For Your Eyes Only Military News

ISRAEL: The Syrian Threat

June 4, 2012: The Arab Spring of 2011 is turning into a long-term problem for Israel. While the protests quickly overthrew the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt, Mubarak’s many allies managed to save themselves by quickly siding with the rebellion. This means that many of the corrupt businessmen and officials that kept Mubarak in power are still operating. This resulted in a successful resistance to meaningful change. An example of this was the recent trial of Hosni Mubarak, who was convicted last week of failing to stop the fatal attacks on demonstrators. Yesterday he (and his son) was cleared of corruption charges and, most alarming to Egyptians; no one was found responsible for ordering police to kill over 800 demonstrators. This led to large anti-government demonstrations, which continue. As long as Mubarak’s cronies are still in power, the corrupt misrule is still in play and the revolution is not over. Israel is hoping that the rebels use their majority in parliament to enact reforms, and force out the corrupt Mubarak supporters. Success is not assured, as the Mubarak forces are wealthy and threatened with heavy losses (including jail) if the reform politicians succeed in cleaning things up. So the reformers will be subject to bribes and threats. The military is one of the most corrupt institutions, and could attempt using violence to stop reformers. This is unlikely, because most of the troops are conscripts, who identify more with their civilian family and friends. It’s the officers and career soldiers who owe their wealth to corruption. But desperate men will do desperate things.

Syria and Lebanon, both dominated by Iranian backed factions (the Assad family in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon) are slipping out of Iranian control.

Iran is desperate to hold on; because a loss in Syria would weaken Hezbollah (perhaps fatally) and destroy a vital toehold Iran has obtained in the Arab world. Iran is ruled by a religious dictatorship that has visions of making Shia Islam (about ten percent of Moslems) the dominant form, along with Iran becoming the leader of the Moslem world. Most Moslems (80 percent are Sunni, dominated by Arab countries) see this as mad fantasy. But Iran is powerful, persistent and developing nuclear weapons. Iran also makes no secret of the fact that another of its goals is to destroy Israel. So far, Israel has not gotten involved in Syria. But there is talk of opening their Syrian border to move humanitarian supplies. Iran responded to this with threats of military retaliation. The Syrian government is slowly losing its grip, but Iranian security and terrorism specialists are assisting the Assads in getting the population back under control. This involves more mass killings of civilians, which Iran blames on Israel. It’s not over yet in Syria. Pessimistic Israelis believe Syria will degenerate into chaos, providing a sanctuary for terrorists and a source of more weapons for Hezbollah and other terror groups. Syria has lots of ballistic missiles and chemical weapons.

Israeli firms have discovered another oil and gas field off the cost. This one contains $60 billion worth of oil and $30 billion worth of natural gas. Israel had already discovered $100 billion worth of natural gas off shore, near the Lebanese border, last year. Since Israel and Lebanon do not have diplomatic relations, and the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist organization constantly calls for war with Israel, the negotiations must be made through the UN. Israel is determined to start pumping the natural gas by next year, and use these finds to achieve energy independence within three years. A special military force is being established to protect the offshore facilities from attack.

Over the last week American and Israeli officials have confirmed that the industrial grade Cyber War weapons (Stuxnet, Duqu and Flame) used against Iran in the last few years were indeed joint U.S.-Israel operations. No other details were released.

Israel is building closer relations with China by sharing information and techniques about dealing Islamic terrorism and civil disorder. The two countries will also increase trade and the exchange of technology.

June 3, 2012: Israeli air strikes in Gaza wounded at least six people and destroyed terrorist facilities. This was in retaliation for recent terrorist attacks along the Gaza border. Hamas and other Islamic terror groups in Gaza are openly calling for the kidnapping of Israelis so that captured terrorists could be freed in an exchange.

June 1, 2012: On the Gaza border, an armed Palestinian who had got through the security fence had an exchange of fire with Israeli troops. One soldiers and the Palestinian were killed. Later that day, two rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel.

May 31, 2012: In a peace gesture, Israel returned the bodies of 91 Palestinian terrorists killed while attacking Israel (and often killing Israeli civilians). The dead had been secretly buried in an Israeli cemetery. The coffins were returned to families in the West Bank and Gaza. This was a gesture to restart peace negotiations, which are stalled because official Palestinian policy is to destroy Israel and use peace negotiations to help make that happen. The negotiations take place mainly to placate foreign aid donors.

May 30, 2012:  In Egypt, there was no candidate with more than 50 percent of the vote. So the two leading candidates will compete in a run0ff election this month. Many Egyptians saw the first round elections as rigged, because the electoral commission, still dominated by Mubarak era officials, barred most leading candidates from running. One of the two men in the runoff is a retired general who was a Mubarak loyalist. He got the votes of many Egyptians who feared the Islamic conservatives who now control parliament. But the retired general only got 23.7 percent of the vote. His opponent got 24.8 percent, but most of the other voters selected several Islamic conservative candidates.

May 29, 2012:  Iran and a Russian security firm announced that a new stealthy software program, called Flame, has been infecting Iranian government and business computers for years. Iran says it has finally found a way to detect and eliminate Flame from PCs, but won’t comment on how much secret data has been lost. Flame is similar to Stuxnet and Duqu, but has been apparently been secretly doing its espionage work for years.

May 28, 2012: On the Egyptian border, soldiers encountered 24 Africans and some armed Arab smugglers. A brief exchange of fire left three of the intruders wounded. So far this year, there have been about one of these clashes a week, and many other illegal crossings that succeed. The migrants each pay several thousand dollars to the Egyptian smugglers to be led across into Israel. It’s believed that about 500 of these illegals are getting into the country each week now. Israel already has 60,000 inside the country and is trying to deport them. New laws make it possible to jail the illegals until they can be deported.

There is also a new fence going up along the Egyptian border. The growing number of crimes committed by these illegals is becoming a major issue in Israeli politics.

May 26, 2012: The majority parties in the new Egyptian parliament promised to keep the peace treaty with Israel, although they may seek some modifications. Most everyone in Egypt understands that a belligerent stance with Israel would not benefit Egypt.

PHILIPPINES: China Says We Ain’t Afraid Of Nobody

June 4, 2012: Abu Sayyaf is increasingly a bunch of bandits, rather than a terrorist threat. The group has turned to crime (extortion, kidnapping and theft) to support itself and there appears to be little personnel and resources left for terror attacks. There are a few hundred members left, mainly on Jolo and Basilan islands, and these are constantly pursued by thousands of troops. Fewer and fewer Abu Sayyaf men are being found on the larger islands, at least not many who are planning terror attacks.

The stand-off with China over who owns what in the South China Sea continues, but there are no warships facing off at each other. Now the United States has stepped up and reminded China that the Philippines has a powerful ally and that future negotiations must take that into account. China has not responded, other than the usual “we ain’t afraid of nobody” stuff. That remains to be seen.

Court proceedings move slowly against those accused in the massacre of 57 political activists and journalists in November, 2009. Many believe that the powerful clan the accused belongs to will be able to kill or intimidate witnesses to back down and there will be no convictions. So far, three witnesses have been murdered, and more are believed in danger. Some believe that the national government was under pressure to somehow not punish the well-connected among those arrested. It’s all about guys with guns. The largely Moslem south is awash in guns, as well as religious hatred. The 2009 massacre was a local dispute, and there are plenty more like it down there. But the big problem is the private armies that politicians, major businessmen and the heads of some clans, maintain. These are in addition to the MILF (which sometimes overlaps with the non-separatist private armies). There are more guys with guns in those private armies, than there are police and soldiers in the south. The government keeps the peace by paying off the leaders of most of these pro-government militias. This is usually done with government money or jobs. But it is also done with assistance when someone gets arrested. However, the 2009 massacre suspects are under a spotlight, and making the charges go away for any of these guys, will be noticed. Thus the slow movement of the courts in this matter is seen as attempt to wait out the eager press. Eventually, the reporters will have to move on to more headline worthy subjects.
The government plans more corruption prosecutions of senior (and retired) officials. The ultimate goal is to eliminate most corruption throughout the government. This is especially urgent for the national police, whose many corrupt members make it very difficult to fight crime (especially anything involving corruption).

May 29, 2012: In a major blow against corruption, the Senate voted 20-3 to dismiss the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (for not declaring $2.4 million in income and having a lot of unexplained income.)

May 28, 2012: In the north (Camarines Norte province) NPA gunmen fought soldiers and retreated, leaving one dead rebel behind. Troops also captured a laptop and some documents.

May 27, 2012:  China has agreed to allow Filipino bananas to again enter China.  This ban was part of Chinese retaliation for Filipino standing up to Chinese aggression off the coast of the Philippines. China claims all small islands and atolls in the South China Sea, and all oil and natural has within 400 kilometers of these bits of land. These claims ignore the rights (under the 1994 Law of the Sea) and claims of other countries bordering the South China Sea. State run Chinese TV has also allowed its news readers to “accidentally” claim that the Philippines was actually part of China. Economically, the Philippines is becoming more dependent on China, which has become a major importer of Filipino goods and raw materials in the last two decades. China regularly punishes its trading partners by halting imports (and complaining if these trading partners do the same.)

May 23, 2012: A policeman was arrested for bombing a bus last year, as part of an extortion scheme. If the bus company did not pay for protection from such attacks, corrupt cops would plant bombs on busses. This particular cop planted a bomb that killed five people.

May 22, 2012:  Another retired American Coast Guard cutter was turned over to the Philippines. The ceremony took place in the United States. A Filipino crew will take the 3,000 ton ship back to the Philippines, where the disarmed (and refurbished) vessel will be fitted out with weapons and other equipment.

May 21, 2012:  Abu Sayyaf leader Sahibul Sailani was arrested on Basilan.

ATTRITION: The Taliban And The Ideal Target

June 4, 2012: The UN recently announced that Afghan civilian deaths to combat and terrorism have dropped 36 percent compared to last year. In the first four months of 2012, 578 civilians died, compared to 898 in the first four months of 2011. Taliban and other Islamic radical groups caused 79 percent of these deaths, Afghan security forces 12 percent and foreign forces nine percent.

Earlier this year the Taliban called the UN a liar after the release of a UN casualty report for 2011. The UN counted 3,021 civilians killed by combat last year, an eight percent increase over the previous year, and 77 percent were the victims of Taliban or other Islamic radical group action. The number of civilian dead has doubled since 2007. Last year the biggest increase was from suicide bombings, where civilian victims were up 80 percent, to 450. But biggest killer remained roadside bombs and locally made landmines, which killed 967 civilians.

Military action (foreign or Afghan) caused 14 percent of civilian deaths and nine percent were from situations where the source could not be determined. Foreign troops and Afghan security forces pushed the Taliban out of many areas but the Islamic terrorists simply continued to make their attacks wherever they could. This meant an increase in violence in areas along the Pakistani border, as well as contested areas in Kandahar and Helmand provinces (where most of the world’s heroin comes from). The Taliban doubled their use of roadside bombs and mines to nearly a thousand a month. But the number of these devices that exploded only went up six percent over last year. That’s because the American anti-IED (Improvised Explosive Device) technology and specialists had arrived (from Iraq) in force and acclimated to Afghan conditions. Most bombs and mines were detected and destroyed.

The Taliban had banned the use of landmines in 1998 but that, like most Taliban promises and proclamations, was a ploy, not a promise. The Taliban always claim they are fighting for the people but civilian deaths to Taliban activity were up 14 percent last year, while deaths due to the security forces (local and foreign) were down four percent. Deaths among foreign troops were 566 last year, a drop of 20 percent from 2010. Taliban deaths are not reported, but they are counted, but all NATO would admit to was capturing or killing over a thousand Taliban leaders last year. It’s believed over 10,000 other Taliban were killed or (less frequently) captured last year.

The Taliban has been shifting its tactics and in the last two years has put more emphasis on assassination of government and tribal leaders who refuse to cooperate. Last year, Taliban death squads murdered 495 people this way, a 160 percent increase over 2009.  The Taliban have also ordered their gunmen to reduce violence against civilians and stay away from foreign and Afghan troops. The Taliban believe that the foreign troops will leave within two years, and then the Islamic radical group can make its move. This is delusional, because most Afghans oppose the Taliban and drug gangs. The Taliban are not the major threat, the drug gangs are, because these groups have the cash to bribe officials and hire lots of gunmen. The Taliban are especially valued as hired guns because the religious fanatics are more reliable and determined. On a mission from God, so to speak, while other hires are just in it for the money and not keen on dying for anyone or anything.
NATO combat deaths for the first four months of the year continue to be lower (by 14 percent) than the same period last year. April was down 20 percent. The Taliban are still desperately trying to protect the vital (to their finances) opium and heroin production in Helmand and Kandahar. This provides cash to finance Taliban operations in the rest of the country. That is not working so well and Taliban everywhere have turned more often to purely criminal activities (extortion, theft, kidnapping) to hire gunmen and buy supplies. The drug gangs are not hiring enough Taliban gunmen to keep the larger number of Taliban members on the job. While there is a hard core of true believers (in making Afghanistan a religious dictatorship once more) in the Taliban, most members are in it because of the money and the opportunity to do what most Afghan young men aspire to: be a traditional warrior who can go out and terrorize people and take what he wants. This, and the association with the drug business, has made the Taliban very unpopular with most Afghans, especially in the north. But bandits, criminal gangs and warlords have always been part of Afghan life and the Taliban and drug gangs help perpetuate it.

These vile habits have been largely eliminated in most other nations, but ridding Afghanistan of these curses cannot be done immediately. While most Afghans want peace, they are inclined to take the money and let peace wait, if that’s the way things are at the moment.

WARPLANES: The Fujian Folly

June 4, 2012: China has built a new airbase on the coast of northeastern Fujian, which is opposite northern Taiwan. The new base was built on a long ridge and is guarded by S-300 anti-aircraft missiles. Su-30 and J-10 fighters have already been seen at the base. The new airbase is the closest one to the disputed (with Taiwan and Japan) Senkaku Islands near Okinawa. The new airbase enables Chinese fighters to be over those islands in less than 15 minutes.

These uninhabited islets are 167 kilometers northeast of Taiwan and 426 kilometers southeast of Japan’s Okinawa and have a total area of 6.3 square kilometers. The Senkakus were discovered by Chinese fishermen in the 16th century and taken over by Japan in 1879. They are valuable now because of the 380 kilometer economic zone nations can claim in their coastal waters. This includes fishing and possible underwater oil and gas fields.

The new Fujian air base was apparently constructed, at considerable expense, in hilly terrain where you would not expect to see an airbase. Chinese engineers had to move a lot of earth around to flatten an area atop a ridge line. Unless the Senkakus turn out to be particularly valuable (due to as yet undiscovered oil or gas), the new Fujian airbase will become an expensive folly.

ELECTRONIC BATTLEFIELD: Dead Soviet Eyes Are Replaced

June 4, 2012: This month, Russia activated its fourth Voronezh early warning radar, in Irkutsk, Siberia. This is the first of three to be built in eastern Russia. The other two will be in action by 2017. The Voronezh radars in Western Russia cost between $85 million and $128 million each, while those in eastern Russia (VP models) cost over 50 percent more because they cover a wider area. The Voronezh radar can detect incoming missiles up to 6,000 kilometers away.

Three Voronezh M/DM radars were installed in Western Russia between 2005 and 2011. One is in Kaliningrad, on the Baltic Sea. Another is on the east coast of the Black Sea (Armavir) while the third is at the eastern end of the Baltic Sea outside St Petersburg.

All this radar building activity was caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the destruction of the Russian ballistic missile early warning system. This came about because each of the fourteen new nations, carved out of the Soviet Union, got to keep whatever government property that was within the new borders. That meant many of the radar stations that formed the Soviet ICBM early warning system were now owned by foreign countries. A combination of disputes over money, and aging electronics, eventually put many of those early warning radars out of action. The two in Ukraine went off line three years ago.

The rising price of oil over the last decade provided Russia with the cash to rebuild its ballistic missile early warning radar system. The first one, outside St Petersburg, was built in 18 months (versus over ten years for the ones it replaced). The new design uses much less electricity, has a smaller staff and is more reliable. Russia has adopted much Western technology, and work practices, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and it all showed in this radar station. The St Petersburg facility replaced one that was in Latvia, and was dismantled in 2003, after going off line in 1998. The one new radar in Armavir was built to replace defunct Soviet era radars in Azerbaijan and Ukraine.

PROCUREMENT:  Missile Mania In South Korea

June 4, 2012: The South Korean military wants to spend over $2 billion on missiles during the next five years. This is in an effort to quickly weaken the North Korean artillery and missile forces in any future war. The South Korean plan is to purchase and deploy over thousand new ballistic and cruise missiles.

These would be aimed at specific North Korea missile launchers and artillery positions. In the event of a war, the South Korean missiles would be quickly launched, and every North Korean missile or artillery weapon destroyed would mean less destruction in South Korean territory. The North Korea plan had always been to start any future war with an enormous bombardment by shells, rockets and missiles. Most would be aimed at the South Korean capital, and largest city, Seoul.

Nearly all the $2 billion will be spent on missiles made in South Korea. In the last year, the government has revealed the existence of more of these locally developed missiles. Earlier this year South Korea made public the fact that it had a new cruise missile (apparently the Hyunmoo 3) and ballistic missile ready for service. South Korea is usually secretive about its battlefield missiles.

Three years ago South Korean media reported that a new cruise missile, with a range of 1,000 kilometers, had secretly entered production in 2008. The missile, called Hyunmoo 3, has since been superseded by the Hyunmoo 3C missile which has a range of 1,500 kilometers and is being deployed along the North Korean border, aimed at ballistic missiles, nuclear weapons, and other strategic targets to the north.

For the last 30 years the United States has been discouraging South Korea from developing long range ballistic and cruise missiles. This was done to try and halt an arms race with North Korea but the north never took the hint. Meanwhile, the U.S. assured the south that America would show up for the fight if the north attacked.

Despite the U.S. refusal to help South Korea developed a 180 kilometer range ballistic missile (Hyunmoo 1) and a 300 kilometer one (Hyunmoo 2) in the 1980s. Both are about 13 meters (40 feet) long and weigh 4-5 tons. South Korea belongs to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and thus agrees not to build ballistic missiles with a range of more than 300 kilometers. Hyunmoo 1 and 2 used a design based on that of the U.S. Nike-Hercules anti-aircraft missile, which South Korea used for many years.

Cruise missiles are simpler technology, and apparently the Hyunmoo 3 is made entirely with South Korean developed components. Like the Tomahawk, Hyunmoo 3 appears to be about 6 meters (19 feet) long, weighs 1.5 tons, has a half ton warhead, and is launched from hidden (in the hills facing North Korea), and probably fortified, containers. North Korea has about 600 ballistic missiles aimed at South Korea.

The longer range of the Hyunmoo 3C enables it to hit any target in North Korea and is apparently intended to knock out transportation and supply targets deep inside North Korea. With a range of 1,500 kilometers the missile could also hit targets in China and Russia.
Last year South Korea moved some of its ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile Systems) guided missiles close to the North Korean border. ATACMS is a 610mm rocket that fits in the same size container that normally holds six 227mm MLRS rockets. The ATACMS version in South Korean service has a range of 165 kilometers. That makes it capable of reaching many targets in North Korea but not the capital (Pyongyang, which is 220 kilometers north of the DMZ). There is a version of ATACMS with a range of 300 kilometers but South Korea does not have any. ATACMS is fired from the American MLRS rocket launcher. South Korea only has 220 ATACMS missiles. All of them have cluster bomb warheads. Half of them are unguided and have a range of 128 kilometers. The others have smaller warheads, GPS guidance, and a range of 165 kilometers. This is apparently the version moved close to the border, in order to make the North Koreans nervous. South Korea originally bought ATACMS in 1998 to have a weapon that could go after distant North Korean artillery and large concentrations of tanks.
Despite American opposition South Korea began developing, but not mass-producing, ballistic missiles in the 1970s. South Korea certainly has the technical expertise and manufacturing capability to produce a more modern ballistic missile with a range of 300 kilometers, as was shown in the recent video. South Korea has signed an international treaty agreeing to not build ballistic missiles with a range greater than 300 kilometers, but public opinion in the south is calling for that limit to be broken, in order to make all of North Korea vulnerable to ballistic missile attack from the south. It’s possible that some of South Koreas newly revealed ballistic missiles can actually go farther than 300 kilometers, and are only limited by restrictions programmed into the missile guidance system. This software could be quickly changed.

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