For Your Eyes Only Military News

ISRAEL: The Quiet War

November 5, 2012: While the rockets and air attacks grab all the headlines, Israel is fighting a less violent war against Palestinian terrorist groups. This includes arresting Palestinian businessmen who smuggle cash and goods to Hamas (in Gaza) and Palestinian terrorists in the West Bank that are recruited (or sometimes hired with that cash) in the West Bank. Israel has an extensive informant network in the West Bank, and some cooperation from the Fatah security forces in the West Bank. This enables Israeli police to spot new terrorist cells in the West Bank and make arrests. As a result there have been very few Palestinian terrorist attacks in Israel over the last seven years. This despite the heated rhetoric from Palestinian media calling for more of these attacks.
The new Israeli security fence on the Egyptian border has halted the flow of illegal African immigrants. Some 60,000 Africans have sneaked into Israel in the last few years, but last month only 54 got across the border and all were caught. Before the fence was built as many as 2,000 a month got in.

In Lebanon Hezbollah continues to support the pro-Iranian Assad government in Syria. Hezbollah men have been seen fighting rebels in Syria. This has caused a loss of political support in Lebanon where most people hate Assad and support the rebels. The increased economic sanctions on Iran have meant less money for Hezbollah. All this has distracted Hezbollah from its plans for another war against Israel. Hezbollah is still strong in southern Lebanon, but if the Syrian rebels win, Hezbollah will lose a major supporter. This would strengthen anti-Hezbollah groups in Lebanon and lead to curbing Hezbollah’s power.

November 4, 2012: A mentally Palestinian man ignored Israeli warnings to stay away from the Gaza border fence and was shot dead. Palestinian terrorists are constantly trying to cross the fence or plant bombs on it.

November 3, 2012: For the first time in four decades, Syrian tanks entered the demilitarized zone on the Israel border. The three armored vehicles were apparently fighting rebels and soon withdrew. Israel complained to the UN, which is in charge of the zone.

October 31, 2012: In the West Bank Israeli police arrested five men and charged them with terrorism.

October 30, 2012: Israeli police entered the West Bank and arrested thirty members of a Hamas terror cell. Hamas has not been able to launch terror attacks into Israel from Gaza, and has been trying to establish terrorist cells in the West Bank. Israeli police and intelligence, with help from Fatah (that controls the West Bank) have so far prevented this.

October 29, 2012:  Gaza terrorists, including Hamas, fired 18 rockets at Israel. Most of these rockets were longer range factory made models and aimed towards Be’er Sheva.

In Sudan, two Iranian warships arrived for a visit. This was seen as a gesture of support after an Israeli air raid a week ago in Sudan that destroyed an Iranian financed weapons factory. Israel will not admit to the air raid and Iran will not admit to owning the factory but both countries are involved in a low key war along the Iranian weapons smuggling route through Sudan and into Egypt.

October 28, 2012: Two more factory made rockets (longer range 122mm models) were fired at Be’er Sheva and were not intercepted by Iron Dome missiles because the computer predicted the missiles would land in an unpopulated area. Israel air raids on Gaza killed a Hamas leader and Hamas promised retaliation

October 27, 2012: Israel aircraft attacked terrorist targets in Gaza in retaliation for rocket attacks on Israel. One of the targets was a rocket being set up for firing, which exploded on the ground instead.
In the West Bank Israeli police arrested a local Hamas politician and accused him of terrorism.

In Syria two senior Hamas officials were killed by Syrian troops in a Palestinian refugee camp. This was south of Damascus, in the largest Syrian refugee camps (Yarmouk, population 150,000, about 30 percent of the Palestinians in Syria). Hamas has gotten involved in the fighting between Palestinians loyal to the camp leadership (a Palestinian terrorist organization, which has long enjoyed the support of the Assads) and Palestinians who support the Syrian rebels.

Palestinians realize that if the rebels win, and it looks like they will, they will be driven out unless pro-rebel Palestinians take control of Palestinian refugee camps (which are actually separate towns or neighborhoods occupied and run by Palestinians.) Hamas had long received support from the Assads. But under pressure from major donors (oil-rich Sunni Arabs) Hamas turned on the Iran-backed Assads. Earlier this year Hamas moved its headquarters out of Syria and openly denounced the Assaads. Hamas apparently also told the Syrian Palestinians to oppose Assad if they wanted Hamas and other Arab states to persuade the new rebel government to allow “loyal” Palestinians to remain and avoid retribution. The 600,000 Palestinians in Syria are 1.7 percent of the Syrian population.

October 26, 2012: Terrorists in Gaza have fired over a hundred rockets into Israel in the past week and were warned that Israel would send in ground troops if the attacks did not stop. The smaller terrorist groups in Gaza ignored a ceasefire negotiated by Egypt, which Hamas refused to enforce (for fear of triggering a civil war with the more radical terrorists).

AFGHANISTAN: China Begins Pumping Lots Of Oil

November 5, 2012: The government is seeing more instances of soldiers or police killing their comrades. Some of these attacks appear to be the result of personal disputes. Men from different tribes, clans and ethnic groups will stick together in a police or army unit and this will sometimes lead to disputes between groups that have led to shootings. Afghanistan is a very violent place and “outsiders” can be other Afghans from a different tribe or part of the country.

This sort of violence has led some NATO officials to question if the current government can remain in power after NATO troops leave. It’s been noted by foreigners (and admitted by many Afghans) that each of the 34 provinces have three leaders. One is the governor appointed by the central government. The second is the strongest warlord or tribal leader, who is sometimes more powerful than the governor. Third, there is the Taliban “governor”. These Taliban leaders only have real clout in about a dozen provinces. When NATO troops leave the appointed governor loses quite a bit of power. But most of these men know how to adapt and form a better alliance with local warlords and tribal chiefs. The Taliban are always the outsiders, because they are allied with drug gangs in at least six provinces and the drug gangs are very unpopular with most Afghans.

American and Afghan officials are trying to locate two Afghan intelligence officials (a captain and a major) who disappeared in the United States when it came time for them to return to Afghanistan. The two were in the United States for a ten week training course and, like many other Afghans sent abroad for training, apparently decided to stay and quietly blend into the local Afghan community. Despite American fears, none of these illegal migrants has ever been found to actually be a terrorist.

A NATO sponsored amnesty program has caused several hundred Taliban a week to surrender over the last three months. The amnesty terms include free health care (especially of existing combat wounds), temporary housing and a free plot of land. Those taking the deal have to undergo an interrogation, if only to eliminate those who are pretending to be Taliban just to get the benefits.

This is especially the case for those who do not turn in weapons when they give up. Some of those taking the amnesty are men who were with the Taliban but already left. There is a lot of turnover in the Taliban, with many men joining for only a few months. The Taliban often pays their men monthly, but sometimes cannot. The Taliban leaders are paid better and more regularly and if killed their families get a larger payment.

The government insists its police force (146,000 strong) and army are ready to maintain peace after NATO troops leave. While the police are not as competent or honest as their Western counterparts they have proved capable to foiling terror attacks and patrolling large areas of the country. There is no problem attracting sufficient recruits. But because of low literacy, training them is a big problem. A greater problem is the shortage of experienced police commanders. Afghanistan has never had a national police force and there are simply not enough men around who can supervise police effectively.

In many parts of Afghanistan, including the south, the security forces are not needed to deal with the Taliban. Local militias are driving out the Islamic terrorists, whose attacks against schools and uncooperative civilians have caused a lot of popular anger. Because the Taliban are allied with the drug gangs (who have a lot more local support because of the jobs and cash the gangs spread around) this local resistance is most effective outside Kandahar and Helmand, the provinces were most of the opium and heroin is produced.
There is also fear that the Afghan Army will not be as aggressive or as competent without the NATO troops that often accompany them into action.

There will still be NATO advisors, but this is often no more than a dozen or so men working with a battalion of over 700 Afghans. The army has fared better than the police because many men have served in army units. Unlike the police, an army is a familiar concept to most Afghans and NATO has adapted its military training to quickly turn tribal warriors into effective soldiers. Again, trained and experienced senior commanders are few. While training for these senior (brigade and higher) commanders can be provided, experience takes time.

The governor of Kunar province, on the eastern border with Pakistan, has asked for artillery or rockets so that he can reply to the continued mortar, artillery and rocket attacks from Pakistan. He won’t get artillery, since this could start a war with Pakistan. Negotiations with Pakistan continue over Pakistani sanctuaries for terrorists who operate in Afghanistan.

In western Afghanistan there is growing evidence of Iran trying to buy more influence. This is done by via Iranian charities, financing new businesses or simply bribing local officials to be pro-Iranian. The main interest here is seeking ways to halt the drug smuggling into Iran, where all that Afghan opium and heroin have caused millions to be addicted. This is a big social problem.
NATO casualties continue to decline. For the last two months, foreign troop casualties were about half what they were last year. Violence is also declining in areas where Afghan forces have taken over all security responsibilities. But some of that is believed the result of drug gangs bribing the police, and even army troops, to ignore drug-related activities.

American politicians are upset about a video showing U.S. security contractors intoxicated (with alcohol or drugs) while off-duty. Intoxicants are banned for troops and contract personnel in Afghanistan. But enterprising Afghans will provide imported or locally made booze. Opium and heroin are cheap in Afghanistan, and other drugs are smuggled in from Pakistan.

A Chinese firm has begun pumping oil from a well in northwest (the Amu Darya basin). This is a first for Afghanistan and the Chinese expect get 2,000 barrels a day from this well and is drilling others. The Chinese contract was signed ten months ago. China is building a refinery in the north as well, which could make Afghanistan able to eliminate nearly all fuel imports. Last year the government made a deal with China to allow Chinese oil companies to explore for oil up there. The government had to send 300 police to guard the Chinese as a local warlord was demanding payments to allow the exploration. Potential foreign investors are trying to convince Afghan leaders to get the corruption and violence under control, at least in areas where lots of minerals, oil and natural gas are found. Exporting these raw materials (mostly via the northern routes) would be a major boost to the Afghan economy. Too often, local warlords and greedy government officials steal so much (in bribes and outright theft) that foreign investors quit or simply won’t come in. A lot of senior Afghan leaders realize how this has to work, but will that be enough to make it work?

November 3, 2012: Several days of sweeps in the southeast yielded nearly a ton of explosives along with several Taliban and Haqqani Network leaders. Dozens of lower ranking terrorists were captured or killed.
In the south (Kandahar) a district police chief was killed by a roadside bomb.
October 31, 2012: In the south (Helmand) two roadside bombs killed 11 civilians. The Taliban denied responsibility and have been increasingly denying that they are causing most of the civilian deaths. But most Afghans know better.

October 26, 2012: In the north (Faryab province) the Taliban attempted to kill some senior officers and local officials inside a mosque. The bomb exploded outside the mosque, killing over 40 people, but no one inside was killed or badly injured.

October 19, 2012: Some 450 kilometers northwest of the capital a roadside bomb killed 19 civilians.

AIR TRANSPORT: Russia Revives Its Fleet

November 5, 2012: The Russian Air Force recently announced ambitious plans to invigorate their aging force of air transports. This is to be accomplished by ordering 170 new aircraft by the end of the decade. These include 20 An-124s, 39 Il-476s, 11 An-140s, 30 L-410s, 50 Il-214s and 20 An-148s. Currently the air force depends on a lot of Cold War era transports (An-124s, An-22s, Il-76s and An-12, An-72, An-24 and An-26s). A lot of the older transports cannot be used because of age, or cannot be used much because of the high cost of maintenance. Some of the older aircraft (An-124s and Il-76s) will be refurbished, but most of the remainder will be scrapped as they become too old to be used (too expensive to maintain or simply too unreliable).

The An-124 is the world’s largest production aircraft and can carry a payload of 120 tons. Russia has been trying to get it back into production for over a decade. The Il-476 can carry up to 60 tons and is an update of the older Il-76 (which was similar to the recently retired U.S. C-141, which was replaced by the C-17.) The An-140 is a twin turboprop transport from Ukraine that can carry up to five tons of cargo or 52 passengers. The L-410 is similar to the An-140 but smaller (it carries about 1.5 tons or 19 passengers).  The Il-214 is a twin-jet transport, still in development, that can carry 20 tons. The An-148 is a twin jet passenger aircraft that can carry up to 80 people, or nine tons. This one is often used as a “VIP transport” for hauling generals and senior government officials around.
The new aircraft are more reliable and cheaper to operate. If the new aircraft are not purchased (at a cost of nearly $10 billion) the Russian Air Force will have very little transport capability at all in a decade or so.

WARPLANES:  And Now, The AH-64E

November 5, 2012: A year after the U.S. Army began receiving the first of 51 “low rate initial production” Block III models of the AH-64D Apache helicopter gunship they have decided to rename the new model the AH-64E. This is the latest version of the AH-64 which had its first flight four years ago. It was decided that the Block III improvements were so numerous and dramatic that it made more sense to go to a simpler and more descriptive AH-64E designation.
The AH-64A was the initial model, entering service in 1986. The last AH-64A was taken out of service earlier this year for upgrade to the AH-64D standard. The AH-64B was an upgrade proposed for the early 1990s, but cancelled, as was a similar “C” model upgrade. Some of these cancelled improvements were in great demand. Thus the “B” and “C” model upgrades were incorporated in the AH-64D Block I (1997). The AH-64D Longbow (because of the radar mast, making it possible to see ground targets, and flying obstacles in all weather) models began appearing five years later. By 2006 over 500 American AH-64As had been upgraded to AH-64Ds.
By the end of the decade, 634 army AH-64s will be upgraded to the new AH-64E standard. The first AH-64Es are entering service now, and will be heavily used to reveal any design or manufacturing flaws. These will be fixed before mass production and conversion begins.
AH-64Es have more powerful and fuel efficient engines as well as much improved electronics. AH-64Es will also have Internet like capabilities enabling these gunships to quickly exchange images, video and so on with other aircraft and ground troops. AH-64Es will be able to control several UAVs, and launch missiles at targets spotted by these UAVs. The AH-64E III radar will have longer range and onboard computers will be much more powerful. The electronics will be easier to upgrade and maintain. The combination of improved fire control and Internet capabilities is expected to greatly increase the capabilities of the AH-64.
The 10 ton AH-64E carries a pilot and a weapons officer, as well as up to 16 Hellfire missiles (plus the 30mm automatic cannon). Sorties average three hours. The AH-64 can operate at night and has a top speed of 260 kilometers an hour.
In addition to the U.S. Army, the AH-64E the UAE (United Arab Emirates) is buying 60. Neighboring Saudi Arabia recently ordered 70, as well as upgrades for its existing twelve AH-64s, to the “E” standard. Many more of the existing 1,100 AH-64s (American and foreign) may be upgraded as well.

INFANTRY: Happy Trails

November 5, 2012: Over the last decade, terrorists have increasingly used mines and trailside bombs to attack foot patrols. The troops have been asking for lightweight tools to deal with this threat. Now they have another one. Weighing 16 kg (35 pounds) the MPLC (Man Portable Line Charge) is right because it’s light. It’s a simple device to use. A 24.2 meter (75 foot) rope, coated in plastic explosives, is propelled by a rocket in the desired direction from a small stand. When detonated, the “explosive rope” clears a lane of mines and IEDs (improvised explosive devices) wide enough got infantry to get through. MPLC is much lighter than the existing 57 kg (126 pound) APOBS (Anti-Personnel Obstacle Breaching System) system. MPLC arrived in Afghanistan earlier this year and has already been used nearly a hundred times in combat.

Many of the patrols in Afghanistan, especially those likely to meet the enemy, are carried out on foot. For years these troops have demanded a lighter system (that can be carried by one man) and now they have it. In addition to MPLC the troops have also received several generations of portable jammers (to prevent the use of cell phones to detonate bombs), lightweight UAVs (Raven) and dogs who can smell explosives.

It was only a decade ago that the U.S. Army began replacing the century old Bangalore Torpedo mine clearing system with the lighter and more effective APOBS device, and it became a crucial bit of equipment in the face of growing Taliban use of landmines and tail side bombs.  APOBS first appeared in 2002, after eight years of development. Weighing a quarter as much as the older 205 kg (451 pounds) Bangalore Torpedo, the APOBS could be carried by two men, as opposed to the older system that required ten or more. APOBS can be set up in under two minutes. It uses a rocket system that carries a cable with explosives attached. The explosion clears (mines and bombs) from a 45 meter (106 foot) long and one meter (3 feet) wide path. MPLC does the same thing, but with a shorter cable (rope). MPLC took less than a year to develop once the military put out a call for new designs.

Britain has something similar to APOBS, called Python, but it is not light enough to be carried by troops (important in many combat situations.) Britain used Python for the first time two years ago in Afghanistan. Python uses a rocket that carries a 228 meter (700 foot) flexible tube filled with 1.4 tons of explosives. When the tube lands, the explosives go off, destroying over 90 percent of mines, or other explosive devices, in an area 180 meters (558 feet) long and 7 meters (22 feet) wide. The cleared area has to be double checked for mines or devices that survived Python, but this can be done quickly, and troops and vehicles can rush through the cleared lane if they are under fire.

The Python is basically an update of a similar system developed in the 1950s (Giant Viper). The U.S. has a similar system (the Mk 154 Mine Clearance System), which used rockets to propel a cable (stuffed with explosives) down a road. The explosives were detonated, and all mines, and roadside bombs, are detonated or disabled over an area of 14 by 100 meters. The Mk 154 was originally designed to quickly clear mines during combat. But it turned out to work against booby traps and roadside bombs as well.

All these systems were developed from the bangalore torpedo. This system used explosives filled tubes that had to be pushed into position. The original bangalore torpedo was developed before World War I, for quickly clearing booby traps. A few years later, it was found very capable for clearing barbed wire barriers during World War I, and continued during World War II (when landmines were widely used for the first time).
APOBS received an upgrade in 2006 (Mod 2). Each APOBS system costs about $52,000. The army and marines have ordered over 10,000, and used most of those in combat and training. MPLC is cheaper ($3,600 each), as well as lighter and is replacing APOBS in many situations. So far, 3,000 MPLC systems have been ordered.

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