30 April 2012

Red Dawn? Or Training Exercise?

Russian troops parachuting into Colorado?!

For the first time in history, Russian and American airborne forces will hold joint drills in the US. The anti-terror exercises scheduled for May 2012 will get off to a flying start with a tactical landing operation and “terrorist” camp raid.
“This is the first time such an event is being held,” Russian Airborne Forces spokesperson Col. Aleksandr Kucherenko stressed, announcing the plan. “The Russian airborne will contribute a special task group that will exercise with US special service weapons.”
The drills were arranged by the Russian Airborne Command and a US military delegation in Moscow last December.
Russian soldiers will receive preparatory training in Colorado’s Fort Carson with the US weaponry and equipment they are to use during the operation. The drills include parachuting, operation planning, reconnaissance, assault operations and evacuations by helicopter.
“According to the exercise scenario, soldiers of the two countries will hold a tactical airborne operation, including reconnaissance of an imaginary terrorists' camp and a raid,” Colonel Kucherenko revealed.
The drills will take place between May 24 and 31. But it’s not all work: on May 27, the Russian paratroopers will get a chance to unwind at a baseball game in Colorado Springs.

By: Brant

UK In Action: The Tower Bridge

The Former First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Alan West (Sept 2002 - Feb 2006), attended a ceremony in the painted hall, where he was presented the New Trafalgar Dispatch by Admiral the Lord Boyce. He then boarded the Jubilant, HMS Victory's cutter, and proceeded down the the Thames to HQS Wellington. During the passage and as the Jubilant came under Tower Bridge, there was a 15 gun salute from HMS Belfast. The dispatch was handed to the Dean of St Paul's Cathedral the Very Reverend Dr John Moses, by the First Sea Lord in the presence of the Princess Royal.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

US Assistance in Africa Searching for Kony

They were actually sent before the video meme took off, but US Special Forces are helping track Joseph Kony around central Africa.

Obo was the first place in the Central African Republic that Kony's Lord's Resistance Army attacked in 2008; today, it's one of four forward operating locations where U.S. special forces have paired up with local troops and Ugandan soldiers to seek out Kony, who is believed likely to be hiding out in the rugged terrain northwest of the town. For seven years he has been wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity after his forces cut a wide and bloody swath across several central African nations with rapes, abductions and killings.
Part of the LRA's success in eluding government forces has been its ability to slip back and forth over the porous borders of the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Congo. But since late last year, U.S. forces have been providing intelligence, looking at patterns of movement, and setting up better communications to link the countries' forces together so that they can better track the guerrilla force.
Sent by President Barack Obama at the end of 2011, the 100 U.S. soldiers are split up about 15 to 30 per base, bringing in American technology and experience to assist local forces.

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By: Brant

Monday Video: US Troops in the War

A faith-filled BANG for your week.

Nominate your own videos for inclusion in the comments below.

By: Brant

28 April 2012

7th ID Coming Back Onto the Rolls

Yes, we know... 7th ID "sorta" exists out at Ft Carson. Suuuuuure... That's why the Army is actually bringing back 7th ID as a real headquarters and back at Ft Lewis, where they moved at Ft Ord closed up shop in the '90s.

Secretary of the Army John McHugh today announced that the Army will establish a new two-star headquarters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), reflecting the installation’s growth over the past nine years, as well as its strategic importance in the new Defense Strategic Guidance.

“This new headquarters will provide command and control for several brigade-size units, many of which have been activated since 2003,” McHugh explained during a news conference at JBLM, near Tacoma, Wash. “Under the leadership of Gen. Ray Odierno, the chief of staff of the Army, and joined by officials from I Corps and U.S. Army Forces Command, the Department of the Army believes this new headquarters will help meet the needs created by the base’s nine years of dynamic growth and its evolving future missions.”

McHugh noted that the new headquarters is an internal reorganization within the Army, and will not require an increase to the Army’s end-strength.

“As the Army’s only power projection installation west of the Rocky Mountains, JBLM has assumed even greater importance in our new Defense Strategic Guidance,” he explained. “The dynamic growth over the past decade, combined with their regional significance in our ability to protect and defend the Pacific region, makes JBLM’s new headquarters important not only to the Army, but also to the nation.”

The new unit will provide oversight for personnel, equipment, training and readiness of three Stryker brigade combat teams, a combat aviation brigade and a fires brigade -- totaling some 17,000 Soldiers. The I Corps commanding general remains the joint base commander at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the new two-star headquarters will report to I Corps. The Joint Base Lewis-McChord Garrison Command will continue its joint-installation functions in support of the new headquarters and other tenant units.

Since 2003, the roles of I Corps and Joint Base Lewis-McChord have evolved in a manner to keep pace with significantly changing war-time roles and missions of the Army, Air Force and the Department of Defense (DoD). Over the past nine years, it has grown by about 15,000 soldiers and 22,000 family members. During that time, it has also seen the rapid establishment of three Stryker brigade combat teams; and a military construction program totaling $1.75 billion.

“This has been one of the fastest growing installations in the Army,” McHugh said. “And we’ve been fortunate that members of Washington State’s Congressional delegation – specifically Sen. Patty Murray, Rep. Adam Smith and Rep. Norm Dicks – have worked with us on behalf of JBLM, its soldiers and families, and I’m grateful for their leadership and support.”

Joint Base Lewis-McChord is the largest in size of the DoD’s 12 joint bases, and is the second largest in population. The new headquarters’ formal activation is scheduled for Oct. 1, 2012, but the unit’s personnel and three general officers will begin arriving early this summer. The new unit will be designated Headquarters, 7th Infantry Division and its commander will be announced at a later date.

By: Brant

27 April 2012

Random Friday Wargaming: FAR 90

Yes, there are are wargames published in foreign languages... and a lot of them in French. FAR 90 was published in Casus Belli magazine and can be a challenge to track down.

There's no CSW forum. There's no entry at Grognards.com. There's an entry at iSimulacrum, but only insofar in that the game exists. Has anyone out there had their hooks in this one? And what did you think?

Personally, I'm curious about the countermix. There's a set of green counters that look like they're a 51st Brigade and a 53rd Brigade. I'm wondering if the green units are Germans, or if they're Americans. It's interesting because in a lot of US training materials, there's a 53rd Armored Brigade as a hypothetical higher headquarters that does not exist anywhere on the rolls, but is used just for training purposes. Did FAR 90 adopt this hypothetical unit? Or is it referring to something completely different?

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

By: Brant

Security Ramping Up In Advance of Bin Laden Anniversary

The US ramping us security - again! - before the anniversary of the hit job on OBL.

While U.S. officials say publicly there is no specific threat of a terror attack, behind the scenes law enforcement officials tell ABC News there are plans for a major security surge at airports and transportation hubs in advance of next week's anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death.
The precautions are based on intelligence reports that al Qaeda is determined to avenge the death of bin Laden, killed by Navy SEALs last May, with a focus on aviation targets.
Of greatest concern to U.S. officials is al Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and its master bombmaker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, who has survived repeated U.S. efforts to kill him.

By: Brant

US Moving 9,000 Marines to Guam

About half of the Marines in Okinawa will move to Guam.

Roughly half the U.S. Marines on Okinawa will be transferred under an agreement announced Thursday that will reduce the military footprint in Japan, easing local resentments over the amount of land being used by American forces.
Some 9,000 Marines along with their family members will be transferred under the agreement, with about 5,000 being sent to Guam as part of a military buildup on the U.S. territory in the Pacific, according to a joint statement released by the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee.
"I am very pleased that, after many years, we have reached this important agreement and plan of action," Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said.
The announcement by the committee, which included the top U.S. and Japanese defense officials, ends years of seesaw talks aimed at cutting the American presence on the island south of Tokyo.
Though no exact timetable was given for transfer of the Marines, preparations are under way at Guam.

And no, we don't expect it to capsize.

By: Brant

26 April 2012

UK In Action: The Droid You're Looking For

33 EOD Engineer Regiment using REDFIRE to locate, collect and later dispose of unexploded ordnance in the Falkland Islands. The Falklands Conflict, 2 April to 14 June 1982, followed the invasion of the Falkland Islands by Argentina on 2 April 1982. It was a unique period in the history of Britain and Argentina and, although war was never formally declared, the brief conflict saw nearly 1,000 lives lost on both sides and many more wounded.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Nork Missiles Just Fakes?

Apparently suffering from missile envy, the Norks are parading around the military equivalent of stuffing a sock in your spandex.

the weapons displayed April 15 appear to be a mishmash of liquid-fuel and solid-fuel components that could never fly together. Undulating casings on the missiles suggest the metal is too thin to withstand flight. Each missile was slightly different from the others, even though all were supposedly the same make. They don't even fit the launchers they were carried on.
"There is no doubt that these missiles were mock-ups," Markus Schiller and Robert Schmucker, of Germany's Schmucker Technologie, wrote in a paper posted recently on the website Armscontrolwonk.com that listed those discrepancies. "It remains unknown if they were designed this way to confuse foreign analysts, or if the designers simply did some sloppy work."
The missiles, called KN-08s, were loaded onto the largest mobile launch vehicles North Korea has ever unveiled. Pyongyang gave them special prominence by presenting them at the end of the parade, which capped weeks of celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the country's founding father, Kim Il Sung.

Ah yes, but it's not just the missiles. Check out the trucks...

Much attention, meanwhile, has been given to the 16-wheel mobile launchers that carried the missiles during the parade, which experts believe may have included a chassis built in China. That raises questions of whether China has violated U.N. sanctions against selling missile-related technology to Pyongyang.
Some missile experts say the launchers were designed to carry a larger missile than the 18-meter-long KN-08, and argue that North Korea would not have spent millions of dollars on them unless it has, or intends to have, a big missile to put on them.
But Wright said the launchers, like the missiles they carried, could also have been more for show than anything else.
"Given the international attention it has gotten from parading these missiles you could argue that the cost of buying the large trucks — which add a lot of credibility to the images of the missiles — was money well spent in terms of projecting an image of power," he said.

By: Brant

25 April 2012

Norks Claim Capability to Strike US

They can't get a rocket over the beach, but they have 'mobile weapons' capable of striking the US

A senior North Korean army official says his country is armed with "powerful mobile weapons" capable of striking America.
Vice Marshal Ri Yong Ho emphasized the importance of defending the North against the U.S. and South Korea as Pyongyang marked the 80th anniversary of the nation's army Wednesday.
He told officials at the April 25 House of Culture that the weapons could defeat the U.S. "at a single blow."
North Korea made another unusual claim Monday, promising "special actions" that would reduce Seoul's government to ashes.

By: Brant


Goodbye, Best Friend

Yeager, an improvised explosive device detection dog, lies in front of a battlefield cross as Staff Sgt. Derick Clark, a kennel supervisor with Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, and 26-year-old native of Hillsdale, Mich., and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael Dale Reeves, a kennel officer in charge with 2nd Bn., 9th Marines and 41-year-old native of Mt. Pleasant, S.C., observe a moment of silence in honor of Lance Cpl. Abraham Tarwoe, a dog handler and mortarman who served with Weapons Company, 2nd Bn., 9th Marines, during a memorial service here, April 22, 2012. Tarwoe, who became Yeager's handler in July 2011, was killed in action during a dismounted patrol in support of combat operations in Helmand province's Marjah district, April 12. Tarwoe's fellow Marines remember him for his contagious laughter and smile, and his unfaltering courage on the battlefield. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez)

By: Brant

Syria's Already Ignoring Cease-Fire

Look, if Kofi Annan - the guy who presided over 2 failed UN missions to the Congo - says you're out of line and that levels of violence in your country are still unacceptable, maybe you should pay some attention. I mean, the guy clearly knows what he's talking about, eh?

The UN special envoy, Kofi Annan, has told the Security Council that Syria is still witnessing unacceptable levels of violence, despite a ceasefire being in place since 12 April.

Briefing diplomats in a closed-door session, Mr Annan said he was alarmed about surges in violence in Syrian cities after visits by UN monitors.

One activist group said 38 people were killed on Tuesday, mostly in Homs.

The UN wants to increase its observers in Syria from a handful to 300.

Mr Annan said the overall situation was "entirely contrary to the will of the international community".

He said he was "particularly alarmed" by reports of government forces firing on protesters in Hama.

"If confirmed, this is totally unacceptable and reprehensible," he said.

He also called for the rapid deployment of the observer mission.

By: Brant

"it’s like I can’t shut the water off — I can just keep mopping the floor, but I can’t turn the water off."

A USMC general is amping up the Vietnam-Afghanistan comparisons.

After years of U.S. officials insisting Afghanistan is not turning into another Vietnam, a two-star U.S. Marine general — just back from a year-long combat tour there — says Afghanistan could well end up resembling the southeast Asian nation.

Major General John Toolan insisted Tuesday that while Afghanistan may not be “highly successful” in the short term, the arc of history requires U.S. and allied efforts there to cauterize the regional instability that threatens Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, That’s not so different, he suggested, from the way the U.S. war in Indochina halted the communists’ deeper push into southeast Asia, and nurtured the economic powerhouses there today.

Toolan is just back from a year in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. Over breakfast Tuesday, among the first words out of his mouth dealt with the lack of cooperation he got from the Pakistan military just across the border.

“Just on the other side on the other side of the Pakistani border they’ve got huge caches of IED-making material, et cetera,” he said. “My problem with [the Afghan border village of] Baramcha — right across Baramcha, in Pakistan, lethal aid is coming in, and drugs are going out. We saw it, we interdicted a lot…but it’s a pittance – it’s a really small percentage – I’m told by DEA that that’s probably less than 12% of the total amount of opium that’s moving across in and out of the border.”

So what’s happening just across that border, in Pakistan?

“The 12th Corps of the Pakistani army is right there and they’re not doing anything,” Toolan said forthrightly. “It’s frustrating.”

He acknowledged that Pakistan is leery of pressing insurgents on its side of the border too much for fear of angering Baluchistan rebels. So what should the U.S. and its allies do?

“I think that’s a question I really can’t answer,” he said. “From my perspective, as a military commander, having to deal with the problem, it’s like I can’t shut the water off — I can just
keep mopping the floor, but I can’t turn the water off.”

See also this article

By: Brant

GameTalk - Winning a Losing Game

Military history is full of great losses, such as Little Big Horn, Beaumont Hamel, and the Raid on St. Nazaire.  What do you think of games where "winning" still occurs within a context of inevitable defeat?  Are the only measures of victory in such games either a) inflict more damage - or b) evade disaster for longer - than in history?  Can you make a compelling game out of US perspective of Pearl Harbor, or the loss of Torpedo 8 at the battle of Midway?  And do such games have limited replayability?

By: Jack Nastyface

US-Philippines Exercises in South China Sea

Despite China's "warning" the Philippines and US are pressing ahead with exercises.

Hundreds of American and Philippine troops waded ashore on Wednesday in a mock assault to retake a small island in energy-rich waters disputed with China, a drill Beijing had said would raise the risk of armed conflict.
The exercises, part of annual U.S.-Philippine war games on the western island of Palawan, coincide with another standoff between Chinese and Philippine vessels near Scarborough Shoal in a different part of the South China Sea.
China has territorial disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan across the South China Sea, each searching for gas and oil while building up their navies and military alliances.
China said last week the drill would raise the risk of confrontation. On Wednesday, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said China was committed to dialogue and diplomacy to resolve the dispute.
"We are certainly worried about the South China Sea issue," Cui told a news briefing in Beijing, saying "some people tried to mix two unrelated things, territorial sovereignty and freedom of navigation".

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By: Brant

Paks Respond to India Missile Test With Own Launch

Yay! Dueling missile-launch arms race!

Pakistan successfully launched an upgraded ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead Wednesday, days after its neighbor and archenemy India conducted its own missile test, the Pakistani military said.
The Hatf IV Shaheen-1A missile was fired into the sea, the military said in a written statement.
It was described as an intermediate-range missile having a longer range than its predecessor, the Shaheen-1, which is believed to fly up to 750 kilometers (465 miles).
"The improved version of Shaheen-1A will further consolidate and strengthen Pakistan's deterrence abilities," said Lt. Gen. Khalid Ahmed Kidwai, who witnessed the launch and is responsible for the country's nuclear program.
Intermediate-range ballistic missiles have a range of 3,000 to 5,000 kilometers (1,865 to 3,110 miles), according to the website GlobalSecurity.org.
If the Shaheen-1A is indeed an intermediate-range missile, it would represent a quantum leap from the previous version. Pakistan's longest range missile before Wednesday's launch was believed to be the Shaheen II, with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles). That is far enough to hit targets anywhere in India.

By: Brant

Anniversary: ANZAC Day

Today marks ANZAC Day among the Commonwealth countries around the world.

Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, originally commemorated by both countries on 25 April every year to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. It now more broadly commemorates all those who died and served in military operations for their countries. Anzac Day is also observed in the Cook Islands, Niue, Pitcairn, and Tonga.

The Australian War Memorial website answers many questions, including...

Why is this day special to Australians?
When war broke out in 1914, Australia had been a federal commonwealth for only 13 years. The new national government was eager to establish its reputation among the nations of the world. In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in order to open the Dardanelles to the allied navies. The ultimate objective was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul in Turkey), the capital of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany.

The Australian and New Zealand forces landed on Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders. What had been planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated, after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. Over 8,000 Australian soldiers had been killed. News of the landing on Gallipoli had made a profound impact on Australians at home, and 25 April soon became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in the war.

Although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives, the Australian and New Zealand actions during the campaign left us all a powerful legacy. The creation of what became known as the “ANZAC legend” became an important part of the identity of both nations, shaping the ways they viewed both their past and their future.

By: Brant

The Lessons We Haven't Learned

There have been a lot of inaccurate comparisons between Afghanistan and Vietnam. The danger is to lump them in with the accurate ones, and dismiss them all.

Guerrillas the world over grasped what had happened in Vietnam. They took its lessons to heart, and even took them a step further. They understood, for instance, that you don't need to lose 58,000 fighters, as the Vietnamese did at Tet, to win important psychological victories. You need only highlight your enemy's vulnerabilities, its helplessness to stop you.

The Haqqanis certainly got it, and so just over a week ago sacrificed 57,961 fewer fighters to make a similar point. Striking a psychological blow while losing only 39 guerrillas, they are distinctly living in the twenty-first century in global war-making terms. On the other hand, whether its top civilian and military commanders realize it or not, the Pentagon is still stuck in Saigon, 1968.

Case in point: Secretary of Defense Panetta belittled the Haqqani fighters for not taking "territory." It's a claim that, in its cluelessness, is positively Westmorelandish.

Let's face it...

More than a decade after its own forces swept into Kabul, however, what began as a rag-tag, remnant insurgency has grown stronger and continues to vex the most heavily armed, most technologically advanced, best-funded military on the planet. All of America's "tactical gains" and captured territory, especially in the Taliban heartland of Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan, however, haven't led to anything close to victory, and one after another its highly publicized light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel offensives, like the much-hyped 2010 Marjah campaign, have faded away and been forgotten.

... we're not accomplishing much.

By: Brant

Congress Authorizing Continued M1 Abrams Purchases, Despite Army Needs

The Army says they don't need them. Congress doesn't care, and is continuing to fund purchases of M1 Abrams tanks beyond what the Army needs.

Despite the U.S. Army’s insistence that its tank fleet is in good shape, congressional support for additional funding for the M1 Abrams tank is growing, with 173 members of the House of Representatives asking Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to sustain tank production in the 2013 budget.

In an April 20 letter, lawmakers from both political parties say the new strategic guidance, which the Pentagon released in January, ignores the combat vehicle industrial base, which “is a unique asset that consists of hundreds of public and private facilities across the United States.”

For the M1 Abrams tank, the most important facility is the General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) production line in Lima, Ohio.

Every House member from the Ohio delegation, with the exception of Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a Democrat, signed the letter.

The Army has told Congress that it would like to finish its Abrams buy in 2014 and then not begin upgrading its current fleet until 2017. Senior Army officials testified this spring that the decision was made to stop buying tanks it doesn’t need and instead to invest in higher priorities, such as aviation and providing a battlefield network.

So our force it too heavy, and it costs too much to train, and tanks have proven less-than-practical in current conflicts. But we're going to keep buying more. Yay, government budget (non)cuts!

By: Brant

24 April 2012

Sound Off! Mass vs Mobility

Is it more important to...

... overwhelm the enemy with superior numbers, and damn the casualty figures?
... deftly maneuver him into submission with minimal loss of life on either side?

Sound off below!

By: Brant

Is Egypt Losing Control of the Sinai?

Netanyahu likens it to the "Wild West".

Egypt's Sinai Peninsula has turned into a "kind of Wild West" exploited by Islamist militants with Iranian help to smuggle in weapons and stage attacks on Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday.
The open desert border between Israel and Egypt was relatively quiet for three decades after they signed a peace treaty in 1979. But the Jewish state says that since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising last year, Cairo has lost its grip on the desolate Sinai and tensions are rising.
Earlier this month, Israel said a rocket fired from the Sinai hit its Red Sea resort of Eilat, causing no injuries. Last August, cross-border infiltrators shot dead eight Israelis and Israeli soldiers repelling the attack accidentally killed five Egyptian guards.
"The Sinai is turning into a kind of Wild West which ... terror groups from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda, with the aid of Iran, are using to smuggle arms, to bring in arms, to mount attacks against Israel," Netanyahu told Israel Radio.
"We are acting against this reality and we are in ... continuous discussions with the Egyptian government, which is also troubled by this," said Netanyahu.
Iran denies supporting militants against its arch-enemy.

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By: Brant

23 April 2012

Pentagon Intel Agency Reboot?

The DIA is starting over after a decade of war.

The Pentagon is rebranding and reorganizing its clandestine spy shop, sending more of its case officers to work alongside CIA officers to gather intelligence in places like China, after a decade of focusing intensely on war zones.

A senior defense official says several hundred case officers will make up the new Defense Clandestine Service.

Defense Department personnel already gather intelligence globally on everything from terrorism to weapons of mass destruction, mostly working out of CIA stations in embassies.

By: Brant

UK In Action: Snow Ops

Royal Marines from Whiskey Company, 45 Commando pictured on an exercise with a BV-206D tracked vehicle in Norway. A .50 cal HMG can be seen mounted on the front cabin of the BV-206D.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Monday Video: Blah Blah Blah in Afghanistan

The guys in Afghanistan having some... uh, "fun" - yeah, that's it - with Ke$ha

Nominate your own videos for inclusion in the comments below.

By: Brant

$16,000,000 of M4s Coming Soon

The Army has ordered 24,000 M4 carbines from Remington. Yes, Remington, and not Colt. The Army Times reports...

It was bound to happen. The Army has been buying M4 carbines exclusively from Colt since 2002 (though the first Colt M4 contract was awarded in 1996). But, as of Friday, Remington Arms has been added to that dance card. The question is whether Colt retained a portion of the contract. It appears they haven’t, but it’s hard to tell from the published documents.

According to the Department of the Army’s Chief of Legislative Liaison, the Army on Friday executed a delivery order on an existing contract to buy 24,000 M4/M4A1s worth $16,163,252.07. The order comes as line 001 on an IDIQ contract for up to 120,000 carbines worth $83,924,089, though U.S. Army Contracting Command lists the “Max Potential Contract Value $180,000,000.00.” The rifles will be made at Remington’s factory in Ilion, N.Y., from the Colt technical data package and should cost about $673 a copy.

This news is just hours old so Remington, and likely Colt, are still spinning up the PR machines. I spoke with two Remington Arms employees who confirmed the contract award but hadn’t been cleared to make a statement on behalf of the company.

By: Brant

22 April 2012

Iran Admits Incompetence, Resorts to Plagiarism

Hmmmm... we're too stupid to put a high-res camera on a long-range remote control airplane, so we'll just copy the US drone that fell into our lap in a stroke of pure luck.

Iran's military has started to build a copy of a U.S. surveillance drone captured last year after breaking the software encryption, Iranian media reported on Sunday.
General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guards aerospace division, said engineers were in the final stages of decoding data from the Sentinel aircraft, which came down in December near the Afghan border, Mehr news agency reported.
Iran said the unmanned aircraft was shot down, but Washington disputes that and says the security systems mean Iran is unlikely to get valuable information from the Lockheed Martin Corp drone.
"The Americans should be aware to what extent we have infiltrated the plane," Fars news agency quoted Hajizadeh as saying. "Our experts have full understanding of its components and programmes."
Iran's military regular announces defense and engineering developments, but some analysts are skeptical as to how reliable those reports are.

Want to know what's going on with the Reaper? Follow his Twitter feed!

By: Brant

Car Race Trumps Citizen Rights in Bahrain

Lessee... he, we got a car race! Let's ignore the street protests we've been brutality supressing.

Formula One drivers race in Bahrain on Sunday while rage boils on the streets outside, among protesters who denounce the Grand Prix as a gaudy spectacle by a ruling family that crushed Arab Spring demonstrations last year.
In the Shi'ite villages dotted around the capital, demonstrators hurling petrol bombs have clashed nightly with police during the past week, and security forces responded with teargas, rubber bullets and birdshot.
Black smoke from burning tyres wafted over Budaiya, a village outside the capital that saw mass protests this week.
For those inside the Formula One bubble, far from the scenes of protest, the unrest has had little impact. Teams assembled at Bahrain International Circuit amid the usual security precautions ahead of the race. At hotels where race participants were staying, guests swam and relaxed poolside in the morning. The highway to the circuit was lined with police cars.
The luxury sporting event is the government's chance to show that life has gone back to normal in the island kingdom after security concerns over anti-government demonstrations forced last year's race to be delayed, then cancelled.

See also this earlier post.

By: Brant

Conversion of Ft Ord Continues

I've lived in the Monterey area off and on my entire life - 4 different trips altogether - and Fort Ord was always a big presence in the community. Even now that it's gone, its final disposition continues to be negotiated.

Fort Ord, the sweeping former military base north of Monterey, Calif., known for its oceanfront landscape and a history that dates back to horse cavalry soldiers in World War I, will become America's newest national monument.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to establish the new designation on Friday, making Fort Ord only the second national monument he has created since becoming president in 2009.

"Fort Ord's dramatic landscape lives in the memories of thousands of veterans as their first taste of Army life, as a final stop before deploying to war, or as a home base during their military career," Obama said in a statement late Thursday.

"This national monument will not only protect one of the crown jewels of California's coast, but will also honor the heroism and dedication of men and women who served our nation and fought in the major conflicts of the 20th century."

It continues to bug me that so few of the people playing the golf courses have any idea why they're called "Bayonet" and "Blackhorse".

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By: Brant

21 April 2012

MG(R) Scales Lets Loose on US Army Professional Military Education

At a recent forum journalist Tom Ricks, General Scales, former commander of the Army War College, let loose on US Army PME.

--These days, "the Army War College is a great place for pre-retirement training."

--"The Army War College fell of the cliff when it was subordinated to a trainer" (that is, to the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, which, he indicated, doesn't understand education).

--The Army should bring together its history offices, its military research entities, and related offshoots, and put them all under the Army War College commandant, in part so that research and teaching can inform each other. Right now, he said, research and education are "ripped apart."

--For officers, "the object of the PME system is to be selected but don't go."

Just a note on Scales... he lived 2 doors down from me at Ft Sill in the late-80s, and I went to high school with his younger daughter for 2 years.
By: Brant

20 April 2012

How Do Norks Keep Getting Away With It?

They're almost Phineas-and-Ferb-like in their ability to attack their southern cousins and suffer no repercussions.

Restraint in the face of such provocation is unusual, in particular for the United States, which has not been shy about using military force when it or its allies are attacked. For example, Manuel Noriega’s military forces harassed Americans in Panama and killed a U.S. marine; the United States invaded and deposed Noriega. In 1986, Libya bombed a West Berlin disco frequented by U.S. servicemen; the U.S. military launched air strikes in Libya, killing Muammar al-Qaddafi’s daughter.

North Korea escapes such punishment thanks to a powerful deterrent. The first leg of Pyongyang’s strategic triad is its “madman” image: the idea that the country might react to retaliation by plunging the peninsula into general war. North Korean officials are not irrational, as so often depicted in the media. Rather, they are following in the tradition of U.S. President Richard Nixon, who spoke of feigning irrationality in order to intimidate his adversaries. Through its wild rhetoric and behavior at home and abroad, Pyongyang has told the world that in the international game of chicken, it will not swerve -- that it is so ready to fight that it will starve its people and devote a quarter of its economy to defense, hack up enemy soldiers with an axe, and even try to assassinate presidents. This reputation has helped convince CFC’s leaders that they cannot rely upon the normal rules of deterrence, that with such an opponent, tit-for-tat retaliation is too risky and too likely to lead to all-out war.

Make no mistake: no one thinks that North Korea would actually win that war. The country is dwarfed economically by South Korea, and the military balance long ago shifted against the North. In the late 1990s, military analysts concluded that CFC would prevail should a war ever be fought, and the ensuing two decades of famine and energy shortages have only weakened North Korea’s position. But even though Pyongyang would lose this war, no one wants to fight it, either. North Korea can still inflict terrible pain on South Korea (and possibly, with its ballistic missiles, on nearby Japan). The city of Seoul, home to more than ten million people, lies well within range of North Korean artillery. North Korea’s leaders know that a second Korean war would be an existential war -- that neither the regime nor they themselves would survive a defeat -- and so they would have an incentive to use every weapon in their arsenal, including weapons of mass destruction. Is North Korea so crazy that if CFC carried out an act of limited retaliation, the country would start a war that would end in its own certain destruction? No one wants to find out.

What do you think? Why does the West keep letting the Norks off the hook?

By: Brant

What Are The Options in Syria?

We saw earlier what a former Syrian army commander thinks could be accomplished with an intervention, but is that realistic?

But what other options? Clinton told the meeting that the U.S. would aid opposition groups with more communications and logistics equipment, and that she favored new U.N. sanctions to impose an arms embargo and travel restrictions against Assad's regime. Those measures, however, are likely to be rejected by Syria's major allies, Russia and China, both of which have veto powers at the U.N. Security Council and refused to join Thursday's meeting in Paris.

Clearly frustrated at the inability of Western and Arab leaders to end the Arab Spring's bloodiest conflict, both Clinton and Juppé have described Annan's cease-fire agreement as a make-or-break deal, which could trigger far tougher action against Assad if it fell apart. Clinton described the plan in Brussels on Wednesday as Assad's "last chance," while Juppé told reporters on Thursday that leaders would "look at what new measures need to be taken" if Assad violates the terms of the cease-fire.

One thing is for certain, whatever agreement there is on the terms of the monitoring mission, you can bet the Syrians will break it.

Syria and the United Nations signed an agreement on Thursday on terms for hundreds of observers to monitor a ceasefire, but fierce diplomatic wrangling lies ahead to persuade the West the mission can have the authority and power to ensure peace.
A handful of U.N. observers are already in Syria monitoring a week-old truce that has failed to stop bloodshed. The question of whether the mission can expand while violence continues is up in the air. A crowd mobbed the head of the advance party on Thursday, some demanding the death of President Bashar al-Assad.
The U.N. Security Council - divided between Western countries that want to topple Assad and Russia and China, which support him - must agree the proposal to send a larger observer force. Russia made clear it wants the 15-member council to move now to expand the small mission, while the West is hesitating.

By: Brant

Leave No Man Behind: Korean War Edition

Another soldier is coming home from the Korean War.

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.

Army Pfc. Richard E. Clapp, 19, of Seattle, Wash., will be buried April 25, at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.

On Sept. 2, 1950, Clapp and the C Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment came under fire near Yulchon, South Korea, and Clapp was killed in action. The Army was unable to identify his remains at the time, and the remains were buried as “Unknown” in a military cemetery on the Korean Peninsula.

In 1951, the U.S. consolidated cemeteries on the peninsula. The unknown remains were interred in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

In 2011, due to advances in identification technology, the remains were exhumed for identification. Scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools such as radiograph comparison, and dental records to identify Clapp.

Today, more than 7,900 Americans remain unaccounted-for from the Korean War. Identifications continue to be made from the remains that were returned to the United States, using forensic and DNA technology.

By: Brant

DoD Announces Next Afghan Rotation Unit

The DoD has ID'ed the next unit heading to Afghanistan.

The Department of Defense announced today one Army brigade combat team to deploy as part of the upcoming rotation of forces operating in Afghanistan. The scheduled early Winter 2012 rotation involves nearly 3,900 soldiers from the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

Check out the Raider Brigade homepage.

By: Brant

Random Friday Wargaming: Price of Freedom

Part RPG, part skirmish game, part twisted futuristic fantasy, Greg Costikyan's Price of Freedom from back in the mid-80s was sort of a T2K-in-the-US, with a bit of Amerika tossed in for inspiration**.

Yes, I actually played this a few times back in high school. What I remember is a fairly unremarkable rules set that was brought to life with scenarios that we could all actually imagine ourselves playing in.

Not surprisingly, there's no CSW forum, as this was more of an RPG-with-counters than a true wargame. And it's looooong out of print, but you can find a host of related products over at Noble Knight Games.

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

** OK, OK, the game came before the TV mini-series. You got us. It was probably more Red Dawn-inspired than anything. But hey, how often do you get to drop a reference to Amerika? C'mon! Robert Urich as the President of Heartland? George C. Scott as the stalwart patriot? It was cheerily awesome, baby!

By: Brant

Former Syrian General Akil Hashem Talks Syrian Uprising

In an article from Foreign Affairs, former Syrian General Akil Hashem talks about the uprising in Syria. Excerpts:

If the situation within the Syrian military is so bad, why haven’t there been mass defections?

There is no place for deserters to go within Syria; most have gone to Turkey, which is difficult given the circumstances. The rest of the officers remain because they are largely Alawites, who have functioned as a sort of Swiss Guard for Assad. Alawites make up about ten percent of the Syrian population, and according to my estimation, there are more than 150,000 Alawites in the elite units of the intelligence agencies and of the armed forces. Although the Assad regime cannot rely on Alawites alone, it has packed the intelligence agencies and the military officer core with them -- the Alawite community is poor, with little educational or professional opportunity, and recruiters promise power and money. Families then rely on their sons for their financial livelihood, so you have to triple the number of Alawites directly invested in the regime. Given their investment in Assad, they have largely avoided defecting.

Another reason for the lack of defections is that Assad carefully watches his own forces. The Syrian army has 12 divisions. Of those, the Fourth Division, a particularly loyal outfit, is distributed among them to control them and prevent defection. They literally stand behind the regular forces and among them, a kind of police for the military. Whenever they detect the potential for defection, execution is the only punishment -- right away, without trial.

Where do you see the uprising heading over the next several months?

Assad cannot put down the rebellion. More than 10,000 people have been killed, but there are millions of Syrians participating directly or indirectly in the revolt, so the revolution will continue. That said, the rebels cannot win on their own. If the international community does not intervene, the conflict will persist indefinitely unless there is a military coup, an assassination of Assad or of top members of his regime, or a mass defection among the Alawite sect itself. The battle could continue like this for at least a year, if not longer.

If Western countries were to intervene, what should an intervention look like?

There are four options. The simplest would be airstrikes, similar to the NATO operation against Slobodan Milosevic in 1999. Such a campaign would target the security headquarters of the four major Syrian intelligence agencies: State Security, Air Force Intelligence, Military Intelligence, and the Ministry of Interior. It would also seek to destroy vital military outposts, government infrastructure, and communications systems. The United States and other Western powers could conduct this operation without any casualties, using cruise missiles and drones alone.

The second option is the establishment of a safe zone within Syria. This would require Western air forces to create a no-fly, no-drive zone within a small area in Syria, likely on the Turkish border. This zone would provide safe haven for the Free Syrian Army to regroup, for defectors to seek shelter (particularly those with heavier weapons, such as tanks), and for aid organizations to enter. That alone would turn the political and military situation upside down.

The third option would be the creation of a full no-fly zone over all of Syria. And the fourth option would be a campaign almost exactly like that in Libya, with a no-fly, no-drive zone extending across the entire country and constant airstrikes to contain the movements of the Syrian military.

The likelihood of these last two options is very low, given the political climate in the West. But given the weakness of the Syrian military, any of these four plans would unseat the Assad regime.

By: Brant

19 April 2012

SecDef Tells CNN 'We're within an inch of war almost every day'

Hey Leon, way to be an optimist!

The United States is prepared for "any contingency" when it comes to dealing with North Korea, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told CNN.
"We're within an inch of war almost every day in that part of the world, and we just have to be very careful about what we say and what we do," Panetta said Wednesday on "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."
During a wide-ranging interview at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked about Syria, the Secret Service and North Korea. The two were in Belgium for meetings to prepare for a NATO summit in Chicago next month.
Panetta's assessment of North Korea followed last week's launch by Pyongyang of a long-range rocket. Despite the failure of the launch -- with the rocket breaking apart 81 seconds after liftoff, it drew condemnation from the United States and countries in the region.
When asked whether the threat posed by North Korea kept him awake at night, Panetta said: "Unfortunately these days, there's a hell of a lot that keeps me awake. But that's one that tops the list."

By: Brant

Missile Races Accelerating in Asia

Norks threaten war and South unveils their own cruise missiles.

South Korea announced Thursday it has deployed new cruise missiles capable of destroying targets such as missile and nuclear bases anywhere in the North.
"With such capabilities, our military will sternly and thoroughly punish reckless provocations by North Korea while maintaining our firm readiness," Major General Shin Won-Sik told reporters.

Sure would be nice to see the South shoot back once.

India is countering China's growing missile capability by testing their own nuclear-capable missile... that can range to China.

India announced the successful test launch Thursday of a new nuclear-capable missile that would give it the ability to strike the major Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai for the first time, a significant step forward in its aspirations to become a regional and world power.
The Agni-V missile, with a range of 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles), still requires a battery of tests and must clear other bureaucratic hurdles before it can be inducted into India's arsenal in a few years. But officials hailed the launch as proof the country has taken its place among the world's most powerful and scientifically advanced nations.
"The nation stands tall today," Defense Minister A.K. Antony said, according to the Press Trust of India.
The test came just days after North Korea's failed rocket launch, but sparked none of the same global condemnation aimed at Pyongyang, an internationally isolated regime that has been banned by the U.N. from testing missile technology.
China is far ahead of India in the missile race, with intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching anywhere in India. Currently, the longest-range Indian missile, the Agni-III, has a range of 3,500 kilometers (2,100 miles) and falls short of many major Chinese cities.

By: Brant

USMC To Send Women to Infantry School

The Commandant of the Marine Corps has said that they are sending women to attend infantry school.

The Marine Corps school that produces infantry combat officers will enroll its first-ever female students this year, Marine Corps Times has learned.

As part of the service’s extensive research campaign to determine what additional jobs could be opened to women, an undetermined number of volunteers will attend the Infantry Officers Course in Quantico, Va., said Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Corps’ assistant commandant. There, Marine officers are groomed to serve in direct combat roles and lead troops into battle.

“We are in the process right now of soliciting volunteers,” Dunford said on Wednesday.

It’s a monumental — if controversial — move for the Marine Corps, which until now barred female Marines from the program and required instead that they attend other courses aimed at preparing them for assignments in support roles such as logistics, personnel administration and aircraft maintenance, among others.

Soon, enlisted women also will have an opportunity to attend infantry training, Dunford said. Marine officials are developing plans to assign female Marines to the Corps’ Infantry Training Battalions, which fall under the Schools of the Infantry.

Officials don’t yet know how many women — officer or enlisted — will be put into the academic pipeline for the Corps’ “03” infantry occupational code, Dunford said. All will be volunteers — and it remains to be seen how many will answer the call, he said.

It’s not immediately clear either what the next steps will be for those women who successfully complete the Corps’ infantry training programs. Marine officials at Quantico, who have led the service’s effort to explore lifting restrictions on women in combat, said these details are finalized, but declined to discuss them pending an official unveiling in the coming days.

The Marine Corps’ top general, Commandant Gen. Jim Amos, traveled Wednesday to Camp Lejeune, N.C., where among other business he was expected to meet with Marines and explain the service’s plans for expanding women’s career opportunities, Dunford said. Amos was joined by his senior enlisted adviser, Sgt. Maj. Mike Barrett.

Wow. What do y'all think? Good idea? Bad idea? Dumb idea? Great idea?

By: Brant

Syrians Bailing on UN Peace Plan?

Looks like the Syrians are barely paying attention to the UN-brokered peace plan

Syria has not fully complied with a U.N.-backed peace plan for the country and has yet to send a "clear signal" about its commitment to ending more than a year of violence, the U.N. chief told the Security Council in a letter obtained by Reuters on Wednesday.
At the same time, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced hope that there may be a chance for progress on ending a 13-month conflict that has brought Syria to the brink of civil war.
Ban proposed an expanded U.N. monitoring mission, which, if approved by the council, would be comprised of "an initial deployment" of up to 300 unarmed observers to supervise a fragile week-old ceasefire between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and opposition fighters seeking to oust him.
But he cautioned that the fighting had not ended.

Just looking around the room... Yep, just what we figured. No astonished looks of surprise on these faces.

  By: Brant

UK In Action: Whiskey On The Snow

Royal Marines from Whiskey Company, 45 Commando pictured on an exercise in Norway, seen with a BV-206D tracked vehicle in the background.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

18 April 2012

ANA Handover Imminent?

The US and NATO are looking to back away from frontline combat, to allow the ANA to take the lead.

The United States and its NATO allies are readying plans to pull away from the front lines in Afghanistan next year as President Barack Obama and fellow leaders try to show that the unpopular war is ending.
Top military and diplomatic officials from the U.S. and NATO allies met Wednesday to finalize the combat handover program and a strategy for world support to the weak Afghan government and fledgling military after 2014.
At the same time, the nations that have prosecuted a war against a Taliban-led insurgency are reassuring nervous Afghans they will not be left to fend for themselves. The competing messages aimed at different audiences are both challenged by current events in Afghanistan, where insurgents staged an impressive, coordinated attack last weekend that struck at the heart of the U.S.-backed government and international enclave in Kabul while Taliban leaders boycott peace talks the U.S. sees as the key to a safe exit.

By: Brant

Anniversary: The Doolittle Raid

Today marks the 70th anniversary of Doolittle's Raid

The Army pilots at the controls of the B-25s had practiced short takeoffs from the comfortably dry land of a Florida airstrip but had never once tried it at sea. No one else ever had, either. Landing a B-25 on a carrier was impossible. Flying a B-25 off a carrier was, by comparison, merely insane. But the medium-weight bombers were the only aircraft in the American arsenal with a prayer of completing the daredevil mission. If all went according to plan, they would fly five hundred miles to Japan, drop their load, then continue another eleven hundred miles to a safe landing in unoccupied China.

Leading the attack was an unflappable test pilot, Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle; his was the first of the lumbering bombers to catapult down the heaving deck. Over the next hour fifteen others followed. One pilot hung on the verge of a stall for so long as he struggled to get airborne that, Halsey later recalled, "we nearly catalogued his effects." Thirteen of the planes headed for Tokyo, roared in over the rooftops from different directions, and dropped their four bombs apiece. The three others hit Nagoya and Osaka. Ever since the attack on Pearl Harbor four months earlier, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had been pressing for just such a morale-boosting coup to bolster some of America's wounded pride. The Doolittle raid had been his pet project, and he was exultant with the news. Asked by reporters where the planes had come from, FDR grinned and said, "Shangri-La."

And they did it all with just 16 aircraft.

Image from Wikimedia

By: Brant

Next Navy Zumwalt Class Destroyer To Be Named USS Lyndon B. Johnson

The Navy has announced that the next Zumwalt Class Destroyer will be the USS Lyndon B. Johnson.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced today the next Zumwalt-class destroyer will be named the USS Lyndon B. Johnson.

The selection of Lyndon B. Johnson, designated DDG 1002, continues the Navy tradition of naming ships after presidents and honors the nation’s 36th president.

The USS Lyndon B. Johnson is the 34th ship named by the Navy after a U.S. president.

“I am pleased to honor President Johnson with the naming of this ship,” Mabus said. “His dedication to a life of public service included bravely stepping forward to fight for his country during our entry into World War II.”

A Texas congressman, Johnson was the first member of Congress to enlist in the military following the start of World War II. After his naval service, Johnson was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1948, where he served as both minority and majority leader before being elected vice president Nov. 8, 1960.

Following President Kennedy’s assassination Nov. 22 1963, Johnson succeeded to the presidency, finished the remaining term, and was reelected for a full term as president, by the greatest percentage of total popular vote (61 percent) ever attained by a presidential candidate.

Johnson’s time as president was marked by the passage of programs that greatly influenced and impacted education, healthcare and civil rights for generations to come. He signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, enacting comprehensive provisions protecting the right to vote and guarding against racial discrimination. His work on civil rights continued with the passage of the Voting Rights Act, which guaranteed voting rights for all people, regardless of race.

Johnson signed legislation establishing Medicare, which allowed millions of elderly Americans access to cheaper medical services. He also launched the Head Start Program, which provided preschool children from low-income families with classes, medical care, and other services.

As a naval officer, Johnson requested a combat assignment after the attack on Pearl Harbor and served in the Pacific theater during World War II. After returning from active duty service, Johnson reported back to Navy leaders and Congress on what he believed were deplorable conditions for the warfighters, and continued to fight for better standards for all military members.

USS Lyndon B. Johnson will be the third Zumwalt-class (DDG 1000) destroyer. Construction began on the ship at General Dynamics-Bath Iron Works April 4 and is expected to deliver to the Navy in fiscal 2018. The multimission DDG 1000 class destroyers are designed for sustained operations in the littorals and land attack and will provide independent forward presence and deterrence, support special operations forces, and operate as an integral part of joint and combined expeditionary forces. This warship integrates numerous critical technologies, systems, and principles into a complete warfighting system. Zumwalt ships will be 600 feet in length, have a beam of 80.7 feet, displace approximately 15,000 tons, and capable of making 30 knots speed. Each ship will have a crew size of 148 officers and Sailors.

By: Brant

GameTalk - Mano-a-Mano

Strategic games put you in the role of an armchair General;  tactical games, an armchair Major, Lieutenant or Sargeant.  But what of those rare games where 1 counter represents 1 man, and everything is up close and personal?  Skirmish-level or man-to-man games are great for creating for some tense and "personal" gaming moments, but is the scale good for conflict simulation or training / education?  What are some of your favorite or not-so-favorite man-to-man combat games? 

By: Jack Nastyface

17 April 2012

Sound Off! Officer Pilots

Do aircraft pilots have to be officers?

Sound off below!

By: Brant

16 April 2012

US-Philippines Exercises: Thumbing Noses at Chinese?

Yes, they've been scheduled forever, but the US and Philippine South China Sea drills seem to be a stick in the eye at the Chinese.

Joint military exercises between the US and the Philippines are getting under way in the South China Sea, even as Manila remained locked in a stand-off with Beijing over a disputed shoal.

The annual exercises, called Balikatan, are due to run until 27 April.

This year they are taking place off Palawan, near parts of the South China Sea both Manila and Beijing claim.

Meanwhile Philippine and Chinese vessels remain at the Scarborough Shoal, a week after the deadlock began.

The Philippines said its warship found eight Chinese fishing vessels at the shoal - which both sides claim - when it was patrolling the area on 8 April.

The Beeb's quickie analysis is also good.

China insists that its rights in areas like the disputed Spratly Islands are paramount, despite rival claims from the Philippines, Vietnam and other countries too.

The government in Manila is taking steps to modernise its small naval and air forces. But it is looking to Washington to help balance China's growing power.

Two decades after US forces were evicted from their biggest base in the Pacific, there has been talk of a renewed US military presence. The fact that the joint exercises are being held on the island of Palawan - the closest Philippines territory to the Spratlys - will doubtless irritate China.

Anyone else think the Philippinians are bummed they threw us out of Subic Bay?

By: Brant

Excellent, Concise Analysis of Weekend Fighting in Kabul

The mil-blog "It's Always Sunny in Kabul" has a nice 5-point wrap-up of the Kabul attacks.

1. This was a success for the ANSF.
2. This was not an independent ANSF success.
3. Tactically, a Taliban (or whoever) defeat.
4. In the perception war, a Taliban (or whoever) win.
5. We really want it to be the Haqqani.

The discussion behind each point makes it well worth the read. The Twitter comments captured over there are entertaining, too.

By: Brant

UK In Action: Bomb Squad

A soldier operates a Dragon Runner Bomb Disposal Robot at a Counter IED (CIED) facility demonstration at RAF Wittering. As part of the C-IED Task Force, members of 5131 (BD) Squadron demonstrated their skills in dealing with IED's (Improvised Explosive Devices), the likes of which they expect to see in future deployments to Afghanistan. One of the many tools that they will use is the Dragon Runner Bomb Disposal Robot.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Taliban Attack Kabul, Get Asses Kicked, Claim Victory

I mean, after all, we did actually, y'know, launch an attack, so that's kind of something.

A brazen, 18-hour Taliban attack on the Afghan capital ended early Monday when insurgents who had holed up overnight in two buildings were overcome by heavy gunfire from Afghan-led forces and pre-dawn air assaults from U.S.-led coalition helicopters.
Kabul residents awoke Monday to a second day of loud explosions and the crackle of gunfire. As darkness turned to dawn, Afghan-led forces fired one rocket-propelled grenade after another into a building in the center of the city where insurgents began their attack Sunday.
Fighting there and at the Afghan parliament building on the southwest side of the city ended just before 8 a.m.
Authorities said one police officer and at least 17 militants were killed in the multi-pronged attacks in Kabul and three eastern cities. The violence showed the Taliban and their allies are far from beaten and underscored the security challenge facing government forces as U.S. and NATO forces draw down. The majority of international combat troops are scheduled to leave by the end of 2014.

By: Brant

Monday Video: Shinedown at Night

Night vision footage and a loud ambient background soundtrack highlight this week's BANG

Nominate your own videos for inclusion in the comments below.

By: Brant

UN Observers in Syria Welcomed With Artillery Salute

Oh, uh... never mind.

An advance team of U.N. observers was negotiating the ground rules with Syrian authorities Monday for monitoring the country's 5-day-old cease-fire, which appeared to be rapidly unraveling as regime forces pounded the opposition stronghold of Homs with artillery shells and mortars, activists said.
Even though the overall level of violence across Syria has dropped significantly since the truce took effect, government attacks over the weekend raised new doubts about President Bashar Assad's commitment to special envoy Kofi Annan's plan to end 13 months of violence and launch talks on the country's political future.
The advance team of six U.N. monitors arrived in Damascus Sunday night. Annan's spokesman said the team, led by Moroccan Col. Ahmed Himmiche, met Monday with Syrian Foreign Ministry officials to discuss ground rules, including what freedom of movement the observers would have. Ahmad Fawzi said the remaining 25 observers are expected to arrive in the coming days.

By: Brant

13 April 2012

Libyan Fallout Reaches HOA Pirates

Weapons plundered during the Libyan revolution are making their way to Somalia.

Somali pirates have acquired sophisticated weaponry, including mines and shoulder-held missile launchers from Libya, and are likely to use them in bolder attacks on shipping, a senior maritime security analyst said on Thursday.
"We found that Libyan weapons are being sold in what is the world's biggest black market for illegal gun smugglers, and Somali pirates are among those buying from sellers in Sierra Leone, Liberia and other countries," said Judith van der Merwe, of the Algiers-based African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism.
"We believe our information is credible and know that some of the pirates have acquired ship mines, as well as Stinger and other shoulder-held missile launchers," Van der Merwe told Reuters on the sidelines of an Indian Ocean naval conference.

By: Brant

Random Friday Wargaming: War Machine

A grand strategy Cold War-era game you've never heard of? Lemme introduce you to War Machine, from the Borealis Boardgame Company.

Can't find a CSW thread on it, and I think the company is long since gone. But if you've seen/played this one, give us some thoughts!

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

By: Brant

Norks Rickety Rocket Ralphs; Nork Nuke Noogie Next?

So the rocket launch wasn't.

North Korea's satellite launch, planned as a celebration of the centenary of the birth of its founding President, Kim Il Sung, failed sometime shortly after 7:40 a.m. Friday when the first stage of the Unha-3 rocket dropped to the Yellow Sea about 165 km west of Seoul. After weeks of antagonism between North Korea and the U.S., South Korea and Japan, who said the launch was the equivalent of a ballistic missile test, the failure offered a moment of respite. "At no time were the missile or the resultant debris a threat," noted a statement from the North American Aerospace Defense Command. In a rare admission, North Korea's state-run news service acknowledged the satellite "failed to enter its preset orbit." It said technicians were investigating the cause.

But they may yet pop off a nuke, to try and show off.

The isolated North, using the launch to celebrate the 100th birthday of the dead founding president Kim Il-sung and to mark the rise to power of his grandson Kim Jong-un, is now widely expected to press ahead with its third nuclear test to show its military strength.
"The possibility of an additional long-range rocket launch or a nuclear test, as well as a military provocation to strengthen internal solidarity is very high," a senior South Korean defense ministry official told a parliamentary hearing.

By: Brant

Coup in Guinea-Bissau?

The Beeb is reporting that the Guinea-Bissau military have attacked parts of the capital.

Soldiers have taken control of much of the capital of the Guinea-Bissau in what appears to be a coup attempt.

Heavy gunfire was heard in the city of Bissau and at the residence of outgoing Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior.

Troops also took control of the national radio station and ruling party's headquarters.

Mr Gomes came first in an inconclusive presidential election last month, but failed to win outright. His whereabouts are not known.

West African regional organisation Ecowas condemned what it described as an attempted coup.

View Larger Map

By: Brant

The Rise of China's Military

The Economist has a nice article about China’s military enlargement. IT also looks at the neighborhood and assess how it impacts other nearby countries.

That China is rapidly modernising its armed forces is not in doubt, though there is disagreement about what the true spending figure is. China’s defence budget has almost certainly experienced double digit growth for two decades. According to SIPRI, a research institute, annual defence spending rose from over $30 billion in 2000 to almost $120 billion in 2010. SIPRI usually adds about 50% to the official figure that China gives for its defence spending, because even basic military items such as research and development are kept off budget. Including those items would imply total military spending in 2012, based on the latest announcement from Beijing, will be around $160 billion. America still spends four-and-a-half times as much on defence, but on present trends China’s defence spending could overtake America’s after 2035 (see chart).

All that money is changing what the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) can do. Twenty years ago, China’s military might lay primarily in the enormous numbers of people under arms; their main task was to fight an enemy face-to-face or occupy territory. The PLA is still the largest army in the world, with an active force of 2.3m. But China’s real military strength increasingly lies elsewhere. The Pentagon’s planners think China is intent on acquiring what is called in the jargon A2/AD, or “anti-access/area denial” capabilities. The idea is to use pinpoint ground attack and anti-ship missiles, a growing fleet of modern submarines and cyber and anti-satellite weapons to destroy or disable another nation’s military assets from afar.

In the western Pacific, that would mean targeting or putting in jeopardy America’s aircraft-carrier groups and its air-force bases in Okinawa, South Korea and even Guam. The aim would be to render American power projection in Asia riskier and more costly, so that America’s allies would no longer be able to rely on it to deter aggression or to combat subtler forms of coercion. It would also enable China to carry out its repeated threat to take over Taiwan if the island were ever to declare formal independence.

By: Brant

12 April 2012

Guns Go Silent in Syria?

Will the UN ceasefire actually take effect? Will it hold?

Syrian troops held their fire in the hours after a U.N.-backed ceasefire took effect at dawn on Thursday, casting a silence over rebellious towns they had bombarded heavily in recent days.
But the lull did little to convince opposition activists and Western powers of President Bashar al-Assad's good faith in observing a peace plan agreed with international envoy Kofi Annan. In defiance of that deal, Syrian troops and tanks were still in position inside many towns, activists told Reuters.
"It was a bloody night. There was heavy shelling on the city of Homs. But now it is calm, and there is no shooting," said Abu Rami, an activist in Syria's third city after the 6 a.m. (0300 GMT) deadline passed. Assaults on restive neighborhoods had become more intense after Assad accepted Annan's timetable.

By: Brant

Philippines and China Facing Off

The Philippines have withdrawn their warship in their stand-off with China

The Philippines says it has withdrawn its largest warship from a continuing stand-off with Chinese boats in the disputed South China Sea.

Earlier on Thursday a Philippine coastguard vessel arrived in the area, known as the Scarborough Shoal.

The Philippines also says China has sent a third ship to the scene.

The Philippine foreign minister said negotiations with China would continue. Both claim the shoal off the Philippines' north-west coast.

The Philippines said its warship found eight Chinese fishing vessels at the shoal when it was patrolling the area on Sunday.

It did not say why the warship had been pulled back. "That is an operational undertaking I can't discuss with you," Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario was quoted by AFP news agency as saying.

"We are pursuing the diplomatic track in terms of coming to a resolution on the issue," Mr Del Rosario said.

The most ridiculous part of this is looking at the map from the BBC, with the territorial area claimed by China. It's kind of like looking at what the Japanese tried to claim back in WWII...

By: Brant

UK In Action: Victory!

HMS Victory at dusk, Portsmouth.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

11 April 2012

US Army, After 10 Years of War

Comparing the state of the Army today to about 1974 or so (after 10 years of Vietnam), and Abu Muqawama notes that it's not in bad shape. That doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement, mind you. An excerpt:

The survey makes explicit what has been implied in defense policy conversations for the past several years: The all-volunteer force, which was never intended to fight a decade of continuous conflict, has nonetheless succeeded beyond all expectations in Iraq and Afghanistan in terms of maintaining its health and professionalism. High-profile stories such as Staff Sgt. Robert Bales’ massacre of civilians in Afghanistan have convinced many Americans and others that a decade of war has broken the Army and Marine Corps. But military officers are quick to point out that Bales is the exception, not the rule, in an Army in which 51,270 other soldiers have seen four or more combat deployments, and in which an additional 81,000 soldiers on active duty have seen at least three.

Six out of seven soldiers and Army civilians, the study reveals, trust their senior leaders to make the right decisions for the Army, and 90 percent of those surveyed remain willing to put the Army’s needs above their own. Whereas the soldiers who fought in Vietnam considered themselves amateurs and conscripts, 98 percent of the soldiers in the Army today consider themselves professional fighting men and women. As such, those who serve in the U.S. Army today are in no danger of losing their pride, heart or soul. And based on personal observations from the field, I can report the U.S. Army is today more combat effective than it was when I myself first led a light infantry platoon in Afghanistan in 2002.

There is still cause for concern, though. Among them is the common complaint that, due to the focus on the counterinsurgency fight in Afghanistan, combat units are losing some of their traditional core skills. And indeed, I spent some time a year ago with an armor unit that, having been retrained as light infantry, had not touched its tanks in a year. But also worrisome is the fact that, according to the survey, the Army as an institution is not enforcing high standards in its initial training. New soldiers, commanders have told me, often report to their first units with low levels of physical fitness, which would be less of a concern if many of those units were not walking up and down the hills of eastern Afghanistan each day. Anecdotally, two friends who recently completed Army basic training at Fort Benning -- traditionally, the more difficult Army post for such training -- described the program as easy and reported that their levels of physical fitness had actually declined during the training. I have a tough time believing folks at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island are saying similar things.

In terms of their leaders, meanwhile, soldiers report that their commanding officers are tactically and technically sound in combat, but that they have lost some of their willingness to teach, train and mentor those beneath them -- all critical to preparing the next generation of leaders.

Good article - go read the rest.

By: Brant

USAction! Photo Essay of Afghanistan Patrol

Near Nawa Garay village in the Kajran district of Afghanistan's Daykundi province, April 3, 2012.
U.S. Navy photos by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Dillon

Click images to enlarge, and more after the jump

GameTalk - The Bad Guys

Playing the bad-guy:  Cops and robbers.  Cowboys and Indians.  Someone has to play the bad guys...but do we sometimes do so because it is fun, challenging, contentious or educational?  Granted, most wargamers probably don't have a vested interest or point-of-view when choosing to play either the Swedes or the Polish in a 30 Years War game...but what about modern ops?  Are there some OPFORS you don't want to play for personal or political reasons (the SS, Vietcong, Taliban, Hamas, etc.)?  Or do you consider the OPFOR role as a useful tool to expand our understanding of wargaming (and dare I say military operation) perspectives?

By: Jack Nastyface

10 April 2012

Sound Off! Military-Themed "Board" Games

Would you rather be stuck playing highly-detailed grog-level conflict simulations (think OCS) with a small pool of players?
Or broaden your potential pool of players, while sacrificing the detail of the well-researched wargame (Manouvre, M'44, Tank on Tank)?

Sound off below!

By: Brant