18 July 2014

Ukraine 7/18: Russians (or their proxies) Shoot Down Civilian Airliner

The Russians are going into their kabuki dance of obfuscation, but it's obvious that either they pulled the trigger, or their kid-brother lapdogs in Eastern Ukraine did.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on Friday blasted the "terrorists" he blamed for shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine a day earlier, with 298 people aboard.
He called on all governments to back the investigation and "to support the Ukrainian government to bring to justice all these bastards who committed this international crime."
Since the Malaysia Airlines jet fell from the sky above eastern Ukraine on Thursday, Russia and Ukraine -- which routinely uses the word "terrorists" to describe pro-Russian separatists -- have traded blame and accusations.
"Terrorists have killed almost 300 persons with one shot," Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Thursday. "Among them are women, children, citizens of different countries of the world."Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed the finger back at Ukraine, blaming its recent tough military operations against separatists for the volatility in the region.
Yatsenyuk called for a U.N. Security Council meeting to be held and for all nations to do everything they could to stop what he said was not now just a war in Ukraine or Europe, but a "war against the world."
Meanwhile, international inspectors headed to the crash site Friday to undertake the grim search for the plane's flight data recorders amid the human remains and debris strewn across fields near the town of Torez.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged a cease-fire to allow a swift, independent investigation into what happened, adding that "there are many indications that it was a shot or rocket fired at the plane."

Here's a good list of links of as-it-was-happening news releases, too.

17 July 2014

Ukraine 7/17: Russian Anti-Air Support?

Now it looks like the Russians are shooting at Ukrainian aircraft, too.

An Air Force fighter jet has been shot down by an air-to-air missile fired from a Russian plane, a spokesman for Ukraine's Security Council said Thursday.

Andrei Lysenko also said Ukrainian troops had been fired upon by missiles from a village just inside Russia.

Officials in Kiev have recently accused Russia's armed forces of being directly implicated in attacks on Ukrainian troops battling an insurgency near the border.

Lysenko said in a televised briefing that the pilot of the Sukhoi-25 jet that was hit on Wednesday evening was forced to bail out after his jet was shot down. He provided no further details.

Pro-Russia rebels, meanwhile, claimed responsibility for strikes Wednesday on two Ukrainian Sukhoi-25 jets.

The Defense Ministry said the second jet was hit by a portable surface-to-air missile, but added the pilot was unscathed and managed to land his plane safely.

16 July 2014

Comments from MG H.R. McMaster

In a long-ish interview with the local newspaper in Columbus GA (home of Ft Benning), MG H.R. McMaster had these rather interesting quotes, among many other bits worth reading.

I think one of the reasons we had this lopsided outcome in the Battle of 73 Easting of Desert Storm had a lot to do with our confidence, but also had a lot to do with the enemy.

There are two ways to fight the U.S. Army -- asymmetrically, which means you try to avoid our strengths, or stupid. And the Iraqis in 1991 chose stupid. They tried to meet us on our own terms so we could bring to bear all of our tremendous advantages. Now, what we have seen in the very difficult fights and long fights in Afghanistan and Iraq is that we are continuously interacting with an adaptive, determined -- and in these cases, a brutal -- enemy that is going to try and do everything they can to evade our strengths and attack what they perceive is our weaknesses.

So, that means we have to adapt faster. We have to innovate faster. We really have to understand these complex situations and understand how we operate to get to that sustainable outcome consistent with our interest and consistent with the risk our soldiers take, and worthy of the sacrifices the soldiers make.

So, in many ways the Gulf War was certainly easy compared with what we have encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan for a number of reasons. First of all, as I mentioned, the enemy met us on our own terms, but also we had a very narrow circumscribed political objective -- give Kuwait back to the Kuwaitis, and then we went into a long-term of detainment of Saddam. Obviously, the demands of the situations in both Iraq and Afghanistan were much different and much more difficult, and we had to face an enemy that had adapted to us over time -- multiple enemies, actually.

15 July 2014

USAF Reorganizing High Level Headquarters

Defense.gov News Release: Air Force Announces Changes to Headquarters Organization

Air Force Announces Changes to Headquarters Organization

Air Force leaders announced changes to headquarters staff manning and organization today.
The Air Force will create efficiencies by deactivating and realigning organizations at headquarters Air Force, major commands (MAJCOMs), numbered air forces and field operating agencies, resulting in savings of $1.6 billion across the Air Force in the next five years.
"I will work to ensure the world's best Air Force is the most capable at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer," said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. "Everyone knows our economy is still not where it should be; we have a responsibility to ensure that every dollar adds value to the taxpayers and our national defense."
The changes are a result of a comprehensive effort to reduce overhead costs, increase efficiencies, eliminate redundant activities and improve effectiveness and business processes (also known as Air Force Management Headquarters Review). The efficiencies created through the reorganization will also help meet the Department of Defense's directive to reduce costs and staff levels by at least 20 percent, eliminating 3,459 positions at headquarters across the Air Force, both in country and at overseas locations. As part of ongoing cost savings initiatives, the Air Force will also continue to reduce contract spending, operating budgets and travel expenditures.
To minimize the effect on civilian personnel, the Air Force will initiate Voluntary Early Retirement Authority programs and Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay to foster voluntary reductions before pursuing involuntary measures. As part of ongoing efforts to responsibly shape the force, military members were offered a variety of voluntary incentive programs.
"We are aggressively pursuing reductions within the first year, rather than spread them out over five years as allowed by DoD," said James. "It's better for airmen because it provides them predictability and allows us to re-stabilize our workforce sooner. It also allows us to harvest the savings earlier so that we can plow it back into readiness and some of our key modernization programs."
The Air Force's goal is to go beyond the 20 percent reduction mandated by the DoD so any additional savings can be achieved from staff functions above the wing level, and set to provide additional combat capability to the combatant commanders.
"The Air Force has been making incremental changes in our business practices for the last several years, but we must change the way we are doing business if we are to meet the Air Force's goal to reduce staffing functions by more than 20 percent," explained Bill Booth, Air Force acting deputy chief management officer. "Reducing higher headquarters' staffs means we can save money that can be re-invested in getting ready for combat missions at the wing level."
The largest initiative will include centralizing policy and oversight of installation and mission support activities within a newly created Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center (AFIMSC), which will report to Air Force Materiel Command. Execution will remain at the local level.
"The current and projected fiscal climate make it essential to centralize management and streamline support to the maximum extent possible in order to improve efficiency and effectiveness, as well as deliver more standardized levels of service across the Air Force," Booth said. Support functions currently spread across the MAJCOMs' staffs will be centralized at the AFIMSC.
The Air Force will also make changes to the headquarters Air Force staff organization by splitting Operations, Plans and Requirements (A3/5) and Strategic Plans and Programs (A8) and reorganizing them into the new Operations (A3) organization which will stand alone and merge the planning staffs into the new A5/8 organization.
Also, the current programming functions from A8 will be merged into the service's financial management organization (FM).
"We will now have an organization, A5/8, that is responsible for developing, managing and constantly assessing an Air Force strategy that is bounded by long-range resource projections and another organization, FM, that deals primarily with the day-to-day budget activities involved in running the Air Force," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III explained. "Keeping organizations aligned will ensure we keep moving towards our long-range strategic goals despite the short-term budget upheaval we face regularly."
The Air Force will also realign several functions that currently report to the headquarters in an effort to better support combatant commanders and realign some field operating agencies to operational MAJCOMs, merge FOAs with similar missions and deactivate others.
The Air Force Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency is also being realigned from headquarters Air Force as a FOA to become part of a new operational numbered air force under Air Combat Command.
Realigning the Air Force ISR Agency into the new 25th Air Force within ACC ensures warfighting commands will have the best possible intelligence from integrated national and tactical ISR capabilities, while appropriately realigning operational activities and "organize, train and equip" responsibilities of the AF ISR Agency from execution by Headquarters AF to a MAJCOM.

Ukraine 7/15: Russian Air Support?

Are the Russians providing air support of the rebels?

At least six Ukrainian soldiers were killed in renewed attacks on government military posts and checkpoints by pro-Moscow separatists near the border with Russia, the Ukrainian military said on Tuesday.

There were also reports of an air strike killing four civilians in the small town of Snizhne, for which Kiev denied responsibility and appeared to point a finger at Russia - two days after Moscow threatened retaliation for the death of man when a shell landed on the Russian side of the border.

"Today at 7 a.m. (0400 GMT) an unknown plane carried out a bombing attack on Snizhne. The flight can be described only as a cynical provocation," Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's National Defence and Security Council, told reporters.

His remarks appeared to be an accusation against Russia, since the rebels have not used aircraft in the conflict.

11 July 2014

Ukraine 7/11: Rebels Firing Back, in a big way

One wonders exactly where the Ukrainian rebels got ahold of Grad rockets...

Pro-Russian separatists have fired a big barrage of Grad rockets at Ukrainian troops in the eastern region of Luhansk, killing as many as 30, Ukrainian officials say.

Russian Grad rockets are classed as heavy artillery weapons, fired in batches from trucks.

Unconfirmed reports put the Ukrainian death toll as high as 30, with dozens more wounded, near Zelenopillya.

Last night rebels also shelled Ukrainian troops at Donetsk airport.

The rebels have regrouped in Donetsk as the Ukrainian military has retaken territory in the country's east. The rebels have not yet broken through to the airport.

A report by the human rights group Amnesty International has accused separatists of abuses in the three-month conflict.

06 July 2014

Nigerian Soldiers Heroically Repel Certain Death From All Sides!

Yes, it's an article that's officially from the AP. But you get the feeling from reading it that there were a few "government sources" involved in stringing it together.

Nigerian soldiers say they have killed at least 50 insurgents who stormed a northeast Nigerian military base.

The Defense Ministry said six soldiers including the commanding officer died while repelling the attack on the military base Friday, which witnesses say involved hundreds of extremists. The insurgents also attacked police station in Damboa, a town in Borno state.

The daring move appeared to be a reprisal attack after a punishing air raid 24 hours earlier caused Boko Haram Islamic extremists to suffer heavy casualties, according to an officer who requested anonymity because he is not allowed to give information to reporters.

05 July 2014

Ukraine 7/5: Government Ejecting Rebels From Strongholds

The 'rebels' have abandoned their Sloviansk stronghold.

Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine say they have evacuated their eastern stronghold of Sloviansk amid a large-scale offensive by the military.

Defence Minister Valeriy Heletey said the Ukrainian flag was flying over the city council building.

Separatist leaders said fighters had relocated in the face of the army's "overwhelming numerical superiority".

Ukrainian forces launched an offensive against the separatists this week after a 10-day ceasefire broke down.

The BBC's David Stern in Kiev says the military's capture of Sloviansk - where the eastern insurgency began in April - is a major victory for the government.