For Your Eyes Only Military News


May 23, 2012: Pakistan has agreed to allow NATO to resume trucking supplies into Afghanistan via Pakistan, but only if an additional fee of $4,750 be paid per cargo container. Most of this cash would go into the pockets of senior officials. That comes to $14 million a month in bribes. The Pakistanis consider this a good deal, because it is costing NATO $38 million a month in additional transportation costs because the Pakistani route is not available. American politicians note that the U.S. has been giving Pakistan over $80 million a month in military aid, so that aid is being withheld and may be cancelled completely if Pakistan does not open the border. The Pakistanis are also aware that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan will involve the shipment of over 100,000 containers (and half a billion dollars in loot for Pakistani leaders, not the Pakistani people). So far, NATO and the U.S. refuse to give in to these extortionate demands, which include the U.S. taking the blame for last November’s friendly fire incident that left 26 Pakistani soldiers dead. There is a long history of Pakistani troops firing across the border at NATO and Afghan forces. Giving the Pakistanis the apology they demand would be bad for NATO morale, as American and NATO troops are still facing a lack of cooperation from Pakistani forces along the Afghan border.
Meanwhile, the Pakistani military continues fighting selected Islamic terrorists in the tribal territories. While these Islamic radicals want to turn Pakistan into a religious dictatorship, an unpopular prospect with most people in the territories, there is widespread anger at the corruption and incompetence of the Pakistani government. Thus while the Islamic terrorists have destroyed several thousand schools in the tribal territories in the last decade (to protest educating girls and secular education in general), a very unpopular tactic, the people are appalled at the inability of the government to stop this violence or rebuild all the destroyed schools.  Pakistanis are also angry at continued government support for some Islamic terror groups (that are supposed to restrict their attacks to India or foreigners outside Pakistan, like Western troops in Afghanistan). The problem with this strategy is that these terror groups tend to eventually slip off their leash and attack Pakistanis. Three decades of this military strategy has created a large minority of Pakistanis who are Islamic radicals and who advocate things (no school for girls or jobs for women or entertainment for anyone) that most Pakistanis oppose. At the same time the military feasts off the corruption their power enables them to indulge in. The Pakistani military is supposed to exist to defend Pakistan, but to a growing number of Pakistanis their military is an uncontrollable beast that just feeds off Pakistan.

Several years of fighting in the Pakistani tribal territories has created over half a million refugees and a lot of unhappy civilians. After September 11, 2001,

Pakistan had an opportunity to renounce its two decades of support for Islamic terrorism. But the Pakistani generals tried to have it both ways. That approach failed. Now, once NATO leaves Afghanistan, Pakistan will have to deal with Pushtun Islamic radicals (mainly Taliban) on both sides of the border by themselves. Even with a determined effort to eliminate this scourge, it will take a decade or more to deal with it.

Pakistani government incompetence is getting more publicity than the senior officials are comfortable with. Wikileaks documents proved very embarrassing, as they detailed government support for the “secret” American UAV operations over the tribal territories. The officials publicly opposed these UAV operations. Wikileaks also documented a lot of the corruption in Pakistan, and now some retired generals are arguing via the media about rigged elections in the 1990s. This is nothing new for most Pakistanis, but the perpetrators going public about it is. The generals are saying they rigged elections “for the good of the country.” But they used the power they obtained to get rich and get away with murder.

Despite the continuing terrorist threat from Pakistan, India is focusing on the military threat from China. The Indian Ocean is of particular concern, with more Chinese warships showing up along with the huge number of Chinese merchant ships already there. So over the next decade, the Indian Navy will receive an average of five new ships a year. This will include aircraft carriers and nuclear subs. While the Chinese fleet is larger, the Chinese have more immediate naval threats (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, America) off their Pacific coast. Thus the Indian buildup is meant to be sufficient to handle anything the Chinese might be able to spare for Indian Ocean mischief.

May 22, 2012:  Three senior Pakistani naval officers were punished, for incompetence, because of command failures that enabled a terror attack on a naval base exactly a year ago. At the time six Taliban gunmen got onto a major naval base in Karachi, Pakistan, killed ten people and destroyed two American made P-3C maritime reconnaissance aircraft (worth over $100 million each).

All the attackers were killed, but it took the military 17 hours to do so. It was early the following day before the sound of gunfire ended. What was most disturbing about this was that this heavily guarded base was supposed to have a degree of security similar to that provided for the bases where nuclear weapons are stored. While the six Taliban who attacked the naval base were killed, that in itself was scary, as the attackers did not seem concerned about surviving. The attack was later described by the Taliban as an act of revenge for the death of bin Laden. While the navy had three more P-3Cs, the loss of two of them greatly reduced the ability to patrol the long Pakistani coast.  The attackers were believed to have had inside help, but the military has not released any information on that (and rarely does.)

In Indian Kashmir, three Islamic terrorists were picked up by sensors as they sought to sneak in from Pakistan. An army patrol was sent to intercept and the resulting gun battle left one terrorist dead and the other two apparently headed back into Pakistan.

Gunmen attacked a political rally in Karachi, Pakistan, leaving 11 dead. Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city (18 million), has ethnic and religious violence that is again growing, causing hundreds of casualties a week and chaos in some neighborhoods. The violence has been high all this year, although in the last month the security forces thought they had put a lid on it. The lid is rattling.

In Pakistan’s North Waziristan a U.S. UAV killed four Islamic terrorists with a missile.

Indian police attacked a meeting of Maoists in eastern India (Jharkhand), and captured some weapons and equipment, but the twelve Maoist gunmen got away. The police acted on a tip.

May 21, 2012: Indian police arrested two Islamic terrorists in Punjab, and seized three bombs, two timers, three detonators, two Chinese pistols and 11 rounds of ammunition. The explosives came from Pakistan.

May 20, 2012: Pakistan blocked national access to Twitter for most of the day, apparently because of blasphemous (to some Moslems) activity on Twitter.

Every day, if not every hour, there is something on Twitter that Islamic conservatives would consider blasphemous. What the Pakistani government particularly dislikes about Twitter is that it is a speedy conduit of reports on bad behavior by the Pakistani government. Shutting Twitter down for a sustained period would be enormously unpopular. Over the past two decades the military has backed off on its efforts to enforce censorship because of public anger. At this point, the government has lost control of most media. Some journalists can be bought or intimidated, but most roam free, sniffing out government misbehavior.
May 19, 2012: In Indian Kashmir, Islamic terrorists made two grenade attacks, wounding four policemen and ten civilians.

May 18, 2012:  Maoists in eastern India (Chhattisgarh) attacked the home of a senior politician and were driven off. One bodyguard was killed.

May 17, 2012: Another sign of peace returning to Indian Kashmir is the army announcement that some of the minefields, surrounding eight of its camps, would be removed. This is mainly because there are far fewer Islamic terrorists operating in the area now.

In Pakistan, four pilots were killed when two military aircraft collided during a training exercise. Because if its large number of older Russian and Chinese designed warplanes, Pakistan has a much higher accident rate than Western air forces, or even neighboring India (which also has a lot of Russian warplanes).

May 13, 2012: Maoists in eastern India (Chhattisgarh) ambushed a police patrol and killed six policemen and a civilian driver.

ATTRITION: How A Little Bird Brought Down A Gunship

May 23, 2012: A U.S. Marine Corps accident report was recently released that confirmed a rare case of bird strike bringing down a helicopter. Last September, a red-tailed hawk, weighing about 1.4 kg (3 pounds) hit the top of the main rotor mast on a marine AH-1W helicopter gunship. The hawk impact damaged the pitch change link, which caused vibrations that quickly led to the transmission and rotor blades breaking away from the helicopter. The chopper then fell to earth, killing the two man crew. The AH-1 is now going to be modified to better protect the pitch change link, one of several highly vulnerable (t0 damage) components on a helicopter. Normally, the pitch change link would not be hit by ground fire. No one expected a bird strike up there either.

Aircraft bird strikes are a widespread, if little publicized, problem. There are about 5,000 incidents a year. These often just mean replacing windows or canopies, or wherever the bird hit. Most of the incidents involve near misses or collisions on non-critical portions of the aircraft. But in about one percent of the incidents the damage is severe and some aircraft are lost. On average, 40-50 people a year die because of aircraft bird strikes.

Nearly all the fatal bird strikes are to aircraft with gas turbine engines (which birds fly into). This often wrecks, or severely damages, the engine when the high speed fan is damaged. Multiple engine aircraft usually can survive this if they still have one or more working engines. But sometimes single or two engine aircraft lose all engine power and go down. One exception was the “Miracle On The Hudson” in January 2009, when an Airbus 320 over New York City lost both engines to bird strikes. Exceptional work by the crew managed to bring the aircraft down, intact, on the Hudson River.

SPACE OPERATIONS: Why Russia Still Uses Film In Spy Satellites

May 23, 2012: On May 17th Russia launched its eighth Kobalt M reconnaissance satellite. The first one was launched eight years ago. The second Kobalt M went up in May, 2006, in a very dramatic fashion. That launch was just in time, as their only operational spy satellite (a naval reconnaissance bird) had died the previous month. By the end of 2006 Russia managed to launch an electronic recon satellite, and another naval recon satellite. At the time, Russia had dozens of military satellites in orbit, but they were all for communications, or everything but photo and electronic reconnaissance. Russia is still using a lot of birds designed with Soviet (Cold War era) technology. This is changing, as a new generation of satellites, built more to Western standards, is going up. But a lot of the older tech will remain in use for the foreseeable future.

Kobalt M satellites weigh 6.7 tons and contain three re-entry vehicles for returning film. Yes, a quarter century after the United States stopped using this method Russian continues to use film, instead of digital photography for some of its recon birds. In the United States, the last generation of film-using spy satellites, the Keyhole 9 (or KH 9), was used in 1984. The KH 1 through 9 series satellites sent film back in canisters (for high resolution pictures), to be developed.

The Keyhole 9, the first of which went up in 1971, was not only the last of the American film satellite designs but the largest and most capable. Its basic layout was used by the subsequent digital camera birds. The KH 9 could cover large areas at high (for the time) resolution of .6 meters (24 inches). This was more than adequate to spot and count tanks, aircraft, and even small warships.

The 19th, and last, KH 9 went up in 1984. The KH-9 was a 13 ton satellite with multiple cameras and 4 or 5 reentry vehicles for returning the film for developing and analysis. The KH-9s were nicknamed Big Bird. The first film camera satellite, KH 1, went up in 1959. Thus for 25 years the film-using satellites supplied coverage of hostile nations.

Russia launched its first digital photo recon satellite in 1997. This Arkon model was not very successful. A more reliable Persona satellite (with higher resolution) went up four years ago. This was 22 years after the first American KH-11 went into orbit. The U.S. still uses KH-11s (much upgraded from the original), which have much higher resolution and reliability than Persona.

WEAPONS OF THE WORLD: USMC Adopts Mini-Cruise Missile

May 23, 2012: The U.S. Marine Corps is buying an unspecified number of Switchblade micro-UAV/cruise missiles. The marines apparently noted the success  the U.S. Army and SOCOM (Special Operations Command) had with this system.

The Switchblade is a one kilogram (2.2 pound) expendable (used only once) UAV that can be equipped with explosives. The Switchblade is launched from its shipping and storage tube, at which point wings flip out, a battery powered propeller starts spinning and a vidcam begins broadcasting images to the controller. The Switchblade is operated using the same gear the larger (two kg/4.4 pound) Raven UAV employs. A complete Switchblade system (missile, container and controller) weighs 5.5 kg (12.1 pounds).

The army sent some Switchblade UAV systems to Afghanistan two years ago for secret field testing. This was apparently successful. It appears that Switchblade is currently used largely by Special Forces and other special operations troops. Last year, after a year of successful testing, the army ordered over a hundred Switchblade UAVs for troop use.

Switchblade can also be launched from the 70mm rocket tubes used on army helicopters. Moving at up to a kilometer a minute, the Switchblade can stay in the air for 20-40 minutes (depending on whether or not it is armed with explosives.) The armed version can be flown to a target and detonated, having about the same explosive effect as a hand grenade. Thus the Switchblade could be useful for ground troops, to get at an enemy taking cover in a hard to see location. Switchblade completed development three years ago. Technically a guided missile, the use of Switchblade as a reconnaissance tool encouraged developers to refer to it as a UAV. But because of the warhead option, and its slow speed, Switchblade also functions like a rather small cruise missile.

NAVAL AVIATION: China Using Helicopter UAVs At Sea

May 23, 2012: A Japanese warship recently passed by a Chinese frigate that appeared to be flying a helicopter UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) off its helicopter pad. The Japanese took photos and passed them around. At first it was noted that the helicopter looked like the Schiebel S-100 Camcopter.

Schiebel is an Austrian firm which markets the S-100 in many countries via the U.S. firm Boeing Aircraft. But Schiebel continues to sell the S-100 itself, and a little digging revealed that the Chinese had bought 18 S-100s two years ago.

While the three S-100s seen on the aft deck of the Chinese frigate do look like the S-100, there also appear to be some differences. So either China modified some of the S-100s it had bought, or has created an S-100 clone. European nations are not supposed to sell China weapons (because of an arms embargo), but the S-100s were apparently sold to Chinese police organizations (which is legal, and the S-100 does have civilian users). One Chinese firm has already offered a helicopter UAV similar to the S-100.

The S-100 weighs 200 kg (440 pounds), can stay aloft six hours per sortie, and operates at a max altitude of 5,500 meters (18,000 feet). Max speed is 220 kilometers an hour.  So far, some 200 S-100s have been sold so far, to military and civilian customers.

Chinese firms have developed several helicopter UAV designs. For example, the Chinese V750 weighs 757 kg (1,665 pounds) and has a payload of 80 kg (176 pounds). Max speed is 161 kilometers an hour and endurance is four hours. The V750 can fly a pre-programmed route, or be controlled by a ground operator (up to 150 kilometers away.) The manufacturer is offering the V750 for civilian (scientific survey, search and rescue, police surveillance) and military uses. There are over a dozen other Chinese helicopter UAVs on the market.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has taken the lead in this area, with several models developed in the last decade. The one most similar to V750 is the MQ-8B Fire Scout which is operating in Afghanistan and aboard warships. The U.S. Navy developed, and put into use, the MQ-8B. A similar model, the RQ-8B, died because the U.S. Army already had plenty of UAVs that got the job done. The navy kept Fire Scout because helicopters are more practical on most navy ships (for landings and takeoffs.) Navy Fire Scouts have been successfully used on frigates (in both the Atlantic and Pacific). There is a huge demand for UAVs in Afghanistan, so the navy sent some there.

The 1.5 ton Fire Scout is based upon the Schweitzer 333 unmanned helicopter, which in turn is derived from the Schweitzer 330 commercial lightweight manned helicopter. Fire Scout has a payload of 272 kg (600 pounds), a cruising speed of 200 kilometers an hour, max altitude of 6,100 meters (20,000 feet) and endurance of eight hours. The U.S. Navy plans to acquire over 160 Fire Scouts.

Several other navies have been testing helicopter UAVs on their warships, and this type of UAV seems destined to replace a lot of manned helicopters on warships, and enable smaller warships (that cannot handle the larger manned helicopters) to operate unmanned helicopters.

THE WAY THINGS REALLY WORK: The Last American Battalion In Iraq

May 23, 2012: Iraq wanted all American troops out of the country by the end last year, but they didn’t want to lose the use of U.S. troops for training and advising their combat commanders. So the U.S. did what is has increasingly been doing with countries wanting American military training; it brought in contract personnel. There are 157 American military officers assigned to the American embassy in Iraq (and are technically diplomatic personnel), but most of the training assistance and advising is done by 600 retired American military officers and NCOs. Since the end of the Cold War, this has been an increasingly common way to make American military training available. Not only are the retired personnel more experienced (and older) than active duty troops, they are not irritated by having their military careers interrupted by “training duty” (which was never held in very high regard by most active duty troops.)
Many of these contract trainers have combat experience in Iraq and are familiar with the culture and language. The Iraqis see these guys as “guests”, not “occupation troops” and that makes for a much smoother relationship. The Iraqis are well aware of how important superior training was to the American success in combat, and the ease with which they destroyed Saddam’s troops and thousands of Sunni terrorists and Shia militiamen. The Iraqis know they can acquire similar military skills, and that the American trainers can help make it happen.


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