Archive for April, 2012

Gear For Survival Kits You Should Always Carry!

April 28, 2012

It doesn’t matter if you’re planning a quick snowshoe trek or an hour-long stroll along a wooded path. Common sense dictates that basic survival tools be taken along. Above all, this gear, or kit, must be lightweight and convenient to carry, or it gets left behind. Click here to view these products.

by Leon Pantenburg

That said:  BEWARE! If you don’t know how to use the materials in the kit, and don’t practice with them, you may develop a false sense of confidence. This attitude could get you in a lot more trouble!

Keep basic tools with you at all times. On the keyring: LED flashlight, fingernail clippers, whistle, Boy Scout Hot Spark and Classic Swiss Army knife. The other knife rides in a pouch on my belt.

Mention survival kits among recreationists and an argument/discussion will follow.

At one end of the spectrum is the guy who takes the heavily-loaded backpack full of gadgets, doo-dads, knick-knacks and neat stuff. He may not go far, because of the pack’s weight, but he’ll be safe. Unless, one time, he decides to leave all that stuff at the car, since he’s never used anything and it’s damned heavy. And he’s just going a little way…

Then he becomes the optimist, the guy at the other extreme.  Since he’s never been in an emergency situation, then it stands to reason that nothing will ever happen. He denies the need for survival gear, because he’s never been in an emergency.

Somewhere between these extremes is the common sense approach.

Here’s my take (and of course, this opinion may place me squarely in the survivalist wacko camp!): Everyone should have a collection of survival tools with them at all times.

As I type this, I have a butane lighter in my pocket, a whistle, knife, fingernail clippers, LED flashlight, small knife and magnesium stick on my belt clip, and a Swiss Army knife in my belt pouch. My wallet has firestarter, charcloth and a signal mirror in it. This gear goes with me everywhere it’s legal.

Suppose I have to run out of my house, right now. Let’s say an earthquake just hit and all the pictures are falling off the walls and it’s in the middle of January. If I have to sprint for the door and can’t grab anything else, I have the minimum tools on me to build a fire for ourselves and the neighbors, stay warm, help others and signal for help.

If I can grab my jacket on the way out the door, there is an Altoids tin mini-survival kit in the pocket. And if I can get to my car there is a full component of survival gear in there, including food, water, a sleeping bag, and several tarps. I won’t waste any time looking for equipment, when the walls may literally be falling down around me.  This will come in very handy for a quick evacuation due to a forest fire, urban natural gas leak, tsunami warning, forced evacuation of the neighborhood or city.

Any personal survival kit will ultimately boil down to opinion, knowledge, skill levels and the season.

Let’s start here: Many experts agree that a MINIMUM KIT should contain the following materials. Here are my suggestions.  Click here to view these products for sale.

Carry survival gear in your wallet. I always have (from left) firestarter, charcloth and a signal mirror with me.

  • survival knife
  • firemaking tool(s) plus the firestarter
  • compass
    map and GPS
  • mirror (for signaling)
  • signal whistle
  • flashlight
  • Some form of emergency shelter, like a tarp with rope.
  • Food and water, plus water filter.
  • Layering Clothing (fleece, wool, polypropylene)
  • Waterproof packable shell

While commercial survival kits are available, the quality of some items is sometimes reduced to cut costs. Some things, such as fishing hooks, sinkers and line are included because people think they need them. And some items are included in commercial kits because they’re cheap and take up space.

The safest bet is to make your own survival kit. Start with a realistic assessment of your skills and needs, then start researching. One size doesn’t fit all – a survival kit that works in the cold winter of Oregon, will be different than one designed for Florida, and vice versa.

Every town has a survival guru with a website, but that doesn’t mean they know anything. In fact, be leery of any survival website – a lot of people are out to make a fast buck. Start by contacting the people who work with emergencies every day: police, sheriff’s departments, search and rescue, the Red Cross and see if they have recommendations for necessary gear. They will also have a pretty good idea of  who is good teacher and who is a fraud.

If you have certain medical needs or conditions, make sure the kit includes the appropriate medications.

Then, educate yourself. Practice with your survival tools. Don’t take any recommendations at face value,

Click here to buy survival kits

unless the source has been proven to be reliable. Then, make your survival kit, and take it along.

Every time.


Bug Out Bag for a Toddler

April 28, 2012

We’re slowly starting to get things in place for boy #2.  I’ll spare you the details about the furniture rearranging and marathon sessions of spring cleaning meets nesting. But, I thought y’all might be interested in our Bug Out Bag plans for boy #1.  He’ll be transitioning out of his diaper bag (which was always considered his BOB) and into something more closely resembling the adult BOBs.  The diaper bag will be reassembled for the newborn, and will serve as his BOB.

Fewer Diapers, More Calories – There are differences between what a newborn needs for emergencies and what a little boy needs.  For boy #1, we knew the first things we wanted to tackle were the food items.  Ration Bars and MRE’s are easy solutions for adults, but I’m pretty sure they’d make for one unhappy young lad.  I’m in the camp that thinks BOBs should be assembled with the goal of making a bad situation better, not just survivable.   So, I turn to things like dry soups and noodles.  In familiar flavors like creamy wild rice and chicken noodle. Also in the line up are a couple servings of our favorite snack mix, full of dried fruit and peanuts and choc chips.  We make a ton of snack mix around here, and I’ll just make sure that a cup or two of it ends up rotating through his BOB.  He gets oatmeal packets just like hubby and I have in our BOBs. Again it’s DIY, just baggies full of regular oats and raisins and some cinnamon/nutmeg, already premixed.  Rounding things out are some crackers and peanut butter, whole packages of both, just to keep things easy.

Familiar, Healthy,  Storage Friendly –  With the younger (and the really old) crowd, the more familiar you can keep things like food, the happier they stay, and the better they fare during disruptions.  The middle of a flood, while trying to get through a 3 day stay in an emergency shelter is not the time to find out whether your toddler likes the dried pineapple you packed for him.  If it’s not a normal every-day type food, either find a way to make it so, or don’t pack it in their BOB.  Equally, you don’t want a hype-up, fueled on Snickers and Pepsi toddler. The blood sugar crashes that accompany processed foods and sugars will only be amplified when the toddler is trying to deal with the emotions and trials of relocation due to emergency.  Whole grains, whole fruits (dried is fine), and some vegetables (again dried into soup mixes is fine) will really help keep him stable and happy. I don’t want to have to worry over much about the food that goes into the BOBs, so everything needs to be dried and securely packaged, or like the peanut butter, sealed in original packaging.

Keep it light – Dried also helps with the weight issue. Even more so than the adult BOBs, the toddler BOB MUST BE LIGHT.   When it gets too heavy for the toddler, it’ll just end up on your shoulders, so it’s in your best interest to keep it as light as possible.  To that end, his water quotient, which was already divided between hubby and I, will remain so, even as we increase it a little.  He has his own little water bottles, and I imagine he can handle carrying that, but carrying a full two day’s worth is a bit much to ask of a 3 year old.

Age Appropriate Gear – He’ll get a whistle, just like Mom and Dad’s, but he’s not going to get a compass or firestarter or fishing kit.  He has an emergency blanket, change of clothes and light sources, but instead of a knife and first aid kit, he gets some toys and a book or two. As he ages and 1) gains interest in and 2) becomes safe with it, we’ll swap out toys for bigger boy survival gear. What we’re putting together now will just serve as the base and we’ll individualize it as he grows. Speaking  of growth, we’ll need to swap out his clothing more often than we do ours, as he’ll be changing sizes more often than we do.  Not a big deal, but it would suck to forget.

My little boy is growin’ up. It’s a good thing there’s a baby on the way to keep me properly supplied with toothless grins and contented snuggles. 😀 Anybody else got BOBs for a youngster, any hard learned lessons about what to put in it?

Why Spies Should Not Steal

April 28, 2012

The Swaziland Army recently ordered $1.25 million worth of cell phone monitoring equipment from a South African distributor. At the last minute the army said it could not pay for the equipment. So the distributor went to the Swazi High Court and sued the army for the money. This made public a purchase the army had hoped to keep secret.

This sort of monitoring gear is only sold to governments or government agencies, and the Swaziland Army qualified. The army was acting at the behest of the government, in order to establish an espionage operation to keep tabs on the growing number of people trying to overthrow the king, the last absolute monarch in Africa.

The problem here is money. Swaziland is poor and never has enough cash, except to pay for the lavish lifestyles of the royal family and their friends. This would include the senior army officers.

Swaziland is a small country (population 1.2 million) between South Africa and Mozambique. The armed forces (the army) have about 3,000 personnel and are mainly used to keep the unruly population in line. This will now be more difficult with details of the army’s proposed spying operation exposed. It is made worse by the fact that the army will have a harder time getting the money for the equipment, since it’s quite possible that the money was provided but was stolen by someone in the government.

Comment: Britain denies murdered businessman was MI6 spy

April 27, 2012

Neil Heywood

Britain has officially denied allegations that a British businessman, who was found dead in China last November, was an intelligence operative. Neil Heywood, a financial consultant and fluent Chinese speaker, who had lived in China for over a decade, was found dead on November 14, 2011, in his room at the Nanshan Lijing Holiday Hotel in Chongqing. Widespread speculation that Heywood may have been a spy for MI6, Britain’s external intelligence service, eventually prompted the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee to ask Britain’s Foreign Secretary to clarify whether Haywood was a spy. The Committee wanted to know whether the late businessman had ever supplied intelligence “on a formal or informal basis” to Britain’s embassy in Beijing or its consulate in the city of Chongqing. Responding yesterday to the Committee’s query, British Foreign Secretary William Hague noted that “it is long established government policy neither to confirm nor deny speculation of this sort”. However, he added, the interest in this case made it “exceptionally appropriate” for him to “confirm that Mr Heywood was not an employee of the British government in any capacity”. In response to the second part of the Committee’s question, on whether the British expat shared information with British diplomatic officials, Mr Hague said that Heywood “was only an occasional contact of the embassy, attending some meetings in connection with his business”. He added that Heywood “was not known” to the British consulate-general in Chongqing. In its report on the story, British quality broadsheet The Guardian noted that Mr Hague’s response “did not fully answer the committee’s question”. I agree. Less than a fortnight ago, I was contacted by a major British newspaper and asked to provide background information on the question of whether Heywood was in fact a non-official-cover (NOC) agent for the British Secret Intelligence Service —MI6’s official name. I responded that I was not personally aware of anyone with serious knowledge of intelligence issues who was not completely certain, or did not deeply suspect that Heywood had indeed collaborated with British intelligence at some stage during the past decade, and probably longer. Even skeptics, I argued, would have to agree that his profile alone is prime MI6 material: educated at Harrow, with a background in international relations and a fluent Mandarin speaker, and with residence in China, to boot. Sure, his wife was a foreign national, and in times-past that would have been considered unacceptable in the British intelligence community’s code of conduct. But exceptions are granted increasingly frequently in the post 9/11 environment. On the other hand, I noted, the Chinese would have figured out all of the above, so it would be difficult to speculate how useful or successful a spy Heywood would have been as an NOC. Which is probably why, I wrote, he was not actively engaged as an NOC at the time of his death. In fact, I added, Heywood struck me as one of those intelligence officers who eventually realize they can be far more successful as business executives, particularly in a booming place like China. Which is why Heywood eventually founded Heywood-Boddington Associates —not in order to cover his spying activities, but to make money. It was for Heywood-Boddington Associates —not MI6— that Heywood was working for at the time of his death. Does this mean that Britain’s Foreign Secretary is being truthful when he claims that the dead man was “not an employee of the British government”? Yes, partly; but rumors about Heywood’s alleged role in British intelligence will undoubtedly persist, until Mr Hague adds a short, but highly consequential, word to his denial: ‘never’.

For Your Eyes Only Military News

April 27, 2012

Syria: Lies And Terror Get The Job Done

April 27, 2012: Despite the UN ceasefire, the civilian death toll is increasing, and several hundred are being killed each week, plus a hundred or so soldiers and police. The UN is still trying to deploy 300 truce monitors, but most Syrians consider this ridiculous. The security forces don’t stop killing civilians when foreigners are present, although an effort is made to move the foreigners away. The UN admits that, given the lack of cooperation from the Syrian government, it would take a month to get a hundred UN observers into the country.

The rebels are receiving more secret aid, mostly from Arab governments who are not willing to wait for the Arab League to make this sort of aid (weapons, cash, advisors) official policy.

The government policy appears to be to delay foreign intervention by telling the UN and Arab League what it wants to hear while trying to arrest or kill as many rebel leaders as possible and using terror (artillery and air bombardment, restricted movement, starvation) against pro-rebel civilians (most of the population). As long as the Assads have Iranian support (cash, security specialists and weapons), they believe they have a chance to bludgeon the population into submission and survive the rebellion. Iran has a lot riding on this, as Syria and Lebanon are the only two Arab countries that Iran controls, and the Syrian uprising could happen in Iran for the same reasons (corrupt rule and growing repression).

The official line of the Syrian government is that all the unrest is being caused by Western and Israeli agents and that it’s all a plot to hurt the Arab world.

While many Arabs find this paranoia comforting, the Arab League’s official line is that the Syrian government is killing its own people and committing a host of other crimes (corruption, embezzlement, and all manner of bad behavior). The UN accused the government of violating the UN sponsored peace deal, and increasing attacks on civilians. There is more call for armed intervention to assist the rebels. This has also caused Arabs to question many of their widely accepted ideas. One is that the West is evil and Western military intervention is the most evil thing of all. Another harrowing realization is that if the Assad family were Arab Christians instead of nominal Moslems (the Alawites are widely considered heretics), then the Arab world would be enraged and demanding military intervention, just as was the case when the Christian Serbs and Croats were attacking the Bosnian Moslems of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. To a lesser extent, Arabs are admitting that Arab armed forces are not up to the task of intervening and that there’s something wrong with Arab culture to cause this and the large number of corrupt and tyrannical Arab governments. In this respect, the Arab Spring’s impact is spreading and growing in ways that do not attract a lot of media attention.

Countries bordering Syria are finding many Syrian spies trying to enter, and collect information from the growing number of Syrian refugees. This is a favorite Iranian tactic, and apparently the spies were recruited, trained and equipped with the help of Iranian advisors.

April 26, 2012: In Hama, a large explosion in a rebel neighborhood left over 70 dead and several homes destroyed. The government claims that the damage was caused by an accident in a rebel bomb factory, while rebels claim that the government was now using large missiles to attack civilians. The truth would be revealed if an investigation of the debris was conducted, but that may not happen for a while because of the unrest and conflicting agends.

Meanwhile, the most likely cause was a missile or large rocket or aircraft bomb (which the Syrian military has plenty of). A bomb factory accident would usually produce a smaller explosion, as it is unusual for a bomb factory to haveso much explosives stored in one place. Possible, but not likely.

April 23, 2012: The UN announced that it would provide food aid for 500,000 Syrian civilians cut off from supplies by Syrian security forces. If food aid is not supplied, people will starve, and the UN is trying to negotiate safe passage for the foods. Since the point of the Syrian blockade of some towns is to starve the rebellious population into submission, allowing in UN food aid break the siege.

April 20, 2012: The UN sponsored ceasefire is not working. At best, it caused the army to reduce their attacks on civilians for a few days, but the level of violence has returned to pre-ceasefire levels and is increasing.

NIGERIA:  Terrorizing The Media
April 27, 2012: Senior members of the government, from both north and south, fear that continued Boko Haram terrorism could cause civil war. Nigerians and foreigners have been predicting that for years, but the Islamic radicals have indeed terrorized Nigeria, especially the Moslem north, and politicians are under pressure to do something about it. So far this year, Boko Haram violence has left about 1,100 dead.

One of Boko Haram’s main goals (as its name implies) is to prevent Nigerian Moslems from getting a Western education (despite that being what most parents want). So far this year 14 schools have been destroyed, leaving 7,000 students without an education. The threat of attack on schools, and teachers, has kept over 100,000 other students away from class at least some of the time.

April 26, 2012: Suicide car bombers in the capital and the northern city of Kano attacked the offices of a major newspaper, leaving 40 dead and hundreds injured. Boko Haram took responsibility and warned that if news media continued to say unflattering things about the Islamic terrorists, the attacks would continue. This is a standard tactic of terrorists.

April 25, 2012:  Tribal violence continued in the Central Nigerian city of Jos, leaving six dead in two incidents.

April 24, 2012: An audit of the fuel subsidy program (which keeps vehicle and other petroleum fuels very inexpensive) found that someone stole nearly $7 billion from the program in just three years (2009-11). Legislators are calling for identification and prosecution of those that took the money. But the guilty will, as usual, use their stolen wealth to bribe police, prosecutors, journalists and politicians to avoid punishment. It’s very difficult to get through these defenses and actually convict and imprison these thieves.

In the northern city of Kano police raided a Boko Haram bomb workshop and found six assembled bombs and one under construction. The Islamic terrorists use these bombs to attack the security forces, intelligence services and government offices. But most of the casualties tend to be nearby civilians. This increases the willingness of people to tell the police (who are generally hated for their corruption and cruelty) about Boko Haram activity they have spotted.

April 21, 2012:  The government is establishing a special prison for senior Boko Haram. This will make it easier to interrogate the prisoners and analyze the information. The new prison will also be more resistant to Boko Haram attempts to free their fellow terrorists. Other prisons are vulnerable to such attacks because of bribery and incompetence.

In northeastern Borno State, an explosion in a Boko Haram bomb workshop killed at least five.

An air force raid on a Boko Haram bomb workshop in northern Kogi State destroyed the facility. While the terrorists were able to escape before troops could get to the remote area, much evidence of bomb making and Boko Haram was found.

April 20, 2012: In the north, Boko Haram killed seven people in several attacks during the last 24 hours.

April 19, 2012: Piracy in on the increase off the coast. Ships are not being taken, as off Somalia, but instead the crews are robbed and anything valuable and portable is taken. Sometimes senior officers are kidnapped and held for ransom. In the first three months of this year, there were ten of these attacks off the Nigerian coast. For all of last year there were only ten such attacks. At the same time, oil revenue last month was down five percent because of attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta.

THE WAY THINGS REALLY WORK:  China’s Dirty Big Secret

April 27, 2012: China’s leaders are not happy with the state of their armed forces. The critics include many irate generals and admirals. These complaints tend to be made in private meetings. But so many people attend these meetings that details do eventually get out to the general public. Since these leaks do not represent official policy, they do not get repeated in the Chinese media, and foreign media tend to ignore it as well. It’s more profitable for the foreign media to portray the Chinese military as scary. The truth, as Chinese leaders describe it, is more depressing. It’s all about corruption among the military leadership and low standards for training and discipline. In short, Chinese military power is more fraud than fact.

It’s not for want of trying to improve. For the last two decades China has been undergoing yet another military buildup and upgrade. There have been several of these over the last fifty years. All have failed. Why should the current one be any different? The earlier efforts failed because of growing corruption and loss of military spirit. Most people can understand the role of corruption. Military spirit is another matter, but as successful generals and military historians have noted for centuries, the warlike attitudes of an army makes more difference than the quality of their weapons.

It wasn’t always this way. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA), as China’s armed forces are known, was forced to win or die from the 1920s to 1949, as it fought a civil war with the Nationalists while also resisting a Japanese invasion. The PLA was basically an infantry army which developed innovative tactics and leadership methods that defeated the Western trained Nationalists and fought the American army to a bloody standstill in the 1950-53 Korean War. The original PLA was forged in an atmosphere where failure was not an option. Now getting rich is more important than fighting, because there’s no one to fight and much wealth to plunder.

After the Korean War, things began to fall apart. The senior members of the PLA had been campaigning for twenty to thirty years, and they were tired. China was in ruins, it had to be rebuilt. To make matters worse, the communists then spent the next twenty years indulging in disastrous economic and political experiments. In the mid-1970s, the Chinese communists finally got down to business and introduced economic reforms that are still under way. But reforms in the military were not so easily implemented.
The PLA was always seen as the basic enforcer of communist rule in China. The Communist Party wanted one thing above all from the PLA; loyalty. Everything else is secondary. This included military capability and fiscal responsibility.

The government was also broke most of the time. There was not much money for the military. What cash was on hand for defense went into things like nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and warplanes. So the generals were allowed to fend for themselves. Units had farmland and grew their own food. Other soldiers worked in factories to produce weapons and equipment. This didn’t leave much time for training, and a lot of the spare time that was available went to political indoctrination. Above all, the troops must be kept loyal to the Chinese Communist party. The results of all this were predictable. For example, when China fought a short war with the combat experienced Vietnamese in 1979, Chinese losses were enormous and the performance of the troops obviously poor. The Chinese soldiers were brave. They rushed forward and died by the thousands. The soldiers were not trained and their leaders knew little of battlefield management. The military still needed reform, and going into the 1980s, it did not get it.

China went through an enormous economic boom in the 1980s. The communists held on to political power, but allowed great economic freedom. It was now OK to get rich, and the head of the Communist Party (and thus the country) said so, repeatedly and in public. The military took advantage of this.

The military factories that had previously supplied military needs now began producing consumer goods and weapons for a booming export market. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that the government forced the military to pay more attention to their primary job. Officers were ordered to get rid of their business interests. There was a lot of grumbling, but by and large everyone complied.

More money was allocated to new weapons, including the latest warplanes and missiles from Russia and building new things like aircraft carriers. But this did not mean that the PLA was going to become more effective. There had been several attempts to introduce new weapons and new ideas in the previous four decades. All had failed to improve combat abilities because of corruption.

Money disappeared and little was spent on actually training the troops to use the new stuff, or providing funds to maintain the high tech stuff.
Going into the 21st century China was still a paper dragon. They have an impressive arsenal of weapons which are often long on quantity and short on quality. The troops are still spending a lot of time doing nonmilitary tasks. Moreover, the economic boom in China has made a military career less attractive.

But, things are changing this time. The lessons of the past have finally caught up with the military leadership. The most obvious evidence of this is the change in pilot training. For decades, pilots got little air time. This reduced the wear and tear on the aircraft, making it cheaper to maintain a large number of warplanes. What this produced was a large number of ill-trained pilots flying second rate aircraft. Such a force was cut to pieces by a better trained foe. That happened time and again from 1941 on. So the Chinese are now trying the other approach. The PLA pilots are now officially required to fly over a hundred hours per year. But such is the enthusiasm for developing competent pilots that most squadrons scrounge up the money to fly their pilots more than the new minimum. Front line units (on the Taiwan straits) get even more and some have pilots in the air for over 200 hours a year. This is more than Taiwanese pilots fly, and explains why the Taiwanese are so eager to upgrade their air defenses. Yet at the same time, some squadrons do not fly all that much, and the reason is usually that senior officers have stolen the money allocated for all that flying.

The paper dragon is trying to sharpen its claws, putting on some muscle and learning how to fight. China now has hundreds of modern warplanes, a growing fleet of nearly-modern warships and modern equipment for many of its ground troops. But there are still a lot of corrupt officers, at all levels. It’s not just the stealing; it’s also the many officers who don’t make the extra effort. There’s also a lack of recent combat experience, which eliminates the possibility of getting the best officers promoted and worst ones killed off or pushed to the side.

While this mess is recognized by the senior political leadership, the public image the state-controlled media puts out there is that the Chinese armed forces are ready for anything and capable of handling any foe. You can get away with that kind of propaganda in peacetime, but once these troops go into combat, it all falls apart. Keep that in mind the next time China rattles its saber, because the Chinese leaders are.

SPECIAL OPERATIONS:  All Your Tomahawks Are Belong To Us

April 27, 2012: The U.S. Navy is equipping SOCOM (Special Operations Command) operators (Special Forces and SEALs) with the ability to transmit new target locations, for mobile targets, to a navy command center that will update the GPS location a ship-launched cruise missile is headed for. Most of the Tomahawks ever used have been fired at land targets, and this new capability gives SOCOM operators a powerful capability if they are less than 1,200 kilometers from an ocean.

The current Tomahawk, the Block 4, costs about $1.8 million each, weighs 1.4 tons, has a range of 1,500 kilometers and carries a half ton warhead. It moves to its target at a speed of 880 kilometers an hour. The Tomahawk was introduced 29 years ago, and over 6,000 have been manufactured. The U.S. Navy has fired nearly 2,000 in combat and training.

The Block 4s are also getting upgraded so that they can hit moving targets. This is mainly intended to turn the Tomahawk into an anti-ship missile, although it can also hit moving land targets. The Tomahawk has been a primary land attack weapon for surface ships and submarines since the 1990s. The Block 3 entered service in 1994, but the Block 4 was a big upgrade, adding GPS and the ability to go after a different target while the missile was in flight.

The United States is developing a successor to the Tomahawk cruise missile, that will be heavier (2.2 tons), have a longer range (2,000 kilometers) and with a larger (one ton) warhead. The new missile will be stealthier, and use a combination of guidance and targeting systems (to improve the chances of success). Price will probably be the key factor in whether this new missile ever enters service. The new Cruise Missile XR (for Extended Range) will probably cost at least twice as much as the current Tomahawk.

The cruise missile, when it showed up in the 1980s, was one of the first UAVs, it just wasn’t reusable. But UAVs that carry bombs and missiles, and can be reused, are going to provide competition for a new, $3 million, Cruise Missile XR.

WARPLANES: Puma Jumps Ahead

April 27, 2012: The U.S. Army has ordered another 20 RQ-20A Puma AE UAVs. Over a hundred RQ-20As have been ordered so far this year and about a thousand have been manufactured in the past four years, but that has been accelerating now that the army has adopted Puma in a big way.

Adopting Puma is part of an army effort to find micro-UAVs that are more effective than current models, and just as easy to use. The Puma, a 5.9 kg (13 pound) UAV with a 2.6 meter (8.5 feet) wingspan and a range of 15 kilometers from the operator, has proved to be the next big (or micro) thing the army was looking for. The orders this year have largely been in response to combat commanders realizing how useful Puma is and wanting more, as quickly as possible. This is not surprising as SOCOM (Special Operations Command) has already ordered over a hundred systems (each with three UAVs and two controllers) since 2008.

The army wants to equip each infantry company with a Puma system. That would mean 18 Puma AE UAVs per brigade. These larger UAVs have been most useful in route clearance (scouting ahead to spot ambushes, roadside bombs, landslides, washouts or whatever.) The larger Puma is particularly useful in Afghanistan, which is windier than Iraq, and thus more difficult for the tiny Raven to operate.

Top speed for Puma is 87 kilometers an hour, and cruising speed is 37-50 kilometers an hour. Max altitude is 3,800 meters (12,500 feet), and the UAV can stay in the air for 120 minutes at a time. Puma has a better vidcam (providing tilt, pan and zoom) than the smaller Raven, and that provides steadier and more detailed pictures. Because it is larger than Raven, and three times as heavy, Puma is much steadier in bad weather. The Raven only stays in the air for 80 minutes. Both Puma and Raven are battery powered.

Puma has been around for a decade, but never got purchased in large quantities by anyone. The latest model uses much proven tech from the Raven (both UAVs are made by the same company). Like the Raven, Puma is hand launched, and can be quickly snapped together, or apart. Another version, using a fuel cell has been tested, and was able to stay in the air for nine hours at a time. There is also a naval version, built to withstand all that exposure to salt water.

The army has bought over 5,000 of the 2 kg (4.4 pounds) Raven, but it is mostly used for convoy and base security, and less so by troops in the field.Each combat brigade is now supposed to have 35 mini-UAV systems (each with three UAVs, most of them Raven, but at least ten systems Pumas.) That means that each combat brigade now has its own air force of over a hundred reconnaissance aircraft.


April 27, 2012: Malaysia has ordered 90 AA-12 radar guided missiles from Russia, for use on Malaysian MiG-29s and Su-30s. The AA-12 (or RVV-AE, or R-77) is the Russian counterpart to the American AMRAAM. The AA-12 is similar in size and weight, weighing 175 kg (385 pounds) versus 152.2 kg (335 pounds) for AMRAAM. AA-12 is 3.8 meters (11.9 feet) long compared to 3.6 meters (11.2 feet), and 200mm in diameter versus 178mm. The AA-12 has a max range of 90 kilometers (compared to 70 for AMRAAM).
The AA-12 has yet to be used in combat. Russian missiles, historically, have been less reliable and effective than their Western counterparts. The Russian missiles are not worthless they are just less likely to knock down aircraft they are aimed at. The Chinese saw flaws in the AA-12 and wanted to improve that design so that it is more competitive with AMRAAM. The Chinese were eager to create an effective competitor for AMRAAM that they could export (they are already offering the export version of the, the SB-10, for sale.) Their PL-12 has, so far, not demonstrated any extraordinary abilities.

“Execute against Japan”: The U.S. Decision to Conduct Unrestricted Submarine Warfare

April 27, 2012

“Execute against Japan”: The U.S. Decision to Conduct Unrestricted Submarine Warfare, by Joel Ira Holwitt

College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2009. Pp. xiv, 245. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $37.50. ISBN: 1603440836.

This ground-breaking work builds a convincing case that demolishes the commonly accepted view of that the US Navy resorted to unrestricted submarine warfare in the Pacific only as a result of the disastrous surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Holwitt, a U.S. Navy submarine officer and frequent contributor to naval publications, opens Execute Against Japan with a review of the complex history of the long-standing American defense of “freedom of the seas,” before going on to review Germany’s submarine operations during World War I, and the international and domestic legal restrictions that were imposed on submarine operations in the interwar period, which were in fact incorporated into U.S. Navy regulations.  He then demonstrates that, in fact, despite legal restrictions, the U.S. Navy secretly prepared to engage in unrestricted submarine warfare in the event of a conflict with Japan, a policy that was never explicitly approved by either the President or Congress.

An important contribution to the literature of the Pacific War.

Buy It At

Drug Lords Seek To Buy The Country

April 27, 2012

Security officials are deeply concerned about drug cartel money corrupting the upcoming elections. Analysts argue that this is the route the powerful cartels are taking, that is, electing leaders who will leave them alone. Still, stories crop up in the Mexican, U.S., and Canadian press discussing the possibility of a drug cartel political take-over using violent means. A cartel would seize and hold territory against a counter-attack by the army. However, the question to ask is, if they buy a state governor and two-dozen mayors in the state and the new president decides he doesn’t want to use the military to fight the cartels, why bother with a shooting war? That’s why the 2012 presidential election matters to the cartels.

Secrecy News

April 27, 2012


Government attorneys said yesterday that they would appeal an extraordinary judicial ruling that required the release of a classified document in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

The document in question is a one-page position paper produced by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) concerning the U.S. negotiating position in free trade negotiations.  It was classified Confidential and was not supposed to be disclosed before 2013.

But immediate disclosure of the document could not plausibly cause damage to the national security, said DC District Judge Richard W. Roberts in a February 29, 2012 opinion, and so its continued classification, he said, is not “logical.”  He ordered the government to release the document to the Center for International Environmental Law, which had requested it under FOIA.  (Court Says Agency Classification Decision is Not ‘Logical’, Secrecy News, March 2, 2012.)

This kind of independent review of the validity of classification decisions, which is something that judges normally refrain from doing, offers one way to curb galloping overclassification.

While the substance of the USTR document is likely to be of little general interest, the court’s willingness to disregard the document’s ill-founded classification and to require its disclosure seems like a dream come true to critics of classification policy.  If the decision serves as a precedent and a spur to a more broadly skeptical judicial approach to classification matters, so much the better.

But what may be a dream to some is a nightmare to others.  The bare possibility of such an emerging challenge to executive classification authority was evidently intolerable to the Obama Administration, which will now seek to overturn Judge Roberts’ ruling in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.


In response to congressional direction, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is considering whether to expand the scope of patent secrecy orders — which prohibit the publication of affected patent applications — in order to enhance “economic security” and to protect newly developed inventions against exploitation by foreign competitors.

Currently, patent secrecy orders are applied only to patent applications whose disclosure could be “detrimental to national security” as prescribed by the Invention Secrecy Act of 1951.  At the end of Fiscal Year 2011, there were 5,241 such national security secrecy orders in effect.

But now the Patent Office is weighing the possibility of expanding national security patent secrecy into the “economic security” domain.

“The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is seeking comments as to whether the United States should identify and bar from publication and issuance certain patent applications as detrimental to the nation’s economic security,” according to a notice that was published in the Federal Register on April 20.

That would be a mistake, I wrote in my own comments submitted to the Patent Office yesterday.

Economic security — which could conceivably implicate all new inventions — is not analogous to the more limited domain of national security-related inventions, “so the use of secrecy orders is inappropriate to protect economic security,” I suggested.

Instead, the existing option for an applicant to request nonpublication of his or her patent application up to the point that the patent is issued is a superior alternative to a mandatory secrecy order, I wrote.  “The inventor is likely to be better qualified than any third party to assess the economic significance of the invention, and is also likely to be best motivated to protect his or her own financial interests.”

“The USPTO has not taken a position” on these questions, the Patent Office said in its April 20 notice, “nor is it predisposed to any particular views.”


Noteworthy new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has not made readily available to the public include the following.

Carbon Capture and Sequestration: Research, Development, and Demonstration at the U.S. Department of Energy, April 23, 2012

Members of Congress Who Die in Office: Historic and Current Practices, April 25, 2012

Hydraulic Fracturing and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): Selected Issues, April 25, 2012

Domestic Content Legislation: The Buy American Act and Complementary Little Buy American Provisions, April 25, 2012

The STOCK Act, Insider Trading, and Public Financial Reporting by Federal Officials, April 19, 2012

Data Security Breach Notification Laws, April 10, 2012

Requiring Individuals to Obtain Health Insurance: A Constitutional Analysis, April 6, 2012

Weatherby Mark V TRR RC: Dead-Serious Long-Range Rifle

April 26, 2012
If you can see it, you can hit it. And, if you can hit it, you can kill it. That should be Weatherby’s tag line for their Mark V TRR RC (RC is for Range Certified) rifle in .338-378 Wthby. Mag. Why? It’s simple, really.

This rifle comes with a cut-rifled, 26-inch Krieger threaded barrel with optional muzzle-brake, and a pile of other custom features that’ll make you grin. Combine all this exactitude with the .338-378 Wthby. Mag. cartridge—which will deliver a ton of energy at 700 yards—and you have an extreme long-range shooting platform that’ll hit like a runaway freight train.

Hold on with both hands, lace your boots up tight and you’ll be OK—it’s only 50 ft-lbs of recoil energy! That’s still better than being on the business end of this beast.

Intelligence News YOU may have missed…..

April 26, 2012

Benny Gantz

►►Iran says it has cracked US spy drone secrets. Iran claims it has cracked the encryption on the computer software onboard a US RQ-170 Sentinel drone which crashed in the country in December. General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guards aerospace division, said engineers were decoding the last pieces of data from the spy plane, which came down near the Afghan border. An Iranian defense official recently said that Tehran has had several requests for information on the craft and that China and Russia have shown an interest.
►►Israel steps up covert operations says defense chief. Israel’s defense chief, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, has confirmed his forces are carrying out increased special operations beyond the country’s borders. In an interview published on Wednesday to mark the eve of Israel’s Independence Day, Gantz said Israel was ready to attack Iran’s nuclear sites if ordered to do so. But he added that did not mean he was about to order the air force to strike. He also said that he had increased the number of covert Israeli operations in other countries, but gave no details. “I do not think you will find a point in time where there is not something happening, somewhere in the world”, he said.
►►US Pentagon plans new intelligence-gathering service. The US Pentagon is revamping its spy operations to focus on high-priority targets like Iran and China in a reorganization that reflects a shift away from the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan that have dominated America’s security landscape for the past decade. Under the plan approved last week by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, case officers from the new Defense Clandestine Service would work more closely with counterparts from the Central Intelligence Agency at a time when the military and spy agency are increasingly focused on similar threats.

Betty Sapp

►►Lebanese national wanted for spying for Israel. A Lebanese military court has issued an arrest warrant for a Lebanese national suspected of spying for Israel. The judge in the case accused the suspect, whose name is yet to be released, of being in touch with Israel and passing on information about Ron Arad, an Israeli Air Force weapon systems officer who went missing in 1986.
►►Article sheds light on UK Home Office’s ex-spy official. An article in The Sunday London Times examines the role of Charles Farr, a former MI6 officer, who is considered as “the heart” of the British Home Office’s security policy. Farr, who joined MI6 some time in the 1980s, and served in South Africa and Jordan among other places, directs the Office’s Security and Counter-Terrorism unit. He is now in charge of the Home Office’s Communications Capabilities Development Programme, an attempt to augment online government surveillance. One former official, who had a showdown with Farr over policy, tells The Times: “He’s almost messianic. He’s like he’s on a mission to protect the nation. When you disagree with him he gets very emotional. He’s one of these guys who goes white and shakes when he loses his temper”.
►►First woman tapped to lead US spy satellite agency. For the first time in its storied history, the secretive builder and operator of America’s spy satellites, the National Reconnaissance Office, will be run by a woman. Betty Sapp, currently principal deputy director at the spysat agency, will move up one slot and replace NRO Director Bruce Carlson, who many credit with turning around the agency’s problem-plagued acquisition system. While Sapp is the first woman to lead the NRO, she is the second woman to lead one of the major intelligence agencies. Letitia “Tish” Long, director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, gets to claim the honor of first woman to break that glass ceiling.