30 November 2008


Brant's live at I/ITSEC all week!

By: Brant

BREAKING: Somali Pirates Cut Deal For Ukrainian Arms Ship

The Ukrainians have apparently paid off the pirates for their arms tanker, according to CNN:
Pirates have reached a deal with the owners of a Ukrainian ship loaded with arms that was seized more than two months ago, an official with the Kenya Seafarers Association said Sunday.
'A deal has been reached to free the MV Faina. Talks on how to deliver the ransom money are ongoing,' Andrew Mwangura of the association told CNN.
It is not clear how long those talks will take, but the ship could be freed as soon as an agreement has been reached.
The ship, which is laden with Soviet-era tanks, tank artillery shells, grenade launchers and small arms, was seized on September 25.
It was heading for Kenya, whose government had bought the weapons from Ukraine, Ukrainian Defense Minister Yuri Yekhanurov said, according to the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.

By: Brant

26 November 2008

BREAKING: Terror Attack in Mumbai, India

Gunmen have attacked a handful of locations in Mumbai. No word yet on total casualties, but initial reports are 15-20.

By: Brant

Russians stirring the Ossetian pot again?

Are the Russians stirring up more trouble in Georgia?:
Human Rights Watch says Ossetian militias are attacking and harassing ethnic Georgians in the breakaway province of South Ossetia.
The New York-based group blames Russia for not doing more to control to the militias, which are largely allied with Russian troops.
The group said in a statement Wednesday that the militias are 'running wild' in the Akhalgori district. The report documented two attacks that left ethnic Georgians hurt but did not provide details on any other deaths or injuries.
Akhalgori was controlled by the central Georgian government before Russian troops and Ossetian forces occupied it during the August war between the two countries.
Russia's Foreign Ministry says requests for comment must be submitted in writing.

By: Brant

25 November 2008

Taking a Break

Most of us are being invaded by in-laws for Thanksgiving.
News will be light for the next few days.

24 November 2008

"Surge" for Afghanistan - numbers, yes; same strategy? Not likely

SecDef is making plans to beef up troop numbers in Afghanistan, regardless of the expected transition team and their new policies:
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said yesterday that he supports a fresh troop buildup in Afghanistan -- officially estimated at more than 20,000 U.S. troops in the next 12 to 18 months -- to fight a growing insurgency and to safeguard the 2009 Afghan elections. But he stressed that in the long run the conflict should be 'Afghanistan's war.'
'The violence is up,' Gates said. 'It's clear there is a need for more [troops] to try to deal with this increased security problem,' he told reporters traveling with him to a meeting of defense leaders in Canada.
Gates said he intends to meet the requests of top U.S. commanders in Afghanistan for an increase of four more combat brigades and an aviation brigade, as well as thousands of support troops -- a total reinforcement of 'well north of 20,000' in the coming year and a half, said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell.
The troops would deploy primarily to eastern Afghanistan along the Pakistan border, where the 3rd Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division is headed in January, as well as to southern Afghanistan, where the Taliban insurgency is based.

By: Brant

F35 sales growing

Norway has decided on the F35 JSF as their next upgrade for their air force:
Despite being defeated against the F-35 in Norway, by merely contesting its claimed dominance Saab gained significant recognition in its Gripen NG, being a viable alternative to the future US 5th Generation fighter
After reconsidering its future fighter procurement, and evaluating a possible procurement of a future version of the JAS-39 Saab Gripen NG, Norway decided that the only candidate which could meet all the future operational requirements set by the Royal Norwegian Air Force 'Future Combat Aircraft Capability' requirement will be the 5th generation Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

Quite a bit of discussion about it over here

By: Brant

Pirate Insurance = Growth Market

There's insurance for everything else, so why not piracy? And it seems to be growing in popularity and necessity:
There are three tiers of pirate protection for every vessel. The price is set the same way any other insurance rate is: by a calculation of risk. The ship's key statistics -- size of ship, size of crew, length of journey, transport route, docking port, etc. -- are weighed and evaluated.
First, there's the basic hull insurance, which insures damage to the ship and its cargo from 'marine perils.' There's some debate about whether this covers damage incurred from a pirate attack, so there's another plan -- the ominously named 'war policy' -- that is sure to protect you from violent damage. Just to be safe, there's also a kidnapping and ransom policy -- 'K&R' to those in the nautical know -- that insures against losses of what the pirates are really after: money. Portfolio magazine has reported that K&R premiums at one leading insurer, Hiscox, are now 10 times the price they were a year ago, but Hiscox declined to confirm or deny that number to me. Brendan Flood, a member of Hiscox's marine staff, did confirm that 'quite clearly rates have gone up' over the last six to nine months. None of the companies I interviewed for this story would share hard numbers on how much it costs to take out any of the insurance policies.

Also, Kenya is trying to get an anti-piracy conference underway:
The Kenyan government says it is willing to host an international conference that brings world leaders together to tackle the problem of piracy off the coast of Somalia. The announcement follows numerous warnings from analysts that the piracy situation is likely to get worse unless the world also recognizes the root causes of it.

By: Brant

British reservations about NATO expansion?

The Guardian tends to be a bit skeptical of entangling treaties, but the attitude in this commentary toward NATO expansion seems to be gaining some traction:
I don't know when the British cabinet last discussed the role of Nato. I suspect things may not be much different to the time I was in cabinet in the 1970s, when there would be a brief report from the foreign secretary on recent foreign developments and only rarely a discussion in depth.
I am fairly sure that the last-minute decision of David Miliband to go to Kiev at the end of August was not discussed by the cabinet beforehand. I have already publicly questioned whether it was wise, despite best intentions.
As we approach the December meeting of Nato foreign ministers we should carefully consider whether, in promising to support membership of Nato to Georgia and the Ukraine, we really want to bind ourselves to article five of Nato's charter which commits members to come to those countries' defence. Nato's charter essentially bound the US and Canada to western Europe – "one for all and all for one". It was and remains a defensive shield, binding all of us together.
I can understand why Russians are concerned about the relentless eastward expansion of Nato. How could this growth continue without provoking Russia? It feels betrayed by the west over its abandonment of assurances given in the early 1990s that the alliance would not be enlarged. Agreement in principle to site bases in the Czech Republic and Poland has been the last straw. What is surprising is that retaliation has taken so long.
No sensible person would want to return to the cold war, and President Dmitry Mevedev's recent comments are not only most unhelpful but mean that there will be a counter-move from Russia.
Miliband is reported as having said on his Kiev visit, "It is clear to me, standing here today, that this is a European country," adding that "once it fulfils the criteria, it should be accepted as a full member, and we should help you get there".
Really. Justifying membership from an applicant country's viewpoint is one thing. But embracing new members requires careful consideration of whether it is in the interests of existing members to accept them. It is the British interest, and the interests of other existing members, that should be at the forefront of such considerations.

By: Brant

23 November 2008

Syria thinks the rest of us are idiots

Syria is trying to deny that Israel hit a nuke site and hoping the world buys it:
Syria said Friday a building bombed by Israeli planes last year was not a covert nuclear reactor, as Washington stuck to its allegations which it said was borne in a findings by the UN nuclear watchdog.
"We are talking about military bases, we are talking about military activities," Ibrahim Othman, the head of Syria's Atomic Energy Commission, told reporters after IAEA inspectors briefed members about their first visit to the site in June.
Earlier on Friday, the US envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Gregory Schulte, had said the initial findings of the inspectors' visit had served to harden the suspicions against Syria.
A four-page report circulated to IAEA board members on Wednesday "reinforces the assessment of my government that Syria was secretly building a nuclear reactor in its eastern desert and thereby violating its IAEA safeguards obligations," Schulte said.
"The report sharply contradicts a number of Syria's claims and catalogues Syria's repeated refusal to answer IAEA questions.

By: Brant

Brits went (too?) hands-off in Basra

Iraqis are opening up with criticism of the way the Brits handled Basra:
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Major Gen Mohammed Jawad Humeidi said it was too soon for UK forces to be pulled out and called for the Americans to step in.
He also criticised the lack of support from British forces during the early days of the decisive Charge of Knights operation when the Iraqi army defeated Basra's Jaish al Mahdi (JAM) insurgents.
The officer suggested too that he would be content to see the British replaced by American troops when they withdraw from southern Iraq in the coming months.
In an interview at the newly opened Basra Operations Centre from which the Iraqi army and police will control the city, Gen Mohammed had little praise for the British presence in Basra since 2003.
While the Iraqis have an excellent working relationship with the British Army and are grateful for the superior military training they received, Gen Mohammed was openly critical of how JAM was able to take key positions at all levels of government.

By: Brant

22 November 2008

Pakistan declaring war on US UAVs?

So apparently the Paki's are hoping to use US UAVs as target practice:
The Pakistani military's reaction to the unmanned U.S. Predator airstrikes in its northwest would be funny were it not that al Qaeda is plotting their next attack on the West from there. Supposedly outraged over the U.S. violations of its sovereignty, the Army has conducted exercises to shoot down the Predators.
Here's a suggestion: Deploy the anti-aircraft batteries in Wana in South Waziristan and Miramshah in North Waziristan. The vast majority of the U.S. strikes take place in these towns. This happens for good reason: the Haqqani family and Taliban forces under Baitullah Mehsud, Mullah Nazir, Hafiz Gul Bahadar, and a host of other minor Taliban leaders and their al Qaeda allies openly operate in these areas.
While the Pakistani Army is at it, try deploying ground forces along with the air defense units and take down these networks. If they really want the airstrikes to stop, that is the best solution.

Given that we don't even admit to flying the UAVs over there, what would we say if they did accidentally knock one down?

By: Brant

Bad News in US Army Future?

Andrew Krepinevich - a really smart guy on defense - has recently released a report that is critical of the near-term future of the US Army:
Krepinevich's report is titled "An Army at the Crossroads." But a more appropriate title would have been an "Army in Crisis." In the report he writes: "[The Army] risks a catastrophic leadership failure of a kind not seen since the late stages of the Vietnam War, a failure that took the Army over a decade to repair."
His central message is alarming: the quality of the Army's soldiers is in sharp decline, from enlisted personnel to NCOs to officers. It's a "particularly discouraging" trend for the Army as it is happening despite the service's "increasingly aggressive" use of financial incentives including bonuses and a salary increase of 33 percent between 1999 and 2005.
The Army has lowered standards to fill recruitment quotas, including weight and body fat restrictions, number of high school graduates and is allowing in more recruits with moral waivers. Krepinevich sees troubling signs of a repeat of the Vietnam era "shake-and-bake" sergeants, with the widespread promotion of inexperienced enlisted soldiers ill suited to the challenge of leading small units in combat.
The officer corps is also dropping in quality. Of the nearly 1,000 cadets from the West Point class of 2002, 58 percent are no longer on active duty. The Army is forced to pull soldiers from the ranks who have not graduated college and send them to OCS. Today, over 98 percent of eligible captains are promoted to major. The number of involuntary "stop loss" extensions has increased, by 43 percent between 2007 and 2008. Nearly half of those affected are NCOs.

By: Brant

China pooh-poohs the coming cyberwar

After the recent spate of attacks on US networks, the DoD released a statement that the Chinese are discounting. What? You expected them to fess up or something?:
China has denounced a U.S. congressional panel that issued a report accusing it of stepping up computer espionage attacks on the American government, its defense contractors and businesses.
The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a congressional advisory panel, also said in an annual report to lawmakers that aggressive Chinese space programs were allowing Beijing to better target U.S. military forces.
In a statement issued late Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang rejected the findings, dismissing them as 'not worthy of rebuttal.'
The commission 'deliberately slanders and attacks China' and always sees it in a bad light, Qin said. 'It attempts to mislead public opinion and the general public as well as set obstacles for Sino-U.S. cooperation in extensive fields.'

Great coverage of the computer virus/worm attack this week over at Danger Room:
Military USB Ban Meant to Stop 'Adversary Attacks' | Danger Room from Wired.com
Under Worm Assault, Military Bans Disks, USB Drives | Danger Room from Wired.com


By: Brant

Hey! We're sending the Navy to Georgia!

No, this time we're talking about the other Georgia, and the US Navy making a 'scheduled' visit:
The American embassy in Georgia says a U.S. Navy destroyer is making a routine visit to the country's port of Batumi.
The USS Barry is the latest U.S. warship to visit the Caucasus country since its August war with Russia.
An embassy spokesman says the ship is part of U.S. Navy's 6th Fleet based in Naples, Italy, and arrived Saturday at the Black Sea port. The official spoke on customary condition of anonymity.
He says the ship is not carrying humanitarian or military aid, and he dismissed speculation that the visit was timed to coincide with next week's arrival of Russian warships in Venezuela.

View Larger Map

By: Brant

20 November 2008

Paying off the Somalis...

So apparently piracy is turning out to be a potentially lucrative career move:
Somali pirates released two hijacked ships after ransoms were paid, U.S. military officials said Thursday. The deals emerged as Britain warned that paying for the release of hostages risks encouraging more piracy.
NBC News reported that the Great Creation, a Hong Kong-flagged chemical tanker seized on Sept. 18, was released after a $1.67 million ransom was paid. The Genius, another Hong Kong-flagged chemical tanker which was hijacked Sept. 26, was also returned in exchange for an unknown sum.
Earlier this week, pirates released the Stolt Valor, a Japanese chemical tanker after paying hijackers $2.5 million.

You comments below!

By: Brant

Iran's Navy Beefing up Bases

Iran's navy adds another base along the Persian Gulf:
The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has upgraded a naval base on Iran's Persian Gulf coastline to improve its defensive capabilities.
It is the fourth in a string of IRGC bases along the waterway. IRGC was put in charge of defending Iran's Persian Gulf coast in September.
The new base is in the port of Assalouyeh in Iran's southern Bushehr province. It will control a 190-mile (300-kilometer) stretch of coastline west of the strait between Kish Island and the port of Dayyer.
IRGC's Navy Commander Rear Admiral Morteza Saffari said here on Monday that the US Navy Fifth Fleet and other foreign naval forces were operating near the Sarrallah naval base, which he said was near Assalouyeh on the Persian Gulf coast.
'Therefore, it was necessary to upgrade Sarrallah naval base ... to increase our military capability in case of any instability caused by foreigners in the Persian Gulf,' Saffari.
The US Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, over the Persian Gulf from Iran.

View Larger Map

By: Brant

US Logistics Planner Happen to Notice Route Leads Through Danger Zones

So, after the US had a truckload of HMMWV's stolen, they've decided that it's time to find a new route to move land traffic into Afghanistan:
A rise in Taliban attacks along the length of a vital NATO supply route that runs through this border town in the shadow of the Khyber Pass has U.S. officials seeking alternatives, including the prospect of beginning deliveries by a tortuous overland journey from Europe.
Supplying troops in landlocked Afghanistan has long been the Achilles' heel of foreign armies here, most recently the Soviets, whose forces were nearly crippled by Islamist insurgent attacks on vulnerable supply lines.
About 75 percent of NATO and U.S. supplies bound for Afghanistan -- including gas, food and military equipment -- are transported over land through Pakistan. The journey begins in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi and continues north through Pakistan's volatile North-West Frontier Province and tribal areas before supplies arrive at the Afghan border. The convoys then press forward along mountain hairpin turns through areas of Afghanistan that are known as havens for insurgents.

Ya think?!

By: Brant>

Georgia wants to be invaded

We noted before that the DoD had chosen to leave AFRICOM in Stuttgart, until some Congresscritter intervened. Well, guess what...

Georgia's Congressional delegation is at it again:
Georgia politicians are lobbying to bring the U.S. military’s new Africa command center here, a move endorsed by Andrew Young, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
In an Oct. 30 letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson and other elected officials pitched Georgia as an attractive location for AFRICOM, now located in Stuttgart, Germany.
Specifically, the leaders suggested Forts McPherson and Gillem and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, all in metro Atlanta.

Because Atlanta is soooooo much closer to Africa than, say, anywhere in Europe.

By: Brant

The arms race in the MidEast is heating up

The Weekly Standard has an interesting article about the missile race in the Middle East and southern Eurasia:
Russia's plan for the new Iskander theater ballistic missile doesn't stop with their proposed Kaliningrad deployment. Aviation Week reports that once domestic requirements are met, Russia may export the weapon to Syria, India, and the UAE -- to start. Algeria, Belarus, Kuwait, and Vietnam have also expressed interest in the SCUD replacement, though Russia claims to be working on an 'Echo' variant of the rocket for export that reduces the Iskander's range from 400km to appx. 280km.
Russia's export of its latest and hottest weapon system isn't exactly news -- they've been supplying the world with military hardware for decades. What is interesting is the potential for another East v. West technological showdown in the Israeli-Syria theater. Israel is currently deploying a robust rocket and missile shield that is designed to knock out everything from short range Hezbollah rocket attacks all the way up to an Iranian Shahab-III ballistic missile laydown. That shield will include top-of-the-line American missile defense systems such as the Patriot PAC-3, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), and a highly-sensitive new x-band radar, as well as Israeli weapon systems like David's Sling and Iron Dome.

Guess What? Another Hijacking!

Somali pirates now have a Greek merchant tanker:
Somali pirates have seized another ship, a Greek bulk carrier, despite a large international naval presence in the waters off their lawless country, a regional maritime group said on Wednesday.
The vessel was the second they have taken since the weekend's spectacular capture of a Saudi supertanker carrying $100 million of oil that was the largest hijack in history.
It was the latest attack in a wave of Somali piracy this year that has driven up insurance costs, made some shipping companies change their routes and prompted an unprecedented military response from NATO, the European Union and others.
'The pirates are sending out a message to the world that we can do what we want, we can think the unthinkable, do the unexpected',' Andrew Mwangura, coordinator of the East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme, told Reuters in Mombasa.
His group said the Greek ship was taken on Tuesday in the Gulf of Aden with between 23 and 25 crew on board. This followed the hijacking of a Hong Kong-flagged ship carrying grain and bound for Iran.

No word what's on the tanker, but since the Somalis already have 30+ tanks, a tanker of fuel, a boatload of wheat, maybe they've got irrigation pipes, or a disassembled hospital, or a load of toxic Chinese toys.

By: Brant

EU finally steps up to anti-piracy mission

The European Union is finally bothering to sanction a mission off the coast of Somalia:
The European Union's anti-piracy operation off the coast of Somalia - its first-ever naval mission - will begin on December 8, France's defence minister said on Wednesday.
Five or six warships will begin patrolling the pirate-infested waters of the Gulf of Aden from that date, said Herve Morin, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency.
The EU's operation dubbed EUNAVOR will include contributions from several countries including France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands and Spain, with Portugal, Sweden and non-EU nation Norway also likely to take part.

By: Brant

File Under: "Not Likely"

So now the US auto industry is trying to claim that their continued existence is vital to national defense:
In an increasingly anxious campaign for a $25 billion government rescue, Detroit's Big Three car makers and their allies in Washington are warning the demise of the auto industry will damage U.S. national security.
That argument is a hard sell.
General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC long ago exited the defense business. While many of their suppliers also make the parts used on military vehicles and would be hit by the wave if one of the Big Three collapsed, defense experts see little immediate risk to the armed forces beyond paying higher prices.
'It's a stretch, quite frankly,' said retired Army Lt. Gen. John Caldwell, chairman of the National Defense Industrial Association's combat vehicles division. 'I think they're grasping at straws.'


By: Brant

Tug of War over the F-22

The USAF and Congress are arguing over the procurement of the F22:
The Pentagon's chief weapons buyer on Wednesday defended as a 'prudent approach' his decision to initially provide less money than Congress mandated for Lockheed Martin Corp.'s F-22 fighter jet program until the next administration can assess its aircraft needs.
The Pentagon last week approved the $50 million in 'bridge funding' for the stealth fighter jet until President-elect Barack Obama's administration has time to make a decision on the future of the F-22 program in January. The extra funding will purchase parts for four F-22s beyond the 183 planes under contract.
But some lawmakers, including Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, said the Pentagon's latest move does not comply with the defense authorization bill passed by Congress earlier this year that included $140 million for advanced materials to keep production lines running.
'It is inappropriate to spend an additional $90 million of advance procurement for 16 aircraft that the nation may not purchase, particularly when that decision can be deferred at limited cost and risk,' John Young, the Pentagon's acquisition chief, said in testimony prepared for the House Armed Services' air and land forces subcommittee.

And the arguing continues:
It’s not often anyone on the House Armed Services Committee invokes the constitution and the rule of law, but today’s hearing on the F-22 featured repeated mentions of the founding document by frustrated lawmakers who knew the Pentagon had outflanked them on the controversial program.
“You are acting in defiance of the law and the will of Congress,” Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) hurled at John Young, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.
“The defense bill is the defense bill and you will obey what it says — period,” a moderately unhappy Rep. Neil Abercrombie, chairman of the House Armed Services airland subcommittee, told Young.
Abercrombie and members of both parties made it very clear to Young that they thought the Pentagon had flouted both the spirit and the intent of the law, which directed that $140 million be spent on advanced procurement. The money would make it possible to fund an additional 20 F-22s and, perhaps more importantly, to keep the production lines open.

So basically, Congress is building F22s as a jobs program, even though the USAF doesn't want them. And when the DoD tries to find better uses for the money, Congress chastises them.

By: Brant

Leave No Man Behind

The US military tries not to leave anyone behind. Even the remains of a man listed as missing over 50 years ago:
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the Korean War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
He is Cpl. Librado Luna, U.S. Army, of Taylor, Texas. He will be buried on Nov. 25 in Taylor.
Representatives from the Army's Mortuary Office met with Luna’s next-of-kin to explain the recovery and identification process, and to coordinate interment with military honors on behalf of the Secretary of the Army.
In late November 1950, Luna was assigned to the 8th Army Ranger Company, 25th Infantry Division, then attached to B Company, 89th Medium Tank Battalion as part of Task Force Dolvin. The 8th Army Ranger Company was deployed on Hill 205 in Kujang County along the leading edge of the U.S. position. On November 25, the Chinese Army struck in force in what would become known as the Battle of the Ch’ongch’on River. Task Force Dolvin, including the 8th Army Ranger Company, was forced to withdraw to the south. Of the 91 men from B Company, 89th Medium Tank Battalion and the 8th Army Ranger Company, only 22 made it to safety. Ten men, including Luna, went missing on November 26 near Hill 205.
In 1998, a joint U.S.-Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea (D.P.R.K.) team, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), excavated a burial site in Kujang County where a girl had uncovered possible American remains on a hill near her school. The site correlates with the area where members of the 8th Army Ranger Company fought as part of Task Force Dolvin. The team recovered human remains and non-biological material evidence.

By: Brant

19 November 2008

Somali Pirates collecting ships like toys

So now those enterprising pirate guys have hijacked a grain ship:
A Hong Kong cargo ship loaded with wheat bound for Iran has been hijacked by pirates in the Gulf of Aden, the official Xinhua agency said on Tuesday citing China's maritime search and rescue centre.
There were 25 crew members on board, none of them from Hong Kong or the Chinese mainland. The ship was carrying 36,000 tonnes of wheat to Iran's Bandar Abbas port, the report said.

So lesseee... a battalion of tanks and small arms... a supertanker of oil to fuel them... enough wheat to feed a most of Somalia for a week or so... and who knows what else.
You gotta believe it's just a matter of time before someone goes in 'heavy' and starts shooting the crap out of these priate villages.

By: Brant

India fires a shot in anger - and not at the Pakistanis

India is doing their part to patrol the shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden:
An Indian navy warship has destroyed a suspected Somali pirate vessel after it came under attack in the Gulf of Aden.
The INS Tabar sank the pirate 'mother ship' after it failed to stop for investigation and opened fire instead, an Indian navy statement said.

The INS Tabar is a Talwar-class frigate. Talwar, meaning "sword."
More on the ships at GlobalSecurity.org ->

Not usually known for their power projection, the Indians are contributing to the counter-pirate operations off of Somalia. Is this presaging a wider array of naval deployments?

By: Brant

18 November 2008

Somali Pirates Aim Big

So now the Somali pirates have a monster-sized supertanker.

Somali pirates have nabbed their biggest prize yet -- a Saudi-owned supertanker, about as big as an aircraft carrier. The ocean-going hijackers managed to pull off this latest assault, on the Sirius Star, despite a swarm of international warships now working to ward off such strikes.

Two observations...
First, anyone else thinking of The Devil's Alternative from Frederick Forsyth? Y'know, when the Ukranian nationalists hijack a supertanker off of the Netherlands?
Second, who else out there votes that we sic Ffolkes on them? ->

By: Brant

17 November 2008

GWOT, Medals, Screaming, and how well you can count... all in one post!

Standard-issue BlackFive screaming about the "global war on terror" tries to beat up the media for treating Iraq and Afghanistan separately:
How many 'wars' are we actually fighting, people? One? Two? A half-dozen?
WE ARE FIGHTING ONE WAR. ONE. The Global War On Terror. But we are fighting it IN TWO THEATERS.
Their caps, not mine... told you they were screaming.

Of course, this discussion is hardly new. A certain, um, 'Anonymous' writer (wink, wink; nudge, nudge) over at StrategyPage.com talked about this very subject back in 2004:
1. The precedent for expeditionary medals in the Army is murky, but still seems to lean against this. The soldiers that stormed the beaches of Normandy in June, 1944 certainly had a more difficult mission than those welcomed, in August 1944, by the local French authorities during Operation Dragoon in southern France. Yet both groups of soldiers were awarded the Allied Expeditionary Force medal for Europe. Ditto the soldiers that stormed the Philippines and those that fought overland in India and Burma.
2. Politically, the decision may come back to haunt the administration, who have insisted that the two missions were part of an overarching "Global War on Terror" (GWOT). By attempting to tie Iraq and Afghanistan together, the administration clings to the hope that the American people will see the liberation of Iraq as somehow relevant to the retaliation the public sought for 9-11. By approving two different medals, the administration would be recognizing publicly that they are different missions and should be treated as two different operations, instead of an overarching "Global War on Terror."
3. One of the reasons that the Army is pushing for two different medals is that the troops themselves have asked for some sort of differentiation between the two missions. The soldiers see the missions as completely different, and do not want them lumped into one big 'campaign.' This is especially true for National Guard soldiers. Active duty soldiers accumulate medals for waking up in the right bed, but National Guard soldiers have far fewer medal opportunities, and the awards tend to mean more to them. Also, National Guard soldiers have to go home and explain to their civilian buddies what their medals are for, and how they were earned.
4. Complicating the "two medal" course of action is this: soldiers participating in the GWOT in the Philippines, or Djibouti, or Europe, could be left out in the cold if the medals are authorized specifically for Afghanistan and Iraq. Although soldiers in Central Asia (Uzbekistan, etc) would probably get rolled up in the Afghanistan medal, soldiers in Europe are supporting everything. And some soldiers are supporting from Europe, while others are just stationed there because that's where their unit is. And as Islamic terrorists start to surface in the Balkans, soldiers on UN/NATO missions there could conceivably tie themselves into the GWOT.

What says y'all?
(poll follows)

By: Brant

Japan's Air Force having more trouble....

Because Japan's Air Force doesn't have enough trouble...

They've now sacked the head of one of their schools for sexual harassment:
The head of an Air Self-Defense Force academy of Japan was sacked in September over allegations of sexual harassment against one of his female deputies, Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Friday.
The scandal involving ASDF Maj. Gen. Kesayoshi Miyashita, 55, surfaced at a time when the Defense Ministry has recently come under fire over the release of a controversial essay on Japan's role in World War II by dismissed ASDF Chief of Staff Gen. Toshio Tamogami.

By: Brant

India Test-Fires New Missile

India's launched a test missile:
India successfully test-fired a medium-range, surface-to-surface missile on Wednesday, the defense ministry said.
The new Valor missile has a range of 375 miles, the ministry said in a statement that hailed the technology as 'state of the art.'
India and longtime rival Pakistan routinely test-fire missiles. They usually notify each other ahead of missile launches in keeping with an agreement between them.

By: Brant

16 November 2008

Withdrawal Date Set for Iraq

Here's the news you've all been waiting for... There's a deadline set for US withdrawal from Iraq, disguised as a status-of-forces agreement:
Iraq's cabinet approved a pact on Sunday that will allow U.S. forces to remain in the country until 2011, bringing an end to nearly a year of intense negotiations.
The pact must still be approved by the Iraqi parliament, but Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said he expects that to happen before the end of the month.
The pact, which will govern the presence of U.S. forces beyond the end of this year, is now officially called an agreement on the withdrawal of U.S. troops, a sign of how Iraq's government has grown more confident over months of talks.

By: Brant

Brits Perforate Piss-Poor Pirates

The Royal Navy is making their presence felt off the coast of Somalia already, as 2 Somali pirates were shot and killed by the Brits.
The Ministry of Defence revealed that a small vessel, suspected of being involved in an attempted hijacking of a Danish cargo ship, was intercepted in the Gulf of Aden.
Crews launched from the HMS Cumberland exchanged fire with the boat, which was believed to be Yemeni, before they boarded the craft.
"Two foreign nationals, believed to be Somali pirates, were shot and killed in self-defence," an MoD spokesman said.
"A Yemeni national was also found injured and later died, despite receiving emergency treatment from the ship's doctor.
"It is unclear whether his injuries were as a result of the fire fight or a previous incident involving the pirates."
The fatal shootings are reportedly the first taken at sea by the Royal Navy since the Falklands war.

A couple of Somali pirates have ceased contributing to the harassment of the shipping lane:
British commandos killed two suspected pirates who tried to seize a Danish ship in the Gulf of Aden during an unprecedented operation involving a Royal Navy and a Russian warship, it was revealed yesterday.
The suspected pirates were shot after the Royal Marine commandos, in rigid inflatable boats launched from the frigate HMS Cumberland, were fired at from a Yemeni flagged dhow, the Ministry of Defence said.
The Cumberland had been conducting routine Nato security operations in the Gulf of Aden, the MoD said, when a number of its crew boarded the dhow, which was towing a skiff.
The British crew 'had reason to believe' the dhow had been involved in an armed attack on the Danish-registered vessel, the MV Powerful, earlier on Tuesday, the day of the gunfight. 'Various non-forcible methods had been used in an attempt to stop the dhow but they were unsuccessful,' the MoD said.

There is also an update on the MV Faina:
US warships from the 5th Fleet are still surrounding the MV Faina, a Ukrainian ship captured off Somalia by pirates demanding a $5m ransom on September 25. The ship was reportedly transporting 33 T-72 tanks as well as other arms to Kenya. The crew - 17 Ukrainian nationals, two Russians and one Lithuanian - yesterday managed to send an email to a journal in Kiev saying they were running out of fuel, water and food. "The last warning of the soldiers [pirates] is that if the ransom demands are not satisfied the cargo and crew will be destroyed," wrote the captives.

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By: Brant

UN Reinforcements to the Congo? Will it Matter?

Reports from the UN indicate that the mission to the Congo is asking for more troops, and we're guessing that Spanish generals need not apply:
The UN Security Council must agree quickly to send extra peacekeeping troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as the humanitarian crisis hits the 'absolute extreme,' the US envoy to Africa warned Thursday.
Jendayi Frazer, the assistant secretary of state for African Affairs, said she was hopeful that resistance within the council to sending more troops could be overcome now that Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was fully behind it.
'The crisis among the civilian population is at the absolute extreme and that's why we think the Security Council needs to take quick action to get an additional two battalions of forces,' she told AFP.
'I'm hoping within a week or two that there can be a decision of the Security Council,' said Frazer who is back in Washington following intensive weeks of diplomacy in the DRC and neighboring countries.
But she added it could take several more weeks before the extra forces could be deployed in the war-ravaged eastern part of the country where 250,000 people have reportedly been displaced by recent fighting.
She said Pakistan, Bangladesh, Latin America and Africa might help provide the 3,000 extra troops needed to protect civilians and ensure relief groups gain access to them.

By: Brant

15 November 2008

We already beat 'em once...

The Russians, apparently not blind to the successes of the US military, are attempting to bring their force forward from the 19th century into the modern era as the US responds with an arched eyebrow and little more:
As they tracked Russian military maneuvers in recent days, the American government's career Kremlin-watchers might have been forgiven for wondering if they were seeing recycled newsreels from the worst of the bad old days.
A huge exercise, called Stability 2008, spread tens of thousands of troops, thousands of vehicles and scores of combat aircraft across nearly all 11 time zones of Russian territory in the largest war game since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
There was no specified enemy, but the Russian forces appeared to be enacting a nationwide effort to quell unrest along Russia's southern border — and to repulse an American-led attack by NATO forces, according to experts in Moscow and here.
In a grim finale, commanders launched three intercontinental ballistic missiles, the type that can carry multiple nuclear warheads. It was a clear signal of the drastic endgame the Kremlin might consider should its conventional forces not hold. One of the missiles flew more than 7,100 miles, allowing Russian officials to claim they had set a distance record.

Apparently the exercise included 'newscasts' of the events as though they were real, as well

By: Brant

Deconstructing a curmudgeon

Many military readers are familiar with Ralph Peters. A forward-looking theorist who has the street cred of time spent in uniform, Peters writes both fiction and non-fiction, and is widely read in the defense establishment. But that doesn't mean he's on target. Armchair Generalist recently peeled apart a Peters column and the results weren't the prettiest:
Ralph Peters is an amusing commentator. When he writes in the New York Post, he really lets loose with his fiery opinion. When he writes in the USA Today, he dials it back. And so now we have this slightly flammable piece where he opines on President-elect Barack Obama's foreign policy positions and how fast Obama will have to backtrack on them.

What follows is the excerpted Peters column, with Armchair Generalist's comments in brackets

The president-elect has pledged prompt troop withdrawals, and his base expects him to act. But he won't want to be seen as the "man who lost Iraq" [no, that would be GW Bush] and who reversed al-Qaeda's strategic catastrophe. Obama is fortunate that the improved security situation will, indeed, allow substantial withdrawals. Even so, troops in significant numbers will need to remain for years [years as in two] to guarantee gains.
Even if President Obama ordered an immediate, total withdrawal [which he hasn't suggested], dismantling our effort and moving out of Iraq would be a huge logistical undertaking: It will take years to dismantle what it took years to build up [actually, we could do it under a year and give the rest to Iraq]. And our actions must be calculated to guarantee the gains made at such great cost [which was levied by Bush].
During his presidential campaign, Obama made ambitious claims about this region, vowing to capture Osama bin Laden [and that was bad?]. Should the arch-terrorist be killed or captured, it will result from an intelligence break, not a campaign promise [it sure won't be as a result of Bush's priorities]. Obama also has vowed to do a better job at winning in Afghanistan than President Bush has [again, not a high hurdle]. But Afghanistan presents even deeper problems than did Iraq: It will take a generational commitment to ameliorate them, and they'll never be fully solved [especially not at 1/5th the funding of Iraqi operations]. You don't win in Afghanistan — you just make sure your enemies don't win, either [more air strikes!]. Although engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan remains essential, the key is to have realistic expectations of what can be achieved [that's assuming that one has a realistic strategy from which to build objectives].

By: Brant

Recon chopper contract back in the air?

It looks like the Army is going to re-open the bidding for the cancelled ARH project. Will Bell compete, or will they stay away after their last fiasco?:

After OSD told the Army to axe the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter Program last month due to cost overruns and schedule delays, Army operations director Lt. Gen. James Thurman was quick to say that the ARH remains a “critical requirement.”
Now there’s proof the Army really wants a new recon bird. It has issued a “sources sought” notice to industry for a re-competition to build up to 512 new helicopters. The Army wants it quickly too; responses must be in by Dec. 4.
The Army cancelled its contract, potentially valued at $6 billion, with Bell-Textron which was building a militarized version of its civilian 407 helicopter to replace the ageing OH-58D Kiowa Warrior. The Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, John Young, said at the time of the cancellation that, “there is at least one alternative” equal to the Bell offering and at less cost. Speculation suggested that was the Boeing AH-6 Little Bird.

By: Brant

"Kaliningrad"? Where the hell is Kaliningrad?

In another back-to-the-Cold-War moment, the US and Russia are still arguing over missiles and interceptors:
The Bush administration Thursday dismissed as not credible a Russian offer to forego deployment of missiles near Poland, if the United States drops its European missile defense plan. But U.S. officials said they still want dialogue with Moscow on a looming missile threat from Iran. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
Officials here said the Russian proposal to nullify missile deployments on both sides is not a serious approach to the issue, but they said they remain interested in talks with Moscow to ease Russian concerns about missile defense.
Russia has opposed, as a threat to its strategic deterrence, a U.S. plan for a central European missile defense system to counter an anticipated threat from Iran.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has threatened to respond by putting short-range missiles in Russia's Kaliningrad enclave bordering Poland, where U.S. interceptor missiles are to be based.

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Track these articles...

GrogNews: Put on a Bulletproof Vest... So I Can Fire Bullets at You!
GrogNews: Welcome to the Jungle
GrogNews: Updating Missile Defense Treaties
GrogNews: Ballistic Missile Test Fire More or Less Aggressive Than Missile Defense Shield
GrogNews: US-Japan Future Defense Planing
GrogNews: US Missile Shields Proliferating

By: Brant

US Army Pins 4th Star on First Female

The US Army's logisticians are now looking up their food chain at a woman:

The U.S. military now has its first female four-star general.
Army Gen. Ann Dunwoody was promoted today to head the Army Materiel Command at Fort Belvoir, Va.
'I hope I continue to serve as a role model, not just for the women, but men in our military,' she tells reporters at the Pentagon. 'I think the Army has prepared me well for this assignment, both professionally and through assignments.'

By: Brant

Is part of the "change we need" a reduction in downrange contractors?

Given the President-Elect's desire to break with all-things-Bush, it's no surprise that there are reports that the use on contractors may be rolled back downrange:
The Obama administration should move away from using private contractors in active battle areas in Iraq and Afghanistan and dramatically step up oversight, a Washington think tank urged on Friday.
The U.S. military has long used private contractors in fighting its wars, but Washington's reliance on non-uniformed civilians has sharply increased over the past five years, the New America Foundation said in a new report.
It said the ratio of military personnel to private contractors is now around one to one, and some experts believed there are more contractors than troops in Iraq, compared to 50 to one during the 1991 Gulf War, according to the report.
Experts say the number of contractors could rise further in coming years as the U.S. military reduces its presence in Iraq, and most agree that better oversight is long overdue.

By: Brant

UK to Iceland: "Sod Off!"

The UK is pulling out of a NATO mission to patrol Iceland's airspace:
Britain, embroiled in a diplomatic row with Iceland over the financial crisis, has suspended plans to send warplanes next month to patrol its NATO ally's skies, the Defence Ministry said on Friday.
NATO members, including Britain, France and the United States agreed to resume regular patrols of Iceland's airspace earlier this year following an increase in Russian military activity in the North Atlantic.
'Air policing for Iceland is a NATO task. The deployment, which was generated by NATO, was scheduled to be met by the U.K. for December. However, following consultations in NATO, and in agreement with Iceland, the deployment will not take place in December,' a Defence Ministry statement said,
The decision was taken after talks with the U.S.-led alliance and Iceland, although a ministry spokesman denied the move was linked to the banking crisis.
Britain and Iceland have been at loggerheads since the Reykjavik government was forced to take over three big banks last month as the economic turmoil battered its financial system and currency.
Britain prompted outrage in Iceland by using anti-terrorist legislation to seize the UK assets of Landsbanki, a bank that attracted many British customers with high-interest Internet savings accounts.

Yeah, there's no retaliation here. Nope. This is not the diplomatic crisis you're looking for. Move along.

By: Brant

14 November 2008

Israel going back in Gaza?

If Hamas doesn't stop launching rockets, Israel may go into Gaza after the launchers:
Hamas rockets slammed into the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon on Friday, a continuation of the rocket and mortar fire that restarted ten days ago.
Israel has closed the border in retaliation, preventing shipments of food and supplies into Gaza. And an official said Israel may send the military deep inside the Gaza Strip if Hamas rocket fire on its southern communities does not stop.
A six-month Israeli-Hamas ceasefire, which started in June, is due to expire in December, but there are signs that it could end sooner.

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By: Brant

13 November 2008

In the "Tell Us How You Really Feel" Department...

In the "Tell Us How You Really Feel" department, our pal Vlad of The Soviet Uni... Russia apparently wanted to hang the President of Georgia "by the balls."

Fortunately for Mr. Saakashvili the French intervened.

More can be found at the Times Online.

By: GladiusMagnus

US DoD launched official online video site

With so many troops deployed overseas with cameras, and so much action going on in wartime, it was no surprise that a lot of soldiers were shooting and sharing video. The DoD wasn't fond of YouTube, however, and has nowlaunched their own equivalent - and official - video sharing site:
Soldiers in the United States military received a welcome surprise on Tuesday as the nation celebrated Veteran's Day. Delve Networks, based in Seattle, along with Houston-based Marion Montgomery, a marketing and design firm, teamed to launch TroopTube, a video-sharing Web site developed solely for members of the military and their families.
Access to TroopTube is a way for the military and their families to share videos after the Department of Defense blocked access to several popular Web sites, such as MySpace and YouTube. In February 2007, the DOD released memos that said the Pentagon would block access to such sites for security reasons and the amount of bandwidth required to access the sites. The Pentagon began blocking access just a few months later.

"TroopTube has been made available as the officially sanctioned alternative," Castro said. "Basically, anything you can do on YouTube, you can do on TroopTube." The Web site has been in beta testing for a few weeks, according to Castro, and will not cost the troops anything, since it is a service provided by the federal government.

The Web site, www.trooptube.tv, is designed for easy navigation so users can upload videos and share video messages with each other in a private or shared setting.

By: Brant

Taliban TOC gets panty-raided

Coalition forces raided a Taliban complex and found a wealth of operational material"
The documents, discovered in a tunnel complex in the Bajaur tribal agency, contain precise, coded maps of the nearby territory pointing out weapons caches and rendezvous points in an area where hundreds have died in fighting in the past three months.
Pakistani commanders said the tunnels in a Taliban stronghold also contained guerrilla training manuals, jihadist propaganda, bomb-making instructions and students' notes, suggesting the insurgents used the battleground near the Afghan border to train fighters.
'They were training people here,' said Colonel Javed Baluch in an interview with the Times. 'This was one of their centres. There were students here taking notes on bomb-making and guerrilla warfare. They were well trained and well organised.'
Britain and America have claimed terrorists including al-Qaeda operatives have found a safe haven in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), where they plan and train for attacks around the world.

By: Brant

12 November 2008

Army LOLs Chat 4 $s

The Army apparently didn't have quite enough digital systems in their inventory, and apparently just absolutely had to have this cool new stuff called 'chat':
The U.S. Army is rolling out collaboration software that will allow soldiers around the world to instant-message and Web-conference with each other, capture and transmit screenshots, and edit documents together, service officials said.
Called Green Force Tracker, the new software has been fielded to 7,500 people across the Army.

Whoah! A whole 7500 people. Goodnessgraciousme! What will the other 567,500 soldiers use? Oh yeah, the same COTS stuff they've been using, huh?

By: Brant

Ukraine leaning NATO's way? Brant's game-based predictions on target?

So the Ukrainians (and Georgians) may be leaning NATO's way, but will NATO return the favor?:
When the presidents and prime ministers of every NATO nation met in Bucharest, Romania, in April, they agreed unanimously that Ukraine and Georgia, two former Soviet republics, would someday, without a doubt, enter the Western alliance.
But in the face of Russian resistance and even some recalcitrance within the alliance, the leaders could not agree to formally invite either Ukraine or Georgia to the ritual of requirements, reforms and deadlines. It was the diplomatic equivalent of proposing marriage without setting the wedding day. And it was a notable rejection of American policy, which had long sought to begin the formalities of the engagement, known in NATO parlance as a Membership Action Plan.
Instead, an ad hoc coalition of longtime NATO members — Germany, France, Italy and Spain — continued to block the desires of Washington and the newer members of Central and Eastern Europe to bring the two countries into the fold.

It's also always fun to point out people who dare question the august majesty that is my prescience!

Of course, given that the French (1808-1813) and Germans (1941-1944) both got their asses kicked up and down the vast expanses of the Ukraine, it's probably no wonder they aren't in a rush to sign up for it's defense from the Red Horde.

By: Brant

Psssst, Hey fella, Wanna buy a US military vehicle? Cheap!

So apparently a convoy transporting US military vehicles was hijacked in Pakistan and the vehicles seem to have disappeared:
Dozens of masked gunmen blocked a mountain pass and hijacked a convoy of trucks carrying military vehicles and other supplies bound for U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, an official said Tuesday.
Attacks are common against supply trucks that use the Khyber Pass in Pakistan's northwest to ferry supplies to U.S. and NATO troops across the border, but Monday's raid was particularly brazen.
Some 60 masked gunmen blocked the route at several points and assaulted the convoy, said Fazal Mahmood, an administration official for the Khyber tribal region.
Pakistani security forces traded fire with the gunmen but were forced to retreat. The militants took the trucks along with the drivers.
Mahmood blamed Pakistani militants from the Taliban movement for the attack.
'We are using all resources to trace and recover the hijacked trucks, some of which were carrying vehicles for the allied forces in Afghanistan,' Mahmood said.
Helicopter gunships were dispatched to assist in the search in the rugged region, where Pakistan's central government has little control and militants have found hideouts.

Yeah, we're not finding them. Not intact, anyways.

We found them:
TALIBAN militants were driving around in captured US army Humvee armoured vehicles in Pakistan's tribal region close to the historic Khyber Pass last night after hijacking more than a dozen supply trucks travelling along the vital land route that supplies coalition forces in Afghanistan.
The capture of the Humvees - these days the symbol of US intervention in Iraq and elsewhere - is a serious embarrassment to US commanders of the coalition forces.
Pakistani reporters in the area said the militants unloaded the Humvees from shipping containers on the backs of the trucks and drove off in them, after decorating them with flags and banners of the banned umbrella organisation Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, which is led by Baitullah Mehsud. Mehsud is closely allied to Osama bin Laden and the Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
The reporters said the hijackings had taken place 'in clear view of (Pakistani) paramilitary personnel' deployed at the nearby Jamrud Fort, who 'did not take any action'.
'All this happened on the international highway (linking Pakistan with Afghanistan) and you can imagine the implications this can have for us,' an official told Pakistan newspaper Dawn.

By: Brant

Russia Not Leaving Georgia to the Georgians

Apparently the Russians are planting roots in what used to be Georgia:
Russia will open military bases in [...] Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in 2009, a source in the Russian Defense Ministry said Friday [7 November 2008].
The source said the ministry plans to open one base in Gudauta, in the west of Abkhazia, and another in Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia.
Georgia attacked South Ossetia on August 7-8 [2008] in an attempt to regain control over the republic, which, along with Abkhazia, split from Georgia in the early 1990s. Russia then launched a military operation to 'force Georgia to peace,' which concluded on August 12 [2008], with Russian forces ending up deep in Georgian territory.blockquote>

By: Brant

India Military Expansion and Build-Up Continues with Israel Treaty

India's military expansion and modernization continues with a deal with Israel:
India is negotiating a deal with Israel to purchase four intelligence and early warning planes at a cost of USD 1.5 billion, a media report said on Monday.
Indian Defence Secretary Vijay Singh [ed: no, not that Vijay Singh] is leading a delegation to Israel this week to discuss the purchase of the planes and missiles from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), daily Ha'aretz reported.
The Indian delegation will also discuss cooperation with Israel on intelligence matters and in the war on terror, sources close to the Israeli defense industries reportedly told the daily.
Earlier, India had bought Phalcon AWACS plane radars from IAI for $1.1 billion, a deal that has been delayed but likely to come through by early 2010.

By: Brant

TF ODIN opening a franchise in Afghanistan

News out of the 'other' from of the War on Terror is that Kandahar is expanding the airfield to accommodate the wealth of aviation assets that accompany TF ODIN:
The Bush administration's plans to increase the U.S. military role in Afghanistan include a $100 million expansion next year of the Kandahar airfield, to accommodate aircraft working for Task Force ODIN, the once-secret Army fighting units that have been successful in Iraq.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to a notice issued Thursday, has set Wednesday as the "tentative" date for putting out the contract to design and build a secure area for the aircraft. It will have facilities, hangars, ramps and taxiways "for up to twenty-six (26) generic Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft with shelters at Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan."
Task Force ODIN -- the acronym derives from "observe, detect, identify and neutralize" -- is named for the chief Norse god of art, culture, war and the dead. The Army put the ODIN concept together last year to tackle the problem of roadside explosions, which had become the main method of attacking military and truck convoys. In September, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told Congress that he wanted to replicate the ODIN units in Afghanistan as soon as possible.

ODIN began with a small, sensor-carrying civilian aircraft, the Beech C-12, and a variety of unmanned surveillance vehicles equipped with night-vision, infrared and full-motion video. The entire team was linked to infantry units and Apache attack helicopters armed with missiles and machine guns.

TF ODIN has previously been hailed for it's outstanding work counter-IED work.
And it's amazing what's floating around out there on the web, too... here's an excerpt from the property book for TF ODIN as of 2007.

By: Brant

UK reinforcements to Afghanistan, or not?

Word out of the UK is that the Britsreally don't want to send more folks to Afghanistan:
The head of the armed forces made it clear yesterday that he would oppose any request from Barack Obama to transfer British troops to Afghanistan from Iraq when they leave Basra next year.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the chief of the defence staff, said that a reduction in the 'operational tempo' was essential for British troops and it was time other NATO countries contributed more to the fight against the insurgency in Afghanistan.
'I have said for a very long time that the British armed forces are stretched. We are doing more than we are structured and resourced to do in the long term. We can do it for a short period, but we can't continue doing it ad infinitum,' Stirrup told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show:
'We have to put ourselves back into balance. It is crucial that we reduce the operational tempo for our armed forces. So it can't be ... just a one-for-one transfer from Iraq to Afghanistan. We have to reduce that tempo.'

I'm sure there are a few Americans who would like a similar approach.

By: Brant

11 November 2008

Somalia Pirates still Out There

A ship from the Philippines was seized near Somalia:
A maritime official says pirates have hijacked a Philippines chemical tanker with 23 crew members near Somalia.
Noel Choong of the International Maritime Bureau says the ship was heading to Asia when it was seized Monday in the Gulf of Aden by pirates armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
The bureau has issued an urgent warning to ships to take extra measures to deter pirates. No further details were immediately available.

Normally such an article wouldn't raise much attention, especially since they've seized 8-10 other boats since the infamous MV Faina. But we couldn't resist, thanks to that last paragraph. "an urgent warning to ships to take extra measures to deter pirates"... duh?! Man, if you hadn't heeded the 487,563,192 other warnings before this one, why would this be the one that sinks in?

Previous articles...
GrogNews: Somali Pirates Make Guest Appearance on Bad 80's Weird Al B-Movie!
GrogNews: India Patrolling Horn of Africa
GrogNews: Where'd the Tanks Come From? Where Were They Headed?
GrogNews: Limeys Headed to Horn of Africa, Pirates Unavailable for Comment
GrogNews: Somali Piracy Climbing By The Numbers
GrogNews: Updates on the MV Faina and the hijacked tanks

By: Brant

Veterans' Day

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

By: Brant

10 November 2008

US economic meltdown apparently not hurting foreign military sales

Even though the US government is anticipating budget cuts and handing out cash to the banking industry, there's enough left to help Israel pick up a few F35 JSFs:
Lockheed Martin Corp, the U.S. maker of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, is lobbying Israel, which has largely weathered the global financial crisis and has ample U.S. defense aid, to close a deal for the jet.
Israel is not a full partner-nation in the production of the F-35, but is among U.S. allies slated to have first pick of the radar-evading, multi-purpose planes early next decade. The F-35 could be a key Israeli bulwark against Iran and other enemies.
U.S. officials have predicted a sale to Israel may be clinched early next year. Funding for the jets, which will cost $40 million a piece, would come mainly from U.S. defense grants to Israel, which will total $30 billion between 2007 and 2017.

We covered this earlier, but the word that the US gov't is underwriting the purchases is new.

By: Brant

Georgia-South Ossetia, Round 2 coming?

Apparently the South Ossetians are feeling their oats, flush with Russian-imported confidence. There's word that militants are crossing the interior cease-fire lines monitored by the EU:
Georgian officials say about 70 militants from the breakaway province of South Ossetia illegally entered a village in Georgia.
Shota Utiashvili, a spokesman for Georgia's Interior Ministry, said Sunday that the armed militants began to enter Perevi, a village of about 1,000 people, on Saturday. It sits on the western border of the breakaway region of South Ossetia.
The European Union's observer mission in Georgia voiced concern about the situation, saying the move could exacerbate tensions in the area.
South Ossetia's separatist leader, Eduard Kokoity, said that part of the village is located in South Ossetia and its forces legitimately entered it, the Interfax news agency reported.
Utiashvili said that the gunmen had not attacked civilians, but some of the village residents fled fearing violence. He said that Georgian authorities have protested the intrusion to the European Union observers who are deployed in Georgia to monitor a French-brokered truce that ended Russia's war with Georgia in August.

By: Brant

Russian Sub Accident: Humans at Fault?

It appears that the Russian nuclear sub accident may have been a human error:
Russian navy veterans and experts say that overcrowding and human error likely contributed to the accident on a brand-new nuclear submarine that killed 20.
The Akula-class attack sub had 208 people on board Saturday — nearly three times its normal crew size of 73 — when the fire-extinguishing system activated for some reason, spewing a toxic gas.
Retired Capt. Alexander Pokrovsky says civilian and navy personnel were on board when the ship was undergoing tests in the Sea of Japan. He wrote in an online commentary that that could have been a factor.

How the sub was still afloat with almost 3 times the authorized crew is beyond me.

By: Brant

We don't ned no steenkin' badges!

It looks like the Bush administration read Thomas P.M. Barnett somewhere along the way. Apparently, they've been taking whacks at AQ whenever and wherever, without regard for borders, for the last 8 years:
Since 2004, the Pentagon has used broad, secret authority to carry out about 12 attacks against al Qaeda and other militants in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere, The New York Times reported on its Web site on Sunday.
Quoting what it said were more than six unnamed military and intelligence officials and senior Bush administration policy makers, the newspaper said the military operations were authorized by a classified order signed by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with the approval of President George W. Bush.
Under the order, the military had new authority to strike the al Qaeda network anywhere in the world and a broader mandate to conduct operations in countries not at war with the United States, according to the Times.
Despite the order, each mission required high-level government approval, the Times reported.
The order identified 15 to 20 countries, including Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states, where Qaeda militants were believed to be operating or to have sought sanctuary, a senior administration official told the newspaper.

By: Brant

09 November 2008

Welcome to the Jungle Part 3

Well, it appears as though President-Elect Obama is settling into his new jungle quarters just fine. Gleeful that Obama had won the election, the kooky Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad decided to send a warm letter of congratulations to Mr. Obama. While Obama was quick to reply to many of the letters sent to him,

On the American side, while Barack Obama responded gracefully and personally to messages of congratulation from other world leaders, he held back from doing so with Mr Ahmadinejad, mindful of the political implications of such a gesture.

He said he would be reviewing the Iranian president's letter and responding appropriately, rather than reacting in a "knee-jerk fashion".

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/us_elections_2008/7718603.stm

Welcome to the jungle, indeed.

By: GladiusMagnus

08 November 2008

Land of the "free"

In an earlier item, we noted that national perception of servicemembers was quite different on either side of the Atlantic Puddle.

Reinforcing that notion are a variety of announcements now being made as America closes in on their Veterans' Day.
Free restaurant meals are available at one chain. Free usage of outdoor recreation can be found elsewhere.
One supermarket in Oregon is offering a long-running discount for military families.
One state has made special license tags available for families of those killed in action.
And military brides can get their bridal gowns for free.
Hard to imagine any of those in the UK.

By: Widow 6-7

07 November 2008

Welcome to the Jungle Part 2

Ah, the refreshing sound of oppressive regimes attempting to lecture the US on foreign policy. It sounds like...the Cold War all over again. At least then the world was rather more black and white. Such polarity does one thing: it crystalizes the senses and clarifies the mind. There's nothing like pulling out a crayon and writing "Ima Badguy" on your nameplate to help a new President get a feel for how the world works.

During the Presidential election Barak Obama was pounded on from all sides about how inexperienced he is and how he many challenges he will face. Fortunately, those challengers thus far have done him the courtesy of making it abundantly clear they have no intention of keeping the best interests of the United States in their objectives.

So we are led to today's episode of Welcome to the Jungle. And who has done us the courtesy of telling us how to behave? None other than those rascally Chinese. And how shall we appease them, they instruct us? No sales of arms to Taiwan.

Huh. With enemies like these at least President-Elect Obama won't have much trouble figuring out who the bad guys are.

By: GladiusMagnus

06 November 2008

In Celebration of Our New President - GO HOME!

Word on the street is that one brigade is leaving Iraq 6 weeks early:
Gen. David H. Petraeus has decided to reduce the number of U.S. combat brigades in Iraq from 15 to 14 about six weeks earlier than planned, as a result of dramatically lower violence there, Pentagon officials said yesterday.
'The hope is they can come home before Christmas,' Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said of the decision.

The plan accelerates the withdrawal from Iraq of a 101st Airborne Division brigade of 3,500 to 4,000 troops that will not be replaced. Another brigade from the 10th Mountain Division that was scheduled to go to Iraq in its place will instead deploy to Afghanistan, as announced earlier this fall.

By: Brant

One Voice For Replacing Secretary Gates (not ours)

Many voices are calling for President-Elect Obama to keep Secretary Gates on the staff through the initial transition between administrations. At least one voice thinks that's a bad idea:
Barack Obama will be getting off on the wrong foot, to put it mildly, if he does what seems likely now: allow Robert Gates to stay on as Secretary of Defense.
For reasons that are unclear to me, many in Obama's inner circle seem to believe that it's important to bring so-called "moderate" Republicans into the president-elect's national security team. That is an awful idea, for two reasons: first, even though many of the names being floated -- such as Gates, Dick Lugar of Indiana, and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska -- come from the traditional wing of the GOP, and they are not neoconservatives, they are almost guaranteed to push for an expansion of the U.S. military budget and a bigger armed forces. And second, by doing so Obama would be conceding many critics' argument that Democrats are somehow not suited to control the national security apparatus.
Gates has reportedly already been working on the transition to an Obama administration, and he certainly hasn't done anything to damp down speculation that he is a candidate for the job under Obama.
His thumbmail bio, for those who've forgotten: Gates spent decades in the CIA as a Soviet specialist, where he consistently inflated the threat from the USSR to justify a U.S. military buildup, especially under President Reagan; he served as a top CIA official under Reagan and Bush I, who nominated him (twice) to be CIA director. The first time, Gates was shot down in the Senate because of his ties to the Iran-contra scandal of the mid-1980s, but the second time was a charm, and he was CIA director from 1991 to 1993.

While we don't take a lot of editorial stances here (edit OK, OK, we do), we do think that keeping Gates around would be a very, very good idea. After all, Secretary Cohen (Clinton administration) didn't really engender any of those thoughts.

By: Brant