31 March 2010

Saab's Secret Weapon Improves Targeting

... of defense contracts

When Sweden competes with France for a big overseas business contract, there is one trump card its Gallic rival cannot match: a sitting monarch.

So it was clear that Saab’s battle with Dassault for a multi-billion dollar Brazilian fighter jet order was nearing crunch time when King Carl XVI Gustaf landed in Brasilia last week to make a sales pitch to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Dassault’s Rafale fighter is considered favourite for the long-awaited deal, involving an initial 36 jets with the possibility of scores more in future, but Saab has waged a strong campaign behind its Gripen warplane.

Brazil’s is the first of three forthcoming fighter contracts that will test Saab’s ability to compete in the big league of defence contractors, with the Gripen also in contention for orders from India and Switzerland.

Åke Svensson, Saab chief executive, insists that, with deals secured from South Africa, Thailand, Hungary and the Czech Republic, as well as Sweden, the Gripen’s future is safe.

But the forthcoming contests appear to offer Saab its best chance of significant new aerospace business. The three independently minded countries – Brazil, India and Switzerland – are more likely to provide a less political contract process than markets where non-business factors often tip the balance for US manufacturers such as Boeing and Lockheed.

By: Brant

Serbian Apology for Srebrenica

The Serbs has officially apologized for the Srebrenica massacre.

Serbia's parliament has passed a landmark resolution apologising for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre - Europe's worst atrocity since World War II.
The motion, approved by a narrow majority, says Serbia should have done more to prevent the tragedy.
It stopped short of calling the Bosnian war killings a genocide.
The murder of nearly 8,000 Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) was carried out by Bosnian Serb forces - allies of then-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.
The massacre, in what was supposed to have been a UN safe haven, became a symbol for the atrocities of the Balkan wars.

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By: Brant

British "concern" abut handing over Helmand

On first read-thru, Bob Ainsworth's criticism of the Helmand handover sounds like more US-bashing, but as you read it, you realize that his remarks could easily apply to any other allied nation. His point is that relationships don't hand off the same way real estate does.

Bob Ainsworth risked sparking a row with the White House tonight after claiming he would be 'very, very concerned' about Britain handing military control of Helmand province to the U.S.

The Defence Secretary spoke out in the Commons after reports that American commanders had drawn up controversial plans to take over leadership in the Taliban heartland.

Britain has been responsible for security in Helmand since 2006. Most of the 278 UK troops who have lost their lives in Afghanistan have fallen there.

But earlier this month Mr Ainsworth said the U.S. Marines Corps would take over security in the town of Musa Qala in the next few weeks as part of a 'major rebalancing' of forces fighting the insurgents.

Reports at the weekend suggested British forces would hand over their remaining bases in Helmand to the U.S. as early as this year.

Speaking to MPs yesterday, Mr Ainsworth said UK servicemen and women had built up a high degree of local understanding in the unsettled province which 'shouldn't be lightly thrown away'.

By: Brant

SF Support of Foreign Internal Defense

There's a great article called "Effective Use of FID" that has a nice narrative of ODA ops in Iraq.

Joint Publication 1-02 defines FID as “participation by civilian and military agencies of a government in any of the action programs taken by another government or other designated organization to free and protect its society from subversion, lawlessness and insurgency.” The 10th SF Group has prioritized FID, emphasizing military training and combat-advising, to improve the capabilities of Iraqi Security Forces, or ISF, and ultimately to protect Iraqi society from insurgency. During OIF V and VI, SF Operational Detachment-Alpha 0324 learned that effective FID not only led to improved employment of ISF but also enabled the ODA to develop strong networks of influence and effectively accomplish the desired effects along their assigned LOOs.

Based in Kirkuk during OIF V, ODA 0324 spent the first half of its deployment conducting FID training with 84 Kurdish soldiers of the 4th Iraqi Army Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance Company.

In July 2007, the ODA conducted training in the military decision-making process, or MDMP, reassessing how to more effectively shape the operational environment.

The ODA found that multiple friendly elements redundantly focused on insurgents in the Kirkuk City area, collected intelligence from the same sources and partnered with the same Iraqi elements.

Meanwhile, the detachment’s intelligence preparation of the battlefield indicated that the greatest threat had shifted to an area outside of Kirkuk City: Diyala Province was teeming with violence between al-Qaeda in Iraq, or AQI, and Jaysh al-Mehdi, or JAM. Intelligence indicated the Hamrin Mountains, running along the Salah ad-Din/Kirkuk provincial boundary, provided an unimpeded supply route into Diyala for AQI. The key AQI node at the northern end of that supply line was the Zaab Triangle, formed by the towns of Bayji, Hawijah and Sharqat, with Zaab Village at its center.

There were virtually no coalition forces, or CF, and few ISF forces in the triangle because it was on the seam between three CF brigades and four provinces: Ninewah, Kirkuk, Irbil and Salah ad-Din. AQI firmly controlled most of the Zaab Triangle. The Hamrin Mountains essentially formed an AQI “supply snake” into Diyala Province, with the Zaab Triangle at its head. The ODA’s MDMP concluded that the best way to attack the snake was to cut off its head.

In August 2007, therefore, ODA 0324 constructed a combat outpost in the heart of the Zaab Triangle, co-located with the largely AQI-corrupted 18th Strategic Infrastructure Battalion, or SIB. The ODA established close ties with the commander of the 18th SIB, mitigated his corruption, and initiated intensive FID training with his best platoons. The ODA advised NCOs from the 4th Iraqi Army ISR Company who were training platoons of the 18th SIB Scout and Quick Reaction Force, or QRF. This was a noteworthy accomplishment, persuading the Shiite Kurdish soldiers of the 4th IA to train with and later conduct missions alongside the Sunni soldiers of the 18th SIB. The FID training promoted a healthy competition between the Iraqi units to be the best ISF direct-action force in the area, demonstrating a vast expansion of the ODA’s influence.

By: Brant

Colombian Soldier Free After 12 Years

The FARC has freed a soldier captured back in the '90s.

Colombian rebels on Tuesday freed a government soldier who was held hostage in the jungle for more than 12 years and symbolized those left behind in the war against Latin America's oldest insurgency.
A Brazilian military helicopter operated by the Red Cross ferried Pablo Emilio Moncayo from Colombia's southern jungle to a civilian airport in Florencia, a town 370 km (230 miles) south of the capital Bogota.
He was smiling, in uniform and looking well as his family greeted him on the airport tarmac.
Moncayo, now 32, was a teenager when he was captured by guerrillas who overran his army communications base in 1997 and marched him into the jungle. He was seen only occasionally in rebel videos during his captivity.
"After more than 12 years in captivity, Sgt. Pablo Emilio Moncayo was handed over this afternoon, the Red Cross said in a statement.
His release was the second this week by the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, once a powerful rebel force that has been battered by President Alvaro Uribe's U.S.-backed war on guerrillas and cocaine traffickers.

By: Brant

Michigan Militia Nuts Wanted to Overthrow US Government

The militiamen that were picked up in Michigan were apparently plotting a war on the US government.

A ninth alleged member of a Christian militia group that prepared to battle the Antichrist and the U.S. government was arrested after the FBI played recorded messages from family and friends, who urged the man to give himself up, over loudspeakers outside a home in rural Michigan.
Joshua Matthew Stone peacefully surrendered to heavily armed authorities Monday night. His father and seven others believed to be part of the Michigan-based Hutaree appeared in court earlier on charges they plotted to kill a police officer and slaughter scores more by bombing the funeral — all in hopes of touching off an uprising against the government.
Most of the arrests came during weekend raids in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. FBI agents moved quickly against Hutaree because members planned an attack sometime in April, prosecutors said. Authorities seized guns but would not say whether they found explosives.
The arrests dealt "a severe blow to a dangerous organization that today stands accused of conspiring to levy war against the United States," Attorney General Eric Holder said.

By: Brant

French Totally Off Their Rockers

Following their idiotic sale of a power-projection ship to the Ruskies, the French are planning joint naval maneuvers with the Reds...

A French anti-aircraft frigate, Chevalier Paul, will take part in tactical maneuvers and anti-aircraft defense exercises with the Russian Northern Fleet Navy on April 3.
The Chevalier Paul, a Horizon-class frigate, is arriving on Tuesday to the northern Russian port of Severomorsk to participate in the joint naval exercises; Ria Novosti quoted a Russian Navy spokesman as saying.

The Horizon frigate provides local area or extended cover against saturation missile attacks and escort and protect carrier groups. The ship also has powerful anti-submarine and anti-air self defence.

A photo of a Horizon-class frigate. (Pretty sure it's not the Chevalier Paul, but same class).

By: Brant

New Nuke Treaty Bridges Cold War Enemies

The US and Russia are cutting nuclear arsenals, even as everyone else expands theirs.

It had been widely expected, but is welcome nonetheless. Russia has been keen to reduce the cost of maintaining its large stockpile of nuclear weapons and Mr Obama has talked about getting eventually to a world free of all nuclear weapons. The treaty must next be ratified in Russia's Duma and in America's Senate, in the latter case with 67 votes of 100. But in America it should not be a partisan issue. Mr Obama noted positive discussions he has had with leading senators of both parties on the foreign-affairs committee, John Kerry, the Democrat, and the Republican ranking member, Richard Lugar. The White House addressed a potential sticking point, saying the new deal does not place any limits on testing, development or deployment of current or planned America missile-defence programmes. Robert Gates, the defence secretary, expressed the hope that Russia would co-operate with a redesigned missile-defence system in Europe. Russia was pleased at the inclusion of language referring to the clear relationship between offensive systems and missile defence.

By: Brant

30 March 2010

If Israel Strikes....

Alrighty wargamers! Here's Reuters' quick dash through the potential reactions if Israel strikes Iran's nuke program. Let the scenarioing begin!

Tehran announces that Israel's military attacked civilian locations but inflicted little damage. It hurls furious rhetoric at Israel but stops short of any military response.
"It may make sense for the Iranians to play the victim," said IHS Global Insight Middle East analyst Gala Riani. "They may also use it to build the regime's legitimacy internally."
-- news of the strike would see oil prices spike $10-$20 and wider investor flight to safer assets such as U.S. treasuries, while equities and risky currencies would suffer. But without further action, sentiment would recover.
-- relatively used to conflict, Israeli markets might prove more resilient to the initial news. Some analysts suggest that a successful strike that significantly put back an Iranian nuclear programme could be positive for Israeli markets.
Key unknowns:
-- assessing the effectiveness of an attack on Iranian facilities could prove almost impossible. The longer-term impact of the strikes on Iran's internal politics, regional politics and Western support for Israel would be hard to predict.
-- can Israel achieve its aims with a single strike, or would it require a more sustained operation potentially lasting several days and hitting markets much harder?

Iran steers clear of any overt response, but backs intensifying attacks by Hamas from the Palestinian territories and by Hezbollah from Lebanon. It might also back proxy attacks on Western forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The most likely response would be to increase their subversive activity across the Middle East," said IHS's Riani. "It would most likely be focused in Palestine, Lebanon and to a lesser extent around the Gulf."
-- might have some short-term impact on oil prices -- particularly if the attacks included Iraq -- but generally global markets would be little affected.
-- Israeli markets would likely take initial attacks in their stride, but a prolonged campaign would drag on the economy, driving up defence spending and undermining markets as they did during the Palestinian Intifada.
Key unknowns:
-- the duration of increased violence. Proxy violence could escalate to include militant attacks on Western and oil targets.
-- If Hezbollah strikes Israel, Israel will retaliate in a way that quickly expands the conflict. Israel has threatened to hold the governments of Lebanon and Syria responsible for any Hezbollah attacks.

Iran retaliates by launching ballistic missiles with conventional warheads. While more accurate than the Scuds launched by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein at Israel during the 1991 Gulf War, damage from each strike would be limited.
"It's certainly not something you can rule out," said Metsa Rahimi, intelligence analyst for risk consultancy Janusian. "The Iranians are going to want to retaliate. But they know if they do this, they are going to get hit back again."
-- oil prices would certainly spike higher, although attacks on Israeli cities would not directly have any impact on oil production. Wider global markets would sell off and watch nervously for any further escalation.
-- Israeli markets might again prove more resilient. They actually rallied in January 1991 during the missile attacks as it became clear the strikes were not chemical and not causing significant damage. Much would depend on the level of damage and for how long any missile barrage continued.
Key unknowns:
-- Israeli and Western reaction. Would there be further retaliation? Would weapons used remain conventional?.
-- Would Israel strike military targets and civilian infrastructure in Iran, possibly including oil facilities? That would push-up prices and force primary customer China to look for supplies elsewhere.

Iran makes good its threat to close the Straits of Hormuz to traffic, blocking the flow of some 17 million barrels a day of oil, roughly 40 percent of all seaborne oil trade -- but likely inviting swift retaliation from United States forces.
"Iran doesn't even need to be successful in their threat," said Michael Wittner, global head of energy research at Societe Generale. "Even a credible threat or near miss and insurance rates will spike. Then no one's going to send any oil through there for a couple of weeks until somebody's navy can re-establish control."
-- analysts estimate this could push oil prices up towards $150 a barrel. Alternative oil producers such as Russia, Nigeria and Angola might benefit, but rising fuel costs would likely undercut growth everywhere. China, Iran's main export destination, would have to seek supplies elsewhere.
-- Other financial markets would suffer and fall sharply if they believed disruption would be long term.
-- Israeli markets are likely to be affected by the wider frenzy, although probably less than volatile emerging markets.
Key unknowns:
-- how long could Iran maintain its blockade? Military analysts believe its handful of mine-laying ships, helicopters and submarines might quickly be neutralised by the US military.

Ultimately, the consequences of an Israeli strike on Iran are hard to predict. At worst, it could fuel an upsurge in wider regional violence.
"I worry a great deal about the unintended consequences of a strike," Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said on a recent visit to Israel.
-- a more violent Middle East would put an inherently higher risk premium on oil, pushing up prices and possibly undermining global recovery from the financial crisis. It might also drive consuming nations towards non-Middle Eastern suppliers and alternative technologies.
-- investors would also view Israel as much higher risk, while much higher defence spending would weigh on the economy.
Key unknowns:
-- duration and severity of any conflict. Would the world's wider powers - China, Russia, the United States and European Union in particular - move towards a consensus on the Middle East or would the conflict exacerbate their differences further?

By: Brant

STRATCOM Missions Proliferating

Focused on deterrence, STRATCOM has inherited more and more missions.

Stratcom has been assigned heavy and varied responsibilities. It began with strategic deterrence, nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. In 2002 came space operations, including global command and control (those communication and early-warning satellites in space) and missile defense. Cyber operations recently were added, followed by combating weapons of mass destruction, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR aircraft), and finally information operations (IO).

By: Brant

UK MoD Weapons Buying

The Brits are re-kitting their armed forces.

A series of new contracts and agreements marking key steps towards the next generation of aircraft and air-launched weapons of the UK Ministry of Defence's (MOD) has been announced by Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth today, Monday 29 March 2010.

In a move that will see industry work together on the development of the UK's air-launched weapons, known as Complex Weapons, the Defence Secretary announced that the MOD has entered into an interim Partnering Agreement with MBDA in the UK. Building on the successful Assessment Phase, this co-operation within industry will help shorten the time from development to delivery of these weapons.

Not everyone supports all the buys, however.

Defence ministers are condemned today for spending up to £12.3billion on a fleet of aircraft that are unable to fly in Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Defence has bought 14 aircraft designed to transport troops and equipment and carry out air-to-air refuelling. But the Airbus A330-200 planes cannot be flown in warzones because they lack proper protection, a National Audit Office report has revealed.

Fitting them with armour, antimissile systems and early warning kit to allow them to operate in ‘high threat environments’ would cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds more, the spending watchdog said.

By: Brant

More DADT Opinions

The battle lines around DADT are being drawn in the media, and it looks like everyone is sounding off on DADT. What will be the most interesting to watch are 2 particular things:
(1) How will senior leaders who sounded off publicly be treated? Will they be shuffled off, censured, or some other fate? It's hard to believe that those who spoke out so publicly against a policy would be charged with implementing it.
(2) How will the troops vote with their boots? Will they walk away just based on DADT?
I really think that for most soldiers, it'll be a shrug and they'll move on. More and more of the Army is under 30, and attitudes toward gays tend to shift dramatically along generational lines.

The one government institution that is conservative and apolitical by nature is the U.S. military. President Obama with his liberal agenda is trying to change that by politicizing and liberalizing the military by repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) law and his henchmen are Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen.

We used to be able to rely on the military as being the one truly apolitical American institution that was only focused on defending the United States and not advancing some social agenda. Not anymore with Gates and Mullen in charge. With their push to repeal DADT, they now bring Obama liberal-style Chicago politics to the Department of Defense. The current victim of this is Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, who was publically denounced on March 25th at a public Pentagon press conference by Gates and Mullen. What was Lt. Gen. Mixon’s crime? According to Secretary Gates it was “inappropriate” to have publicly aired his feelings about the president’s desire to overturn the current don’t ask don’t tell policy. Admiral Mullen said “If there’s policy direction that someone in uniform disagrees with … the answer is not advocacy, it is in fact to vote with your feet.”

That’s very hypocritical and cynical since in the past they have let others critical of DADT speak out such as when Air Force Col. Om Prakash wrote a strong anti-DADT article in Joint Force Quarterly. Back then Mullen said it was ok because he wanted open debate. Admiral Mullen himself is the one who was inappropriate and should walk with his feet when he went against the military apolitical tradition and started pushing and advocating his personal views on DADT. Remember, DADT is the law and therefore the official policy of the military. Mullen however did not respect that. He started a big advocacy push last February at the Senate Armed Services Committee when he said it was his “personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do.” Then he tweeted “Stand by what I said: Allowing homosexuals to serve openly is the right thing to do.” He also put a statement on the Pentagon’s Web site and on his own blog. That is about as public and activist as you can get.

So when Lt. Gen Mixon wrote his short letter to the editor in Stars and Stripes, he was just one of many officers who wrote their opinion. Stars and Stripes is supposed to be a daily newspaper published for the U.S. military free of control and censorship. That is unless you say something contrary to what Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen want. Lt. Gen Mixon is a hero for saying it is important to “stop this ill-advised repeal of a policy that has achieved a balance between a citizen’s desire to serve and acceptable conduct.” He did not mention Obama or Gates or Mullen. Lt. Gen Mixon is right about DADT. DADT is not about whom you are but what you do. In the military lives are at stake and you must have military members with the highest possible moral and ethical conduct. That is why all sorts of immoral and detrimental conduct is not allowed in the military such as homosexuality, adultery, illegal drugs, bigamy, prostitution and many others. It is why you give up certain civilian freedoms and why DADT should not be repealed.

By: Brant

Australia In Action: On Patrol

(L-R) Gunner Aidan O'Donnell and Captain Bryce Duffy from the First Mentoring Task Force (MTF1) on patrol in the Mirabad Valley Region.

Image: defence.gov.au

By: Widow 6-7

Following up on the Sinking of ROKS Cheonan

The best coverage we've found yet is over at One Free Korea, where the authors examine a variety of scenarios from a variety of sources.

Was it perhaps a Nork mine?

A naval mine dispatched from North Korea may have struck the South Korean warship that exploded and sank near the Koreas' disputed sea border, the defense minister told lawmakers Monday, laying out several scenarios for the maritime disaster.

Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said there was no sign of a direct attack from rival North Korea, but military authorities have not ruled out North Korean involvement in the sinking of the Cheonan late Friday night.

An explosion ripped the 1,200-ton ship apart during a routine patrol mission near Baengnyeong Island west of the peninsula. Fifty-eight crew members, including the captain, were plucked to safety; 46 remain missing.

Meanwhile, tragedy strikes the rescue efforts.

A South Korean military diver, previously hospitalized due to unconsciousness after taking part in search and rescue operations for missing sailors believed to be confined in a sunken warship, died Tuesday, according to Seoul's Yonhap News Agency.

Another rescue worker passed out while the search and rescue operations were still underway, Yonhap said.

By: Brant

Social Media's Impact on the Military

It's having a wide variety of effects, both good and bad.

Social media websites have long been a point of conflict in the military. On the one hand, they would allow deployed service members to stay in touch with their loved ones back home, as well as allow commanders to spread information quickly.

But then there's the issue of security. What if someone hacked into the military's Twitter account to spread malicious information? What if a deployed soldier accidentally gave away too much information about his location or battlefield plans?

For a while, the Department of Defense blocked social media sites from its networks but largely left its social media policy ambiguous.

"Do it if you can get away with it, and don't make a website crash," said Michael Kilpatrick, director of strategic communications for the Military Health System, of the military's former attitude.

But last month -- with more than 800 military accounts already on Twitter -- Defense officials released a directive-type memo that "recognizes that Internet-based capabilities are integral to operations across the Department of Defense" and sets up rules for the new Internet privileges.

The new policy says nonclassified networks should be reconfigured to allow access to social networking sites, but that commanders may temporarily limit access if operational security is at risk.

Right now, the services don't seem to be able to agree on implementation from base to base. While limitations are occasionally imposed for OPSEC reasons (and after the Israeli Operations Facebook, everyone is concerned about this), there are times when access needs to be limited because of bandwidth constraints. That's the one that's hardest for the troops to understand.

By: Brant

What's Next For Canada

h/t to Murnau...

The Canadians are daring to go where the Spanish ran away. No, not back to Iraq; they're headed to the Congo...

Canadian soldiers may trade fighting the war in Afghanistan for a more traditional UN peacekeeping mission in Africa when the Kandahar mission ends next year.

The military has quietly begun angling to take command of the UN's largest peacekeeping mission, which is in Congo, according to sources at the Department of National Defence and in Afghanistan.

The Congo mission, which already involves 20,000 "blue helmets" from 50 countries, including a dozen Canadians, could be headed by Liuetenant.-General Andrew Leslie, an Afghanistan veteran who is about to leave his current job as head of the army to complete a doctoral thesis.

By: Brant

Focusing on Afghanistan

The President is turning his attention (back) to Afghanistan.

"This is really a strategic moment in the history of our involvement," national security adviser Jim Jones told reporters aboard Air Force One during the covert overnight flight to Afghanistan.

Whether he was talking to Afghan President Hamid Karzai in the presidential palace in Kabul or before 2,500 cheering American troops at Bagram Air Field about 50 miles away, the message during his six hours on the ground was the same: Afghan leaders, particularly Karzai, must step up now and make progress on old demands. Those include reducing corruption, ensuring the delivery of basic services to Afghans, providing true rule of law with an effective judicial system, turning away warlords and unqualified cronies from government positions and creating an effective national police force and army. None of these exist in Afghanistan in any large measure.

"Our intent is to make sure that the Afghans have the capacity to provide for their own security. That is core to our mission," Obama told the troops crammed into the cavernous tent known as the "clam shell."

For if Afghan leaders can't provide government that citizens can trust or security that can hold back Taliban and al-Qaida extremists, the U.S. can't leave. As Obama said, letting the region backslide to the days before the U.S.-led, 2001 invasion ousted Taliban rulers that gave safe haven to al-Qaida would put more American lives at stake.

"Make no mistake," the president declared, "this fight matters."

By: Brant

The Next Front in The War On Terror

AFRICOM is taking more and more of the lead in the long-term view of the 'war on terror'.

What is the current meaning of "War against Terror” for Africa? The true intention of America's recent military interventions in the African continent (both covert and open) is nothing other than the expansion and consolidation of Western capital. It all started in 2001 when George W. Bush declared his "War on Terror" in the continent, but has developed in a manner that has gone beyond human imagination in the body counts on the streets of Somalia, in the jungles of Uganda and Congo, and deserts of Sudan. The chief of the US African Command, General E. Ward, explained this in language more clear than that of any US politician when he stated that an Africa in which "African populations are able to provide for themselves, contribute to global economic development and are allowed access to markets in free, fair, and competitive ways, is good for America and the world..."

By: Brant

India Expanding Their Role in the World?

India is coming forth with plans to increase their extra-territorial role in the world.

India has long had a strategy for great power status, says N.V. Subramanian. But recent developments mean it can finally happen.

Although India doesn’t have a formalised plan for acquiring great power status, the outlines of a consistent grand strategy have been clear for some time—strategic autonomy through interlocking networks of interests with world powers, and the building of military capabilities based on growing economic prowess.

This intuitive two-pronged approach, enunciated by the nation’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, is likely to be in place at least until 2050, when India is expected by some projections to be vying with the United States for the position of world’s second-largest economy after China.

Nehru introduced the principle of strategic autonomy so that India wouldn’t be sucked into or trapped by the opposing ideologies of an intensifying Cold War. Understanding that India’s stance would be unappreciated unless it built a vehicle for its position, Nehru mooted the Non-Aligned Movement, a bloc scorned by both Cold War powers (although both sides were privately grateful for Nehru’s brokering efforts in the Korean War).

Yet the bloc survives today—toothless it may be, but it still occasionally provides India with a moral compass. Meanwhile, India has kept up its studiedly ‘neutral’ position, contributing unflinchingly to UN peacekeeping efforts, while staying out of non-UN-sanctioned endeavours such as Iraq, and ensuring its contribution to Afghanistan has been purely humanitarian and developmental.

By: Brant

29 March 2010

RAF Staying Busy Over UK

They've scrambled fighters in response to terror plot fears...

RAF Typhoon fighter jets have been scrambled twice this month amid fears of possible terror threats in UK airspace, the BBC has learned.
One week ago - on 22 March - the RAF was alerted to a conversation overheard on the airwaves, believed to have come from a plane travelling through UK airspace.
It included the words "ransom" and "hostage".
Soon afterward a United Airlines plane - on its way from the US to Frankfurt - made what is described as an "unusual request" to descend just as it was flying south of Reading.
Within minutes, two Typhoon fighter jets were scrambled from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.

... and Russian airspace incursions.

It’s a scene classically reminiscent of Cold War days or a Tom Clancy novel from the same: two weeks ago, Royal Air Force Tornados shadowed a pair of Russian Tu-160 Blackjack heavy bombers as they penetrated British airspace and nonchalantly cruised over the Scottish isles. RAF officials released photos of the intercept today.

Apparently, the Russians have been doing quite a bit of this over the past year. “People may be surprised to know our crews have successfully scrambled to intercept Russian aircraft on more than 20 occasions since the start of 2009,” said RAF Wing Commander Mark Gorringe. The Russian bombers turned around just short of the coast of Ireland.

By: Brant

Culture Change Brewing for USAF Remote Control Jockeys

OK, so they call it a "warrior culture" and want to instill it in their UAV pilots. Grab a bayonet and move out and draw fire, then talk to us about "warrior culture".

As part of an effort to extend the military's "warrior culture" to unmanned planes, the Air Force is overhauling how it trains the crews that operate its rapidly growing fleet of Predators, Reapers and other remotely piloted aircraft.
The changes in training will affect hundreds of personnel who fly the unmanned aircraft remotely over war zones from distant bases and control their powerful cameras and targeting systems.

The effort is part of a move by the Air Force to put as much emphasis on drones as it does on traditional fighters and bombers, officials said.

It also underscores the continuing expansion of the role of unmanned aircraft in the hunt for militants in Afghanistan and the increasing importance of the airmen who operate them.

Each of the MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers is operated by two crew members. One is an Air Force pilot, who flies the craft. The second is a "sensor operator" who controls the plane's camera and its targeting laser, used to guide missiles and bombs.

When the Air Force first began flying armed Predators over Afghanistan, image analysts were in the second seat; they are extensively trained on how to interpret spy satellite pictures.

But after years of flying missions in Afghanistan, senior Air Force officers concluded they had the wrong people in that job. Instead, officials want the second crew member to focus less on interpreting imagery and more on helping fly the plane and strike targets.

"We are rewriting the Air Force's DNA," said Chief Master Sgt. Victor Allen, who is the career field manager for enlisted aviators.

By: Brant

USN Inventory Updates

The US Navy had named the fourth "Joint High Speed Vessel".

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus joined Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to announce that the name of the Department of the Navy’s fourth Joint High Speed Vessel will be USNS Fall River (JHSV 4), during a brief ceremony at Heritage State Park on the Fall River waterfront.

And has also commissioned the the USS New Mexico, a Virginia-class attack sub.

The Navy’s newest Virginia class attack submarine New Mexico will be commissioned Saturday, March 27, 2010, during an 11 a.m. EDT ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk, Norfolk, Va.

New Mexico is named in recognition of the people of the ‘Land of Enchantment.’ The battleship New Mexico (1918-1946), the only other ship named after the47th state, earned six battle stars for World War II service, which included providing shore bombardment support for landings in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands, and at Guam, Tinian, Saipan, the Philippines, and Okinawa.

By: Brant

BUB: Arms Merchants Around the World

The Turkish Navy is is picking up a large landing ship capable of power projection.

The Turkish Navy is preparing to buy its first landing-platform dock able to carry up to eight helicopters as it seeks to gain the capability for overseas amphibious force deployment as part of NATO and peacekeeping efforts.


The Brits are upgrading more Lynx helicopters.

AgustaWestland, a Finmeccanica company, is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a £42 million contract extension by the UK Ministry of Defence for the upgrade of 10 more British Army Lynx Mk.9 helicopters with LHTEC CTS800-4N engines.


A big naval show in Qatar is showing off warships from several countries, including the US.

At least 15 warships will be on view at Doha Port in the next three days as part of the second Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (Dimdex) starting this morning.
The biggest ship on view at Doha Port will be US Navy’s 208m-plus long Mesa Verde. Equally imposing will be Royal UK Navy’s
RFA Lyme Bay, which is 190m.
Turkey’s TCG Gemlk (139m), US Navy’s HMS St Alabans (133m), India’s INS Betwa (126m), French Navy’s FN Guepratte (125m) and Australia’s HMAS Stuart (118m) will be the other main attractions.


A UK contractor has laid out their concerns for the UK defence industry.

In the manifesto A|D|S sets out is case that in recent years the defence industry has provided over £4bn worth of equipment to the front line extremely rapidly through Urgent Operational Requirements (UORs). It says that these can go from concept to reality in a matter of weeks, proving the industry is versatile and fleet-footed. The industry also works hand-in-hand with the UK Armed Forces from factory to frontline, for example over 4,000 industry personnel are currently working with our troops in Afghanistan.


Are the Russians making a comeback in the world arms markets?

Russian arms exports were up only two percent last year, to $8.5 billion. However, Russia booked $15 billion worth of orders in 2009, and now has $40 billion worth of back orders. While sales to China are down, Russia has found new customers in South America (not just Venezuela). Vietnam, seeking an ally against ancient enemy China, has become a big customer for aircraft and warships. Sales are being made to the Middle East again, especially to North African countries. India, however, remains the major export customer.

Russia exported $8.35 billion in weapons in 2008, and $8 billion in 2007. In 2005, there were hopes that sales might reach $10 billion for 2008. The stall in Russian arms sales growth comes from problems with the two largest customers; China and India. Russian arms exports had been growing rapidly for a while. In 2005 Russian arms exporters had already booked orders for six billion dollars worth of sales per year through 2008. In 2004, Russian arms sales were $5.6 billion, and that went to $6 billion in 2005 and $7 billion in 2006. Russian arms sales were only $4.3 billion in 2003, and ballooned as the economies of their two biggest customers (India and China) grew larger. That, and the escalating price of oil (driven largely by increased demand from China and India), has sent international arms sales from $29 billion in 2003, to over $60 billion now. Oil rich countries, particularly those in the Persian Gulf, as eager to buy more weapons, with which to defend their assets.

What are your thoughts on the news...? Share below.

By: Brant

NEWS: Suicide Bombings in Moscow

Looks like Chechen rebels have struck again in Moscow with a pair of bombings on rush hour trains.

Two female suicide bombers blew themselves up on Moscow's subway system as it was jam-packed with rush-hour passengers Monday, killing at least 37 people and wounding 102, officials said.

The head of Russia's main security agency said preliminary investigation places the blame on rebels from the restive Caucasus region that includes Chechnya, where separatists have fought Russian forces since the mid-1990s.

The first explosion took place just before 8 a.m. at the Lubyanka station in central Moscow. The station is underneath the building that houses the main offices of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, the KGB's main successor agency.

A second explosion hit the Park Kultury station about 45 minutes later.

Emergency Minister Sergei Shoigu said the toll was 37 killed and 102 injured, but he did not give a breakdown of casualties at each station, according to Russian news agencies.

By: Brant

Monday Video: Bombs over Iraq

Starting your week off with an aerial bang.

By: Brant

Investigating A Death in Afghanistan

A detainee dies in CIA custody. Investigation follows. What's next?

More than seven years ago, a suspected Afghan militant was brought to a dimly lit CIA compound northeast of the airport in Kabul. The CIA called it the Salt Pit. Inmates knew it as the dark prison.

Inside a chilly cell, the man was shackled and left half-naked. He was found dead, exposed to the cold, in the early hours of Nov. 20, 2002.

The Salt Pit death was the only fatality known to have occurred inside the secret prison network the CIA operated abroad after the Sept. 11 attacks. The death had strong repercussions inside the CIA. It helped lead to a review that uncovered abuses in detention and interrogation procedures, and forced the agency to change those procedures.

Little has emerged about the Afghan's death, which the Justice Department is investigating. The Associated Press has learned the dead man's name, as well as new details about his capture in Pakistan and his Afghan imprisonment.

By: Brant

UK In Action: Send Us Your Women!

A female British soldier is pictured on patrol in Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan

By: Widow 6-7

TSA Chief Search Back to Square One

President Obama's nominee for TSA has withdrawn. And the process begins again...

President Barack Obama is back to square one — again — in finding a transportation security chief to shore up the nation's defenses against terrorist threats from the air, road and rail.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Harding took himself out of the running Friday night as head of the Transportation Security Administration, another setback for Obama after his first choice withdrew in January because he faced a tough confirmation struggle in Congress. The Obama administration has called the job the most important unfilled position on Obama's team.

Harding's past as a defense contractor raised complications for his nomination.

He had extensive intelligence experience that Obama hoped to tap in fortifying security against attacks such as the Christmas bombing attempt on an airliner bound for Detroit, which was foiled by passengers. The agency's primary mission is to keep commercial aviation safe from terrorism, but its responsibilities cover threats by land and ferry as well.

Harding retired from the Army in 2001, ending a three-decade career during which he served as the Defense Department's top human intelligence officer, managing a $1 billion intelligence collection program.

By: Brant

28 March 2010

US Selling C130s to Israel

The plane that won't die is still in demand. The US has agreed to sell C-130Js to Israel.

The United States has signed a deal to supply Israel with initially up to three new Lockheed Martin Corp C-130J "Super Hercules" tactical transport aircraft, the Defense Department told Reuters on Friday.

The deal is part of an order worth up to $1.9 billion if all options are exercised for nine C-130Js. The aircraft may be used for special operations, disaster relief or humanitarian missions.

Under a government-to-government pact signed on Wednesday, Israel would get its first C-130J in 2013, said a source familiar with the sale, who asked not to be identified pending official government announcements.

Hey, you never know when you'll need to execute another Operation Thunderbolt...

By: Brant

USMC Already Making DADT Bunk Plans

In another attempt to derail the repeal of DADT, GEN Conway is already making room assignment plans for the USMC.

The Marine Corps' commandant said he won't force his troops to bunk with gays on base and would give them separate rooms if Congress votes to allow openly gay service.

The comment, by Gen. James Conway, is the latest pushback by a small but vocal faction of senior military leaders opposed to a repeal of the 1993 law known as "don't ask, don't tell."

President Barack Obama says the ban is unfair, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates has launched a lengthy study to determine how to allow gays to serve openly without hurting military effectiveness.

Among the questions to be answered is whether changes to housing policies would even be necessary.

Conway, a known opponent of repealing the law, suggested in an interview published Friday by Military.com that he already knows it would be a logistical hurdle. On base, Marines typically bunk two-to-a-room.

You gotta wonder how many senior officers are going to get fired for refusing to implement policy when it finally comes down. More to the point, you gotta wonder how many soldiers would actually walk...

By: Brant

Order of Battle: II MAW

By: Brant

Israeli Tanks Roll Into Gaza in Firefight

Israeli troops crossed into Gaza after a patrol was ambushed by Islamist terrorists.

Israeli tanks advanced into the Gaza Strip on Friday after the worst clash with Palestinian fighters in 14 months killed two on each side, and Palestinian sources reported more casualties in the fighting.

They said five Israeli tanks and two armoured bulldozers advanced from the east firing shells at targets near the town of Khan Younis in the centre of the narrow coastal enclave.

The Gaza-based militant group Popular Resistance Committees confirmed one of its fighters was critically wounded by shelling. Palestinian sources reported Israeli helicopters and unmanned military drones in the skies.

Witnesses near the scene said the sounds of gunfire abated an hour before midnight (2100 GMT) but the tanks were still in place firing occasional rounds. Residents were fearful of a bigger Israeli incursion, and evacuation warnings were given.

The Israeli army earlier said an officer and a conscript were killed when Palestinian gunmen fired on an Israeli military patrol inside the Strip. Two soldiers were wounded and two Palestinian fighters also died in that clash, it said.

Now, "tanks" can mean a lot of things, so if we get clarification, we can tell you if it was Merkavas, or APCs, or just something with a turret and treads that someone decided should be called a 'tank' because they don't know any better.

By: Brant

27 March 2010

Online Scam Variation Preying on US Sympathies for Soldiers

There's a variation of the 419 scam targeting women around the US.

Online scammers are posing as US serviceman posted overseas and promising love and marriage to cheat women out of thousands of dollars, the US Army's Criminal Investigation Command has warned.

Special CID agents cautioned that they had learned of multiple incidents in which people online posed as US soldiers and got "romantically involved... with female victims and prey on their emotions and patriotism."

Army CID spokesman Chris Grey said the scammers often used information about real soldiers, including their names and ranks, and found photographs of soldiers online to create a false identity.

These individuals promise "true love, but only end up breaking hearts and bank accounts," the CID warned.

Once they have snared a victim, the criminals request money they claim is needed to purchase items including laptops and return plane tickets.

"These perpetrators, often from other countries, most notably from Ghana, Angola and Nigeria, are good at what they do and quite familiar with American culture," said Grey.

The Army CID warned women to be cautious when contacted online by people claiming to be US servicemembers.

Where's the Ebola Monkey Man when you need him?

By: Brant

Weekend Humor: The Snake Theory

The Snake Theory

The Differential Theory of US Armed Forces (Snake Model) upon encountering a snake in the Area of Operations (AO)

1. Infantry: Snake smells them, leaves area.

2. Airborne: Lands on and kills the snake.

3. Armor: Runs over snake, laughs, and looks for more snakes.

4. Aviation: Has Global Positioning Satellite coordinates to snake. Can't find snake. Returns to base for refuel, crew rest and manicure.

5. Ranger: Plays with snake, then eats it.

6. Field Artillery: Kills snake with massive Time On Target barrage with three Forward Artillery Brigades in support. Kills several hundred civilians as unavoidable collateral damage. Mission is considered a success and all participants (i.e., cooks, mechanics and clerks) are awarded Silver Stars.

7. Special Forces: Makes contact with snake, ignores all State Department directives and Theater Commander Rules of Engagement by building rapport with snake and winning its heart and mind. Trains it to kill other snakes. Files enormous travel settlement upon return.

8. Combat Engineer: Studies snake. Prepares in-depth doctrinal thesis in obscure 5 series Field Manual about how to defeat snake using countermobility assets. Complains that maneuver forces don't understand how to properly conduct doctrinal counter-snake ops.

9. Navy SEAL: Expends all ammunition and calls for naval gunfire support in failed attempt to kill snake. Snake bites SEAL and retreats to safety. Hollywood makes fantasy film in which SEALS kill Muslim extremist snakes.

10. Navy: Fires off 50 cruise missiles from various types of ships, kills snake and makes presentation to Senate Appropriations Committee on how Naval forces are the most cost-effective means of anti-snake force projection.

11. Marine: Kills snake by accident while looking for souvenirs. Local civilians demand removal of all US forces from Area of Operations.

12. Marine Recon: Follows snake, gets lost.

13. Combat Controllers: Guides snake elsewhere.

14. Para-Rescue Jumper: Wounds snake in initial encounter, then works feverishly to save snake's life.

15. Quartermaster: (NOTICE: Your anti-snake equipment is on backorder.)

16. C-17 Transport pilot: Receives call for anti-snake equipment, delivers two weeks after due date.

17. F-15 pilot: Mis-identifies snake as enemy Mil-24 Hind helicopter and engages with missiles. Crew chief paints snake kill on aircraft.

18. F-16 pilot: Finds snake, drops two CBU-87 cluster bombs, and misses snake target, but get direct hit on Embassy 100 KM East of snake due to weather (Too Hot also Too Cold, Was Clear but too overcast, Too dry with Rain, Unlimited ceiling with low cloud cover etc.) Claims that purchasing multi-million dollar, high-tech snake-killing device will enable it in the future to kill all snakes and achieve a revolution in military affairs.

19. AH-64 Apache pilot: Unable to locate snake, snakes don't show well on infra-red. Infrared only operable in desert AO's without power lines or SAM's.

20. UH-60 Blackhawk pilot: Finds snake on fourth pass after snake builds bonfire, pops smoke, lays out VS 17 to mark Landing Zone. Rotor wash blows snake into fire.

21. B-52 pilot: Pulls ARCLIGHT mission on snake, kills snake and every other living thing within two miles of target.

22. MinuteMan Missile crew: Lays in target coordinates to snake in 20seconds, but can't receive authorization from National Command Authority to use nuclear weapons.

23. Intelligence officer: Snake? What snake? Only four of 35 indicators of snake activity are currently active. We assess the potential for snake activity as LOW.

24. Judge Advocate General (JAG): Snake declines to bite, citing grounds of professional courtesy.

25. Signal: Tries to communicate with snake...fail repeated attempts. Complains that the snake did not have the correct fill or did not know how to work equipment a child could operate. Signal Officer informs the commander that he could easily communicate with the snake using just his voice. Commander insists that he NEEDS to video-conference with the snake, with real-time streaming positional and logistical data on the snake displayed on video screens to either side. Gives Signal Corps $5 Billion to make this happen. SigO abuses the 2 smart people in the corps to make it happen, while everybody else stands around, bitches, and takes credit. In the end, General Dynamics and several sub-contractors make a few billion dollars, the 2 smart people get out and go to work for them, and the commander gets what he asked for only in fiber-optic based simulations. The snake is forgotten.

By: Chuckles

Nervousness in the Pacific

Taiwan has gone on military alert following the sinking of the South Korean naval vessel.

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou activated the country's national security mechanism on Friday after a South Korean naval ship sank in the Yellow Sea, the island's Central News Agency reported.

Ma, who was on a tour of South Pacific islands, consulted with top officials and ordered the country's minister of national defence to monitor developments and "adopt necessary response measures," the official agency said.

About 40 crewmen were believed missing after the South Korean naval ship Cheonan sank near the North Korean border on the west side of the peninsula opposite China late Friday.

A South Korean presidential spokeswoman said it was unclear whether the sinking resulted from a clash with North Korea.

By: Brant

LTG Mixon in DADT Kerfluffle

Looks like the ARPAC commander took a wrist-slap from the SedDef and CJCS for a public statement on DADT.

The top uniformed officer in the U.S. military yesterday sharply criticized Fort Shafter's Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. "Randy" Mixon after Mixon said he is against repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding gays in the military.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates took Mixon to task on the same day that the Pentagon announced new limitations on "don't ask, don't tell," which prohibits gays from openly serving in the military.

President Obama has called for a repeal of the 1993 law.

Mixon yesterday did not publicly address the rebuke from the Pentagon's top military and civilian leaders or his status afterward.

"At this time, Gen. Mixon does not have any comment, but we appreciate your concern," said his spokesman, Lt. Col. Mike Donnelly.

Mixon, who has led the U.S. Army in the Pacific from Fort Shafter since Feb. 1, 2008, was commissioned an officer in the Army in 1975. Before arriving at Fort Shafter, he was commander of the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks. During 2006-07, he commanded 23,000 U.S. troops in northern Iraq.

By: Brant

US Hoping Canada Sticks Around Afghanistan

The US is hoping that Canada will stay in Afghanistan past 2011.

The United States will ask Canada to keep as many as 600 soldiers in Afghanistan after the country's military mission there ends in 2011, the Globe and Mail newspaper said on Thursday.

The paper, citing unidentified sources, said the troops would serve as military trainers and would be most likely based in Kabul. The U.S. request would come through NATO, it added.

Although Ottawa says it will withdraw all 2,800 soldiers serving in the violent southern Afghan city of Kandahar, Washington has been pressing Canada behind the scenes to show more flexibility.

The Conservative government has made clear that Parliament will have the last word on any proposed deployment of troops abroad. Parliament adopted a resolution in 2008 saying the combat mission would end by December 2011.

"We have been clear in stating that Canada's military mission will end in 2011. Officials are examining Canada's potential non-military role post-2011," said a spokeswoman for Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon.

"We have not received a request of this nature from the United States. The question is speculative."

By: Brant

26 March 2010

The Myth of Afghan Military Prowess

h/t to Brian, who pointed out this article at Pete's blog on CSW.

It turns out Afghan 'marksmen' aren't really all *that* and a bag of chips...

The recent Marine operations in and near Marja brought into sharp relief a fact that contradicts much of what people think they know about the Afghan war. It is this: Forget the fables. The current ranks of Afghan fighters are crowded with poor marksmen.

This simple statement is at odds with an oft-repeated legend of modern conflict, in which Afghan men are described, in clichés and accounts from yesteryear, as natural gunmen and accomplished shots. Everyone who has even faintly followed the history of war in Central Asia has heard the tales of Afghan men whose familiarity with firearms is such a part of their life experience that they can pick up most any weapon and immediately put it to effective work. The most exaggerated accounts are cartoonish, including tales of Afghan riflemen whose bullets can strike a lone sapling (I’ve even heard “blade of grass”) a hilltop away.

Without getting into an argument with the ghost of Rudyard Kipling, who was one of the early voices popularizing the wonders of Afghan riflery, an update is in order. This is because the sum of these descriptions does not match what is commonly observed in firefights today. These days, the opposite is more often the case. Poor marksmanship, even abysmally poor marksmanship, is a consistent trait among Afghan men. The description applies to Taliban and Afghan government units alike.

More at the link...

By: Brant

NEWS: South Korean Navy Ship Sunk Along Nork Border

The South Koreans have lost a naval vessel along the Nork border. No details how it was sunk... yet.

About 40 sailors are missing after a South Korean navy ship sank near the border with North Korea, Yonhap news agency said citing military officials.

The patrol vessel, with 104 people aboard, sank after an unexplained explosion tore through its hull.

Several sailors also died, officials are quoted saying as divers prepared to return to the scene after daybreak.

South Korean officials played down earlier reports that it may have been the result of an attack by North Korea.

There was no sign of the North's military in the area where the ship sank, Yonhap said citing officials.

The military earlier said 58 sailors were rescued from near Baengnyeong island by several navy and coastguard vessels.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who had convened an emergency meeting of security officials, had ordered the military to focus on rescuing the sailors, Yonhap news agency reported.

The police force was put on heightened alert in the capital, Seoul.

The Cheonan, a 1,200-tonne corvette, began sinking about 2130 local time (1230 GMT) on Friday, after an explosion, the South Korean Navy said.

A South Korean presidential spokeswoman said it was premature to say what caused the Cheonan to sink.

By: Brant

Pakistani Taliban trying to assert themselves

Pakistani troops kill 34 militants after an attack designed to show the Taliban haven't been 'weakened.' So what good does it do hurling themselves at certain death? Who knows...

Pakistani troops killed at least 34 militants after about 150 Taliban attacked a military checkpost in the northwest on Friday, challenging government assertions crackdowns have weakened the group.

Homegrown Taliban rebels are seeking to topple the U.S.-backed government of unpopular President Asif Ali Zardari, who has been pressured to hand over some of his key powers, such as dissolving parliament and appointing military chiefs.

A senior military officer and four paramilitary soldiers were also killed in the attack in Orakzai, a day after Pakistani jets killed nearly 50 people, mostly militants, in strikes on a school and a seminary in the same region, a government official said.

Fourteen soldiers were wounded in the Taliban assault.

Pakistani jets also bombed Taliban-linked madrasas.

Pakistani jets pounded suspected Taliban positions in a one-two punch on Thursday that killed nearly 50 people, most of them militants, in a restive tribal region in the northwest, officials said.

The two attacks targeted a school used by the Taliban as well as a madrasa or Islamic seminary in the Mamuzai area of the Orakzai Agency, an ethnic Pashtun tribal region where many militants fled to escape an army offensive further south.

"Twenty-five bodies of militants have been recovered from the school," Asghar Khan, a government official, told Reuters by telephone from Kalaya, the main town of Orakzai.

He said 13 militants were killed in the madrasa.

By: Brant

GrogNews Wargaming - Revisiting Units / Factors

We're still looking for a name for this animal...

We're looking at redoing the counters along Brian's suggestions of front/back alternating between kinetic/non-k. Here are the drafts of the designs based on 2-sided.

Kinetic factors:
- Attack: ability to go kill stuff
- Defense: ability to not get killed
- Support: ability to help someone else kill stuff
- Reaction: How quickly can you project over your area of influence? Think of this + Area of Effects = movement + range, but not quite exactly.

Non-kinetic factors:
Need some sort of multi-faceted system that is more detailed that DIME, though that’s not a bad base to start with. For game purposes, I would like to simplify it to some form of “rock-paper-scissors” mechanic, with a rough cut perhaps being:

local influence/tolerance -> economic/security support -> information ops -> local influence/tolerance

This is a key mechanic and will take some time to get right, but needs to be addressed, so that units can be rated on (and operate along) both kinetic and non-kinetic axes.

Support factors
- Area: How much of a footprint can you influence when you're on the ground. This + reaction determines how quickly you can act, from how far away.
- Deployability: when talking about power projection from some home station or strategic mobility, there will need to be some rating of how quickly someone can move their Area of Effects.
- Logistical Support: at the strategic/operational level, what does it take to keep that unit in the field. One mechanic I do want to experiment with is potentially tying this to current news-tracking polls showing support for varying operations/policies so that as national support for something goes down, the ability to sustain long/large deployments also goes down, and can change scenarios from week to week.

By: Brant

Friday Museum: Bovington Tank Museum

When in the UK, check out the Tank Museum at Bovington, the home of the Royal Armoured Corps.

The tank was a British invention that changed warfare for ever when it was introduced in World War One – and Bovington has been the home of the tank ever since. From the Somme to Tiananmen Square or D-Day to Desert Storm the tank has played a part in shaping history – and it continues to do so today.

The Tank Museum is the only place where many of these rare and historic vehicles can be seen. Fresh from a £16m investment in new exhibitions & facilities, with almost 200 vehicles on display in 6 large halls, you will come face-to-face with tanks that have seen action in all the major wars of the 20th century.

View Larger Map

Bovington Tank Museum at Wikipedia

By: Brant

DADT Updates

There are a few changes on the DADT front...

First, there are new guidelines on enforcing DADT.

The Pentagon issued new rules on Thursday making it harder for the U.S. military to discharge gay personnel, an interim step to ease enforcement of the existing "don't ask, don't tell" policy while Congress considers repealing it.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the directives were the result of a 45-day review of what the Pentagon can do in the short term within the confines of existing law to allow implementation in a "fair and more appropriate manner."

He said the goal was to bring "a greater measure of common sense and common decency" to the process while the Pentagon conducts a broader review slated for completion by December 1.

And the inevitable questions about how the implementation would work, as though the questions themselves are an impediment to the change in policy.

If gay service members are allowed to serve openly, the military will face another tough question: Should gay partners be entitled to military benefits?

Momentum appears to be building for ending the ban on gays in the military. New rules ordered Thursday by Defense Secretary Robert Gates make it harder to discharge men and women under the policy known as "don't ask, don't tell." His decision is intended as a stopgap measure as Congress weighs whether to go along with President Barack Obama's request to repeal the law.

Since the draft ended in 1973, spousal benefits have increasingly been used as an incentive to recruit and retain an effective force. Today, more than half of all troops sport a wedding ring.

Benefits for married service members include college tuition for a spouse and the right of a spouse to be at a wounded service member's bedside. Spouses also have access to military health care and commissaries worldwide, and married service members receive better housing and even extra pay when they go to war.

By: Brant

What is this?

You'll just have to check out the current issue of Battles Magazine to find out, eh?

By: Brant

25 March 2010

Tools of War: A-10 Thunderbolt II (aka Warthog)


Eleven under-wing/under-fuselage hardpoints for whatever payload you need for today's mission.
Phenomenal low-speed maneuverability and agility.
Incredible durability due to structural toughness and multiple redundancies.
Unprecedented levels of pilot-protection.
Ultra-low heat signature to Surface-to-Air missiles due to engine design and placement.

All of this pales in comparison to The Gun.

What makes the A-10 Warthog (as it is affectionately known) so feared and so devastating is the GAU-8 Avenger 30mm rotary cannon. Rather than designing the aircraft and then fitting the armament, the A-10 was designed from the beginning around this fearsome cannon. And "fearsome" should be read with British levels of understatement. Just LOOK at the thing, and try not to wet yourself.

Introduced in 1977, it has proven to be so effective that the USAF does not plan to replace it until 2028. Yes, you read that right, 2028. That is (for you mathematically-challenged out there) about 50 years, which is an eternity in aircraft lifespan. This is pretty much the Air Force-equivalent of "Well, we need something to pound nails into wood. Right now, we have this thing called a Hammer, and it's pretty damn good for the job. But maybe someday, we might try to come up with something better...if we can. Until then, the Hammer works beautifully."

I could go on and on about how wonderfully designed the A-10 is, how mission-flexible it is, how un-freaking-believable the GAU-8 is, but the wiki articles that I linked above express it pretty well. I'll copy/paste a few key points:

-The GAU-8/A accuracy when installed in the A-10 is rated at "5mil, 80 percent", meaning that 80 percent of rounds fired at 4,000 feet (1,200 m) will hit the target within a 20 feet (6.1 m) radius circle.
-Because the gun's recoil forces could push the entire plane off target during firing, the weapon itself is mounted so that the firing barrel lies directly on the aircraft's center line.
-The recoil force of the GAU-8/A is 10,000 pounds-force (45 kN), which is slightly more than the output of one of the A-10's TF-34 two engines (9,065 lbf / 40.3 kN each).
-The GAU-8/A shells are imposing to examine and handle, measuring 11.4 inches (290 mm) in length and weighing 1.53 pounds (0.69 kg) or more.
-The Avenger's rate of fire was originally selectable, 2,100 rounds per minute (rpm) in the low setting, or 4,200 rpm in the high setting. Later this was changed to a fixed rate of 3,900 rpm. That's 65 rounds per second!
-The A-10 is exceptionally tough. Its strong airframe can survive direct hits from armor-piercing and high-explosive projectiles up to 23 mm. The aircraft has triple redundancy in its flight systems, with mechanical systems to back up double-redundant hydraulic systems. This permits pilots to fly and land when hydraulic power or part of a wing is lost.
-The aircraft is designed to fly with one engine, one tail, one elevator and half a wing torn off.
-The cockpit and parts of the flight-control system are protected by 900 lb (410 kg) of titanium armor, referred to as a titanium "bathtub".
-All four fuel tanks are near the center of the aircraft, reducing the likelihood that they will be hit or separated from the engines. The tanks are separate from the fuselage; thus, projectiles would need to penetrate the skin before reaching the tank. The refueling system is purged after use so that there is no fuel unprotected anywhere in the aircraft. All pipes self-seal if they are compromised.

These are, really, just a few salient points. The amount of thought that went into the battlefield survivability of this aircraft is astounding, and again, the wiki article is well worth the read.

By: Steve

Liveblogging Connections, Day II, Take 3

We've broken into some working groups, and my group is looking forward to Connections 2011.

First part of the discussion: "What is a wargame?"
Second part of the discussion "Who do we want at the next Connections?"
Starting to stumble through some questions that are about to be asked within the briefing, so we're plowing through slides and will get back to the topics of discussions.
Discussion the big questions of "who is the audience" and "how to we find them" and "where do we gather them" to start shaping Connections 2011.

Do you piggy-back on something else, and what happens with the group discussion sessions and intellectual exchange if the doors are too open?

Notes going up on the whiteboard...
Wargame - War? Game? Decision Support?
Attendees - Military, Industry, DoD, Other fed agencies, international?

Looking to capitalize on the 200th anniversary of wargaming.

Has to have a value proposition for how to expand the market. How to you expand the audience? More users for current games? More types of games to expand potential user base?

The Matt Speaketh: What we need at Connections 2011, to help celebrate the anniversary of the wargame...
Can't make it too big or open it up too much or you lose the, uh... "Connections".
Can't make it just the same people over and over or it's intellectually stale.

Pretty intense discussion on what people enjoy based on what was most attended. Were people here to see the person speaking, or were they here because of an inherent interest in the topic?

What's the value proposition of wargaming and what makes it a powerful analytical tool?
How are principles of wargaming used to assess other areas of operations?

Currently arguing over how to define wargaming and what is it? Is it conflict simulation? Is it entertainment? Learning? Part of COA development before completing FRAGO 3 in the MDMP?

discussion is rapidly spiraling into logistics, and much of it is being tabled to future discussions, so I'm unplugging from this for now...

By: Brant

Liveblogging Connections, Day II, Take 2

We're broken up into working groups addressing the USAF FLTC wargame and looking at a reunified-Korea-getting-picked-on-by-the-Chinese-in-2030 scenario. Our group is focused on a deterrence mission, and trying to identify the necessary technologies that would support that COA in 2030. We're trying to let the Koreans defend themselves and not give the Chinese a target to shoot at. So far the Russians are staying out of it. We want to keep them out.

We've been directed to develop a branch plan in case the Chinese do come South. Our base plan involves a lot of deterrence and situational awareness. Our branch involves a Chinese-fomented insurgency in the former NK among the ethnic Chinese and remnants of the former NK regime.

What new technologies are we looking at?
"Canyon Observer" - a small UAV that carried IED, CBRNE, atmospherics, adversary support sensors.
"Canyon Warrior" - a small UAV that works in urban canyons for targeting and strikes.
Cyber-based offensive weapons
"Spectrum Dominator" - deny enemy use of RF spectrum, including air defense and cyber ops.

As we develop the branch plan, though, it's clear we're not going to fire the first shots. So unless the we're told the Chinese are coming south at 100mph with guns blazing, we're going to find some way to not get dragged into a shooting war.

Jon just wants to blow shit up with nukes, though.

- stand by for break in coverage as we prep to brief the different groups -

Group 1
Classic military-driven "move out and draw fire" COA.
Assumed escalation to shooting war and opened ROE for full on engagements, to include shooting at Chinese SAMs across the border, and putting us homeland defenses on alert.
The part that bothered me was the commitment of 2 ground brigades. If they're there as a tripwire to die in place and justify escalation, there's too many; if they're there to defend Korea, there's too few. No real purpose for them to be there. That's dangerous.

Group 2
COL Walters briefing - Don't want a war, but allow/encourage ROK declaration of 'war' on insurgent forces in their nation.
US to fulfill treaty obligations, but won't sacrifice preponderance of PACOM forces for a lost mission to Korea.
Next briefer:
Why sacrifice a few BNs of Marines when ROKs have a *really* big army?
Made assumptions of ROE/SOPs.
Assets to Guam, Japan, etc rather than Korea. "Once they're in Korea, they're hors d'oeuvres"
Counterstrikes/replacements ready for any offensive Chinese action.

Group 3
Our group - 2LT briefing a room in which he's easily the youngest by 10 years.
As noted above - lots of deterrence and S/A assets.
Q: is blockade of China realistic/practical?
A: our intent was not to blockade, but to inconvenience on the nat'l level - raise price of oil, depress market for exports, damage time-to-market for perishable/time-sensitive goods.

By: Brant

Afghan Peace Plan, from the other side

The NY Times is reporting that one of the insurgent factions has a plan for peace that the Afghan government is at least considering.

Representatives of a major insurgent faction have presented a formal 15-point peace plan to the Afghan government, the first concrete proposal to end hostilities since President Hamid Karzai said he would make reconciliation a priority after his re-election last year.

The delegation represents fighters loyal to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, 60, one of the most brutal of Afghanistan’s former resistance fighters who leads a part of the insurgency against American, NATO and Afghan forces in the north and northeast of the country.

His representatives met Monday with President Karzai and other Afghan officials in the first formal contact between a major insurgent group and the Afghan government after almost two years of backchannel communications, which diplomats say the United States has supported.

Though the insurgent group, Hezb-i-Islami, or Islamic Party, operates under a separate command from the Taliban, it has links to the Taliban leadership and Al Qaeda and has fought on a common front against foreign forces in Afghanistan.

Hey, at some point you gotta listen to see if you can find some common ground; I get that. But you have to wonder if the Afghan government cuts a deal, how right-wing radio in the US will characterize it. I'm sure they'd lump Obama in with "the French" if they did, even though he's got no real say in it.

By: Brant