31 October 2008

Ukraine Volunteers for EU Force; Putin Spit Take Sprays Coffee on Newspaper

So apparently the Ukrainians are volunteering to join an EU battle group, despite not belonging to the EU, and knowing that it'll probably tweak the Ruskies (which may be a bonus):
Ukraine has formally broached the possibility of joining an EU battle group, a suggestion that would, if approved, make Ukraine only the third non-EU country – after Norway and Turkey – to be incorporated into the military system, European Voice reported.
The topic was raised at a meeting on 29 October between the commander-in-chief of Ukraine`s armed forces, Serhiy Kyrychenko, and the chairman of the EU Military Committee (EUMC), General Henri Bent├ęgeat.
The current concept of the EU`s battle groups is relatively new, and the EU`s 15 battle groups reached full operational capacity only in January 2007. Battle groups rotate actively, so that two are ready for deployment at all times.
Ukraine has already held consultations with Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia, which are considering forming a battle group. There were also been consultations with the commanders of the armed forces of Greece regarding a Ukrainian contribution of the EU battle group Helbrok, in which military units from Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania and Slovenia also participate. Helbrok was on deployment during the second half of 2007 and might be deployed again in the first half of 2009.

Boy, I can't imagine the Russians enjoying this one at all.

By: Brant

USN Names New Destroyer for SEAL Hero

The Secretary of the Navy has named the new Zumwalt-Class destroyer the USS Michael A. Monsoor after the fallen SEAL:
Secretary of the Navy, Donald C. Winter announced last night at a Navy SEAL Warrior Fund Benefit Gala at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, the name of the newest Zumwalt-class Destroyer will be USS Michael Monsoor. Designated as DDG- 1001, the name honors Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor, a Navy SEAL who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in Ramadi, Iraq, on Sept. 29, 2006.
“Tonight I would like to single out one of those heroes from the community of Navy SEAL’s,” Winter said. “Those who served with Michael Monsoor will remember him always as a consummate professional who faced terrorist enemies with aplomb and stoicism.”


Monsoor's Medal of Honor page
The news story from Stars and Stripes

By: Brant

Well, there's your deadline

Alrighty - you folks asked for it... Here's your Iraq withdrawal deadline:
Baghdad wants to delete any reference in a security pact with Washington to the possibility of US troops staying in Iraq after 2011, an MP close to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Thursday.
The demand is one of five amendments proposed by Iraq, Ali al-Adib, a member of the Shiite Dawa party, told AFP.
'The Iraqi government wants to remove from the agreement any mention of a possible extension of the American presence in Iraq,' he said.

Now, a show of hands - who can't wait to buy their tickets to the Iranian or AQI victory parades scheduled for 2 January 2012 in Iraq?



By: Brant

Understatement Man Strikes Again!

So apparently Japan fired the head of their air force:
Japan sacked its air force chief on Friday after he wrote an essay in which he denied the country was an aggressor in World War II, a stance likely to anger its Asian neighbours.
Our emphasis...

Ya think?!

By: Understatement Man!

Follow-ups to Syria Raid

In a shocking development, thousands of Syrians protested at the US embassy in response to the cross-border raid earlier this week:
Thousands of Syrians held a government-backed demonstration in Damascus on Thursday to protest against a U.S. military raid in the east of the country that has put a further strain on U.S.-Syrian ties.
The U.S. embassy in Damascus had closed for the day due to security concerns. Syria says the raid killed eight civilians. A U.S. official said it was believed to have killed a smuggler of foreign fighters into Iraq.


As you can imagine, the backlash against the US raid has already surfaced in the international press:
A parallel new Bush doctrine is emerging, in the last days of the soon-to-be-ancient regime, and it needs to be strangled in its crib. Like the original Bush doctrine -- the one that Sarah Palin couldn't name, which called for preventive military action against emerging threats -- this one also casts international law aside by insisting that the United States has an inherent right to cross international borders in 'hot pursuit' of anyone it doesn't like.


By: Brant

30 October 2008

Veterans

A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to 'The United States of America' for an amount of 'up to and including my life.' That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.'

Somali Pirates Make Guest Appearance on Bad 80's Weird Al B-Movie!

So now crews off of Somalia are defensing themselves against pirates:
Five piracy attempts occurred yesterday in the Gulf of Aden; they were all unsuccessful as a result of pro-active measures taken by masters and crews of the commercial shipping vessels.
Even when shots were fired during two of these attacks, the crews of commercial shipping vessels conducted evasive maneuvering and used fire hoses to repel their attackers.
“The pro-active measures taken yesterday by merchant vessels are exactly what we have been recommending,” said Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, Commander, Combined Maritime Forces. “For slightly more than two months the Coalition has been working with the commercial shipping industry and the International Maritime Organization to recommend best practices and leverage lessons learned to employ reasonable self-protection measures. These measures range from proactive lookouts and evasive maneuvering to embarking professional security teams.


I can't be the only one who thought of Stanley Spadowski when I heard about fire hoses, right?



By: Brant

Swiss Banks Divulging Customer Info?

Apparently some Italians selling arms to Libya are finding that their "confidential" Swiss accounts might not be as confidential as they thought:
Switzerland can provide legal assistance to Italian prosecutors investigating an alleged attempt by black market dealers to sell arms to Libya and Iraq, according to a court ruling released Tuesday.
An Italian citizen and a company alleged to have been involved in setting up the deal had asked the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona to block the release of their bank account details to Italian authorities.
The court dismissed their request.
Prosecutors in the central Italian city of Perugia have been investigating five Italians for illegally dealing in arms and allegedly giving hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks to Libyan officials.
Italian authorities believe the group was working to sell some 100,000 AK-47 rifles to Iraq and a half-million assault rifles to Libya before police broke up the deals.


By: Brant

How many troops for Afghanistan?

Some military planners are privately confiding that the increase in troops may need to be higher than previously discussed. Many of the additional soldiers would be a variety of specialty units, rather than just increasing 'foxhole strength':
Military planners now think they may need to send more than double the number of extra troops initially believed needed to help fight the war in Afghanistan.
The buildup in the increasingly violent campaign could amount to more than 20,000 troops rather than the originally planned 10,000, two senior defense officials said Wednesday on condition of anonymity because no new figures have been approved.
The newest calculations reflect growing requests from field commanders in recent weeks for aviation units, engineers and other skills to support the fighting units, the officials said.
Officials had been saying for months that they needed more people to train Afghan security forces and two more combat brigades — a total of some 10,000 people.
Commanders later increased that to the trainers and three combat brigades — or some 15,000, when extra support is included.
Now, military planners say that the number may have to grow yet again by another 5,000 to 10,000 support troops. They would be helicopter units, intelligence teams, engineers to build more bases, medical teams and others to support the fight in the undeveloped nation, where forces have to work around rugged terrain and a lack of infrastructure.


By: Brant

UK Buying Muchas Vehiclas for Afghanistan

The Brits are going on a major spending spree for their forces in Afghanistan:
Britain said on Wednesday it would spend £700m on buying hundreds of new armoured vehicles and upgrading existing ones to improve the protection of troops in Afghanistan.
The decision to acquire 700 additional vehicles that offer greater capacity and can better withstand landmines and roadside bombs follows criticism of the Ministry of Defence from families of servicemen killed while on patrol in lightly armoured “Snatch” Land Rovers. The Taliban are increasingly using roadside bombs – or improvised explosive devices – to attack coalition troops.

Do the math... 700m pounds for 700 more vehicles... 1m pounds/vehicle? That's a heckuva set of wheels.

By: Brant

Updating Missile Defense Treaties

Although the US plans to park missile defense shields all over the place, they are still subject to the approval of the local government, no doubt much to the chagrin of some US politicians:
The Czech parliament has begun debating a deal with Washington to place a U.S. missile defense installation on Czech territory.
U.S. and Czech government officials already have signed the deal's two treaties, but they also must be approved by both houses of the Czech parliament, and the vote is expected to be close in the lower house.
Opposition parties and the general public have joined Russia in strongly criticizing the missile defense plan, which would build a radar base near Prague as part of a missile shield. The U.S. says it is intended to deal with possible threats from Iran.


By: Brant

Colombian Military "Clean up"

Colombia is making strides in cleaning up their miitary:
The Colombian military said Wednesday it had fired 27 soldiers, including generals and colonels, in an investigation into the army's role into the killings of at least 11 men who disappeared from a poor Bogota suburb this year.
The firings marked the biggest one-day purge of military ranks for human rights abuses, according to former Defense Minister Rafael Pardo.


More information about Colombian Army: Official Site; Wikipedia; GlobalSecurity

By: Brant

Amazing what a border skirmish can cost you

After Thailand and Cambodia traded shots in a border clash, the Cambodian government decided to double it's military budget, because, y'know, rickshaws are expensive:
Cambodia will double its military budget next year to about 500 million dollars following a deadly firefight with Thailand at their disputed border this month, a lawmaker said Wednesday.
Parliament is set to approve the new military budget in a session in early November, said Cheam Yeap, head of the parliament's finance commission.




By: Brant

Example 1 that US needs better geography classes in school

Hooboy... just check out this headine: Georgia in Running for New Military Center
Now, I know what you're thinking, right: "they just fought a war with Russia, why would we put a military center there?!"
Ah, but then you get into the article, and realize that (1) you're waaaaay off base, and (2) it's worse than you thought.

Five Georgia lawmakers and Gov. Sonny Perdue asked the Defense Department Wednesday to make Georgia the home base for the military’s new U.S. Africa Command.
“Georgia provides a compelling location” for the center, the officials wrote in a letter urging that Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Fort McPherson or Fort Gillem be selected for the center.
AFRICOM, as the joint command center is known, now operates in Stuttgart, Germany. The Defense Department, which so far has been unable to reach an agreement for a base in Africa, is now looking at possible U.S. sites.
That has set off an energetic competition for the center, which is expected to have 1,300 personnel, about half of them civilian. South Carolina officials have been pushing for basing the installation in Charleston.

How much worse?
Let me count the ways:
1. AFRICOM is supposed to cover down on, you know, Africa. Air distance from Stuttgart, Germany (current location) to pretty much anywhere in Africa is far, far shorter than from Atlanta or Charleston.
2. Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem are being BRAC'ed for a reason. It's too damn expensive to keep a military HQ, with it's top-heavy structure and cost-of-living allowances, in a major metropolitan area. FORSCOM is moving to Fort Bragg because Atlanta was a bad choice for a major HQ; why on Earth would they move FORSCOM out and AFRICOM in?
3. Ditto Charleston, though it's less major metropolitan area than really expensive city-by-the-sea. The naval base got whacked for that reason.
4. What possible joint, international, or inter-agency process do you hope to engender by parking the HQ on a single-service base, with no additional space for any other agencies there?

For more on AFRICOM's purpose and some initial challenges, check out this article:
AFRICOM's primary goal is to help African nations handle the continent's problems without outside intervention, with the oft-stated goal of keeping American troops out of Africa for the next fifty years. Described by one reservist as 'Peace Corps with a weapon,' AFRICOM was billed as a post–Cold War experiment combining diplomacy, development, and defense. This '3D' approach is supposed to integrate the efforts of the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Defense Department, among other agencies.
The proper balance between these partners has yet to be found. The project is at the beginning of what promises to be a long process, but the eventual character of AFRICOM will have far-reaching consequences for the U.S. approach to Africa and the rest of the developing world.


By: Brant

29 October 2008

EU Standing Military Getting Closer?

Britain's new defense secretary won't make a lot of friends on the glorious isle with his support for a standing EU military force:
The freshly appointed UK defence secretary has publicly supported the idea of a European army, a key ambition of the French EU presidency.
Speaking to the country's Sunday Times newspaper yesterday (26 October), John Hutton, who took on the defence portfolio on 3 October, was asked about the prospects for an EU force.
He said: 'I think we've got to be pragmatic about those things. I think that's perfectly sensible. France is one of our closest allies, and the French believe very strongly in this type of role. If we can support it, we should.'
French President Nicholas Sarkozy, whose country currently chairs the EU's six-month rotating presidency, wants the bloc's existing military framework to have a new headquarters and each member state to commit 1,500 troops to rapid reaction forces.

So is this being supported on its own merits, or because they're trying to play nice with the French?

By: Brant

13 Down, 5 To Go

The Iraqis are taking over yet another province, as the 13th of 18 provinces is returned to their control:
The U.S. military has handed over security responsibilities for the southern province of Wasit to Iraqi authorities.
Wasit province is the 13th of Iraq's 18 provinces to return to full government control. Iraqi authorities are now in charge of security throughout the south.
U.S. forces will remain in the mostly Shiite province to assist the Iraqis when needed.
Wasit borders Iran and was a stronghold of militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army before U.S.-backed Iraqi forces cracked down on the militia this year.


By: Brant

Surprise!

WaPo has a short, well-written column Bush's potential "October Surprise" and the raid into Syria:
By approving a U.S. military raid across the Iraqi border into Syria, Bush has changed the rules once again. On Sunday about two dozen special forces soldiers entered the country by helicopter and killed a suspected Iraqi insurgent leader, without the permission or cooperation of the Syrian government. Call it an October surprise -- if not, at least so far, the October surprise.

As noted by the military sage of the office, if "surprise" is key to military success, then the US has it in spades... Everyone thought we were itching for a fight with Iran, and instead we turn around a take a whack at Syria - surprise!

By: Brant

"Russian" or "Indian" - new nuke sub undergoing sea trials

A Russian shipyard has completed a new nuclear attack sub that's now undergoing sea trials:
The Amur shipyard in Russia's Far East said on Monday it had started sea trials of a newly built nuclear-powered attack submarine, which according to media reports may be leased to India.
The construction of the Akula II class Nerpa nuclear attack submarine started in 1991 but has been suspended for over a decade due to lack of funding. Akula II class vessels are considered the quietest and deadliest of Russian nuclear-powered attack submarines.
'The submarine, built under a contract with the Russian Defense Ministry, has been moved from the shipyard in Komsomolsk-on-Amur to a maintenance facility in the Primorye Territory and fitted with all necessary equipment. At present it is undergoing sea trials,' a spokesman for the shipyard told RIA Novosti.
Indian media have reported on various occasions that the construction of the submarine was partially financed by the Indian government. India has reportedly paid $650 million for a 10-year lease of the 12,000-ton submarine.

What's the Akula II sport?
According to Wikipedia
Akula-II submarines
The Akula-II Vepr is the only Akula-II known to be in service at present. The Gepard is in service and was launched a short time after the Kursk submarine disaster, along with the halted Kuguar (Akula-I) and Rys. The 1999-2000 edition of Jane's Fighting Ships listed the Akula-IIs then as Viper ("vepr" actually means wild boar in Russian), commissioned July 1995, Gepard, launched 1999 and expected to commission in 2000, and Nerpa, launched in May 1994 and expected to commission in 1999. Another source has Nerpa listed as having been under construction for eleven years, and effectively having its building suspended.
The Gepard is known to have a slightly smaller and streamlined Towed Array Sonar Dispenser than the other submarines of the class. She also appears to have a longer sail than other Akula class submarines. President Vladimir Putin was on board Gepard during his commission after the Kursk incident.

And in the same article
Lease to India
India is reportedly paying two billion dollars for the completion of two Akula-II class submarines which were 40-60% completed. Three hundred Indian Navy personnel are being trained in Russia for the operation of these submarines. India has finalized a deal with Russia, in which at the end of the lease of these submarines, it has an option to buy them.The first submarine will be named INS Chakra.
Whereas the Russian Navy's Akula-II submarine is equipped with 28 nuclear-capable cruise missiles with a striking range of 3,000 kilometers, the Indian version was reportedly expected to be armed with the 300 km range 3M-54 Klub nuclear-capable missiles. Missiles with ranges greater than 300 kilometers cannot be exported due to arms control restrictions, since Russia is a signatory to the MTCR treaty.


By: Widow 6-7

28 October 2008

Congo Update: UN Commander Bails Out

Hey, it's not the French running away! Nah, just the Spanish commander of the UN forces turning tail, not unlike the Spanish government did after the 3-11 train bombings. Except that this time, apparently he's the only one in actual danger:
The commander of the United Nations' peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has left the post as the mission prepares to defend territory from advancing rebels.
Lieutenant General Vicente Diaz de Villegas y Herreria, of Spain, "indicated that for personal reasons he will not be able to continue with his assignment as planned,'' according to an e- mailed statement from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's office.
The UN has appointed Brigadier General Ishmeel Ben Quartey of Ghana to head the force while it looks for a replacement.
The peacekeepers are poised to defend Goma, the capital of eastern North Kivu province, as rebels from the National Congress for the Defense of the People, or CNDP, advance after two months of clashes between the CNDP and the national army.

Previous reporting on this can be found here

By: Widow 6-7

An Insurgent Air Force?

So apparently the Tamil Tigers have an air force. Who knew? And apparently, they actually managed to hit something from the air, too:
The Tamil Tigers' air wing set a power station ablaze in the Sri Lankan capital and hit an army base on Tuesday in separate air raids, the military said.
The bombing runs were the eighth and ninth raids by the Liberation Tiger of Tamil Eelam's (LTTE) ramshackle air force of single-engine propeller-driven planes, which have bedevilled the Sri Lankan military since first striking in March 2007.
Tuesday's first attack hit Thalladi military camp about 250 km (150 miles) north of Colombo in Mannar district, causing minor damage and injuring one soldier, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said.
Soon after, radar picked up an unidentified aircraft heading south over the Indian Ocean towards Colombo. The city was plunged into darkness after power was switched off as a precaution, jets were scrambled and air defences activated.


By: Widow 6-7

Abu NIdal was a spy? Or someone's chasing headlines again?

Apparently, there's a report out of the UK media that Abu Nidal, the Palestinian terrorist, was being paid by the US to spy inside Iraq:
Iraqi secret police believed that the notorious Palestinian assassin Abu Nidal was working for the Americans as well as Egypt and Kuwait when they interrogated him in Baghdad only months before the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. Hitherto secret documents which are now in the hands of The Independent – written by Saddam Hussein's brutal security services for Saddam's eyes only – state that he had been "colluding" with the Americans and, with the help of the Egyptians and Kuwaitis, was trying to find evidence linking Saddam and al-Qa'ida.

President George Bush was to use claims of a relationship with al-Qa'ida as one of the reasons for his 2003 invasion, along with Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction. Western reports were to dismiss Iraq's claim that Abu Nidal committed suicide in August 2002, suggesting that Saddam's own security services murdered him when his presence became an embarrassment for them. The secret papers from Iraq suggest that he did indeed kill himself after confessing to the "treacherous crime of spying against this righteous country".

The final hours of Abu Nidal, the mercenary whose assassinations and murderous attacks in 20 countries over more than a quarter of a century killed or wounded more than 900 civilians, are revealed in the set of intelligence reports drawn up for Saddam's "presidency intelligence office" in September of 2002. The documents state that Egyptian and Kuwaiti intelligence officers had asked Abu Nidal, whose real name was Khalil al-Banna, to spy for them "with the knowledge of their American counterparts". Five days after his death, Iraq's head of intelligence, Taher Jalil Habbush, told a press conference in Baghdad that Abu Nidal had committed suicide after Iraqi agents arrived at the apartment where he was hiding in the city, but the secret reports make it clear that the notorious Palestinian had undergone a long series of interrogations prior to his violent demise. The records of these sessions were never intended to be made public and were written by Iraqi "Special Intelligence Unit M4" for Saddam. While Abu Nidal may have lied to his interrogators – torture is not mentioned in the reports – the documents appear to be a frank internal account of what the Iraqis believed his mission in Iraq to be. The papers name a Kuwaiti major, a member of the ruling Kuwaiti al-Sabbah family, as his "handler" and state that he was also tasked to "perform terrorist acts inside and outside Iraq". His presence in the country "would provide the Americans with the pretext that Iraq was harbouring terrorist organisations," the reports say.

What's our take? Hard to say. Were there actual 'documents' found? Undoubtedly. Are we supposed to believe anything we found in Saddam's archives? Who knows. Saddam might have believed Nidal was on the US payroll, but that doesn't mean he was.

By: Brant

Conflagration in the Congo; UN on the run

This is our first time embedding Google Maps... bear with us if it's not perfect, OK?

Things are not going well in Northeast Congo, as rebels are advancing on a strategic crossroads and the Congolese army is bailing out:
The Congolese army prepared to abandon a town in the east of the country on Tuesday as rebels advanced upon it, the army said on Tuesday.
Tutsi rebels fought their way along a road to Rutshuru, around 100 km (60 miles) north of North Kivu's provincial capital Goma on the third day of an offensive launched on Sunday.


Rutshuru detail map

View Larger Map

More disturbing, however, are reports thatUN Peacekeepers are also running away:
Rebels vowing to take Congo's eastern provincial capital of 600,000 people advanced toward Goma on Tuesday as Congolese troops and U.N. tanks retreated in a haze of fumes.
Adding to the melee, tens of thousands of civilians jammed the roads. Many were carrying huge bundles of clothes, pots and bedding on their heads. Even young children balanced sacks of food on their heads, walking along rutted roads in bare feet.


The UN is, however, taking enough time to help get relief and aid workers kinda/sorta outta harm's way
U.N. peacekeepers prepared to evacuate around 50 foreign aid workers from a town in violence-ravaged eastern Congo on Tuesday as Tutsi rebels advanced towards it, officials said.
The rebels fought their way along a strategic road towards the town of Rutshuru, around 100 km (60 miles) north of North Kivu's provincial capital Goma, early on Tuesday, drawing within 10 km (6 miles) of Rutshuru.


Goma detail map

View Larger Map
Great historical synopsis and links to the combatant groups over at GlobalSecurity.org

As to the Tutsi rebels leading the charge, you may remember them from the brief civil war/massacre in Rwanda in '94. Last time, the Tutsis were on the receiving end of the bloodshed; this time, they appear to be leading it.

By: Brant

Staff Update (Welcome Gladius)

All welcome Gladius Magnus - the Man of Large Happiness!
Longblade has been posting his stuff for him and welcome to the team...

Also, we've added another feed to the news on the left. Check out DoDBuzz when you get a chance.

By: Brant

Albania, Croatia to US: "We Gatchya Back, Yo"

In a move guarateed to leave the Russians quaking in their boots, President Bush endorsed Albania and Croatia as members-in-waiting of NATO, thus ensuring that should the US, or UK, or heck Latvia, ever be attacked, Albania will come rushing to their aid with, well, with something resembling and armed force:
President Bush kicked off the weekend by signing agreements endorsing Albania and Croatia as NATO members and called on other Balkan and former Soviet countries to join the alliance."
...
The president called their entry into NATO "an historic step for the Balkans," noting that within a decade the region has “transformed itself from a land consumed by war to a contributor to international peace and stability."
...
Bush reiterated U.S. support for others to join NATO, including Georgia, Ukraine, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro, and Serbia if it chooses. These countries “remember the pain of tyranny,” and, as a result, “treasure the blessings of liberty,” he said.


First reaction... "yawn."
Second reaction... "uh, sure it's a 'contributor to international peace and stability' - that's why we have 10000 peacekeepers still stationed all over the Balkans"
Third reaction... What the $&%^#?! Didn't we just almost go to war over this?! Whey the #&*@% are we trying to admit Georgian and The Ukraine now of all times? Must be King George trying to make life harder for the Obama-in-waiting on his way out the door.

By: Brant

How Will Negotiations Proceed in Iran?

It's not like Iran has been a positive example of negotiating in good faith, but now there's a report that Western powers snubbed Iran's offer of talks:
Iran's U.N. ambassador said on Monday that six world powers have never responded to Tehran's proposal for negotiations without pre-conditions aimed at resolving its nuclear stand-off with the West.
Instead, Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee told a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, a small group of countries continued to insist that Iran halt its uranium enrichment program, a demand that he said violated international law.
'The 5 1 Group has yet to provide its response to Iran's proposed package,' he said, referring to a proposal for talks delivered in May to the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany.


By: Brant

27 October 2008

Where's Omar? Hell, I'd Guess

A report at The Jawa Report has been published indicating that Mullah Omar was killed in the latest Predator strike.

w00t!

By: GladiusMagnus

Pirates = Sexy... just in Somalia?

According to Foreign Policy Somali pirates aren't going away:
No wonder we can't get rid of pirates. They are sexy.
Farhat Hussameddin, in an editorial in Egypt's al-Ahram newspaper, says he was told by a young lady that 'marrying a pirate is every Somali girl's dream':
He has power, money, immunity, the weapons to defend the tribe and funds to give to the militias in civil war.'




By: Brant

26 October 2008

Syria Attacked by US Helos?

UPDATE: New details are emerging about this raid. Wired.com is reporting two interesting tidbits. First, the raid is reminiscent of "hot pursuit" tactics being used in the Afghanistan/Pakistan area. Second, the raid took place not too far from where Israel supposedly pounded a Syrian nuke facility into dust. Hmmm.

---------

A report coming out of Syrian TV claims that US forces have attacked and invaded a village 10 miles inside of the Iraqi border, possibly near the village of Abu Kamal. Casualties are reported but unspecified.

As with most of these early reports, details are few and likely to change.

By: GladiusMagnus

India not ready for war right now; hang on 'til 2011, please

A report from India's own defense establishment claims that India is not ready for war:
Is India ready for war? The Comptroller and Auditor General has grave doubts.

But hey, it's not all bad news...
They'll have their weaponized indigenous light combat something-or-other aircraft ready to go by 2011:
The indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA-Tejas) project will be continued and will be inducted into the India Air Force, fully certified and weaponised, by 2011. The Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH-Dhruv) will be inducted into the armed forces for various applications in its weaponised form, according to Defence Minister A.K. Antony here on Saturday.

Oh, and their tanks might be ready by then, too:
He said he had heard from the critics that the LCA and the India’s Main Battle Tank (MBT) Arjun would not make it to the defence forces but he said both were now nearing certification stage. “I too had some apprehensions, but after knowing the facts I can confidently tell that both LCA and MBT can find their due place in the armed forces.


By: Brant

Yeah, it's the French Again

So the French are telling people not to be concerned about the Milan ATGMs seized by the Taliban:
France played down the capture by Taliban of two French anti-tank missiles seized after a major attack was launched on hundreds of its troops in Afghanistan on Friday.
Defence Minister Herve Morin said that western forces in Afghanistan had to abandon weapons in the field and that the main concern had been to get the troops out of last Saturday's ambush alive.
'It was an ambush in a narrow valley, with a lot of Taliban,' said Morin as he visited an army unit in the eastern town of Annecy that was about to send some of its soldiers to Afghanistan.
'The essential thing is that everyone is alive,' he said, adding that the abandoned Milan anti-tank missiles would be difficult to use for anyone without the proper training.

But wait, there's more!
Check out this bit, buried in the lower part of the article:
It said that around 300 French troops were attacked by about 100 Taliban and had to retreat after fierce fighting. Air cover was called in to help them get out of the ambush, said Lieutenant Colonel Bruno Louisfert, a French army spokesman in Afghanistan.

Uh, someone explain the French running away when they outnumber the Durka-Durkas by 3-to-1?!

By: Brant

Layoffs in the MoD

Well, so much for the idea of war being a growth industry... The UK MoD is laying off employees:
The government is to axe a quarter of the military and civilian staff at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) despite being warned the cuts risk leaving it incapable of predicting threats to the UK or its interests worldwide.
The loss of 1,200 of the 4,330 staff will see every branch of the MoD losing posts, with those dealing with threats to the UK and military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan among the worst affected.
The posts being axed include intelligence analysts watching potential threats to the UK; staff officers controlling the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and those providing urgently needed equipment to troops.
Documents obtained by the Sunday Times reveal warnings from senior officers in charge of the various branches that the cuts could lead to them not being able to do their job.


By: Brant

North and South Korea Talking Again - but are they speaking the same language?

The Koreas are trying to work out some differences:
North and South Korea have agreed to hold military talks to discuss unsettled issues, including improving military hotlines between the two nations.
South Korea's Defense Ministry said in a statement Saturday the talks will be held Monday morning on the west coast near the border city of Paju.
The North proposed Friday that officer-level talks be held about improving telecommunications lines between the two sides.
...
North and South Korea have been technically in a state of war since their three-year conflict ended with a truce, and not a peace deal, in 1953.

But you have to wonder how seriously the North is taking this, given their history of doubletalk...
And I'd say a constant state of war since 1953 qualifies as an "unsettled issue," wouldn't it?

By: Brant

US Trainers in Pakistan

Is the US military finally fighting the war where it needs to be fought:
About 30 U.S. military personnel are training members of Pakistan's Frontier Corps on how to fight Taliban and al Qaeda militants in Pakistan's tribal regions, according to several U.S. military sources.
The Pakistanis trained by the U.S. contingent -- which includes Army Special Forces troops -- will in turn become trainers for Frontier Corps troops on the front lines fighting the militants, the sources said.


By: Brant

24 October 2008

Actual Game Discussion!

This is the start of a discussion over at The Next Wars discussion forum on ConSimWorld:

So I've been fiddling around with the info I could find on the Georgia/South Ossetia War from this past summer. I was trying to piece together a scenario or two for Next Wars series using the existing Orange Crush counters, and a few slight mods... Basically, I was trying to set the game up so you could re-create the war and be able to play a 1-sitting game, in which each side was trying to do better than they actually did in the historical game.

Here's the problem, though. For either side to exceed their historical stopping points, you have to really "break" the game. For the Georgians to stem the red tide would require blowing up the Roki Tunnel - in which case, darn near nothing gets into the oountry, based on limited mobility elsewhere, and it becomes a Kosovo-ish air campaign on the part of the Russians (which Next Wars really isn't the best at).
The other option for the Georgians is to fight a total guerilla fight - again, not the best use of the Next Wars system.

If the Russians were to seize any more of Georgia than they did, you're likely running into more of a 4-headed diplomatic game. Additionally, to properly account for the Ossetian / Chechen / Abkhazian 'rebels' you've got to increase the partisan counters by a LOT in the countermix.

So, even though it seems like it'd be a TON of fun, I can't figure out a way to make the Next Wars rules work in a Georgia - Russia shootout.

If anyone's got any suggestions, I'm happy to hear them. Please share!


By: Brant

One Tough SOB

Damn. We all knew SAS guys were tough as nails. This guy, though, makes nails look like a washed-up former Pennsylvania National Guard E-7 drill sergeant wanna-be with a real tough-guy act:
DESPITE being shot twice during an ambush in Afghanistan, an SAS soldier lashed himself to the front of his patrol vehicle so he wouldn't be left behind if he passed out from loss of blood and kept on fighting.

The Digger is expected to be recommended for a high level bravery award.

Suffering from serious upper body wounds, the soldier struggled on to the front of his SAS long range patrol vehicle (LRPV) and, under heavy fire, used a rope to attach himself firmly between the vehicle's bull bar and radiator.

Once he was secured, and there was no chance that he would fall off if he fainted, he picked up his rifle and resumed firing at the enemy during a two-hour fighting withdrawal.

Holy %#&$

By: Brant

US To Iraqis: Sign this or we take our Army and go home!

The US is pressuring the Iraqis to sign a new Status-of-Forces Agreement governing the US presence in Iraq:
The Bush administration on Wednesday warned of 'real consequences' for Iraq if it rejects a newly negotiated security pact. Without a deal, the United States could be forced to end its military operations.
The White House said Iraqi security forces are incapable of keeping the peace without U.S. troops, raising the specter of reversals in recent security and political gains if the proposed security deal is not approved by the time the current legal basis for U.S. military operations expires Dec. 31.
'There will be no legal basis for us to continue operating there without that,' White House press secretary Dana Perino said. 'And the Iraqis know that. And so, we're confident that they'll be able to recognize this. And if they don't, there will be real consequences, if Americans aren't able to operate there.'


By: Brant

We Remember: Beirut.


25 Years ago today, the USMC suffered their worst single-day of casualties since WWII. They were the first casualties of what we are only now recognizing as a generation-long struggle against a religiously-motivated group of fanatics intent on targeting and ultimately destroying our way of life. The DoD has a memorial site at DefenseLink

President Reagan's Address to the Nation, 27 OCT 1983
My fellow Americans:
Some 2 months ago we were shocked by the brutal massacre of 269 men, women, and children, more than 60 of them Americans, in the shooting down of a Korean airliner. Now, in these past several days, violence has erupted again, in Lebanon and Grenada.

In Lebanon, we have some 1,600 marines, part of a multinational force that's trying to help the people of Lebanon restore order and stability to that troubled land. Our marines are assigned to the south of the city of Beirut, near the only airport operating in Lebanon. Just a mile or so to the north is the Italian contingent and not far from them, the French and a company of British soldiers.

This past Sunday, at 22 minutes after 6 Beirut time, with dawn just breaking, a truck, looking like a lot of other vehicles in the city, approached the airport on a busy, main road. There was nothing in its appearance to suggest it was any different than the trucks or cars that were normally seen on and around the airport. But this one was different. At the wheel was a young man on a suicide mission.

The truck carried some 2,000 pounds of explosives, but there was no way our marine guards could know this. Their first warning that something was wrong came when the truck crashed through a series of barriers, including a chain-link fence and barbed wire entanglements. The guards opened fire, but it was too late. The truck smashed through the doors of the headquarters building in which our marines were sleeping and instantly exploded. The four-story concrete building collapsed in a pile of rubble.

More than 200 of the sleeping men were killed in that one hideous, insane attack. Many others suffered injury and are hospitalized here or in Europe.

This was not the end of the horror. At almost the same instant, another vehicle on a suicide and murder mission crashed into the headquarters of the French peacekeeping force, an eight-story building, destroying it and killing more than 50 French soldiers.

Prior to this day of horror, there had been several tragedies for our men in the multinational force. Attacks by snipers and mortar fire had taken their toll.

I called bereaved parents and/or widows of the victims to express on behalf of all of us our sorrow and sympathy. Sometimes there were questions. And now many of you are asking: Why should our young men be dying in Lebanon? Why is Lebanon important to us?

read the rest at the link

By: Brant

What really matters

Captain's Log: Fallen Soldier

23 October 2008

Finally! Good news from the Pak frontier...

In all the bad news about Afghanistan and Pakistan, it's nice when a ray of light slips through:
Fewer foreign fighters are slipping into Afghanistan since Pakistan launched its offensive in August against Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in border tribal regions, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
In a media briefing, US Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell welcomed 'stepped-up operations' by the Pakistani military in Peshawar, and in Swat in particular, over the past two months.
'It is stepped up not just in terms of tempo, but in terms of effectiveness,' Morrell said. 'As a result, we have seen some improvement in the flow of foreign fighters across the border into Afghanistan.'
He said the assessment came from US sources, but he gave no figures as to how many fewer foreign militants might be crossing the frontier since the Pakistani offensive -- launched amid strong US pressure -- began.

For some fantastic analysis and mythbusting, check out this article on the biggest myths about Pakistan. You'll learn something...

By: Brant

Details of Military Cooperation Pact Between India & Japan

Official verbiage from the press release announcing India-Japan military cooperation:
The following elements will be included in security cooperation between India and Japan:
1. Information exchange and policy coordination on regional affairs in the Asia Pacific region and on long-term strategic and global issues.
2. Bilateral cooperation within multilateral frameworks in Asia, in particular the East Asia Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum and ReCAAP processes.
3. Defence dialogue and cooperation within the framework of the Joint Statement signed in May 2006 between the two Defence Ministries.
4. Cooperation between Coast Guards
5. Safety of transport
6. Fight against terrorism and transnational crimes
7. Sharing of experiences in peacekeeping and peacebuilding
8. Disaster management
9. Disarmament and non-proliferation


By: Brant

France Forecasting Arms Sales Increase

Is it really surprising that France is expecting a good year selling arms abroad?:
French Defence Minister Herve Morin said on Wednesday he expected some 'good news' this year on France's attempts to sell arms abroad despite its continued failure to find a foreign buyer for its flagship fighter jet.
Morin has expressed frustration at the lack of sales of Dassault Aviation's high-tech Rafale fighter in the face of competition from less expensive models, such as U.S. F-16s, made by Lockheed Martin.


After all, France has its own sweetheart deal with Brazil, and world arms sales are expected to rise, driven by non-US/UK acqusitions.

By: Brant

How Will the Next President Affect Military Size and Scope?

How much will the next President really effect the size and structure of the US military? They've clearly drawn differences in the missions they'd prefer for the military, but both seem to agree on expansion and enlargement:
Barack Obama and John McCain each promise that as president they'd continue to transform the U.S. military into a bigger, more agile force that can tackle insurgencies and help allies thwart terrorism.
However, the candidates differ on what role the military should play in global affairs.
...
While there may be big differences in how the presidential candidates would use the military, they generally agree on what kind of force the U.S. needs.
"Temperamentally, Senators Obama and McCain are very different on defense. But when you read the details of their defense positions, they are remarkably similar," said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Lexington Institute, a conservative public policy organization. "They both want to bolster intelligence, focus on counter-terrorism, reduce big-ticket weapons systems and crack down on defense contracts."
Both men call for rebuilding U.S. ground forces, whose troops and equipment have been exhausted by seven years of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The next president will find a military that's still struggling to balance training for counter-insurgency and maintaining its ability to fight conventional wars.
McCain would like to increase the size of U.S. ground forces — the Army and Marines — by 150,000 troops to roughly 900,000.


By: Brant

"Walter Reed of the Veterinary World"

The Army is opening a treatment facility in San Antonio for military animals:
A new $15 million veterinary hospital, complete with operating rooms and intensive care, officially opened here Tuesday, offering an advanced facility to treat military dogs that find bombs and aid patrols on the warfront.
Dogs working for all branches of the military and the Transportation Safety Administration, are trained at Lackland Air Force Base to find explosive devices, drugs and land mines. Some 2,500 are currently working with military units.
Like soldiers and Marines on the battlefront, military dogs suffer war wounds and routine health issues that need to be treated to ensure they can continue working.
Dogs injured in Iraq or Afghanistan get emergency medical treatment on the battlefield and are flown for care to Germany. If necessary, they'll fly on to San Antonio for more advanced treatment — much like wounded human personnel.
"We act as the Walter Reed of the veterinary world," said Army Col. Bob Vogelsang, hospital director. "If they can make it back here, they can usually go back to the fight" after treatment.


By: Brant

US to Baltics: "We Gatchya Back, Yo"

After NATO discussed revising their plans to defend the Baltic members of NATO, some of the NATO partners disagreed with the idea, including, remarkably, the French (who have no part of the NATO military command structure). However, on his recent tour of Europe and the Middle East, Adm Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs reiterated the commitment to collective NATO defense, specifically the Baltic nations:
The United States has assured the three Baltic countries bordering Russia that they can rely on NATO protection in case of a military attack.
U.S. Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke Wednesday during a visit to the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.
He said he understands concerns about Russian military policy toward the Baltic states and Ukraine after Russia's military incursion into Georgia in August. But he said NATO's commitments and obligations to defend its members are clear.


By: Brant

22 October 2008

Self-Aggrandizement taken to new heights

So this British war correspondent writes a gonzo piece about supposedly getting killed in Afghanistan:
In the week that Sir David Richards, the new head of the British Army, called for more troops to be sent to Afghanistan, foreign correspondent Nick Meo came so close to death in a Taliban bomb ambush that the US forces had him written off as a fatality.

Sounds cool, right?

Go read BlackFive's deconstruction of this twit's misadventures and you'll understand why there's such a distrust of the media among many soldiers.

By: Widow 6-7

Iran Invaded!

Alas, the animal kingdom's invasion of Iran continues. After an initial wave of aerial pigeon-based reconnaissance, pathfinder-trained squirrels are now being stopped at the border:
In one of the more amazing stories I've read, it was recently reported that Iranian police jailed 14 squirrels -- for spying.
Yes, you read that right; spying. It seems that the fluffy rodents, who weigh approximately a pound-and-a-half each, were hanging around near the Iranian border, equipped with eavesdropping devices.
'I have heard about it, but I do not have precise information,' replied the national police chief when asked to confirm the story.
Allegedly, the furry animals were equipped with modern technology including GPS units, cameras, and listening devices. The report also said that the squirrels were trained for espionage and information-gathering and are believed to have been sent to Iran by Israel. The original reports came from the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

Oi! And money quote is further down in the article:
"The story is nuts," said a foreign office source.


By: Widow 6-7 Secret Squirrel!

The American Marksman

The American Marksman gets some love from the buttoned-down British press in The Economist:
The belief that its riflemen are the world’s best marksmen runs through America’s military history. It dates back at least to the American War of Independence (1775-83) when sharpshooters born and bred on the frontier killed a disproportionate number of British officers. Their long shots were effective but their deliberate targeting was nonetheless deplored by the British army, whose soldiers armed with muskets advanced in formation in full sight of the enemy.
George Washington was in two minds about the tactic. He expected his riflemen to “skulk” in the Indian manner but ordered that if any other kind of soldier “shall attempt to skulk, hide himself or retreat from the enemy without orders of his commanding officer, he will instantly be shot down as an example of cowardice.” By the mid-19th century American riflemen, whether hidden or not, were internationally famed as crack shots. As Alexander Rose, a military historian, shows in his rigorous account, this reputation had sound statistical support. An infantryman on the Unionist side in the American civil war (1861-65) was, on his reckoning, five times as good at hitting his foe as his Mexican, British or Continental European counterpart.


By: Brant

India Spreads Its Military Wings

India is not just sending a warship to patrol the Horn of Africa, and participating in the maneuvers of the NATO task force. They are also touting a growing number of cooperative exercises with other nations:
During the last three years Indian Defence Forces conducted Joint Military Exercises with countries such as China, Maldives, Mongolia, Russia, Seychelles, Singapore, Thailand, Oman, Sri Lanka, Brazil, South Africa, UK, USA and France.
It also proposed to hold such exercises abroad in the near future. The Government proposes to hold Joint Military Exercises with countries with whom it has relevant agreements in future also, as it enables adoption of best practices to strengthen the military base.


By: Brant

NATO sailors to see action? Or just work on their tans?

NATO is apparently steaming ahead with plans to station naval forces in the Indian Ocean:
The most far-reaching decision at the Budapest meet was NATO's decision to establish a naval presence in the Indian Ocean, ostensibly for protecting World Food Program ships carrying relief for famine-stricken Somalia.

One wonders, of course, how effective the force will be if they are saddled with the same "national caveats" that prevent one-third of the force in Afghanistan from firing a shot in anger.
In what's rapidly becoming Cold War-level predictable, the Russians have responded with a sailing of their own:
Last Tuesday, even as the NATO naval force left for the Indian Ocean, it was stated in Moscow that a missile frigate from Russia's Baltic fleet - aptly named Neustrashimy [Fearless] - was already heading to the Indian Ocean 'to fight piracy off Somalia's coast'. Moscow claimed that the Somali government sought Russian assistance.


By: Brant

Attention Arms Merchants: Sell Here!

With the Western world in a variety of budget crunches, and their wars winding down (either through success, or domestic politics), the world defense expenditures are expected to change, led by several emerging economies:
Arms manufacturers will have to seek new markets as the economic crisis and changing priorities curb military spending in the U.S. and Europe, analyst Jane's Information Group said Tuesday.
The U.S. accounts for nearly half the world's defense spending, but Jane's predicts U.S. expenditure will fall in the next few years, while military spending in Europe remains flat.
The publication Jane's Industry Quarterly identified Australia, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan and Brazil as the most attractive 'golden markets' for defense companies. Jane's chose those markets for a combination of growth rate, market size, stability and openness to international defense firms.

Now, the old joke about Brazil is that "it has great potential, and always will." But this time they seemed determined to flex some military muscle, especially with Venezuela on the prowl. We reported on this last week.

By: Brant

New Head of the UK Army

The UK has named their new commander of the Army:
Sir David, 56, currently Commander in Chief (land) based in Salisbury, will succeed Gen Sir Richard Dannatt as Chief of the General Staff in August 2009.
He has called for an international troop surge in Afghanistan, which could involve up to 30,000 more Nato troops and as many as 5,000 UK troops when forces leave Iraq.
Britain has about 8,000 service personnel currently serving in Afghanistan, and Nato has more than 50,000 in total.
'I think militarily there is a case for more troops, they don't all have to come by any means from the UK,' said Sir David, who was the first non-American to command US forces since the Second World War.



Here, too, is some commentary about the good general:
The appointment of General Sir David Richards to be head of the army next summer will bring a breath of fresh air to the job and some new thinking. But don't expect him to sound the retreat for British forces from Kabul, Kandahar and Helmand.



By: Widow 6-7

RAF picking up Typhoons


Although still committed to buying the F35 JSF, the RAF is also loading up on Typhoons to widen the missions they can conduct, and to reduce their dependence on an already over-budget and behind-schedule US-led project that no doubt will become a domestic political plaything.
Tranche 2 deliveries of the Eurofighter Typhoon are under way, with the UK Royal Air Force having accepted its first of 91 aircraft earlier this month. The aircraft, along with a second single-seat example, will be flown to the RAF's Typhoon operating base at Coningsby in Lincolnshire on 21 October, and 'will undergo final system checks and modifications before they are released for flight trials', says the UK Ministry of Defence.


By: Widow 6-7

21 October 2008

Milking the Defense Establishment for Jobs

It's nice to know that it's not only American congressional reps who treat the Defense Department as their local job-creation programs. Apparently, the Brits are having similar issues:
People in Whitehall are expecting the financial crisis to produce spending cuts in several departments. For the Ministry of Defence this promises to be another difficult episode in which prestigious projects may be axed or delayed and critics denounce it as a 'Treasury-led' exercise, i.e. one designed to produce savings rather than to re-think Britain's military needs.
...
Projected equipment costs for the next ten years are said to be something like £35bn over the available budget, creating a huge gap that must be addressed.
Add to this that many senior officers are intensely frustrated that they have been operating for years outside the department's Defence Planning Assumptions - the tasks set out by the last major defence review ten years ago which the forces were financed to perform - and it is clear that some of the top brass would even welcome the chance to cut back commitments or equipment projects as part of a coherent rethink of what missions the forces are required to perform.
...
"All options are now on the table", reports one senior insider, meaning that prestige projects previously thought safe (such as the Royal Navy's aircraft carriers, future batches of the RAF's Typhoon fighter or the Army's plan for a future family of armoured vehicles) may now be cut back.
Those who would prefer the axe to fall upon the Royal Navy's Trident submarine replacement plan note ruefully that their new boss, Defence Secretary John Hutton, represents Barrow in Furness where Britain's nuclear subs are built.



By: Brant

Attack of the Espionage Pigeons

Apparently, Valiant has been called out of retirement and sent to work in Iran:
Security forces in Natanz have arrested two suspected 'spy pigeons' near Iran's uranium enrichment facility.
One of the pigeons was caught near a rose water production plant in the city of Kashan in Isfahan province, the report cited an unnamed informed source as saying, adding that some metal rings and invisible strings were attached to the bird, the reformist Etemad Melli newspaper reported on Monday.
'Early this month, a black pigeon was caught bearing a blue-coated metal ring, with invisible strings,' the source was quoted as saying of the second pigeon.
The source gave no further description of the pigeons, neither their current status nor what their fate will be.

Sigh.

By: Widow 6-7

Your Tuesday Morning Perspective

Apologies for the "sponsor" of the clip. The bit from C-Span is still a bit of a headshaker.



By: Brant

Axis of Diesel?

Is this is most likely challenge of the next administration:
Together they form an “Axis of Diesel”. Buoyed by petrodollars, Russia, Iran and Venezuela hectored the West as they extended their reach abroad, backing separatists in Georgia, Islamists in the Middle East and Leftists around the world.
Now those oil-producing powers may be forced to draw in their horns as crude prices tumble. They face austerity budgets that could force them to scale back their military spending and foreign assistance even as falling oil prices fuel domestic dissent.
“All countries heavily dependent on petroleum revenue are nervously watching oil prices as they drop not just far, but quickly,” said Jonathan Elkind, a senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
...
Leaders in Tehran, Moscow and Caracas have gloated as the financial crisis has hobbled the United States and its Western allies. Analysts say that the three swaggering petro-states are the most vulnerable oil producers to the steep price declines. From a record high of $147 (£85) a barrel in July, crude oil is now trading at around $70 after dipping to its lowest level since August 2007.

The question is how much of what type of adventurism will be available to these regimes as their funding source fluctuates. As their ability to provide subsidized bread-and-circuses to their populations declines, will they seek external targets of blame and dismay? You can guess who'll be target number 1.

By: Brant

20 October 2008

This Can't End Well

I can already see the TV ads during the campaign season ramping up to blame this one on somebody. Apparently a Chinese company with a US front just got a big contract for an X-ray scanning system for the Port of Los Angeles:
For the first time, a major U.S. port has purchased a sophisticated high-energy X-ray scanning system from a Chinese manufacturer, and it is paying for it with a $1.7 million port security grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The Port of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest, has procured a mobile X-ray scanning system, mounted on a Mack truck chassis, which was manufactured by a Chinese company called Nuctech Company Limited, headquartered in Beijing, whose president happens to be the son of the President of the People’s Republic of China. The Nuctech equipment will be used by the port police to inspect trucks delivering food, groceries and other supplies to cruise ships that are scheduled to depart from the busy West Coast port.

Someone, somewhere, is gearing up for a hearing on this one. Now we're not overly protectionistic here, but it seems like key security infrastructure and technologies might oughta want to stay with US manufacturers...

(props to Threatswatch)
By: Brant

The Law of Unintended Consequences

Pentagon policy has resulted in an unintended trickle-down consequence:
The Pentagon has revised a directive on detainee interrogations to specifically prohibit the use of techniques developed for a pilot survival training program from Chinese torture methods, officials said Wednesday.
Critics charge that the so-called SERE techniques served as the basis for coercive interrogation practices that spread after the September 11 attacks to military detention centers in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Afghanistan and Iraq.
'Use of SERE techniques against a person in the custody or effective control of the Department of Defense or detained in a DoD facility is prohibited,' the October 9 directive on detainee interrogation says.
SERE, which stands for survival, evasion, resistance and escape, is a program developed by the US military after the Korean War to help downed pilots and other military personnel survive captivity.

A directive intended to limit the exposure of prisoners to 'torture' is now being used to limit the exposure of trainees to techniques our potential adversaries know, advocate, and teach.

By: Brant

Opting out of War

The NATO situation in Afghanistan might be more ridiculous than previously imagined. It's been known for a while, that nations can limit the actions of their forces there, but the sheer volume of these limitations seems to have reached very silly levels:
He was looking for a way of ending the system whereby member governments are allowed to opt out of commitments and operations by playing their own 'red' and 'yellow' cards – by entering what are known as 'national caveats'. The general said there are at present more than 80 national caveats in play in Afghanistan.

80?!
So much for "an attack on one..."

By: Brant

Updated News Links

We've got some new blogs we added to the links on the left side. If enough people dig them, maybe we'll start rotating them through the news feeds we have over on the left column as well.

By: Brant

18 October 2008

Cost Overruns Doom US Army ARH

The biggest problem with the ARH, which ultimately lead to its cancelation, wasn't even mentioned in this article:
The US Army cancelled a 9.2-billion-dollar contract with Bell Helicopter to build hundreds of armed reconnaissance helicopters because of ballooning cost overruns and delivery delays, officials said Friday.
The decision leaves the army with a gap in its aviation requirements at a time of high demand for helicopters in Iraq and Afghanistan, senior army officials acknowledged.
They said the gap would be bridged by upgrading and extending the life of its fleet of OH-58 Kiowa helicopters at a cost of about 800 million dollars.
...
The army, which notified Bell Helicopter Thursday night of the decision to terminate the contract, said cost overruns of about 40 percent over original estimates and delays in delivery schedules forced the action.
"The schedule and the cost that we expected with this helicopter did not pan out," said Lieutenant General Ross Thompson, the army's deputy procurement chief.
...
The terminated contract, which was awarded to Bell in 2005 over a bid by Boeing, called for delivery of 512 armed reconnaissance helicopters by 2021.
But the cost of the aircraft had skyrocketted from 8.5 million to 14.5 million each and delivery slipped from 2009 to 2013, officials said.


While the cost over-runs are obviously a huge problem, someone needs to explain why there's such a cost over-run for an off-shelf helicopter:
The ARH-70 - a derivative of the Civil Bell 407 - was expected to cost $359 million to develop and have an average unit cost of $8.56 million. The DoD's latest estimates put the development cost at $942 million and the unit cost at $14.48 million. Delivery was to begin in 2009. Now it is projected for 2013.


By: Brant

Getting to Know our Readers, Part 2

Where the heck are you guys?
Please pick the closest answer. If you feel like offering more details in the comments, that's great, too, since it'll help us sharpen focus.



By: Brant

17 October 2008

For Every Action, There is an Equal and Opposite Bureaucratic Objection

Following up yesterday's post about Russian military reforms, we've got news today that - surprise, surprise - the idea of putting hundreds of generals out of work isn't sitting well with the Russian brass:
Russia is launching its most radical army reform in decades after its brief war in Georgia underlined the need for a more agile military than the one designed to fight the Cold War.
Analysts say the plan will face resistance from generals who stand to lose their jobs and their influence in the reshuffle, pitting the Kremlin against a powerful interest group that has blocked previous attempts at wholesale reform.


By: Brant

Somehow, I suspect Star Wars didn't worry about this

(tip of the hat to Chris)

So now that the USAF is actually flying and firing lasers, they're starting to develop the inevitable lawyer-proof laser-usage guidelines:
Just because the US Air Force wants to arm itself with deadly combat rayguns doesn't mean it's about to skimp on safety. No sir.
With great power (say, a weapons grade 100 kilowatt blaster cannon) comes great responsibility (a 32-page safety manual).
A recently published Air Force Instruction paper has established a safety program for Directed Energy Weapons (DEWs), also affectionately known as death rays.
Rest assured compliance is mandatory.
'DEW systems create unique hazards that are different from conventional and nuclear weapons,' the paper informs. 'Potential DEW systems covered by this instruction include, but are not limited to, high-energy lasers, weaponized microwave and millimeter wave beams, explosive-driven electromagnetic pulse devices, acoustic weapons, laser induced plasma channel systems, non-lethal directed energy devices, and atomic-scale and subatomic particle beam weapons.'

Hey - everyone's a safety officer!

Read the actual document (pdf)
Here's the link to FAS.org article on DEW safety


By: Brant

Back at the C4ISR Conference

From day 2 of the C4ISR Conference in Washington, DC.
Still working; still experimenting with live-blogging...
Updates coming throughout the day on this post...


First Session
Coast Guard C4&IT, Mark Powel, Director, C4 & IT Infrastructure Operations, U.S. Coast Guard


Start with some CG history
Only guy talking here whose parent is not DoD b/c they take strategic direction from DHS instead


Goal 1: promote compliance, efficiency, sharing, quality
Goal 2: Technology: Innovative, Interoperable, Spectrum Use, Net-centric, Optimized, Enterprise-wide, Mission-focused
Goal 3: Security: Complaince, Prevention, Mitigation, Awareness, Recovery

Boy, they're big on "compliance" aren't they?

Goal 4: Governance: Requirements, Project Mgmt, Performance Mgmt, Systems development Lifecycle, Capital Planing & Investment Control, Enterprise Architecture


It feels like this guy's just using a canned brief for USCG IT guys, and not something specifically targeted at this audience.


Yet another goal... (that doesn't include "compliance")
Goal 5: Organizational Excellence: Outreach, Customer Service, Workforce Development, Process Improvement


Good explanation of Strategy to Implementation to Results
DHS/USCG plan to CG-6 plan, then CG-6 performance plan to roadmap of unit performance plans, to actual target architecture and individual performance plans, then the results


During Q&A, good point came up, USCG has to work both SIPR/NIPR and the DHS networks, b/c of dual reporting chain.


Next speaker is late getting here, so BREAK TIME!


And now, a word from our sponsors... the exhibitors here were/are:
OWL Comp Tech, NEK Advanced Security Group, Dynamic Aviation, Goodrich, L3 Communications, Mercury Computer Services, ESRI, Tactronics Holdings.



Next Session
Change of plans... next speaker is CAPT Jack Steiner, USN. Chief of Staff of J-6 / C4 Systems
(Scheduled speaker called away)


Wants to talk less about what we need to do than what we need to stop doing
Basing talk around GIG 2.0


Show of hands - who's on social networking vs who's just on email. Who shares info daily and willingly vs only when required.
You can probably guess the generational divide in that show of hands.


Poking fun at the USAF, with the baby-pilot video... (yes, the one we had last month)


GIG 2.0 - Warfighter-focused
Global authentication, access control, directory services
Information and services "from the edge"
Unity of Command
Joint Infrastructure
Common Standards and Policies - key point he made was here: the limitations we're using here are not technological. How long does it take to get set up on email when you PCS to a new station? How many installations have IT managers who limit what's on the network based on their local definition of some centralized regulation instead of centralized mgmt?


We have created our own boundaries to sharing and collaboration, whether through tech, or policy, or funding, we create NIPR, SIPR, MCFI, GCTF, CFE, Bilat, all separate on the desk, and force the commander with 6 computers on his desk to be the integrator.


Policies say we should share. Technology is not causing the problem. But technology while technology can help with solutions, technology doesn't write/enforce policies.


Don't stand up 38 different bi-lateral networks for each bi-lateral partner in the coalition. Set up 1 physical network, with 38 data 'enclaves' to share the data, rather than 38 networks.


Where does industry fit in? (bullet points)
- Today's teens = tomorrow's leaders
- Embrace different cultural approaches
- Leverage across government and mission partners
- Global authentication and access control (identity management)
- Directory services
- Scalable enterprise services


Comments, in order with above:
- The kids have the right ideas about sharing ideas; already doing socially what everyone should be doing professionally
- Don't be a slave to your technology. How do you make a phone call in nation with no landlines?
- Need to attack policy, culture, bad habits. Don't engineer a technology solution around a bad policy decision; fix the decision.
- Authentication token should be good anywhere on the planet on mil domain and not wait 2 days for an account. Example is free online email systems like Yahoo or GMail (same login/info, anywhere)
- Mil domain directory should not be segmented
- We currently build complex and intricate networks that can't deploy to the forward edge b/c of the bandwidth constraints. Build the network to focus on deployability and make sure it works where it's needed, and not in the GO's office.


Final bullets:
Remove impediments that don't add value.
Shared information is the enabler.
Less about tools, more about culture and habits.
GIG 2.0 is achievable


Q&A: Interesting bit about whether or not a collaborative wiki is more or less authoritative than a 'vetted' source. Though not invoked by name, James Suroweicki's Wisdom of Crowds was mentioned as evidence that wikis can work when their material is given time to gel.


Q from moderator: When posting shared information, how do you ensure people read what you want them to?
A from presenter: If something out there is of value to me, I will get off my butt and go get it. And if it's not of value to them and they don't go get then maybe you as the sender need to re-evaluate how much value you think you're providing, and either increase the value or educate the receiver about why it really is more valuable than he sees it.


Collapsing the networks is pointless unless the tools you need to work exist on the resulting network.


Favorite show of hands, thus far:
How many of you use text-messaging on your phones? Five or seven hands, including me...
How many of your kids use text-messaging? Lots of hands. Of course, my son is 5. But he'll get there.


Overall a very good talk about what people should be doing. But unfortunately, until the current crop of O5s and above die off and go away, we won't, b/c they inherently don't trust the technologies.


Next Session
Delivering More Intel to Forces in Iraq & Afghanistan
Kevin Meiners, Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Portfolio, Programs & Resources, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Intelligence)


(filling the time with some jokes while they get the presentation up on the screen)


And here we go...


Looking for irregular warfare in earlier QDRs/reports, they found 1 hit in 8 reports from '99-'01:
2001, Annual report: "Although irregular forces will be unable to match the combat power of heavy us weaponry in the near future, they could pose challenges to the US military"
2006, there were several hundred hits.


Opational ISR TF
6 integrated product teams, which is entry point for the 'great ideas'"
ISR Requirements
Rapid Acquisition
Operational Concepts
Operations Integration
Evaluation
Future Initiatives


ISR equivalent of WWII Liberty Ships. Now called the "Liberty Project Aircraft"
Modified C12 aircraft, and within 12 months, they put 37 aircraft out.
Picked C12 b/c all the services use them.


Find - Fix - Finish
ISR for this in irregular warfare requires greater persistence and resolution.
Example: to identify individuals, you need ground-sample-distance: 0.05m resolution at 15Hz frame rate and 5x5km area
To ID vehicle, not as high-res, but to identify actions of people, you need more.


Look for next QDR to recommend MQ1 / MQ9 split within the services, with the Army taking over one of them.


Persistence / endurance seems to always lead back to an airship, and the 'giggle factor' goes up with snarky remarks about putting "Goodyear" on the side. But airships offer years of endurance. DARPA is apparently seriously investigating this.


Ops ISR task force focused on deploying is fast. How are you getting your gear/ideas deployed in 6-9 months? The two-year deployment is no good for them.
How is large data being moved around?
NSA is building a new cloud architecture for SIGINT enterprise, and everyone needs to be educated on that cloud architecture if you're going to work with NSA / Ops ISR TF.


Q&A time... and a few crickets at first...
Lots of hardware questions and wanting to know about where acquisition decisions are going and how they're shaped.


Not sure what's up for after-lunch presentations. Might be time to E&E before Friday afternoon DC traffic turns the town into a 1500 sq mi parking lot...

By: Brant