For Your Eyes Only Military News

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).

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