For Your Eyes Only Military News

KOREA:  Dead Men Walking

May 24, 2012: North Korea has always depended on economic and diplomatic support from China. As the international sanctions on North Korea increase, along with the internal economic problems, this Chinese support has become a lifeline. The Chinese connection not only provides enough food to prevent mass starvation deaths, but also abets the smuggling in of luxury goods for the leadership and special tools (like cell phone detectors) for the security forces.

China does this because it does not want Korea united, nor does it want the flood of refugees that would occur if the North Korean dictatorship lost control. So China keeps North Korea on life support. There is some hope that the North Korean leadership can be persuaded to adopt the Chinese model (a communist dictatorship with a market economy). But North Korea is more nationalist than communist and the idea of “opening up” economically is not popular with the several hundred families that run the place. They fear that the people would become unmanageable. So China keeps supporting whatever government the North Koreans can muster. As long as Korea remains divided and the northerners quiet, that is satisfactory for China.

What is not satisfactory is North Korean nuclear weapons. China tolerated all sorts of weapons production and smuggling (often assisted by allowing it to go through China). Ballistic missiles and chemical weapons are one thing, but the prospect of smuggled nukes is unacceptable. Apparently there have been increasingly sharp discussions between Chinese and North Korean officials over the nuclear issue. This is one subject where the North Koreans tell the Chinese to back off and Chinese threats do not change the situation. China can understand the North Korean strategy here. The nukes make it easier to extort aid from the rich countries (South Korea, Japan and the West) and gives North Korea something very valuable to sell on the international black market. But the nukes also risk a military response from the West, which fears North Korea nukes could end up in the hands of terrorists. China does not believe the North Koreans are that rash, but then China has more intel agents and friends inside North Korea, and has a better sense of what the North Koreans are really thinking. Apparently China now believes that North Korean desperation is reaching the point where selling nukes to the highest bidder is a possibility. China is still at the talking stage, but moving towards action (cutting the North Koreans off).

Inside North Korea, there is growing popular unrest, and dissention within the ruling families. There are coalitions of families, based on what portions of the military, secret police, or economy they control, and they are constantly maneuvering to survive, or get ahead. This is a contact sport, with occasional fatalities. An increasingly useful tool to maintain popular support is manufacturing artificial foreign threats. All that North Korean rhetoric about imminent war with South Korea and attacks on the U.S. or Japan (but never China) has to do with distracting most North Koreans from their hunger and deprivation. This doesn’t work as well as it used to, but it works better than the other standbys. These include the secret police, who are increasingly easy to bribe or intimidate, and government distributions of “gifts” (sacks full of food and simple consumer goods, given to nearly every family in the country, or a province.)

For the first time in three years, satellite photos show work being done at its Musudan-ri launch facility. North Korea has begun construction around this place.  The North Koreans don’t do this just for show (they can’t afford the electricity, or the spare parts), and when they do, it’s usually a sign that something is about to be launched.  There are also signs that preparations are being made for rocket assembly and launch at Musudan-ri. The pace of work is slow, and at the current rate it might be a year or more before the site is ready for an actual launch.

The North Korean government has a special program to prevent starvation deaths, but not starvation. Local officials have been told that they will be severely punished (like being expelled from the bureaucracy and forced to scramble for survival like most North Koreans) if there are “excessive” (as defined by senior officials) starvation deals in their area. The chief method of preventing those deaths is to supply the severely malnourished with a few kilograms of grain (usually low quality corn/maize), which is usually enough to prevent death, but not enough to help the famine casualties recover. The North Koreans are determined to, if nothing else, have an orderly mass starvation.
The army has been ordered to help scour the country side for edible wild plants, to provide some additional food for the starving. The troops in the hardest hit areas are demonstrably better fed than the locals, and are also there to emphasize that resistance is futile.

Despite the growing hunger in the north, many are still mesmerized by the lifestyle in South Korea. For a long time, most North Koreans knew nothing about the south. But as the government (out of desperation) allowed legal markets, the simultaneous development of cheap video players, using CDs, then DVDs and now memory sticks, brought South Korean TV shows and movies to many in the north. This, more than anything else, has caused great unrest and willingness to oppose the government. The most visible aspect of this is northerners wearing southern clothing styles. This is now illegal in North Korea, but people keep doing it. The style differences are often subtle, and the materials of these Chinese or local kock0ffs are inferior to what the South Koreans use, but it’s the thought that counts. The North Korean government doesn’t like that thought, but despite arrests and severe punishments, northerners continue to walk the streets wearing their rebellious attitudes.

May 20, 2012: North Korea has freed several Chinese fishing boats that were seized by a patrol boat, for illegal fishing, on May 8th. North Korean officials demanded that fines of $189,000 be paid for the release of the boats and their crews. When the Chinese government refused, the amount was cut 25 percent. But the Chinese saw this as another North Korean scam and told the North Korean government to release the boats and crews or there would be halts in aid shipments and problems with North Korean officials visiting China. That works. Increasingly, North Koreans are trying to shake down Chinese for additional money or goods. Sometimes the North Koreans get away with it. But if they go too far, the Chinese government growls, and the bandits back off. If the freelancing officials succeed they must, of course, share with their superiors.

May 18, 2012:  South Korea has put off signing a military cooperation treaty with Japan. Over the last decade, partly in response to new North Korean weapons developments, Japan and South Korea have increased their military cooperation. For many decades, this was not possible because of Korean anger at savage Japanese behavior during the Japanese colonial occupation (1905-45).  But when it came time to sign a more formal agreement, many South Koreans regained their historical memories, and hatred of Japan. South Korean leaders postponed the signing. There will follow intense government efforts to remind South Koreans about what a good neighbor Japan has been for the last sixty years. Then another attempt at signing the deal will be made. Meanwhile, the cooperation, formalized by the treaty, will continue anyway.

May 16, 2012: Satellite photos have revealed that North Korea is again working on its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon. It might take a year or two before this facility is producing nuclear weapons material.

May 14, 2012: In the north, the annual 40 day “total farm mobilization” is underway. Since 2006, the government has insisted that all students and most non-farm workers go work on farms during the planting season. This year, the secret police have been going around arresting anyone they find in non-farm areas, and sending them to the nearest farm. This makes it difficult for local officials to take bribes to allow people to avoid farm duty. It also annoys the farmers, who find most of these town and city dwellers just get in the way. But the government makes this into a major media event and insists.

May 13, 2012: The North Korean jamming of GPS signals in South Korea stopped, after 16 days. The impact was felt largely by aircraft and ships operating around Seoul, the largest city in the south. North Korea denied that it had anything to do with the jamming, despite the fact that the signal could be easily traced to North Korea.

SUDAN:  The Missiles Are On The Way

May 24, 2012:  South Sudan has launched a new peacemaking initiative designed to end tribal conflicts in Jonglei state. A group of six tribal leaders signed an agreement in early May that committed the tribe to peace, reconciliation, and mutual tolerance. The new initiative makes use of some very old peacemaking techniques, to include traditional tribal peace rituals. South Sudanese, with the aid of Kenya, used a similar initiative to resolve several violent tribal disputes in southern Sudan, prior to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended Sudan’s north-south civil war.

May 23, 2012:  May 22, 2012: South Sudan accused Sudan of launching air and artillery attacks on its territory. South Sudan reported that Sudanese forces attacked the Werguet area in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state on May 21 and again on May 22. The area lies about 30 kilometers inside South Sudanese territory. No independent organization confirmed the attacks, but over the last month several northern air attacks have been eventually confirmed. Some times confirmation takes several days. Foreign observers have to travel to the attack site in order to snap photos of aerial bomb craters. Travel in South Sudan is difficult. The roads are bad, often mere tracks. By the time the observers confirm the air attacks, the news cycle has moved on, or the propaganda cycle, if you prefer.

Both sides continue to accuse the other of border violations, which are also difficult to confirm. At the moment there is no sign that Sudan is ready to gamble on a major military assault, despite its overwhelming firepower advantage. Sudan has to pay attention to Uganda’s commitment to support South Sudan with its military forces. Kenya has also made it clear that it support South Sudan. Ethiopia has tried to act as a neutral mediator (it has a peacekeeping brigade in Abyei) but the burgeoning Ethiopia-Kenya alliance is no secret. South Sudan, however, remains worried. South Sudan continues to ask to international organizations and African nations to put political and diplomatic pressure on Sudan to end the conflict. (Austin Bay)

May 22, 2012: In Sudan (Port Sudan) a local businessman died when his vehicle exploded. The dead man turned out to be a major arms smuggler (to Egypt and eventually Gaza) and the Sudanese government blamed his death on Israel.

May 21, 2012: Refugees armed with guns fought with police in a refugee camp near the Sudan-Eritrea border. One policeman was wounded. The camp, located at Shagarab, houses several thousand Eritrean refugees. No one claimed to know who was responsible for the gunfire. Most of the refugees fled Eritrea. Some are trying to escape the Eritrean military draft, others are fleeing the country’s deteriorating economic conditions.

May 20, 2012: South Sudan once again appealed to the international community to force Sudan to withdraw its forces from the Abyei region. South Sudan completed its withdrawal earlier this month. Abyei is a disputed territory which lies between Sudan and South Sudan. Both nations claim the territory. The Abyei Protocol of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) called for a special plebiscite to determine who would finally control Abyei.

May 17, 2012: The UN Security Council passed a resolution calling on Sudan to withdraw its military forces from Abyei immediately and unconditionally.

May 16, 2012: South Sudan said that it plans to buy anti-aircraft missiles in order to counter Sudan’s air power advantage. The new missiles would be part of a military modernization program that will include other modern military equipment. The government did not specify what type of surface to air missiles it wants to acquire. South Sudanese towns have been subjected to numerous air raids conducted by the Sudanese Air Force. A South Sudanese military spokesman said that the anti-aircraft missiles would also be deployed around oil infrastructure and airports. Sudan uses its Russian made transports as bombers, and since South Sudan became independent last year, there have been, on average, one or two of these attacks a week. The bombs are just pushed out of the transports, and are not very accurate. Residential areas are the most frequent targets.

May 15, 2012: South Sudan continues to expand its army, the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA). The SPLA operates several training camps. The SPLA recently announced that a new class of recruits (around 800) just completed an eight-month long basic training at the camp near Mapel (Western Bahr el Ghazal state). The SPLA’s training camps are in the process of receiving a large influx of recruits who have volunteered in the last month, as Sudan and South Sudan have fought over the Heglig oilfield and skirmished along their border.

May 14, 2012: Sudan said that it would withdraw its forces from the disputed Abyei region but it will only do so after a joint administrative organization is created to control the area. An agreement negotiated after Sudan invaded Abyei in May 2011 called for the formation of such an administrative organization. South Sudan criticized the Sudanese statement because withdrawal of military forces from Abyei is supposed to be unconditional.
An airlift has begun to take native South Sudanese from Sudan to South Sudan. Some 15,000 South Sudanese will be flown from Khartoum, Sudan, to Juba, South Sudan. Authorities indicated that many of the 15,000 people have been living in transit camps in Sudan’s White Nile state. Sudan regards the southerners as a security threat.

May 12, 2012: The UN confirmed that South Sudan has withdrawn its police contingent from the Abyei region.  The Ethiopian commander of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) provided the confirmation.  South Sudan claimed on May 10 that it had fulfilled the requirements of UN Security Council Resolution 2046 and withdrawn some 700 police in the South Sudan Police Service from Abyei. Ethiopia has now deployed 3,716 soldiers with the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) on the Sudan-South Sudan border. There are also 83 Ethiopian military observers serving with the force.

May 10, 2012: The Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), a Sudanese rebel group, accused Sudan of blocking emergency aid distribution from reaching rebel-controlled areas of Blue Nile state. The SPLM-N is part of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF).  The SPLM-N is fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. A SPLM-N leader recently denied that the organization seeks independence or wants to join South Sudan. He said the SPLM-N wants to change the government in Khartoum

May 9, 2012: South Sudan claimed that within the last two days Sudanese forces attacked seven different places on the southern side of the international border. The attacks were either bombing sorties by Sudanese aircraft or artillery fire. The attacks occurred in Unity state and Upper Nile state. One of the attacks may have occurred in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state.

Sudan has asked the AU (African Union) and the UN to stop airplane flights from the UNAMID peacekeeping headquarters in El Fasher (Darfur region) to Uganda’s Entebbe international airport. This is a diplomatic shot at Uganda. Sudan and Uganda are increasingly at odds over the Sudan-South Sudan conflict. Uganda supports South Sudan and has said that it is prepared to support South Sudan with Ugandan military forces.

ELECTRONIC BATTLEFIELD: NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance

May 24, 2012: After over a decade of planning, debating, modifying and revising, NATO has finally signed purchase agreements for the AGS (Alliance Ground Surveillance) system. Using five American Block 40 Global Hawk UAVs, equipped with powerful sensors, NATO will now have a radar aircraft that can minitor ground activity like the American JSTARS. AGS also includes several dozen fixed and mobile ground stations and ground support facilities. While an American firm (Northrop Grumman) will provide the Global Hawks, European firms will provide most of the electronics and support gear. All this will cost about $1.7 billion.

The NATO AGS project has gone through a lot of changes in the last decade. The original plan was to have five Airbus A321 aircraft fitted out with ground radar similar to that found in the U.S. E-8 JSTARS. In addition, there would be four American RQ-4 Global Hawk UAVs, also equipped with ground radar. Five years ago, it was decided that the A321 aircraft and its special radar would be too expensive and time consuming to proceed with. It was then decided to go with eight RQ-4s. But three years ago money shortages led to AGS being cut back to just four RQ-4s. AGS was supposed to be operational by now, but there were delays caused by disagreements over cost.

Three years ago, NATO nations agreed to contribute about a billion dollars to establish the AGS system. This version would consist of four U.S. built Global Hawk UAVs, equipped with spy satellite grade surveillance equipment (cameras and radar), fifteen ground stations and software to get the data to any NATO member quickly. The late model (Block 40) Global Hawks will be able to get to any part of the globe (the U.S. has flown them across the Pacific, on automatic) quickly, and put eyes on the trouble spot. Since then there have been a few changes, and now the deal is finally set and contracts signed.

The U.S. JSTARS gave NATO the idea that this kind of investment would be useful. What really convinced them was the experience with JSTARS in Iraq. It was seven years ago that JSTARS radar aircraft were first used to track down terrorist bombers in Iraq. This was done by using the JSTARS radar to track where the attackers go after an attack. Many of the attacks take place in sparely populated places, and at night. JSTARS could track vehicles on the ground over a wide area. For example, a single JSTARS can cover all of central Iraq, although its ground radar can only track a smaller area. The JSTARS radar has two modes; wide area (showing a 25 by 20 kilometer area) and detailed (4,000 by 5,000 meters). The radar can see out to several hundred kilometers and each screen full of information could be saved and brought back later to compare to another view (to see what has moved). In this manner, operators could track movement of ground units over a wide area. Operators could also use the detail mode to pick out specific details of what’s going on down there, like tracking the movement of vehicles fleeing the scene of an ambush. JSTARS is real good at picking up trucks moving along highways on flat terrain. JSTARS can stay up there for over 12 hours at a time, and two or more JSTARS can operate in shifts to provide 24/7 coverage. There has always been at least one JSTARS operating in Iraq.

Eventually, JSTARS was being used to detect potential attacks. The post mission analysis of the collected data during an IED attack provided information about the scheme of maneuver before the attack was launched.

These collected movement patterns are used to predict such attacks and therefore protect U.S. troops against their effects. In addition, the persistent wide area coverage enabled U.S. troops to track down the infrastructure behind those attacks. This information helped to destroy the insurgent networks behind the IED attacks.
The AGS radar will have higher resolution (30 cm, versus 380 cm feet for JSTARS) and thus able to track even more detail on the ground. This would be very useful in peacekeeping, as well as combat, situations. It was the lack of something like the AGS in last year’s NATO air campaign in Libya that finally convinced NATO members to get AGS built.

PROCUREMENT:  What Afghans Love About Russia

May 24, 2012: The U.S. Department of Defense has agreed to obtain another ten Mi-17 helicopters for Afghanistan, as part of American military aid. The U.S. has already bought, upgraded, and delivered over fifty Russian Mi-17s to Afghanistan. The Russian choppers have Western electronics installed and are often rebuilt to make them more reliable and durable.

Afghans prefers Mi-17s because they are familiar and cheap. The cost of these Mi-17s varies widely. Some second hand ones from Eastern Europe nations cost less than a million dollars each. Iraq recently obtained 22 Mi-17 helicopters from Russia for about $3.7 million each. At one point the U.S. bought 24 refurbished Mi-17s for $4.4 million each. The most expensive purchase was for 22 Mi-17s equipped for night operations and with American electronics. These cost nearly $15 million each.

Afghans prefer the Mi-17, as they have used Russian helicopters for decades. The Mi-17 is the export version of the Mi-8, a twin-engine helicopter roughly equivalent to the U.S. UH-1. But the Mi-8/17 is still in production and is the most widely exported (3,000 out of 12,000 made) helicopter on the planet.

For many bargain conscious nations, Russian helicopters are preferred. In particular, the Mi-8 and Mi-17 are still in big demand. This chopper is about twice the size and weight of the UH-1, but only hauls about 50 percent more cargo. However, the Mi-8 has a larger interior and can carry 24 troops, versus a dozen in the UH-1. The UH-1 was replaced by the UH-60 in the 1980s, while the Mi-8 just kept adding better engines and electronics to the basic Mi-8 frame. But the UH-60, while weighing twice as much as the 4.8 ton UH-1, could carry as much as the 12 ton Mi-8. However, the Mi-8 costs about half as much as a UH-60 and the larger interior is popular with many users. If you want mobility for the least cost you get the Mi-17. Many peacekeeping and humanitarian operations go for the Mi-17, which can be leased from East European firms, complete with maintenance crews and English speaking pilots.

PEACEKEEPING:  Peace Support Operations Training Center

May 24, 2012: Uganda has set up a special training camp for army troops headed for peacekeeping duty in Somalia. Ugandan, and foreign (mostly

Western), soldiers who have already operated inside Somalia are part of the instructional staff. The Peace Support Operations Training Center in Uganda conducts courses ranging from a few days to over a month and teaches peacekeepers combat and peacekeeping tactics known to work best in the area where they will operate. The UN has such centers all over the world, usually close to where large numbers of peacekeepers will operate. For over a decade, the UN has operated a peacekeeping force of over 100,000 troops, deployed to over a dozen major operations. Each is different, and each requires special training for the new peacekeepers.

WARPLANES: Egypt Builds Chinese UAVs

May 24, 2012: Egypt has arranged to build, under license, twelve Chinese ASN-209 UAVs. This is a 320 kg (704 pound) aircraft, with a 50 kg (110 pound) payload. The 209 model has a max endurance of ten hours, but most missions are about eight hours. Max range from the control van is 200 kilometers and cruising speed is about 140 kilometers an hour.

A Chinese ASN-209 UAV unit consists of one control van and 6-10 trucks, each carrying a UAV and its catapult (with rocket boost) launch equipment. The UAV lands via parachute, so the aircraft get banged up a lot. A UAV battalion, with ten aircraft, would not be able to provide round the clock surveillance for more than a week, at best. But Chinese planners believe this is adequate. The unit contains repair crews, equipment and spare parts. This UAV can broadcast back live video, and be equipped for electronic warfare.
The lack of persistence (the ability to stay in the air for long periods of time) means the Chinese are unable to use this most important of UAV capabilities.

The Chinese are working on new UAVs that are closer to current U.S. designs. China has encouraged development of new UAVs, hoping that some entrepreneurial Chinese firm will produce UAVs similar to the superior American and Israeli models. The Chinese military holds expositions for current UAV designs, and sends officers to examine the goods, and hear the sales pitches. One of these expos featured over fifty new UAV designs. Many were very similar to existing models, but some showed imagination and resourcefulness.

AIR TRANSPORT: End Of the Road For C-130Es

May 24, 2012: The U.S. Air Force recently retired its last C-130E transport. Over the last few years it has retired several C-130Es with over 30,000 hours in the air and over 45 years of service. One of those retired two years ago had spent 33,220 hours in the air, and flew its last mission in Iraq, serving in a combat zone to the end.

Many of the C-130Es retired in the last few years had a few thousand hours left in them. These C-130s have undergone six or more refurbishments since they entered service in the 1960s. But these aircraft require more maintenance because of their age, which makes them more expensive to operate, and less available for service than newer models.

The American C-130Es are not the ones with the most hours in the air. Several Canadian CC-130Es have over 50,000 hours. But these are to be retired soon. Even the Canadians found that, as their CC-130Es approached 50,000 hours in the air, maintenance became more expensive and time consuming.

On average, C-130s last about 25 years, and about 20,000 hours in the air. But averages are just that, and some aircraft get lucky. If an aircraft has relatively few, “high stress” (heavy load, rough weather) flights, it will fly longer. The key component in C-130 longevity is the center wing box. This component takes the most punishment, and if it suffers corrosion, as well as enough stress to cause metal fatigue, it usually means the useful life of the aircraft is much shorter.

The C-130 has been in service 53 years. So far, nearly 2,300 have been built, and it is still in production. Most C-130 built are still in use, although that will change in the next decade as the large number built in the 1960s and early 70s retire.

Several other military aircraft remained in service over half a century (the British Canberra, U.S. B-52 and DC-3, the Russian Tu-95 and AN-2). But no other aircraft has remained in production for so long. In many respects, the C-130 is the heir to the 1930s era transport, the DC-3, which saw heavy use in World War II. Over a hundred heavily patched and rebuilt DC-3s continue to serve as working transports in obscure parts of the world, more than 60 years after they rolled off the production line.
Originally, the C-130 was designed to carry 15 tons of cargo, 92 troops, or 64 paratroopers. The latest version, the C-130J, has a top speed of 644 kilometers, a range of over 12,000 kilometers, and can carry 20 tons of cargo.

The C-130 is used by more than 50 countries. Canada, the United States and many other C-130 users are replacing their aging E models with C-130Js.

When retired, U.S. military aircraft usually end up at a storage yard in the dry southwest, where the aircraft can be cannibalized for spare parts, until the remaining bits are sold for scrap. Those most recently put in storage are kept intact for as long as possible, so that they can be recalled to duty if there is a national emergency. The last U.S. C-130E is headed for the Air Force Flight Test Center Museum, where it will avoid scrapping and remain on display for decades more.


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