28 February 2010

Training Non-Kinetic Ops with Videogames

WIRED's got an interesting article about a sim out of Texas that trains cultural awareness, sponsored by the US Army TRADOC. Of course, the WIRED guys missed that USMC PM TRASYS has been way out ahead of this for a while now, with their VCAT.

The Pentagon’s added yet another video game to their growing collection. This time, they’re investing in a “First Person Cultural Trainer” designed to teach one-on-one cultural sensitivity to American troops.

The Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) is backing University of Texas researchers to create the game, which is a 3D sim with scenarios in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Troops play themselves, and interact with Iraqi and Afghan civilians in replications of local villages.

It’s a project that’s been in the works for three years, and uses cultural data provided by the military. The goal of the game is to enter a village, learn about the social structures and relevant issues, and then “work with the community” to successfully finish assigned missions.

By: Brant

Surge in Afghanistan? It's Working!

Here's something I bet you never thought you'd see... A San Francisco newspaper that not only supports the surge in Afghanistan, but claims it's working.

Even as the Marines’ battle for Marja grabs headlines, it’s diverting attention from a bigger story. Though the Taliban is entrenched in Helmand province, where Marja is situated, its grip is slipping in the rest of Afghanistan as President Barack Obama’s 30,000-troop surge unfolds.

These developments undercut the common belief that America is doomed to fail in a land of fiercely tribal, pro-Taliban Pashtuns who hate infidel invaders. In fact, Afghanistan’s demography, sociology, military situation, and politics all favor Obama’s counterinsurgency strategy. That’s why it’s working.

By: Brant

27 February 2010

How To Win The Coming CyberWar - One Suggestion

WaPo has thoughts on how to win the coming cyberwar that they claim we're already losing.

What is the right strategy for this most modern of wars? Look to history. During the Cold War, when the United States faced an existential threat from the Soviet Union, we relied on deterrence to protect ourselves from nuclear attack. Later, as the East-West stalemate ended and nuclear weapons proliferated, some argued that preemption made more sense in an age of global terrorism.

The cyber-war mirrors the nuclear challenge in terms of the potential economic and psychological effects. So, should our strategy be deterrence or preemption? The answer: both. Depending on the nature of the threat, we can deploy aspects of either approach to defend America in cyberspace.

During the Cold War, deterrence was based on a few key elements: attribution (understanding who attacked us), location (knowing where a strike came from), response (being able to respond, even if attacked first) and transparency (the enemy's knowledge of our capability and intent to counter with massive force).

Against the Soviets, we dealt with the attribution and location challenges by developing human intelligence behind the Iron Curtain and by fielding early-warning radar systems, reconnaissance satellites and undersea listening posts to monitor threats. We invested heavily in our response capabilities with intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines and long-range bombers, as well as command-and-control systems and specialized staffs to run them. The resources available were commensurate with the challenge at hand -- as must be the case in cyberspace.

By: Brant

DoD Finally Gets It, and Soldiers Get Social Media Back

US military lets soldiers Tweet, blog and Facebook - Yahoo! News

The Pentagon said soldiers will be allowed to Tweet, blog and update their Facebook pages on the US military's non-classified computer network under a new policy.
The decision came after a seven-month review with senior officials concluding that the benefits of social media outweighed the risks associated with free-wheeling web 2.0 sites that are popular with a younger generation of soldiers and Defense Department civilians.
Previously, the Pentagon worried that YouTube or other social media could take up precious bandwidth or that careless entries could expose military secrets.
While stressing the principle of allowing access, the policy unveiled Friday sets limits that grant commanders authority to "defend against malicious activity" such as cyber attacks and to bar access to sites with pornography, gambling or hate-crime content.
Commanders can also block access to social networking sites if necessary to protect a mission or protect sufficient bandwidth -- but only on a temporary basis, said the policy memorandum.
"This directive recognizes the importance of balancing appropriate security measures while maximizing the capabilities afforded by 21st Century Internet tools," Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn said in a statement.

By: Brant

BUB: Coups de Grace!

Not staging a coup in your country? You might be the only one...

There are a variety of political motivations behind the arrests in Turkey, but prosecution doesn't seem to be among them.

For the last several decades, the Turkish military was untouchable; no one dared to criticize the military or its top generals, lest they risk getting burned. The Turkish Armed Forces were the ultimate protectors of founding father Kemal Ataturk's secular legacy, and no other force in the country could seriously threaten its supremacy. Not anymore.

On Feb. 22, 49 officers -- including active-duty generals, admirals, and former commanders of the Turkish navy and air force -- were arrested on allegations of plotting a coup against the government. Specifically, the officers were charged with authoring a 5,000-page memo that was later published in Taraf, a paper whose editorial policy is singularly dedicated to bashing the military. Among other things, the memo stated that the Turkish military was planning to bomb Istanbul's historic mosques and shoot down its own planes to justify a coup. When I asked a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey for his views on the news, he thought the scenario was ridiculous. "If the Turkish military was going to do a coup, they would not be writing a 5,000-page memo about it," he stated.


Honduras is still cleaning up the mess of their attempted coup last year, as they've fired the military leadership of the overthrow. Of course, the guy the generals kicked out of the top job didn't get it back, so although they've lost their jobs, they did get what they wanted.

New Honduran President Porfirio Lobo fired the military leaders responsible for leading the coup against then-president Manuel Zelaya last June.

Lobo, who took office on January 27, sacked Army General Romeo Vasquez, head of the Honduran armed forces, along with the top military commanders involved in the coup, including the heads of the army, air force and navy.

The president announced that Vasquez "will now retire," and immediately swore in his replacement, General Carlos Antonio Cuellar, who until now was the armed forces inspector general.


An opinion piece in Nigeria seeks to explain why African coups can have the acquiescence of the locals.

I can not recollect whose idea it was who said 'the worst civilian administration is better than the best military government.' In all honesty, I don't believe such to be any where nears the truth. No worst thing is ever of value and there is nothing that qualifies as best that could be any where near goodness. Only those politicians that are characterized by failure and who want to cling unto power usually have such myopic beliefs.

This is Africa's situation. It is not however peculiar to Africa, but it is most common there. Leaders in Africa have this belief that they, and they alone have right of leadership. No matter the amount of colossal failure recorded by the African leader, he and his cronies will do everything to jeopardize the peace and the progress of a country to perpetuate them in power.

The third term bid of Obasanjo of Nigeria has caused the country enormous wastes in resources and has caused hardships of which we are still paying the price. When the move was resisted by Nigerians, Obasanjo decided to foist on Nigerians someone whom he knew can not withstand the terrain of the office of the President. And because 'Yar'adua was either power-drunk or he thought he could save Nigeria from the tumultuous situation, he accepted to be imposed on Nigerians by Obj. The script that Obasanjo drew against Nigerians seems to be working now that 'Yar'adua is hospitalised. We shall see who laughs last between Nigerians and obj.


And speaking of... the Army in Niger is going to take one for the team (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) until the country can put a new constitution in place and call elections.

Niger's coup leaders say they will retain power over the country's newly appointed prime minister until a new constitution is adopted and elections are held. But they set no date for the polls.

The military ousted President Mamadou Tandja last Thursday (February 18) in the midst of a political crisis that began last year.


By: Brant

Weekend Humor: The Definition of Colonel

Military Jokes and Humor -- The Definition of Colonel

Judge: Please identify yourself for the record.
Defendant: Colonel Ebenezer Jackson.

Judge: What does the 'Colonel' stand for?

Defendant: Well, it's kinda like the 'Honorable' in front of your name. Not a damn thing.

By: Chuckles

I Gotta Believe This Is a Bad Idea

Really? You want the general who was ultimately responsible for how the trucks moved around Iraq to give testimony about whether or not the contractor did it in a safe fashion?

The U.S. Army is trying to stop retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who once led U.S. forces in Iraq, from continuing to be an expert for KBR in a lawsuit against it over civilian truck driver deaths and injuries.

Sanchez is being paid $650 an hour and has reviewed documents and written a report that support's KBR's contention it should not be held legally responsible for the deaths of six civilian truck drivers and the injuries of others in a 2004 ambush in Iraq.

The suing drivers and family members contend that KBR should have stopped the convoys when it was warned that attacks would increase on April 9, 2004, the first anniversary of the day allies in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq reached Baghdad.


By: Brant

Is India Getting Involved in Afghanistan?

There are concerns - especially in Pakistan - that India is getting more and more entangled in Afghanistan.

Senate’s Standing Committee on Defence voiced its concern over the Indian presence in Afghanistan and about involving India in the future regional set up being contemplated.

“The unrest in Balochistan is due to Indian interference through Afghanistan while the presence of Indian troops on the eastern border has restrained Pakistan from disengaging more troops from there,” Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production Chairman Senator Lieutenant General (r) Javed Ashraf Qazi said in a report about Pak-UK Defence Committees meeting.

In the report, he said that India is training Pakistani dissidents in Afghanistan and launching them in Balochistan, which is hindering the operation against terrorists.

The report stated that Pakistan would also be interested in receiving drone technology to use it against the Taliban and al Qaeda in coordination with credible US intelligence.

By: Brant

26 February 2010

The UK Equivalent of HTS?

The Brits are standing up a new office on cultural understanding of Afghanistan that sounds like it's taking a page out of the US civil affairs / HTS playbook.

The unit, which is preparing a pool of deployable cultural specialists, also provides cultural awareness training to the British military, and the first Commander's Cultural Briefing took place in London this week, attended by the Afghan Ambassador to the UK.

Addressing the one- and two-star commanders from across all three Services, the Ambassador, Homayoun Tandar, said:

"I welcome warmly the Defence Cultural Specialist Unit. The main concept of armies at the beginning of the 21st century needs a better cultural understanding. The idea of armies is not to make war everywhere but to create friendships between nations and peace-building.

"Afghanistan is the best example of that. In the first time in our history, the foreign troops are for the peace-building and not for the war."

The DCSU has been set up in the spirit of counter-insurgency operations and it ties into the aims of Operation MOSHTARAK which has been taking place over the last two weeks in central Helmand.

The operation is intended to show the local people that the International Security Assistance Force and Afghan forces are there to help them by providing enduring security and development.

By: Brant

Intel File on Taliban in Afghanistan

The Long War Journal takes a quick spin through The Afghan Taliban's leadership.

Regional military shuras

The Afghan Taliban have assigned regional military shuras for four major geographical areas of operations. The shuras are named after the areas in which they are based; note that all four of the regional military shuras are based in Pakistan (Quetta, Peshawar, Miramshah in North Waziristan, and Gerdi Jangal in Baluchistan).

• Quetta Regional Military Shura - This military shura, like the Taliban’s top council, takes its name from its base in the city of Quetta in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province. The Quetta Regional Military Shura directs activities in southern and western Afghanistan. It is currently led by Hafez Majid.
• Peshawar Regional Military Shura - Based in the city of Peshawar in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province, the Peshawar Regional Military Shura directs activities in eastern and northeastern Afghanistan. Abdul Latif Mansur is thought to currently lead the Peshawar shura. It was led by Maulvi Abdul Kabir before his arrest in Pakistan in February 2010.
• Miramshah Regional Military Shura - Based in Miramshah, the main town in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan, the Miramshah Regional Military Shura directs activities in southeastern Afghanistan, including the provinces of Paktika, Paktia, Khost, Logar, and Wardak. The Miramshah Regional Military Shura is led by Siraj Haqqani, the son of Jalaluddin Haqqani.
• Gerdi Jangal Regional Military Shura - Based in the Gerdi Jangal refugee camp in Baluchistan, this regional military shura focuses exclusively on Helmand Province and perhaps Nimroz province. The Gerdi Jangal Regional Military Shura is led by Mullah Adbul Zakir.

The 10 committees

Along with the four regional commands, the Afghan Taliban have 10 committees which address specific issues. Some of the members of the committees are also members of the Quetta Shura.

• Military - This committee was led by Mullah Nasir, the former shadow governor of Ghazni. It is not clear who currently leads the military committee.
• Ulema Council - Also known as the religious committee, it is currently led by Mawlawi Abdul Ali.
• Finance - This committee is led by Abdulhai Mutma’in.
• Political Affairs - This committee is reported to have been led by Maulvi Abdul Kabir before his capture in February 2010. His replacement is not yet known.
• Culture and Information - This committee, which deals with Taliban propaganda, is led by Amir Khan Mutaqqi.
• Interior Affairs - This committee is led by Mullah Abdul Jalil.
• Prisoners and Refugees - This committee is led by Mawlawi Wali Jan.
• Education - This committee is led by Mawlawi Ahmad Jan, however it may have been disbanded.
• Recruitment - This committee was led by Mullah Ustad Mohammad Yasir before he was arrested in Peshawar in January 2009. Yasir’s replacement is not known.
• Repatriation Committee - This committee is led Mullah Abdul Zakir.

There's also a list of known targets/people and suspected daisy-pushers over there, too...

By: Brant

Army Drops RFP for new Ground Combat Vehicles

There's apparently much tiffage between the Army and the DoD about what the specs oughta be.

Pentagon officials have raised questions about the U.S. Army's plan for a new ground combat vehicle, delaying release of final terms for a competition that could be worth tens of billions of dollars, several sources briefed on the issue said on Wednesday.

During a high-level meeting last Friday, officials expressed concern about the weight of the proposed vehicle, which had grown to around 70 tons, more than three times the level initially planned.

Officials also underscored the Pentagon's desire to ensure a real competition for the new vehicle, which analysts said was likely to be dominated by General Dynamics Corp (GD.N) and BAE Systems (BAES.L).

One source, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said the Pentagon's chief weapons buyer declined to sign a decision approving the Army's development plan at the meeting, due to a "little disagreement" over the Army's contracting strategy.

You can read the solicitation for yourself at the TACOM Contracting website.

By: Brant

Naval Noises Near Falklands?

There was a reporting run-in between the Royal Navy and the Argies.

UK Defence officials however did admit that there was “friendly dialogue by radio” between the South Atlantic patrol vessel HMS York and the Argentine corvette ARA Drummond while sailing in the area in rough waters.

“We can confirm that on 28 January this year during rough weather and at night, HMS York and an Argentine ship were operating in the same locality,” said a ministry statement.

The incident happened in international waters around 50 miles from the territorial waters of the Falklands, said the ministry.

“After a friendly dialogue by radio they each continued with their own exercises,” said the statement.

The Falklands are at the centre of a dispute between London and Buenos Aires after British oil companies announced drilling plans off the Islands, over which Argentina claims sovereignty.

The Sun newspaper reported the HMS York monitored the progress of the Argentine corvette ARA Drummond before radioing the vessel to change course.
The paper said the ship had entered a so-called conservation zone, the area where Britain is carrying out oil exploration.

The local British garrison isn't that robust.
The British Army maintains a small garrison on the Falkland Islands based at Mount Pleasant. The total deployment is about 500 personnel made up of an roulement infantry company, an engineer squadron, a signals unit (part of the Joint Communications Unit - see below), a logistics group and supporting services.

However, there are plenty of naval vessels in the area, or capable of getting there in a hurry.

By: Widow 6-7

India Opens TROPEX

The Indian Navy has started their annual naval exercise, TROPEX.

Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma along with Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar embarked the aircraft carrier INS Viraat operating on the eastern seaboard to kick start the first phase of 'TROPEX 10'.
The exercise involves the participation of most major combatants of the Indian Navy, as also participation of the Indian Air Force and the Indian Coast Guard.

Just as the combination of the two fleets and the elements of the sister services contribute to synergy, the presence of the Defence Secretary with the CNS is indicative of the close coordination and synergy of the Indian Navy and the Ministry of Defence, which is the key to enhancing effectiveness at the "business end" of the Navy.

The two Western and Eastern fleets of the Indian Navy are presently carrying out a Joint Work Up after which they will proceed for a 'mock battle' to test their tactical skills and operational readiness.

By: Brant

Libya Going All Jihad On... The Swiss?! Huh?!

Yeppers... apparently there's a war of words that's escalated to a jihad on all things Swiss. Careful what you order on your tuna melt in Tripoli, folks.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi called on Thursday for a "jihad" or armed struggle against Switzerland, saying it was an infidel state that was destroying mosques.

"Any Muslim in any part of the world who works with Switzerland is an apostate, is against (the Prophet) Mohammad, God and the Koran," Gaddafi said during a meeting in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi to mark the Prophet's birthday.

"The masses of Muslims must go to all airports in the Islamic world and prevent any Swiss plane landing, to all harbors and prevent any Swiss ships docking, inspect all shops and markets to stop any Swiss goods being sold," Gaddafi said.

The Swiss Foreign Ministry said it had no comment on Gaddafi's remarks.

Libya's relations with Switzerland broke down in 2008 when a son of Gaddafi was arrested in a Geneva hotel and charged with abusing domestic servants.

He was released shortly afterwards and the charges were dropped, but Libya cut oil supplies to Switzerland, withdrew billions of dollars from Swiss bank accounts and arrested two Swiss businessmen working in the North African country.

One has been released but the other was forced this week to leave the Swiss embassy in Tripoli where he had been sheltering and move to a prison to serve a four-month sentence, apparently avoiding a major confrontation.

Libya says the Geneva arrest and the case of the two businessmen are not linked.

"Let us fight against Switzerland, Zionism and foreign aggression," said Gaddafi, adding that "this is not terrorism," in contrast with the work of al Qaeda which he called a "kind of crime and a psychological disease."

By: Brant

As If You Needed A Reason The Patriot Act Was A Bad Idea

I'll admit that I haven't even read the article at WIRED about how the military supposedly monitored Planned Parenthood and other groups, but how much do you wanna bet that the "PATRIOT" Act had something to do with enabling it?

By: Brant

The Patriot Act - The Bad Idea That Won't Die

Despite violating a good half of the Bill of Rights, Congress has extended the Patriot Act, with no significant revisions to keep US citizens from getting screwed.

Legislation to extend expiring provisions of the anti-terror USA Patriot Act won final congressional approval on Thursday, with Democrats unable to add additional civil liberties protections.

On vote of 315-97, the House of Representatives approved the bill, a day after it cleared the Senate. It now heads to President Barack Obama to sign into law.

The Obama administration wanted to extend the measure because of provisions it says are important in tracking suspected terrorists, including roving wiretaps to track multiple communications devices. But some lawmakers wanted additional privacy measures to protect against abuses.

With the Patriot Act provisions set to expire on Sunday, lawmakers agreed to extend them for a year, and effectively put off a showdown on efforts to bolster safeguards.

Democrats had sought changes to protect law-abiding U.S. citizens, but Republicans managed to tie up their efforts, arguing that changes would undermine the tracking of suspected enemies of the United States.

Democratic Representative Jane Harman opposed the extension, citing abuses of the law during the administration of President George W. Bush.

"While I strongly support using the most robust tools possible to go after terrorists, Congress must revise and narrow -- not extend -- Bush era policies," Harman said.

The Patriot Act was quickly passed by Congress after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

The extended provisions include: authority for "roving wiretaps" to track an individual's use of multiple communications devices; gaining access to certain personal and business records; and tracking so-called "lone wolf" suspects who are not members of an organized enemy group.

By: Brant

Friday Museum: 8th Air Force Museum

The Mighty 8th Air Force Museum is located on I-95, right near Savannah, GA.

On January 28, 1942, fifty-three days after the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor, the 8th Air Force was officially activated in the National Guard Armory on Bull Street in Savannah, Georgia.
In 1983, Major General Lewis E. Lyle, USAF Retired, a B-17 veteran of 70 combat missions during World War II, and with the help of other veterans, began planning a museum. The Museum would honor the men and women who helped defeat Nazi aggression by serving in or supporting the greatest air armada the world had ever seen—the 8th Air Force. These individuals pledged themselves to honor the courage and commitment of more than 350,000 members of the 8th Air Force. Of this number, 26,000 were killed in action and 28,000 became prisoners of war during World War II.

Museum planners traveled throughout the United States and Europe, visiting museums and talking with staff from these institutions. The very best elements found among these facilities were then combined to create a dramatic 90,000-square foot museum complex.

On May 14, 1996, to the applause of 5,000 8th Air Force veterans, their families, dignitaries, and supporters, the vision became a reality with the dedication of The Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Pooler, Georgia, just west of Savannah.

View Larger Map

By: Brant

Afghan Government Exerts Control in Marjah

By raising the national flag over Marjah the Afghan government has symbolically exerted control over Marjah.

The Afghan government laid symbolic claim to the former Taliban stronghold of Marja with a formal flag-raising ceremony Thursday and installation of a new civilian administration.
Both Afghan and Western military officials, though, said the campaign to secure the southern town would go on for weeks.

As the flag-raising ceremony was taking place, scattered clashes continued and coalition forces proceeded with the painstaking work of finding and destroying the many bombs planted by insurgents.

U.S. Marines and British and Afghan troops launched the Marja assault on Feb. 13. With 15,000 troops taking part in combat and support operations spread over a wide area, it has been the largest single Western offensive since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, which toppled the Taliban government.

At Thursday's ceremony, hundreds of residents looked on as the red and green national flag was raised. The town's new civilian leader, Haji Zahir, promised to begin restoring basic government services, which Marja has lacked for at least two years.

Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, the Marines' commander, attended the ceremony but did not speak. Western military officials said that it was a deliberate gesture, meant to emphasize that the offensive was designed to pave the way for Afghans to govern themselves.

The WSJ has another article that says the raising of the flag is a turning point in the surge campaign.

Afghan officials unfurled the country's green, red and black flag over the new government offices here, further evidence that U.S. and Afghan troops have reached a turning point in the offensive to reclaim this town from the Taliban.

By: Brant

25 February 2010

Turkey Still Trying to Sort Out the Non-Coup

The Army is in deep poop, and the political leaders are trying to sort out what it means for the government.

Turkey's political and military leaders met on Thursday over a coup plot probe that has raised tensions between the secular armed forces and Islamist-rooted government, rattling investor faith in the EU-candidate country.
The meeting is taking place as prosecutors get set to question and possibly charge former commanders of the air force and navy at a courthouse in Istanbul, threatening to aggravate the showdown between the ruling AK Party and military.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul began a meeting with armed forces chief General Ilker Basbug at 11 am (0900 GMT) with room for compromise to prevent the crisis from spinning out of control seen as limited.
Some 50 senior officers were detained on Monday in an unprecedented move against the armed forces.
Twenty of them, including several admirals, have already been charged with plotting in 2003 to overthrow the government, which hard-line secularists believe harbors a hidden Islamist agenda.

By: Brant

USAF Tries Again for Tanker Bid

Hey, it's been 50 years, what's a few more? The question now is, who's going to actually bid? And will Lou Dobbs blow another gasket when the winner is announced?

The Pentagon unveiled final terms for a high-stakes competition to build new US aerial refueling tankers, promising a fair contest for aviation rivals Boeing and Airbus parent EADS.
The approach favored neither firm and the Pentagon had steered "straight down the middle," Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn told reporters.
The 35-billion-dollar competition will be "fair, it's going to be open, it's going to be transparent," he said.
Wednesday's announcement marks the third attempt to replace the aging tanker aircraft fleet after years of controversy and scandal,
The final guidelines clarified technical requirements for the aircraft and allowed some flexibility to industry on contract pricing, but the basic terms for the deal have not dramatically changed since a draft proposal was issued in September, Lynn said.
Despite promises of a fair contest, it remained unclear if the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company and its partner Northrop Grumman would bid on the contract after accusing the Pentagon of favoring arch-rival Boeing.

By: Brant

UK In Action: Gun Crew

Soldiers serving with G Battery (Fighting Mercers) Troop, [Named after Captain Mercer an Artillery Officer at Waterloo] 7 Para RHA (Royal Horse Artillery) firing their 105mm Light Gun in the direct fire role.

By: Widow 6-7

Tools of War: M18A1 Claymore Antipersonnel Mine

Now here we have a big BOOM (and a whole lotta death) in a very small package.

It's been in use for over 45 years now for one simple reason - it works.

Though no longer legally in use as a traditional, uncontrolled, "victim-initiated" mine, it is still in widespread use as a command-initiated force multiplier.

The Claymore mine consists of a sheet of C4 plastic explosive formed against a curved, flat piece of steel backing. In front of that sheet of C4 are about 700 soft-steel spherical pellets, which are set in a matrix of resin. All this is surrounded by the plastic case that you see here, into which two fuse wells are incorporated at the top of the mine.

When the mine is detonated, beautiful things happen. Those 700 pellets (about the size of #4 birdshot) are explosively formed into the rough shape of a .22LR rounds. Individually, not exactly daunting....but we are talking about 700 of these puppies reaching out in a 60 degree arc. These little hornets of death fly out in a fan shaped pattern, clearing a swath 2 meters high and 50 meters wide at the optimum range of 50 meters. They continue on to about 250 meters, but the maximum range that they are effective is about 100 meters or so.

But my-oh-my, how effective they are up until that 100 meters. Mathematically, you are looking at roughly 12 pellets/degree, which pretty much means that, unless he is behind some cover, the enemy is getting hit by at least one. An adult human is about two feet wide, so you would have roughly 8.5 pellets per target at optimum killing range (50m arc=164ft; 164ft/2ft torso=82 theoretical targets standing side-by-side out at 50m; 700 pellets/82 targets=8.5 pellets/target).

What that boils down to is a portable, one shot cannon of grapeshot from days of old. It only weighs 3.5 pounds and is durable and stable as hell. It is nearly idiot-proof to employ (even has "Front toward Enemy" written on the front), and it causes devastating effects. They can also be "daisy-chained" so that one initiation causes multiple mines to go off.

Again, per the 1996 Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, it can no longer be legally used in a "trip-wire" configuration, but it still has a strong place in any defensive or ambush plan.

Here's your moment of zen...

By: Steve

Israel Co-opts Hamas Connection?

Wow. Really? Israel flipped the son of one of Hamas' high command?

An Israeli newspaper is reporting that the son of one of Hamas' founders served as a top informant for Israel for more than a decade.
The Haaretz daily reported Wednesday that Mosab Hassan Yousef was one of the Shin Bet security service's most valuable sources and helped prevent dozens of suicide bombings against Israelis.
Yousef's father — Sheik Hassan Yousef — is one of Hamas' top West Bank leaders. He is currently serving a six-year sentence in an Israeli prison.
If true, the revelation would deal another setback to Hamas, which is reeling from the assassination of a top operative in Dubai last month.
The younger Yousef converted to Christianity and moved to the U.S. in 2007. He's publishing a book about his ordeal.
The Shin Bet had no comment.

By: Brant

Comparisons of India and Pakistan

Reuters lines up the comparison of Pakistan and India


Defence budget: Pakistan increased defence spending by more than 15 percent in June last year to 343 billion rupees ($4.2 billion) for the 2009-10 fiscal year ending on June 30.

Estimated nuclear warheads: 25 to 50

Troops: about 620,000 active, about 515,000 reserves, about 290,9000 paramilitary.

Equipment: about 2,460 tanks, about 2,000 artillery pieces, about 1,250 armoured personnel carriers. The air force has about 415 combat aircraft while the navy has 8 submarines, 7 surface combatants.

Pakistan's air force this month inducted JF-17 Thunder, medium-technology jets produced with the help of China. The aircraft is equivalent to the Mirage but has better avionics and weapons.

In December, Pakistan acquired the first of four airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft from Sweden.

Missile types and ranges: Shaheen 1 (600 km/375 miles), Shaheen 2 (up to 2,000 km/1,200 miles), Ghauri 1 (1,500/940 miles) Ghauri 2 (2,300 km/1,440 miles), Hatf 1 (100 km/63 miles), Hatf 2 (180 km/110 miles), Hatf 3 (290 km/180 miles), Babur cruise missile (500 km/310 miles).

Deployment: The military does not publish information about the deployment of troops but it has said nearly 150,000 soldiers, from both the army and paramilitary forces, have been deployed in the border regions with Afghanistan fighting al Qaeda and Taliban militants.

The remainder are stationed at bases around the country, many of them near the so-called Line of Control that divides the Kashmir region, and near the international border with India that runs south to the Arabian Sea.


Defence budget: India increased defence spending by nearly a quarter in February last year to $28.9 billion for the 2009-10 fiscal year.

India plans to spend $30 billion to modernise its largely Soviet-era arms over the next four years.

Estimated nuclear warheads: 70-100

Troops: India's military strength stands at 1.3 million, the fourth largest in the world and growing in strength with thousands recruited every year.

Equipment: The army has around 4,000 tanks, 4,500 artillery and 300 armored personnel carriers and a combat aircraft strength of around 700. The Indian Navy has one aircraft carrier, 16 submarines, eight destroyers and 16 frigates.

India plans to buy 126 air and ground attack fighters, which will elevate its air force to super-power status, with deployments planned near the borders with Pakistan and China, officials say. In May last year, India acquired the first of three AWACS from Israel.

Missile types and ranges: Agni 1 (2,500 km/1,560 miles), Agni 2 (3,000 km/1,875 miles; upgraded, up to 3,500 km/2,190 miles), Prithvi SS-150 (150 km/94 miles), Prithvi SS-250 (250 km/156 miles). India said this month it could test a new nuclear-capable missile with a 5,000-km (3,100-mile) range within a year.

Deployment: The Indian military does not give information about deployment of troops but has said its troops are on standby and presently stationed at bases around the country. India also has a huge military presence near the Line of Control.

By: Brant

24 February 2010

DADT: Media Needs to Clarify the Reality

Chiefs warn against lifting gay ban too quickly - Yahoo! News

Top Army and Air Force officers said Tuesday they would be reluctant to overturn a 17-year policy that prohibits gays from serving openly in the military without more time to ascertain it won't hurt the services.

OK, the policy about gays in the military goes far beyond 17 years. Before that policy, gays weren't allowed to serve at all. So the "17-year policy that prohibits gays from serving openly in the military" was previously a "policy that prohibits gays from serving openly in the military". But no one ever talks about the change under Clinton.

By: Brant

Argentina Whining to UN; Venezuela Can't Wait to Jump In Front of Cameras With Comment

What's more surprising, that Argentina is whining about the Falklands to distract from a bad economy at home, or that Hugo Chavez can't wait to get in front of a camera to comment?

A diplomatic offensive against Britain's oil exploration off the Falkland Islands intensified today as Argentina prepared to stake its case to the head of the UN backed by regional allies including Brazil.

The Argentinian president, Cristina Kirchner, said a summit of 32 countries in Mexico had endorsed a document accusing Britain of flouting international law by permitting drilling to begin this week.

The Rio Group summit made no immediate official statement, but Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega demanded the UK hand back the Falklands to Buenos Aires.

The Argentinian foreign minister, Jorge Taiana, is due to meet the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, in New York today. The UN has called for talks between Britain and Argentina but has little power to intervene without the backing of the security council, where the UK can veto substantive resolutions.

The sovereignty standoff flared this month over the arrival of a rig, the Ocean Guardian, which is to drill offshore for oil and gas deposits. Last night, Brazil's president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, criticised the UN for not pushing more forcefully to reopen the debate over the islands, which Argentinians call Las Malvinas.

By: Brant

Wednesday Wargaming

Today marks the anniversary of Pope Julius II’s Bull against dueling in the Council of Trent. Mostly the Council focused on things other than dueling, but they seemed to be on a roll and the inclusion of a ban wasn’t out of character.
Despite the prohibition dueling remained a popular pastime for many centuries to come. On the surface it might seem like there aren’t many games that take on the subject of dueling, but I’ll address that in a minute. The reasons for this apparent dearth aren’t perfectly clear, but anyone familiar with martial arts (and I don’t limit this to Asian styles of combat but rather include a broad swath of western fencing and boxing along with it) will immediately recognize that individual skill plays large role in resolving one on one melee. Several game systems have been created but each has inherent strengths and weaknesses. Today being the day for discussing wargames and the anniversary of the ban on dueling, I suppose now is as good a time as any to take a look at some of these systems.

Games to Set The Mood


It may be that ancient games simulating swordplay and the like have been created, but within my sphere of knowledge it has only been recently (the last four or so decades) that any games of substance have emerged.

To my knowledge the first game to attempt to replicate one-on-one knightly combat was Chainmail. Chainmail was originally conceived as a historical miniatures game system for battle between medieval armies. However, circa the mid-1970s (my 3rd Edition, 5th printing is dated 1978) A system was published that outlined rules for one-on-one combat. Right around that time period the same company (TSR) published a much better known system of combat set in a fantasy realm. That game was known as…

Dungeons & Dragons. Controversy surrounds the discussion of whether Chainmail is a direct antecedent of D&D or whether the two games were conceived independently. What is not in dispute is the fact that although D&D is a fantasy role-playing game, individual combat makes up a good portion of it. Calling it a simulation is a bit of a stretch, but if you’re looking for duals, there are at least four major versions (and myriad variants) in D&D.

I can’t say I have seen every game mechanic for simulating a duel, but I can say that of those I have seen, En Guarde! is the best. I know the game designer personally, and the reason why it is such a good system is simple: he used to fence in college. The system is slightly complicated to learn, but once you know it, it flows well. While there is an element of luck (and some tongue in cheek humor to lighten the mood), at its heart the game may be as good as we could ever expect a tabletop (card-driven, actually) game to simulate.

Now, as I stated above, there don’t appear to be many games that simulate dueling outright, but anyone familiar with RPGs (role-playing games, in this case folks – sorry for any confusion) will tell you that there are actually dozens of RPGs out there, almost all of which incorporate some form of melee mechanic. Simulations? Not exactly, but there are myriad examples of reasonable (and less reasonable) facsimiles.

By: GladiusMagnus

How We Found Saddam

There's a great series over at Slate about how social network analysis helped us find Saddam. You know, in that 'other' war.

Traffic had slowed to a crawl in Baghdad's Azamiyah district as drivers stopped to ogle the president. It was April 2003, and Saddam Hussein cheerily greeted his subjects as a few bodyguards tried to keep the crowd at bay. Someone handed Saddam a bewildered baby, which he hoisted up in the air a few times and handed back. When he reached a white sedan, Saddam climbed onto the hood to survey the sea of loyalists.
Not long after—possibly that same day, just a few miles away from where Saddam went on his celebratory walk—U.S. Marines in Baghdad tore down a 40-foot-tall bronze statue of the Iraqi dictator. At the time, American intelligence officers didn't know whether Saddam had survived a hailstorm of 2,000-pound bombs and Tomahawk missiles fired at the beginning of the war. When grainy footage of the Butcher of Baghdad's last promenade surfaced 10 days later, most analysts were preoccupied with determining whether it was authentic. Nobody was particularly worried about the guy next to the dictator, a heavyset man in a brown striped shirt and sunglasses. He wasn't anyone on the deck of playing cards depicting the regime's 55 most-wanted members, and the coalition troops had much bigger priorities than hunting down bodyguards.
It would be months before anyone realized that this man was the key to capturing Saddam Hussein. His identity was classified, but those on his trail would take to calling him "Fat Man."

By: Brant

Robert Gates criticizes NATO for failure to have enough cajones to do something

US SecDef Robert Gates is telling NATO to sack up and shoot something.

Europeans' aversion to military force is limiting NATO's ability to fight wars effectively, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday, adding that those shortcomings are hampering the war effort in Afghanistan.

In remarks to a forum on rewriting the basic mission plan for the NATO alliance, Gates called for far-reaching reforms in an organization that was created 61 years ago as a political and military bulwark against the former Soviet Union and its Red Army.

The early successes of NATO in averting post-World War II eruptions of European conflict have led to a new set of concerns, Gates said.

"The demilitarization of Europe – where large swaths of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it – has gone from a blessing in the 20th century to an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st," he told an audience filled with uniformed military officers from many of NATO's 28 member countries.

The danger, he added, is that potential future adversaries may view NATO as a paper tiger.

Another article exploring the same topic.

By: Brant

Canada In Action: Resupply at Sea

Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Fredericton performs a successful replenishment at sea (RAS) with a Navel tanker from Saudi Arabia, the KSAS YUNBOU.

HMCS Fredericton is deployed on a six-month mission to the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and Horn of Africa to conduct counter piracy and counter terror operations alongside our NATO and Coalition partners. As part of Canada’s ongoing naval contribution to NATO, HMCS Fredericton will integrate into Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG 1), currently conducting anti-piracy operations. While conducting operations against international terrorism, HMCS Fredericton will integrate with Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150).

HMCS Fredericton’s participation in Operation Saiph (Sa-eef, meaning ‘sword’ in Arabic) represents Canada’s ongoing contribution and commitment to international peace and security and confirms that Canada’s Navy remains relevant, responsive and effective in the new security environment

Image: www.combatcamera.forces.gc.ca

By: Widow 6-7

Michael Yon memorializes Colonel (R) Robert L. Howard

The incomparable Michael Yon notes the passing and laying to rest of Colonel (R) Robert L. Howard.

Wounded 14 times in 54 months of combat duty in Vietnam, Robert Howard was awarded 8 Purple Hearts and was believed to be the most decorated living American.

Colonel Howard served five tours in Vietnam and is the only soldier in our nation's history to be nominated for the Medal of Honor three times for three separate actions within a thirteen-month period. He received a direct appointment from Master Sergeant to 1st Lieutenant in 1969, and was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Richard M. Nixon at the White House in 1971. Colonel Howard is one of America's most decorated soldiers. His other awards for valor include the Distinguished Service Cross - our nation's second highest award, the Silver Star - the third highest award, and eight Purple Hearts. He was the last Vietnam Special Forces Medal of Honor recipient still on active duty when he retired on Sept. 29, 1992.

By: Brant

Women on Subs?

Don't start with the "long and hard and full of...." jokes. The Navy really is going to allow women to serve on submarines.

The US Navy has decided to allow women to serve on submarines, Pentagon officials said, ending one of the last all-male bastions in the American military.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates approved the recommendation and sent letters to Congress on Monday informing lawmakers of the plan, officials said.
The move came as the US Army's chief of staff said it was time to revisit rules barring women from ground combat roles.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Admiral Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, had briefed Gates on changing the rules for subs and "he's endorsed it and sent it on to Congress," press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters.
Lawmakers have 30 days to comment on the move before it goes into effect, officials said.
American women can already serve on the Navy's fleet of warships anfly fighter aircraft, but nuclear-powered subs have remained off limits.
US naval officers previously cited the extremely tight quarters of a submarine as the main reason for the prohibition, but those who favor lifting the ban say subs could be outfitted with separate berths and bathrooms.
The decision calls for "a phased approach to assigning women on submarines," said a defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
One option under consideration would to first allow female officers to serve on submarines, the official told AFP.
That approach would involve less sweeping change as officers already have separate quarters from enlisted service members, the official said.
The first group of female officers selected for the duty would have to attend special training for submarines and for nuclear-powered vessels that takes more than a year, the official added.

By: Brant

DIHMRS Dies; DoD Rejoices; Why Did We Waste That Much Time and Effort?

After hearing for at least 3 years that DIHMRS was "just around the corner." ADM Mullen put it out of our misery.

After $1 billion and 12 years of effort, Defense officials have pulled the plug on a hapless plan to bring the four military branches under a single, modern payroll and personnel records system.

"This program has been a disaster," Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month.

"Many of the programs that I have made decisions to cut have been controversial within the Department of Defense," Defense Secretary Robert Gates told senators. "This one was not."

The object of so much disaffection is the Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System (DIMHRS), known as "dime-ers."

Gates clearly wasn't a fan of the title or program, which at its peak employed 600 military, federal civilians and private contractors who tried to use off-the-shelf technology to meld up to 90 automated systems that continue to run across the DoD.

"I would say that what we've gotten for a half billion dollars is an unpronounceable acronym," Gates quipped, though his cost estimate was short by half. The Government Accountability Office says a billion dollars had been spent on DIMHRS through 2009.

Its demise leaves the Army, Navy and Air Force still reliant on archaic, problem-plagued payroll and personnel systems. Required upgrades had been postponed again and again over the years, always in anticipation that all services would be moving to, and satisfied with, DIMHRS.

By: Brant

23 February 2010

Winds of Change Blowing In Turkey?

Once upon a time the Army would've been doing the arresting, not having their key leaders arrested.

Prosecutors on Tuesday interrogated 51 Turkish military commanders, including former Air Force and Navy chiefs, over alleged plans to destabilize the country by blowing up mosques to trigger a coup and topple the Islamic-rooted government.

It was the highest profile crackdown ever on the Turkish military, which has ousted four governments since 1960. For decades Turkey's senior officers, self-appointed guardians of the country's secular tradition, called the shots.

But the balance of power in this EU-candidate country appeared to have shifted Monday as police rounded up the 51 military commanders, following the gathering of wiretap evidence and discovery of an alleged secret coup plan, dubbed "the sledgehammer."

The nationwide sweep has dramatically deepened a power struggle between the secular establishment and the government, which has strong electoral backing and the European Union's support. Turkey's elite military — known as "pashas," a title of respect harking back to Ottoman times — were once deemed untouchable.

"The most heavy sledgehammer to military custody," read banner headline of daily Taraf, which has published leaked military documents that lead to the detentions.

The English-language newspaper Today's Zaman said Tuesday that the operation was launched after experts determined the leaked documents were authentic. The government denies the ongoing crackdown is politically motivated or designed to silence government critics, as is claimed by opposition parties.

By: Brant

Australia In Action: Last Patrol

M113A1 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) have a long and proud history in the Australian Army since they were first introduced in 1965.

After nearly 45 years of service to the nation, three M113A1’s, one of which saw service in Vietnam, had their last street patrol in East Timor before being cleaned in preparation for shipping back to Australia.

Three Black Hawk S70’s, also on operational deployment in East Timor, over-flew the APCs as they turned and headed back to base.

“This is a big milestone for the 1st Armoured Regiment to see the last M113A1s on an operation,” Troop Leader, LT Nathan Scott said as his APC parked.

“The end of forty years of proud history.”

Image: defence.gov.au

By: Widow 6-7

65 Years Ago Today

By: Brant

Tom Ricks Asks Some Very Good Questions

In discussing what Afghanistan will look like after we leave, Tom Ricks looks at the prevailing narrative following the Soviet departure from Afghanistan, and the parallels to the current US mission.

The conventional wisdom is that the mujahideen defeated the Soviet army and chased it out of Afghanistan, which eventually led to an Islamist takeover. This perception (true or not) had crucial implications. It may have energized the willingness of people inside the Soviet empire to resist Soviet control. And Osama bin Laden used it to bolster his reputation and build his own organization.

If the Soviet client government in Kabul had lasted for ten years instead of just four, would the conventional wisdom about Soviet defeat in Afghanistan have taken hold? The answer to this question matters greatly for the U.S. regarding its post-withdrawal outcomes in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Should, after U.S. military disengagement, the governments in Baghdad and Kabul quickly collapse due to factional fighting or military coups, the impression may very well develop that insurgencies successfully ejected the U.S., as is the impression for the Soviet experience in Afghanistan.

By: Brant

US Looking For Help to Replace Runaway Dutch

"Going Dutch" on a date might have to be redefined as bailing out on a date halfway through the night.

The United States is looking for ways to sustain troop levels in Afghanistan if Dutch soldiers withdraw, including reaching out to non-NATO partners, a top US defense official said Monday.

US Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy also told senators "there are prospects that some form, some contribution from the Dutch, significant contribution, will remain" after a new Netherlands government is formed.

Asked by Republican Senator George LeMieux whether Washington was considering seeking help from non-NATO partners, Flournoy replied: "We are certainly moving in that direction, yes."

She also cited the Australian troop presence, South Korean help with reconstruction and Middle East partners who have offered use of training facilities as examples of non-NATO contributions.

Under questioning by Republican Senator John McCain, Flournoy said a Dutch withdrawal was not a done deal but rather "something that we will have to see once they form a new government."

By: Brant

War Heroes: PVT Clayton Slack

Back in WWI, PVT Clayton Slack cleaned out a German machine-gun nest and saved the day.

Rank: Private
Organization: U.S. Army
Company: Company D
Division: 124th Machine Gun Battalion, 33d Division
Born: 23 February 1896, Plover, Wis.
Departed: Yes
Entered Service At: Madison, Wis.
G.O. Number: 16
Date of Issue: 12/31/1919
Place / Date: Near Consenvoye, France, 8 October 1918

Observing German soldiers under cover 50 yards away on the left flank, Pvt. Slack, upon his own initiative, rushed them with his rifle and, single-handed, captured 10 prisoners and 2 heavy-type machineguns, thus saving his company and neighboring organizations from heavy casualties.

Clayton K. Slack at Wikipedia

By: Brant

Has Pentagon Cut All It's Going To?

Claiming that the worst-performing arms programs have already been cut, it looks like the Pentagon is going to try to protect the rest of the budget.

The Pentagon has already cut its most troubled weapons programs and others that are no longer needed, and may be able to avoid further major program cancellations, a top U.S. defense official said on Wednesday.

"I think it's fair to say that the poorest performers were identified in FY10," Ashton Carter, defense undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, told a defense industry conference hosted by Aviation Week.

"I hope that, after a certain amount of trimming of the underbrush, that that won't be necessary," Carter said, when asked to identify possible future cuts.

The Pentagon identified "a large number of programs that were essentially canceled for cause," in fiscal 2010, which ends September 30, Carter said, plus additional programs that were no longer needed in fiscal 2011, including the Boeing Co C-17 transport plane.

Carter said he was continuing to carefully review major weapons programs such as the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jet and to restructure them if necessary. But he was also devoting time to protecting well-performing programs.

By: Brant

McChrystal Apologizes to Afghans

GEN McChrystal has apologized for the attack on a convoy that killed over 20 civilians.

The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan took his apology for a weekend airstrike that killed civilians directly to the Afghan people Tuesday, with a video in which he pledged to work to regain their trust as NATO continues a mass offensive against the Taliban in the south.

U.S. Marines and Afghan ground troops pushing from the north and south of the insurgent stronghold of Marjah finally linked up after more than a week, creating a direct route across the town that allows convoys to supply ammunition and reinforcements.

In the video, translated into the Afghan languages of Dari and Pashto on a NATO Web site, a stern Gen. Stanley McChrystal apologizes for the strike in central Uruzgan province that Afghan officials say killed at least 21 people.

Sunday's attack by NATO jets on a convoy of cars was the deadliest attack on civilians in six months and prompted a sharp rebuke from the Afghan government. It comes as NATO is struggling to win public backing for a major military offensive against the Taliban in the south with a strategy that involves taking all precautions possible to protect civilians.

By: Brant

Blackwater 61 - The Crash, the Lawsuit, the Problems

A US Army COL is suing Blackwater over the crash of their contracted flight in Afghanistan in which her husband was killed. A much longer article than this excerpt, and worth reading.

But it was an accident that never should have happened and you would not be hearing about it now if it weren't for his widow, herself a former high-ranking Army officer, who has waged a five-year battle against one of the military's most important contractors.

"He would have liked to have been able to go out, you know, fighting. Not in the back of some plane, somebody else's victim," Army Colonel Jeanette McMahon told "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft.

Col. McMahon was no ordinary widow and in her mind her husband was the victim of Blackwater. Until her retirement a few months ago, the West Point graduate and former helicopter pilot seemed to be a future candidate for general, but her life changed when her husband and West Point classmate was killed on a routine flight back to his cavalry squadron in western Afghanistan.

And while still on active duty, she decided to sue Blackwater's aviation subsidiary for flagrant safety violations and reckless disregard for human life.

"I wanted to understand what happened. For me, if I couldn't be there when he died I felt like I wanted to at least be able to recreate what happened," she told Kroft.

She says it took her a year to get the full story, which begins early on the morning of November 27, 2004 at Bagram Air Base outside Kabul, where Lt. Colonel McMahon had been meeting with his superiors. He hitched a last-minute ride on Blackwater 61, joining two of his soldiers for the two-and-a-half hour flight into a dusty airstrip at Farah.

Forty minutes later the plane's wreckage would be scattered near the top of one of Afghanistan's tallest mountains, far from any logical route.

"What was your reaction when you first found out that the plane had crashed at almost 15,000 feet?" Kroft asked.

"Well, what the heck were they doing up there? It was clearly not anything to do with the mission or where they were going," McMahon replied.

Asked if she thinks they were lost, McMahon said, "Oh, absolutely. Absolutely."

We decided to retrace the flight to try and find out how Blackwater 61 got so far off track on a morning when the flying conditions were perfect. Some of the answers you'll hear from the pilots themselves in this cockpit voice recording recovered at the crash scene.

By: Brant

22 February 2010

France in Action? Yes!

Here's a few photos of the French Army in training...

By: Brant

Nukes Around Asia - An Overview

A good look at the nuclear weapons preparations around the old Persian Empire.

About the same time that India conducted a test demonstrating it now has the ability to deliver a nuclear bomb to any target in the Middle East - or China - Iran provided more evidence that it intends to continue attempting to join the nine nations that comprise the so-called nuclear club.

Earlier this month, Iran celebrated its annual Space Day by firing a powerful rocket into space and announcing that it is close to a "point of no return" in its space program. The success of the large, four-engine, satellite-carrying rocket caused concern among the Western powers based on their realization that Iran's ballistic missile program is proceding faster than expected.

About the same time, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced that he was disappointed in Tehran's response to a proposal made months ago by the Obama sdministration involving an exchange of low-enriched uranium for fuel plates designed for use in a medical reactor.

The day after the Gates announcement, Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad directed his atomic energy agency to boost its enrichment capabilities to the 20% level, ostensibly for medical purposes. However, this level of purity also represents the threshold for developing nuclear weapons.

Two days later, increased calls for sanctions echoed throughout the West as Iran revealed it had told the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it intends to start the construction of 10 more nuclear fuel plants within the next year. At the same time, Iranian military officials announced plans to build military planes, aerial drones and antiaircraft missiles.

This provoked an unusually harsh response from Russia which joined the U.S. in condemning Iran's plans. A muted reaction from China, however, which also wields a Security Council veto, signalled the possibility of a tough road ahead for those who wish to impose sanctions.

Then, last Thursday, the IAEA announced for the first time that it had concluded that Iran was, indeed, trying to make a nuclear bomb and, further, that its relations with the Islamic Republic were "fraying." U.S. officials said the report was in agreement with their own assessment of the situation. Iran is now refusing to let inspectors have access to its heavy-water production plant near Arak, according to the UN, where plutonium from the spent fuel can be used to make atomic bombs.

Meanwhile, Iran's arch enemy, Israel, has been creating a little buzz of its own. Last month it started conducting the first air assaults on Gaza in more than a year, in response to some cross-border mortar attacks that had landed harmlessly in open fields.

By: Brant

UK In Action: Lead From The Front

A platoon Sergeant of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment, stands with one of his unit's Landrover Weapon Mounting Infantry Kit (WMIK). The WMIK vehicle provides recconaisance and mobile firepower support, and is primarily armed with a General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) and a Browning .50 Calibre machine gun. The 1st Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment are part of Colchester based 16 Air Assault Brigade who will be deploying to the Gulf.

By: Widow 6-7

BUB: World Roundup 221700ZFEB2010

The military takeover of Niger might only be a transition to democracy. I guess we'll wait and see...

The military junta that deposed Niger’s longtime leader last week sought to assure visiting diplomatic delegations on Sunday that it would soon restore democracy, as more signs emerged that the violent overthrow had been widely welcomed in this impoverished West African desert nation.


Abu Sayyaf offensive brewing in the Philippines?

The Philippine military is bracing for attacks that may be launched by the Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group Abu Sayyaf Group to avenge the killing of one of their top leaders.

"The Armed Forces of the Philippines has adopted measures to prepare for a possible retaliation from their group," Armed Forces Spokesman Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner said in Monday's press briefing.

Brawner said military officials have alerted government troops posted in Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Zamboanga City - known bailiwick areas of the Abu Sayyaf.

Brawner said they are also monitoring a number of suspected Abu Sayyaf men in Metro Manila. Hcould not categorically say how many ASG members are in the country's capital. But military accounts indicate that there are at least eight of them staying in the metropolis.

Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad and some his followers were killed Sunday during a military assault on their camp in Sulu, southern Philippines.


The red-wooded cockpecker red-cockaded woodpecker and Ft Stewart: new BFFs?

Under crystalline winter skies, a light infantry unit headed for Iraq was practicing precision long-range shooting through a pall of smoke. But the fire generating the haze had nothing to do with the training exercise.

Staff members at the Army post had set the blaze on behalf of the red-cockaded woodpecker, an imperiled eight-inch-long bird that requires frequent conflagrations to preserve its pine habitat.

Even as it conducts round-the-clock exercises to support two wars, Fort Stewart spends as much as $3 million a year on wildlife management, diligently grooming its 279,000 acres to accommodate five endangered species that live here. Last year, the wildlife staff even built about 100 artificial cavities and installed them 25 feet high in large pines so the woodpeckers did not have to toil for six months carving the nests themselves.

The military has not always been so enthusiastic about saving endangered plants and animals, arguing that doing so would hinder its battle preparedness.

But post commanders have gradually realized that working to help species rebound is in their best interest, if only because the more the endangered plants and animals thrive, the fewer restrictions are put on training exercises to avoid destroying habitat.

Look, I trained a bunch at Ft Bragg and Ft Stewart, and the freakin' woodpecker was an absolute train-wreck. At one point, over half of Ft Bragg's live-fire ranges were shut down for the damn thing. No one is saying we shouldn't preserve critters, but why is it only incumbent on the military to do so? Because the military is an easy lawsuit target for environmental groups (who generally don't like them anyway). You don't see the environmental lobby chasing around Eastern Washington apple farmers over the protected Sage Grouse on their private property, do you? No. But Yakima Training Center is a complete breeding ground for the little buggers. There's a reason we used to joke that "the easiest way to get the woodpecker of the endangered species list was to kill 'em all and put it on the extinct species list."

French troops are leaving their former colony, Senegal.

French troops will leave Senegal under an agreement to be signed shortly before the West African country celebrates 50 years of independence from France in April, the Senegalese presidency said on Sunday.

France has about 1,200 military personnel stationed at an air base in the capital Dakar, one of three French bases in Africa.

"It has been decided that the French ... will leave Senegal under an agreement which will be signed before April 4," the presidency said in a statement after talks between President Abdoulaye Wade and French Defence Minister Herve Morin.

On April 4, Senegal will mark the 50the anniversary of independence from France.


An interesting column about nukes and the Middle East, as they relate to Israel.

The US may be looking at using Georgia as a staging base to support Afghanistan operations.

President Mikheil Saakashvili recently offered Georgia as a logistical hub for NATO’s operations in Afghanistan. This offer, made in an interview with The Associated Press, came only days after NATO had finalised a supply route agreement with Kazakhstan in the wake of NATO’s expanding mission in Afghanistan. While a supply route through Georgia already functions (for equipment, not armaments), U.S. officials have not immediately accepted Saakashvili’s new proposal. Russia might be in the way, analysts say.

Saakashvili offered Georgia’s Black Sea ports of Poti and Batumi as docks for military supply ships and the country’s airports as refuelling points for cargo planes. AP quoted Pentagon officials as saying that the U.S. Defense Department was aware of Saakashvili's offer, but had not explored the proposal.

The U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, has scheduled a visit to Georgia on February 21-22. He plans to meet Saakashvili and visit Georgian troops at the Krtsanisi National Training Centre and observe their training for the operation in Afghanistan. Reportedly, the issue of Georgia as a supply route for the war could also be on the table.

Georgia has already been utilised as a transit point for shipment of non-armaments. “The route to Afghanistan is already used extensively, because almost 80 percent of cargo which is not going through Pakistan is going through Georgia, and only 20 percent through Russia, already,” said Alexander Rondeli, President of GFSIS

By: Brant

Iraq Security Update

Yeah, Iraq, you remember, don't you? That other country where we were fighting a war for a few years?

RAMADI - A suicide car bomber targeting a police headquarters killed at least three people, including a policeman, and wounded three in western Ramadi, 100 km (60 miles) west of Baghdad, police said.

MOSUL - Unknown gunmen in a car fired on an Iraqi army checkpoint, killing two soldiers, in eastern Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

MOSUL - Unknown gunmen shot dead two policemen at a checkpoint in central Mosul, police said.

BAGHDAD - Two mortar rounds landed in or near a complex that used to house Saddam Hussein's central security directorate in eastern Baghdad, an Interior Ministry source said. Another source said the complex was now used as a U.S. base. No casualties were reported.

BAGHDAD - Two military personnel working in the Iraqi Defence Ministry were shot dead by gunmen in a speeding car in northern Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - A police officer assigned to the Interior Ministry and a civilian employee of the ministry were wounded by unknown gunmen as they sat in a car in Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - Two rockets or mortar rounds landed in Baghdad's Green Zone government and diplomatic neighbourhood, wounding five people, police said.

BAGHDAD - Unknown gunmen in a car shot dead Thamer Kamel, a university professor working in the Ministry of Higher Education, while he sat in his vehicle in northern Baghdad, police said.

By: Brant

Fluvial Geomorphology?

Is it just me, or does this FBO solicitation sound like something made up for a Star Trek episode?

Fluvial Geomorphology

By: Brant

It's Official: Army Selects New Camouflage for Afghanistan

From the Defense.gov News Release

The secretary of the Army announced today that the Army will provide combat uniforms in the MultiCam pattern to all soldiers deploying to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, starting this summer.

This decision follows a rigorous four-month evaluation and reflects the Army's commitment to giving soldiers in Afghanistan the most effective concealment possible.

Soldiers deploying to Afghanistan this summer will receive fire resistant Army combat uniforms in MultiCam, along with associated equipment including body armor, rucksacks, and helmet covers.

The Army's selection of MultiCam for soldiers in Afghanistan culminates phase III of a four-phase plan to thoroughly and deliberately evaluate camouflage alternatives.

The Army took action in fall 2009 to provide two battalion-size elements in Afghanistan with uniforms and associated gear in patterns other than the standard-issue universal camouflage pattern (UCP). One unit received uniforms and gear in MultiCam, and the other in a variant of UCP known as UCP - Delta.

In addition, the Army deployed a team of experts to Afghanistan in October to gather extensive data and photos on the diverse environments of Afghanistan, where soldiers often travel through multiple environments in a single mission, from snow to woodland to desert.

The Army incorporated the information gathered into a photo simulation study it then administered to nearly 750 soldiers who had deployed to Afghanistan. The study asked them to compare six patterns against eight different environments. The results, along with surveys of soldiers in the two battalions who received alternate camouflage, formed the basis for the Army’s decision on MultiCam.

By: Brant

Surge in Afghanistan? Send in the News!

Here are some stories on Afghanistan and Marjah from the past weekend...

Marjah is just the first step in the surge

The current offensive in Marjah is a critical stepping stone for what is likely the most important fight of the Afghan surge in the coming months: securing Kandahar, the spiritual home of the Taliban and the most important city in southern Afghanistan, according to defense officials and analysts.

The military is using the Marjah offensive to destroy an important Taliban haven, but also to test a strategy that emphasizes strong partnership with Afghan security forces and security for Afghan civilians. And some of the same techniques will be used in future operations, such as securing Kandahar.

Defense officials are understandably reluctant to speak in much depth about their plans, but there is no doubt that Kandahar will be the military's primary objective this year.

"Kandahar remains the prize for the Taliban," a senior military official said. "So if we do anything in the future, clearly this southern capital has to be in our plans somewhere."

Military officials argue they need to wrest Kandahar from the influence of the Taliban - or more precisely, help the Afghan government take control.


The insurgents are fighting back in Marjah, as expected.

U.S. Marines pummeled insurgents with mortars, sniper fire and missiles as fighting intensified Thursday in two areas of the Taliban southern stronghold of Marjah, where U.S. and Afghan forces are facing stubborn resistance in an operation now in its sixth day.
Marines traded machine-gun fire after coming under attack by insurgents with rocket-propelled grenades. One Marine company attacked Taliban positions surrounding them at dawn.
Marines and Afghan troops continued to battle "stiff resistance" in different parts of town, a Marine spokesman said Thursday
"We're seeing more fortified positions. They're standing their ground, essentially," Lt. Josh Diddams said. "You don't know where you're going to get a little pop up of insurgents who are going to stay and fight."
The fighting in Marjah has followed a similar pattern over the past few days: relatively light in the morning with sniper fire intensifying through midday before subsiding at nightfall.
But there were also pockets of calm. Families trickled back and shops reopened in a northern part of town as a small measure of normalcy returned to parts of Marjah that are under Afghan and NATO control.
Their donkeys laden down with their belongings, several families could be seen coming back to their homes in a sign that some civilians believed the fighting is over in zones secured by NATO troops.
Several storekeepers reopened their shops in the bullet-riddled northern bazaar in the northern part of town, as customers lined up to buy goods for the first time in nearly a week.
This is the biggest offensive since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, and a test of President Barack Obama's strategy for reversing the rise of the Taliban while protecting civilians.


One of the key threats? Snipers.

In five days of fighting, the Taliban have shown a side not often seen in nearly a decade of American military action in Afghanistan: the use of snipers, both working alone and integrated into guerrilla-style ambushes.

Five Marines and two Afghan soldiers have been struck here in recent days by bullets fired at long range. That includes one Marine fatally shot and two others wounded in the opening hour of a four-hour clash on Wednesday, when a platoon with Company K of the Third Battalion, Sixth Marines, was ambushed while moving on foot across a barren expanse of flat ground between the clusters of low-slung mud buildings.

Almost every American and Afghan infantryman present has had frightening close calls. Some of the shooting has apparently been from Kalashnikov machine guns, the Marines say, mixed with sniper fire.


As they flee Marjah, the Taliban are trying to return to towns from which they'd previously been forced.

Intelligence reports and a new flurry of roadside bombs suggest that Taliban fighters pushed from their sanctuary of Marja are trying to return to communities they fled last year, Marine commanders said Saturday.

As the Marja offensive continued, Marine Lt. Col. Matt Baker, commander of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, said that in recent days more roadside bombs have been found in the "green zone" of Nawa near the bazaar and the district government center.

Before Marines descended on sprawling Helmand province in southern Afghanistan last summer, Taliban fighters controlled Nawa, extorting money from merchants, closing its school and clinic and killing anyone who opposed them. They fled to nearby Marja after several weeks of sporadic gunfire aimed at the Marines.

At a community meeting Saturday in an outlying neighborhood of Nawa, Baker urged a group of more than 200 Afghan men to help the Marines keep the Taliban from reasserting its dominance in this agricultural area.

"The people need to be brave," Baker said. "The reality is that many of the insurgents from Marja will try to come to Nawa. We have to be a strong team and force them out."


As a few Taliban pockets are mopped up, the transition to civilian work is beginning.

"We're still pushing through the city," said Lt. Josh Diddams, a Marine spokesman. Some of the remaining pockets of insurgents consist of only a handful of fighters, but at least 40 -- a relatively large concentration -- were thought to be holed up in the town's northwestern quarter, the Associated Press reported.

NATO said Sunday that another service member was killed in connection with the offensive, bringing the number of Western troop fatalities to 13. At least eight were Marines.

The battle of Marja is the largest coalition assault since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Taliban. NATO commanders want to break the insurgents' grip on the town and its environs as part of a larger effort to establish government authority for the first time in years in a strategic swath of troubled Helmand province.

NATO said the operation remained "on track," although commanders acknowledged last week that clearing operations will take a month or more, somewhat longer than originally envisioned.

In coming days, however, the coalition expects the town will be secure enough to bring in a newly appointed Afghan governor, marking a symbolic shift away from the military confrontation and toward job creation, school openings and the setting up of other long-absent public services.

The military said in a statement that route clearance -- ridding the roads of one buried bomb after another -- was improving freedom of movement for local people. Many Marja residents have been pinned down in their homes for days by the fighting or have fled to other parts of the province.

Shops are slowly reopening as well, field commanders and local officials said.

Although the Marja offensive is concentrated in the district of Nad Ali, where the town is located, related operations are taking place across Helmand, the insurgency's traditional heartland.

NATO forces on Sunday reported the capture of a Taliban commander and another insurgent in a shootout in Kajaki district, in the east of Helmand, which left one of the suspects wounded. Both of the men arrested Friday were thought to have helped plant bombs and plan attacks.

By: Brant