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Archive for April, 2007

JTRS on the Skids

Monday, April 30th, 2007

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The cornerstone of the Army Future Combat System has come under more scrutiny this month with a scathing article in National Defense magazine that shows a key communications program is underperforming and taking too long to bear fruit.

The Joint Tactical Radio System has been touted by Army planners as a key ingredient in the FCS system of systems, allowing soldiers to communicate across the networks on a common radio architecture. The plan makes sense, and builds on revelations from the attacks on 9/11 that showed various government and civilian agencies couldnt communicate with each other because they used distinct radio systems and networks.

(From the Armys FCS program document)

The FCS (BCT) Family-of-Systems (FoS) are connected to the command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) network by a multilayered transport layer with unprecedented range, capacity and dependability. The primarily mobile transport layer provides secure, reliable access to information sources over extended distances and complex terrain. The network will support advanced functionalities such as integrated network management, information assurance and information dissemination management to ensure dissemination of critical information among sensors, processors and warfighters both within, and external to the FCS (BCT)-equipped organization.

The FCS (BCT) transport layer does not rely on a large and separate infrastructure because it is primarily embedded in the mobile platforms and moves with the combat formations. This enables the command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) network to provide superior Battle Command (BC) on the move to achieve offensive-oriented, high-tempo operations.

The FCS (BCT) transport layer is comprised of several heterogeneous communication systems including the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) and Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T). FCS (BCT) leverages all available resources to provide a robust, survivable, scalable and reliable heterogeneous communications network that seamlessly integrates ground, near ground, airborne and space-borne assets for constant connectivity and layered redundancy.

The FCS (BCT) Network Management System will be utilized to manage the entire FCS (BCT) network including radios with different waveforms, platform routers, and local area networks (LANs), information assurance elements, and hosts. It provides a full spectrum of management capabilities required during all mission phases, including pre-mission planning, rapid network configuration upon deployment in the area of operations, monitoring the network during mission execution and dynamic adaptation of network policies in response to network performance and failure conditions.

The military has been trying for years to standardize its radio communications but has run up against some serious technical and hardware barriers that still keeps common radios out of the troops hands. Remember stories about field commanders using Thuraya satellite phones and Aol Instant Messaging to pass information across the battlefield during the ground invasion of Iraq in 2003?

From National Defense

During the past four years, the services (mostly the Army) have spent nearly $4 billion on new radios. By comparison, between 1998 and 2001, their radio purchases amounted to less than $1 billion, according to Defense Department estimates. More than 60 percent of all radios procured are either individual handheld or squad-level manpack.

Before the war, the services were not allowed to purchase radios unless they obtained a JTRS waiver from the office of the assistant secretary of defense for networks and information integration. The policy aimed to discourage purchases of non-JTRS radios.

But Army officials complained that the waiver was a bureaucratic burden that hindered their ability to rapidly deliver radios to troops in Iraq. The Pentagon subsequently agreed to suspend the waiver, although it recently approved a limited policy that only applies to single-channel handheld radios.

Radio manufacturers, who had envisaged a financial boon from JTRS contracts, gradually realized that they could make better profits by ramping up production of existing radios in response to the militarys surging demand. Some contractors privately admit they have soured on JTRS, especially once they saw that their customers in the armed services had begun to lose confidence in the program.

(Read the entire National Defense article HERE)

So, National Defense shows Pentagon officials are starting to back off their forceful endorsement of JTRS, allowing the services to purchase more modern versions of the radios they have now.

As the program continues to lose support across the military services, Defense Department officials are engineering a last-ditch effort to save what is increasingly a shaky procurement plan. They also are backing away from earlier demands that the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps stop buying their own service-unique radios in favor of a joint family of radios.

Theyre better, for sure, but they still lock the services on their own communications track keeping the disjointed comms problem alive and raising yet more questions about the viability of the FCS program.

(Gouge: NC)

Christian

Body Armor on Track

Monday, April 30th, 2007

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The investigative arm of Congress released an updated report Friday on the status of the U.S. militarys body armor acquisition efforts and the effectiveness of the armor the services are fielding.

The reports were conducted at the behest of the U.S. Comptroller General — the head of the Government Accountability Office after news reports brought to light shortfalls in armor fielding and flaws in testing that resulted in tens of thousands of vest sent to the war zone that had not passed spec during quality assurance testing.

The latest GAO report found the Army and Marine Corps had effectively revamped their testing regimen and raised their specifications to meet emerging threats in the combat zone. It also marked one of the first times that a government entity has stated formally that the new Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert plates, or ESAPI, were developed to address the threat of armor piercing 7.62 rounds.

During my reporting on this issue, the services threatened me with everything short of a shank in a dark alley if I revealed the reasons behind the ESPAI buy. Specifically, the Marine Corps had a plate in its hands (that I knew about) with a hole in it from an armor-piercing round around the first of the year in 2005. They shared the plate with Army ballistics experts, who were concerned by the penetration as well.

The plate was examined at ballistics labs, including HP White in Street, Md., where the Army prefers to do its ballistic tests. Tungsten-carbide residue was found in the impact zone, leading experts to conclude the armor-piercing round penetration.

Thus the rush for ESAPI began

The services seem to have gotten their act together when it comes to specifications and testing, the GAO report shows. Congressional auditors did mention, however, an initiative by the Pentagons office for operational test and evaluation to standardize the Army/Marine Corps testing regime — which is slightly different and conducted at separate NIJ-certified testing sites that will be put into place in 2007.

Christian

M4 Debate Fires Up

Monday, April 30th, 2007

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I wanted to draw our readers attention to an article we posted this morning over at the main Military​.com news site about a drive in the Senate to force the Army into a competition for a new standard-issue carbine.

I had a long conversation with a top aide to Sen. Tom Coburn whos concerned over our and Army Times coverage of failings in the M4. Its not so much that the M4 is a bad weapon its just that there are better weapons out there that could be fielded just as easily.

Coburn — a medical doctor and relative newbie to the Senate — wrote a letter to the Army April 12 faxing a copy to the office of Acting Secretary Pete Geren on April 17 requesting that the service hold a competition for a new rifle. If the M4 wins out, the aide said, so be it. But it makes no sense to the first-term senator that HK416, SCAR and other qualified carbines (event he XM8) are just rejected out of hand.

Coburn has no weapons manufacturers in his state, so its not for parochial interests hes insisting on the competition. It seems to be one of those rare occasions when a lawmaker is taking on an issue that just makes sense and helps the warfighter and isn’t geared toward creating jobs in his state.

Heres the full text of the letter to Sec. Geren:

The Honorable Mr. Peter Geren
Secretary of the Army
101 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310–0101

Dear Mr. Secretary,

I am concerned with the Armys plans to procure nearly half a million new rifles outside of any competitive procurement process.

I understand that the Army decided to procure M4 Carbines in the early 1990s to fill the gap between the M16 and 9mm pistol. At that time the Army specifically framed the requirement as the Required Operational Capability (ROC) for the M4 Carbine. M4 is a trademark name owned by Colt. Is it standard practice in Army acquisition to tie a requirement to a trademarked product?

I am certain that we can all agree that Americas soldiers should have the best technology in their hands. There is nothing more important to a soldier than their rifle, and there is simply no excuse for not providing our soldiers the best weapon not just a weapon that is good enough. Unfortunately, considering the long standing reliability and lethality problems with the M-16 design, of which the M4 is based, I am afraid that our troops in combat might not have the best weapon.

In the years following the Armys last Requirements Document, a number of manufacturers have researched, tested, and fielded weapons which, by all accounts, appear to provide significantly improved reliability. To fail to allow a free and open competition of these operational weapons is unacceptable.

I would like to see the results of the surveys you have conducted in the field in Iraq and Afghanistan. Please include our soldiers accounts of malfunctions, assessments of M4 reliability and how the Army is addressing those reliability concerns.

I believe the Army needs to rapidly revise its rifle and carbine requirements. Free and open competition will give our troops the best rifle in the world. Thank you for your prompt consideration of this matter, and I hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,

Tom Coburn

United States Senator

The Army has yet to respond to Coburns letter and has in the past been pretty dismissive of criticism about the M4. Its understandable that the Army would shrug off negative stories from journalists and even some of its special operators who say the M4 isnt the best weapon out there they have big fish to fry with a war going on, including fleets of new armored vehicles, paying for the surge and Walter Reed-esque patient care issues. But when a senator gets involved someone who has his hands on the purse strings the Army might just take it a little more seriously.

Well be sure to update our readers on this issue as it develops.

Christian

The Sunday Paper — Style Section

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

After a week of rigorous and at times heated debate here at DT, I thought it might be good to use The Sunday Paper to remind us that we’re all on the same team (except for those who read this site who are on the other team, of course).

So, without further ado … atten-hut!

– Ward

Hawking Does Zero G

Friday, April 27th, 2007

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As we previously reported he would, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking got a taste of weightlessness yesterday courtesy of a Zero Gravity Corporation modified 727. According to MSNBC​.com, “the jet carrying Hawking, a handful of his physicians and nurses, and dozens of others first flew up to 24,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean off Florida. Nurses lifted Hawking and carried him to the front of the jet, where they placed him on his back atop a special foam pillow.” The 727 did eight parabolic profiles.
ward zero g.jpg

I had a chance for a ride in NASA’s “Vomit Comit,” a modified 707, a few years back. It was an interesting experience. On this particular flight, the airplane flew 40 parabolas (50 degrees nose up to 30 degrees nose down) that afforded just less than 30 seconds of zero G each. As my host, a Navy SEAL and mission specialist, predicted, the engineers and assorted NASA staffers throughout the padded fuselage started out very enthusiasically, spinning each other and laughing. But by the tenth parabola, they were all airsick. By the fortieth they would have given their firstborns to get off that damn jet. But once we got back on the ground all agreed the experience was worth the nausea — sort of like a winging ceremony used to be back in the day.

– Ward

Navy Missile Intercept

Friday, April 27th, 2007

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The Pentagons Missile Defense Agency tested a key leg in its missile shield triad yesterday, shooting down both a sub-sonic cruise missile in the atmosphere and a ballistic missile in space with a ship-based interceptor.

To say the least, missile defense has been extremely controversial over the years, and it is a subject of heated debate over whether the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on systems over the years have been worth the cost.

But it is worth chalking up this test in the win column for the embattled agency.

From a Raytheon release:

In a first of its kind dual missile defense test, Raytheon Company-produced Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) and Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) simultaneously engaged targets over the Pacific Ocean.

This was the first time a U.S. Navy ship demonstrated simultaneous ship engagements against both cruise and ballistic missile targets. It was the eighth successful intercept for the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense systems SM-3.

The SM-3 Block IA destroyed a short-range ballistic missile target in space while SM-2 Block IIIA engaged a cruise missile threat at a lower altitude. Both intercepting missiles were fired from guided missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) by the ships crew. The ballistic missile target was launched from the U.S. Navys Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai. The subsonic cruise missile target was launched from a range aircraft.

This test, Flight Test Mission-11, was the second with the Block IA version of SM-3, and the first IA with a full-capability solid divert and attitude control system. Raytheon is delivering Block IA rounds for operational use on Navy cruisers and destroyers.

The SM-3 Block IA provides increased capability to engage short– to intermediate-range ballistic missiles. The SM-3 Block IA incorporates rocket motor upgrades and computer program modifications to improve sensor performance, missile guidance and control, and lower cost. It also includes producibility and maintainability features required to qualify the missile as a tactical fleet asset.

Its definately worth noting the complexity of such a test. Two different kinds of missile threats, tracked by the Aegis radar system that was feeding information to two different interceptors — each with its own seeker technology — to a terminal kill. Experts on both sides of the debate recognize the sterility of such tests. In the real world, adversaries might incorporate decoys and other defenses to keep their missiles from being shot down.

But, despite the incredible costs, its important to remember that well-meaning people are hard at work trying to solve a problem and a threat that has so far kept most nations helpless to confront militarily.

(Gouge: MS)

– Christian

The War Isn’t Lost to CPL Rock

Friday, April 27th, 2007

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On a day when the political stars seemed aligned even stronger against Americas continued involvement in Iraq, I thought it might be a good idea to get a view of events from the front line.

A story thats making its way across the net comes from a Marine posted in Ramadi, Iraqi, who takes exception to Senate Democratic leader Harry Reids view that the war is lost.

From the New York Post:

WASHINGTON — A tough U.S. Marine stationed in one of the most hostile areas of Iraq has a message for Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid: We need to stay here and help rebuild.

In raw and emotional language from the bloody front lines, Cpl. Tyler Rock, of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, skewered Reid for being far removed from the patriotism and progress in Iraq.

Yeah, and I got a quote for that [expletive] Harry Reid. These families need us here, Rock vented in an e-mail to Pat Dollard, a Hollywood agent-turned-war reporter who posted the comment on his Web site, www​.patdollard​.com.

Obviously [Reid] has never been in Iraq. Or at least the area worth seeing … the parts where insurgency is rampant and the buildings are blown to pieces, Rock wrote.

Based in Camp Lejeune, N.C., Rock catalogued a series of grim daily traumas in Iraq, like getting covered in ash and sleeping under a dirty rug in an Iraqi familys house, or watching several terrorists die on the same strip of pavement.

But he says he is optimistic about the future of a country that he says has turned to complete s– — - during a bloody insurgency.

He also spoke admiringly of the risks brave Iraqi citizens take every day.

If Iraq didnt want us here then why do we have [Iraqi police] volunteering every day to rebuild their cities? he asked.

It sucks that Iraqis have more patriotism for a country that has turned to complete s– — - more than the people in America who drink Starbucks every day.

We could leave this place and say we are sorry to the terrorists. And then we could wait for 3,000 more American civilians to die before we say, Hey, thats not nice again.

And the sad thing is after we WIN this war. People like [Reid] will say he was there for us the whole time.

Rocks candid e-mail swept across the Internet after Dollard posted it on his site, and it was picked up by the Drudge Report and numerous other Web sites.

What does [Reid] know about us losing besides what he wants to believe? The truth is that we are pushing al Qaeda out and we are pushing the insurgency out. We are here to support a nation.

Hat-tip to Pat Dollard who was there with my buddy that horrible night in Ramadi. RIP Almar and Matt.

Christian

I’m a Manipulative Hack…

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

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Perhaps I can finally put up a post everyone can agree on (yeah, right), and especially on a day like today when I get comments like this

Unreal. You sir, will never qualify for “Are you smarter than a 5th grader?“

Or this one

You and Rumsfeld should enjoy a martini together.
If this article wasn’t free to read, I’d cancel my subscription today. Not because of your opinion, but because you possess no expertise in the field in which you report on.

Alright, here you go guys: Journalists (like me) suck

So says a new report from the Joan Sorenson Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University though not in such pedestrian terms.

In a thorough analysis of media coverage during the 2006 Israel/Hezbollah war (which I covered from Cyprus and Beirut for the Military Times newspapers and USA Today), media sage — and no friend to its critics on the right — Marvin Kalb paints a disturbing picture of media bias, manipulation and outright advocacy for the Hezbollah cause.

I remember telling my colleagues back home that from my perspective at the US Embassy in Beirut, you couldnt tell there was a war going on at all. Life continued as normal on the streets and civilians went about their daily business unencumbered. There was no smoke rising from the hills, no explosions, no panic. My observations fell on deaf ears, most suspecting I was a right-wing, Israel-loving nut.

The exhaustive Harvard study calls into question the rapid assertion by Human Rights Watch that the Israeli military committed war crimes and the medias reluctance to hold Hezbollah to account for its own criminal behavior. The various instances of doctored photos (such as the above Reuters photo) and exaggerated casualty claims are mere sideshows to the outright failure to adhere to the journalistic mantra of balanced coverage without editorializing opinion.

Because Hezbollah functioned as a quasi-military force within its populace, protecting it, feeding it, housing it, and in general caring for its needs, the Israelis were quickly accused of hitting civilian targets with an indiscriminate callousness amounting to war crimes.

On August 3, Human Rights Watch specifically accused Israel of war crimes. Few seemed to note that before the war, on May 27, Nasrallah had actuallyand publiclyembraced the guerrilla tactic of hiding soldiers among civilians. [Hezbollah fighters] live in their houses, in their schools, in their churches, in their fields, in their farms and in their factories, he said, adding, You cant destroy them in the same way you would destroy an army.

By wars end, it was clear that Nasrallah was right. Hezbollah, though severely wounded, remained a fighting force in defiant objection to all U.N. resolutions calling for it to be disarmed.

Israel defended its military operations by citing two relevant articles in international law: using civilians for military cover was a war crime, and any target with soldiers hiding among civilians was considered a legitimate military target. Israels foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, framed her governments argument in cold language. When you go to sleep with a missile, she told The New York Times, you might find yourself waking up to another kind of missile.

Israels defense, though, fell on deaf ears, not only among diplomats but also reporters, as daily evidence mounted of civilian deaths. Hezbollah, whenever possible, pointed reporters to civilian deaths among Lebanese, a helpful gesture with heavy propaganda implications. Early in the war, reporters routinely noted that Hezbollah had started the war, and its casualties were a logical consequence of war. But after the first week such references were either dropped or downplayed, leaving the widespread impression that Israel was a loose cannon shooting at anything that moved.

Theres also a disturbing passage about possible complicity by the United Nations in Hezbollahs many deadly ambushes of Israeli troops.

UNIFIL was the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. It consisted of roughly 2,000 troops stationed along the Lebanese-Israeli border from 1978 until the end of the 2006 war. Its mandate required full impartiality and objectivity.

During the war, it published information on its official website about Israeli troop movements, information that in military circles might well be regarded as actionable intelligence.

Take, for instance, its posting of July 25, 2006:

Yesterday and during last night, the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) moved significant reinforcements, including a number of tanks, armored personnel carriers, bulldozers and infantry, to the area of Marun Al Ras inside Lebanese territory. The IDF advanced from that area north towards Bint Jubayl and south towards Yarun.

Or, its posting of July 24, which disclosed that IDF forces stationed between Marun Al Ras and Bint Jubayl were significantly reinforced during the night and this morning with a number of tanks and armored personnel carriers.

It was part of UNIFILs responsibility to report violations of the ceasefire, including troop movements, to the U.N., but presumably this information was to be conveyed through confidential channels, not on the Internet, where the information in wartime could be as valuable as hard, military intelligence suddenly exposed to the light.

These postings, similar to others during the war, coincided with heavy fighting in the region. Israeli units came under severe Hezbollah attack.

It is impossible for outsiders to know whether Hezbollah used the information provided by UNIFIL, which was available to anyone with a laptop, or whether Hezbollah depended primarily upon information provided by loyal local supporters. However, no UNIFIL posting during the war contained any specific information relating to Hezbollahs military movements, perhaps because they were not visible to UNIFIL or perhaps because UNIFIL did not choose to see the movements.

Frida Ghitis at World Politics Watch has an outstanding write up on the report. She points out the increasing role media coverage plays in a non-state strategy of asymmetric warfare.

Before long, Hezbollah had achieved a definitive propaganda victory. The media had not only acquiesced to tell Hezbollah’s version of the war, they had started contributing to the creation of the narrative, with at least one Reuters photographer altering photographs to make Israeli attacks look more damaging. And many reporters simply failed to offer much context. The study quotes the New York Times’ Stephen Erlanger commenting on a satellite picture published by his paper. The picture showed a southern suburb of Beirut, which was largely destroyed. Erlanger said it “bothered me a great deal,” because the image with no context failed to show that this was a small part of a Beirut, and the rest of the city was largely undamaged by the war.

The Harvard paper shows the need for journalists to brace themselves and remain vigilant when they cover conflicts between open societies on one side, and media-controlling militias on the other. These conflicts, which we will undoubtedly continue to see, demand that journalists make a greater effort to provide context and to keep from become willing collaborators with one side. Islamic militant groups, such as al-Qaida and others, have openly described their strategy of manipulating the media and winning on the “information battlefield.” Hezbollah, too, had a well crafted, and ultimately successful media plan.

I cant help but recognize the timing of this report, which comes as Congress votes to cede the battle of Iraq to Islamic extremists based on coverage of daily carnage and continued U.S. military deaths. As Kalb sums up:

In an open society, ground rules may be announced, but they are not likely to be observed or enforced. During the 2006 summertime war in the Middle East, it was Israel versus Hezbollah, led by the charismatic Hassan Nasrallah, and because Israel did not win the war, it is judged to have lost. In Iraq, in the not too distant future, it may well be the United States versus the Mahdi Army, led by the equally charismatic Sheik Moqtada al-Sadr. The challenge for responsible journalists covering asymmetrical warfare, especially in this age of the Internet, is new, awesome and frightening.

Christian

CoS: Air Power Most Deadly Component

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

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Whats more effective in the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan: air power or boots on the ground.

Well if you ask the Air Force Chief of staff, hell tell you its his aircraft providing the greatest combat punch.

[Air Force] Secretary [Michael] Wynne asked the staff last week to look at which component has had the biggest effect on attrition of hostiles. Staff came back and said it looks like the air component is killing bad guys at a higher rate than anyone else I have anecdotal evidence from the staff that says airpower is the most lethal of the components in wrapping up bad guys.

As far as numbers of people killed, as far as wrapping up bad guys and as far as delivering a kinetic effect the air component which also includes Marine and Navy air, by the way is the most lethal of the components. I have not seen those numbers but I thought that was a useful observation

I considered that position which Moseley revealed during an April 24 interview — this morning when I saw the latest air power summery from Southwest Asia on the Air Force Web site:

4/25/2007 — SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNEWS) — Coalition airpower supported coalition ground forces in Iraq and International Security Assistance Force troops in Afghanistan in the following operations April 24, according to Combined Air and Space Operations Center officials here.

In Afghanistan, an Air Force B-1B Lancer provided overwatch for a coalition convoy near Qarah Bagh. No attacks were reported after the B-1B’s arrival.

U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets provided a show of force for a coalition forces position near Saraw. A joint terminal attack controller confirmed it was successful and no further attacks were reported. The aircrews also provided overwatch for a coalition patrol in the same area.

French M-2000 Mirages provided a show of force for a coalition forces position near Asadabad. No attacks were reported after the M-2000s arrived.

In total, 41 close-air-support missions were flown in support of ISAF and Afghan security forces, reconstruction activities and route patrols.

Nine Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft flew missions in support of operations in Afghanistan. Additionally, four U.S. Navy and Royal Air Force aircraft performed tactical reconnaissance.

In Iraq, Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons searched for mortar positions and improvised explosive device activity near Baghdad. The pilots were then assigned to look for anti-Iraqi militia hiding nearby. They reported the coordinates of three hot spots.

Other F-16s performed armed overwatch for coalition forces who received small-arms fire near Salman Pak. The pilots reported three individuals hiding along a fence near a mosque.

Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs provided a show of force, releasing multiple flares, for a raid near Baqubah by coalition forces. A JTAC reported the show of force was successful. The pilots also provided reconnaissance in the area and reported suspicious activity to a JTAC.

F/A-18s provided a show of force, releasing multiple flares, for coalition forces receiving small-arms fire near Yusufiyah. A JTAC confirmed it was successful and no further attacks were reported.

RAF GR-4 Tornados provided overwatch to look for snipers for a explosive ordnance disposal team near Yusufiyah. The aircrews then were assigned to look for a truck involved in an engagement with coalition forces. The aircrew found a truck matching the description of the truck in the attack, at a building nearby. Individuals were reported to be unloading objects from the truck.

Other GR-4s provided shows of force for coalition forces near a crowd of approximately 250 people near Baghdad. A JTAC confirmed it dispersed the crowd and no attacks were reported.

In total, coalition aircraft flew 55 close-air-support missions for Operation Iraqi Freedom. These missions supported coalition ground forces, protected key infrastructure, watched over reconstruction activities and helped to deter and disrupt terrorist activities.

Fifteen Air Force, Navy and Royal Australian Air Force ISR aircraft flew missions in support of operations in Iraq. Additionally, three Air Force and RAF fighter aircraft performed tactical reconnaissance.

Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft and C-17 Globemaster IIIs provided intra-theater heavy airlift support, helping to sustain operations throughout Afghanistan, Iraq and the Horn of Africa. More than 125 airlift sorties were flown; nearly 410 tons of cargo were delivered, and approximately 2,200 passengers were transported.

Coalition C-130 crews from Australia, Canada, Iraq, Japan and South Korea flew in support of OIF or OEF.

On April 22, Air Force, French and RAF tankers flew 50 sorties and off-loaded more than 3 million pounds of fuel.

Now, I dont see any bomb dropping in there. But Im willing to bet soldiers and Marines have been mixing it up in both Iraq and Afghanistan today, with more lethal effects than popping a few flares to disperse a crowd.

I wonder what the ground-pounders will say about Moseleys and the USAF secretarys — conviction that airpower is killing more bad guys than Joes and Leathernecks.

– Christian

Are We Sure About the MRAP?

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

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Well it looks like the first spasm of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle orders has been launched, with the Pentagon inking a get this — $481 million contract for 1,000 vehicles this week.

Thats a half a billion dollars for 300 of the 15-ton Cougar Cat-1 (MRAP-MRUV) vehicles and 700 of the 16-ton Cat-2 (MRAP-JEERV) behemoths — all going to Force Protection Industries, Inc.

Excuse me for being the skunk at the picnic, but Im skeptical of the value of these purchases.

The MRAP is not a tactical vehicle. It is a specialized armored truck designed primarily for protecting EOD units and their gear from explosions while diffusing bombs or mines. The Marine Corps top gear buyer, Brig. Gen. Mike Brogan, admitted last month the MRAP was viewed by the Corps as a boutique vehicle for certain specialties. They asked for a limited quantity of these vehicles in the 2008 budget and 2007 wartime funding request based on that view.

Then what happened? You guessed it, Congress stepped in. After browbeating every service and DoD official they could over the meager number of MRAPs in the budget, Army and Marine officials snapped to and revamped their request to satisfy lawmakers new infatuation.

Remember again: the MRAPs are not tactical vehicles. Of course, neither is a Humvee (it was designed as a logistics vehicle), but its a lot easier to use as a tactical vehicle with current modifications than the MRAP in an urban counterinsurgency. The giant, heavy MRAP vehicle is ill-suited to the urban fight. You might as well drive around the city in a Bradley fighting vehicle.

I know Ill probably get a lot of crap for this, but I think the services recognize that the MRAP isn’t what they need but theyre responding to the congressional love affair with the vehicle because they have to. The push is forcing the services to buy MRAPs from nine different manufacturers, and though military officials insist theyre all similar mechanically, you know there are going to be widgets and nick-knacks that are different, requiring their own logistics chain.

And what will the Army and Marine Corps do with these vehicles after U.S. involvement in Iraq is drawn down, which no matter how you look at it is inevitable soon? The services are spending millions on the development of a new version of the Humvee that answers a lot of the shortfalls found in the 1980s-era vehicle, including a blast-deflecting underbody and gas-hybrid engines. But with thousands of MRAP vehicles sitting in motor pools around the country, it may be difficult to justify spending money on an improved Humvee.

My last problem with the MRAP is that its too big and intimidating. Fielding a vehicle that troops are supposed to travel in every time they go outside the wire that looks like it will crush you if you even look at it doesnt seem to me to be a good way to win hearts and minds, and makes it difficult to interact with a population youre trying to win over. At least in a Humvee youre a ground level and can quickly jump out to pass a few soccer balls to the kids. Not so in the Cougar, which is so far off the ground and has such thick windows, its as if theres no human in the thing at all.

What would Gen. Petraeus say if he were asked his honest opinion of the MRAP infatuation? Does it serve his counterinsurgency plan at all?

(Gouge: DID)

Christian