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Archive for March, 2007

‘From the Clouds to the Sidewalk’

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

The Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, released the new U.S. Counterintelligence Strategy for 2007 this week.

Its pretty predictable what the main goals are:

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Secure the Nation Against Foreign Espionage and Electronic Penetration

Protect the Integrity of the US Intelligence System

Support National Policy and Decisions

Protect US Economic Advantage, Trade Secrets and Know How

Support US Armed Forces

Manage the Counterintelligence Community to Achieve Efficient Coordination

Improve Training and Education of the Counterintelligence Community

Expand National Awareness of Counterintelligence Risk in the Private as well as Public Sector

Whats interesting, however, is the intelligence communitys emphasis on enlisting civilians in the counter-intel process

By engaging the private sector and academia in meaningful dialogue, there is much we can learn, and in turn we can provide a mechanism to coordinate the public dissemination of information on intelligence threats to the nation.

Itll be interesting to see if the private sector cooperates. But as the national counterintelligence chief, Dr. Joel Brenner, said in a release: “The President and the Director of National Intelligence expect us to make measurable progress on all of these goals soon. Our job now is to drive this strategy from the clouds down to the sidewalk.”

Christian

New Eyes for Gators

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

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As someone whos spent a lot of time in the hull of an amtrac, I absolutely love this one.

Defense Industry Daily reports the Corps has signed a contract with L3 Communications to install thermal sights on their amtrac fleet. The article touts the thermal sights capability over the current light intensification scope.

And if youve ever looked through an amtrac sight, youd agree its about as first-gen as it gets.

The Marine Corps has taken some serious hits in its pursuit of a replacement for the old-school AAV7 Amphibious Assault Vehicle fleet. All you need to see is a row of these medieval behemoths lumbering through the desert hundreds of miles from the sea and you cant help but agree that the Corps needs to find an alternative.

The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle is close, but its cost and complexity have hampered development and put its future in doubt. So the Marines have resorted to continuously upgrading today’s amtrac, slapping on new suspensions and applique armor.

The funny thing about this development is that the thermal sight will probably do little good for the amtrackers other than help them see better at night. Though the EFV admittedly has a high-tech thermal sight, the vehicle also has a 30 mm Bushmaster cannon tethered to a computerized weapons system. On the flip side, the amtrac sports a .50 cal machine gun and a Mark 19 grenade launcher. Great weapons, but a little outclassed by such a sophisticated thermal capability.

I dont know too many gator drivers who speak very highly of its weapon systems, and putting an expensive — and potentially glitch-prone — thermal sight on it seems a little over the top.

– Christian

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

On Monday, DT posted a detailed after action report from the influential and thoughtful former Army general and SouthCom commander Barry McCaffrey on his mid-February visit to Afghanistan.

We now have the report he complied on his mid-March visit to Iraq. Media reports have focused on the comments portending disaster in Iraq and justifiably so. But theres also some hopeful signs, particularly as counterinsurgency guru Gen. David Petraeus moves forward with his strategy to give the Iraqi government breathing room to forge compromises.

McCaffrey also makes some interesting points on certain U.S. capabilities that are worth a second look

(Download entire report)

From the report

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Iraq is ripped by a low grade civil war which has worsened to catastrophic levels with as many as 3000 citizens murdered per month. The population is in despair. Life in many of the urban areas is now desperate.

There is no function of government that operates effectively across the nation— not health care, not justice, not education, not transportation, not labor and commerce, not electricity, not oil production. There is no province in the country in which the government has dominance.

US domestic support for the war in Iraq has evaporated and will not return. The great majority of the country thinks the war was a mistake. The US Congress now has a central focus on constraining the Administration use of military power in Iraq —and potentially Iran.

In summary, the US Armed Forces are in a position of strategic peril. A disaster in Iraq will in all likelihood result in a widened regional struggle which will endanger Americas strategic interests (oil) in the Mid-east for a generation. We will also produce another generation of soldiers who lack confidence in their American politicians, the media, and their own senior military leadership.

But

Since the arrival of General David Petraeus in command of Multi-National Force Iraq— the situation on the ground has clearly and measurably improved.

There is a real and growing ground swell of Sunni tribal opposition to the Al Qaeda-in-Iraq terror formations. (90% Iraqi.) This counter-Al Qaeda movement in Anbar Province was fostered by brilliant US Marine leadership. There is now unmistakable evidence that the western Sunni tribes are increasingly convinced that they blundered badly by sitting out the political process.

Reconciliation of the internal warring elements in Iraq will be how we eventually win the war in Iraq—if it happens. There is a very sophisticated and carefully integrated approach by the Iraqi government and Coalition actors to defuse the armed violence from internal enemies and bring people into the political process. There are encouraging signs that the peace and participation message does resonate with many of the more moderate Sunni and Shia warring factions.

The command and control technology, training, contractor support, and flexibility of Marine and Army combat formations are magnificent.

The US Tier One special operations capability is simply magic. They are deadly in getting their targetwith normally zero collateral damageand with minimal friendly losses or injuries. Some of these assault elements have done 200–300 takedown operations at platoon level. The comprehensive intelligence system is phenomenal. We need to re-think how we view these forces. They are a national strategic system akin to a B1 bomber.

In Sum

In my judgment, we can still achieve our objective of: a stable Iraq, at peace with its neighbors, not producing weapons of mass destruction, and fully committed to a law-based government. The courage and strength of the US Armed Forces still gives us latitude and time to build the economic and political conditions that might defuse the ongoing civil war. Our central purpose is to allow the nation to re-establish governance based on some loose federal consensus among the three major ethnic-factional actors.

Christian

Past as Prologue Dept.

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

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“It appears we have appointed our worst generals to command forces, and our most gifted and brilliant to edit newspapers. In fact, I discovered by reading newspapers that these editor/geniuses plainly saw all my strategic defects from the start, yet failed to inform me until it was too late.

“Accordingly , I’m readily willing to yield my command to these obviously superior intellects, and I’ll, in turn, do my best for the Cause by writing editorials — after the fact.”

– Robert E. Lee in 1863

(Gouge: SC)

– Ward

AQ’s Leadership Struggle

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

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Heres the latest passdown from the intel analysts over at Stratfor on the power plays going on in al Qaedas leadership. Its interesting to note the analysis comes on the heels of our last post describing the stalemate in Iraq and other fronts in the GWOT as spoiling attacks.

Could the Shiia/Sunni sectarian struggle erupting in the Middle East be prompting AQs re-organization and outreach? Read on…

(Note: Photo is screen grab from latest AQ video posted on IntelCenter)

Iraq: Al Qaeda’s Desperate Moves

In a new video posted March 22 on the Internet, al Qaeda leader Abu Yahia al-Libi called for an end to the schisms between Iraqi Sunni Islamist insurgents and jihadists in Iraq, and for Iraq’s Sunnis to reject any Saudi involvement in the conflict. The release is a clear effort by the jihadist network to mend fences with the Sunni insurgents. Significantly, it also demonstrates an al Qaeda attempt to raise al-Libi’s public profile in preparation for him to assume a greater role among the network’s next generation of leaders.

This release, by al Qaeda’s As-Sahab media branch, marks the ninth time al-Libi has appeared in an al Qaeda video statement since February 2006. Only al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri has appeared in more new videos, with a total of 12 over the same time period. The charismatic al-Libi, who has strong jihadist credentials, would indeed be a good choice to take on a more prominent role in al Qaeda. As an accomplished preacher, he has eulogized fallen jihadist leaders and called on jihadists to attack such prominent targets as the White House. In addition, he is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, and was one of four prominent al Qaeda fighters who escaped U.S. custody while imprisoned at Bagram Air Base in July 2005.

In his latest statement, al-Libi specifically called on militant groups Ansar al-Sunnah Army, the Islamic Army in Iraq and the Army of the Mujahideen to put aside their differences with the other Sunni insurgent groups in the country. This call for unity comes amid open conflict between Sunni tribes and al Qaeda in Iraq, as demonstrated by the March 23 attack against the Sunni deputy prime minister in Baghdad and the attacks against civilians involving chlorine gas in predominantly Sunni Anbar province.

Al Qaeda, which is facing a significant threat from Iraq’s Sunni nationalist and Islamist militant groups, is trying to achieve three goals: First, to maintain its parallel power structure in the Sunni areas; second, to emerge as the vanguard of the Sunni resistance to the United States and the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government at a time when Sunni political leaders are cutting deals; and finally, to embarrass the Iraqi Islamist militant groups by arguing that they are not following true Islamic teachings.

The latest attack against a moderate Sunni — likely carried out by the jihadists — clearly suggests these transnational elements are attempting to discourage Sunni leaders from following a moderate path and cooperating with the Iraqi government, or from accepting help from Saudi Arabia. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Salam Zikam Ali al-Zubaie was wounded in the suicide bombing attack, which occurred during Friday prayers at a hall near Baghdad’s Foreign Ministry. A week earlier, suspected jihadist insurgents detonated three vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices packed with chlorine west of Baghdad in Anbar province, including one near a prayer hall used by a Sunni cleric who had spoken out against al Qaeda.

These attacks and al-Libi’s appeal are signs of desperation on the part of the jihadists in Iraq. Al Qaeda realizes its influence in the country is waning and is appealing to Iraqi and foreign jihadists to concentrate their efforts on the common enemy, rather than on one another. That al-Libi made an appeal that normally would have come from al-Zawahiri or Osama bin Laden suggests he is being groomed to take on a more important role in al Qaeda.

(Gouge: CM)

Christian

Native Americans Solve Chinese Space Junk Problem …

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

… by building a giant magnet. Observe:
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(Gouge: Slashdot)

– Ward

HTS — The Future of Navy Motors

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

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American Superconductor Corporation recently announced the successful completion of factory acceptance testing for the world’s first 36.5 megawatt (49,000 horsepower) high temperature superconductor (HTS) ship propulsion motor at Northrop Grumman’s facility at the Philadelphia Naval Business Center. This is the final milestone before the Navy takes possession of the motor.

The motor was designed, developed and manufactured under a contract from the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR) to demonstrate the efficacy of HTS primary– propulsion-motor technology for future Navy all-electric ships and submarines. The power and torque of this HTS motor is comparable to the requirements for the Navy’s new Zumwalt class of destroyers, known as DDG 1000. In comparison with the conventional copper motors being used on the first two DDG 1000 hulls, the HTS motor is less than one-half the size and weight, and is more efficient over a much wider range of ship speeds. This results in weight and space advantages, enabling an increase in payload capacity for both naval and commercial vessels.

Why HTS?
High Power Density: The HTS field winding produces magnetic fields higher than those of conventional machines resulting in smaller size and weight.
High Partial Load Efficiency: HTS motors have higher efficiency at part load (down to 5% of full speed), that results in savings in fuel use and operating cost. The advantage in efficiency can be over 10% at low speed.
Low Noise: HTS motors have lower sound emissions than conventional machines.
Low Synchronous Reactance: HTS air-core motors are characterized by a low synchronous reactance which results in operation at very small load angles. Operating at a small load angle provides greater stiffness during the transient and hunting oscillations.
Harmonics: HTS motors generate voltages free of harmonics.
Cyclic load insensitivity: HTS motor field windings operate at nearly constant temperature unlike conventional motors and, therefore, are not subject to thermal fatigue.
Maintenance: HTS motors compared to conventional motors will not require the common rotor overhaul, rewinding or re-insulation.
(Source: American Superconductor)

– Ward

A New Kind of Vision

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

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For all you operators out there who do a lot of snooping and pooping at night, a Boston-based company has developed a filter for NODs that can make out colors. It wont look like that 50-inch plasma display hanging in the TOC, but for some, the new enhancements could make a heck of a difference.

Made by Tenebraex Corp., the new night vision goggles use a filter that varies the light intensity of the view through the optic, tricking your brain into seeing objects in different color hues. The Boston Globe reports the new ColorPath scopes will be available this summer, and the company hopes the services will be interested in the new technology for its medical and special operations communities.

With monochrome night vision, “blood is the same color as water,” [Tenebraex co-founder Peter] Jones said.

Some medics think a color night-vision goggle will help them treat wounded soldiers faster and better.

“That’s what we hope this is going to do,” said Jones, “to help people do a better job of assessment and treatment.”

If Tenebraex can make the sale to medics, Jones said he hopes that the technology will make its way into other military groups, such as special operations units.

Tenebraex also makes the ARDS system, a honeycomb filter that attaches to the end of optics such as scopes and binoculars. The ARDS protects the viewer from laser dazzlers and light reflection off the scopes lens, something that can give away a sniper or platoon leaders position in bright sun.

The ColorPath development is part of a growing trend to update the ANPVS-14 and similar night optics with new bells and whistles that lift the shroud of darkness for U.S. troops who increasingly use the cover of night for operations. Now companies are in a race to combine image intensification (boosting ambient light) with infrared in a single goggle. Some experimental NVGs overlay the IR image with II picture to cut through dust and foliage.

These new ENVGs have yet to hit the field (at least in the open) but if the manufacturers can fix the weight and image alignment problems, this type of hybrid optic will be the next big thing.

(Gouge: RC)
Christian

Surge = Training Op for Iraqis

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

Ongoing surge operations in Baghdad are doubling as training opportunities for Iraqi soldiers, airmen and government officials. U.S. strategy entails turning over responsibility for security in Iraq to native entities as soon as theyre ready; the demands of the surge have forced Iraqis to be readier, sooner.
Iraqi army battalions disintegrated last year when we tried to move them around, says Major General William Caldwell, spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq, referring to several Iraqi units that refused to deploy to trouble spots from their home bases in the north or south of the country. Many of the Iraqi soldiers involved cited a lack of preparation. Now we have them ready to move, Caldwell stresses. By the middle of March, we should have three Iraqi brigades in Baghdad.
Iraqi forces in the contested city now number more than 20,000, and Iraqi officers have taken the lead in many Baghdad missions. The tiny Iraqi air force is stepping up operations, as well, flying troop transport missions for deploying units using three U.S.-donated Lockheed Martin C-130E Hercules airlifters in addition to conducting Baghdad surveillance with CH-2000 reconnaissance planes.
Theres been an increase in Iraqi air force operations in recent weeks, says Brigadier General Stephen Hoog, chief U.S. trainer for the Iraqi air service. They did their first medevac mission about seven days ago theyre setting up channel missions to take wounded northern Iraqi troops back home. And the CH-2000s are going on one or two missions every day checking out checkpoints. All thats missing from operations is Iraqs sizeable force of helicopters, which are awaiting the installation of the defensive gear they need for Baghdad missions. By the middle of summer, well see much greater participation of their helicopters.
The surge hinges on significant diplomatic efforts by Iraqi politicians aiming to cut off the flow of weapons and insurgents into Baghdad and to keep the citys militias peaceful. The U.S. government got the Iraqi Prime Minister [Nouri Al Maliki] to make it clear to the militias that theres no room for militias, and that those that ignored that warning were going to be dealt with, reports Ambassador Daniel Speckhard, deputy chief of the U.S. mission. As a result, many of them dissolved or have ended their activity or moved out of Baghdad. Speckhard adds that Al Maliki recently took his first official trip to western Iraq to meet with tribal leaders who are key to intercepting weapons coming in from Syria.
–David Axe, cross-posted at War Is Boring

Special Forces Say ‘No’ to M4 Barrel

Monday, March 26th, 2007

If somebody wanted to really help the US Army, they would do something about those God awful M4 carbines that American troops are forced to endure.

This is a recurring theme in this blog, and I’m returning to it again because of yet more new information that sheds light on the problem with the Army’s standard-issue weapon for close-in fighting — which is exactly the kind of combat that is raging in Iraq and Afghanistan today.

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In a routine acquisition notice (see this link), a US Special Forces battalion based in Okinawa announced that it is buying 84 barrels for the Heckler & Koch HK416 assault rifle.

The HK barrels will be used to replace the barrels on their own M4s.

Why? Here’s what the notice says:

The 416 barrel “allows soldiers to replace the existing M4 upper receiver with an HK proprietary gas system that does not introduce propellant gases and the associated carbon fouling back into the weapon’s interior. This reduces operator cleaning time, and increases the reliability of the M4 Carbine, particularly in an environment in which sand and dust are prevalent. The elimination of the gas tube … means that the M4 will function normally even if the weapon is fired full of water without first being drained. There isn’t another company that offers these features in their products. It is a practical, versatile system.”

Translation: the M4 barrel is so unreliable that special operations forces units need to swap it out with a barrel from a different gun — and one that actually works in real combat conditions.

One solution is to simply swap out the barrel.

But here’s another good answer: trash the M4s and just buy HK416s!

Christian adds:

For an outstanding investigative report on this issue, check out my former colleague Matt Coxs article on the bureaucratic engine that is still preventing soldiers from getting what the best soldiers in the world say is the best weapon for the fight.

– Stephen Trimble