29 February 2012

NEWS: Breakthrough With Norks?

Wow - have the Norks come to their senses? Or is this just another false "breakthrough" that will end badly?

The United States announced a major diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea Wednesday.

Under an agreement reached in direct talks in Beijing last week, North Korea has agreed to allow the return of International Atomic Energy Agency nuclear inspectors, as well as to implement a moratorium on long-range missile tests, nuclear tests, and nuclear activities at Yongbyon, including uranium enrichment activities, the State Department said. In return, the United States will provide North Korea with a major food aid package.

"To improve the atmosphere for dialogue and demonstrate its commitment to denuclearization, the DPRK has agreed to implement a moratorium on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests and nuclear activities at Yongbyon, including uranium enrichment activities," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a press statement Wednesday. "The DPRK has also agreed to the return of IAEA inspectors to verify and monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment activities at Yongbyon and confirm the disablement of the 5-MW reactor and associated facilities."

Despite the stunning breakthrough, "the United States still has profound concerns regarding North Korean behavior across a wide range of areas," Nuland's statement cautioned, but added that "today's announcement reflects important, if limited, progress in addressing some of these."

In return, the United States will "move forward with our proposed package of 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance along with the intensive monitoring required for the delivery of such assistance," she said.

Other headlines:
CNN: North Korea agrees to halt nuclear activities for food

MSNBC: US says North Korea agrees to nuclear moratorium

Fox News: North Korea Suspends Nuclear Activities, Takes Food Aid

Guardian (UK): North Korea agrees to suspend nuclear activities, US says


GameTalk - Double-Blind Games

Note from Brant...
Today starts a run of 'guest' appearances by FoG Jack Nastyface. Yes, that's his real name, and no one ever tried to steal his lunch money at school. We say 'guest' appearances, because he's pretty good at writing these, so maybe we'll just turn it all over to him - lock, stock, and barrel. Whaddaya think? Vote Jack for Gametalk in 2012!

For most of us, our wargaming experience began with a double-blind wargame called Battleship. Since then, other great titles have emerged (Midway, Cityfight). Does the double-blind game mechanic work...or is it too much trouble for too little reward? What games did it well, and not-so-well?

By: Jack Nastyface

Navy Railgun Make Big BOOM! OOGA OOGA

Something about big guns blowing shit up just brings out the caveman in all of us.

The first weapon-scale prototype of a futuristic Navy railgun began undergoing firing tests last week, the next big step toward putting the electromagnetic superweapon on U.S. warships by 2020. The Navy envisions using railguns to destroy enemy ships, defend against enemy missiles, or bombard land targets in support of Marines hitting the beaches.
Newly released video shows the prototype railgun using an electric-powered launcher rather than gunpowder to fire a huge hypersonic bullet in a cloud of flame and smoke. The Office of Naval Research hopes its new test phase — scheduled to last until 2017 — leads to a Navy weapon capable of hurling 40-pound projectiles at speeds of 4,500 mph to 5,600 mph over 50 to 100 miles (7,240 to 9,010 kilometers per hour over 80 to 161 kilometers).

The full-size prototype, made by BAE Systems, "looks like a real gun," said Roger Ellis, program manager for the railgun at the Office of Naval Research, during a media teleconference today (Feb. 28). Previous tests involved clunky laboratory prototypes that would never see action aboard a Navy warship.

Here's the video, courtesy of Military.com

By: Brant

28 February 2012

Sound Off! Tougher War?

Which war is tougher on a military?

- a short-term counterinsurgency with units rotated through a persistent, no-front-lines battlefield?

- an extended, conventional war of attrition with dedicated front lines that push and pull for half a decade?

Sound off in the comments below!

By: Brant

An Excellent Comparison of Falklands Situations

The BBC has a well-constructed chart of details comparing the situation in 1982 and today in the Falklands. It's not kind to the Argies. It's not slagging them, just laying out the facts.
Part of the info shows the difference in garrisons on the islands:

By: Brant

Major Exercises in India

The Indian Army is holding a series of major exercises in Rajathsan. And win we say "major"... well - when was the last time any western army put two full corps of troops in the field at the same time.

The exercise, involving the army's elite 1 Strike Corps and 10 Corps under the Jaipur-based South Western Command, will see the deployment of more than 200 tanks and over 20,000 troops in the border state.
'All formations and units under South Western Command will participate to validate doctrines in a joint service environment,' army spokesperson Col Jagdeep Dahiya said.
The war game comes soon after the army's exercise Sudarshan Shakti in Pokharan to validate its new battle-fighting concepts developed after the transformation studies carried out under army chief General V.K. Singh.
The exercise, one of the biggest manoeuvres ever based on the Integrated Theatre Battle Concept, will be held in the deserts of Bikaner and Shri Ganganagar.
'It will enable the army to validate its war fighting concepts while working towards a 'capability- based approach', relying on a series of transformational initiatives, concepts, organisational structures and absorption of newage technology,' Dahiya said.
The Western and South Western Commands of the air force are also likely to deploy their frontline aircraft, including the Su-30MKI, Mirage 2000, Jaguars and AWACs, for the war game.

By: Brant

27 February 2012

UK In Action: Hiatus

Our resident Limey is "on operations" at the moment, and may not get a chance to get the UK In Action series updated for a little while. Right now we're more focused on his safe return. In the meantime, maybe we can all lean on Shelldrake to give us some good Canadian action photos?

By: Brant

Monday Video: For Whom The Bell Tolls

This BANG is all over the map. See how many different nations you can identify in this video.

By: Brant

26 February 2012

USAction! Dog Patrol

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brandon Mann uses his automatic rifle's scope to scan the area while providing security with his military working dog, Ty, around the villages of Sre Kala and Paygel in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Feb. 17, 2012. Mann, a military working dog handler, and Ty, an improvised explosive device detection dog, are assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez

By: Brant

I Suppose For Some People It Might Be A Mystery

Really, you have to wonder why Pakistan is demolishing the bin Laden house where the SEALS capped his ass?

Pakistani security forces on Saturday began demolishing the house where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. special forces in Abbottabad last May, a senior police official in the town said.
The boundary wall and upper portion of the building had already been destroyed by midnight, Karim Khan told Reuters, without giving further details or saying why the compound was being demolished.

By: Brant

25 February 2012

Battle Lab: Your First Convention

Continuing our series of articles being reprinted from elsewhere, here's one that originally appeared in the now-sadly-defunct Scrye, talking about what to expect out of your first game convention.

Your first convention

Conventions can be a great way to get your game in front of your audience. The high concentration of gamers and the foot traffic in the exhibit hall make for a target-rich environment for a new company. If you're looking to spread the word about yourself, setting up shop at a convention is a great way to do it.
The first question you really need to ask is “Why are we going to the convention?” Are you focusing on selling product? Building some buzz around your company? Trying to meet people and show off your game for another company to pick you up? If you don’t go into the show with a solid definition of success, you won’t have much of a measuring stick to gauge your overall investment in time and effort.
One of your next decisions needs to be "which convention?" Staying close to home, or with a friend, can cut down the overall cost. If a local convention is not an option, then try to shoot for a convention whose major events are closest to your core products. GenCon is a heavy RPG show; Origins is a role-playing and board-gaming mix, with some card events for good measure. There are many smaller, local cons as well, and they are often willing to offer booth space to a company at a low rate.
Get your deposits in as soon as possible. The difference in cost can be dramatic. As an example, at Origins 2006, a booth cost $555 if paid by January 10, but went up to $671 if paid at the end of March. For a new company, the $120 difference might make or break your first show.
Finally, you need to decide on your booth crew. Drafting a friend is a cheap way to man your booth. But you need to make sure that folks working your booth are as well-versed in your product as you are. Remember, the customer doesn’t know that your buddy is just here for the free convention; the customer sees a representative of your company behind the table.

much more after the jump!

24 February 2012

Random Friday Wargaming: Oil War

OK folks. Help me out here. This week's game is Oil War from SPI. Given my love for all things modern in the wargaming world, it's probably a shock I don't have it. That said, I know a store that has 2 - yes, two! - copies of it for sale. I've been talking myself out of getting it for a long time, on the the theory that "I'm probably never going to play it, and it's not a compelling enough collector's item that I want to sink any money into it." So help me out here with your thoughts: Is it worth getting? Will I actually want to play it? Or is it just more hypothetical rubbish about a conflict-heavy part of the world with an excuse to put the Americans in the game?

Discuss it on ConsimWorld.

Master links/images from Boardgamegeek.com; message boards linked to Consimworld. Other links to the actual game pages...

By: Brant

23 February 2012

UK In Action: PARA IED Overwatch

A Soldier from 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (2 PARA), observes from a compound roof as soldiers from the Improvised Explosive Task Force, clear the streets of ghost town Char Coucha in Afghanistan. Char Coucha which once had a thriving market and was a place of religious pilgrimage is back on the road to peace and prosperity thanks to the combined efforts of 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (2 PARA), members of the British Counter-IED Task Force, and their colleagues from the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. The effort - codenamed Operation KAPCHA KWANDIKALAY (or Cobra Safe Village) - has seen the largest-scale, high-risk IED clearance of an entire village to be carried out by British forces in Afghanistan. More than 40 families have now returned, with more set to follow as efforts to maintain the stable security situation continue. Throughout 2010, Char Coucha was the scene of intense fighting, as British and Afghan forces battled the insurgency for control of the village. But despite the insurgent fighters remaining under pressure throughout, it became clear that the benefits of military successes were not being felt by local people. This image was a runner-up for Sgt Rupert Frere in the Army's Photographic Competition 2011.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

We Gave Them Freedom, They Chose Killing

After 8 years of trying to drag them into the present, we finally left it up to the Iraqis, and they've decided to kill each other, instead.

The death toll, just from yesterday:
  • six dead after a car bomb in Shia-dominated Kadhimiya, norht of Baghdad
  • six killed by gunmen at a police checkpoint in the Sarafiya district of the capital
  • two dead and five injured in an explosion in the western al-Mansour district
  • two killed and 10 injured in two explosions in Dorat Abo Sheer, southern Baghdad
  • two killed and nine wounded in an attack by gunmen using weapons with silencers, targeting a police patrol in Saidiya, southern Baghdad
  • seven injured, most of them policemen, in a blast in al-Madaen, south of Baghdad
  • five civilians injured in a bomb explosion in Taji, north of Baghdad
By: Brant

22 February 2012

Wargaming, a Comparative Exercise

These things are all the rage right now, but this one's actually funny.

By: Brant

GameTalk - Components

What are some of the best wargame components you've seen? What was it you liked about them? What artwork worked well, or didn't work at all? What cards did you like and what counters were perfect? What's the best map you played on? What's the worst? How big are components when factoring your purchase decisions?

Your thoughts below!

By: Brant

USAction! Joint Training

Soldiers assigned to the Republic of Georgia's 23rd Light Infantry Battalion keep a watchful eye on the surrounding area after a practice firefight with mock enemy insurgents at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, Hohenfels, Germany, Feb. 17, 2012. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Alexis Mulero


21 February 2012

What's in a Name?

The Army is changing the name of their "HBCT" to "ABCT".
This does not in any way affect tomorrow's sunrise. As far as we can tell.

By: Brant

Retaining Serial Criminals?

Wow. While reading an article about the coming personnel drawdown in the US Army, there's this little nugget at the end of the article.

Soldiers with patterns of misconduct will not be retained, Chandler has said repeatedly. His first target is the 4,877 soldiers who have committed multiple felonies while on active duty.

I get that retention in wartime can be a problem, but you mean to tell me we've got an entire brigade of troops on active duty that are repeat felony offenders?!

By: Brant

Sound Off! Acquisitions

Should acquisitions be...

... completely centralized with one authority for planning, purchasing, and distribution?

... turned over to local authorities to decide what's best for their individual units and commands?

Your 2c below!

By: Brant

Redux of Persian Incursion... With the US?

Time's BattleLand blog asks a necessary - but provocative - question: if Israel can't bomb the Iranians out of the nuke business, could the US?

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned that attacking Iran’s nuclear sites would, “at best, it might postpone it [Iran joining the nuclear-weapons club] maybe one, possibly two years.” If he’s right – and most U.S. experts concur with his view – the U.S. probably can wound, but not kill, Iran’s nuclear dreams with military force.

But U.S. military experts say Washington could do far more to damage Iran’s nuclear program than Tel Aviv. Israel “has a much smaller air force and further to fly,” says Michael O’Hanlon at the Brookings Institution. “I worry most about its ability to robustly deal with Iranian air defenses.”

Jeffrey White, a former analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency, says it’s not the initial punch that would set a U.S. attack apart from an Israeli one, but the ability to keep it going. “We have a lot more capability than Israel does, in terms of the number of aircraft, the kinds of attacks we could carry out, and the kinds of ordnance we could put on the targets,” says White, now at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies.

“But more important that anything is that we could sustain attacks. We’ve got B-1s, B-2s, carrier aviation, we might be able to launch out of the gulf states, we’ve got cruise missiles to knock down the air-defense system before we launch,” White says. “We have all kinds of capabilities that Israel doesn’t have.”

But an Israeli attack would not be puny — it could involve, as the Times noted, as many as 100 aircraft. “They could get enough aircraft up there to hit a number of targets,” White says, “but it would probably be a one-shot deal.”

That’s because its smaller military would have to dedicate itself to the blowback sure to come: “The Israelis are pretty creative, but my tendency is to think of it as a one-time event, and then the forces used in that operation would be reconfigured to prepare for anything coming out of Hezbollah or Hamas,” White says. “The real difference is our ability to sustain these attacks,” White says. “I’m thinking it would be an air campaign of attacks lasting days, versus a single operation.”

And it might – if the U.S. were serious about stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons – have to be repeated again and again.

Two things jump out at me here:
1. That repetitive strike paradigm sounds a lot like what we did to Iraq in the '90s.
2. Discussions about striking the nuclear infrastructure focus on how far back we can set them. Has anyone considered that a strike might stiffen the resolve of the Iranian people to complete the project and actually accelerate their progress?

By: Brant

20 February 2012

Monday Video: I Will Not Bow

It takes a second for the music to crank up, but it's a pretty good BANG to get your week started.

By: Brant

UK In Action: RHA FST

A Fire Support Team from The 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, radio back to headquarters following an air insertion operation with soldiers from D Company of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland. They were accompanied by Afghan National Police (ANP) , on an operation re-establishing government control in an area of Helmand province previously under heavy Taleban influence. Operation ZAMARY KARGHA (‘Lion Falcon’ in English) saw soldiers from D Company of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, and officers from the Afghan National Police win over the local population and drive out insurgents in the area of Hoorzai. This image was a winner for Sgt Rupert Frere RLC in the Army Photographic Competition 2011.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Iran Flexing Muscles, World Flexing Back?

The US is reporting that Iranian meddling visible in Yemen.

Iran is becoming more active in Yemen and could pose a deeper threat to its stability and security, the U.S. envoy to Yemen said on Monday, highlighting what would be yet another layer of uncertainty in a near-failed state.
U.S. Ambassador Gerald Feierstein's warning is likely to reinforce long-held fears among Sunni Gulf monarchies that Shi'ite Muslim power Iran is trying exploit regional unrest.
"We do see Iran trying to increase its presence here, in ways that we believe are unhelpful to Yemen's stability and security," Feierstein said in an interview one day before Yemenis head to the polls to elect a new president to replace Ali Abdullah Saleh, ending his three decades in power.

Their ships have docked in Syria.

Meanwhile two Iranian naval ships docked at the Syrian port of Tartous on Saturday, Iran's state-run Press TV reported. The ships were said to be providing training for Syrian naval forces under an agreement signed a year ago.
Iranian Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi, quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency, said: "Our ships passed through the Suez canal and it is Iran's right to have a presence in international waters."

And now Israel is looking to solve the Iranian nuclear problem theirownselvesthankyouverymuch.

In their warnings, both the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, and British Foreign Minister William Hague said an Israeli attack on Iran would have grave consequences for the entire region and urged Israel to give international sanctions against Iran more time to work. Dempsey said an Israeli attack is "not prudent," and Hague said it would not be "a wise thing."
Both Israel and the West believe Iran is trying to develop a nuclear bomb — a charge Tehran denies. But differences have emerged in how to respond to the perceived threat.
The U.S. and the European Union have both imposed harsh new sanctions targeting Iran's oil sector, the lifeline of the Iranian economy. With the sanctions just beginning to bite, they have expressed optimism that Iran can be persuaded to curb its nuclear ambitions.
On Sunday, Iran's Oil Ministry said it has halted oil shipments to Britain and France in an apparent pre-emptive blow against the European Union. The semiofficial Mehr news agency said the National Iranian Oil Company has sent letters to some European refineries with an ultimatum to either sign long-term contracts of two to five years or be cut off. The 27-nation EU accounts for about 18 percent of Iran's oil exports.

By: Brant

19 February 2012

Norks Leaving Now Doubt About Twitishness

They're going to shell the South just because they're holding a drill?

North Korea warned South Korea on Sunday that it would shell islands close to their disputed sea border if the South violates its territorial waters during a military drill reported to begin in the Yellow Sea this week.
The official KCNA news agency also quoted the North's military as urging civilians living on five islands near the disputed area to evacuate before the start of the military exercises on Monday.
The North has repeatedly threatened armed retaliation against the South's military exercises but it is rare for Pyongyang to mention in advance about evacuation of civilians over such drills.
The North's military said that if the South "starts a reckless military provocation in those waters, trespassing on the DPRK's inviolable marine demarcation line,.... the KPA will promptly make merciless retaliatory strikes."

By: Brant

Are Sanctions Actually Working in Syria?

According to this report from the BBC News it appears as though the sanctions against Syria are working, and have the bonus effect of screwing w/ Iran, who are trying to prop up their ally.

Speaking to the BBC's Weekend World Today programme, Mr Qudsi said the economy had been crippled by sanctions and that although Iran was sending money, it was not enough.

Mr Qudsi now chairs a London-based investment banking firm and has been heavily involved in private sector investment in Syria.

He said the uprising had destroyed tourism and the sanctions on exports of oil and other products had dramatically reduced the gross domestic product.

"So, effectively the foreign exchange reserves of the central bank have come down from $22bn (£14bn) to about $10bn and it is dwindling very rapidly," Mr Qudsi said.

He said the military phase against protesters could only last another six months "because the army is getting tired and will go nowhere".

"They will have to sit and talk or at least they have to stop killing. And the minute they stop killing, more millions of people will be on the streets. So they are in a Catch 22."

He added: "The apparatus of the government is slowly disintegrating and it's almost non-existent in trouble spots like Homs, Idlib, Deraa. Courts are not there; police are not interested in any sort of crime and it is affecting the government very, very badly."

But Mr Qudsi said Mr Assad would fight to the end because he and his supporters think there is "a universal conspiracy against the government of Syria".

By: Brant

18 February 2012

USN IDs Ships Heading to Rota, Spain

The destroyers are part of the forward missile-defense force and are pretty potent in other actions, too.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced today the four Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyers which will be forward deployed to Rota, Spain. The four include three from Norfolk, Va; the USS Ross, the USS Donald Cook, and the USS Porter, and one from Mayport, Fla., the USS Carney. The ships are in support of President Obama’s European Phased Adaptive Approach to enhance the security of the European region.

“We welcome Spain’s partnership in stationing four U.S. Navy Aegis ships at Naval Station Rota,” said Mabus. “We have a long history of cooperation between our two countries and we have developed significant interoperability between our naval forces.”

These multi-mission ships will perform a myriad of tasks, including the full spectrum of maritime security operations, bi-lateral and multi-lateral training exercises, NATO operations and deployments, and NATO missile defense.

Ross and Donald Cook will arrive in fiscal 2014 and Carney and Porter in fiscal 2015.

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta initially announced the stationing of four Aegis ships to Rota Oct. 5, 2011, in Brussels, Belgium.

“By hosting these ships, Spain will continue its vital role in enhancing the security of the European region, the Mediterranean Basin, and the Atlantic Ocean,” said Panetta in an Oct. 5, 2011, statement. “The agreement also enables the United States to provide rapid and responsive support to the U.S. Africa and U.S. Central Commands, as needed.”

View Larger Map

By: Brant

Iranian Navy in the Med

I'm pretty sure this variant wasn't in Persian Incursion.

Iranian warships entered the Mediterranean Sea after crossing the Suez Canal on Saturday to show Tehran's "might" to regional countries, the navy commander said, amid simmering tensions with Israel.
"The strategic navy of the Islamic Republic of Iran has passed through the Suez Canal for the second time since the (1979) Islamic Revolution," Admiral Habibollah Sayari said in remarks quoted by the official IRNA news agency.
He did not say how many vessels had crossed the canal, or what missions they were planning to carry out in the Mediterranean, but said the flotilla had previously docked in the Saudi port city of Jeddah.
Two Iranian ships, the destroyer Shahid Qandi and supply vessel Kharg, had docked in the Red Sea port on February 4, according to Iranian media.
Sayari said the naval deployment to the Mediterranean would show "the might" of the Islamic republic to regional countries, and also convey Tehran's "message of peace and friendship."

So what exactly is the message? "We're mighty peaceful and friendly"?

By: Brant

17 February 2012

Random Friday Wargaming: COD Wars!

C'mon - who hasn't wanted to fight COD WARS: Iceland vs. Great Britain in the 1970s?!

I mean, it seems like a fishy premise to me, but with a good grouper people, you might cod get a quick game just for the halibut.

Master links/images from Boardgamegeek.com; message boards linked to Consimworld. Other links to the actual game pages...

By: Brant

Next Afghanistan Unit Announced

The DoD has identified the next unit heading to Afghanistan.

The Department of Defense today identified one Army brigade combat team to deploy as part of the upcoming rotation of forces operating in Afghanistan. The scheduled late Spring 2012 rotation involves more than 4,000 soldiers from the 2nd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

The Lewis-McCord website is all jacked up, but here's some info on the unit from Wikipedia.

2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team
Stryker Brigade Combat Team based at Fort Lewis, Washington (formerly 5th BCT)
  • Headquarters Company
  • 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment (Stryker)
  • 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment (Stryker)
  • 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment (Stryker)
  • 8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment (RSTA)
  • 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment
  • 2nd Brigade Support Battalion
  • Company A, 52nd Infantry Regiment (Anti-Tank)
  • 562nd Engineer Company
  • 21st Signal Company
  • 572nd Military Intelligence Company
By: Brant

Chinese Navy Ranging Far & Wide

Their anti-piracy training is just another step toward a consistent world-wide blue-water force.

China's fast-modernizing navy is stepping up training for anti-piracy patrols off the coast of Somalia in a sign of its growing long-term commitment to overseas missions.
The first two-week course for 84 leading officers began this week at the Naval Command College in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing, the website of the military newspaper Liberation Army Daily said Friday. The officers will run drills and discuss military theory and experiences from China's previous anti-piracy missions, it said.
China first launched the anti-piracy patrols in December 2008, joining an international flotilla aiming to protect shipping in the Gulf of Aden. More than a dozen separate missions have followed, each consisting of two of the navy's most sophisticated missile frigates accompanied by a support ship.
The patrols marked a major break with the navy's traditional role of protecting China's coastal region, as well as Beijing's oft-stated opposition to foreign military interventions or overseas bases.
Along with boosting the navy's blue water capabilities in operations and resupply, the patrols appear to have whetted Beijing's appetite for even more ambitious missions.
In recent years, the navy has dispatched ships as far away as the Caribbean, and last year sent vessels to the Mediterranean to escort ships evacuating Chinese citizens from Libya.
Such moves have been facilitated by a wide-ranging naval upgrade fueled by double-digit annual increases in Chinese defense spending. Along with new destroyers, submarines and naval aircraft, Beijing last year began sea trials on its first aircraft carrier, a refurbished model purchased from Ukraine more than a decade ago.

By: Brant

Libya Still "Recovering" From Their Revolution

Armed militias are still loose in the desert.

As Libya marks the first anniversary of its revolution on Friday, the dozens of well-armed militia groups operating across the vast country have slipped well out of the control of the nascent government in Tripoli, making the country ever more fractured as well as dangerous to ordinary Libyans attempting to adjust to the end of Muammar Gaddafi's 41-year dictatorship.
That assessment came on Thursday from Amnesty International, whose latest research on the country documents at least 12 Libyans who have died in militia custody since September, allegedly after being beaten, suspended upside down and given electric shocks. In a chilling 38-page report published on the eve of the anniversary, Amnesty describes a wave of terror and widespread abuse by militia groups, whose members in recent months have dragged hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Libyans from their homes or from roadside checkpoints into makeshift jails on suspicion of being Gaddafi sympathizers or having fought alongside the regime's forces during the civil war.

By: Brant

The End of the Cold War Garrisons

The DoD has finally made public the long-expected closures of the last of the big mech units in Germany.

It’s official: The Germany-based 170th Infantry Brigade will be inactivated later this year, followed by the 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade next year as part of a broad restructuring of the military force structure in Europe that also calls for the inactivation of two U.S. Air Forces in Europe squadrons and the eventual elimination of the Army’s V Corps from Wiesbaden, Germany, according to Pentagon officials.

As part of the restructuring, the Army garrisons in Schweinfurt and Bamberg will close no later than 2015, U.S. European Command announced. The 81st Fighter Squadron, an A-10 unit consisting of 525 airmen from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, and the 603rd Air Control Squadron at Aviano Air Base, Italy, consisting of 336 airmen, will be inactivated by 2013.

“The [Defense] Department will begin a theaterwide capacity analysis as part of a comprehensive consolidation of its overseas infrastructure in light of these force posture changes,” EUCOM stated in a news release. “The result could be further infrastructure adjustments.”

Last month, the Defense Department announced it would be eliminating two heavy brigades in Europe, but that announcement stopped short of naming the specific units. Still, with only two such brigades in Europe, it was no secret that the 170th, based in Baumholder, and 172nd, out of Grafenwöhr and Schweinfurt, were pegged for elimination.

By: Brant

16 February 2012

UK In Action: Focus Past the Needle

A Royal Air Force practice nurse holds a syringe at the Medical Centre in Gioia del Colle airbase, Italy during Operation Ellamy. The 906 Expeditionary Air Wing (906 EAW) is currently based at Gioia del Colle as part of Operation Ellamy, the UK contribution to NATO's Operation Unified Protector which enforces UN Security Council Resolution 1973, which aims to protect Libyan civilians from the Qadhafi regime.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

DoD Announces Changes to Afghan Missions, Units

The DoD has announced changes to the organization and missions of upcoming units deploying to Afghanistan.

The Army announced today a new mission to meet requirements in Afghanistan. Four brigade combat teams (BCTs), one separate brigade and an Army command, each in a modified configuration, will deploy between April and August 2012. Approximately 1,460 active component officers and senior non-commissioned officers along with approximately 300 DoD civilians will deploy in 18-person teams to provide training assistance to Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

The majority of those BCT soldiers and leaders not deploying will be reassigned to other units, in most cases on their respective installations. The remainder will focus on schooling, training, gunnery, and equipment maintenance and accountability.

Beginning in the 3rd quarter of fiscal 2012, these security force assistance teams will help to further generate, employ, and sustain the ANSF during the transition of security responsibility to the Afghan government and its security forces.

The units ordered to deploy are:
  • 2nd BCT, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.
  • 2nd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.
  • 3rd BCT, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.
  • 4th BCT, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas.
  • 162nd Infantry Brigade, Fort Polk, La.
  • 1st Army, Rock Island Arsenal, Ill.
By: Brant

Secret No More

I mean really, when the President of Afghanistan makes a public announcement in the media that "secret peace talks" are going on, how secret are they?

The U.S. and Afghan governments have begun secret three-way talks with the Taliban, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told The Wall Street Journal, in a move that could bolster U.S.-led efforts to convene fully fledged peace talks within months.
Karzai's government had previously been excluded from early, exploratory contacts between the Taliban and the United States, with the insurgents seen as resisting the involvement of a local administration they regard as a puppet of Washington.
But the Journal quoted Karzai on Thursday as saying the Taliban were "definitively" interested in a peace settlement to end the 10-year war in Afghanistan, and that all three sides were now involved in discussions.

And not everyone's happy about it.

Afghanistan's government must not retreat from hard-won freedoms or return to strict religious curbs to reach a peace deal with the Taliban, the country's former spy chief said, warning Afghans were distrustful of the secrecy surrounding nascent talks.

By: Brant

15 February 2012

Gitmo Charges for Majid Shoukat Khan

The DoD is charging detainee Majid Shoukat Khan with a whole bunch of bad things, including kicking puppies, sunspots, and not wiping his ass after taking a dump.

The Defense Department announced today that military commission charges have been sworn against Majid Shoukat Khan, a Pakistani national who lived in the United States from 1996 to early 2002 before returning to Pakistan.

The charges allege that Khan joined with members of al Qaeda in Pakistan to plan and prepare attacks against diverse targets in the United States, Indonesia, and elsewhere after Sept. 11, 2001. Specifically, they allege that Khan:
  • Used a fraudulently obtained travel document to travel from his residence in Baltimore, Md., to Karachi, Pakistan, in January of 2002;
  • Conspired with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed regarding a plot to blow-up underground gasoline storage tanks at gas stations in the United States and other domestic plots;
  • At Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s direction, recorded a “martyr video,” donned an explosive vest, and sat in a mosque waiting for Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to arrive so that Khan could assassinate him, an attempt that was foiled when Musharraf never arrived;
  • Traveled in March of 2002 from Karachi to Baltimore, where he performed tasks for al Qaeda and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, including purchasing a laptop computer for al Qaeda and contacting a military recruiter to obtain materials regarding the United States military, which he intended to give to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed;
  • Upon returning to Pakistan in August 2002, worked directly for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ali Abdul al-Aziz Ali, and other al Qaeda associates, all of whom were evading capture by United States and Pakistani authorities;
  • At the direction of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ali Abdul al-Aziz Ali, traveled with his wife in December of 2002 from Pakistan to Bangkok, Thailand, where he evaded notice by posing as a tourist;
  • While in Bangkok, delivered $50,000 in al Qaeda funds to a southeast Asia-based al Qaeda affiliate, which in turn delivered the money to the allied terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, which used the funding to detonate a bomb in August of 2003 at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, killing eleven people, wounding at least eighty-one others, and severely damaging the hotel.
Based on these allegations and others outlined in the charge sheet, Khan is charged with conspiracy, murder and attempted murder in violation of the law of war, providing material support for terrorism, and spying. In accordance with the Military Commissions Act of 2009, Chief Prosecutor Mark Martins has forwarded the sworn charges to Convening Authority Bruce MacDonald with a recommendation that the charges be referred to military commission for trial. By separate action, Martins today also detailed Courtney Sullivan of the Justice Department as trial counsel in the case and Army Lt. Col. Michael Hosang and Navy Lt. Nathaniel Gross as assistant trial counsel. Martins has not recommended that any of the charges be referred to a military commission empowered to adjudge the death penalty, and therefore the maximum allowable penalty for the charged offenses is life imprisonment. The convening authority will make an independent determination as to whether to refer some, all, or none of the charges to trial by military commission. If the convening authority decides to refer the case to trial, he will designate the commission panel members who function as jurors. The chief trial judge of the Military Commissions Trial Judiciary would also detail a military judge to the case. The charges are only allegations that the accused has committed offenses under the Military Commissions Act, and the accused is presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
By: Brant

Sigh... Some People

Apparently there's a Fox News pundit who thinks that sexual assault in the military is pre-ordained and that Congress is making the problem worse.

Trotta was reacting to news that the military will allow women to work closer to the front lines. Speaking to Fox News host Eric Shawn, she alleged that feminists wanted "to be warriors and victims at the same time."

She cited a recent Pentagon report that sex crimes committed by army personnel have increased by 64% over the past six years. Then she made a startling statement:
"I think they have actually discovered there is a difference between men and women. And the sexual abuse report says that there has been, since 2006, a 64% increase in violent sexual assaults. Now, what did they expect? These people are in close contact, the whole airing of this issue has never been done by Congress, it's strictly been a question of pressure from the feminists."

Trotta also alleged that "feminists" have demanded too much money to fund programs for sexual abuse victims. "You have this whole bureaucracy upon bureaucracy being built up with all kinds of levels of people to support women in the military who are now being raped too much," she said

By: Brant

GameTalk - Movies!

Have you ever tried to recreate a movie in a wargame? Did you ever modify an ASL scenario to play out a scene from A Bridge Too Far or use Lock'n'Load: Band of Heroes to play out part of The Longest Day? Ever try to game out The Patriot or Gladiator?

Your scripts below!

By: Brant

Trying to Keep Chemical, SAM Weapons Off the Market

The Syria implosion is being watched carefully for at least one lesson learned from Libya: keep track of the chemical weapons and SAMs.
The U.S. and its allies are closely monitoring Syria's stockpiles of chemical arms and portable anti-aircraft missiles, a State Department official says, amid concerns that the country's unconventional weapons could fall into the hands of terrorist or militant groups while the 11-month-old uprising continues.
"Syria is a country of significant proliferation concern, so we monitor its chemical weapons activities very closely," the State Department official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence-related matters. "We believe Syria's chemical weapons stockpile remains under Syrian government control, and we will continue to work closely with like-minded countries to impede proliferation (of) Syria's chemical weapons program."
The official added that the U.S. is in discussion with its allies on ways to ensure that Syria's stockpile of portable anti-aircraft missiles, called Man-Portable Air Defense Systems, or MANPADS, aren't stolen or diverted. "We are consulting with allies and partners as we plan for a variety of contingencies," the official said.
Republicans in Congress, meanwhile, have been critical of U.S. efforts to secure Libya's chemical and unconventional arsenals, saying the Obama administration should have responded more quickly during that crisis and now faces the task of trying to account for thousands of missing portable anti-aircraft missiles.

By: Brant

10yo Suicide Bombers?

Really, this is what the Taliban have stooped to? And how bad must the Afghan government be if there are still people willing to support the Taliban even with this record?

Two children have been rearrested in southern Afghanistan for being prospective suicide bombers, the International Security Assistance Force said.

Note: rearrested

The two "young male" would-be bombers were detained in the past week, the ISAF said in a written statement.

The two kids, both ten years old, were arrested along with three adults, according to the Afghanistan National Directorate of Security (NDS).

Last summer, Afghan President Hamid Karzai pardoned a group of would-be child suicide attackers ranging in age from 8 to 17. Some of the 20 youngsters told Karzai they had been recruited by the Taliban, strapped with vests and ordered to detonate them near foreigners, the president's office said in a statement last August. Militants told the youngsters that the blasts would spare them but kill the foreigners, it said.

The two arrested in Kandahar recently were from that group of pardoned children, according to the NDS statement, and had gone to Quetta, Pakistan to get more training before being sent back to Afghanistan for suicide attacks.

One of the children, from southeastern Afghanistan, said he was told by Mullahs at a madrasa in Pakistan that he would survice the suicide attack and it would not harm him, the NDS statement said. The other child, originally from Pakistan, said he was cheated by armed men and he asked to be pardoned again.

By: Brant

14 February 2012

Sound Off! Germany vs France!

(We ran this last summer, and it was a very rare "Sound Off!" that had no comments, so we're re-running it)

Last time we asked you to sound off on military heritgae, we asked Canada vs Australia....

This time, we want you to give us the better military heritage:


State your case in the comments below!

By: Brant

13 February 2012

UK In Action: MEDEVAC Team

An RAF Regiment Gunner provides force protection to Army colleagues during a casualty evacuation, Helmand Province, Afghanistan. The RAF Regiment Sqn formed a four man unit as part of the Medical Emergency Response Team. This image was a winner in the Royal Air Force Photographic Competition 2011.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Monday Video: Balkan Battle Babes

An estrogen-infused BANG. If you mind, you're probably reading the wrong blog.

By: Brant

Saudi Journalist About to Get a Headectomy

You know what's most disturbing about the news coverage of Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari's deportation back to Saudi Arabia for "blasphemous" tweets? No news organization will republish them. If someone is being deported to a country that's most like going to kill him for what he said - not did, but said - then shouldn't we know the text of what he said so we can judge for ourselves?

Malaysian authorities have deported a Saudi journalist accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a tweet.

Police confirmed to the BBC that Hamza Kashgari was sent back to Saudi Arabia on Sunday despite protests from human rights groups.

Mr Kashgari's controversial tweet last week sparked more than 30,000 responses and several death threats.

Insulting the prophet is considered blasphemous in Islam and is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.

Mr Kashgari, 23, fled Saudi Arabia last week and was detained upon his arrival in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.

He had tweeted his doubts about Muhammad on the prophet's birthday last week. Saudi clerics condemned his remarks as blasphemous.

You know where to find the text of the tweets? Wikipedia. The news won't tell you. Wikipedia will.

On the occasion of Mawlid on February 4, 2012, Kashgari published three tweets about an imagined meeting with Muhammad:
On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you've always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.
On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.
On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.

By: Brant

12 February 2012

Militant Openly Admit Pak Gov't Ties

In the latest evidence of the worst-kept secret / least believable denial on the planet, Pakistan's tribal militants along the border are calling for their fighters to respect their agreement with the Pak government and not attack Pak troops in the area.

Pakistan's leading militants have called on fighters to honor an agreement not to attack the Pakistani military in the most important sanctuary for the Taliban and al-Qaida along the Afghan border.
Militants have long used the North Waziristan tribal area as a base to attack U.S.-led forces in neighboring Afghanistan. American officials have accused Pakistan of supporting some militants in the area, especially the feared Haqqani network — allegations denied by Islamabad.
The operational chief of the Haqqani network, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is part of the five-member leadership council that distributed a pamphlet Saturday ordering militants not to stage rocket or bomb attacks in North Waziristan.
"In North Waziristan, we are all in agreement with the Pakistani government, so we are all bound to honor this agreement and nobody is allowed to violate it," the pamphlet said. A copy of the document was obtained by The Associated Press on Sunday.

When can we start nuking people?

By: Brant

Next LCS To Be Named for Gabby Giffords

The DoD has announced that the Navy is named the next Littoral Combat Ship after Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced today that the next Independence variant littoral combat ship (LCS) will be named the USS Gabrielle Giffords.

The selection of Gabrielle Giffords, designated LCS 10, honors the former Congresswoman from Tucson, Ariz., and who is known for supporting the military and veterans.

Mabus also announced the ship’s sponsor will be Roxanna Green. Green is the mother of Christina-Taylor Green, the nine-year-old girl who was killed while attending the meeting of constituents where Giffords was shot. A ship’s sponsor plays an important role in the life of the ship, naval tradition holds that her spirit and presence guide the ship throughout its service life.

“I am pleased to honor Gabrielle Giffords and the people of Arizona with the naming of this ship,” said Mabus. “Giffords and the ship’s sponsor, Roxanna Green, are sources of great inspiration and represent the Navy and Marine Corps qualities of overcoming, adapting and coming out victoriously despite great challenges.”

The ship is part of a dual-block buy of LCS class ships announced by Mabus in December 2010. By procuring both versions of the LCS -- Lockheed Martin’s semiplaning monohull and General Dynamic’s aluminum trimaran -- the Navy is stabilizing the LCS program and the industrial base with an award of 20 ships each; increasing ship procurement rates to support operational requirements; sustaining competition through the program; and enhancing foreign military sales opportunities. Both designs meet the Navy’s LCS requirement, while the diversity provided by two designs provides operational flexibility.

Littoral combat ships perform a vital role in the Navy’s ability to execute DoD’s defense strategy. The USS Gabrielle Giffords will be designed to defeat growing littoral threats and provide access and dominance in the coastal waters. A fast, agile surface combatant, the LCS provides the required warfighting capabilities and operational flexibility to execute focused missions close to the shore, such as mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and surface warfare. The LCS class of ships will be outfitted with reconfigurable payloads, called mission packages, which can be changed out quickly as combat needs demand. These mission packages are supported by special detachments that will deploy manned and unmanned vehicles and sensors in support of mine, undersea and surface warfare missions.

The USS Gabrielle Giffords will be 419 feet in length, have a waterline beam of 103 feet, displace approximately 3,000 tons, and make speed in excess of 40 knots. The construction will be led by Austal Shipbuilding in Mobile, Ala.

This is the 17th ship to be named for a woman, and the 13th ship to be named for a living person since 1850. This is the first ship to bear Giffords’ name.

By: Brant

10 February 2012

Random Friday Wargaming: Operation Iraqi Freedom

Mark Walker's Operation Iraqi Freedom came as a print-and-play game with a 2004 issue of Armchair General, back when they actually cared about games over there.
Also from a bygone era is the artwork, from back before Eskubi was contractually prevented from working with LNLP.

You can go get your own copy over at Armchair General's website.

Anyone out there played this one? Anyone out there played this one that was also on the ground during the operations that would like to offer some comparisons for us?

Master links/images from Boardgamegeek.com; message boards linked to Consimworld. Other links to the actual game pages...

By: Brant

DoD Announces Changes to Policy on Women in Combat

They've been discussed, and long-rumored for some time. But the DoD has finally announce the changes to their policies on women in combat, opening up more positions for them, but stopping short of opening them all.

The Defense Department announced today changes to its assignment policy which will result in 14,325 additional positions being opened to women.

“Women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military’s mission. Through their courage, sacrifice, patriotism and great skill, women have proven their ability to serve in an expanding number of roles on and off the battlefield,” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said. “We will continue to open as many positions as possible to women so that anyone qualified to serve can have the opportunity to do so.”

In a report required by the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, the department notified Congress today it intends to make two changes to rules in place since 1994 governing the service of female members of the armed forces: first, occupations will no longer be closed to women solely because the positions are required to be co-located with ground combat units; and second, a sizable number of positions will be opened to women at the battalion level in select direct ground combat units in specific occupations. The services also will continuously assess their experience with these changes to help determine future changes to the 1994 rules.

“The services will continue to review positions and requirements to determine what additional positions may be opened, ensuring the mission is met with the best qualified and most capable, regardless of gender,” Panetta said.

The 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule articulated five basic elements informing decisions on the service of women in the military: direct ground combat; berthing and privacy; co-location; long range reconnaissance and special operations forces; and physically demanding tasks.

The 1994 DoD policy allowed women to be restricted from some occupational specialties if those specialties were physically co-located with direct ground combat units. Because the modern-day battlefield is non-linear and fluid, with no clearly defined front line or safer rear area, combat support operations are dispersed throughout the battlespace. Removal of the co-location exclusion will result in 13,139 Army positions being opened to women, in specialties such as tank mechanic and field artillery radar operator.

Additionally, the 1994 policy prohibited women from being assigned below brigade level to units whose principal mission was to engage in combat. The Army, Marines and Navy have been granted exceptions to policy to allow select positions at the battalion level in specialties already open to women, opening 1,186 additional positions. These exceptions to policy will help the services assess the suitability and relevance of the direct ground combat unit assignment prohibition, and inform future policy decisions.

Regarding other policy restrictions, the department recognizes there are practical barriers that require time to resolve to ensure the services maximize the safety and privacy of all service members while maintaining military readiness. Building upon analysis and experience, the services will develop gender-neutral physical standards for use by all members.

“Gender-neutral physical standards ensure all members can meet the physical demands of the duties they are assigned,” acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jo Ann Rooney said, “ultimately contributing to higher states of readiness through an increased understanding of the demands we place upon our members and by preventing injuries.”

Panetta directed the services to update him in six months on assignment policy implementation and the progress made developing gender-neutral physical standards.

As required by law, these changes to policy will take effect after 30 days of continuous session of Congress, which is expected to occur later this spring.

The report can be viewed at http://www.defense.gov/news/WISR_Report_to_Congress.pdf .

What do the readers think? Good idea? Bad idea?
What about the idea - buried waaaaay down in the news release - that they are developing gender-neutral physical fitness standards?
How much of an impact on these decisions are the recent non-linear battlefields, and how might this have (not) changed if we were fighting a more linear "WWII" type of scenario?

By: Brant

Another Coast Guard Cutter Being Handed Over to the Philippines

The US has approved the transfer of another Coast Guard ship to the Philippines to help strengthen their navy.

The U.S. Congress has approved the transfer of a second Coast Guard ship to the Philippines, an official said Friday as Washington shifts its military ties with the Southeast Asian nation that has been engaged in a territorial spat with China.
In the past, U.S. cooperation with the Philippines has focused mostly on counterterrorism, but it has recently expanded to building up the country's moribund navy.
Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro told reporters Friday that he will consider a Philippine request to have the warship turned over with as much military equipment as possible.
"I'm pleased that the congressional notification period for a second Coast Guard cutter expired this week, so that means Congress has now approved the transfer ... to the Philippines, which will further help Philippine security needs," he said after talks with Filipino defense officials in Manila.
The ship — the second such delivery since last May under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty — is just one of many defense projects that the U.S. is discussing with the Philippines. That comes in addition to having American ships regularly visit and refuel in Philippine ports, rotating U.S. troops in the southern Philippines where al-Qaida-linked Muslim militants are active and holding large-scale joint military exercises.
China has said that it views with concern the increased U.S. military engagement with the Philippines and balked at what it sees as Washington's interference in the South China Sea dispute. The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan all have conflicting territorial claims over potentially gas and oil rich islands with the Asian superpower.

What's funny about China's statement of "increased U.S. military engagement with the Philippines" is how it demonstrates a total lack of knowledge of the area beyond the past 15 years. For a country that supposedly takes a long view of things, they sure have a short-term memory on relations between the US and the Philippines.
I mean, Subic Bay and Clark Air Force Base were freakin' enormous back in the day. And the only reason the Philippines weren't still part of Spain was because we kicked their ass and took them away. Even if you tripled US engagement in the Philippines, it would still pale in comparison to our involvement from 1901-1986.

By: Brant

09 February 2012

UK In Action: Apache Badass

An Army Air Corps pilot stands in front of his Apache attack helicopter in Afghanistan. This image was a winner in the Army's 2011 Photographic Competition.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Canadian Navy Makes Cameo Appearance in Video Game

There's a new video game coming out about naval warfare in the Arctic. And there's even a token Canadian warship!

The game, Naval War: Arctic Circle, is set in the Arctic in the year 2030. The world at odds over Arctic sovereignty and resources.

"You would be the admiral of the armed forces of your side of whatever conflict," said Norwegian developer Jan Haugland.

Over the internet, players would lead Russian or NATO forces in battle. The playing field is 36,000 kilometres of ice-free Arctic waters.

The game depicts real ships — one of which is HMCS Halifax.

The frigate has patrolled waters off the coast of Africa, the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea. The Royal Canadian Navy says it’s one of the most capable frigates in the world with powerful weapons and highly trained staff on board.

HMCS Halifax is the only Canadian vessel fighting the make-believe war.

The game also features fake news articles about escalating international tensions around the Arctic.

Here are the details about the game from Paradox Interactive's website.

Naval War: Arctic Circle is a Real Time Strategy (RTS) game where the player battles enemy naval and aerial forces for power and ultimate world domination. The game play takes place along the Norwegian and British coast, through Iceland and Greenland all the way to the North Americas and the North West Passage.

Naval War: Arctic Circle has an extensive campaign along with skirmish, LAN and on-line modes. In Arctic Circle, the factions includes the United States, the Russian federation, the Nordic countries and NATO. Ultimately, Naval War: Arctic Circle tells a story about a power struggle for control of the world’s resources and supply lines in the Polar Regions.

h/t MIGMaster

By: Brant

08 February 2012

What Comes Next in Afghanistan?

The inevitable shift to elite forces operating under the radar?

The United States’ plan to wind down its combat role in Afghanistan a year earlier than expected relies on shifting responsibility to Special Operations forces that hunt insurgent leaders and train local troops, according to senior Pentagon officials and military officers. These forces could remain in the country well after the NATO mission ends in late 2014.

The plan, if approved by President Obama, would amount to the most significant evolution in the military campaign since Mr. Obama sent in 32,000 more troops to wage an intensive and costly counterinsurgency effort.

Under the emerging plan, American conventional forces, focused on policing large parts of Afghanistan, will be the first to leave, while thousands of American Special Operations forces remain, making up an increasing percentage of the troops on the ground; their number may even grow.

The evolving strategy is far different from the withdrawal plan for Iraq, where almost all American forces, conventional or otherwise, have left. Iraq has devolved into sectarian violence ever since the withdrawal in December, which threatens to undo the political and security gains there.

By: Brant

US Not Only Power WIth a Wary Eye on China

India is also upgrading its military with China in mind.

In recent weeks, India has decided to buy 126 fighter jets from France, taken delivery of a nuclear-powered submarine from Russia and prepared for its first aircraft carrier — modernizing its military to face a rising China.
India and China have a long history of tension, dating back to a 1962 border war, and New Delhi has watched with dismay in recent years as Beijing has increased its influence in the Indian Ocean.
China has financed the development of ports in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar, virtually encircling India. Beijing's recent efforts to get access to facilities in the Seychelles have prodded New Delhi to renew its own outreach to the Indian Ocean island state off its west coast.
With its recent purchases, running into tens of billions of dollars, India is finally working to counter what it sees as aggressive incursions by neighboring China into a region India has long dominated.
"The Indian military is strengthening its forces in preparation to fight a limited conflict along the disputed border, and is working to balance Chinese power projection in the Indian Ocean," James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, told a Senate committee last week.
India has created new infantry mountain divisions and plans to raise a strike corps aimed at countering aggression by China. Their border still has not been agreed upon despite 15 rounds of talks, and patrols from the two sides frequently face off on the ground.
Analysts say that although the probability of a conflict between the two Asian giants is remote, a short, sharp conflict in the disputed Himalayan heights can't be ruled out.
"Over the last couple of years, the Chinese have been acting more and more aggressively in the political, diplomatic and military arena," said retired Brig. Gurmeet Kanwal, director of the Indian army-funded Centre for Land Warfare Studies in New Delhi.

By: Brant

Anniversary: Russo-Japanese War

The formal declarations of war came a few days later, but the Russo-Japanese War started with an attack on 8 February.
Japan issued a declaration of war on 8 February 1904. However, three hours before Japan's declaration of war was received by the Russian Government, the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked the Russian Far East Fleet at Port Arthur. Tsar Nicholas II was stunned by news of the attack. He could not believe that Japan would commit an act of war without a formal declaration, and had been assured by his ministers that the Japanese would not fight. Russia declared war on Japan eight days later. However, the requirement to declare war before commencing hostilities was not made international law until after the war had ended in October 1907, effective from 26 January 1910. Montenegro also declared war against Japan as a gesture of moral support for Russia out of gratitude for Russian support in Montenegro's struggles against the Ottoman Empire. However, due to logistical reasons and distance, Montenegro's contribution to the war effort was limited to those Montenegrins who served in the Russian armed forces.

It was ended in 1905, with the Treaty of Portsmouth, a rare peace treaty that was signed in the Western Hemisphere for a war not involving nations from that half of the world.

So what real ramifications did this war actually have? Tell us your thoughts below.

By: Brant

Redux of Libya in Syria? Don't Bet On It

Will a new coalition step into the breach in Syria? Given the similarities with Libya - Arab dictator, Soviet client state, religious-affiliated resistance, freedom of navigation thru the Med - it's tempting to dust off the Libya plan and press "play". Not likely goig to happen, though...

Perhaps in part because of the bad blood over Libya, the world body has reached no similar consensus over Syria. Rather, the opposite, with some of the harshest diplomatic language traded for years. To the United States, the vetoes were a "travesty." German ambassador Peter Wittig essentially said that Moscow and Beijing had Syrian blood on their hands.
"China and Russia will now have to assume that responsibility in the face of the international public opinion and especially in the Arab world, the Arab citizens and, of course, in face of the Syrian people," Wittig said.
Beyond the rhetoric, the vetoes had a more practical consequence. NATO officials have made it clear that the alliance cannot act, by enforcing a no-fly zone for example, without U.N. support. Writer Derek Flood, recently in Syria with elements of the Free Syrian Army, says NATO officials envision no role for the alliance in Syria this year. But they have not ruled out a "coalition of the willing" outside the NATO orbit.
Both Russia and China are wary of any international action supporting protest against authoritarian rule. And Syria has been first the Soviet Union's -- and now Russia's -- key ally in the region after Egypt 'defected' in the 1970s. As it has for decades, Russia still supplies the Syrian government with weapons. One Russian analyst, Ruslan Pukhov, told CNN: "Once the Assad regime vanishes, we have zero influence in the region."
According to Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, al-Assad has ably judged the "diplomatic red lines" to keep Moscow onside. There have been no massacres on the scale of what happened in Hama 30 years ago (when thousands were killed after a brief uprising against his father's rule) that might have forced Russia into a corner. The persistent drip of civilian casualties over almost a year has not unleashed a tide of irresistible outrage.

By: Brant

GameTalk - AirSea Battle

How is the new US AirSea battle doctrine going to play out on the cardboard battlefield? What C2 changes will need to be realized in wargames? What are some current games you see that can allow you to test-drive the new AirSea doctrine, and what mods would need to be made to those games to allow you to model the doctrine correctly?

Your thoughts below!

By: Brant

Jamaica is Melting Down Seized Weapons

In an effort to reduce gun violence, the Jamaican government is melting down the seized weapons.

Jamaica has melted down about 2,000 illegal firearms as part of a programme to reduce gun trafficking and violent crime on the island.

The pistols and revolvers were thrown into a furnace in the capital Kingston, watched by police and officials from the government and the UN.

Jamaica has one of the highest rates of gun crime in the world.

Correspondents say criminal gangs are often as well armed as the security forces.

Officials said about half a ton of ammunition would also be destroyed in the operation.

Many of the guns had been seized in police operations. However, old firearms from police, military and prison personnel were also destroyed to ensure they did not end up in the hands of criminals.

I can't help but wonder if all this is doing is increasing the cost of an illegal .45 in Kingston.

By: Brant

Are Sanctions Working Against Iran?

You never hear about the on-the-ground effects of sanctions against a country. But here's a look at the effect they're having on the average Iranian. Yes, they take a long time to work. But maybe they are actually working?

Malaysia has halted palm oil exports to Iran because of payments problems and Asian oil buyers have cut crude purchases as Western sanctions tighten a financial noose around Iran.
Traders in China said they would cut iron ore purchases from Iran, which are worth over $2 billion a year, because of sanctions that have forced payment defaults on Indian rice imports and prompted Ukrainian and European sellers to stop booking shipments of Ukrainian grain to the Middle East country.
The problems are the most visible evidence to date that Western sanctions are squeezing Iran's trade.
Iran's crude oil buyers, including China and Japan, are cutting purchases, reducing the OPEC producer's earnings from its major source of the foreign exchange it needs to pay for critical imports, such as food staples.
The problems have come to light after U.S. sanctions this year targeted Iran's central bank and the European Union decided to ban Iran crude imports in an effort to force Tehran to abandon a suspected nuclear weapons program.
Iran's rial has plunged as the West increased sanctions, raising the price of imports for the economy and making it difficult to find Dubai-based middlemen who can process payments to keep the country's trade flowing.
Bread and rice dominate the diet of most Iranians, many of whom can no longer afford to buy meat, now selling for about $30 a kilogram in Tehran.

By: Brant

Why The Army's Games Aren't Your Games

Michael Peck has an article over at Kotaku. It'll be interesting to see how the comments shape up. No doubt some smart-ass is going to accuse him of not knowing what he's talking about.

First, the military doesn't play games. It uses training tools that happen to be games. The fun and competition of games is merely a means to induce students to learn, just like cherry flavor is a means to get kids to swallow disgusting medicine. Indeed, medicine is turning to video games to train surgeons. Do you want your heart surgeon to practice on a game because it's fun, or because it trains him to keep you alive?

People who sell games to the military don't think like gamers. They think like schoolteachers, with learning objectives and performance metrics. This may sound po-faced, but that's how they convince some cold-eyed bureaucrat that their game is better than a Powerpoint lecture at teaching Private Schmuckatelli to spot that IED hidden in the garbage pile by the road. Or, they need to show that the lazy Schmuckatelli will be more motivated to pay attention if his squad is competing against another squad in Virtual Battlespace 2. Making a game that's more interesting than Powerpoint would seem to be child's play, but it's not that simple. Games that will train hundreds of thousands of soldiers require plenty of computers, technical support and a generous donation of your tax dollars. Fun is good. Useful is better.

Second, everything bought by the military boils down to lots and lots of requirements. Someone has to have a need for a game, and the game will need to have very particular features. Sometimes the requirements don't make any sense, but that's how the military thinks. Boasting of your shooter's ultra-realistic physics model is pointless when the Army needs a game to teach soldiers how to butter up the natives not to shoot at them. In a burst of over-optimistic creativity, I once asked the Army why they couldn't use the Wii to practice physical tasks like fixing a tank. They replied that if they needed to teach a soldier to turn a wrench, they would get him a real wrench. Games are a solution, but never assume that they are the only solution.

By: Brant

07 February 2012

Sound Off! Magazine Games

Are wargame magazine games...

... fantastic little explorations of underappreciated topics?

... crappy little rush-jobs to fulfill publisher promises they never should've made?

Whaddaya think? Sound off below!

By: Brant

Marines Returning to Their Roots

They're practicing large-scale amphibious warfare, and storming the beaches of the US mid-Atlantic coast.

A small group of Marines trudged onto the beach sands in pitch-black night with an armada of U.S. Navy warships sailing just off the shore. Their mission: root out insurgents that threatened to attack another American force to the south.
The careful operation under cover of darkness wasn't an assault in the Middle East or Asia. It was a training exercise on the coast of Virginia and North Carolina, designed to return thousands of Marines to their amphibious roots and train for a more modern version of the well-known beach assaults conducted during World War II.
Military officials say the operation being conducted in Virginia and North Carolina is the largest amphibious training exercise they've attempted in at least a decade. Marines have been fighting wars in landlocked countries like Iraq and Afghanistan for years, and many have never even set foot on a Navy ship. That's of particular concern as the military shifts its strategic focus toward the coastal regions of the Middle East, such as Iran, and the Pacific, where North Korea and China are drawing increasing attention from the U.S.

Uh, just a note for Vergakis and Felderbaum (the journalists credited in the byline): Iraq is not landlocked...

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By: Brant

Trouble in Paradise?

There's been a coup in the Maldives.

President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, widely credited with bringing democracy to the hideaway resort islands, resigned on Tuesday after weeks of opposition protests erupted into a police mutiny and what an aide said amounted to a coup.
Nasheed, the Maldives' first democratically elected president, handed power over the Indian Ocean archipelago to Vice-President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, explaining that continuing in office would result in his having to use force against the people.
"I resign because I am not a person who wishes to rule with the use of power," he said in a televised address. "I believe that if the government were to remain in power it would require the use of force which would harm many citizens.
"I resign because I believe that if the government continues to stay in power, it is very likely that we may face foreign influences."
It was not immediately clear to what influences he was referring. India helped foil a coup on the islands in 1988 by sending a battalion of soldiers to back the government.

By: Brant