For Your Eyes Only Military News

AFGHANISTAN: Won’t Be Fooled Yet Again

May 29, 2012: While the Taliban and terrorism in Afghanistan get the most international media coverage, it’s the corruption that weighs most heavily on the lives of most Afghans and the future of Afghanistan. International surveys identify Afghanistan and Somalia as the two most corrupt places on the planet. In Afghanistan this means that starting a business requires a powerful (and expensive) protector, who might be eliminated by a stronger rival at any time. The end result is that economic growth is stunted and the population is unhappy. No wonder so many Afghans want to get out.
In the next two years, the foreign troops will leave and any law and order will rely in the Afghan army and national police. Both organizations are, by Western standards, poorly trained and led, and very susceptible to corruption. The biggest corruption threat comes from the drug gangs, who generate enormous amounts of money. The UN believes that 15 percent of Afghanistan’s GDP comes from the production of illegal drugs (mostly opium and heroin).

Most Afghans and all nations in the world oppose the production and distribution of these drugs, but the drug gangs use their enormous drug profits to buy the assistance of the Taliban, the local media and many government officials. Nearly all the drugs are produced in two provinces; Kandahar and Helmand. This is also where most Taliban come from. In late 2001, the Taliban fled across the border to the southwest Pakistan city of Quetta, where they have enjoyed sanctuary ever since. When the Afghan government talks of a “peace deal with the Taliban” they are talking of legalizing the presence of the drug gangs. That’s because any such deal would acknowledge Taliban control of Kandahar and Helmand and leave the drug gangs to operate without impediment within Afghanistan. This is an arrangement most Afghans oppose, but could live with if there were enough pressure.

The main opposition to the drug gangs are the tribal leaders who recognize that the presence of so much opium and heroin have created over a million addicts in Afghanistan. This is a growing social problem, and most Afghans understand that the drug lords of Kandahar and Helmand are responsible for producing and distributing (mostly outside Afghanistan) these drugs. Only about ten percent of Afghans benefit from the drug income, but the adroit use of all that money (to buy weapons, cooperation from government officials and tribal leaders) enables the drug gangs to survive. For the last decade, the only real foe the drug gangs have had were the foreign troops, who could not be bribed.

With the foreign troops gone, it will ultimately be up to the Afghans to decide if they will continue to tolerate the drug gangs. There will be continued pressure (from neighboring countries, as well as the West) to shut down the opium and heroin production in Helmand and Kandahar. The hostility to drugs has been so great that efforts to expand opium production to other provinces have failed. Opium production has been driven out of other countries in the last 60 years (Burma, then Pakistan), but it takes a lot of determination. Afghanistan is the poorest nation in Eurasia, and losing all that money will be a hard sell.

The Taliban are much less of a problem than the drug gangs. The Taliban are religious conservatives from the Pushtun south. They are ruthless terrorists who are hated, and violently opposed by most Afghans. In effect, the Taliban are a minority within a minority (Pushtuns are 40 percent of the population.) There are some Islamic radicals among the other ethnic minorities, but the Pushtuns dominate the Taliban (in terms of leadership and numbers overall).

The biggest asset the Taliban have is their alliance with the drug gangs. This is because the Taliban tolerated and taxed the drug gangs in the 1990s, and continue with that policy. This gives the Taliban the cash they need to keep their terror campaign going, but this also associates the Islamic radicals with the hated drug gangs. Most Afghans will hold their nose and take a drug gang or Taliban bribe. Yet in the overall scheme of things, the majority (over 70 percent) of Afghans would prefer to see the Taliban and drug gangs dead and gone. With the foreign troops gone, that kind of civil war situation is likely to develop.

A few Taliban factions have surmised that the drug gangs would eventually be driven out, and have adopted an anti-drug policy. This is a desperation move, because without the drug gang cash, the Taliban are reduced to kidnapping, robbery and extortion to keep the organization going. These activities antagonize more of the people the Taliban are trying to convert to their retro (no entertainment, no education for women, lots more praying) way of life.

This is a hard sell in the best of circumstances. The Taliban have found that terror is the only sure way to get cooperation, and that is only temporary. The Taliban also promise they will bring law and order, and less corruption. But too many Afghans remember how that did not work out when the Taliban were running most of the country during the 1990s. The general attitude is “won’t be fooled again.”

The Taliban reinforce this popular attitude with continuing suicide bombing. While the Taliban have learned that they gain more by killing corrupt officials, and fewer civilians, it’s still the civilians who get hurt the most.

Another problem the Taliban have is the Pakistanis, who consider it their right to interfere in Afghan affairs. At the moment, Pakistan is most intent on preventing Taliban factions from making peace with the Afghan government.

The U.S. and Afghanistan have, for years, been negotiating such peace deals. For this to work on a large scale Pakistan, not the Taliban, must be the counterparty. And it’s not Pakistan the country that must negotiate, but the Pakistani Army and the ISI (the Pakistani ISI/military intelligence organization). These two organizations have been running their own foreign policy for decades. The army/ISI has gotten rich by gaining control over a large chunk of the Pakistani economy and government budget. It’s all done with coercion, corruption and constant anti-Indian/anti-American propaganda. The Pakistani Army cannot justify its privileged position unless they convince the Pakistani people that there is a major threat out there. So the army/ISI has created fearsome foes. This includes Afghanistan, which they portray as a puppet for India and America and a major threat to Pakistan. Most Afghans reject this, and see the Taliban as a Pakistani tool. While many Afghans appreciate scattered Taliban efforts to reduce corruption, they mainly want less violence. The Taliban has been the major source of violence for nearly two decades, and most Afghans want peace. The Taliban want control, above all else. But now, facing severe combat losses, lower morale and defections, increased terror attacks are believed more for internal purposes (to build Taliban morale) than to weaken the Afghan government.

May 23, 2012:  In the northeast, two foreign aid workers were kidnapped for ransom. This kind of crime has always been common in Afghanistan, especially with regard to foreigners (who do not have access to tribal organizations that can often get captives freed without ransom.)

May 21, 2012:  NATO leaders met in the United States and agreed that Afghan troops and police would take over all security duties a year from now.

Currently, this is the case in about two-thirds of the country. NATO also pledged to pay for the security forces (over 300,000 soldiers and police). This may prove difficult. The security forces are riddled with corruption, and ensuring that Western money actually gets to the soldiers and cops will be very difficult.

NIGERIA:  Much Crime, Little Punishment

May 29, 2012: The war against Boko Haram is very visible in the Moslem north.There are roadblocks everywhere and a lot more soldiers and police. This is hurting Boko Haram, which has suffered some serious losses (of leaders and bomb making supplies and technicians) in the last few months. But the Islamic terrorists retain a growing popularity among many Moslems, because of the promise to eliminate the corruption that strangles the economy and oppresses every Nigerian every day. President Johnson has been in power for a year, and was elected on the promise of making a major effort to curb corruption. There has been a lot of noise about suppressing corruption, but little result. Those corrupt officials who are indicted tend to bribe their way past judge, jury and jailers. There is still lots of crime, and not much punishment.

The police are very corrupt, and often violent. This means that sending additional police to the Moslem north is likely to cause more violence, rather than reduce it. Curbing police corruption has long been a popular cause, but no politician has ever managed to make a dent in the problem.

Decades of effort to eradicate polio are still being compromised by Islamic radicals. There are only small populations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria where polio is still found. In Nigeria Islamic conservatives up north have been preaching against polio vaccinations for years (on the assumption that the medicine is actually a Christian plot to poison Moslems). Polio can be wiped out, like smallpox was back in the 1970s, if you can vaccinate everyone in areas where the disease still exists (as polio and smallpox are diseases that can only live in human hosts). But the Islamic conservatives have been a major barrier to eliminating polio. The current wave of Islamic conservatism was only getting started back in the 1970s, and it continues to grow. The government is making yet another effort to wipe out polio in the Moslem north. It’s unclear if Boko Haram will actively oppose this. Apparently some in Boko Haram do see the polio vaccinations as part of a war against Islam.

May 28, 2012: In the northeast, Boko Haram shot dead four Christian merchants. Boko Haram wants to drive all Christians out of the Moslem north and eventually turn the north into an Islamic religious dictatorship.

May 26, 2012: In the north, Boko Haram shot dead three card players. Boko Haram considers card playing, and most forms of entertainment as sinful and punishable by death.

May 21, 2012: In the capital, police arrested a Boko Haram man trying to enter a government building carrying concealed weapons.
In the northeastern city of Maiduguri, two Boko Haram attacks left five dead.

May 19, 2012: In the central Nigerian city of Jos, a police raid uncovered a bomb making workshop. Jos has, for the last few years, been the scene of deadly violence between Moslems and Christians.

May 18, 2012:  A government study concluded that theft of oil from pipelines  (from tapping into oil pipelines) is costing the government $9 billion a year.

Since government income from oil is about $4-5 billion a month that is a major problem. Over the last decade, the government made a major effort to curb oil theft by tribal gangs in the Niger Delta. These gangs were preaching rebellion and more oil money for the locals. The government put down this movement by cracking down on the oil theft efforts of these gangs. This led to the discovery that a lot of these oil thefts are carried out under the protection of military and political leaders (who get a cut of the proceeds). All forms of oil theft are believed to account for 5-10 percent of oil production each year. Oil theft is still a major activity for the criminal gangs in Niger Delta. The theft not only reduces government income, it leaves a lot spilled oil on the ground and in the waterways of the Niger River Delta. The problem has been so bad recently that oil production was down 14 percent in April.

INFORMATION WARFARE: Iran Deploys The Photoshop Weapon

May 29, 2012: Earlier this year Iran announced that it had converted some of its An-140 passenger transports into martime patrol aircraft and equipped them with the FLIR (forward-looking infrared) Systems Ultra8500 optronic sensor. There are two things wrong with this. First, Iran produces the An-140 under license with the understanding that the aircraft only be used for civilian purposes. Second, FLIR Systems is an American firm that is forbidden, by law from selling thermal imaging systems like the Ultra8500 to Iran. FLIR Systems quickly denied that it had sold any of its Ultra8500s to Iran. Shortly after that, it was revealed (by close examination of the photos Iran had provided to the media showing the Ultra8500 optronic sensor on its An-140s) that the Iranian photos had been doctored (“photoshopped”) to make it look like the An-140s had Ultra8500s. This sort of deception is common with the Iranians, who like to boast about imaginary weapons. This is done mainly for internal consumption. The Iranian military has no illusions about keeping the truth from foreign intelligence agencies. The Iranian people, however, are another matter.

That said, some An-140 transports have been converted to serve as maritime patrol aircraft, but they are equipped with more mundane (and less capable) sensors.  Most of these twin turboprop aircraft are built in Ukraine. Since introduced in 2007, the 19 ton An-140 has been used mainly as a civilian aircraft (it can carry 52 passengers). Some An-140s sold to Russia are modified for military use. The civilian version sells for about $9 million each, but the militarized version (sturdier landing gear, more electronics, configured to carry five tons of cargo) increases the price to about $12 million. This is about half the price of a similar Western aircraft. That economy comes at a cost, as five of the 35 An-140s delivered so far have crashed. However, two of those were An-140s built under license in Iran.

The 19 ton An-140 has a range of 1,300 kilometers and a cruise speed of 460 kilometers an hour. The military version will probably be able to carry about five tons of cargo. The Russian Air Force wants to rebuild its air transport fleet and replace existing An-24s. The An-140 is a radical upgrade of the 21 ton An-24 of Cold War fame.

THE WAY THINGS REALLY WORK: Why It’s Easy To Hate Israel

May 29, 2012: A recent international poll (by BBC, involving 24,000 people worldwide) found that the nations considered to have the least positive influence on the world are Iran and Pakistan (both at 16 percent positive).

Those polled were asked to rate each nation on whether it had a positive or negative influence on the world.  North Korea had a 19 percent positive rating and Israel 21 percent. Iran and North Korea are understandable, as both are constantly calling for the destruction of other countries (Iran wants Israel destroyed, North Korea keeps threatening to attack South Korea). Pakistan openly supports terror attacks on neighboring India, and has done so for three decades. As the evidence piles up, some of which even Pakistan admits is true, Pakistan continues to deny that it is responsible.

Israel is an odd case as it has been the target of destruction by most of its neighbors for over 60 years. All that time, the Arab states have promised the Arabs who once lived next to Jews in Israel, that Israel would soon be destroyed. Many of these exiled Arabs (who came to call themselves Palestinians) were not allowed to settle in other Arab countries, but were forced to live as refuges in special camps, continue to call for the destruction of Israel. The Arabs living in the West Bank (part of Jordan until the 1967 war) and Gaza (part of Egypt until the 1967 war) refuse to make peace with Israel and instead continue to try and destroy Israel.

When Israel was founded, equal numbers of Arabs left (or were driven from) Israel as were Jews expelled from Arab countries. The expelled Jews either moved to Israel, or other nations, where they settled (and not in refugee camps). For the last 40 years, the Palestinians have waged several large-scale terror campaigns against Israel, all of which were defeated. But since the 1990s the Palestinians have repositioned themselves as victims of Israeli oppression and convinced much of the world media to go along with this. At the same time, the Palestinians continue to preach terrorism and the destruction of Israel in their own, Arab language, media. This is ignored by most media in the non-Moslem world, which results in Israel being constantly portrayed as an oppressor because it tries to defend itself.

Pakistan has tried, with less success, to portray itself as the victim of American, Israeli and Indian aggression. Internal propaganda plays up this narrative big-time. Pakistan will back off when asked too many embarrassing questions about their support for Islamic terrorism. But such retreats are usually temporary. For example, recently a long-banned anti-American group “The Defense of Pakistan Council” was revived. The group has been holding large anti-American demonstrations. This is apparently in response to U.S. threats to halt the billions of dollars in economic and military aid for Pakistan (in an attempt to get Pakistan to stop supporting terrorism). Many Pakistanis are angered by this threat and are responding with hostility.

The big recent change in Pakistan is the enormous shift in attitude against the army and intelligence services (ISI). This has been growing for years but last year’s American raid into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden changed everything.

The revelations that bin Laden had been living in a military town for years, despite constant army insistence that they did not know where bin Laden was, seriously damaged the reputation of the military. Years of growing hostility against military lies and corruption now had convincing confirmation. The generals and spymasters were on the defensive.

The Supreme Court, which had long backed the coups and tolerated the corruption and illegal behavior of the army and ISI, has stopped ignoring the bad behavior.  Some generals urged the army to take over the government again but the army and ISI leadership feared even more backlash. It’s not that the army might change their minds in the future but for the moment the army and ISI are on the defensive. The courts are forcing the generals and intel officials to defend bad behavior. Civilian leaders are also feeling the heat. The Supreme Court has revived corruption charges against the current president. Corruption is widespread among politicians and senior military officers.

Corruption has long been a popular complaint of voters, politicians, and the media. But now something is being done about it and everyone is waiting to see how effectively all those powerful and corrupt officials will push back. They will push back, they always do, and often they win. Meanwhile, the generally free media in Pakistan reports this for the entire world to see, and the world is scared. There is no such fear of Israel, which makes it easier call Israel names.

NAVAL AVIATION: Scan Eagle Serves On Singapore Ships

May 29, 2012: Singapore has begun operating ScanEagle UAVs from their 600 ton Victory class corvettes. A ScanEagle weighs 19 kg (40 pounds), has a 3.2 meter (ten foot) wingspan and uses day and night video cameras. This makes it easier for the UAV, flying over land or water, to spot the small speed boats, or individual vehicles.

Cruising speed is 110 kilometers an hour. The ScanEagle can stay in the air for up to 15 hours per flight, and fly as high as 5 kilometers (16,000 feet). The aircraft carries an optical system that is stabilized to keep the cameras focused on an object while the UAV moves. The UAV can operate at least a hundred kilometers from the ground controller. The ScanEagle is launched from a catapult and landed via a wing hook that catches a rope hanging from a fifty foot pole. This makes it possible to operate the UAV from the helicopter pad on the stern (rear) of a warship.

Each ScanEagle costs about $100,000, and is still widely used by commercial fishing, ocean survey and research ships, as well as military organizations in several countries. Scan Eagle has been flying for about a decade now and has been in military service since 2005.

The six Victory class corvettes entered service in the late 1980s. The crew of 49 operates navigation and search radar, as well as sonar. The ships are armed with a 76mm cannon, eight anti-ship missiles, 16 short range anti-aircraft missiles, six anti-submarine torpedoes and four 12.7mm machine-guns. Max speed is 69 kilometers an hour, while cruising speed is 33 kilometers an hour. Endurance is about nine days (at cruising speed.) Singapore is an island nation consisting of the city of Singapore. So ships with long range are not necessary.

The addition of the ScanEagle makes these corvettes even more formidable for such small ships.

AIR TRANSPORT: Ruslan Gets Respect And A Revival

May 29, 2012: The Russian Air Force is upgrading seven of its 25 An-124 “Ruslan” transports to the An-124-100M standard. This upgrade includes strengthening the air frame, installing new electronics and increasing range to 5,400 kilometers. A new type of brakes enables the aircraft to reduce its landing distance by 30 percent. This makes more airfields able to handle the aircraft. Three An-124s have already completed their upgraded, and once all seven are done, another ten air force An-124s will be upgraded. The air force has also ordered ten new An-124-300s, which will be able to carry 30 tons more (for a total of 150 tons.) Three years ago, after three years of planning, production of the An-124 was resumed. At least 70 will be produced initially, and they will sell for about $200 million each.

Designed at the end of the Cold War, only sixty were built then. But the market for aircraft that can carry oversize cargo has grown twice as fast as the air cargo market in general. The An-124, and the U.S. Air Force C-5, are the only two transports that can handle oversize material. And the An-124 is the only “jumbo” available for charter. Six years ago, it was proposed that An-124 production be resumed. Another fifty, or more, aircraft were to be produced, starting in 2008. That was delayed because there were problems raising the required cash (at least half a billion dollars.) Now the government has come up with the money, and all the resources (suppliers of components) have been organized.

The An-124 is the world’s largest production aircraft and can carry a payload of up to 150 tons. The An-124 cruises at a speed of around 800 to 850 kilometers per hour. It can carry a maximum payload around 4,500 kilometers, or carry ten tons of cargo, and more fuel, for up to 14,000 kilometers. There are around 28 An-124s doing commercial work, with another 25 in military service

In the late 1980s, a modification of the An-124, the slightly larger An-225, was built. With two extra engines and a larger wing, the An-225 can carry over 250 tons. A second An-225 was being built when the Cold War ended. Construction was halted, but demand for An-124s has been so strong, that the second An-225 is 60 percent complete and waiting for more cash. New An-225s would cost cover $250 million each. These are a bargain compared to the $225 million cost of a new American C-17 cargo aircraft. The C-17 also only carries around 79 tons of cargo. If sales of the new An-124 take off, more An-225s may be available as well.

ELECTRONIC BATTLEFIELD: Anti-Missile Lasers That Work

May 29, 2012: The U.S. Air Force has begun production of an upgraded missile warning system for its helicopters and aircraft. The NexGen Infrared missile warning system has longer detection range and fewer false alarms.

The warning system is one of two components in the DIRCM (Directional Infrared Countermeasures) that protects aircraft and helicopters from shoulder fired surface-to-air missiles. Most of these systems are shifting from flares, to those that use lasers, to disrupt the missile heat seeker and force it to miss the target.

A typical DIRCM system has two components. First, there are four ultraviolet detection sensors (weighing about 2 kg/4.4 pounds each) mounted on different parts of the aircraft to detect an approaching missile. These sensors are linked to a 3-5 kg (6.6-11 pound) computer that contains software for determining that the object is indeed a missile and where it is headed. The detection computer is hooked to a countermeasures system using either flares and chaff (strips of metal foil), or a laser, to confuse the missiles guidance system (that is homing in the heat of the aircraft, particularly the engines.) The countermeasures component weighs 13-22 kg (30-50 pounds), depending on type or model.
Complete countermeasures systems cost about two million dollars each. Laser equipped ones are about 20 percent more expensive than those using flares, although that price differential is rapidly shrinking. So far, fewer than twenty American and NATO helicopters have been hit by missiles in Iraq and Afghanistan, and many more attempts have been foiled by missile countermeasures.

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