For Your Eyes Only Military News

SOMALIA: Al Shabaab Fades Loudly

May 22, 2012:  As al Shabaab fades, the many factions in Somalia are negotiating how to form a national government. This is to include the northern statelets of Somaliland and Puntland, both of which have been independent since the 1990s. Puntland has a foreign oil firm exploring for oil and natural gas. Even though nothing has yet been found, most Somali factions insist that the new central government control the oil revenue. The clans that formed Puntland refuse to go along with this, believing the national-level politicians would steal the oil revenue and leave Puntland with nothing.

May 21, 2012: In the south, four Kenyan troops were wounded when their vehicle hit a land mine.

May 19, 2012: Three al Shabaab bombs went off in Mogadishu, killing eight and wounded 15.

May 18, 2012:  The commander of Ethiopian troops in Somalia said that his troops could capture the port of Kismayo from al Shabaab. Kenyan troops have avoiding doing that for the six months they have had troops in southern Somalia. The Ethiopian troops are better trained and led, and have long been successful in fighting Somalis. The Kenyans have not been as successful and are more cautious.

As expected, foreign reporters were contacted by “Somali fishermen” protesting a recent EU (European Union) helicopter attack on pirate boats along the coast. The “fishermen” complained that it was too difficult to distinguish between fishing and pirate boats. The EU anti-piracy patrol disagrees.

May 17, 2012:  The island nation of Mauritius will begin prosecuting Somali pirates (captured by the anti-piracy patrol) next month and jailing those who are convicted. The EU (European Union) paid Mauritius $3.8 million last year to make preparations. Additional payments will be made as trials and incarcerations occur.

May 15, 2012: For the first time, EU helicopters attacked Somali pirates by destroying five speedboats on the shore. The attack took place near the Somali port of Harardhere (400 kilometers north of Mogadishu).

In Kenyan, police arrested an al Shabaab man believed responsible for a recent grenade attack that killed one person.
May 14, 2012: In Mogadishu police caught a man carrying explosives, which were to be part of an al Shabaab car bomb. Near the Kenyan border, Kenyan troops captured a known al Shabaab member (a Tanzanian). Elsewhere in the south, a clash between al Shabaab gunmen and Kenyan troops left six dead.

In Kenya, a policeman was killed and two others wounded when their vehicle encountered a landmine near a refugee camp for Somalis.

LIBYA: Work In Progress

May 22, 2012:  The NTC (National Transitional Council) is national in name only. There is no real central government in Libya, and many parts of the country are not ruled at all, but in chaos because of disputes between local militias. The militias were often formed by traditional tribal leaders, or just some local guy who was charismatic enough to organize his own little army during last year’s rebellion. Getting these gunmen to disarm has proved difficult, but not impossible. The required negotiations take weeks or months and the NTC has not got enough qualified negotiators to speed up the process.

Meanwhile most Libyans want their Kaddafi-era welfare state back, but bigger and better. Kaddafi held power for so long, despite his bizarre behavior and mismanagement, by spending over half the oil income on a shabby, but effective, welfare state. Anyone who misbehaved had their benefits cut off. But Kaddafi would also cut benefits for the extended family of those who opposed him. This was a remarkably effective way to run a police state. With Kaddafi and his secret police gone, people want their welfare state and not a shabby one either. But without control of the entire country, the interim government has no way to deliver the expected goodies. Then there’s the corruption, with many militia leaders inclined to grab local welfare funds for themselves. The new Libya is a work in progress and will probably continue to be one for some time.

The militias are also causing problems with their approach to law and order.  Many militiamen are still hunting for Kaddafi supporters and imprisoning them. That often leads to torture and murder, as few of the militias have judges and lawyers available for a proper prosecution. Recognizing the inefficiency of the warlord culture, many militia leaders are running in the June elections. That may help stabilize things. But if the experience in many other countries is a guide, the militias supporting individual politicians will probably last for a while.

The oil industry has made a rapid recovery from the damage inflicted during last year’s rebellion. Production is now 1.5 million barrels a day, just short of the pre-war level of 1.6 million. The pre-war level is to be hit next month. From there, production will be increased, over the next three years, to three million barrels a day, a level not seen in Libya since the 1970s. To do this, the NTC (and whatever national government is elected next month) has to get the banking system stabilized and make the country safe enough to attract foreign investors. Doubling oil output will cost $30 billion and a lot of that money will have to be borrowed. That’s because much of current oil revenue has to be used to provide public services.

May 21, 2012:  Moamar Kaddafi’s former intelligence chief, Abdullah al Senoussi, has been jailed in Mauritania for trying to enter the country in disguise (as a Tuareg). Senoussi is wanted in Libya and France for various crimes. He is also a potential source of insider information on the Kaddafi government.

May 19, 2012: The first local elections in over 40 years were held in Benghazi, where 414 candidates competed for 41 seats on the city council of Benghazi. Over 200,000 were registered to vote and turnout was heavy. National elections are on June 19, but many in eastern Libya are calling for autonomy and a boycott of the national vote. The results of this local election will show how strong the separatists are. So far, 1.2 million have registered for the national elections.

May 16, 2012: In the southwestern (600 kilometers from the capital) border town of Ghadames, locals fought with Tuareg tribesmen, leaving one local and five tribesmen dead. The clash took place near the Algerian border. The fighting was over control of a checkpoint and access to smuggling routes.

May 13, 2012:  Two people were killed by a landmine on the Egyptian border.

PROCUREMENT:  Another Iranian Wonder Weapon

May 22, 2012:  Iran recently announced that three more locally produced Saeqeh jet fighters had been delivered to the Iranian Air Force. This would give Iran about fifteen of these aircraft. Last year Iran announced that they had put into service their first squadron of twelve Saeqehsrs. It was six years ago that Iran displayed a modified American F-5 fighter and proclaimed this new “Saeqeh” as similar to the American F-18 jet fighter. This is not the first time Iran has run a stunt like this. But even with a redesigned tail and better electronics, the 1960s era F-5 is still a low cost, and low performance, aircraft. The Saeqeh is not the first Iranian attempt to rebuild F-5s. In the 1990s, they built a clone of the F-5E, calling it the Azarakhsh. There are apparently four of these in service, and further modifications of F-5 airframes produced the Saeqeh.

The Iranians had dozens of damaged F-5s from their war with Iraq, along with many more elderly F-5s that are un-flyable, or barely so. Three decades ago Iran had nearly 300 F-5 aircraft, but many were destroyed in combat with Iraq during the 1980s, or due to accidents and most of the remainder just wore out.

The F-5E, the most recent F-5 model the Iranians had when the Islamic revolution took over in 1979, is an 11 ton aircraft, with a max speed of 1,700 kilometers an hour, and a range of some 1,400 kilometers. It was armed with two 20mm cannon, and could carry about three tons of missiles and bombs. The Iranians have taken the basic F-5 frame and rebuilt it to hold two Russian engines. The Chinese did the same thing, and produced the J-8 (a twin engine MiG-21) that turned out to be not worth the effort.

Although the Iranians are using Russian components (if only because these are better than Chinese ones), they probably had technical assistance (for a price) from China. The Chinese have a lot of experience reverse engineering Russian warplanes, and developing variations. The Chinese are getting away from that, because they finally realized that all they ended up with was a lot of crap fighters. Now they are building a new air force with expensive, and high tech, fighters imported from Russia, or built under license (or just copied illegally).

The Iranians have become obsessed with these “propaganda weapons,” where they hack something together from an existing Russian or American system, and proclaim it to be a breakthrough weapon “designed and manufactured in Iran.” It’s all rather pathetic, and it all began during the 1980s, when Iran and Iraq were fighting a nasty war. Some of the hacks worked, after a fashion. Iran created a longer range SCUD missile by the simple expedient of lengthening the missile with a larger fuel tank. This changed the flight characteristics of the missile, but since these things were being fired at city size (as in Baghdad) targets, it didn’t matter. Actually, the Iranians didn’t really need the longer range missiles, because Baghdad was pretty close to the Iranian border. Iran actually got the technology for these SCUD mods from North Korea, but Iranian press releases always touted the achievement as being the result of Iranian scientists and engineers.

WARPLANES: F-22ski Just Got Later And More Expensive

May 22, 2012:  The Russian answer to the American F-22, the T-50 (or PAK-FA), has been delayed two years. It will now, barring more delays, be ready for mass production in 2019. This is according to India, which is collaborating with Russia in the development of this Russian designed fighter.

The delay worries India because they are picking up half the $6 billion dollar development cost. A two year delay means rising costs, and the Russians have not announced any budget changes yet. Moreover, the $6 billion only covers work on the basic aircraft. All the avionics will be extra, and India is unclear of how much extra. India has had serious (and expensive) problems with Russian development cost projections before. Undeterred, India planned to buy 250 (now reduced to 200) of the new T-50s, for about $100 million each. An increasing number of Indians now see the T-50 possibly following the same cost trajectory as the F-22.

The T-50 prototype first flew two years ago. Russians and Indians have been doing a lot of tinkering since then. While the T-50 is the stealthiest aircraft the Russians have, it is not nearly as stealthy as the F-22, or even the F-35 or B-2.

The Russians are apparently going to emphasize maneuverability instead of stealth. India wants more stealth, and would prefer a two-seat aircraft. There are also problems perfecting the engines for the T-50, and the defensive electronics. This puts the T-50 at a big disadvantage against the F-22 or F-35, which try to detect enemy aircraft at long distance, without being spotted, and then fire a radar guided missile (like AMRAAM). These problems are apparently the main reason for the two year delay.

The Russians want to sell their “Fifth Generation Fighter” (the T-50, which they admit is not true 5th Gen) to China, India and other foreign customers. With the Indian participation, Russia now has the billions of dollars it will take to carry out the T-50 development program. India is not just contributing cash, but also technology and manufacturing capability.

The T-50 is a 34 ton fighter that is more maneuverable than the 33 ton, Su-27, has much better electronics and is stealthy. It can cruise at above the speed of sound. It also costs at least fifty percent more than the Su-27. That would be some $60 million (for a barebones model, at least 50 percent more with all the options), about what a top-of-the-line F-16 costs. The Su-27 was originally developed to match the F-15, which is larger than the single engine F-16.
Russia is promising a fighter with a life of 6,000 flight hours, and engines good for 4,000 hours. Russia promises world-class avionics, plus a very pilot-friendly cockpit. The use of many thrusters and fly-by-wire will produce an aircraft even more maneuverable than earlier Su-30s (which have been extremely agile).

The T-50 is not meant to be a direct rival for the F-22, because the Russian aircraft is not as stealthy. But if the maneuverability and advanced electronics live up to the promises, the aircraft would be more than a match for every fighter out there except the F-22. If such a T-50 was sold for well under $100 million each, there would be a lot of buyers. For the moment, the T-50 and the Chinese J-20 are the only potential competitors for the F-22 in development.

Like the F-22, development expenses are increasing, and it looks like the T-50 will cost at least $120 million each (including a share of the development cost), but only if 500 or more are manufactured. Russia hopes to build as many as a thousand. Only 187 F-22s were built because of the high cost. American developers are now seeking to apply their stealth, and other, technologies, to the development of combat UAVs. Thus by the time the T-50 enters service, in 7-10 years, it may already be made obsolete by cheaper, unmanned, stealthy fighters.

INTELLIGENCE OPERATIONS:  Russian Spies In The Motherland

May 22, 2012:  The Russian FSB (Federal Security Service) arrested a Russian engineer who was working on the Bulava SLBM (Sea Launched Ballistic Missile). The accused engineer was charged with selling secrets to a foreign intelligence service.  This was nothing new. Earlier this year a Russian court convicted a Russian space engineer for selling missile test data to the CIA.

Last year 41 spies were arrested in Russia. Such arrests have been declining. In 2008 149 foreign spies were arrested. Of those, 48 were officials of foreign intelligence agencies. Strictly speaking, these are not spies, but the people who seek out locals suitable for recruiting as spies. Of these spies, 76 were non-Russians living in Russia, and 25 were Russians. Six of those arrested for spying were working for Georgia, and one was Russian citizen from Syria, who was working with Islamic radicals in the Caucasus. China has a major espionage effort going in Russia, and a few Chinese operatives are caught every year. The foreign spy agencies have apparently adapted, because none has shown any interest in shutting down their espionage operations in Russia.

Some of the spies were simply people the Russian government wanted to shut up and take out of circulation. Charging them with espionage is an old trick from the Soviet period (and ever earlier, as the Czarist secret police used the same technique.) In practice, Russia is doing much more spying on others, and many more Russian spies were caught overseas each year. But Russia, using a proven Cold War era technique, attempts to deflect criticism of its own espionage activities, by emphasizing the real or imagined spying activity in Russia.

AIR TRANSPORT: Those Clever Viking Traders

May 22, 2012:  Sweden sold the Thailand Air Force a Saab 340B transport recently, and the price was an exchange for three Italian G222 transports. The G222s were grounded for age-related maintenance issues.

The Saab 340B is a 22 ton, twin prop aircraft, with a cruising speed of 660 kilometers an hour. The aircraft can stay in the air about four hours per sortie. The G222 is a 28 ton, twin prop aircraft, with a cruising speed of 429 kilometers an hour. The aircraft can stay in the air about three hours per sortie.

Thailand wanted to get rid of the G222s, which first entered service in the 1970s. The Thai G222s were out of service because of the high cost of maintenance. The G222 design has since been upgraded and renamed the C27.
Sweden made this trade because Thailand has become a major export customer for military and transport aircraft.

ATTRITION: The Armada Gets Mothballed

May 22, 2012:  Forced to deal with continuing budget reductions, the Spanish Navy (Armada Españolais) is preparing to put six frigates and their only aircraft carrier into storage. Many naval commanders are opposed to this and as a compromise the ships will first be put on “restricted duty” and then as they lose their crews (to more budget cuts) they will shift to “reserve” status. These seven ships will probably never return to active duty once this process begins.  If the naval budget keeps shrinking, it will begin.

Since their housing bubble burst in 2008, Spain has been suffering a sustained economic recession. So far the defense budget has been hit by cuts amounting to 25 percent a year. Unless the economy makes a dramatic turnaround, the navy budget will keep shrinking.

The six Santa Maria class frigates entered service in the early 1990s. They were based on the American Perry class frigates. The Santa Marias are 138.8 meters (455 feet) long and displace 4,200 tons. They have a top speed of 56 kilometers an hour and are armed with a 76mm gun, 324mm torpedoes, anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles and a helicopter. There are two autocannon for missile defense.

The Perrys came along in the late 1970s. They are 131.6 meter (408 foot) long, 4,200 ton warships armed with a 76mm gun, anti-ship, anti-aircraft and anti-missile missiles, as well as torpedoes, a helicopter and a crew of 176. Many of the 69 Perrys have been retired from U.S. service, and most are given to foreign navies, who are glad to have them. But some countries, like Spain and Taiwan built their own versions of the basic Perry design.
The carrier Principe de Asturias entered service in the late 1980s. It has been overdue for a $500 million refurbishment. This 16,700 ton ship can operate up to 29 fixed wing (vertical take-off Harriers) and helicopter aircraft.

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