow cast aside such huge investments so soon) and allowed the bigger-engine cars to continue to keep competing, something that earned them kudos from fans and teams alike, and IMSA's Camel GT Championship rose by the end of the 1970s to heights once reserved for Grand Prix races and other such big events.

The pace of road car technology improvement during the decade was fast, as cars of the decade gained overhead-cam engines (and the use of chains or gears to drive these did wonders for their reliability when compared to European and Japanese cars that used rubber belts for this purpose), fuel injection, turbocharging, increasingly-sophisticated suspension design, aluminum and fiberglass bodywork, radial tires (which between 1963 and 1970 consigned the old bias-ply tires to history) and disc brakes (with anti-lock systems first seen in the late 1960s), making them much safer in emergencies and improving their drivability. Emissions demands led to the phasing out of leaded fuel in the 1960s (it was outlawed for street use in the Amigos in 1972), but the engineers for the automakers responded to the loss in compression ratios needed due to the elimination of tetraethyllead in fuel by improving the cylinder heads and valvetrain designs and perfecting multiple-carburetor setups alongside more costly fuel injection. The new style of cars made more efficient use of space in their interiors and designs, making for cars that were just as spacious and comfortable but less expensive to run and easier to drive and park. The proliferation of types of vehicles of the 1960s and 1970s only added to this, particularly with the large vehicles. Among the fads of the car world of the 1970s was vans modified for a variety of purposes, and while one couldn't call such vehicles examples of good taste, the idea of the vehicle usable for many kinds of situations was a notable development, and while other fads also existed during the decade proved fleeting (such as CB radios), other trends, such as customized pickup trucks and wagons, off-road vehicles, vans carrying such things as beds and refrigerators, wide fenders and the wide wheels and tires that went it and the "rally look" of extra lights and suspension reinforcement for less-than-optimal conditions. The 1970s saw turbocharged cars appear all over the place, with turbocharged versions of cars both special and pedestrian alike - Porsche 911, BMW 2002, AMC Gremlin and Hornet, Chevrolet Monza, Toyota Supra - proving special. With the growth in vehicle size and weight and seeking to provide new options to buyers saw the turbodiesel become a thing in the 1970s, with General Motors creating one of the true lemons-into-lemonade stories of modern time when they took the infamous Oldsmobile Diesel V8 of the mid-70s and strapping two turbochargers, two intercoolers and a high-pressure fuel injection system to it, creating the Oldsmobile Turbo engine series, which proved so successful that they quickly spread throughout GM's lineup. Ford, Chrysler and American Motors also developed diesel engines with help from outside sources (from International Harvester, Cummins and Mack Trucks, respectively), and with the explosion in the production of cellulosic ethanol in the 1970s and 1980s, everyone began to offer retrofitting as kits or options for cars to be swapped to the use of these fuels at the customer's request. Smaller engines and less power was often counteracted through the use of forced induction, first with easier-to-tune superchargers and then, from the mid-1970s, with exhaust-driven turbochargers.

The explosive growth in racing in the 1960s and 1970s led to dozens of new racing circuits and locations across the Amigos. Some of these (such as the famed Ontario Motor Speedway in Ontario, California, which opened in 1971 and became known as the "Indianapolis Of The West") were absolutely immense in size and became famous for major events, but many were smaller tracks more suited to drivers having fun in their cars. The growth in off-road vehicle usage led to major growth in the development of trails and off-road adventure courses, though in many national parks and national forests off-roaders would be banned or restricted so as to not damage the environment any more than necessary. Major events like the Kustom Nationals (held in Oakland, California, beginning in 1966), Woodward Cruise Weekend (in Detroit every July) and Sunshine City Nationals (which was first held in Miami in 1964, but began alternating between Miami and Havana in 1977) would draw thousands of cars and tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of spectators, while the music festival scenes that began in the late 1960s began to be setup at race tracks, sometimes even on race weekends to allow visitors to get a two-for-the-price-of-one entertainment deal. The famous (or infamous, depending on the perspective) Cannonball Baker Memorial Sea-to-Sea Trophy Dash of 1971 led to long-distance races making something of an early comeback, but the dangerous nature of such events on open roads led to a shift to more-organized long-distance racing events by the end of the decade, with events like the One Lap of America, California Trophy, Targa Newfoundland, Carrera Panamericana and Gumball 3000 taking its place, with long-distance driving segments (at legal speeds) in between racing stages on closed roads, racetracks or both. The Pikes Peak and Mount Washington hill climbs and rallying picked up popularity for those who wanted to race for real, and by the 1980s the "serious racing car" look became to become something of an in-look for many kinds of vehicles, with the driving lights, fat fenders, wider tracks and fatter wheels and tires of earlier eras being joined by additions that were to signify a car and driver ready to compete - upgraded brakes, front splitters and rear spoilers, roll cages, racing seats with four-point or five-point harnesses, shatterproof windows, fire extinguishers.

Many of the serious clubs began to organize into chapters, with the biggest clubs - American Royalty, Club Sportiva, Team Gran Turismo, The Petrol Mafia, Next Century, Team Unlimited, Another Heaven - organizing into a number of affiliated chapters, with many of these having suitable clubhouses and facilities. With these for the wealthiest came private racing circuits, with several of these facilities themselves, such as the Monticello Motor Club, The Thermal Club and Area 27, becoming famous in their own right. By the mid-1980s, many of these clubs competed against each other at legal events and brought with them new ones, with events like the Silver State Classic, Atlantic Challenge, Battle of the Cities and Fastest Street Car Challenge coming to exist as a result of this, hosted and developed by the individual clubs though usually sanctioned by one of the sanctioning bodies. For clubs more interested in showing off competitions there grew to be events and meets for them as well, and these became immensely popular among many crowds.

The combination of the Boomers and their parents in car club culture soon added on the Generation X kids by the 1980s, and as more and more of the Boomer generation gained more disposable income and the "Yuppie" generation of the 1980s was born, the culture shifted again, with the 1980s seeing a proliferation in enthusiast cars in luxury sedan and grand touring car fields. The best of these of the 1970s came from Europe early in the decade - the Jaguar XJS, Porsche 928, Mercedes-Benz SL, BMW 6-Series and Alfa Romeo Montreal defined the breed - but as the 1980s went on both the Japanese automakers' move upmarket and the North Americans' desire to put one over on the Europeans changed that, with the Lexus SC, Cadillac Allante and Packard Evolution being every bit rivals to the established order. As the American luxury sedans improved over the decade - American Motors' Packard brand went first, owing to its market share issues in the 1980s, but it wasn't long before Cadillac, Lincoln and Chrysler-Imperial were doing the same - and the Japanese auto industry began to sell truly-competitive luxury sedans by the same timeframe (the Acura Legend, Lexus LS and GS and Infiniti Q45 were all absolute revelations to buyers when they arrived in the late 1980s). Growing electronics sophistication in cars meant better features and comfort as well as remarkable abilities, from the luxury sedans and their supersedan half-brothers to the rally-inspired cars of the era such as the Audi Quattro, Peugeot Quasar, Toyota Celica GT-Four and Lancia Delta Integrale, while the smaller sports cars of the decade, both of the smaller mid-engine variety (Toyota MR2, Pontiac Fiero, Fiat X1/9) and the smaller front-engine variety (BMW Z1, Westland Sentinel, Mazda MX-5 Miata) brought sports cars to buyers who otherwise couldn't have afforded them, while countless hatchbacks got "hot hatchback" versions - while the first Volkswagen Golf GTI of 1976 was very much the creator of this genre, cars like the Peugeot 205 GTI and Renault 5 Turbo were more of what the genre stood for in being smaller and lighter but still fast.

American Motors, despite being strong in the 1960s and early 1970s, saw the need to keep with the technological advances of the other companies cripplingly expensive, and in 1979 the company sold a 46.6% share of the company to then-state-owned French automaker Renault, which took the opportunity (and AMC's facilities and dealer network) to massively expand its presence in the market, while Chrysler suffered similar problems compounded by poor management that forced the company to be bailed out by Washington in 1981. Chrysler, helped by its remaining subsidiaries and the introduction of the minivan in the fall of 1983, was able to fully recover, pay off its loans and come to a French connection of its own with PSA Peugeot Citroen in 1987, while Renault's product development during the 1980s and 1990s allowed AMC to move its own brand upmarket and allow Renault to occupy the lower ends of the market through its own vehicles. Ford also found itself having to make a hail mary play in the mid-1970s after the infamous Ford Pinto (famous for its exploding fuel tanks) saw its sales dry up to just about nothing, forcing Ford to quickly make the British Mark 2 Ford Escort, introduced in 1975 in Europe, for the United States. The move, however, ended up being rather beneficial to Ford, resulting in the company learning the desirability of using its worldwide platforms in the United States, resulting in the Fiesta (1978) and Sierra (1981) coming to North America and the Taurus, introduced in 1986, becoming a world car, complementing the aging LTD in North America and replacing the Grenada in Europe. Ford didn't stop there, as the Sierra's replacement, the Mondeo, was another world car, while the Australian Ford EB-series Falcon replaced the LTD and Crown Victoria entirely in 1991, with the Mustang returning to being sold globally with its 1994 redesign and the Puma coming to North America at the same time as Europe in 1997.
On The Roadways Of The Amigos (Part 2)

The development and commercialization of lithium-ion batteries in the early 1990s made a dream of many automakers - the possibility of practical electric vehicles for wide consumption - possible at last. (Before then, the energy storage versus weight issue made such vehicles impractical or too expensive to be commercially viable.) It didn't take long during the age of the dot-com boom of the 1990s for this to spawn countless companies dedicated to electric vehicles or components for them, and once again the advantages of capital supply and raw materials access favored the Amigos, with the likes of Tesla, Rivian, Lucid, Detroit Electric and Carbon Motors all saw their histories begin in the Amigos between 1991 and 1996, all five introducing commercially-available electric vehicles by 2000. They were not alone in this, of course, as the established automakers quickly developed hybrids, and while most of the hybrids used internal combustion engines alongside electric motors and could run on both, the Chevrolet Volt, Chrysler Airflow, Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, all introduced within a year of each other in 1997, became known as series hybrids, as the gas engine was connected only to an alternator and only electric motors drove the car, allowing for far greater fuel efficiency. These are widely considered to be the beginning points for the all-electric offerings that automakers the world over developed in large numbers in the 2000s, ranging from hatchbacks to luxury sedans to pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles. The boom in electric cars brought with it a need for standardized charging ports and systems, these being developed by the automakers in the late 1990s.

While the electric vehicles of the 2000s hogged a lot of the spotlight, the efficiency improvements and alternative fuel developments of the years before then arguably had a greater impact than the electric vehicles themselves. Electronically-controlled port fuel injection in the early 1980s saw substantial improvements in efficiency, and the growth in the use of aluminum and plastic bodywork in cars (reducing weight) around that same time was followed by the first all-aluminum cars in the late 1980s and early 1990s. GM's "V8-6-4" system, introduced in 1982, was the first successful use of cylinder deactivation in a vehicle (while it proved complex to engineer with early 1980s electronics, it did work, and later versions massively improved the system), while everyone in the Amigos developed increasingly-good turbodiesel engines for cars and light trucks. Fuel injection made turbocharging much easier to tune and make run well (a big plus for performance) and simply having fuel systems that could handle multiple fuels and computers that could adjust fuel injectors, ignition timing and (where appropriate) turbo boost made it possible to run engines on multiple fuels, and engines capable of running on gasoline and ethanol or diesel and biodiesel were very common. Direct-injection engines, which first saw use from the Amigos with the Ford Modular series of V8s and the Westland/Mazda SkyActive series of inline-fours in 1994, upped this further by allowing higher compression ratios, which gave considerably better power and better efficiency.

By the mid-1990s, the growth of the carbonfiber industry in North America, kicked into high gear initially by the use of composites in aircraft, had made its way first to the leagues of the exotic sports car and racing car worlds and then down to much more pedestrian cars. The first product from Lucid, it's Lucid Air luxury sedan, was unmistakable in having its structure and bodywork being made almost entire from carbonfiber - indeed Lucid showed off a car at the 1997 Detroit Auto Show clad entirely in lacquered carbonfiber - and the benefits of the light and stiff way of building a vehicle were obvious even then, enough so that by that point everyone was investing in autoclaves and other equipment to make carbon-fiber vehicles. By the end of the 2000s, it was rare to find a sports car not built on top of a carbonfiber tub, and both manufacturers and third parties alike were working out how to more quickly and economically repair damage to such vehicles as they require radically different methods to traditional repairs. Fiberglass or carbonfiber reinforced plastic began to be regularly used on less-expensive vehicles for its dent-resistant properties and reduced weight compared to metal equivalents and remaining components made from metal were increasingly from galvanized steel or anodized aluminum, which combined to make vehicles that were much more durable than many previous ones.

The racing world would see the beginnings of an immense shift with the opening of the original Kart Space Karting facility in Philadelphia in April 1980. Built from an old industrial facility, Kart Space was easily accessible by public transportation, and it's creator, Dr. Peter Miller, had created it where he had with the explicit goal of making being an inner-city resident less of a hindrance to finding a love of racing, and Kart Space proved phenomenally successful, spawning imitators in cities across the North American continent. (Kart Space became a National Historic Landmark in 2021 for its "Contribution to American Sports" and today it is one of the "Magnificent Dozen" inner-city kart racing facilities that have given countless people a love of racing and been the place were many journeys to the highest levels of professional motorsport began.) This not only saw many newcomers to the sport that otherwise might never have become racers - like the growth of hockey arenas in warm-weather regions, basketball courts in colder ones and soccer fields and stadiums all over the place, the objective was the growth of the sport, and they were remarkably successful at this.

The unification of vehicle laws between Europe and North America in 1995 led directly to a thriving business in the import of European specialist cars, but the same went in reverse as well. The dumping of America's infamous "chicken tax" on light trucks saw new competitors in the commercial vehicle market, while a common harmonization between the Amigos and Japan, Korea and Australia in 1997 paved the way for the Australian sedans to come stateside and that import specialist market to massively grow. Taking the hint, Toyota began importing many of its Japanese models to the United States in 2000, including the soon-to-be-famous Chaser and Mark II sport sedans and the flagship Century luxury car, with the other Asian makers soon to catch on to this as well.

For the smallest of the Amigos manufacturers, their alliances were just what the doctor ordered. Both Renault and PSA Peugeot Citroën had struggled in North America for decades, both because of product choices but also because of the difficulty in building up effective dealer networks. While Chrysler's K-cars and the Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon twins had started off well, the much-improved opposition at home and abroad badly cut down Chrysler's success by 1985, and while the minivan was a gold mine for them it wasn't enough on its own....but Peugeot's smaller car lineups fixed that, particularly once the 205 and 405 began to be sold in North America in the fall of 1985. From then on until the unifications of the car laws in 1997, Peugeot specifically designed its cars to be able to be sold in North America, and the alliance allowed Chrysler to move its Chrysler brand upmarket (they discontinued Imperial in 1988 as a result), and Chrysler's large car projects were completely rethought after the Ford Taurus became a runaway success and rewrote the rules for bigger sedans - the well-designed, sharp-handling, aerodynamic Taurus was the final straw for the big American boats that once ruled the road, and everyone else in the market - not just the North American makers, but Toyota, Nissan and Mazda as well - got the message quickly.

Chrysler purchased Italian sports car Lamborghini in early 1987, and one of the first fruits of this relationship was the Lamborghini Portofino concept car of 1988, which was a sign of what was to come, as many of the design elements of the Portofino were worked into the LH-platform Chrysler products, introduced in 1990. Alongside the Taurus (which got a through refresh in 1991), the Oldsmobile Aurora and the new offerings from the Renault-American Motors partnership, it set new standards for the "family cars" of the future. (As for Lamborghini, the Italian sports car firm would soon take on a raft of projects to improve Chrysler cars as well as the new Diablo, introduced in 1990. Becoming Chrysler's performance car laboratory would see the Italian firm absolutely balloon in size in the 1990s.)

Renault had originally only gotten involved with American Motors for the dealer and support networks, but the French firm was quick to discover that AMC offered far more than that - their engines were far more sophisticated than what Renault had to offer in most circumstances, and the company had a raft of development projects with great potential. Seeing the possibilities, Renault dumped over $1.7 Billion into AMC between 1980 and 1986, but got out of it a whole heap of new products. The Renault 18 sedan and Fuego sports car didn't sell well, but the Spirit compact sports coupe, the Jeep models (both old and new, as the 1984 Jeep Cherokee was a big hit) were highly successful and the Renault Alliance and Encore compacts did great, as did the four-wheel-drive AMC Eagle wagon. The Espace minivan of 1984 was Chrysler's arch-nemesis from the start (and would remain that way for decades), and Patrick Le Quement, poached from Ford in 1982, led a spectacular revival of fortunes for Packard, introducing the Packard Evolution grand touring car and the Sentinel, Constellation and Twelve luxury sedans between 1986 and 1990. The AMC Ambassador large sedan, introduced in 1988, joined the Medallion and Premier sedans as success stories, while the Clio, introduced in 1990, was the benchmark small car in North America from its first day, and a second-generation of the Eagle, introduced in 1989, was also a success. By 1990 AMC had moved its car brands into larger vehicles, allowing Renault the smaller vehicle markets, Jeep the four-wheel-drive vehicles and Packard the luxury cars.

It paid off big time - Renault-AMC's market share soared from 2.8% of the North American market in 1979 to 10.6% in 1994, helped by all the new products and what Renault evolved into, helped along by their American partners. When Renault was privatized in 1995, AMC promptly bought 32.5% of the company, becoming its largest shareholder and cementing the relationship between the two, before the two firms led their revival of Nissan beginning in 1999.

Chapter 3: You poor fools​

Excerpt from “Eyes in the Dark: A History of Intelligence efforts in the Vietnam War” by Michael Morton, Ph.D

In the days following the Tet Offensive’s beginning, furious fighting broke out throughout South Vietnam with the ARVN regular, regional and popular forces heroically holding back the Viet-Cong’s assaults against the cities and villages of the South. The guerrillas had been bolstered by small numbers of PAVN regulars and agents who had managed to infiltrate the South. Through great efforts and skill, the assaults had been broken. For the allied forces, the failure of the initial VC assaults had turned out to be a treasure trove for their intelligence department and confirmed much of the intel about living conditions in the North.
The following testimonies are from intelligence officers who had been tasked with interrogating prisoners taken during the Tet Offensive of 1967 and declassified documents.

Captain Enrique Pérez, Mexican Military Intelligence in 1st Military Region

On February 5th, we had started processing the first communist prisoners that had been taken at Pho Chau. Many of the rank and file were quite reluctant to discuss and some, namely the few PAVN political officers captured, had utterly refused to say a single word to us beyond claiming that they would soon triumph against us because they carried the will of the Vietnamese people’s struggles against capitalist oppression and Western imperialism.

As it turned out, what gave us insights into the economic situation of North Vietnam was the state of their troops’ rations. Most of the captured soldiers in the initial assaults had plenty of ammunition and weapons but lacked rations for extended operations. Many carried small sacks of rice and a bit of seasoning. There was little in the way of meat or fish. We later interrogated more cooperative prisoners who allowed us to determine that the PAVN would continue to sustain their offensive by looting food supplies in the South. Aerial recon had also confirmed that ammunition, fuel and weapons had priority over rations.

This contrasted with even our South Vietnamese counterparts who enjoyed the fruits of an ever more robust agricultural sector. Efforts in 1965-1966 had allowed them to supply their troops with good quality rations that gave them palatable and nourishing food. In addition, the ARVN troops could count on home cooked delicacies being sent to them by their families and loved ones.

The PAVN troops’ letters that we captured were tragic to read. Many of them were from poor villages and communities that had suffered greatly during Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnamese Workers Party’s land reforms. This had confirmed the reports from our allies in the North that many communities had been left impoverished and struggled to rebuild themselves.

I still remember reading one of the letters where a young PAVN private that had died before our medics could save him. The poor farmer had written to his young wife that he would soon be in Saigon and would get a victory bonus that would allow them to celebrate by having the funds to buy an extra ration of 1.5kg of sugar for their family. However, even with this bonus, he wouldn’t have been able to purchase eggs and flour to bake a cake when he would return home and that she would have to work harder to get them.

I still remember my ARVN counterpart, Captain Le Minh Tran, being disgusted upon reading this letter.

Captain Le Minh Tran, ARVN Military Intelligence, I Corps

I’ll never forget the letter that Captain Pérez mentioned. You must understand that I was born to farmers in the Mekong Delta. My family had struggled for a long time under our old landlord until the government’s land reforms changed things. By the time of the Tet offensive, our family had become prosperous enough that my brothers and sisters were able to attend school without my parents worrying about our family’s finances while my parents could travel around the countryside on a brand new Honda scooter. We had known about the plight of northern farmers but it was different to witness it with our own eyes.

Reading that letter angered me and my men as the poor fool had died miserably in the hopes that he would be able to buy sugar, a ‘’great luxury’’. Meanwhile, my men and I had sugar for our morning coffee at our unit’s mess hall every morning and we could enjoy fresh cakes from one of my fellow officers’ family bakery every now and then. I still remember having to ask the Americans’ Military Policemen to restrain a young private who had lashed out against a captured political cadre after finding out that the prisoner had bragged that the Communists to other soldiers would bring us true prosperity. The private had lost his brother and sister when a PAVN missile hit his home city.

I would lie if I said that I did not feel a certain pity for these men. The more we found out about how the people lived in the north, the more we were horrified. One of the PAVN officers we captured carried with him some small mangoes and small wooden bowls. He still had a grandmother that lived in the South and wished to bring her those presents. He claimed that our people were so impoverished that they fought each other to eat a banana peel after a Western soldier dropped it! Can you believe it?
He was utterly shocked when he saw what we fed prisoners and we ate for ourselves. I remember he had grown quite fond of canned fruits during his time in captivity.

Author's notes:
I initially wanted to do an air battle for my next update but it turned out to be a bit of an enterprise I don't have the skills for yet but I touched upon something I knew well enough: the disparity in quality of life between North and South Vietnam. All those bits about PAVN troops are based on what happened in our timeline. The looting for food, canned fruits and 1.5kg of sugar thing was mentioned in General Lam Quang Thi's Hell in An Loc: The 1972 Easter Invasion and the Battle That Saved South Viet Nam while the communist land reforms gone wrong were from Christopher Goscha's Vietnam: A New History. The Honda scooter and rural prosperity was something touched upon in Drawn Swords in a Distant Land: South Vietnam's Shattered Dreams by George J. Veith. Interesting fact but I was once studied under Professor Goscha while General Lam Quang Thi was at some point my maternal grandfather's commander during the war.

The anecdote about the PAVN officer bringing small mangoes, small wooden bowls and banada peels are family stories from my mother's side. They had relatives who lived in the North that heard the rumor about South Vietnamese fighting each other for banana peels and one of them did bring some small mangoes and small wooden bowls. They realized that my mother's family was much better off than they thought and so hid the bowls and mangoes in a bush out of embarrassment.