31 May 2010

Memorial Day

Let us never forget.

We'll see you on Tuesday

By: Brant

UK In Action: 4.5" Of Royal Navy Ass-Whuppin'

Royal Navy Type 23 frigate HMS Argyll is pictured firing her 4.5" gun during an exercise in the Middle East. The 3rd Royal Navy ship to bear the name, she is also the 3rd of the Royal Navy's Duke class frigates and was commissioned on 30 May 1991. She was built by Yarrow Shipbuilders in Glasgow to a revolutionary design with a superstructure shaped to minimise radar reflections and to make the ship as small as a fishing boat on the enemy's radar, and with engines so quiet as to be inaudible, HMS Argyll represents the latest in naval technology. The Ship's Company is small, only 180 people although each one trained to be proficient in high-tech maritime warfare, whether controlling the engines or firing missiles.

Image: UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Israel Raids Gaza "Relief" Flotilla, Casualties Reported

There's a report that at least 10 people were killed on the Gaza 'relief' flotilla we told you about yesterday.

Israeli commandos on Monday stormed six ships carrying hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists on an aid mission to the blockaded Gaza Strip, killing at least 10 people and wounding dozens after encountering unexpected resistance as the forces boarded the vessels.
The operation in international waters off the Gaza coast was a nightmare scenario for Israel that looked certain to further damage its international standing, strain already tense relations with Turkey — the unofficial sponsor of the mission — and draw unwanted attention to Gaza's plight.
The tough Israeli response drew condemnations from Turkey, France and the U.N.'s Mideast envoy, while Greece suspended a military exercise with Israel and postponed a visit by Israel's air force chief.
About 10,000 Turks also marched from Israel's Consulate in Istanbul toward the city's main square, shouting slogans denouncing Israel. The protesters earlier Monday tried storm the Consulate building but were blocked by police.

By: Brant

Monday Video: Memorial Day

Don't forget to nominate your own videos in the comments below for future inclusion

By: Brant

Ceremony Honours Canadian For Heroism In U.S. Civil War

Ontario-born Benjamin Franklin Youngs was one of many Canadians who volunteered to fight in the U.S. Civil War. His heroic actions in that conflict earned him a Medal of Honor. Youngs was recently honoured at a bi-national ceremony at the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Los Angeles.

A line of soldiers clad in Union Army dress aimed their rifles and fired in unison, the smoke from their volley drifting above the dead.

It would have been a common sight on June 17, 1864 — the day North and South clashed at the Battle of Petersburg during the U.S. Civil War — but this was almost 150 years later at a cemetery in California, where a Canadian who fought in the 19th-century American conflict was being honoured for his heroism.

Earlier this month at the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Los Angeles, the gravesite of Ontario-born Benjamin Franklin Youngs was the centre of a sombre, bi-national ceremony in which a new memorial stone — flanked by wreaths from the Canadian government and the Woodstock, Ont.-area township of Zorra, where he grew up in the mid-1800s — was unveiled with full military honours.

Youngs, his given names a clue to his family’s ancestral roots in the U.S., was one of thousands of Canadians who volunteered to fight across the border when the fight over slavery and states’ rights tore America apart in the 1860s.

But few Canadians distinguished themselves as Youngs did. Only 19 when he left the family farm west of Toronto in 1863 and enlisted with the Michigan Sharpshooters, the aspiring carpenter would be awarded the Medal of Honor — the highest military decoration in the U.S. — for his battlefield bravery the next year.

During a pivotal push through Confederate Virginia in 1864, Youngs led a Union advance through enemy lines near the city of Petersburg and captured the flag of a surprised North Carolina regiment.

He was “promoted to sergeant on the spot,” according to family biography, and was later presented a medal that only 1,500 other soldiers received during the Civil War, and fewer than 3,500 in all of U.S. history.

The May 15 event in Los Angeles was organized by the California Medal of Honour Project, a group led by veterans’ advocate Debbie Peevyhouse that locates the burial sites of forgotten war heroes and erects special grave markers to which Medal of Honor recipients are entitled under U.S. law.

“When Debbie contacted us about the event she was organizing for Benjamin Franklin Youngs, I don’t think any of us really understood what was involved,” Frankie Glass, a great-granddaughter of Youngs living in Burbank, Calif., told Canwest News Service.

“The rendering of military funeral honours was an exciting and poignant event for all of us,” she said. “It brought together relatives who never knew the others existed until a few short months ago.”

Among them were descendants from Stratford, Ont., where members of the extended Youngs clan — perhaps inspired by the family’s Civil War claim to fame — were bestowed Canadian medals for bravery in both the First and Second World War.

After his daring action at Petersburg, B.F. Youngs fought several more Civil War battles before being wounded and sent home to Canada.

A record-keeping error listed him as being dishonourably discharged at the time — a mistake finally corrected when the U.S. Congress passed a special resolution restoring Youngs’ good name in 1925.

By then, he was an elderly man who’d moved from Ontario to live with relatives in California. He died at the Old Soldiers Nursing Home in Los Angeles in 1927 at the age of 82.

And there he was buried, without fanfare, beneath a footstone that recorded only his name and the years he had lived.

The new tombstone, etched with a Medal of Honor insignia and Youngs’ name set within a stylized military badge, now prominently recalls a Canadian’s shining moment in the darkest chapter of U.S. history.

30 May 2010

COIN Fight in Khandahar Already Underway?

Whatever is going to happen in Khandahar may not look like a "war" - but let's hope the aftermath looks better than the current situation in Marjah...

n the make-or-break struggle for Kandahar, birthplace of Afghanistan's Taliban insurgency, U.S. commanders will try to pull off the military equivalent of brain surgery: defeating the militants with minimal use of force.

The goal of U.S.-led NATO forces will be to avoid inspiring support for the Taliban even as the coalition tries to root them out when the Kandahar operation begins in earnest next month.

The ancient silk road city — a dust-covered, impoverished jumble of one- and two-story concrete and mud brick — may not look like much of a prize.

But Kandahar, with a population of more than a million, was once the Taliban's informal capital and an al-Qaida stronghold. It has served for centuries as a smuggler's crossroads and trading hub linking southern Afghanistan to the Indian subcontinent.

President Barack Obama's counterinsurgency strategy focuses on protecting population centers such as Kandahar from Taliban predation, with the hope of building support for the center government in Kabul.

The Taliban are deeply embedded in the local population, raising the risk of civilian casualties in major clashes. Neither are the Taliban regarded as an alien force. For many in Kandahar, they are neighbors, friends and relatives.

Haji Raaz Mohammad, a 48-year-old farmer from Kandahar, said he has never understood why the U.S. is trying to drive out the militants.

"I don't know why they are doing it," he said. "The Taliban are not outsiders. They are our own people."

Therein lies the rub - it can't be about running off the Taliban, because they *are* the locals. It has to be about converting the Taliban and reintegrating them into society, somehow, someway.

By: Brant

Showdown Coming off Coast of Gaza

There's a flotilla of "humanitarian aid" headed to Gaza, and the Israelis have threatened to interdict it.

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists on seven ships prepared to set sail for the Gaza Strip on Sunday from international waters close to Cyprus, edging closer to an expected naval showdown as Israeli officials warned they would halt the flotilla from reaching the blockaded territory.

The ships are expected to reach Gaza on Monday, organizers said.

Greta Berlin, one of the flotilla's coordinators, said the ships briefly set sail early Sunday from Cyprus, about 250 miles (400 kilometers) northwest of Gaza, but then stopped after moving about 25 miles (40 kilometers) to finish loading passengers. "There's no way they'll get there before Monday morning," she said.

The flotilla of seven ships are carrying thousands of tons of supplies, including materials that Israel prevents from reaching Gaza freely, like cement and other building materials. The activists say they are also carrying hundreds of electrical-powered wheelchairs, prefabricated homes and water purifiers.

Some 750 pro-Palestinian activists are also on the boats, including Nobel peace laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire, European legislators and an elderly Holocaust survivor.

The activists say they are seeking to defy Israel and Egypt's blockade on the Gaza Strip, imposed after the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power of the territory in June 207.

Israeli officials have vowed to block the flotilla's arrival, viewing it as a provocation.

Y'know, maybe Gaza wouldn't be under a blockade if (a) the people in charge would quit vowing to destroy Israel, (b) the population of Gaza quit putting those people in power, and (c) they quit shooting rockets at Israel.
But when the biggest industrial base in Gaza is the manufacture of suicide bomb belts and unguided rockets aimed at civilian neighborhoods over the border, it's hard to feel a lot of sympathy for the Gazans.

By: Brant

China Wants Korean Burner Turned Down to a Simmer

It's odd that China wants the tensions turned down on the Korean Peninsula, but is unwilling to exert nay pressure on the Norks to do so.

China's premier said Sunday that tensions over the sinking of a South Korean warship urgently need to be defused, but did not join other key nations in blaming longtime ally North Korea and gave no indication he would support U.N. sanctions.

Premier Wen Jiabao's comments came at the end of a weekend summit in South Korea where he was closely watched for signs that Beijing would get tougher on the North, which is accused of sinking the naval ship Cheonan with a torpedo two months ago, killing 46 sailors.

North Korea has repeatedly denied attacking the ship, and on Sunday tens of thousands of people packed the main square in Pyongyang, the nation's capital, for a rally condemning South Korea and the U.S. The isolated North often organizes such events during times of tense relations with foreign countries.

Clapping and pumping their fists in the air, the protesters shouted anti-South Korean slogans, held signs and carried a huge portrait of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, according to video footage from APTN in North Korea.

"Because of the South Korean war-loving, mad puppets and American invaders, the North and South relationship is being driven to a catastrophe," Choi Yong Rim, secretary of the North Korean Workers Party in Pyongyang, told the crowd.

Man, propaganda is great, isn't it?

By: Brant

Order of Battle: US Army Infantry Brigade

Here's the standard laydown of the new US Army infantry Brigade. The numbers next to the top line are the authorized line strength for each.

The US Army Field Manual for the brigade is a PDF for download here.

UPDATE! Non-AKO download here.

By: Brant

The Race to 1000!

Those of you that scroll down the page beyond the lead article have probably seen our flag collection on the bottom left side of the page, showing where the traffic is coming from internationally. We added that widget about a month or so ago, and it's been terrific fun. Obviously, the US readership is going to be high, as we're mostly* a US-based staff, covering mostly US-based or -related topics (though I still contend that we've got a far more international flavor than most US milblogs).

What's going to be interesting is to see whether we get 1000 hits first from the UK or Canada. And will get to 1000 from either of them before the US hits 7000? I'm pretty sure Australia will get to 500 before Germany, but it might be close.

In any event, it's been a lot of fun watching our readership grow and expand, and we thank all of you for it. Please keep spreading the word!

Oh, and drop us some comments every here and there, willya?! We're happy to get a conversation going 'round these parts!

*Note to Shelldrake: I said 'mostly'! :P

By: Brant

29 May 2010

US Retaliating Against Pakistan?

Is the US planning a retaliatory strike against Pakistan?

A major American newspaper says the U.S. military is developing plans for a unilateral strike in Pakistan, in the event an attack on U.S. soil is traced to the South Asian country.

The Washington Post on Saturday quoted top U.S. military officials as saying the Obama administration has wanted new options on striking Pakistan since a Pakistani-American attempted to attack New York City earlier this month. The U.S. government says Faisal Shahzad received training and support from the Pakistani Taliban.

Saturday's newspaper report quotes unnamed U.S. military officials as saying the U.S. will only consider launching an attack in Pakistan in an extreme situation where current military action is not adequate. The CIA has been using drones (unmanned aircraft) to bomb al-Qaida and Taliban hideouts in Pakistan.

The Washington Post quoted one U.S. military official as saying, other options for an attack in Pakistan could involve small teams of U.S. special forces already along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. The official says the U.S. has shifted plans from large-scale attacks to calculated responses that target specific militant groups.

By: Brant

Unintentional Humor: Troop Dwell Time (supposedly) Unaffected By Looming Afghanistan Surge

OK - this wasn't meant to be humor, but it turns out that reports that troop dwell time being unaffected by the Afghan surge is actually a steaming pile of turd-flavored horse-puckey.

All general officers, senior executive service professionals, colonels, brigade and battalion commanders, command sergeants major and sergeants major received die message, which said, in part, "Even with the increase ordered by the president, we estimate that about 70 percent of the active component and about 80 percent of the reserve component will achieve the (boots on the ground) and dwell goals we set for 2011.

"The remainder of the force will continue to see their dwell rate increase and should meet these goals by 2012," they said

McHugh and Casey wrote that the increase of the Army's size by 70,000 troops in the last five years allows the service to absorb the troops increase without stretching deployments to 15 months, limiting time between deployments to less than 12 months or halting the plan to end stop-loss.

"Assuming the drawdown in Iraq continues about on schedule," they said, "we will also continue to make progress toward our goals for the ratio between boots on ground deployment time and ... 'dwell' or length of time at home station between deployments for FY11."

Those ratios are l-to-2 for active component troops and l-to-4 for reserve-component personnel.

Remember that 1-to-4 ratio for the reserve component boys and girls. Why should you remember it? Well here, read this first:

27 May 2010, Defense.gov News Release: DOD Announces Units for Upcoming Rotation to Afghanistan

The Department of Defense announced today the alert of replacement forces scheduled to deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The announcement involves two brigades of Army National Guard consisting of approximately 7,000 personnel.

Specific units alerted are:

37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Ohio Army National Guard

45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Okla. Army National Guard

The units will replace redeploying units, with no increase in overall force levels. They are currently scheduled to begin their deployment in the summer of 2011 and are receiving alert orders now in order to provide the maximum time to complete preparations. It also provides a greater measure of predictability for family members and flexibility for employers to plan for military service of their employees.

The 37th and 45th IBCTs will deploy to Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces.

Note the two ARNG units being mobilized: 37th IBCT from Ohio, and the 45th IBCT from Oklahoma.

Now, check out the announcement of the Iraq rotation units from a release dated 9 April 2007.

Defense.gov News Release: DoD Announces Force Adjustments

These Reserve units are not scheduled to begin deployment until December 2007. They are receiving alert orders now in order to provide them the maximum time to complete their preparations. It also provides a greater measure of predictability for family members and flexibility for employers to plan for military service of their employees. The final determination of whether these units will deploy will be made based on conditions on the ground in Iraq.

This alert is not associated with the current troop surge. These units would deploy as replacement forces for formations currently operating in Iraq. There are approximately 13,000 personnel in these four brigades.

Specific units receiving alert orders include:

39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Little Rock, Ark.

45th Infantry Brigade, Oklahoma City, Okla.

76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Indianapolis, Ind.

37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Columbus, Ohio

Yep, our good buddies from Ohio and Oklahoma just had 1 year rotations that started in December of 2007. And they're headed back in the summer of 2011. That means from date-of-return (December 2008) to the date of deployment for next mission (call it June 2011 for now). Do the math. That's barely 2.5 years (12/08-12/09, 12/09-12/10, 12/10-6/11).

Yep, that 4-1 rotational policy is a pile of crap. After it was put in place, these two brigade were cut on their dwell time by over 35%. And that doesn't count all the twice-a-month drill weekends, extended annual training sessions, additional courses/certifications, and home-station pre-mob training that takes part-time soldiers away from careers, schools, families, churches, and jobs. Again, these are supposed to be part-time soldiers who were promised a 4-to-1 dwell time.

Now, you may be thinking, "Hey, these guys joined the military, they can deal with it. We need them to turn around their dwell time ahead of schedule just this once so we can deal with Afghanistan and then get out." Not a bad thought. Too bad it's not going to hold water.

The 45th Infantry Brigade had a deployment from Fall 03-04 in Afghanistan.
In fall of 2003, the 45th Infantry Brigade was deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, assuming command of Task Force Phoenix II from 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division.

The turnaround from that rotation to the Iraq rotation? Fall 2004 they came home, December 2007 they were back out the door. Dwell time? 3 years.

And the 37th? Well, they re-flagged from an Armor Brigade in 2007, so you have to look around a bit for their unit information, but it doesn't take long to find that they had a rotation to Kosovo from 2004-2005.
About 1,000 Ohio Army National Guard soldiers mobilized in June 2004 for for four months of training prior to a six-month deployment to Kosovo as peacekeepers. Included in the group are 100 members of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company 37th Armor Brigade out of the armory at Akron-Canton Airport. A total of more than 1,000 soldiers in a dozen units across Ohio have been mobilized for the assignment on the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo. The soldiers first trained at Camp Atterbury, IN., followed by more training in Germany. The soldiers arrived in Kosovo in September 2004.

Dwell time between Kosovo and Iraq? 2.5 years (Spring 2005-December 2007).

So these two brigades of part-time soldiers have been on the run for over 8 years. By the time this next rotation is done, we will have had part-time soldiers deployed for 3 out of 9 years (between 2003-2012, when they're expected home).

Compare the rotation schedule of these two part-time brigades with the full-time
214th Fires Brigade from Ft Sill, OK.

In January 2003, the 214th Field Artillery Brigade answered our Nation's call deploying HHB, 2-4 Field Artillery Regiment, and 1-14 Field Artillery Battalion in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In June 2006, the 6-52 Air Defense Artillery joined the 214th Field Artillery Brigade. In September 2006, the brigade was redesignated as the 214th Fires Brigade. In October 2006, the 2-5 Field Artillery and the 168 Brigade Support Battalion, became a part of the 214th Fires Brigade. In April 2007, HHB, 214th FB deployed for 15 months in support of OIF. Elements of 2-4 Field Artillery Regiment and 2-5 FAR are currently serving in Iraq.

So since 2003, they've deployed 1 HHB and 1 BN, the Brigade HHB, and "elements" of 2 other battalions.

How about Ft Sill's 75th Fires Brigade?

On 5 November 2004, HHB (-), 75th Field Artillery Brigade deployed to Baghdad, Iraq in order to serve as the 75th Force Field Artillery Headquarters attached to the 1st Cavalry Division (CD) in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) II. The Brigade mission was to quickly deploy, conduct RSOI, force protection, and establish Command and Control (C2) of 1st CD’s counter-fire operations. The 75th Brigade provided C2, intelligence planning, fire control, and the integration of lethal and non-lethal effects to maximize intelligence based counter mortar/rocket operations.

In September 2006, The 75th Field Artillery Brigade was re-organized and renamed the 75th Fires Brigade. Today, the 75th Fires Brigade continues the mission of being a deployable, combat brigade, prepared to support any contingency in support of the Global War On Terror. The reorganization of the Brigade established 2-18FAR (Mission Ready!) as the organic Fires battalion and established the 100th Brigade Support Battalion (Diamond Support), and C/26 TAB as the other organic units associated with the Brigade. 3-13FAR (Red Dragons) and 1-17FAR (Copperheads) are assigned to the Brigade as the additional Fires battalions.

Well, they deployed the Brigade HHB for a year, and... well, their own unit history page doesn't list any, so if they went anywhere, they don't want to admit to it.

Sounds like the place to find dwell time is not in the Ohio or Oklahoma Army National Guard, but rather in the Active Duty Field Artillery at Ft Sill, OK.

In the meantime, it's pretty clear that the dwell time policies of the US Army are a complete sham, and if soldiers are needed to continue to rotate overseas with a 1-to-3 dwell time ratio (or less), then perhaps they should start pulling troops out of fires brigades from Ft Sill instead of pulling them out of banks, construction sites, farms, factories, and universities in Ohio and Oklahoma.

By: Brant

Nice To Know We've Got Permission To Deploy US Troops on US Soil

Wow, Mexico has graciously acquiesced to the US deploying US soldiers on US soil to defend the US border against criminals entering the US to harm US citizens. How magnanimous.

Mexico does not object to United States’ plans to send up to 1,200 National Guard troops to the border between the two countries as long as the soldiers do not arrest Mexicans trying to get into the United States, President Felipe Calderón said Thursday. President Obama, reacting to drug violence in northern Mexico, said Tuesday he would send the troops to secure the almost 2,000-mile border with Mexico. Mr. Calderón said that until now, Washington had not properly addressed the need to stop the flow of weapons into Mexico.

OK, there are so many things wrong here it's hard to know where to begin.
1. If Mexico arrested their own citizens for crossing the border, we wouldn't have to. But if you break a US law (say, entering the country without permission) you're gonna get arrested, just like if you drive drunk (breaking a law), rob someone (another law), or rape your neighbor's teenage daughter (another one of those pesky 'law' thingees).
2. 1200 guys to secure 2000 miles? What, are they wearing hovershoes or something?
3. How is it Washington's job to stop the flow of arms into Mexico? If you have people that want them, and they're willing to pay, then it's OK right? Just like if we have people who want cheap, non-unionized, no-benefits, below-minimum-wage illiterate farm workers, and we're willing to pay for them, then it's OK right? Free market in action and all that? How about this, we'll send back one illegal immigrant for every illegal weapon you send us. I think it's a fair trade.

I will now step off my political soapbox. Have a great weekend!

By: Brant

Russia Wants Answers? Gee... 1941-1991, maybe?

Russia is demanding an explanations on the deployment of U.S. Patriot missiles in Poland. We lah-ti-da...

Moscow expects an explanation on the deployment of U.S. Patriot missiles near the Polish-Russian border, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday.

“We have, so far, been told only one thing: do not worry, this is not aimed against you,” Lavrov told journalists in Moscow.

“We have already heard this in the past and we consider that the new nature of relations between Washington and Warsaw allows us to expect more detailed explanations on what is happening,” he added.

The statement came after the United States opened a temporary military base near the northern Polish town of Morag, 80 km (50 miles) from the Russian border under the Supplemental Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed in December 2009.

“We do not understand completely what the need is in taking steps of a military-technical nature to create some military facilities, an infrastructure in close proximity to Russian borders,” Lavrov said. “These are the questions that we ask our Polish colleagues and U.S. partners.”

Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich welcomed on Wednesday the stationing of U.S. Patriot complexes on Polish soil, describing it as an important step in strengthening Poland's security.

He said the deployment of U.S. missiles would also strengthen the “strategic nature of relations between the United States and Poland.”

Here's a thought - quit invading your neighbors, and maybe they'll feel less need to armor up.

By: Brant

Defense secretary addresses concerns over repeal of ban on gays in military

Now that Congress has started passing legislation repealing DADT, Secretary Gates has made his own comments to addresses some concerns over the repeal of DADT.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates sought Friday to ease concerns among U.S. troops about a legislative repeal of the military's ban on openly gay men and lesbians, saying that a long, careful review process lay ahead.

Hours later, the House approved a bill containing language aimed at ending the Clinton-era "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

In his first major address to U.S. troops on the politically charged legislation, Gates said he did not expect the Senate to pass a repeal for months, perhaps not until the end of the year.

Even then, President Obama would have to sign the legislation, and the Pentagon would have to give final approval. The latter must await a comprehensive review that includes input from troops.

"Every man and woman in uniform is a vitally important part of this review. We need to hear from you and your families so that we can make these judgments in the most informed and effective manner," Gates said. "So please let us know how to do this right."

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Gates decided to make the video to address "a lot of political posturing and maneuvering on this issue this week."

By: Brant

Weekend Humor: Bureaucracy and Standards

Wonder why some standards are what they are? Bureaucracy


The US Standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used? Because that's the way they built them in England, and the US railroads were built by English expatriates.

Why did the English people build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used.

Why did "they" use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

Okay! Why did the wagons use that odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing the wagons would break on some of the old, long distance roads, because that's the spacing of the old wheel ruts in those old roads.

So who caused these old ruts in the old rutted roads? The first long distance roads in Europe were built by Imperial Rome for the benefit of their legions. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts? The initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagons, were first made by Roman war chariots. Since the chariots were made for, or by Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

Thus, we have the answer to the original questions. The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original specification (Military Spec) for an Imperial Roman army war chariot. Thus, MilSpecs and bureaucracies live forever.

So, the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horse's ass came up with it, you may be exactly right. Because the Imperial Roman chariots were made to be just wide enough to accommodate the butts of two war horses.

By: Chuckles

Did UK MoD Spike a Report Critical of Iraq Invasion?

It sure does look that way.

Highly critical comments by a senior army officer asked to conduct a study of the circumstances surrounding the invasion of Iraq have been suppressed on the orders of the country's top defence officials, the Guardian has learned.

The study, by Lt Gen Chris Brown, was commissioned in the light of mounting evidence of the failure to prepare properly for the invasion and its consequences.

Former senior military officers and defence officials have already described their anger and frustration about the failures in damning testimony to the Chilcot inquiry into the 2003 Iraq invasion. One of the inquiry's key objectives is to spell out the lessons that should be learned from what is widely regarded in Whitehall as an ill-conceived operation of dubious legality and, in foreign policy terms, a disaster comparable to the 1956 Suez crisis.

Against this background, the Ministry of Defence agreed to conduct its own study. However, Brown's criticisms were so harsh that they have been suppressed following the intervention of Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, chief of the defence staff, and other officials, who considered them too embarrassing even for internal consumption at the MoD.

Defence chiefs also appear to be worried that once Brown's study was passed to Sir John Chilcot to help him with his inquiry, they would lose control of the contents.

An MoD spokesman told the Guardian: "Lt Gen Chris Brown has led a small team in the production of an internal, classified MoD paper examining the Iraq campaign for the purpose of learning lessons for the future. As part of the routine staffing of such an important piece of work, a variety of military officials and civil servants have provided input during the paper's development."

By: Brant

Futenma Base Relocating, But Not Off Of Okinawa

The US and Japan have struck a deal to relocate the military base on Okinawa Island.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said on Friday they had agreed to relocate a U.S. military base on the Japanese island of Okinawa despite mounting local opposition.

The two leaders issued a statement following a 20—minute phone call, welcoming the relocation of the Futenma air base to a less densely populated part of Okinawa. “They expressed satisfaction with the progress made by the two sides in reaching an operationally viable and politically sustainable plan to relocate the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma,” the White House said.

View Larger Map

By: Brant

US Missile Defenses in Mideast Forming Up

The US plans for the Middle East missile shield are shaping up.

The Obama administration is working toward a Middle East missile defense that envisions adding an advanced radar site in a Gulf state to one already in Israel to thwart any Iranian attack, U.S. officials said.

The Obama administration has been quietly helping Arab states boost their missile defenses with the goal of tying them into one system. The process could take two or three more years, officials said.

The emerging Middle East plan resembles the "phased adaptive approach" President Barack Obama rolled out with much fanfare last September to integrate sea- and land-based missile defenses in and around U.S. NATO allies in Europe.

The Middle East buildup has been played down because of Arab sensitivities about U.S. military involvement and skittishness about any military cooperation with Israel, where the United States based a high-powered X-Band radar in 2008 to bolster Israel's missile defenses.

U.S. military strategists believe a second high-powered AN/TPY-2 transportable radar in a Gulf state would boost the capabilities of the proposed regional missile umbrella. A candidate country to host it has not yet stepped forward.

By: Brant

28 May 2010

War Heroes: John Finn

The Oldest Medal of Honor recipient from WWII has died.

Retired Navy Lt. John Finn — the first American to receive the nation's highest military award for defending sailors under a torrent of gunfire during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor — died Thursday. He was 100.

Finn was the oldest of 97 Medal of Honor recipients from World War II still living. He died at a nursing home for veterans in Chula Vista, outside San Diego, according to a Navy statement.

Despite head wounds and other injuries, Finn, the chief of ordnance for an air squadron, continuously fired a .50-caliber machine gun from an exposed position as bullets and bombs pounded the Naval Air Station at Kaneohe Bay in Oahu. He then supervised the rearming of returning American planes.

"Here they're paying you for doing your duty, and that's what I did," Finn told The Associated Press before his 100th birthday. "I never intended to be a hero. But on Dec. 7, by God, we're in a war."

Here's his citation.

Rank: Lieutenant
Organization: U.S. Navy
Born: 24 July 1909, Los Angeles, Calif.
Entered Service At: California
Place / Date: Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Territory of Hawaii, 7 December 1941

For extraordinary heroism distinguished service, and devotion above and beyond the call of duty. During the first attack by Japanese airplanes on the Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, on 7 December 1941, Lt. Finn promptly secured and manned a .50-caliber machinegun mounted on an instruction stand in a completely exposed section of the parking ramp, which was under heavy enemy machinegun strafing fire. Although painfully wounded many times, he continued to man this gun and to return the enemy's fire vigorously and with telling effect throughout the enemy strafing and bombing attacks and with complete disregard for his own personal safety. It was only by specific orders that he was persuaded to leave his post to seek medical attention. Following first aid treatment, although obviously suffering much pain and moving with great difficulty, he returned to the squadron area and actively supervised the rearming of returning planes. His extraordinary heroism and conduct in this action were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

By: Brant

Chinese Won't Back Norks on Cheonan Sinking... For Now

China's public statements on the Cheonan sinking sure sound like they they won't back the Norks if trouble breaks out.

China told South Korea on Friday that it will not defend whoever it determines was responsible for the sinking of a South Korean warship that killed 46 sailors, the South Korean government said.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao made the comments after meeting South Korean President Lee Myung-bak amid tensions with North Korea following the March 26 torpedo attack near the disputed sea border on the Korean peninsula.
South Korea, the United States and Japan have condemned North Korea after a multinational investigation blamed Pyongyang for the attack. China, however, took a cautious position.
China will decide its stance after considering international probes and the reactions of all countries, Wen told Lee, according to a briefing by presidential adviser Lee Dong-kwan. "China will defend no one" whatever the outcome may be, Wen also said, according to Lee.
China's backing would be key to any bid to condemn or sanction North Korea. Beijing, a veto-wielding permanent Security Council member, so far has refrained from committing to Security Council action against Pyongyang, its neighbor and traditional ally.

By: Brant

Iraq Rotational Units Announced

The DoD has announced who's headed to Iraq next.

The Department of Defense announced today the alert of replacement forces scheduled to deploy in support of Operation New Dawn. Effective Sept. 1, 2010, the U.S. mission in Iraq is renamed from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn to coincide with U.S. forces’ shift to an advisory, assistance, training, and equipping role. The alert announcement involves one infantry brigade from the Army National Guard consisting of approximately 2,700 personnel.

Specific unit alerted for Operation New Dawn is:

1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Minnesota Army National Guard

The unit will replace a redeploying unit, with no increase in overall force levels. They are currently scheduled to begin their deployment in the summer of 2011 and are receiving alert orders now in order to provide the maximum time to complete preparations. It also provides a greater measure of predictability for family members and flexibility for employers to plan for military service of their employees.

By: Brant

US Deaths in Afghanistan Cross 1000 Threshold

The 1000th US military member died in Afghanistan.

The United States military is reported to have suffered its 1,000th death in the eight-year-old war in Afghanistan.
AP said its count showed the 1,000th American soldier died today in a roadside bomb attack in southern Afghanistan.

The same agency said the death of the first U.S. soldier in Afghanistan occurred early in January in 2002, shortly after the United States launched military operations to oust Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers for harboring Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was blamed for orchestrating the September 2001, terrorist hijacking attacks in America.

By: Brant

Gitmo Detainee Returns to the Fight in Yemen

A former Guantanamo detainee is now the new leader of Al Qaeda in Yemen.

A fugitive Saudi Arabian man, who was once detained at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo, was named as a senior member of Al Qaeda's Yemen wing, according to a tape by the group shown on al Arabiya television on Friday.

The tape also confirmed the deaths of three leaders killed in December and January during Yemeni air raids, the pan Arab broadcaster said.

Among those killed were Abdullah al Muhdar, the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen's Shabwa province, Mohammed Amir al Awlaki, and Mohammed Saleh al Kazimi.

Othman Ahmed al-Ghamdi, the 31-year-old man named as a leading Al Qaeda operative on Friday, had been added to a list of 85 most wanted people by Saudi Arabia 15 months ago, al-Arabiya said.

He spent four years in Guantanamo prison after he was captured in Afghanistan. He was released in 2006.

Good thing we started letting people out of Gitmo, eh?
Oh, and those who believe President Obama is the anti-Christ, note that last line. Obama didn't release him; Bush did.

By: Brant

Military Maps Bonus: 10 Maps That Changed The World

The Daily Mail (UK) has a very cool article about ten of the greatest maps that changed the world. They're not all military, but they're very nifty.

By: Brant

Terror In India As Train Derailed

Maoist insurgents have sabotaged a train and killed 65 in the derailment.

Maoist rebels sabotaged a high-speed train in eastern India on Friday that killed at least 65 people after it derailed and smashed into the path of a goods train, a top Indian police official said.

At least 200 people were injured and the death toll could rise as rescuers continue to free passengers trapped in the wreckage.

"This has been done by the Maoists," Bhupinder Singh, police chief of West Bengal state where the incident occurred, told reporters. Singh said the Maoists had claimed responsibility. The incident will put further pressure on the Congress party-led government to bring in the military to tackle a four-decade-long Maoists insurgency that has spread across much of rural swathes of eastern and central India.

The crash occurred in an area known to be a stronghold of the rebels. Maoists, who say they are fighting for the rights of the poor and landless and want to overthrow the government, have stepped up attacks in recent months.

By: Brant

Military Maps: Analysis of Military Maps Thru Semiotics

There's an interesting document - viewable online below - about how the styles and symbols of military maps developed over the years.

The semiotics of military terrain analysis and map reading

By: Brant

Tools of War: Scud Missile

If you ask the average American to tell you the name of a missile, "Scud" will probably be the first word out of their mouth. Thanks to the antics of that great gift to humanity, Saddam Hussein, the Scud has become a household name, recognized by most anyone over the age of thirty.

The Scud is actually an evolution of the German V-2 rocket, and while the Soviets only developed four variants, those variants have in turn inspired variants themselves, with Iraq's Al-Hussein (a Scud-B variant) being the most notorious, and North Korea's Rodong-1 (a Scud-C variant) being the most recent to acquire media attention.

The Scud platform is capable of conventional, chemical, or nuclear payloads, the last being of particular concern in recent news, as North Korea is believed to have 6-8 Rodong-1's fitted with nuclear payloads.

While newer variants such as the Scud-D and possibly the Rodong-1 have modern guidance systems, earlier versions were notoriously inaccurate. While nuclear payloads make this a non-issue, Scuds equipped with conventional and chemical payloads were far less impressive in operation than originally believed, to the point that "scud" developed an alternate, slang definition in American lexicon - A female who appears to be attractive from a distance but is in fact unattractive when viewed closely.

NATO codename Scud-A Scud-B Scud-C Scud-D
U.S. DIA SS-1b SS-1c SS-1d SS-1e
Official designation R-11 R-17/R-300

Deployment Date 1957 1964 1965? 1989?
Length 10.7 m 11.25 m 11.25 m 12.29 m
Width 0.88 m 0.88 m 0.88 m 0.88 m
Launch weight 4,400 kg 5,900 kg 6,400 kg 6,500 kg
Range 180 km 300 km 550 km 300 km
Payload 950 kg 985 kg 600 kg 985 kg
Accuracy (CEP) 3000 m 450 m 700 m 50 m

Here's a nice little animation video, probably from our friends at Raytheon.


27 May 2010

Surge In Afghanistan? Send in the Colombians!

After all, if anyone can deal with the expanding drug trade, it's the Colombian Special Forces!
(actually, we have no idea if they're going to work counter-drug missions, we were stuck for a snappy comment...)

Colombia’s Defense Minister confirmed on Wednesday that the country will send 50 soldiers to Afghanistan to join NATO forces.

Minister Gabriel Silva said the Colombian Foreign Ministry has given its approval to the agreement that it could be reached before President Alvaro Uribe leaves office on August 7.

“It’s a group of no more than 50 men, Special Forces with great training,” said Minister Silva, according to the El Tiempo newspaper.

Minister Silva added that Bogota also got ‘green light’ from Spain, under whose flag Colombian troops will operate and from the United States.

h/t to War is Boring, now linked on our left-hand news column.

By: Brant

USAF Goes Damn Fast

The USAF has broken another speed record.

An experimental aircraft has set a record for hypersonic flight, flying more than 3 minutes at Mach 6 — six times the speed of sound.

The X-51A Waverider was released from a B-52 Stratofortress off the southern California coast Wednesday morning, the Air Force reported on its website. Its scramjet engine accelerated the vehicle to Mach 6, and it flew autonomously for 200 seconds before losing acceleration. At that point the test was terminated.

The Air Force said the previous record for a hypersonic scramjet burn was 12 seconds.

'We are ecstatic to have accomplished many of the X-51A test points during its first hypersonic mission,' said Charlie Brink, an X-51A program manager with the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

By: Brant

Anniversary: Dunkirk

The Brits are marking the anniversary of Dunkirk with a Channel crossing.

Dozens of World War II-era ships are crossing the English Channel to mark the 70th anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation.

Former troops saved in Operation Dynamo are also taking part in the flotilla that re-enacts when Britain called upon any possible vessel to help save troops trapped on French shores by advancing Nazi forces during World War II. Some 338,000 troops were rescued from the French beaches between May 27 and June 4, 1940.

By: Brant

DADT Vote Coming Up Soon

Congress is getting close to a vote on DADT.

Congress is headed toward landmark votes on whether to allow gays to serve openly in the military.

The House was expected to vote as early as Thursday on a proposal by Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Pennsylvania Democrat who served in the Iraq war, that would repeal the 1993 law known as 'don't ask, don't tell.'

The legislation — a compromise struck with the White House and agreed to by the Defense Department — would give the military as much time as it wants before lifting the ban.

Under the bill, the president, defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must first certify that the new policy won't hurt the military's ability to fight.

By: Brant

South Korea Holding Exercises, Norks Still Flapping Gums

SKorea holds navy drill; NKorea scraps sea accord - Yahoo! News

Stung by a surprise underwater attack, South Korea flexed its muscles Thursday with anti-submarine drills and a U.S. general offered strong words of support as the allies sent a clear message to adversary North Korea: Don't try it again.

Pyongyang, however, wasted little time in responding, saying it would launch 'immediate physical strikes' against southern ships that enter its waters as tensions spiked further a week after Seoul blamed the North for torpedoing a warship.

Inter-Korean political and economic ties have been steadily deteriorating since the February 2008 inauguration of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who vowed a tougher line on the North and its nuclear program. But the sinking of the warship Cheonan and deaths of 46 sailors in March have returned military tensions — and the prospect of armed conflict — to the fore.

Off the South's western coast, 10 warships, including a 3,500-ton destroyer, fired artillery and other naval guns and dropped anti-submarine bombs during a one-day exercise to boost readiness, the navy said.

By: Brant

UK In Action: Grenadier Guards in Afghanistan

Soldiers from the Grenadier Guards sit tight onboard a Chinook helicopter as it comes into land during Operation Chakush in Afghanistan.

Image: UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

26 May 2010

Good Thoughts on Norks from Opposed Systems Design

Opposed Systems Design - a nice blog with a lot of game design content - has a good, short article about dealing with the Norks.

The problem is that no one has a storyline for how to fix the status quo. Until we have that, we cannot coordinate action or make credible threats to the North Koreans. If we had an agreement among all the regional powers about how we would deal with a collapse of North Korea, then we would have the initiative. Currently North Korea has all the initiative and consequently we’re always reacting to the crises it starts. With a regional agreement in hand, we would have the leverage to approach them (ideally the Chinese would do this) and say: “We have a plan for dealing with your collapse. We won’t let you hold us hostage anymore. If you will change your behavior, then we’ll cooperate. If you won’t change your behavior, then we’ll wait you out and pick up the pieces once you’ve collapsed.”

By: Brant

CIA Losing Intel Turf Wars with DoD

Y'know, if there weren't so many issues with responsiveness with the agency, maybe the military wouldn't be doing so much of their own deep intel work.

Did the CIA just lose another battle in its ongoing bureaucratic war with the Defense Department over control of America's covert operations overseas?

According to the New York Times' Mark Mazzetti, Gen. David Petraeus has signed a lengthy directive authorizing U.S. special forces to conduct covert operations and gather intelligence in "friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa." That's pretty much been the job description in the same region for the CIA's cloak-and-dagger crew.

The Times says the directive is aimed at building the Pentagon's long-term capability to disrupt terrorist networks throughout the Middle East and "break its dependence on the CIA" for the intelligence that such efforts require. And the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder says it's just one part of a broader push to beef up the role of covert special-forces units worldwide.

The Times reports that the CIA didn't object to the idea. But in incremental terms, this marks another sign that the uniformed military is propelling more of the initiatives within the country's foreign-policy nexus to wrest information from "the dark side," as Dick Cheney famously dubbed the world of covert intelligence work.

The overall trend began when former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld built his own private spy agency, called the Strategic Support Branch, within the Pentagon in order to freeze out the CIA's input.

By: Brant

Canadian Special Operations Regiment to get new recce vehicles

Global News reports that the British-designed Supacat Jackal will be replacing the Humvees that are currently used by Canada's special forces units.

Canada’s special forces units will be getting new vehicles as early as next year.

Sixty special reconnaissance vehicles will be bought and housed at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa to support special forces units there, in Ottawa and in Trenton, Ont.

The new vehicles are being located with the Canadian Special Operations Regiment in Petawawa, which would also provide maintenance support as well as drivers. The high-mobility trucks will be available to various units such as the Ottawa-based Joint Task Force 2 or to special forces task groups.

“The regiment will own that capability and I will allot that capability to the (special operations) task forces,” explained Brig.-Gen. Mike Day, head of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) in Ottawa. “If the task force needs it, the regiment will provide the capability, not just the vehicles. They are going to be masters of that platform.”

Canadian special forces use Humvees in Afghanistan. Day said the Humvees will be usable until the end of the Afghan mission in the summer of next year.

The new vehicles will likely be a version of the British-designed Supacat Jackal. That vehicle is being built by Lockheed Martin in the U.S. and being marketed to Canadian and U.S. militaries.

By: Shelldrake

US Troops to Mexican Border

Yeah, but are they taking any ammo with them?

Under pressure to take action, President Barack Obama on Tuesday ordered 1,200 National Guard troops to boost security along the U.S.-Mexico border, pre-empting Republican efforts to force a congressional vote to send the troops.

Obama will also request $500 million for border protection and law enforcement activities, according to lawmakers and administration officials.

The president's action comes as chances for comprehensive immigration reform, Obama's long-stated goal, look increasingly dim in this election year. Obama has been all but compelled to do something since Arizona's passage of a tough illegal-immigration law thrust the border problem into the public spotlight.

Indeed, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer credited her signing of the controversial new law for compelling Obama to act. Signing the law, Brewer said in a statement, "clearly ignited the talk of action in Washington for the people of Arizona and other border states."

The National Guard troops will work on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support, analysis and training, and support efforts to block drug trafficking. They will temporarily supplement Border Patrol agents until Customs and Border Protection can recruit and train additional officers and agents to serve on the border, according to a letter Tuesday from top administration security officials to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich.

By: Brant

US-China Ties in Need of Care and Feeding

A US admiral has critiqued the state of military ties with China.

The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific said Tuesday that military ties with China are lagging behind the two countries' other dealings in maturity and sophistication.

Admiral Robert Willard told People's Liberation Army deputy chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Ma Xiaotian, that it was regretful that military ties were so far behind the "other very mature engagements that occur between our two countries."

Willard made the comment during the first high-level military talks between the sides since Beijing suspended military exchanges earlier this year in anger over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, the self-governing island China claims as its own territory.

Ma voiced his own frustration, saying Chinese plans for military exchanges with the United States in 2010 had been "seriously disrupted" by the Obama administration's announcement in January. Washington said Jan. 30 that it would go ahead with a sale of $6.4 billion in military hardware to Taiwan — including helicopters, missiles and other weapons.

Willard is in Beijing as part of a second round of strategic talks, termed the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, that began last year in Washington. The gathering brings together dozens of Cabinet officials from both sides, the chiefs of both central banks and military officers.

By: Brant

Jamaica Shootout Tide Turning?

The police are making strides in Jamaica in their standoff with a drug lord.

Security forces gained a tenuous hold on the slum stronghold of a powerful reputed drug lord, while Jamaica's embattled leader promised an independent investigation into the roughly 26 civilian deaths during the operation.

Thousands of police and soldiers have stormed the Tivoli Gardens ghetto in search of Christopher "Dudus" Coke, who is wanted by the U.S. on drug and gun charges. Three days of street battles with heavily armed supporters of the underworld boss had claimed at least 30 lives by late Tuesday.

The fight with gang gunmen has spilled into troubled areas just outside the capital, Kingston, and complaints are rising that innocents are being caught in indiscriminate gunfire.

By: Brant

Quick Roundup of Large Contract Awards

Excerpts from a recent article about government contract awards.

Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) was awarded a $325,485,969 contract which will provide for the development, integration and delivery of 35 mid-life upgrade kits for the Foreign Military Sales Pakistan Block 15 F-16A/B aircraft, and 18 retrofit kits for the Block 52 F-16C/D aircraft.

BAE Systems is being awarded a maximum $131,430,290 firm-fixed-price contract for modular lightweight load-carrying equipment items.

Raytheon (NYSE: RTN) is being awarded a $10,838,944 contract modification to increase the ceiling amount to previously awarded contract N00024-07-C-5454 for the rebaselining of the system design and development of the Block 2 upgrade to the Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) guided missile weapon system.

General Dynamics (NYSE: GD) is being awarded a $9,831,278 firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the procurement of 30 M61A2 20mm lightweight gatling gun systems for the F/A-18E/F aircraft.

That's a lot of coin...

By: Brant

CyberCom Officially Underway

The new command has officially launched.

Receiving a promotion to four-star general, Alexander on Friday was officially given the reins of U.S. Cyber Command by Defense Secretary Robert Gates during a ceremony in Fort Meade, Md. That signaled the initial launch of the division, which won't be up to full capability until October 1.

The mission of U.S. Cyber Command, or CyberCom, is to synchronize the Defense Department's various networks and cyberspace operations to better defend them against the onslaught of cyberattacks.

"Given our increasing dependency on cyberspace, this new command will bring together the resources of the department to address vulnerabilities and meet the ever-growing array of cyberthreats to our military systems," Gates said in a statement.

Last June, Gates approved the birth of Cyber Command as a unified, subdivision of U.S. Strategic Command to manage the Defense Department's resources of 15,000 computer networks across 4,000 military bases in 88 countries. The launching of U.S. CyberCom had been stalled, awaiting Senate confirmation of Alexander. But with Senate approval having been cleared on May 7, CyberCom is now free to open for business.

And the new commander is Gen. Keith Alexander.

"The purpose and jurisdiction of this command is clear: to defend the military's operational networks against attacks," Gates said Friday in prepared remarks. "Overcoming the wider cyber threat to America's economy and society will require a whole-of-government approach, with CYBERCOM in a supporting role. As such, Gen. Alexander will coordinate this command's efforts the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the NSA and other stakeholders."

Gates remarks were aimed, in part, to put at ease those who feel the military is becoming too influential over civilian aspects of IT security, especially considering that one individual oversees the military cyber defense as well as the NSA, the super-electronics spy agencies run by the Defense Department.

The Defense secretary praised Alexander's leadership in transforming the NSA from its Cold War posture to that of an organization capable of meeting diverse, unconventional and ever-changing threats. "Gen. Alexander has the experience, the expertise and the agility to lead CYBERCOM to success," Gates said. "And success in the coming years is critical. Our nation as a whole has become ever more dependent on computer systems and networks, and so has our military. The intelligence, logistics, weapons technologies and other capabilities we have gained are enormous, and critical to maintaining U.S. military supremacy."

By: Brant

25 May 2010

Did Israel Offer Nukes to South Africa?

Israel says 'no'.

Israeli President Shimon Peres on Monday categorically denied a report that he offered nuclear warheads to South Africa in 1975, when he was defense minister.

The report published Sunday in the British newspaper The Guardian is based on an American academic's research and claims to cite secret minutes of a meeting Peres held with senior South African officials.

Peres said Israel never negotiated the transfer of nuclear weapons to South Africa.

"There exists no basis in reality for the claims published this morning by The Guardian that in 1975 Israel negotiated with South Africa the exchange of nuclear weapons," the president said in an English-language statement. "Unfortunately, The Guardian elected to write its piece based on the selective interpretation of South African documents and not on concrete facts."

The article is based on a series of documents the South African government declassified in response to a request from American academic Sasha Polakow-Suransky, who is writing a book called "The Unspoken Alliance" about the close relationship between the Israel and South Africa.

Appearing alongside the article, the partially censored documents show a formal request from the South Africans for nuclear-capable warheads, and minutes of meetings in which then-Defense Minister Peres listed weapons available for sale.

By: Brant

UK EOD Chief Resigns After Frank - but controversial - Remarks

Yep, you can't speak your mind in the British Army, even if you're just trying to help draw attention to serious problems on behalf of the soldiers.

Colonel Bob Seddon stood down as principal ammunition technical officer of the Royal Logistics Corps after telling the BBC's Panorama programme he needed more people on the ground and raising fears over the job's psychological impact.

In the programme, to be broadcast tonight, he said the army was looking to bring more people into disposal teams to tackle improvised explosive devices, but the measures would take "some time".

He added: "It means the existing cohort are going to be under pressure. I'm very concerned that in the longer term some of my people who have done phenomenally difficult and dangerous work in Afghanistan may pay a deeper psychological price for the work that they've conducted."

In his interview for the programme, Seddon said the army was looking to launch a detailed study into the psychological impact of bomb disposal on its operatives.

An army spokesman said in a brief statement that Seddon would be leaving the service in January. "He remains a serving officer and will not be commenting. The army remains committed to the counter-IED effort, which is the number one priority in Afghanistan."

By: Brant

Norks About to Come off the Rails

N. Korea severing all ties with S. Korea - North Korea- msnbc.com

North Korea has announced it will sever all ties with South Korea, the country's official KCNA news agency said on Tuesday, citing a spokesman for the North's national reunification committee.

Pyongyang also said its troops were bracing for war as tensions spiked on the divided peninsula over the sinking of a South Korean warship in late March.

One Seoul-based monitoring agency reported that North Korea's leader ordered its 1.2 million-member military to get ready for combat after South Korea blamed the North for a March 26 torpedo strike that sank the warship Cheonan and killed 46 sailors.

South Korea started blaring propaganda broadcasts into North Korea on Tuesday after a six-year halt in an effort to ramp up pressure on the country.

The South's restarting of psychological warfare operations — including radio broadcasts into the North and placing loudspeakers at the border to blast out propaganda — were among measures the government announced Monday to punish Pyongyang. The South is also slashing trade and denying permission to North Korean cargo ships to pass through South Korean waters.

We're re-posting our poll... Or course, you can't vote again, but you could wonder if you voted right the first time.

By: Brant

Russia Expanding LDP-like Fleet

Apparently not content to have just one helicopter carrier, the Russians want to buy at least 4 ships and build several of them in Russia.

Russia plans to buy four Western-built helicopter carriers and is now in talks with three NATO states on buying the vessels, RIA news agency quoted Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov as saying on Monday.

"At the present time we are in preliminary discussions on this type of vessel with three states. These are Spain, Holland and France. We plan to sign a contract for four such ships," Serdyukov said. He gave no time frame for the deal.

The would-be deal on the purchase of the warships has the full backing of President Dmitry Medvedev, Serdyukov stressed. "We are now working very seriously on this issue," he said.

Russia had originally set its eyes on France's Mistral amphibious carriers, estimated to cost 400 million to 500 million euros ($500.2 million-$625.2 million). Moscow said later it could buy similar ships elsewhere if it saw better options.

The potential sale of a Mistral-type warship to Moscow has alarmed the United States and Eastern European NATO members.

In August 2008 Russia fought a five-day war against ex-Soviet Georgia. Moscow said later that if it had the Mistral during the war, it would have achieved its military goal in 40 minutes instead of 26 hours.

I'm sure this is all making Georgia feel very secure right now...

By: Brant

They're Not Secret Any More...

Thanks, news media! Really, now, is the scoop worth endangering the lives of US servicemembers out there?

The United States has expanded secret military activities in the Middle East, Central Asia and east Africa to break militant networks, The New York Times said, citing a military document.

The move is to "penetrate, disrupt, defeat or destroy" Al-Qaeda and other groups in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Somalia, the document states, according to the Times.

Alongside those goals are efforts to "prepare the environment" for potential attacks in the future by US forces, the paper added, although a specific country is not singled out in the document for a possible strike.

Defense officials also told the newspaper that the secret order, approved in September by top US commander General David Petraeus, permits reconnaissance ahead of possible military action in Iran if high tensions over its nuclear program continue to mount.

The order is focused on gathering intelligence in the target countries "by American troops, foreign businesspeople, academics or others" to pinpoint threats, identify militants and forge "persistent situational awareness," the Times said citing the document.

By: Brant

Women in Uniform: Top Cover in Basra

Signaller from 15 Signal Regiment providing top cover from landrover whilst on patrol in Basra, Iraq.

By: Widow 6-7

The Story of Abir Mohammed, from Counterpunch

A compelling look into the war in Pakistan, Kathy Kelly and Joshua Brollier's The Story of Abir Mohammed is a great read. Here's an excerpt.

For Abir Mohammed and his family, there’s only a slim chance of moving back into their home. When fighting first began, in 2008, some of Abir Mohammed’s tribal members had been murdered by the Taliban. For this reason, although the Taliban warned them not to do so, members of Abir Mohammed’s family supported the Pakistani army. Anticipating a military offensive, the political agent of Bajour encouraged all of the people in Abir Mohammed’s area to leave their houses. Collecting as much of their valuables as they could carry, Abir Mohammed’s family fled across the border to Afghanistan. Two months later, while warfare continued, they crossed back into Pakistan and headed to a camp for displaced people. Abir Mohammed said that during the military offensive, Pakistani troops indiscriminately hit civilians and the Taliban. The military drove the Taliban out of his home, but then the Pakistani army moved in, and they are still occupying his home.

Thinking he may have to give up on regaining his fields and orchards, Abir Mohammed is trying to begin a new line of work. In Islamabad, he hopes to become a cobbler. But, the women in his family are begging him to join them in the refugee camp, where they are afraid to leave their tents lest they violate the traditional purdah customs. They long for their homes in Bajaur, but Abir Mohammed believes it is still unsafe to return. Taliban fighters, reputed to have escaped to Kunar, could still return and, as far as he knows, the military is still occupying his house. As far as Abir Mohammed is concerned, the Pakistani military could quite appropriately "do less."

Others ask: is there a non-military solution to the problems afflicting people like Abir Mohammed and his extended family?

Students from North and South Waziristan studying at a university in Islamabad emphasized that doing more to meet human needs for food, housing, roads and, most importantly, education, would quickly diminish the Taliban strength. “Look at me,” said one student. “I am not part of the Taliban. I am educated. Why would I join the Taliban?” The U.S. counter-terrorism strategy in North and South Waziristan has relied almost solely on force through U.S. drone strikes and Pakistani military offensives.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed of the Pakistan Muslim League says that Pakistan has had enough military aid and that non-military solutions are needed. He also advises that if the U.S. wants to help, it should focus on concrete financial aid for education and health, distributed through reliable Pakistani civil society groups.

If the U.S. wanted to declare war on fundamentalism, rather than the desperate poor of the Middle East and South Asia that are so vulnerable to recruitment by fundamentalists, it would decide to genuinely help the Pakistani government “do more” to meet its population’s human needs, and a good first step would be to ensure that desperately needed resources are not railroaded into maintaining military strength, a lingering legacy in U.S. and Pakistani relations that traces back to the Bush - Musharraf era. During the “Bush-Mush” years, the U.S. gave Pakistan 11.9 billion dollars in assistance, 8 billion of which went directly to the dictatorial military regime. Not a single public works project was initiated by the U.S. throughout that period.

By: Brant

UK Defence Secretary Insults Afghans... Who Aren't Really Literate Enough To Understand The Insult

So Liam Fox mouths off about what a backwater Afghanistan is...

UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox has branded Afghanistan "a broken 13th-century country," sparking fury in a country where thousands of British troops are stationed.
During an interview with The Times which was published on Saturday, Fox made the controversial statement in reference to making a distinction between the British military and humanitarian aims in Afghanistan.

He proclaimed, "We are not in Afghanistan for the sake of the education policy in a broken 13th-century country. We are there so the people of Britain and our global interests are not threatened."

Fox went on to state, "We can't afford to see Afghanistan roll backwards into a failed state that could become a base from which terrorist campaigns can be launched anywhere in the world."

The interview was published as Fox headed to Afghanistan's Helmand province, accompanied by Foreign Secretary William Hague and International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell. Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed indignation at his remarks during a meeting with the British officials.

A senior Afghan government spokesman asserted that the comments showed a lack of "mutual respect" and "trust" on the part of the British government, and went on to say, "We see Britain as still a colonial, orientalist and racist country that they should have this view. Dr. Fox really believes what he said, and he is not alone. London and Kabul must move on or things will be more difficult."

Michael Yon summed them up perfectly well in his photo post, "Man Dogs"

While the Belgian fighters wait, a Russian jet from parts unknown roars in, screeches down, and rolls far down the runway. It’s time for the F-16 to launch, prepared to bring space-aged, often satellite-guided weapons, to stone-aged enemies who sometimes are so uneducated that they don’t understand how to impregnate their wives. For some, their only sexual experiences are with boys, men, and animals. In years gone by, many people seemed to imagine suicide attackers were the ultimate expression of commitment. Today, we see suicide attackers for what they are: Stooges. Ignorant suicide bombers are not brave martyrs, but gullible Man Dogs trained to fetch myths. The Taliban select and condition Man Dogs as precision guided weapons. They are myth guided munitions.

By: Brant

Taliban Targeting Goldenballs?

Apparently one reason the Talibanistanis launched their assault the other day was in the hope they'd get lucky and bag themselves a Beckham.

The Taliban launched a ferocious assault on NATO's biggest base in Afghanistan to target either ace footballer David Beckham or British Foreign Secretary William Hague or Defence Secretary Liam Fox.
Taliban chiefs acted after learning that Beckham was in the war-torn country on a morale-boosting visit to British troops. They also discovered that Hague and Fox were meeting government officials on a separate trip.

The appearance of the trio was believed to have prompted Saturday's surprise attack on Kandahar airfield, the Daily Star reports.

"The Taliban could not resist the chance of taking out one of these VIPs. They weren't to know none of the three men were at Kandahar. It was one of the obvious places to have a go," a source said.

Beckham bravely shrugged off the security scare as he paid tribute fallen British men. He stood, solemn and head bowed, before a memorial at Camp Bastion in dangerous Helmand province to the 286 members of the UK Armed Forces who have given their lives.

By: Brant

Q&A with Gen. James Mattis

Defense News has an excellent Q&A with Gen. James Mattis. Here's the first few questions...

Q. What are the real lessons of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars?

A. War is a human endeavor, a social problem, and we have modest expectations that technology is going to solve a problem as complex as warfare.

Second, no war is over until the enemy says it's over. We may think it over, we may declare it over, but in fact, the enemy gets a vote, as we're often saying in the military.

A third point is that what we cannot do is look towards war today as something that we are going to fight on our own. We are going to be fighting alongside allies of some stripe, and we are going to have to create a military that can easily adapt to other allies fighting alongside it as part of our formations, and perhaps us fighting as part of their formations.

But you can't simply transport the lessons from one theater, even one as recent as Iraq, directly to Afghanistan. It's its own country, the enemy is its own enemy, the terrain is different. Most importantly, the human terrain - the complexity of the human connections, the tribal relationships - is different.

Q. You're changing JFCom's name?

A. I've asked for that change: to Joint and Coalition Forces Command. That decision is not yet made.

Q. You and Petraeus changed how the Iraq war was fought. What did that teach you about change?

A. Gen. Petraeus and I came back from Iraq about the same time, he to Fort Leavenworth for the Army, me to Quantico for the Marines. We worked on this with our staffs, then he went back and changed the face of the war in Iraq. I did not go back as operational commander; I defer that success to him and the troops that were over there. I had at best an indirect, perhaps intellectual or training impact.

The real lessons you learn when you try to change an organization as big as ours is that the first thing you must do is define the problem. If you don't define the problem in very stark terms, then you're going to probably solve the wrong problem. We have too often in the 1990s, and perhaps into the first part of this decade, tried to solve the problem by calling things transforma tional or game-changers. We had not, I think, defined the problem well enough.

What Dave Petraeus and I had as an advantage was we were in the middle of a very clearly defined war in terms of the fact that the old ways weren't going to work. We looked for what was working, accumulated it into the doctrine and passed it out, largely written by NCOs and officers fresh from their searing experiences in Iraq.

By: Brant

24 May 2010

When POTUS Tells You to "Prepare for Aggression"...

Looks like you might get a chance to go Nork-hunting...

President Barack Obama has directed the U.S. military to coordinate with South Korea to "ensure readiness" and deter future aggression from North Korea, the White House said on Monday.

The United States gave strong backing to plans by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to punish North Korea for sinking one of its naval ships, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.

The White House urged North Korea to apologize and change its behavior, he said.

"We endorse President Lee's demand that North Korea immediately apologize and punish those responsible for the attack, and, most importantly, stop its belligerent and threatening behavior," Gibbs said.

"U.S. support for South Korea's defense is unequivocal, and the president has directed his military commanders to coordinate closely with their Republic of Korea counterparts to ensure readiness and to deter future aggression," he said.

Obama and Lee have agreed to meet at the G20 summit in Canada next month, he said.

And here comes the inevitable "military exercises".

The U.S. and South Korea are planning two major military exercises off the Korean Peninsula in response to North Korea's torpedo attack on a South Korean warship.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters on Monday the joint exercises conducted in the "near future" will test the nations' ability to defeat submarines and to monitor and prevent illicit activities.

Whitman says the exercises are being planned as a result of the March 26 attack, in which a torpedo blew up a South Korean warship and killed 46 Korean sailors.

By: Brant

Next JFCOM Commander: GEN Odierno

The President has nominated GEN Ray Odierno to be the new CG at JFCOM.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced today that President Barack Obama has nominated U. S. Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno for re-appointment to the rank of general with assignment as commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM).

Located in Norfolk, Va., USJFCOM oversees a force of more than 1.16 million dedicated men and women, spanning USJFCOM's service component commands and subordinate activities. The command includes active and reserve personnel from each branch of the armed forces and civilian and contract employees.

Pending confirmation by the U.S. Senate, Odierno will oversee UFJFCOM's roles in joint concept development and experimentation, joint capability development, joint training, and force provision and management as outlined in the Department of Defense's Unified Command Plan.

If confirmed, Odierno will replace Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis later this year; currently, Odierno commands U.S. Forces - Iraq, a post he has held since September 2008.

By: Brant

More Fallout from Israeli Hamas Assassination

Australia has expelled an Israeli diplomat over the Dubai killing of a Hamas leader.

Australia has expelled an Israeli diplomat after a probe revealed Israel was behind the forging of four Australian passports linked to the murder of a Hamas operative in Dubai.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told parliament that Israel's conduct was "not the actions of a friend".

Britain took similar action in March, concluding there was strong evidence that Israel was responsible for the use of doctored UK passports in the plot.

The Hamas man was killed in January.

By: Brant