Archive for October, 2011

The Baby Bust Buries The Russian Army

October 31, 2011
The Russian Ground Forces (the Army and Interior Ministry paramilitary units) are supposed to have a million personnel. But officials admit, off-the-record, that the real number is closer to 800,000 and falling fast. Conscripts are inducted twice a year, in April and October. This year, the April intake was 220,000. But this month, only 135,000 are expected. The military is hurrying to adapt by cutting the officer ranks to 220,000, increasing the number of long term professional (“contract”) soldiers and trained NCOs to 420,000 and accepting the fact that they will not be able to obtain more than 270,000 conscripts a year, if that. At the moment there are too many officers, not enough contract soldiers and NCOs and about the right amount of conscripts.The basic problem is two-fold. First, military service is very unpopular, and potential conscripts are increasingly successful at dodging the draft. But the biggest problem is that the number of 18 year olds is rapidly declining each year. The latest crop of draftees was those born after the Soviet Union dissolved. That was when the birth rate went south. Not so much because the Soviet Union was gone, but more because of the economic collapse (caused by decades of communist misrule) that precipitated the collapse of the communist government. The number of available draftees went from 1.5 million a year in the early 1990s, to 800,000 today. Less than half those potential conscripts are showing up, and many have criminal records (or tendencies) that help sustain the abuse of new recruits that has made military service so unsavory.

With conscripts now in for only a year, rather than two, the military is forced to take a lot of marginal (sickly, overweight, bad attitudes, drug users) recruits in order to keep the military and Ministry of Interior units up to strength. But this means that even elite airborne and commando units are using a lot of conscripts. Most of these young guys take a year to master the skills needed to be useful, and then they are discharged. Few choose to remain in uniform and become career soldiers. That’s primarily because the Russian military is seen as a crippled institution, and one not likely to get better any time soon. With so many of the troops now one year conscripts, an increasing number of the best officers and NCOs get tired of coping with all the alcoholics, drug users and petty criminals that are taken in just to make quotas. With the exodus of the best leaders, and growing number of ill-trained and unreliable conscripts, the Russian military is more of a mirage than an effective combat (or even police) organization.

The military is so unpopular for conscripts because of the brutal treatment they receive. This has not been getting better, and earlier this year it was revealed that “hazing” incidents were up 16 percent last year. This is serious stuff. There are a lot of reasons for not wanting to be in the Russian Army, but the worst of them is the hazing (of new men by guys who have been in a few years, or months longer). It was thought that this sort of thing would speed the demise of conscription in Russia, once the Cold War ended in 1991. Didn’t work out that away. The government has found that, even among the “contract soldiers” (carefully selected volunteers who are paid much more than conscripts) the old abuses lived on, and that most of the best contract soldiers left when their contract was up. It was because of the brutality and lack of discipline in the barracks. The hazing is most frequently committed by troops who have been in six months or so, against the new recruits. But this extends to a pattern of abuse and brutality by all senior enlisted troops, against junior ones. It’s out of control. What made it worse last year was the growing animosity against troops who are not ethnic Russians.

This hazing originally developed after World War II, when Russia deliberately avoided developing a professional NCO corps. They preferred to have officers take care of nearly all troop supervision. The NCOs that did exist were treated as slightly more reliable enlisted men, but given little real authority. Since officers did not live with the men, slack discipline in the barracks gave rise to the vicious hazing and exploitation of junior conscripts by the senior ones. This led to very low morale, and a lot of suicides, theft, sabotage and desertions. The hazing has been one of the basic causes of crimes in the Russian armed forces, accounting for 20 to 30 per cent of all soldier crimes. This has caused a suicide rate that is among the highest in the world. Poor working conditions in general also mean that Russian soldiers are nearly twice as likely to die from accidents, or suicide, than American soldiers. Long recognized as a problem, no solution to the hazing ever worked.

With hazing, and the resulting poor morale and discipline, the military is also unable to keep many of its experienced and capable NCOs. Many of the best ones have been leaving the military, despite better pay and living conditions. All noted the problems, caused by hazing, as a major reason for getting out.

Conscription itself, and the prospect of being exposed to the hazing, has led to a massive increase in draft dodging. Bribes, and document fraud, are freely used. Few parents, or potential conscripts, consider this a crime. Avoiding the draft is seen as a form of self-preservation.

The Russian lack of sergeants (praporshchiki) has been difficult to fix. Just promoting more troops to that rank, paying them some more, and telling them to take charge, has not done the job. So going back to look at how Western armies do it, the Russians noted that those foreign armies provided a lot of professional training for new NCOs, and more of it as the NCOs advanced in rank. But this is a long term process, and it will be years before benefits will be felt.

All this is in sharp contrast to the old days. When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, it had five million troops in its armed forces. Now it’s less than one million in just Russia (which got about half the population of the Soviet Union, and most of the territory). Although the Russian armed forces lost over 80 percent of its strength in the last 18 years, a disproportionate number of officers remained. At the beginning of the current round of reforms, the Russian military has about 1.2 million personnel (400,000 in the army itself, the rest in paramilitary units that are largely uniformed and armed like soldiers). But there were 355,000 officers in this force. That’s more than one in three. With all that, some 40,000 officer positions were still vacant. The reorganization eliminated nearly half of them.

As a result of these personnel problems, Russian efforts to reform and upgrade its armed forces have, so far, failed. The basic problem is that few Russian men are willing to join, even at good pay rates. Efforts to recruit women and foreigners have not made up for this. The Russian military has an image problem that just won’t go away. This resulted in the period of service for conscripts being lowered to one year (from two) in 2008. That was partly to placate the growing number of parents who were encouraging, and assisting, their kids in avoiding military service.

All this comes after more than a decade of reforms in the armed forces, particularly the army. Poor discipline, low morale and incompetent performance are all legacies of the Soviet era (1921-1991). Russian commanders, envious of the success of all-volunteer Western forces, have long studied their former foes, and decided to adopt a lot more Western military customs. For example, one recent reform ordered that Russian troops would not be confined to their barracks most of the time. In the Soviet era, the conscripted troops were treated like convicts, and their barracks were more like a prison than the college dormitory atmosphere found in troop housing for Western military personnel. Russian conscripts are now free to leave the base on weekends, and work only a five day week. Things like this help a bit, but not enough.

Russia has tried to change public attitudes towards the armed forces, by publicizing all the new changes and programs. But word got around that most of these efforts failed. Blame that on the Internet. A recent poll revealed that 75 percent of military age men do not want to serve in the military, and the main reason is the hazing and prison-like conditions in the barracks.

For Your Eyes Only Military News

October 31, 2011

ISRAEL:  Cease Fire Over Again

October 31, 2011: In northern Gaza, Israeli aircraft killed two uniformed men believed to be part of a rocket launching team. In the last few days, about 40 rockets and mortar shells have been fired into Israel from Gaza. As a result, one Israeli and ten Palestinians were killed. After the first rocket was fired last week, Israel deployed its three Iron Dome anti-rocket systems near the two cities that attract most of the long range rocket fire. Iron Dome has been able to intercept about 90 percent of the missiles the system believes are headed for populated areas. A third Iron Dome battery was sent to the Lebanese border.

In Gaza, Hamas is pressuring the UN and other aid agencies to give Islamic radicals more direct control over aid money and projects. The aid groups resist, because they know that if the radicals gains control, much of the money will be diverted to terrorism efforts, or the bank accounts of terrorist leaders. This has always been a problem, but now it is getting worse.

Fatah, the corrupt, old line Palestinian party that controls the West Bank is upset at the growing revenge attacks by Israeli settlers. This is something new. For decades, the settlers could be depended on to be passive after a Palestinian attack, letting the Israeli police and military look for the culprit. But now the settlers are increasingly launching “price tag” counterattacks. The price tag refers to what the Palestinians must suffer for every attack on Israelis. This is vigilante justice, and it does more damage to Palestinians than Israeli police efforts to catch and prosecute Palestinian attackers. The Palestinians are not accustomed to this kind of swift payback, and they do not like it. Israel is under pressure to crack down more vigorously on the vigilantes.

October 30, 2011: Israeli aircraft killed one man and wounded another, as several men prepared to launch a rocket into Israel. These men were members of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, one of many smaller terrorist groups that ignore what Hamas does.
The Israelis declared that the cease fire established in 2009 was over. It had been broken dozens of times in the last two years, always by the Palestinians. Israel will now continuously seek out and attack Gaza based terrorists seeking to fire rockets into Israel.

In Saudi Arabia, a prominent Saudi prince, Khaled bin Talal, added $900,000 to the $100,000 reward offered by a Saudi cleric several days earlier. The million dollars goes to whoever kidnaps an Israeli soldier, who then can be exchanged for hundreds of Arab terrorists held in Israeli jails.

October 29, 2011: Israeli aircraft made several attacks on Islamic Jihad in Gaza, killing at least nine members of the small Islamic terror group. Islamic Jihad, which is backed by Iran, ignores Hamas orders for a cease fire. Hamas does nothing when defied like this, not wanting to trigger a civil war between itself and the smaller terror groups that have sanctuary in Gaza.

Islamic Jihad fired long range rockets at Ashdod, and one of the rockets killed an Israeli civilians. This was cause for celebration in Gaza, because only about one in 300 rockets kills an Israeli. The Palestinians celebrate these killings regularly, especially terror attacks that killed a large number of Israelis. Doesn’t matter if the victim were civilians, or even children. Each death is a victory and Israeli counterattacks are war crimes.

Four shorter range homemade rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel, but exploded in the desert.

October 28, 2011: Mahmoud Abbas, the head of Fatah, admitted in a TV interview that the Palestinians made a mistake in not accepting the UN partition plan in 1947. That would have created a Palestinian state next to a smaller (compared to what the Israelis obtained after defeating the Arab attack) Israeli state. In 1947, neighboring Arab countries told the Palestinian Arabs that the combined Arab armies would attack and wipe out the Palestinian Jews, eliminating them forever and leaving Arabs in complete control of the area that is now Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. The greatly outnumbered Jews prevailed and created Israel. A peace deal, close to what was offered in 1947, was negotiated in 2000. But radical groups threatened civil war if Fatah accepted it (which it seemed inclined to do). Instead, Fatah backed a terror campaign against Israel, which is still, technically, going on. But Israel large defeated the Palestinians over five years ago. Since then, the only thing Palestinians can agree on, judging by what they say in their Arab language media, is the Israel must be destroyed and all Jews killed or driven from the region. This causes a certain amount of friction with Israel, especially the many Israelis who speak Arabic and see these Palestinian broadcasts and publications.

October 27, 2011: Egypt released an American Jew who had been imprisoned since June and accused of spying for Israel. The captive American, Ilan Grapel, also had Israeli citizenship, and had gone to Egypt to work for as a volunteer for Egyptian democracy organizations. The army is temporarily running Egypt, until elections could be held, and apparently though that arresting Grapel would be good for their image. It would also hurt the pro-democracy Egyptian groups, who threaten to bring the army to justice for decades of corrupt behavior. The espionage charges were bogus, and the United States leaned on the Egyptian military (a major recipient of U.S. aid) to fix this. Grapel was released in exchange for 25 Arabs held in Israeli jails, mostly for smuggling.

October 26, 2011: Islamic terrorists in Gaza fired a rocket into southern Israel.
In the West Bank, a roadside bomb went off near an Israeli patrol. There were no injuries.

October 22, 2011: In Jerusalem, an Arab stabbed an Israeli.
Egypt sealed three more smuggling tunnels on the Gaza border.

October 21, 2011:  A Lebanese court convicted ten Lebanese, in absentia, of spying for Israel. The ten had escaped to Israel before they could be arrested.

INDIA-PAKISTAN: Living Large Off The Mythical Threat

October 31, 2011: Pakistani generals continue to refuse to clear terrorists out of their last sanctuary; North Waziristan. Meanwhile, the Pakistanis demand more American and Afghan efforts against Pakistani Taliban based in Afghanistan. Pakistani troops have chased the Taliban out of most of the tribal territories (except for North Waziristan), forcing some of these terrorists to move across the border. For the local tribes, the border does not exist. In fact, by law (from the 1890s), the tribes living astride the border can ignore it. The tribes tend to avoid both the Pakistani and Afghan governments. They don’t ignore the Taliban because some of their tribesmen belong. For many of these tribesmen, the Taliban are a job, even if it is only a raiding a looting society. Captured Taliban are often ignorant of Taliban religious and political goals, but not what they pay (not much, but something) and what the privileges (a license to steal and kill) are.

The terrorist related violence in Pakistan continues to kill or would several hundred people a week. Because of the cold weather and snow, operations are slowing down. But trucks still have to move goods, and terrorists prefer to carry out attacks year-round, just so the media does not forget them. Pakistani violence continues to cause about ten times as many casualties as India suffers (from Islamic terrorists, leftist rebels and tribal separatists).

The Pakistani Army insists they simply don’t have sufficient troops to go after North Waziristan. This is because most of the Pakistani Army must remain on the Indian border. This is necessary to maintain the illusion of imminent Indian invasion. Of course, any Pakistani with access to the Internet can quickly confirm that India has no interest in invading (and then being responsible for) Pakistan. No one wants to be responsible for Pakistan, and that seems to include most Pakistani leaders (who are more interested in plundering, than protecting, Pakistan). The military cannot back away from the Indian invasion myth, because without it the military has no justification for the large chunk of the national wealth they get (or take, depending on who is running the country at the time). This is becoming more of an issue in Pakistani politics, much to the discomfort of military officers, who have lucrative careers because of the “Indian threat.”

Pakistan continues to tolerate American UAV missile attacks on terrorist leaders in North Waziristan. While upset when pro-Pakistan terrorists are killed, most of the victims have Pakistani blood on their hands. Most Islamic terrorists in Pakistan have declared the Pakistani government an enemy, and continue to carry out terror attacks against officials. Thus the generals have a very personal interest in seeing these terror organizations weakened. What annoys the Americans is that Haqqani Network terrorists, based in North Waziristan, continue to carry out attacks against Americans in Afghanistan. Pakistani generals are not concerned about this. Staying alive and maintaining their own comfortable lifestyle is more important, and that means constantly making noises about how hard the army works to protect Pakistan from foreign enemies. Many Pakistani media outlets run with this, even to the point of praising Haqqani for sticking it to the Americans. Pakistanis have convinced themselves (this is something of a national myth) that the September 11, 2001 attacks were carried out by the CIA, and blamed on al Qaeda, so that the U.S. could invade Afghanistan and, eventually, Pakistan.

Pakistani diplomats can’t preach this stuff, with a straight face, to their American counterparts (or any other Western diplomats), but back home they have to accept that it is considered the only true explanation for what’s going on along the border. Thus the Islamic terror attacks are blamed on America, and India, who have stirred up things as part of a plot to destroy Pakistan.

Anti-corruption efforts in Pakistan continue to be stalled by the corrupt officials themselves. This is pretty standard in any nation fighting this level of corruption. The thieves want to hang on to their loot and stay out of jail. So a lot of the money will be spent on lawyer and, in some cases, hired muscle. Killing anti-corruption officials is generally frowned on, but it does happen from time to time.
In North Waziristan, American UAVs fired missiles that killed four Islamic terrorists.

Indian Moslems are mostly (about 80 percent) Sufi. This is a sect that is more mystical, and much less violent, than most. The umbrella organization for Indian Sufis has increasingly come out publically to denounce the growing popularity of Wahhabi Islam. This is a much more violent and conservative sect of Islam. Wahhabism comes from Saudi Arabia, and most Islamic terrorists belong, or admire the Wahhabi way. Sufis are considered heretics by many Wahhabis, but increasingly Sufi Moslems are fighting back when attacked.
The counter-terrorism campaign against Maoists in eastern India has been reorganized. The special police units can now cross state lines to pursue Maoist groups. Before that, the special police battalions were assigned to specific states and only allowed to operate in one state. The Maoists adapted by setting up bases just across state lines. This tactic will no longer work.

October 30, 2011:  In southern India, police found and disarmed a roadside bomb apparently meant for a local politician. A local villager tipped off the police about the suspicious package in a culvert under a road.

October 29, 2011: In northwest Pakistan, near the Khyber Pass, a suicide bomber killed two policemen. One of the dead policemen had, last month, killed a Taliban leader. The Taliban like to discourage this sort of thing, and going after police responsible sends a message.
In Kashmir, the senior Islamic leader in the region is demanding that Christians stop converting Moslems. This is legal in India, while in Pakistan it is illegal, and liable to get you killed by Islamic radicals.

October 27, 2011: Taliban leaders said, via a TV documentary, that they had long depended on the Pakistani Army for supplies and sanctuary. This has never been a secret, but it was interesting seeing Taliban leaders openly boast about it for the first time. The Pakistani military promptly denounced the statements as lies. They always do that.

Pakistan Taliban revealed that recent American UAV attacks had killed five of Pakistani Taliban leaders.

October 25, 2011: In northwest Pakistan, a roadside bomb killed a member of a pro-government tribal militia. In Pakistani Kashmir, a senior judge was shot and wounded by an unidentified man. There is usually little terrorism in Pakistani Kashmir, because of the presence of so many terrorist bases (for training men to cross the border into Indian Kashmir) and a large number of soldiers (to guard the border and keep an eye on all those terrorists.)

In Indian Kashmir, someone tossed hand grenades at police, wounding three of them. This was a rare attack, after several months of peace in the area. The Islamic terrorists who have operated in Indian Kashmir for three decades have been in decline, and under growing pressure from police, troops and a Moslem population that is more inclined to inform on the radicals.

October 23, 2011: In Kashmir, bad weather caused an Indian helicopter to inadvertently cross the border. Intercepted by Pakistani jet fighters, the chopper landed at a Pakistani base, where the two pilots and two passengers were questioned, and then allowed to fly back to Indian Kashmir. Everyone hailed this as a step forward, as in the past the four Indians would have been tossed in prison and the incident would have become another dispute between the two countries.

October 22, 2011: American and Pakistani commanders on both sides of the border in eastern Afghanistan have agreed to coordinate their operations against Taliban groups based on both sides of the border. These Taliban live as civilians in villages, and use cell phones and radio sets to plan and coordinate attacks, most of them in Pakistan (where most of these Taliban come from.) But there is another problem developing. In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan), more Taliban are setting up bases along the Afghan border. They are getting away from this because the government has turned more territory over to tribal militias, and withdrawing more police (who are needed elsewhere to battle Islamic terrorists.)

STRATEGIC NUCLEAR WEAPONS: The Incredible Shrinking Balance Of Terror

October 31, 2011: Two decades of budget cuts and disarmament treaties have changed the “balance of terror” between the United States and the Soviet Union (now Russia). Back in 1991, the U.S. had 1,947 delivery systems (ICBM, SLBMs and bombers) and 9,745 nuclear warheads. The Soviet Union had 2,483 delivery systems and 11,159 nuclear warheads. Back then, the recently negotiated START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) agreement called for each side to reduce this to 1,600 delivery systems and 6,000 warheads. Twenty years later, the U.S. has 822 delivery systems and 1,790 warheads. Russia has 516 delivery systems and 1,566 nuclear warheads.

START came into force in 1994, and brought with it on-site inspections of Russian and American nuclear weapons and delivery systems, to insure that everyone was in compliance. This allowed the U.S. to shift its spy satellites away from watching Russian nuclear weapons, to other tasks. This became critical after September 11, 2001, when satellite recon was much in demand to track down terrorists. The START 1 agreement expired in December, 2009, and a new one was signed in April, 2010. The new agreement requires Russia and the U.S. to each have no more than 1,550 nukes, and no more than 800 delivery systems to carry them.

ARMORED WARFARE:  Stryker Double-V Hull Passes The Test

October 31, 2011: The U.S. Army has ordered another 177 Stryker Double-V Hull (DVH) models. This brings the total built or on order to 742. About half have been delivered, and the rest will arrive within two years. The latest DVH models cost about $2.1 million each. The DVH models first experienced combat earlier this year, and performed as expected.  The army is buying enough DVH models to equip two of its eight Stryker brigades.

This DVH design is intended to improve resistance to mines (more common in Afghanistan than Iraq) by adding a V shaped bottom. This is one of the key elements of the MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) design. Some of the prototypes were run (via remote control), over mines and roadside bombs. These tests demonstrated that the V shaped hull made the vehicles much safer. Developing the new prototype design cost about $58 million.

Each Stryker brigade has 332 Stryker vehicles. There are ten different models, but most are the infantry carrier version. The current model Stryker costs about a million dollars each. This version is 6.95 meters (22.92 feet) long, 2.72 meters (8.97 feet) high and 2.64 meters (8.72 feet) wide. Weighing 17 tons, it has a top speed of 100 kilometers per hour and a range (on roads) of 500 kilometers. Stryker has a crew of two, a turret with a remotely controlled 12.7mm machine-gun and can carry nine troops. A 7.62mm machine-gun is also carried, and often another 12.7mm one as well.

The army is planning on incorporating the V shaped hull into the new Stryker 2.0 design, making the recently ordered V hull models Stryker 1.5 (unofficially). The Stryker 2 will weigh about a ton more than current models, and have a more powerful engine (450 horsepower versus the current 350), plus a suspension system and other mechanical components upgraded to support up to 27 tons, larger tires, improved brakes and improved sensors (so that troops inside the vehicle will have better awareness of what’s outside.) These are the major modifications, there will be several more minor ones (better air conditioning, a sniper detector, more electricity generation and so on). Outwards appearance won’t change much, other than the V shape hull.

Stryker 2 provides for “growth” (more armor and equipment) as well as making the vehicle more agile and reliable. The changes are based on user feedback, and are considered a modernization project, not, strictly speaking, a new version of Stryker. In the past year, Strykers were equipped with these improvements and tested. About 20 percent of the 3,300 Strykers the army has are in combat, and units headed for Afghanistan will be first to get the modernized ones.

INTELLIGENCE OPERATIONS:  Russia Revives Wet Work

October 31, 2011: During the Cold War, Russia (then the Soviet Union) was infamous for using assassins overseas to kill people, often exiled Russians, who were considered a threat. That sort of thing stopped, for a while, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

But in the last decade, the Russian “wet work” (assassination) teams are back. This is considered an intelligence operation, as it is often used to eliminate those supplying foreigners with damaging information about Russia.

How many people have been targeted by the SVR (foreign intelligence successor to the KGB) and GRU (military intelligence) FSB death squads is unknown. It is believed to be at least a dozen in the last decade. The most common targets have been members of Chechen terrorist organizations. Six of these Chechens have been killed in Turkey in the last four years. All were killed with a pistol used mainly by the Russian special operations troops. Another Chechen terrorist leader was killed in Qatar in 2004. In that same year, a former Russian intelligence agent was killed, in Britain, using radioactive poison. British intelligence traced the attacker back to Russia, but the Russian government denies everything.

There have been several hits that were known to have been aborted, usually because of local police or intelligence agencies interfering. Other hits were only suspected, because the target was taken out in such a way that it could have been an accident.

Russia denies any involvement with any of this, and they always have. However, after 1991, a few witnesses came forward to confirm Russian involvement in Cold War era killings, but most Russian operatives kept quiet, even after the Soviet Union disappeared. It is believed that some of the Cold War era killers may still be in business, although mainly in a supervisory or training capacity.

PROCUREMENT: Tu-160 Dying From Spares Shortage

October 31, 2011: Russian efforts to maintain its revived fleet of Tu-160 long-range bombers has come up short because the Russian Air Force cannot order enough Tu-160 engines to keep the engine factory going. The air force only wants about five NK-32 engines a year. Each Tu-160 is fitted with four of these 3.5 ton engines. Most of these engines were built 10-20 years ago, and have been overhauled many times. After a while, these engines cannot be refurbished, and that’s why some new ones are needed. But the manufacturer insists the smallest economical annual production is twenty engines. Otherwise, the price per engine for five a year will be more than the government is willing to pay. Negotiations continue.

This sort of thing has the air force generals very upset. In part, that’s because a year ago two Tu-160s made a record 23 hour long, 18,000 kilometer flight around the periphery of Russia. This required two in-flight refuelings from Il-78 tankers. This feat was nothing new. Two years ago, a Tu-160 completed a 21 hour flight. Although designed as a heavy bomber, the Tu-160 has largely been used, in the last few years, as a long range reconnaissance aircraft. But even in that role, the Tu-160 can carry cruise missiles and other air-to-ground weapons. The air force generals believe the Tu-160 is a valuable asset, and worth keeping in service. But obtaining spare parts from the post-Cold War Russian defense industries is very difficult. Many of the Cold War era firms are bankrupt, and the survivors often don’t produce the quality stuff they used to.

Three years ago, Russia received its first new Tu-160 heavy bomber since the early 1990s. Production had been revived five years ago. The plan is to produce one new Tu-160 every 18 months, until another 14 are built. But this plan appears to have been put aside in favor of upgrading the equipment on current aircraft. Currently, there are 16 Tu-160s in service.

Production of the Tu-160 ceased in 1994, with several of them partially completed. Apparently, the first of the recent “new” aircraft is one of those left uncompleted in the 1990s. Lots of Russian weapons factories were shut down after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. That occurred, in part, because the Soviet Union was, literally, bankrupt. The defense budget was cut by more than two-thirds, and weapons production got hurt the most. The only plants that kept operating were those producing items for export. But many of the shuttered factories were preserved, and now many of them are in operation again, picking up where they left off. But the revived firms do not have the pick of design, management and skilled worker talent. All the best people are working at more lucrative commercial firms.

The Tu-160 “Blackjack” is very similar to the U.S. B-1, but never really lived up to its potential. Still, it is the most modern heavy bomber the Russians have. It’s a 267 ton aircraft that can carry up to 40 tons of bombs and missiles, for up to 12,000 kilometers. The aircraft can refuel in the air. It originally entered service in 1987, and was built mainly to deliver cruise missiles. Noting the success of the B-1 in Afghanistan and Iraq with smart bombs, the Tu-160s were modified to do the same, in addition to retaining their cruise missile carrying capability.

Intelligence News YOU may missed…….

October 31, 2011
Abdullah al-SenoussiAl-Senussi

 

►►US Congressman urges expulsion of ‘Iranian spies’ at the UN. New York Congressman Peter King says the US should kick out Iranian officials at the UN in New York and in Washington because many of them are spies. Speaking at a hearing Wednesday, the Democrat said such a move would send a clear signal after the recent alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington.

►►Colombia’s intelligence chief denies knowledge of illegal wiretapping. Felipe Muñoz, the director of Colombia’s intelligence agency DAS has denied knowledge of illegal interception of unionists’ emails and phone calls by DAS employees, following the announcement that the Inspector General’s Office will be investigating these allegations. According to the allegations, Muñoz and other leading DAS officials were aware of the illegal interception.
►►Gaddafi intelligence chief now in Niger. Moammar Gadhafi’s intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi (pictured), who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, has slipped into the desert nation of Niger and is hiding in the expanse of dunes at the Niger-Algeria border, a Niger presidential adviser said last week. Meanwhile, Gaddafi’s former spy chief, Moussa Koussa, has denied claims made in a BBC documentary that he tortured prisoners.

Soldier of Fortune Weekly Briefing 24-28 Oct. 2011

October 31, 2011

DUKE BLITZ!
Over nine days, Coalition forces took the fight to the Haqqani Network in two
provinces!
http://www.sofmag.com/operation-duke-blitz-turns-heat-haqqanis

LIBYA DECLARES LIBERATION
Libya’s transitional government declared Libya liberated on Sunday.
http://www.sofmag.com/libya-declares-liberation-42-year-gadhafi-rule

SECRET GRAVE FOR GADHAFI
The Libyan government announced that dictator Muammar Gadhafi was buried in a
secret grave.
http://www.sofmag.com/gadhafi-buried-secret-grave

TWO UAV STRIKES KILL 11
Two UAV strikes killed 11 militants, including a high-ranking member of the
Pakistani Taliban.
http://www.sofmag.com/two-suspected-us-drone-strikes-kill-11-militants-pakistan

WORLD WAR II CREW BURIED
The crew of a B-24 Liberator was buried at Arlington National Cemetary.
http://www.sofmag.com/wwii-army-aircrew-laid-rest

F-15C CRASHES
An F-15 crashed in Nevada.
http://www.sofmag.com/nellis-afb-f-15c-crashes

MEDEVAC ON CALL
South Dakota National Guard medics remain on call in Iraq.
http://www.sofmag.com/south-dakota-medevac-team-ready-action

HONORING THE PLOESTI RAIDERS
Airmen attended the reunion of the 98th Bomb Group at Barksdale Air Force
Base.
http://www.sofmag.com/barksdale-afb-airmen-honor-ploesti-raiders

JSF TESTING FINISHES
USS Wasp completed three weeks of sea testing of the F-35B.
http://www.sofmag.com/uss-wasp-concludes-jsf-testing

FIREFIGHT IN PAKTIYA
One insurgent was killed in a firefight with coalition forces in Paktiya
province.
http://www.sofmag.com/isaf-joint-command-morning-operational-update-142

FACILITATOR CAPTURED!
An Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan facilitator responsible for attacks in
northern Afghanistan was captured in Takhar province.
http://www.sofmag.com/isaf-joint-command-morning-operational-update-140

COALITION TARGETS COMPOUND
A coalition air strike in Helmand province targeted a compound used by
insurgents.
http://www.sofmag.com/isaf-joint-command-morning-operational-update-139

North Korean Air Force Left To Rot

October 31, 2011
South Korea recently revealed that North Korea had gone looking for someone to sell them new combat aircraft, and had been turned down by China and Russia. South Korean diplomats were pleased to find this out, and South Korean Air Force officers were not surprised that the North Koreans were desperate to upgrade their air force.

This was because it had earlier been revealed that in late 2010, after North Korea artillery fired on South Korea (Yeonpyeong Island), North Korea quickly made preparations for war. These preparations were apparently ordered without much warning. So too, apparently, was the attack on Yeonpyeong Island.

What the South Korean intel analysts were particularly amazed by was the poor performance of the North Korean air force during this hasty mobilization. It was known that North Korean pilots had been getting less and less flying time in the past decade, but when ordered into the air on a large scale for this hasty mobilization, the results were amazingly bad. The flying skills of combat pilots were particularly unimpressive, as was the performance of many aircraft (indicating poor maintenance). There were several crashes, and many near misses in the air, and a general sense of confusion among the North Korean Air Force commanders and troops.

While North Korea was apparently trying to impress, and intimidate, South Korea with this display of aerial might, the impact was just the opposite. With the exception of ten MiG-29s, the North Korean air force consists of several hundred Cold War era Russian and Chinese warplanes. The Chinese aircraft are knockoffs of older Russian designs, and most of the North Korean fleet consists of aircraft designs that were getting old in the 1970s. The North Korean Air Force training exercise merely confirmed what many South Korean and American intelligence analysts already suspected; that the North Korean Air Force could barely fly, and hardly fight.

Neither China nor Russia wants to encourage North Korea to undertake any more such misadventures; thus the refusal to provide new aircraft. Moreover, North Korea is difficult to do business with, often refusing to pay, or delaying payment for a long time. North Korea is not a good customer, and even China and Russia, who supported the north for over half a century, are fed up with North Korea’s increasingly bizarre behavior.

For Your Eyes Only Military News

October 31, 2011

THE BALKANS:  Rage Against The Machines

October 29, 2011: Turkey said it will improve urban construction standards throughout the country. The earthquake that struck the country October 23 literally destroyed numerous towns and villages in the Lake Van area. The government is proposing a redevelopment law that includes the tightening of building codes. However, there is a major political element to the law. The Lake Van region (southeastern Turkey) is a predominantly Kurdish area. Turkey has been fighting a low-grade war with the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) for some three decades. For reasons economic and political, friction between Kurds and Turks has increased this past year. The development law not only answers a long-term need (strengthening infrastructure so that it can survive large earthquakes) but is also intended to forestall accusations of neglect by Kurds.
October 28, 2011: A Islamist militant gunman from Serbia fired on the US embassy (using an AK-47) in Bosnia, Sarajevo. One Bosnian policeman was wounded in the terror attack, but no one in the US embassy was hurt. A Bosnian police sniper shot and wounded the terrorist, who was identified as Mevlid Jasarevic. He is from the Serb town of Novi Pazar, which is a predominantly Muslim area. Terror attacks in Sarajevo inevitably recall the assassination of Austro-Hungary’s archduke in 1914. That assassination was carried out by a Serb nationalist. It was the spark that ignited World War One.
October 24, 2011: Criminal investigators in Kosovo have discovered a niche where Kosovars and Serbians are cooperating: smuggling. This really isn’t news per se. Balkan smuggling gangs don’t pay much attention to religion and ethnicity when it comes to moving product. In this case the product the Kosovo and Serb gangs are moving is petroleum products (fuel, mostly). Investigators estimate that the gangs are raking in ninety to one hundred million dollars a year. That’s a lot of money, but especially a lot of money in Kosovo and southern Serbia. Peacekeepers and local police believe the gangs have helped foment some of the demonstrations on the Kosovo-Serbia border, specifically those involving the occupation or destruction of border and customs check points. The gangs buy or steal fuel in Serbia, smuggle it into Kosovo, where it is sold.

Meanwhile, Albania and Kosovo have agreed to share consular services in foreign countries as a means of saving money.  The Albanians believe there are other areas where both nations could cut budgetary costs by reaching similar agreements. The political perception in Serbia, however, is that this is another indication that Albania still seeks to create Greater Albania. Greater Albania would include parts of Montenegro, Macedonia, northern Greece, and of course, Kosovo.

October 23, 2011: A 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey, causing much death and destruction.

October 19, 2011: Unrest related to the government’s austerity budget and the on-going European Union financial crisis continues in Greece, where 70,000 people demonstrated in Athens against budget cuts. Angry Greeks are expressing increasingly anti-German sentiments, and media are reporting that the Greek protestors often refer to the Germans as Nazis. That noted, Greece is in a terrible financial crisis and only Germany has the wherewithal to bail it out.

It’s easier for the Greek unions to be mad at the Germans than their own government, but they don’t like the Greek government either. The Greek government is considering firing 30,000 state workers in order to meet its 2012 budget goals and begin reducing its debt burden. The problem developed over the last decade, as Greek politicians lied to the EU about their finances, and borrowed billions from EU banks to finance voter friendly programs (government jobs and generous pensions) that kept them in office. Many of the loans were hidden from EU auditors and amounted to massive, government backed fraud. Greek politicians, and many Greeks, refuse to accept responsibility for this and prefer to blame foreigners.

October 17, 2011: Macedonia has cancelled its census. Accusations of falsified data haunted the 2002 census and the same accusations are being made in 2011. Macedonian Albanians claim that they are under-counted. Macedonia Slavs claim that Macedonian Albanians are over-counted.  The Macedonian parliament seems to have decided it’s better to not ask rather than exacerbate ethnic tensions.

October 14, 2011: Every year the European Union evaluates Turkish compliance with EU requirements for admission. The year the EU report focused on threats by the Turkish government to freedom of expression, treatment of minorities in Turkey (particularly the Kurds), and what it described as Turkey’s intransigence on the problem of divided Cyprus.  The Turkish government rejected the criticisms. The Turkish position is that the criticism is simply a political mask for France and Germany’s opposition to Turkish membership.

October 10, 2011: U.S. and Bulgarian military forces are conducting a two week long exercise name Thracian Fall. The exercise includes small unit parachute drops from US Air Force C-130 Hercules and Bulgarian Air Force C-27 Spartan transport aircraft.

SURFACE WARSHIPS:  Frigate Retirement Delayed

October 29, 2011:  Britain is upgrading its thirteen Type 23 frigates, in order to improve their performance, and enable them to serve five years beyond their planned retirement date. The year long, $30 million (per ship) refurbishment includes replacement of two diesel generators and one of the gas turbines. A new 114mm (4.5 inch) gun is being installed, along with a towed sonar array, new paint that will keep barnacles and such off the hull. Improvements to living quarters for the 185 crew are in addition to an upgraded ventilation system.

There are also upgrades to the electronics and the anti-aircraft missile system.
Each 4,900-ton Type 23 is equipped with eight Harpoon anti-ship missiles, a 114mm (4.5-inch) MK 8 main gun, 30mm close range guns, several types of 7.62mm machine-guns, four torpedo tubes (and 24 anti-submarine torpedoes) and the Sea Wolf anti-aircraft missile system. They can also carry a medium-sized helicopter. Three of the 16 Type 23s built were later sold to Chile.

WARPLANES: UAVs Saved By The Third Dimension

October 29, 2011: The U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army agreed on new safety procedures to help prevent another collision between army UAVs and air force planes. The army and air force have long argued about such restrictions (about where, and when, army UAVs could fly), but the August 15 collision between an army RQ-7 UAV and an air force C-130 transport gave the air force more clout in this long standing dispute.

The RQ-7 hit a wing of the C-130, between the two engines. The RQ-7 was destroyed, while the C-130 had the skin of the front of that wing torn open and some of the interior spars bent. One of the props on the inboard propeller was destroyed (and that engine had to be turned off). But the C-130 was able to land safely, and parts and technicians were flown in to repair the C-130 where it was.

An RQ-7B Shadow 200 weighs only 159 kg (350 pounds), compared to 70,000 kg for a loaded C-130, so the outcome of this collision is not surprising. But had the Shadow hit in a more vulnerable spot, the C-130 could have been brought down. Shadow is small, being 3.5 meters (11 feet) long with a wingspan of 4.1 meters (12.75 feet). But coming in at over 200 kilometers an hour, at a C-130 travelling over 500 kilometers an hour, the 159 kg Shadow becomes a potent anti-aircraft missile.

Most UAVs in the air over combat zones are even smaller than Shadow. These are usually the tiny two kilogram (4.4 pounds) Raven. Bystanders have seen a few of them destroyed, or simply knocked out of the air by a passing aircraft, usually a helicopter. Raven operators suspect that many of those that were lost for unknown reasons were similarly hit or caught in the backwash of low flying aircraft. A few have been seen getting attacked by birds. There have been very few recorded collisions.

The small, plastic, Raven would not do much noticeable damage to an aircraft. The damage caused by the Shadow collision was understandable because the Shadow is the largest UAV that often operates at low altitude (under 300 meters) and uses military airfields to land and take off.

The army is developing a new radar system (GBSAA, or Ground-Based Sense And Avoid) to increase safety for UAVs. GBSAA is mainly a software system using existing radars to track UAVs and manned aircraft, and alert UAV operators when their UAVs are too close to other aircraft (manned or unmanned). GBSAA can be expanded to use transponders (which commercial aircraft have been using for a long time) and more flexible software. This is done by turning two-dimensional radars (use by most air traffic control systems) into 3-D systems via more efficient use of transponder data. Larger UAVs, like the RQ-7, can easily carry a transponder. Smaller UAVs, like Raven cannot. In any event, Raven flies too low and is too small to be detected by current air traffic control systems.

The basic idea is to insure that UAV operators are no longer “blind” to what is in the air nearby. The military would like to see GBSAA in service as soon as possible, but the system is still undergoing testing. Army officials are certain that had GBSAA been installed, it would have avoided the RQ-7/C-130 collision. It may be a year or more before the military gets to use GBSAA in a combat zone.

GBSAA will likely be more in demand by potential civilian UAV users. Battlefields have much lower safety standards than civilian air space, what with all those artillery and mortar shells, plus the bullets and rockets. But civilian air space has lots of small aircraft and helicopters, so UAVs are generally banned. GBSAA could change that, and make battlefields safer as the UAV traffic becomes denser.

NAVAL AVIATION:  Japan Adopts Sonar Sleds For Mine Hunting Choppers

October 29, 2011: The Japanese Navy has ordered a dozen American AQS-24A mine-hunting systems. These will be carried by MCH-101 helicopters. In use, the AQS-24A, which looks like a torpedo with extra fins and attachments, is lowered into the water and dragged by the helicopter at speeds of up to 34 kilometers an hour. The AQS-24A contains a high resolution sonar that seeks out mines than lay on the sea bottom, waiting for ships to pass over. The bottom mine then detonates if a ship type it was programmed to attack is detected. The U.S. Navy has been using this mine hunting approach since the 1980s. Most countries still use small ships , equipped with sonar, for mine hunting. The original sled system went through several major upgrades and is considered very reliable and effective.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy has developed a complementary system, ALMDS (Airborne Laser Mine Detection System). Designed to operate from the MH-60S helicopter, ALMDS uses a Laser Imaging Detection and Ranging blue-green laser to detect, and identify naval mines near the surface. Unlike the AQS-24A, ALMDS operates from the low flying, and smaller, helicopters. Surface mines are either moored (via a chain to the bottom) or floating (a favorite terrorist tactic), and many float just below the surface. The laser works very quickly, and enables the ALMDS equipped helicopter to quickly check out large areas for surface mines. Terrorists have used naval mines before, of the floating variety. Navies tend to use the more sophisticated, expensive and hard-to-get bottom mines (that lie on the bottom, in shallow water).

Les Baer .308 Semi-Auto Match

October 30, 2011


Les Baer .308 Semi-Auto Match
Caliber: .308 Win (7.62x51mm NATO)
Barrel: Les Barrel Custom (LBC) Stainless Steel with Cut Rifling
Barrel Length: 24″ (610mm)
20″ (508mm) – Optional
18″ (457mm) – Optional
Twist: RH 1:10″
Weight (Rifle only): 10.5 lbs (4.77 kg) – on our Scale
Overall Length: 43.6″ (1107mm)
Magazine: Magpul 20 Round Detachable Box Magazine
Trigger: Geissele Two Stage Trigger Group
Stock: Synthetic A2 style standard, Magpul optional
Metal Finish: DuPont S Coating On Barrel, Anodized Upper & Lower
Price: MSRP $2980 (2011 price)
When people think Les Baer Custom (LBC) the first thing that normally comes to mind are their amazing 1911 pistols. But a few years back they decided to branch out and take their gunsmithing skills to the long gun side, and they started building custom AR rifles. That eventually led to building both precision bolt action rifles as well as precision 308 semi autos, both of which are geared toward military sniping as well as Law Enforcement sharpshooters. With the adoption of the M110 by the US Army we have also been focusing on some of the semi-auto sniper rifles that are available, and in a continued review of the available market we took the opportunity to get one of the Les Baer Semi-Auto 308 Match rifles and take an in depth look at it and how it performs.TThe Les Baer Semi-Auto 308 Match rifle is a standard 308 AR platform style rifle that they have done their own design and custom work with. The lower receiver is similar to the DPMS and Armalite AR-10 style and actually takes the standard Mag-Pul 308 magazines, 20 round magazines in this case. The lower receiver itself is built more robust than other 308 AR platforms and you can see the additional stiffeners through various areas on the receiver. The receiver itself is precision machined from solid 7075-T6-51 aluminum with the enlarged trigger guard being machined as an integral part of the lower as well. The “Match” version of the rifle uses a standard A2 style pistol grip, nothing fancy, but it is a custom LBC setup that has additional material under the trigger guard, though this also means there may not be many after market grips that fit the lower receiver.

The Upper receiver is also machined from the same 7075-T6-51 aluminum and also is a bit more robust than other 308 uppers out there and has a hexagon shape for added strength and stiffness. The design is a flat top style with the integral picatinny rail. Les Baer has a new SWAT model of this rifle that has a monolith rail along the top of the receiver all the way up to the end of the forward hand guard, but the Match version we reviewed here just had a standard rail that spans only the top of the upper receiver, which on an AR usually requires a forward offsetting scope base in order to get enough eye relief to use standard optics. The upper does have a brass deflector and dust cover but there is no forward assist. The charging handle is a standard size affair, and an enlarged T handle on it might be useful when using the rifle with optics, but during our tests the size or the charging handle posed no problems.The Bolt carrier is a LBC chromed carrier with a LBC precision chromed bolt. The extractor is also a LBC extractor and is also chromed. The operation of the bolt and bolt carrier was smooth and we had no feed or extraction problems during all of our tests with the rifle. The operation of the rifle was flawless and provided confidence that it was going to operate as designed and with continued reliability.

The barrel is LBC’s own benchrest 416R stainless steel heavy barrel that is 24″ in length. LBC uses precision cut rifling when making their barrels and the barrels on these match rifles have a 1:10″ twist with five lands and grooves. The rifle is also available with an optional 20″ or 18″ barrel length as well as a muzzle brake if you so desire, but the recoil of this rifle is easily manageable. The barrel is freefloated� well, freefloated in terms of AR rifles, and the gas block is one of LBC’s own steel units with picatinny slots on top. The handgaurd is also made by LBC and is fairly wide at 2.350″ outside diameter with no taper along the entire length. There is a lock ring on the receiver side and single sling stud that can be used for mounting a harris bipod, which the rifle comes with. The handguard does seem to allow the bipod to mount solid and it also provides a fairly stable rest from sand bags and is not too wide for use with your support hand when shooting offhand.The overall finish of the upper and lower is a matte black anodizing that has a nice uniform and even appearance and all of the parts seem to match well. The barrel is finished in a Dupont S matte black over the stainless steel which gives the entire rifle a matching matte black finish. The upper and lower receivers fit together with a very tight and precise fit, indicating tight tolerances. This is usually one of the more obvious indicators as to whether an AR rifle is going to shoot well or not. The fire selector switch, bolt release knob, and magazine release are normal size and in the standard location for an AR rifle. The trigger itself is a Geissele two stage trigger and is one of the better triggers we have experienced on an AR platform. The initial stage is fairly light with just a bit of mechanical interference being felt and the second stage is light and breaks nicely at 3.5 lbs with just a bit of over-travel. We would like a bit smoother take up on that initial stage, but besides that the trigger is very nice and a very good match up for the purpose of this rifle.

The buttstock is actually nothing to write home about on this particular version. This is the Les Baer standard Match rifle which comes with the generic A2 buttstock. It is not adjustable and the quality is good and frankly, there really is not much more to write about it. The same rifle is available with the Magpul fully adjustable buttstock and if we were ordering the rifle for tactical use for a deploying unit, the Magpul would probably be the way to go. But the clean lines and simple functionality of the fixed A2 buttstock does work fine and will provide many years of solid service on the rifle if one were to opt for the standard A2 buttstock.A muzzlebrake is also optional on the rifle and Les Baer claims recoil will drop to about the level of a 223 rifle when using their muzzlebrake. With the highly effective brakes in use today, we do not doubt Les Baer�s claim. The .308 itself is not a hard recoiling cartridge and the buffer spring setup in the AR platform helps absorb recoil as well and we found even with the firm A2 buttstock and no muzzle brake, recoil was mild with this Match rifle and we do not see the need for a muzzlebrake.

For our shooting portion of the tests we utilized a Vortex 6.5-20x50mm PST tactical rifle scope mounted using a Rock River Arms elevated and forward offset scope mounting system, allowing us to get the scope properly in line with the shooter�s eye. The scope could probably be mounted without a forward offset mount if the rings are placed as far forward as possible and then also getting the scope mounted forward in the rings. The SWAT version with the monolith rail would allow mounting the scope further forward without the offset mounting base, but we did not have that version of the rifle and using the RRA mount worked fine. On the RRA we would prefer to have nuts on the cross bolts instead of just the hand knobs with slots for a large screwdriver. We did have the mounts go loose on us once during the shooting tests and with a proper nut we could of simply used our T-Handle torque wrench to set them at 65 inch-lbs, which would have prevented the base coming loose� but that is not a Les Baer issue, but rather a Rock River Arms issue with that product.Because the rifle incorporates a faster 1:10″ twist we wanted to test some heavier 175gr as well, so we primarily stuck to Federal 168gr Gold Medal Match as well as HSM 175gr Match ammo. Because of the round hand guards on AR rifles, we typically struggle with getting an AR platform to shoot good groups for us, and initially we had the same issue with the Les Baer. The rifle does ship with a 5 round test target that is sub .5 MOA so we knew the rifle had to shoot, and sure enough, once we got settled and started taking some extra time to insure everything was just right, we started to see the groups tighten up. Just a matter of getting the parts between the two ears of the shooter organized first, and then things started to come along.

We shot for accuracy on two separate days with both days being overcast, but with calm winds. The results of the accuracy tests are listed below:

Ammo Average Best
Federal GMM 168gr .693″ .344″
HSM 175gr Match .803″ .486″

As you can see the rifle will shoot sub .5 MOA when the shooter is on his game and shooting well. The trigger helps to allow the shooter to do the best they can and while if it were a bit lighter it might help even more, it is a nice compromise between safety in the field, and accuracy. The rifle did prefer the Federal GMM over the HSM 175gr, but I would recommend trying several different loads to find the sweet spot, especially if you are looking to shoot 175gr loads. The rifle digested and functioned flawlessly during all of our shooting tests.For the long range evaluation we wanted to gear the tests more towards the mission objectives of the US Army Semi-Auto Sniper System (SASS) requirements for the military and decide to test the rifle in rapid fire type engagements beyond 400 yards and here the rifle performed very well. The rifle returns to battery very quickly, allowing for very rapid follow-up shots, especially since the shooter does not have to remove his firing hand from the rifle and is ready to engage again as soon as the target is acquired in the scope. For rapid engagements and follow-up shots, the Semi-Auto rifles have a definite advantage over a bolt action rifle. At one point we conducted a test where we successfully engaged four (4) 15″ x 12″ steel targets at 400 yards in a total time of less than six (6) seconds, and with more experience with the rifle, that time certainly would get better.

After spending some time with the Les Baer .308 Semi-Auto Match rifle, we feel it would serve well in the capacity of a precision semi-auto sniper rifle. The accuracy is .5 MOA or better when the shooter is doing his or her part and the reliability and function is everything one expects. The $2980 price is on the high side when compared to other 308 AR rifles like the DPMS, Rock River and some others, so one would expect it to be of higher quality and perform better, which with our experience it seems to. There are always limitations, as we all know, to the AR design itself but Les Baer has done a nice job assembling a well sorted and capable long range semi-auto 308 rifle.

Intelligence News YOU may have missed….

October 30, 2011
Ilan GrapelIlan Grapel

►►Analysis: Is the CIA Still an Intelligence Agency? Early September 2011, a former intelligence official commented to The Washington Post that, “The CIA has become one hell of a killing machine”. He then attempted to retract, but his words were on record. But is that really what it should be: a hell of a killing machine?
►►US National Security Agency helps Wall Street battle hackers. The National Security Agency, a secretive arm of the US military, has begun providing Wall Street banks with intelligence on foreign hackers, a sign of growing US fears of financial sabotage. While government and private sector security sources are reluctant to discuss specific lines of investigations, they paint worst-case scenarios of hackers ensconcing themselves inside a bank’s network to disable trading systems for stocks, bonds and currencies, trigger flash crashes, initiate large transfers of funds or turn off all ATM machines.

►►Israel okays deal with Egypt to free alleged spy. Israel’s security cabinet unanimously approved an agreement Tuesday for the release of Israeli-American law student Ilan Grapel (pictured), who has been in jail in Egypt since June 12 on spying allegations that were later reduced to incitement. In exchange, Israel will release 22 Egyptian prisoners, most of them Bedouin from the Sinai jailed for smuggling drugs or weapons.

Mexican Drug War Update: The Polarization Continues

October 28, 2011

While there has been a reshuffling of alliances among Mexican drug cartels since our July cartel update, the trend discussed in the first two updates of the year continues. That is the polarization of cartels and associated sub-groups toward the two largest drug-trafficking organizations, the Sinaloa Federation and Los Zetas. Meanwhile, the three primary conflicts in Mexico’s drug war remain cartel vs. cartel, cartel vs. government and cartel vs. civilians. Operations launched by the military during the second quarter of 2011, primarily against Los Zetas and the Knights Templar, continued through the third quarter as well, and increasing violence in Guerrero, Durango, Veracruz, Coahuila and Jalisco states has resulted in the deployment of more federal troops in those areas.

The northern tier of states has seen a lull in violence, from Tijuana in Baja California state to Juarez in Chihuahua state. Violence in that stretch of northern Mexico subsided enough during the third quarter to allow the military to redeploy forces to other trouble spots. In Tamaulipas state, the military remains in charge of law enforcement in most of the cities, and the replacement of entire police departments that occurred in the state during the second quarter was recently duplicated in Veracruz following an outbreak of violence there (large numbers of law enforcement personnel were found to be in collusion with Los Zetas and were subsequently dismissed).

The battles between the Gulf cartel and Los Zetas for control over northeastern Mexico continue, though a developing rift within Gulf leadership may complicate the cartel’s operations in the near term. While Gulf remains a single entity, we anticipate that, absent a major reconciliation between the Metros and Rojos factions, the cartel may split violently in the next three to eight months. If that happens, alliances in the region will likely get much murkier than they already are.

In central and southern Mexico, fighting for control of the major plazas at Guadalajara, Acapulco, Chilpancingo and Oaxaca continues to involve the major players — Sinaloa, Los Zetas and the Knights Templar — along with several smaller organizations. This is particularly the case at the Jalisco and Guerrero state plazas, where there are as many as seven distinct organizations battling for control, a situation that will not likely reach any level of stasis or clarity over the next three to six months.

Though our last update suggested the potential for major hurricanes to complicate the drug war in Mexico, the region has avoided the worst of the weather so far. Though the hurricane season lasts until the end of November, the most productive period for major storms tends to be September and early October, so the likelihood of any hurricanes hitting Mexico’s midsection is fairly remote at this point.

Looking ahead toward the end of 2011, STRATFOR expects high levels of cartel violence in the northeastern and southern bicoastal areas of Mexico to continue. The military has deployed more troops in Guadalajara for the Pan-American Games, which run Oct. 14-30, as well as in Veracruz and Coahuila, and any flare-up of violence in those areas will likely be influenced by the military’s presence.

2011 drug trafficking routes

View more on Mexico’s Cartels »

Intelligence News YOU may have missed……

October 28, 2011
CSIS seal
CSIS seal

►►S. Koreans say several N. Korean assassination bids stopped. South Korea has arrested several North Korean agents for plotting to assassinate anti-Pyongyang activists, according to Won Sei-Hoon, head of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, who spoke to the parliament’s intelligence committee. Earlier this month, Seoul prosecutors charged a North Korean agent with trying to murder Park Sang-Hak, an outspoken activist in Seoul, with a poison-tipped weapon.
►►MI5 inspectors’ website shut down after security blunder. A new website for the former High Court judges responsible for oversight of MI5, MI6 and wiretapping has been shut down after it emerged that anyone could edit any page of it. The security blunder forced the Intelligence Services Commissioner, Sir Mark Waller, and the Interception of Communications Commissioner, Sir Paul Kennedy, to pull the plug on their new website.

►►Report urges Canadian spies to share more info with diplomats. Canada’s spy agency needs to share more information with the Department of Foreign Affairs so the department is better prepared for negative reactions to Canadian intelligence work overseas, according to a new report by Canada’s Security Intelligence Review Committee. The Committee, which reports to Parliament on the work of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, found the organization had “limited exchanges” with Canada’s diplomats on its operations.