For Your Eyes Only Military News

IRAQ:  Screw The Americans

May 21, 2012:  Terrorist violence is down considerably this year, in large part because so many Islamic terrorists have gone to Syria, where helping overthrow the Assad dictatorship might provide Sunni Arab terrorists a sanctuary. Then again, maybe not. But prospects for Islamic terror groups look better in Syria, as they keep getting worse in Iraq, where the security forces are hunting down these groups more quickly.
May 20, 2012: The Kurdish government in northern Iraq announced that they will begin exporting oil via a pipeline through Turkey by 2013. The Iraqi government insists that only it can approve oil production and exporting activities, but does not have the military capability to impose their will on the northern Kurds. This is an Arab/Kurd conflict, part of a struggle that goes back thousands of years. The Kurds are relying on Turkish support, and in return are cooperating with Turkish efforts to deal with Turkish PKK Kurdish separatists, who have bases in northern Iraq. While the PKK goal of a separate Kurdish state is popular with most Kurds (even in northern Iraq), the survival of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq is considered more crucial, for now. The northern Kurdish leaders also publicly threaten to reveal documents that would greatly embarrass Iraqi prime minister Nuri Maliki. This could be big trouble for Maliki, who is accused of trying to establish a Shia dictatorship in Iraq, just as a Sunni dictatorship was established in the 1950s when Sunni soldiers murdered the royal family and shut down the parliament of the constitutional monarchy that had existed from 1932-58. The constitutional monarchy was an imperfect democracy, but in hindsight it was better than the decades of Sunni Arab corruption and violence that followed.

Iraq is producing three million barrels of oil a day, more than the Saddam ever achieved. Iraqi oil production had been stuck at 2.5 million barrels a day since the 1980s (production had peaked in the late 1970s at four million barrels a day). Iraqi has 9 percent of the world’s oil reserves, but decades of war and mismanagement had prevented necessary maintenance and construction in the oil fields. For the last few years the oil regions have been safe for foreign oil production companies to bring in their experts, and cash, in to get the job done, so Iraqi production has been steadily increasing. The goal is ten million barrels a day by the end of the decade. The Kurds plan to start exporting 80,000 barrels a day in two years, largely with the help of Turkish investors.

The remaining problem is how to deal with the corruption that has diverted so much oil income into the pockets of thieving politicians and government officials. In Iraq, corruption is like the weather; everyone talks about it but not enough people do anything about it.

May 19, 2012: The trial for some of the bodyguards of Sunni Arab vice president Tariq al Hashimi, and the missing Hashimi himself, for the murder of six judges has hit a snag as the judge refused to allow defense lawyers to present evidence that might exonerate Hashimi. As a result of that ruling, and several others that hurt the defense, the lawyers walked out. It does appear that the Hashimi trial is more for show than an effort to determine true guilt or innocence. Last December Hashimi was accused of running a death squad and other terrorist activities. While Hashimi fled the country, 73 of his employees and followers were arrested many and confessed that their group committed 150 assassinations and bomb attacks over the last three years. Since then Hashimi has received asylum in Turkey, which is, for the moment, ignoring an Interpol arrest warrant. This has caused anti-Turk demonstrations in Iraq, but not in the Kurdish north, where a lot of the investments in new businesses have come from Turkey. The Turks and their money are welcome in the Kurdish north.

May 18, 2012:  Three bombs went off in a market in a Shia neighborhood of Baghdad. Five were killed and 37 wounded.

May 13, 2012: Two terrorist bombings (in Ramadi and Baghdad) left three policemen and a civilian dead.

May 12, 2012: Iraq is expected to be producing more oil than Iran before the end of the year. Iran is having a hard time maintaining its oil industry because of international sanctions.

May 10, 2012: Turkey refused to extradite Sunni Arab Iraqi vice president Tariq al Hashimi. Iraq obtained an Interpol arrest warrant yesterday, which

Turkey believes was obtained under false pretenses (Iraqi government lies about evidence against Hashimi.)

May 7, 2012:  A court released Hezbollah terrorist leader Ali Musa Daqduq, without trying him on charges of organizing attacks on Iraqi and American troops in Iraq. In 2007 Daqduq was captured by U.S. troops and confessed to training terrorists as an agent for Iran. Hezbollah is a Lebanese terrorist militia founded and funded by Iran. Daqduq was turned over to the Iraqi government last December on the understanding that he would stand trial for his crimes.

The U.S. provided lots of evidence for the trial, but the Iraqi court released Daqduq for “lack of evidence.” This was apparently done as a favor to Iran, and the Iraqis seem to believe that any outrage in the United States will die down before Iraq faces any diplomatic or economic punishment.
May 6, 2012: A new law allows one rifle or pistol per household, for self-defense. The weapons must be registered, or else the owner is subject to arrest. While many oppose legalizing any weapons at all, the government believes the measure will make it easier to find and seize larger stores of weapons and ammo.

PHILIPPINES: China And The Thousand Cuts

May 21, 2012: The government is trying to repair relations with China. There has been no Filipino ambassador to China for over a year. A new one is being selected, but in the meantime the president has appointed two businessmen to begin diplomatic and economic negotiations with the Chinese. The Philippines is trying to get China to lift its four month ban on Filipino bananas. China is a major buyer for Filipino goods, and could cancel other deals at will. Already, about 2,000 Chinese tourists have cancelled trips to the Philippines. That means millions of dollars of lost sales for Filipino firms. Last year, about a quarter million Chinese visited, and Chinese currently comprise about eight percent of tourists.
China and the Philippines have both imposed fishing bans in the same waters around Scarborough Shoal. There have also been nationalistic demonstrations over the issue in both countries. The situation is getting out of hand and, without some strong public pledges of support from the United States, the Philippines will have to back down. Currently, Filipino continue to report being harassed, but not chased away, by uniformed, and armed, members of the China Marine Surveillance service who always seem to have a patrol boat or ship at Scarborough Shoal.  The shoal is only 250 kilometers from the Philippines, and 1,200 kilometers from China. But China claims ownership of Scarborough Shoal, but has not yet used force to assert that claim.
While the United States has not been eager to aid the Philippines in its territorial dispute with China, Japan has. Other nations bordering the South China Sea also have territorial disputes with China, and want more support from America. China’s neighbors see themselves being subjected to the “death of a thousand cuts.” The Chinese do not want a military confrontation with America. That’s bad for business and a booming economy is the main thing that keeps the communist dictatorship in power in China. But by constantly applying a little pressure on its enemies in the South China Sea dispute, China weakens the opposition. China uses military and economic power to get what it wants here. Thus Japan offers the Philippines military assistance (new patrol boats) and whatever else it can provide to maintain Filipino resistance to Chinese demands.
MILF and the government agree that they can probably work out a compromise agreement, but that will take time. In other words, there will be no MILF peace agreement this year. Part of the reason for this is growing political instability within MILF. That had to be dealt with before a final peace deal with the government can be agreed on.
May 18, 2012:  In the north (Albay province) NPA gunmen attacked a construction site and, despite an army detachment on guard, destroyed over $2 million worth of construction equipment. The NPA were punishing the construction company for not paying “revolutionary taxes” (extortion) to the NPA. This is how NPA finances itself and as a result of this attack the army high command ordered reforms in army intelligence to get more timely warning of such attacks, so the NPA retaliation efforts can be thwarted.
President Aquino called up the leader of a proposed naval protest against China and convinced him to not do it. The protest leader, a former Filipino marine, was taking two fishing boats and 20 people (including a TV crew) out to Scarborough Shoal to protest “Chinese bullying.”
May 16, 2012: The Philippines largest and most modern warship, a 3,000 ton, 46 year old former American coast guard cutter, is sidelined temporarily for maintenance (to fix some problems with the 76mm gun).
May 13, 2012: An American nuclear attack submarine (SSN) arrived in Subic Bay for resupply, some maintenance and shore leave for the crew. The U.S. had requested permission for the visit on April 3rd, before the current confrontation over Scarborough Shoal began on April 8th.

LEADERSHIP:  Why Russia Has China By The Engines

May 21, 2012: China has long copied foreign technology, not always successfully. One of these unsuccessful efforts is becoming a major embarrassment, to the point where government officials are complaining about it openly. While the Chinese government tries to control news of leadership conflicts, they often allow arguments to go public when it is believed some public debate might do some good. Such is the case with the uneven effort to manufacture military jet engines in China. The basic problem is the inability of the state controlled aviation company (Aviation Industry Corporation of China) to master the most advanced manufacturing and quality control techniques. The problem is the inability of state-run firms to operate as efficiently as their privately owned counterparts in the West. The public debate points to the continued inability to even achieve the lower (than in the West) manufacturing standards of Russia, whose state-run firms (during the Soviet period) were also never able to match Western standards. Some Chinese officials urge privatizing the engine manufacturers, but many others oppose that on political (not wanting to admit defeat) or practical (losing direct control of a key military industry) grounds. Meanwhile, the manufacturing bureaucrats cannot cope, even after many years of effort and much money spent. While some 20 percent of Chinese warplanes now use Chinese made engines, 80 percent do not and that is something the government has not been able to keep secret.
In the last decade, China has poured much money and leadership effort into developing a jet engine manufacturing capability. The Chinese encountered many of the same problems the Russians did in the beginning. Developing the necessary engine design and construction skills is difficult. But China has several advantages. First, they knew of the mistakes the Russians had made, and so were able to avoid many of them. Then there was the fact that China had better access to Western manufacturing technology (both legally and illegally).

Finally, China was, unlike the Soviets, able to develop their engine manufacturing capabilities in a market economy. This was much more efficient than the command economy that the Soviets were saddled with for seven decades. But the state owned engine manufacturers have been unable to develop the entrepreneurial spirit that works so well in the West (and other, privately owned, segments of the Chinese economy).

The Chinese consider the locally designed and built J-10 aircraft and WS-10A engine part of the learning process, and they do learn from their mistakes. But jet engines for combat aircraft are very complex, and China is encountering more problems than they expected. Solutions have not kept up with new problems.

And then there’s China not wanting, for a long time, to admit that its own engine development efforts have consistently come up short. For example, two years ago China announced that it was replacing the engines in its J-10 fighter, installing Chinese made WS-10A in place of the Russian made AL-31FN. But last year, China quietly ordered several hundred more Russian AL-31FNs. No more talk of using the WS-10A on a large scale.

The Chinese claim the WS-10A is superior to the AL-31F, even though the WS-10A copied a lot of the Russian technology. The Chinese say they have improved on that. But those improvements were often things the Russians already had in the works, like increasing the basic AL-31 lifetime from 900 to 1,500 hours, and, most recently, 2,000 hours. Meanwhile the Chinese have failed to master some of the basic manufacturing techniques for high-performance jet engines. Recently Chinese officials publicly made an issue of the Chinese company’s inability to master the skills needed to manufacture turbine blades for high-performance jet engines. The reality is that the WS-10A has some serious, and unpredictable, reliability problems, which are becoming obvious. China believes it will be free from dependence on Russia for military jet engines within the next five years, which implies that Chinese engine manufacturers still have a way to go. It may take longer.

For years, China has imported two Russian engines, the $3.5 million AL-31 (for the Su-30, and the local clone, the J11 and Chinese designed J-10), and the $2.5 million RD-93 (a version of the MiG-29’s RD-33) for the JF-17 (an F-16 type aircraft developed in cooperation with Pakistan.) But in the meantime, Chinese engineers thought they had managed to master the manufacturing techniques needed to make a Chinese copy of the Russian AL-31 engine. This Chinese copy, the WS-10A, is part of a program that has also developed the WS-13, to replace the RD-93 as well. While the Chinese have been able to build engines that are durable, they are still having problems with reliability, and that’s a killer with fighter jet engines, where failure in combat can be fatal.
Russian sales of AL-31 jet engines to China have surpassed a thousand, with the addition of several new orders in the past year. This is because China wants to expand its fleet of modern jet fighters (J-10 and J-11), and keep pilots in the air often enough to develop and maintain combat skills. That wears out engines faster. Another reason for the continued orders is persistent Chinese difficulties in developing jet engine manufacturing capabilities. China has been especially keen on freeing itself from dependence on Russian high-performance jet engines for its top-line jet fighters. That has not been happening.
With an increase in orders from the Russian Air Force, the Russian manufacturer of the AL-31 had had to boost production this year by over a third. The Russians also appear confident that the Chinese are not going to solve their engine manufacturing problems any time soon. This can be seen in how China openly (and unsuccessfully) protested restrictions Russia wants on the use of AL-31FN engines. Russia wants guarantees that the AL-31FNs will only be used to power Chinese warplanes, and that none of them will be disassembled to assist Chinese engineers in perfecting the illegal Chinese clone of the AL-31FN, the WS-10A. China has been stealing Russian military tech for years, especially since the end of the Cold War. Back then, Russia could no longer afford to buy new military gear, and it was only orders from China and India that kept many Russian defense firms in business. With many more orders from the Russian military, the Russian manufacturers feel able to play hardball with China. Russia has China by the engines, and is squeezing.


May 21, 2012: The U.S. Navy has decided what to do with its “brown water navy,” including three Riverine Squadrons, now that they have no overseas assignment. The coastal and river force sailors are going to be divided between bases on the U.S. east and west coasts. There they assist with coastal and river patrol duties. The riverine force contains 2,500 active duty and 2,000 reserve sailors. There will also be opportunities for training with riverine forces of other countries, particularly in the Americas.
Organized for service in Iraq, the three riverine squadrons were rotated in and out of Iraq from 2007 to 2011. Before first arriving in Iraq the riverine sailors received lots of infantry and amphibious training, much of it provided by U.S. Marine Corps instructors. Until 2007, the army and marines had been providing most of the riverine units in Iraq. There are some sailors there as well, but not as organized riverine units. In 2005 the navy established Riverine Group One, which eventually had three squadrons (each with 230 sailors and twelve 12.5 meter/39 foot boats). With headquarters and support troops, the group had 900 personnel and 36 armed boats.  Each boat has a crew of sixteen and is armed with machine-guns and automatic grenade launchers.
The navy riverine forces eliminated terrorist movements along, and across, the main rivers in Iraq. This was similar to the successful riverine campaign the navy waged in Vietnam four decades ago, using 16 meter (50 foot) “Swift” boats.

The riverine force was part of a larger navy effort. The navy officially established its “Naval Expeditionary Combat Command” (NECC) in 2005. This organization eventually reached a peak size of 40,000 sailors, all of whom were trained to work, and fight, on land. The U.S. Marine Corps has mixed feelings about this, for the marines have long been the navy’s ground combat troops.

But in the meantime, there were plenty of sailors (over 20,000) who had served ashore in Iraq and Afghanistan. These included construction troops (Seabees), medical and other support personnel, plus advisors to the revived Iraqi navy. But the navy knew it could do more, and wanted to do it with sailors, not marines.

Why not continue just using marines for this? Well, the marines do not belong to the navy, contrary to what many people think. Both the navy and marines are part of the Department of the Navy (the Department of the Army and Department of the Air Force each have only one component.) The marines used to be part of the navy, but over the years, the marines obtained more and more autonomy. They are now, for all practical purposes, a separate service.

While the U.S. Marine Corps began, over two centuries ago, as sailors who were trained and equipped to fight as infantry, they were very much part of the navy, and part of ship crews. This changed radically in the late 19th century, when all-metal steam ships replaced wooden sailing ships. The new “iron ships” really didn’t need marines, and there were proposals to eliminate them. The American marines got organized and fought back.

The marines performed very well as “State Department Troops” in Latin America for half a century (late 19th century to just before World War II), where American troops were needed to  deal with civil disorder. During World War I, they provided a brigade for ground combat in Europe, where they demonstrated exceptional combat skills. As World War II approached, the U.S. Marine Corps really ran with the ball when the navy realized they would have to use amphibious assaults to take heavily fortified Japanese islands. During World War II, the marines formed their first division size units, and ended the war with six divisions. The Marine Corps was no longer just a minor part of the navy, but on its way to being a fourth service. Over the next half century, it basically achieved that goal. But in doing that, the navy lost control of its ground troops.

The navy still wanted and needed land forces. So, having lost control of the USMC, the navy has created NECC. This organization contains sailors trained and equipped for land operations the navy believes it should be involved in.

Some of these are still on the water, like riverine operations (small gunboats and troop carriers to control rivers and coastal waters against irregulars), and naval infantry to defend navy land bases in hostile territory. NECC sereved in Iraq, and down the road, the navy sees similar situations showing up. So, since the admirals can no longer send in the marines whenever they want to, NECC provides naval infantry, that will hop to when an admiral needs some grunts on the ground.

INTELLIGENCE OPERATIONS:  Mission Nearly Impossible

May 21, 2012:  In the last decade, there has been a tremendous increase in the use of biometric (fingerprints, iris, facial recognition) identification. This is causing problems for espionage agencies, because the use of biometric information for identification documents like passports and those used to access heavily guarded facilities. The use of biometrics does its job very well keeping out spies, terrorists and saboteurs. The downside is that it also limits the activities of your own spies. This has led to efforts by espionage agencies to get around this “problem.” The espionage organizations will not comment on what, if any, solutions they have come up with. That is to be expected.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has developed tools that enable combat troops to use biometrics on the battlefield. The main tool created for the troops is called SEEK (Secure Electronic Enrolment Kit). This is a portable electronic toolkit that collects biometrics from people. This includes fingerprint scans, eye (iris) scan and digital photos of suspects. All this eventually ends up in a master database, which now contains data on millions of terrorists, suspected terrorists, their supporters and other “persons of interest”. Troops in the field can carry part of that database with them in their SEEK unit, so that wanted people can quickly be identified and arrested. This is what the American commandos did on the 2011 Osama bin Laden raid. While DNA tests (which take hours to perform, on not-so-portable equipment) are the best form of ID, if you have fingerprints, iris scans and a photo, you are nearly as certain. Even just fingerprints and the face scan/photo, is pretty convincing.
In Afghanistan, the government used SEEK kits to collect data on nearly two million Afghans, so these people could be issued very secure (hard to fake) ID cards. For the government, this makes it more difficult for criminals, Taliban and Islamic radicals in general to infiltrate the government, or just operate freely. The U.S. has long been collecting biometrics from those they arrest, or otherwise encounter and want to positively identify. This data makes it easier to figure who is naughty and who is not.

All this began during the war in Iraq. Early on in the war on terror, the Department of Defense adopted many practices that major police departments had long employed. One of the more useful techniques is biometrics. That is, every time the troops encounter a “person of interest”, they don’t just take their name and address, they also use SEEK to collect the biometric data.

The fingerprints are particularly useful, because when they are stored electronically, you can search and find out immediately if the print you have just lifted from somewhere else, like off the fragment of a car bomb, is in there or not. The digital photos, from several angles, are also useful, because these pictures are run through software that creates a numeric “ID” that can be used by security cameras to look for someone specific, or for finding someone from a witness description. Other nations are digitizing their mug shots, and this enables these people to be quickly checked against those in the American database.

For decades, the U.S. military has regularly collected huge amounts of information from accidents, and combat encounters. So now, it’s no surprise that forensics teams examine each bombing (car or roadside) and combat scene, to see if they can get fingerprints. Often bomb makers are found this way, because raids frequently encounter suspicious characters, but no evidence that can lock them up.

It only takes about two minutes per subject to use SEEK to take the biometric data, so any suspicious characters are quickly added to the master database. Now, after several years of this, raiding parties know to grab any guy who seems to panic at the sight of the biometrics equipment coming out. The terrorists know that biometrics is bad news for them, and they fear it.

Combat troops now get training on how to use the biometrics gear, and everyone now accepts that this stuff is a powerful weapon in the war against terrorists. Adapting this expertise to creating very difficult-to-fake Ids is not a large leap, but it’s not one that will result in many press releases.

ATTRITION: India Has Mercy On Its Pilots

May 21, 2012: On May 9th the Indian government finally agreed to buy 75 Pilatus PC 7 trainer aircraft for the Indian Air Force. The aircraft will cost $7.5 million each and begin to arrive next year. It took the air force several years to get approval. In the meantime pilot training and flight safety suffered because of the shortage of trainers.
There are actually three different aircraft trainers Indian pilots use during their flight schooling. All of the current ones are elderly and overworked. The HPT-32 is used for primary flight training. Intermediate training uses the Kiran Mark II and then the Hawk Jet Trainer is used for advanced training for fighter pilots. After that the pilots are sent to combat units where they learn how to operate a specific type of aircraft.
Back in 2009, all 116 HPT 32 basic trainers had to be grounded because of age related problems. HPT reliability has gone down even more since then. The HPT 32 entered service three decades ago and there have been over a hundred serious accidents, killing 23 instructor and trainee pilots. Because of the HPT 32 problems the 96 Kiran Mk1 intermediate trainers had to increasingly be used for both basic and intermediate training. These aircraft are being worn out but even then most pilot trainees are only getting a third of the required hours before being moved along in their flight training. This leads to more accidents as pilots are pushed into the next phase of their training without adequate flight time.
For over three years the air force has been trying to get permission to buy 75 Pilatus PC 7 single engine turboprop trainers to replace the HPT 32s. While the HPT-32 was designed and manufactured in India, the Swiss built Pilatus was seen, by Indian pilot training experts, as a better choice. The PC 7 is a two seat, 2.7 ton aircraft. The instructor sits behind the trainee and both have an ejection seat. Nearly 500 PC 7s have been built in the last three decades and they are used by 24 nations. But because the Pilatus is a foreign aircraft, buying it has become a political issue and the actual purchase was continually delayed by politicians or Indian aircraft manufacturers. Indian pilots made it clear that they did not want another HPT 32.
India has also had problems with advanced trainers. For a long time new pilots went straight from propeller driven trainer aircraft to high performance jets like the MiG-21. This was made worse by the fact that the MiG-21 has always been a tricky aircraft to fly. This resulted in a high loss rate from peacetime accidents. The solution to this was a new jet trainer. But it took decades for this proposal to make its way through the defense procurement bureaucracy.

Four years ago India decided to buy another 40 British Hawk jet trainers. Eight years ago, after two decades of effort, BAE Systems finally sold 66 Hawk jet trainers to India, at a cost of some $25 million each. The delays were caused by the Indian unwillingness to spend the money, plus the efforts of French, Russian, Czech, and American aircraft manufacturers to put forward their own candidates. Finally, the growing number of Indian MiG-21 aircraft lost forced the government to close the deal. The Hawk advanced jet trainers are the most successful Western aircraft of this type, at least in terms of sales (over 900 have been sold). The US Navy uses the Hawk and India felt the Hawk was the most suitable for training MiG-21 pilots. The nine ton aircraft are used to train pilots who will eventually fly jet fighters. The Hawk can also be armed and used for ground attack. So can the Pilatus PC 7, although this is rarely done.


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