Category Archives: Military Affairs

Warthogs to the Rescue in the Caliphate

I’ve written twice before (HERE and HERE) about the misguided attempts by the military to retire the A-10 from their inventory of combat aircraft on the grounds that the Warthog is increasingly outmoded and obsolete.  But now, it appears that the military is having second thoughts, at least for the time being.  James Dunnigan is reporting at StrategyPage that:

Despite renewed U.S. Air Force efforts to retire the much loved (by their pilots and the ground troops who depend on it) A-10C ground attack aircraft, at least ten of them from a reserve unit have been quietly sent to the Middle East to join in the air operations against ISIL (Islamic State in A10_WarthogIraq and the Levant) in Iraq and Syria.  Many older ISIL members (who fought in Iraq before the A-10s were withdrawn) are not happy with this news while the soldiers and militiamen fighting ISIL are much encouraged.

This was kept quiet because earlier in 2014 the U.S. Air Force insisted it had to retire all of its A-10 ground support aircraft (to deal with a shrinking budget) and this time it was going to happen.  That statement had been heard several times before since the Cold War ended in 1991.  Many politicians do not agree with the generals and it appeared the air force would be forced to keep at least some of the A-10s.  There is little doubt that the A-10s will again make themselves useful.  That will slow down but not stop air force efforts to eliminate this popular (except among senior commanders) warplane.

A-10s were designed during the Cold War for combat against Russian ground forces in Europe.  That war never happened and the last American A-10 attack aircraft left Europe in mid-2013.  After that some politicians believed the A-10 might be needed back in Europe to help confront an increasingly aggressive Russia.  Meanwhile the A-10 proved to be a formidable combat aircraft in post-Cold War conflicts, first in the 1991 liberation of Kuwait and later in Afghanistan and Iraq.  During the last decade the most requested ground support aircraft in Afghanistan has been the A-10.  There was similar A-10 affection in Iraq.  Troops from all nations quickly came to appreciate the unique abilities of this 1970s era aircraft that the U.S. Air Force is constantly trying to get rid of.  In 2011 the air force did announce that it was retiring 102 A-10s, leaving 243 in service.  At the same time the air force accelerated the upgrading of the remaining A-10s to the A-10C standard.

Read the full article, HERE.

Hanoi Jane turns Seventy-Seven

In a post on December 21st at her vanity website, Jane Fonda declares that, to combat a recent episode of ennui, she has decided to build a shrine to herself.  The decision was made on her birthday, during her one-hour meditation period.

The shrine is to be nothing especially monumental she says, just “a small place where I can put things that remind me, conjure up in me, the qualities that represent my best self.  I will spend the new year collecting objects and symbols that will do that.  One will be from my 4th grade school report.  Things that remind me that I’m brave.  I’ve been forgetting that.  I will put a special candle on the shrine and burn sandalwood and put some special Native American artifacts that I’ve treasured over the years in honor of the Mohawk Nation where my Fonda ancestors built their homestead.”

Since Fonda now seems to have developed the patina of a national JaneFonda_Gunsighttreasure, with an impressive resume as an actress, political agitator, Black Panthers supporter, aerobics guru, broadcaster for Hanoi Radio, Palestinian supporter, and all-around American traitor, we should all help to restore her self-esteem if we can.  For my part, I have mailed her a memento from her past, something she may still believe is representative of her “best self”, and something which perfectly illustrates her bravery.  It is a 1972 photograph, above at right, of her sitting on and looking through the gunsight of a piece of North Vietnamese anti-aircraft artillery, the same type that mortally wounded so many U.S. aircraft over the North’s capital city.  If they survived the shootdown, of course, the pilots went into the North Vietnamese prisoner of war system, exemplified by the infamous Hanoi Hilton.

Happy birthday, Janey.

Animated Views of the Venerable Colt Army M1911

The word venerable seems made to order for the M1911, Colt’s 1911 model semi-automatic pistol originally designed in 1911 by John ColtArmy1911Browning as a 45-caliber sidearm for the U.S. military.  It remained so for seventy-four years, until 1985, when it was replaced as the official military sidearm by the Beretta M9, my personal preference for a large-frame pistol.  Counting the examples manufactured for civilian use, for law enforcement, and for foreign governments, there have been around three million M1911 models produced.

What better example is there, then, for a high-quality animation illustrating all the inner workings of a semi-automatic pistol in operation?  None, I think, and after viewing the animation, you’ll agree.  Check it out, HERE, and for more on the M1911, the WikiPedia page is HERE.

The Malmedy Massacre at Three Score & Ten

This month marks the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, the last major combat encounter in the European theater of World War II, and today marks the seventieth anniversary of one of the more heinous acts of the war, the Malmedy Massacre.

During the Battle, on the second day of the breakout by German troops through the Ardennes Forest, American soldiers of the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion were captured by the German First SS Panzer Division near the town of Malmedy in Belgium.  The German offensive was begun during a period of weather so bad that all Allied aircraft were grounded, and the Germans were desperate to move quickly toward, and to recapture, the Belgian port of Antwerp while the Americans were without the close air support that could quickly destroy the German tanks.  They could therefore afford no delays in their advance, and POW’s are a hindrance on the battlefield.

There are several excellent accounts of the Malmedy Massacre, and the following is taken from the one maintained HERE at the History Place:

On the second day of the ‘Battle of the Bulge,’ a truck convoy of Battery B of the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion was intercepted southeast of Malmedy by a regiment of the 1st SS Panzer Division of the Leibstandarte-SS, under the command of 29 year old SS Lt. Col. Jochen Peiper.  His troops had earned the nickname “Blowtorch Battalion” after burning their way across Russia and had also been responsible for slaughtering civilians in two separate villages.

Upon sighting the trucks, the Panzer tanks opened fire and destroyed the lead vehicles.  This brought the [American] convoy to a halt while the deadly accurate tank fire continued.  The outgunned Americans abandoned their vehicles and surrendered.

The captured U.S. soldiers were herded into a nearby field.  An SS tank commander then ordered an SS private to shoot into the prisoners, setting off a wild killing spree as the SS opened fire with machine guns and pistols on the unarmed, terrified POWs.

Survivors were killed by a pistol shot to the head, in some cases by English speaking SS who walked among the victims asking if anyone was injured or needed help.  Those who responded were shot.  A total of 81 Americans were killed in the single worst atrocity against U.S. troops during World War II in Europe.

After the SS troops moved on, three survivors encountered a U.S. Army Colonel stationed at Malmedy and reported the massacre.  News quickly spread among U.S. troops that “Germans are shooting POWs.”  As a result, the troops became determined to hold the lines against the German advance until reinforcements could arrive.  Gen. Eisenhower was informed of the massacre.  War correspondents in the area also spread the news.

And from the U.S. Army archives, HERE, this excerpt from the account of a survivor, Ted Paluch of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:

Having dismounted the vehicles and taking cover in ditches alongside the road, Paluch recognized the troops as members of the vaunted SS by the distinctive skull and crossbones and lightning insignia on their collars.  They represented the advance units of the 1st SS Panzer Division, known as Kampfgruppe (Attack Group) Peiper, after their leader, SS Lt. Col. Joachim Peiper, a highly decorated veteran of campaigns in France and Russia.

“There were three of them behind the tank; they came down, and we were in the ditch, a ditch that is up to my neck,” he related.  They pulled down the road here and lowered the tank gun on us, and what could you do?  We had carbines, so we just surrendered.”

Paluch related that the initial treatment at the hands of the SS gave no clues about what lay in store for the prisoners, and even offered an amusing recollection.  “They marched us up here to the crossroads, they searched us, they took anything of value, cigarettes, watches, and I had a pair of socks and they even took those,” he exclaimed incredulously.

Along with members of his unit and others caught off-guard at the crossroads, the group of prisoners was herded into a field at the crossroads to await their fate.  They had no warning of what would transpire next.

“Then one command car came up and took a couple shots, and every tank and halftrack that came around the corner shot into the group,” he said.  “I was real lucky, as I was in the front end and only got hit slightly, but I think when they came around they fired into the center of the group.”

Pausing to catch his breath, he glanced over his shoulder and hesitated, almost as if reliving the moment in slow motion, before beginning again.

“This was their front line over here at one of these houses, and then anyone that moaned, they came around and they shot.  I played dead and just lay there,” he said.

The Germans murdered eighty-one Americans that day.  After the war, the commander of the German First SS Panzer Division, SS Lieutenant Colonel Jochen Peiper, was caught along with most of his close subordinates.  They were tried and found guilty of war crimes by a military tribunal, but sadly, they were all released in the end. There was no justice for those eighty-one American soldiers, so the least we can do today is to remember.

Will the V-280 be the V-22’s Little Brother?

Back in October, at the military blog DefenseTech, Kris Osborn reported that:

Bell Helicopter is beginning to manufacture parts for its new V-280 Valor tilt-rotor aircraft, a next-generation helicopter being developed as part of the Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator, or JMR TD program.  The program is an Army-led joint program designed to replace the Army’s current fleet of helicopters.

<snip>

Slated to fly by 2017, the V-280 is engineered to reach speed of 280 knots, achieve a combat range up to 800 nautical miles and perform in what’s called “high-hot” conditions — described as 95-degrees Fahrenheit and 6,000-feet.

The full article, HERE, includes much more information as well as an artist’s rendering of the aircraft.

China’s New Boomers

Nope, not talking about “baby boomers”, I’m talking about nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines.  David Tweed has a post up on Bloomberg News with the details.  A key excerpt:

“For the first time in history, China’s nuclear arsenal will be invulnerable to a first strike,” said independent strategist Nicolas Giacometti, who has written analysis for The Diplomat and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  “It’s the last leap toward China’s assured nuclear-retaliation capability.”

This new class of Chinese boomer will be equipped with twelve Chinese JL-2 missiles.  Tweed’s article continues:

The JL–2’s range of about 4,598 miles means China could conduct nuclear strikes against Alaska if it unleashed the missiles from waters near China; against Alaska and Hawaii if launched from waters south of Japan; against Alaska, Hawaii, and western continental U.S. if fired from waters west of Hawaii; and against all 50 U.S. states if launched from waters east of Hawaii, the report said.

The full article is HERE.

 

The X-37B

The U.S. Air Force has an un-manned mini-shuttle, and although no one admits to knowing what it is used for exactly, it apparently is very good at its mission.  From an article from earlier this week at the military blog Strategy Page:

A U.S. Air Force X-37B UOV (unmanned orbital vehicle) landed October 17th under software control after 675 days in orbit.  Previously an X-37B landed on June 16th 2012 after 469 days in orbit.  The first mission ended X37Bon December 3rd 2010 after 224 days in orbit.  The air force reports few details about the X-37B but has said it plans to launch another one in 2015.

The official endurance of the X-37B was originally about 280 days.  The real endurance appears to be nearly three times that.  The long endurance is largely because the X-37B carries a large solar panel, which is deployed from the cargo bay, unfolded and produces enough power to keep the X-37B up there for a long time.  The air force has not reported what the X-37B has been doing up there all this time.  The air force has revealed that it is designing an X-37C, which would be twice the size of the X-37B and able to carry up to six passengers.  Think of it as Space Shuttle Lite, but robotic and run by the military, not NASA.

The X-37B is a remotely controlled mini-Space Shuttle.  The space vehicle, according to amateur astronomers (who like to watch spy satellites as well), appears to be going through some tests.  The X-37B is believed to have a payload of about 227-300 kg (500-660 pounds).  The payload bay is 2.1×1.4 meters (7×4 feet).  As it returned to earth, it landed by itself (after being ordered to use a specific landing area.)  The X-37B weighs five tons, is nine meters (29 feet) long and has a wingspan of 4 meters (14 feet).  In contrast the Space Shuttle was 56 meters long, weighed 2,000 tons and had a payload of 24 tons.

The X-37B is a classified project, so not many additional details are available.  It’s been in development since 2000 but work was slowed down for a while because of lack of money.  Whatever the X-37B is now doing up there has been convincing enough to get Congress to spend over a billion dollars on it.  What makes the X-37B so useful is that it is very maneuverable, contains some internal sensors (as well as communications gear), and can carry mini-satellites, or additional sensors, in the payload bay.  Using a remotely controlled arm, the X-37B could refuel or repair other satellites.  But X-37B is a classified project, with little confirmed information about its payload or mission (other than testing the system on its first mission).  Future missions will involve intelligence work, and perhaps servicing existing spy satellites (which use up their fuel to change their orbits.)  The X-37B is believed capable of serving as a platform for attacks on enemy satellites in wartime.  It is believed that recent missions may have also involved testing new spy satellite components in space, where the harsh environment, especially the radiation, can have unpredictable effects on microelectronics.

The “blue yonder” gets wilder every year.

Senior U.S. Navy Officer relieved over China Assessment

As regular readers will know, I have written often about the activities and putative intentions of China with respect to the South China Sea.  One of those posts from last February, HERE, was about the assessments of a U.S. Navy Senior Intelligence Officer, Captain James Fanell, in regard to the specific objectives behind China’s Mission Action 2013 exercise, which took place in November, 2013.

Captain Fanell’s official title is (or was) Deputy Chief of Staff Intelligence & Information Operations (PACFLEET), and his assessment was formally presented to an annual conference in San Diego of the senior members of the American military naval forces as well as naval contractors.  The theme for the 2014 conference, known as the 2014 Western Conference & Exposition (WEST-2014), was “Shaping the Maritime Strategy: How Do We Make It Work?”.  Also on the conference panel alongside Captain Fanell was Rear Admiral James Foggo, the Navy’s Chief of Operations, Plans, & Strategy.

Now comes word, via the Navy Times, that Captain Fanell has been relieved of his post by Admiral Harry Harris, apparently over the candor he displayed in his remarks at the West-2014 conference.  It seems that the Pentagon brass, and presumably the U.S. State Department, feel that his assessment of China’s intentions threaten the relationship between the U.S. and China at a time when the Obama administration is trying to engage China.

The Navy Times article is HERE, and for good measure, the WikiPedia page for the “Senkaku Islands dispute” is HERE.  And, in case any reader wonders why I attach such importance to developments in the South China Sea, it is because the Senkaku Islands, as well as many other disputed islands in the region, are currently regarded as Japanese territory and are thus included in the United States’ mutual defense treaty with Japan.  In other words, if China tries to take any of these islands by force, the U.S. is obligated to provide military assistance to Japan.

Previous posts on the situation in the South China Sea and on other matters related to U.S. military interests may be assessed by clicking on the “Military Affairs” sub-category (under the “Issues” category) from the sidebar to the right (only on the website’s Home page).

The Phony War, 75-Years On

Great Britain declared war on Nazi Germany in September of 1939, days after Hitler broke his word and directed his military forces to invade Poland.  England declared war to honor their military alliance with Poland, but they did so with the full knowledge that they were totally unprepared to fight the Nazis.  Along with the other allies from World War I, including the United States, they had virtually disarmed in the aftermath of winning the “war to end all wars”.  They desperately needed time to re-arm, and so for a period of about eight months (from September, 1939 through May, 1940) neither side fired a shot against the other.  This period came to be known as the “phony war”.

In many ways, the phrase can be aptly used to describe what is going on with President Obama’s air campaign against the ISIS forces in the Middle East.

Max Boot, a well-known military correspondent, put up a short piece over the weekend at the online Commentary Magazine site which highlights some aspects of this lunacy.  From the lead-in:

If you want a laugh, go to the Central Command website and click on their press releases.  Every day there is a new dispatch about the anti-ISIS air campaign in Iraq and Syria known incongruously as Operation Inherent Resolve.  The latest release is from October 28: “U.S. military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria Monday and today using attack and fighter aircraft to conduct four airstrikes.  Separately, U.S. and partner nation military forces conducted nine airstrikes in Iraq Monday and today using attack, fighter, and remotely piloted aircraft against ISIL terrorists.”

What’s so funny here?  The fact that Central Command is trumpeting a mere 13 airstrikes, which only highlights how anemic this whole air campaign remains.

The full article, for which you may be required to register, is HERE.

The “China Creep” Continues Apace in the South China Sea

A new report from the defense analysts at Strategy Page details the process by which China continues their encroachment on areas of the South China Sea (SCS).  An excerpt:

For over three decades China has been carrying out a long-term strategy that involves first leaving buoys (for navigation purposes, to assist Chinese fishermen) in the disputed water, followed by temporary shelters (again, for the Chinese fishermen) on islets or reefs that are above water but otherwise uninhabited.  If none of the other claimants to this piece of ocean remove the buoys or shelters, China builds a more permanent structure “to aid passing Chinese fishermen”.  This shelter will be staffed by military personnel who will, of course, have radio, radar, and a few weapons.  If no one attacks this mini-base China will expand it and warn anyone in the area that the base is Chinese territory and any attempts to remove it will be seen as an act of war.  The Vietnamese tried to get physical against these Chinese bases in 1974 and 1988 and were defeated both times in brief but brutal air and sea battles.  The Chinese will fight, especially if they are certain of victory.  All of this could end badly, with a major war no one wants.  That’s how these things develop.

The full article is HERE.

Midwives to the birth of the “Nuclear Navy”

At the Atlantic Magazine, their technical editor Robinson Meyer has up a fascinating account of the initial development of the submarine USS Nautilus, the first nuclear powered American Navy vessel.  Meyer’s account is drawn from a 1959 article, also published in the Atlantic, that was written by Commander E. E. Kintner, a subordinate to Hyman Rickover, the man now known as the “Father of the Nuclear Navy”.

I urge everyone to read the full account for themselves, HERE, but this excerpt will give some idea of what to expect:

At the 60th hour, however, difficulties began.  Carbon dust from the brushes depositing in the windings caused difficulty in the vital electrical generating sets.  Nuclear instrumentation, operating perfectly at the beginning of the run, became erratic, and the crews could not be sure what was happening within the reactor core.  One of the large pumps which kept the reactor cool by circulating water through it began making a worrisome, intermittent whining sound.  We had not had any check on “crud” build-up; we feared that heat transfer would be so reduced by this point that the core would burn up.  The most pressing problem, however, was caused by the failure at the sixty-fifth hour of a tube in the main condenser into which exhausted turbine steam was being discharged.  Steam pressure fell off rapidly.  The Westinghouse manager responsible for the operation of the plant strongly recommended discontinuing the run.  In Washington, the technical directors of the Naval Reactors Branch was so concerned that he called a meeting of all its senior personnel, who urged Rickover to terminate the test at once.  But the Captain was adamant that it should continue …

In this year, the sixtieth since the USS Nautilus, the United States Navy has an inventory of eighty nuclear powered vessels.  The crews of those ships owe a lot to Admiral Hyman G. Rickover’s dogged insistence that, unlike those to be built by the Soviets in ensuing years, American ship-borne nuclear powerplants be designed to be as near to indestructible as was humanly possible.

In South China Sea News, U.S. to Re-Arm Vietnam

Yahoo News reported on Thursday of last week that the Obama administration, amid growing concerns about the Chinese antics in the South China Sea, has decided to ease the ban on selling military arms and equipment to Vietnam.  From the article:

“It’s useful in trying to deal with the territorial disputes in the South China Sea to bolster the capacity of our friends in the region to maintain a maritime presence in some capacity.”

Some 40 percent of the world’s seaborne trade passes through the sea which is claimed in part by Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, and Malaysia as well as China and the Philippines.

The full article is HERE.

American Sniper: Now On Track To Be A Movie

In early February I put up a short post, HERE, observing the first anniversary of the death of retired Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle, the man who deployed four times to Iraq, and while on the battlefield there, was credited with a kill shot at an incredible range of 2100 yards.

Now comes word that his book, American Sniper, is to be made into a movie starring Bradley Cooper and directed by Steven Spielberg.  Details are HERE, and by the way, the book is now a part of the CCTPP lending library and available to prospective readers.

Doctors and Generals agree: Sending US soldiers to Africa to fight Ebola a Bad Idea

As most readers will know, about a week ago President Obama announced his intention to deploy about 3,000 American soldiers to Liberia to help manage that country’s Ebola outbreak.  If that struck you Troops4Ebolaas a mis-use of the U.S. military, you are not alone.  Chelsea Schilling of World News Daily reports these reactions:

Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, has warned that the U.S. must “treat Ebola as a wake-up call.”

“What African troops are doing is shooting people who cross borders or violate quarantine,” Orient told WND, reacting to news of the U.S. troop deployment.  “Is that what we plan to support?”  She added, “Africans are already very suspicious of us.  How will they react to an army setting up hospitals?”

Orient called the planned U.S. deployment a “dubious mission,” warning that the nightmarish scenario could bring Ebola to America.  “There is definitely a risk,” she said.  “It seems irresponsible to send more people there when the ones already there are having trouble leaving.  Probably anyone who has been exposed should be quarantined for 25 days since the last exposure.”

Orient echoed the concerns of Elaine Donelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, who told WND, “I’m just appalled.  Judging from this, the United States seems to have a very confused vision of what ‘national security’ means.”

“But whether 3,000 American troops should be sent into that area of the world to deal with that problem, I do not see the justification,” Donelly said.  “Surely there are alternatives in the international health-care networks.”

WND also reported when retired Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin charged that sending American troops to combat Ebola in Liberia is “an absolute misuse of the U.S. military.”

The complete article is HERE.  And in related news, there is THIS detailed article on the severity of the problem in neighboring Sierra Leone.

More Chinese Provocations in the South China Sea

In a report from late Thursday by Bill Gertz in the Washington Free Beacon, it seems that the Chinese are continuing, even accelerating, their provocative reactions to the US military presence in the South China Sea.  From the article:

The P-8, a new, militarized Boeing-737 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, was conducting routine surveillance of the Chinese coast over the East China Sea on Monday when the incident occurred, said U.S. defense officials familiar with reports of the encounter.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jeffrey Pool had no immediate comment but said he would provide “an explanation of the event” on Friday.  The defense officials said the Chinese Su-27 interceptor jet flew within 50 feet of the P-8 and then carried out a barrel roll over the top of the aircraft—a move described by officials as dangerous and meant to threaten the surveillance aircraft.

It was the second threatening encounter of a U.S. surveillance aircraft this year.  In April, a Russian Su-27 flew within 100 feet of a U.S. Air Force RC-135 aircraft during another dangerous intercept over waters north of Japan.

One defense official said the Pentagon’s failure to produce a tough response to the April event likely spurred the Chinese to conduct the similar threatening intercept on Monday.

Chinese military officials have said they oppose all U.S. electronic surveillance flights and described ship-based monitoring of their facilities and territory an encroachment of sovereignty.  U.S. military officials have said the monitoring is carried within international airspace and thus does not violate international or Chinese law.

Is it too early to be describing the South China Sea as a “powderkeg”?  View the full piece, HERE.

Yep, the Bergdahl Swap was Illegal

Per a piece from earlier today by reporter Joel Gehrke of National Review, the US Governmental Account Office (GAO) has pronounced the Bergdahl swap to be illegal.  Here is the majority of the text from the article:

President Obama violated a “clear and unambiguous” law when he released five Guantanamo Bay detainees in exchange for Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the Government Accountability Office reported Thursday.

“[The Department of Defense] violated section 8111 because it did not notify the relevant congressional committees at least 30 days in advance of the transfer,” the GAO report said.  “In addition, because DOD used appropriated funds to carry out the transfer when no money was available for that purpose, DOD violated the Antideficiency Act.  The Antideficiency Act prohibits federal agencies from incurring obligations exceeding an amount available in an appropriation.”

The GAO rejected the idea that the action was legal and sidestepped the Obama team’s suggestion that the law is unconstitutional.

I assume heads will soon be rolling.  The full article, only one paragraph longer than the above, is HERE.

X-47B Carrier Test Flights Successfully Completed

Over the weekend, another phase of testing for aircraft carrier operations was completed for the Navy’s jet powered stealth drone, the X-47B.  The tests were conducted in the Atlantic Ocean off the entrance to Chesapeake Bay from the nuclear powered carrier Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71).  From the Navy’s official spokesman:

“Today we showed that the X-47B could take off, land and fly in the carrier pattern with manned aircraft while maintaining normal flight deck operations,” Capt. said Beau Duarte, program manager for the Navy’s unmanned carrier aviation office, in a statement.  “This is key for the future carrier air wing.”

The full article, HERE, also includes a great video of the X-47B being launched from the ship using it’s steam catapult.

Behind the success of Iron Dome

We have all seen and read much lately about the great success the Iron Dome system has proved to be in protecting Israel from HAMAS rocketry.  The folks at the military blog Strategy Page put up an article last week that goes into quite a bit of detail about the system, it’s effectiveness, it’s costs, and the frantic efforts of the Israelis to get more batteries up and running when they first learned of the impending attacks.

An excerpt:

The latest war with Hamas began on July 7th as Hamas ceased even pretending to halt the rocket attacks (by non-Hamas Islamic terrorists) on Israel coming out of Gaza.  Hamas began firing a lot more rockets and the seven Iron Dome batteries in service were the primary defense against a rocket hitting an inhabited area.  One additional battery had already been delivered but was not activated yet.  [The] Israelis wanted more Iron Dome batteries, so the air force and the manufacturers went to work.  Inventory was checked and it was found that there was enough equipment in stock (newly manufactured, used for development work or almost completed) to quickly equip two more batteries.  Because there were already seven batteries active and personnel had been selected, trained, and assembled for the new eighth battery, it was calculated that by prying away a few key people from each of the eight existing batteries, activating reservists with Iron Dome experience, using some contractor personnel (civilians who had worked on Iron Dome even if they had not done so while in the military), and calling in some military personnel with similar skills (maintenance, operations) to those used by Iran Dome crews … [more could be put online].  By speeding up the training and certification of the eighth battery as well as the newly formed two batteries, all could be in action soon (as in a week or less).  The eighth and ninth batteries went online by the 11th and the tenth battery was active by the 15th.  Military and contractor personnel, instructors, and the new crews had to work round the clock for over a week to make it happen.

and

So far Iron Dome has shot down 85 percent of the rockets it calculated were headed for a populated area. The Tamir missiles used by Iron Dome weigh 90 kg and have a range of 70 kilometers against rockets, mortar shells, and artillery shells up to 155mm.  Iron Dome can also shoot down aircraft and helicopters (up to 10 kilometers/32,000 feet altitude).  Iron Dome is the principal defense against short range rockets fired from Gaza or Lebanon.  Work is underway to increase Iron Dome range from 70 to over 200 kilometers.

Hamas has already (in 2012 and 2014) tried to defeat Iron Dome by firing a lot of long range missiles simultaneously at a few cities.  In theory this could overwhelm one or two Iron Dome batteries.  But Israel is able to keep 24/7 UAV watch on Gaza and spot attempts at large scale simultaneous launchers.  This enables Israel to bomb or shell many of the launch sites.  This results in many rockets [being] destroyed on the ground or launching erratically, and [then] landing within Gaza or nowhere near where they were aimed.  Because Iron Dome can track hundreds of incoming missiles, quickly plot their trajectory and likely landing spot, and ignore the majority that will not land near people, Hamas needs to put hundreds of larger (long range) missiles into the air at the same time to be sure of causing lots of Israeli casualties.  So far Hamas has … been unable to get enough rockets into the air at the same time to make this work.

Much more to read, HERE.

Coming Not-So-Soon To a Burglar Near You

Below is the full text of an article that appeared a few months ago on the military blog Defense Tech, an article entitled “Scientists Develop Night Vision Contact Lens”:

Troops might be able to replace those heavy night vision goggles strapped to their helmets and replace them with contact lenses.  The University of Michigan has developed a prototype contact lens that enhances night vision by placing a thin strip of graphene between layers of glass.  The graphene — a form of carbon — reacts to photons, which makes dark images look brighter.

The development of the lens still has quite a ways to go before soldiers can scrap those heavy goggles.  Right now the graphene only absorbs 2.3 percent of the light.  Those percentages have to rise before true night vision can be achieved.

Ted Norris and Zhaohui Zhong of Michigan’s College of Engineering are the ones who have developed the prototype.  This technology is not limited to a contact lens.  The developers said the graphene could be incorporated into windshields and amplify night vision while driving.  According to reports, the U.S. Army has already shown interest in the technology.

U.S. Army brass wants a Big-Iron on their hip

Nearly a half-century ago, the non-automotive, non-female thing I lusted after most was a Browning Hi-Power 9mm semi-automatic piston.  However, it remained my favorite only until Beretta starting manufacturing the P9, which had a magazine capacity of 16 rounds when the Browning’s was only 13.  And, I once owned a Beretta P9, the civilian version of the Army’s current M9 sidearm.  I liked the weapon a lot, but today’s US Army … not so much, according to THIS article from Fox News.  

According to an Army spokesman, Daryl Easlick from Fort Benning:

Soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have complained that the 9mm round is not powerful enough to be effective in combat.  “The 9mm doesn’t score high with soldier feedback,” said Easlick, explaining that the Army, and the other services, want a round that will have better terminal effects — or cause more damage — when it hits enemy combatants.  “We have to do better than our current 9mm.”

Auto and motorcycle racers have a saying, “there’s no substitute for cubic inches”, and in firearms terms, I think that would roughly translate to “there’s no substitute for big calibers”.  However, with an internal combustion engine, technological sophistication can stand-in to a degree for cubic inches.  In the same vein for firearms, caliber is not the last word in stopping power.  And herein lies what may be the biggest factor in the Army’s perception of the 9mm cartridge as being inadequate as a “manstopper”.  So long as the military is bound by the Geneva convention that precludes anything but jacketed ball ammunition, even a .45 is not going to be much better.  Put another way, I would put a 9mm hollow-point up against a .45 jacketed ball round any day for rapidly calming an enemy berserko.

And another thing.  If they go back to the .45-ACP or another .45 round, will that not pose a hardship for the female soldiers that have to carry and shoot it?  Maybe I’m being too critical here, but this seems to be a boondoggle in the making.

Wait — A new Note of Optimism for the A-10 Warthog?

On the evening of Thursday, June 19th, less than a week after I put up THIS pessimistic post about the future of the Warthog, Representative Candice Miller (R-MI) succeeded in beating back:

an effort by House appropriators to cut money for the aging A10s. The Air Force is trying to ground the fleet, a move it says could save billions of dollars.

“The Air Force wants to save money, but they don’t have an adequate follow-on at this time, and, with what’s happening in Iraq and the Middle East, eliminating the A10 is the absolute wrong move,” said Miller, a Republican who chairs the House Administration Committee.

A defense authorization bill that would save the A10s for this year at least still needs to be passed in the Senate, and then a compromise reached between it and the House.  And the defense appropriations bill — which is supposed to pay for what’s been authorized — will be reworked in the Senate as well, especially with President Barack Obama objecting to it in its current form.

But with the Senate already looking poised to pass an authorization bill saving the A10s in the short term and Miller’s win Thursday night, it’s becoming much more likely the aircraft will keep flying for now — though the Air Force has shown little indication it’s going to give up on the cost savings associated with grounding the fleet.

To read the full article, also from Military.com, click HERE.

The Obama Advisor Surge — Parallels to the Bush Surge?

The Washington Post editorial board sees parallels, HERE, between the “surge” ordered by President George W. Bush in Iraq to the dispatching of 300 advisors by President Obama.

I actually see more of a parallel to the MAG (Military Advisory Group) advisors sent to Vietnam by President John F. Kennedy during my three-year Army hitch in the early sixties.  The troops assigned to the MAG outfits were also supposed to advise only, but the scuttlebutt they spread in the NCO club upon rotation back to the States was that the typical South Vietnamese Army soldier couldn’t fight his way out of a wet paper bag, and if there were any real fighting to be done, the American Army was going to have to do it.  Taking that view to heart, Kennedy began the ramp-up that Johnson, his successor, took to it’s eventual conclusion.

In order to be effectual, the advisors will need to interact with local and regional Iraqi Army commanders on or near the battlefields.  However, my guess is that, in the absence of a new Status Of Forces agreement that protects them properly, they will be a new variety of FOBbit, spending all their time inside the protected Bagdahd Green Zone, or in regional equivalents, thereby insuring that they are nothing more than the token assistance that the President intends them to be.

Jax’s MCAS New River getting new CH-53K Support Facility

The CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter manufactured by Sikorsky, pictured below-right, is designed to provide the U.S. Marines with the largest CH-53K_KingStallionand heaviest helicopter in the American military.  According to it’s WikiPedia entry, HERE, it “features three 7,500 shp (5,590 kW) engines, new composite rotor blades, and a wider cabin than previous CH-53 variants.”

And they will be coming to eastern North Carolina in 2017.  According to THIS article from the Jacksonville Daily News, MCAS-NR is getting a new $30-million dollar facility to:

… teach flight control repair, composite component repair …and everything necessary to keep a CH-53K operational,” said Doss Comer, the facility manager for New River.  “We can’t field the aircraft for the Marine Corps without this facility.  If we don’t build it, we can’t train to maintain it.  We must have a this new building to tend to the new aircraft.”

The training facility will provide classrooms, administrative space, general offices, hydraulic and mechanical rooms, tool rooms, training areas, avionics, wire repair and more.  Four CH-53K simulators will be on site at a cost of more than $60 million each.  The simulators will allow training for all Marines at the squadron level excluding pilots.

Good news, and welcome.

Still not much hope for the A-10 Warthogs

The defense news site Military.com is reporting, HERE, that although they are not giving up, the supporters of the A-10 Warthog seem to be fighting a losing battle against the opposition led by Secretary of Defense Hagel.  An excerpt:

The Air Force has proposed retiring the entire fleet of nearly 300 A-10 “Warthogs” — including more than 80 at Davis-Monthan — by 2019 to save some $4 billion, but backers say there’s no ready substitute with the A-10’s unique close-air support capabilities.

I hope the A-10 supporters are successful, as the F-35 seems to be far less capable as a close air support aircraft.

A Comedic Take on the VA Scandal

Remy Munasifi is a name that would seem to be straight off the Al-Qaeda honor roll.  In reality, however, he was born in Washington, DC in 1980 of an Iraqi physician father and a Lebanese mother.  In 2002, he graduated with honors from Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia, a private Roman Catholic university.

After college, Remy gravitated into a career in stand-up comedy, and in recent years has specialized in created web videos focused on political targets.  Many of them are very funny, as is this one in my opinion.  It is mainly about the Obama VA scandal, but Bowe Bergdahl comes in for dishonorable mention toward the end.

Allegations that Bob Bergdahl has stalked two Idaho sisters

The online edition of the British newspaper Daily Mail is reporting, HERE, that about three years ago Bob Bergdahl, the father of the recently released Bowe Bergdahl, seems to have become infatuated with one or both of the two Hillman twin sisters who lived near him in the area around Hailey, Idaho.  An excerpt from the article, with my editing for punctuation and brevity, is below.  It refers to the police report that resulted from the account of the two sisters:

Bergdahl, who then worked as a UPS delivery man ‘was always near or on’ the sisters’ property despite never having any packages to pick up or deliver, according to the report.  Allie contacted police in early October and officers promised to step up patrols in her area.  But soon after speaking to the police Allie related that a note written on UPS-headed note paper appeared on her front door which read, ‘I am sorry for whatever I did.’  The pretty blond threw the note away and told police she found it ‘creepy’.

Just a week after leaving the note, Bergdahl drove his UPS truck to the sisters’ home, waited until Allie’s boyfriend left, then confronted the bewildered brunette and accused her of cheating on him, Allie reveals.  ‘Allie had opened the door when Robert knocked and he said (while laughing), “What, are you two-timing me b*tch?” the Hailey Police Department report said.  ‘Allie slammed the door shut as Robert grabbed the door handle.  ‘Allie said Robert just stood there as she yelled, “Bye, bye” and left Robert’s view.’

She was shocked as ‘she and Robert have never “really talked” or been in any kind of friendly or dating relationship,’ the report states.

The article also states that the elder Bergdahl was an Olympic aspirant whose athletic hopes were dashed when President Jimmy Carter cancelled U.S. participation in the 1980 Moscow games because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

D-Day, June 6, 1944: The Seventieth Anniversary

During World War II, Samuel A. L. Marshall was a U.S. Army Colonel serving as a combat historian, and that continued to be his assignment until he retired as a Brigadier General in 1953.  By then, his research and focus on WW2, and on the Normandy invasion in particular, made him about as knowledgable about D-Day and the allied landings as anyone who has ever written about the events of that date.  For the November, 1960 issue of The Atlantic magazine, Marshall used his notes to write a riveting account of that horrific first day.

The account can be accessed via the Education / Historic Events menu, or simply by clicking HERE.