For Your Eyes Only Military News

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.


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