For Your Eyes Only Military News

KOREA:  Freedom’s Just Another Word For Nothing Left To Lose

October 20, 2011: The police are backing off from an angry population up north. This is most visible in the relationship between police and unlicensed traders. The legal markets charge a fee for a stall. But there are not enough stalls to go around, producing a larger number of illegal traders, who carry their goods with them and set up business on the ground wherever they can. Police usually chase these traders away, but no longer seize their goods. The cops increasingly find that the traders will fight, literally, to the death to hang onto their goods. For these traders, doing business is a matter of life and death. Most of them are women, which makes them even scarier to the male police. There is not enough food available from the government to live on, so income from trading, or some other additional job, is essential to buy food in the market. The cops know these traders are doing business to survive, and don’t want get into a brawl with someone who has nothing to lose.

Other women are increasingly engaging in prostitution and the making of pornographic videos. The government elite and foreigners (especially Chinese businessmen) have the money for this, and now supply and demand and bribable police have made it possible for the vice business to grow.
Despite the recent harvest, the price of rice in the markets has stayed high (at a record 3,000 won per kilogram). The price normally dips during harvest season, because so much food is for sale. But the harvest was poor this year and food has been in short supply all year. Electricity shortages are more common, and the cold weather will be particularly cold because of coal and wood shortages. Thus the hunger and cold this year makes death a real possibility for many.

In the north, a job with the National Security Agency (one of the secret police agencies) has become much more profitable of late. These guys deal with the families of North Koreans who have escaped to South Korea. It’s no secret that those who have made it to South Korea have a lot more money, and send cash to their families in North Korea via Chinese smugglers. The North Korean secret police come by each month and demand a portion of that cash. Refusal to pay up can result in arrest and a trip to the labor camps. About one percent of the North Korean population is in these labor camps, and 5-10 percent does not survive their time there.

As the situation grows more desperate in the north, enthusiasm for reunification declines in the south. This is mostly matter of age. Older South Koreans are more likely to still approve reunification (and the huge cost to South Korea). But for younger South Koreans, about half no longer see a united Korea (with South Korea paying the huge cost) a desirable goal. That attitude would likely become more positive if the prospect of unification suddenly appeared. But long term, South Koreans are not happy about what it’s going to cost them to rehabilitate their northern kinfolk.

North Korea has agreed to resume talks with the United States over disarmament and the search for the remains of American troops (from the Korean War of 1950-53) in North Korea. This burst of diplomacy from the north is part of an effort to get more free food and fuel from the U.S. and the West.

North Korea is being aided by some Western aid agencies, who are pressuring the United States to spend food, even though much (if not all) of it will be stolen by the North Korean government to feed its soldiers and buy goodies for senior officials. The aid NGOs (Non-Government Organizations, like the UN, Red Cross and so on) are less concerned with bringing down the North Korea dictatorship than with getting some food to starving North Koreans this Winter.  The UN is also proposing that the north let in foreign aid workers to help improve agriculture, and that more North Koreans be allowed to legally leave the country. Neither of these proposals is very popular with the North Korean government. The north continues to threaten war in response to any effort to usurp government control in the north. But the northerners have been threatening war so long, and so frequently, that it has little impact.

South Korean intelligence has concluded that the North Korean armed forces are no longer in any shape to go to war. This was discovered a year ago, when North Korean artillery fired on a South Korean island. North Korea apparently felt this act of naked aggression would actually compel the south to counterattack. So North Korea armed forces were ordered to mobilize 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 forces during this hasty mobilization. Satellite video and electronic eavesdropping showed lots of chaos and sloppiness. Fuel and other shortages prevented many vehicles, aircraft and ships from moving, and those that did move did so slowly and often unsure of what to do next. 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.

This mess was apparently more of a shock to northerners than to military experts in the south. American and South Korean analysts have been tracking the North Korea armed forces for decades, and have carefully monitored the decline of the military up there. The North Korean generals were apparently more inclined to believe their own propaganda. This sorry state of affairs apparently will make the northerners even more reluctant to give up their nuclear weapons.

South Korea also has its problems with readiness and training. But the south has the means (money and allies willing to help) to deal with the problems. The north is all alone. For example, after the disastrous performance their air force last year, the north approached China and Russia for help. Both nations quietly turned down North Korea, refusing to sell them new aircraft, or otherwise help upgrade northern forces.

October 11, 2011: North Korea has asked South Korea to resume operating factories in a northern industrial park that employed 46,000 people. The south pulled out of that operation 17 months ago after a North Korean torpedo sank a South Korean warship. Later last year, North Korea shelled a South Korean island. But North Korea is in desperate economic shape, and scoring propaganda points must take second place to survival. It’s becoming increasingly obvious to even northerners that everything is going badly in the north, and refusing outside help is no longer an option. The south agreed to resume operations in the industrial park.

October 10, 2011: South Korea Christian groups say that the recent mysterious deaths of three Christian leaders were actually assassinations carried out by North Korean agents. The north has been known to do this sort of thing in the past, and the Christian activists in the south have visibly angered the North Korean government. The South Korean government has not said anything, but leaks indicate government investigators believe at least one of the deaths was an assassination. The South Korea is holding off going public with this, because it would increase tensions in the north and south.

SOMALIA:  Kenya Invades

October 20, 2011: Kenya says its troops have killed at least 75 al Shabaab fighters so far and are over a hundred kilometers inside Somalia. Al Shabaab threatens massive retribution for this invasion, but based on past experience this is unlikely. Ethiopia has frequently invaded Somalia when Somali raiders became a nuisance, and that solved the problem.

Ethiopia had a similar situation five years ago, with Islamic radical Somali troops increasingly active inside Ethiopia (which borders Somalia). So Ethiopia invaded, which it has often done in the past when Somali raiders became a problem. Ethiopia sent some of these troops to Mogadishu, at the behest of the United States, to drive out Islamic radicals (the Islamic Courts Union). The Ethiopians were told that the UN and AU (African Union) would organize a force of 8,000 peacekeepers to relieve the Ethiopian troops. But that went slowly, and after two years, only 3,400 of the peacekeepers have arrived, and they have not done much peacekeeping.

The Ethiopians, like so many others in the region, and the world, are fed up with the political/economic/social mess inside Somalia. So in early 2009, the Ethiopians pulled their troops back to bases just across the border in their Ogaden province, and continued to send in raiding parties when (not if) Somali factions come raiding. This kept the Somali raiders out; as the Somalis were now assured that the better armed (and quite deadly) Ethiopians would come after the raiders in Somalia. The Ethiopians and Somalis have been at it in this way for centuries.

In the past, the Kenyan tribes were not as organized or powerful as the Ethiopians (who have been a local superpower for over a thousand years.) But in this post-colonial world, the Kenyans have a modern trained and equipped military. While the Somalis are still fiercer, they are not bulletproof. The Kenyans have lots of guns and bullets and know how to shoot. To al Shabaab’s dismay, the Kenyans keep coming and keep killing. The Somalis will fight back, and the Kenyan troops will suffer casualties, but they won’t be run out of Somalia. The Kenyans will make their point, and leave. And, like with the Ethiopians, the border will quiet down. Somalis are not happy about this. For centuries, the Ethiopians were regarded as worthy opponents, while the Kenyan tribes were seen as perennial victims. Now the Kenyans are acting like Ethiopians, and that’s a change many Somalis are not happy with.

Kenya has said it wants to clear al Shabaab out of the border area and then help TNG gunmen keep al Shabaab out of this zone, and out of Kenya.
In Mogadishu, small groups of al Shabaab fighters continue battling TNG (Transitional National Government) troops and AU peacekeepers. The TNG is seeking to clear out all al Shabaab forces from the city, as even a small number of then can carry out terrorist attacks.

While more Somali pirates are active this year, they are having a more difficult time against better defended ships. Last year, 28 percent of attacks were successful and 35 ships were taken by October. This year, only 12 percent of attacks were successful and only 24 ships were taken in the same period.

October 19, 2011: Kenyan and TNG officials met in Mogadishu to work out details of how they will coordinate their actions against al Shabaab fighters along the Kenyan border. Kenyan troops entered Somalia three days ago, to find two kidnapped aid workers, and to discourage al Shabaab from crossing the border to plunder and kidnap.

October 18, 2011: In the northern statelet of Puntland, government troops disarmed local militiamen in areas where there had been anti-government violence.

Along the Kenyan border, Kenyan warplanes bombed al Shabaab positions in Somalia. Several thousand Kenyan troops are advancing on the port of Kismayo, which serves as the “capital” for al Shabaab. This is where al Shabaab is believed to be holding the two Spanish doctors they recently kidnapped from Kenya.

In Mogadishu, a car bomb went off near a government building, killing six. Al Shabaab was believed responsible.

France announced that a wheelchair-bound Frenchwoman kidnapped by Somalis from a beach resort in northern Kenya on October 1st, did not long survive her captivity and apparently died within a week of being taken. The victim was quite ill and required medication several times a day. The kidnappers could not provide the medication.

Kenyan police, after being alerted by their counterparts in Britain, arrested two British teenagers near the Somali border. The two boys, aged 17 and 18, were the children of Somalis who had fled to Britain and become citizens there. But al Shabaab uses the Internet to urge young ethnic Somalis to return to Somalia and help establish a religious dictatorship there.

October 17, 2011: Al Qaeda released photos showing al Qaeda representatives dispensing food, cash and other aid in Somalia. Few details were given, but this was apparently an attempt to counter the negative publicity their ally al Shabaab had gotten by preventing foreign aid to reach millions of Somalis.

October 16, 2011: Several thousand Kenyan troops crossed into Somalia, taking with them artillery and armored vehicles. The target is the port of Kismayo, some 200 kilometers to the east.

October 14, 2011:  Kenya vowed to punish al Shabaab, and other criminal groups in southern Somalia, who have been increasingly attacking Kenyans, foreign tourists and refugee camps full of Somalis.

Many foreign aid organizations cut back their work in Kenyan refugee camps until better security is provided. The kidnapping of two Spanish doctors yesterday was just the latest in many attacks by Somali raiders. There have been three such attacks in the last month.

In Mogadishu, a roadside bomb went off, wounding a member of the TNG.

October 13, 2011:  Two Spanish doctors, working for a foreign aid group, were kidnapped from a Kenyan refugee camps and taken back to Somalia, apparently to be held for ransom.


October 20, 2011: U.S. soldiers and marines are using a new magazine for the 40mm grenades they fire from their single shot M203 and M320 grenade launchers. The MAG-D looks like a large rifle magazine. It is spring loaded and holds five 40mm rounds. Troops can easily pull a 40mm grenade from the MAG-D and load it into their weapon. A loaded MAG-D weighs less than three kg (6.6 pounds) each and is designed to hang from the webbing of the protective vest, and make additional rounds quickly available to troops carrying a rifle with a M203 or M320 attached (under the barrel). In the past, the 40mm rounds were carried loose or in bandoliers, and often got dirty or damaged. MAG-D also eliminates confusion about where different types of 40mm grenades are (high explosive, flare, smoke, tear gas, fuel-air explosive). U.S. Marines were the first to use MAG-D (which was invented by a former marine) and want more of them.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army has replaced the M203 40mm grenade launcher with the M320, while the marines are still using the M203. The both launchers fit under the barrel of the M16 rifle (and similar weapons), and have been in use for forty years. The army bought 71,000 M320s (for about $3,500 each) to replace the 50,000 M203s it was using. The M320 is similar to the M203, but easier to use, has its own pistol grip, is more accurate and can be used separately from an M16 with the addition of a stock.

The biggest improvement with the M320 is its sighting system, which features a laser range finder. At night, an infrared range finder enables a soldier wearing night vision goggles to see the light beam. In over a year of testing, the M320s sighting system was seen to make the weapon much more accurate than the older M203. This was particularly the case with new users. With the M203, you got better after you had fired a hundred or so rounds. That took time, and was expensive (the 40mm grenades cost about $28 each). The 40mm grenades weigh 543 grams (19 ounces) each and have a range of about 400 meters. The grenade explosion can kill within five meters, and wound up to ten meters or more.

The marines also use the M32, a six round 40mm grenade launcher. It looks like a cross between a shotgun and a revolver type pistol. Most marine units are equipped with the M203, usually two or three per squad.

WARPLANES: The Royal Marines And The Little Wonder

October 20, 2011: The British Royal Marines had begun using a new, and smaller, micro-UAV. The SQ-4 weight 400 grams (14 ounces) and can stay aloft for 15 minutes per sortie. It is a helicopter type aircraft, with a maximum ceiling of 120 meters (365 feet) and can go only 1.5 kilometers from the operator. Despite the short flight duration of each sortie, SQ-4 can stay out far longer by simply perching somewhere and continuing to view something of interest. The UAV has a day and night video camera.

The operator uses a handheld controller and goggles that project what the UAV is seeing in front of the operator’s eyes, giving a view similar to a large flat screen. The three separate props extend to form an aircraft that is only 300mm (11.8 inches) in diameter. The one problem with such a light UAV is high winds. The SQ-4 can use autopilot to get to a GPS location, but fine adjustment can be difficult if the winds are too strong.  Despite these limitations, the SQ-4 is very useful if you have to see what is around the corner (or lurking in alleys within a kilometer) or the other side of the hill.

ATTRITION:  The Heavy Cost Of The Arab Spring

October 20, 2011: The “Arab Spring” uprisings this year led to the fall of several long time dictatorships, and a rush to reform (or give the appearance of such) by most other Arab governments. But this was not without cost, and it isn’t over (especially in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and Algeria). Over 25,000 have died so far, and many more were wounded, imprisoned or driven from their homes.

The financial cost, so far, has been over $100 billion. About half of that is the destruction of buildings and possessions, or lost GDP. These lost wages have been particularly difficult for populations that were poor to begin with. The rest of the cost was money wealthier monarchies and dictatorship that have spent money (sometimes borrowed) to placate their restless populations.


October 20, 2011: A year after delivery and first flight, the first German “EuroHawk RQ-4 UAV is ready for service, and will be sent into action early next year. All this is four years after five of the UAVs were ordered, for $215 million each (half that is development cost). All five will be delivered by 2017.

These UAVs will replace the German Atlantic 1150 Electronic Reconnaissance (ELINT) aircraft. The Atlantic 1150 is a twin-engine turboprop aircraft that carries a crew of ten and can stay in the air for about 18 hours per sortie. EuroHawk can stay in the air twice as long, and the electronic sensors pick up just about everything, which is quickly analyzed by people and equipment at the other end of the satellite link. EuroHawk does have some vidcams, but mainly to support the identification of transmitters.

Eight years ago, an American RQ-4A was equipped with electronic eavesdropping equipment and flown to Germany for demonstration flights. The Germans were impressed enough to design modifications for the Global Hawk, which will turn it into what they are calling EuroHawk. Germany equipped their EuroHawk with a ton of electronic sensors, capable of detecting and recording a wide array of radar and data transmissions.

EuroHawk can stay in the air for up to 40 hours at a time and would be cheaper to operate than a manned recon aircraft. Germany’s Atlantic 1150 aircraft are being retired mainly because they are too old and expensive to maintain. The EuroHawk will use electronics supplied by European manufacturers. The U.S. Air Force is currently paying $130 million each for Global Hawks, with recon equipment included.

Germany will be getting the B version, which is about ten percent larger (wingspan of 42.3 meters/131 feet, and 15.5 meters/48 feet long) than the A model, and can carry an additional two tons of equipment. To support that, there’s a new generator that produces 150 percent more electrical power. The B version is a lot more reliable. Early A models tended to fail and crash at the rate of once every thousand flight hours, mostly because of design flaws. The first three RQ-4Bs entered service in 2006.

At 13 tons, the Global Hawk is the size of a commuter airliner (like the Embraer ERJ 145), but costs more than twice as much. Global Hawk can be equipped with much more powerful, and expensive, sensors, than other UAVs. These more than double the cost of the aircraft. These spy satellite quality sensors (especially AESA radar) are usually worth the expense, because they enable the UAV, flying at over 20,000 meters (60,000 feet), to get a sharp picture of all the territory it can see from that altitude. Germany is equipping EuroHawk with lots of signals intelligence equipment, that collects electronic signals, and less imaging equipment.

So far, eleven German pilots have been trained in the United States to operate the EuroHawk, along with maintenance personnel.

SURFACE WARSHIPS:  China Builds A Better Minehunter

October 20, 2011: China has completed two more Wozang class minesweepers. These 550 ton ships have a non-metallic hull and modifications to its engines and electrical gear to reduce noise and magnetic emissions. This reduces vulnerability to multi-sensor naval mines. The two latest Wozangs have improved minehunting gear and a new 25mm autocannon. This is the major weapon carried by the Wozangs, and is intended mainly for anti-aircraft protection, or for destroying any ancient moored mines. But minehunters can also be called out for patrol duty, and then the 25mm cannon would be used to deal with smugglers.

There are only six Wozangs, and the first of them entered service in 2005. These are the most capable mine hunters in Chinese service, using special sonar to detect bottom mines, and then sending a remote control mini-sub to confirm the type of mine, and plant an explosive to destroy it. The Wozangs carry a crew of about 30 and can stay at sea for about two weeks at a time.

But most Chinese minehunters are Type 6610s. These are based on a German World War II design (adapted by the Russians after the war as the Type 43, and passed on to China.) Only about a dozen of these are still in service, The Type 6610s are good ocean-going patrol boats, as are the Wozangs. But the Wozangs carry a lot of expensive mine hunting gear, and don’t go on patrol much.


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