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Archive for May, 2007

Update: The Iranian Connection

Thursday, May 31st, 2007


Okay folks, I know you miss this so much (trying a little irony here), but I feel like I have to turn your attention to the latest update of Iranian activity in Iraq.

Just three days after the groundbreaking talks between Iranian officials and U.S. diplomats on Iraqi security, coalition forces (which is code for TF 145) and Iraqi troops nabbed a few more bad guys tied to the Iranian support network for the insurgencyand al Qaeda.

I know there are a lot of readers here who strongly dispute the Iranian connection with Iraq and see it as impossible for a Shiite government to collaborate with the Sunni AQ movement. But at the very least, when more smoking gun evidence does present itself, the U.S. cant be accused of ignoring the threat.

From MNFI:

Iraqi and Coalition Forces detained two individuals in Sadr City during the first raid. They are believed to be members of the secret cell terrorist network known for facilitating the transport of weapons and explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, from Iran to Iraq, as well as bringing militants from Iraq to Iran for terrorist training.

Intelligence reports indicate one of the targeted individuals detained during the operation is suspected of providing facilitation and logistic support for trafficking weapons used in operations against Coalition Forces.

In a separate raid in Khanaqin, Coalition Forces captured a suspected liaison to al-Qaeda in Iraq senior leaders, who assists in the movement of information and documents from al-Qaeda in Iraq leadership in Baghdad to al-Qaeda senior leaders in Iran.


Night Vision Blowback?

Thursday, May 31st, 2007


Part of Americas counterinsurgency strategy is the wholesale rebuilding of native armed forces. Some have argued that supplying the new armies with antiquated weapons such as the AK-47 demeans them that instead they should be supplied with modern weaponry, such as the M4, to take advantage of both its increased accuracy and its western appearance.

Better to make them feel like a modern military in hopes that theyll act like one.

But a new contract solicitation takes this philosophy a step further. According to FedBizOps, the Pentagon is seeking vendors to satisfy a requirement to supply the Afghan army commando force with night vision equipment.

The solicitation calls for Generation II goggles. Most US special operators and pilots wear the most advanced GenIV and even some combined IR/I2 NODs.

While it seems like a good idea to equip Americas new allies with the most modern equipment available to make them more effective in our absence and to help forge a Western esprit doling out NVGs to Afghan soldiers, no matter how down-market they are, risks some blowback.

How much blood and treasure have been spent to locate all the old Stinger missiles supplied by the CIA to the Soviet-fighting Mujahaddin in the 1980s? And what will happen when a take-down raid on Taliban or AQ holdouts nets some of those NODs we just supplied to the Afghan special forces?

One of the American militarys strongest advantages in ground combat is its ownership of the night. IR markers, glint tape and IR illuminators are key to nighttime fighting for US forces. If the NVG technology intended for our Afghan allies falls into the wrong hands, that advantage will quickly turn into a major vulnerability.

(Gouge: ST)


Drone Wars Moving Closer to Reality

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007


Heating up the UAV debate again, a mid-April experiment demonstrated that a battle-damaged combat drone could deal with the simulated hit and land autonomously within a few feet of its intended touch-down point.

Defense Tech readers will remember the argument made by retired Air Force colonel Tom Ehrhard a couple weeks ago that the Navy should be concentrating more on developing combat UAVs in order to maintain the persistence over the battlefield that every ground commander is asking for.

Ironically, the flight test sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Agency and conducted at Aberdeen proving ground on April 19 used a scaled down version of an F/A-18. Engineers created the in-flight damage by ejecting an aileron from the drones wing. The navigation systems and in-flight controls adjusted, bringing the pilotless plane safely back to Earth.

A release from the flight control systems developer, Athena Technologies Inc., stated:

Damage tolerance is an enabling capability for increasing the mission reliability of UAVs and Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAVs) operating in hazardous and high-threat environments. The technology provides for real-time autonomous accommodation of damage, followed by an adaptation process that alters the flight control system to compensate for the effects of the damage.

Watch the in-flight videos of the experiment HERE and HERE.

Admittedly, this is a small step with a limited impact on just one area of concern over the UCAV concept. But its steps like these that could bring aerial robot wars to our enemys skies sooner than one might imagine.

(Gouge: NC)


Fire for a ‘Precise’ Effect

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007


Mike Goldfarb over at the Worldwide Standard blog banged out an interesting piece today on the latest test in Iraq of an Excalibur 155mm artillery round.

Inside Defense reported the shot yesterday, though it occurred earlier in the month against an al Qaeda safe house.

The WWS quotes a few defense experts critiquing the operational test, some calling it a stunt and saying the precision-guided artillery round isnt much use when the U.S. has total air superiority.

This morning I spoke with Stuart Koehl, a military analyst at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Transatlantic Relations, who called the strike “a stunt, because they didn’t have to use an artillery round, they could have used an airplane–it would have been a lot cheaper.
In counterinsurgency this kind of thing is mainly irrelevant. If I really need the long-range indirect fires, I’ve got total air supremacy, I’ve got all-weather capability, I really don’t need an artillery round when I could drop it from an airplane. It just makes a lot more sense to have something right there on the scene shooting from a much shorter range…a JDAM dropped from overhead is going to go right down the pipe, no matter what.“

Except thats not exactly true. Aircraft are not always on station and sometimes if there are planes aloft, there arent enough of them or theyre tasked out to do other things, like search for IEDs.

But every forward operating base has an artillery battery and that battery has guys ready to pull the firing cord at a moments notice. The artillery fires are much more responsive and a precision-guided 155 round packs just enough punch to knock out what you need, leaving the rest largely undamaged.

As John Pike at Globalsecurity​.org points out correctly

“If all I want to do is blow up one building, JDAM’s just too much of a good thing.“

Critics say the Army should be spending more time looking into a precision-guided mortar. But, thing is, they already are.

Infantry mortars are good for suppression and fixing the enemy. The 120mm mortar fits the bill for an infantry vehicle-portable precision fire platform for medium distances. If a soldier or Marine needs to knock out a specific room in the short range, he can use an AT4 or LAW.

Programs like Excalibur, however, could suffer from the time worn Pentagon practice of adding capabilities that boost the cost and make the thing more complicated and expensive that it needs to be. Army, Marine and Navy, for that matter cannon cockers need precision rounds just as much as the jet jocks do. And in a counterinsurgency, precision is everything.

– Christian

Walling Out the Bad Guys

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007


Walling off vulnerable Baghdad neighborhoods is critical to breaking the cycle of revenge killings in Iraq, according to U.S. Army General David Petraeus’ counter-insurgency advisor.

Portable barriers installed between neighborhoods enable U.S. and Iraqi forces to limit the nighttime movements of death squads and insurgents, says Dr. David Kilcullen, a lieutenant colonel in the Australian army reserve who has spent years studying terror groups and methods for defeating them.

“What we’ve tried to do is put in a series of blocks to stop that cycle [of violence] from running, and if it does run, to reduce the number of people killed in attacks” by limiting the scale and frequency of attacks, Kilcullen explains.

He uses the term “gated community” to describe the walled-off neighborhoods. The first to be enclosed was Sunni community of Adhamiyah in April. The decision to wall of a particular area is made by the U.S. battalions on the ground.


Bashar Bashes the Competition

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007


Defense Tech would like to be the first in the blogosphere to congratulate Syrian president Bashar Assad on his stunning landslide victory for another seven years as ruler of Syria.

How he eeked out a 97 percent victory in an electoral field devoid of competition is the biggest mystery. Maybe it was his four-point healthcare plan or the Baath party’s green energy agenda?

Nearly 12 million Syrians voted in the referendum a whopping 19,000 voted against Assad. What were they thinking?

As AFP points out: “With parliament having unanimously approved Assad’s candidature and with vocal opponents of the regime locked up, the result was never in doubt.”

…Kinda takes all the fun out of the whole election thing, though, doesn’t it.


The Rising Dragon

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007


Just in case you didnt see it already, the Pentagon released its annual Chinese Military Power report Friday.

One of the best China reporters in the country, Bill Gertz, wrote in the Washington Times that the report shows a robust effort by the PRC to develop anti-satellite weapons that can deliver a knockout blow to many U.S. military satellites.

Gertz writes:

According to defense officials familiar with the report, it also highlights new strategic missile developments, including China’s five new Jin-class submarines, and states that Beijing continues to hide the true level of its military spending.

The officials also said that the report will detail how China is developing two new types of strategic forces that go beyond what nations have done traditionally using air, sea and land forces by aiming to knock out modern communications methods on which the U.S. military relies for advanced warfighting techniques.

China also is training large numbers of military computer hackers to deliver crippling electronic attacks on U.S. military and civilian computer networks.


The Sunday Paper

Sunday, May 27th, 2007

Remember those who died for our freedom …

(Cross-posted here.)

– Ward

The REAL Dragon Skin Alternative

Friday, May 25th, 2007

First of all, I want to thank all you DT readers for your incredibly insightful discussions regarding the latest spat over Dragon Skin. Its such a pleasure to edit a site that draws such informed conversations that actually help drive the story forward.

So a big pat on the back to our readers, we appreciate it.

In fact, one of our savvy readers helped push the debate even further by tipping DT off on a whole new class of body armor that simply puts Dragon Skin and, frankly, all others to shame.

Foreign.Boy wondered why in the heck DT readers werent discussing the Trojan Armor system, invented by armor expert extraordinaire Troy Hurtubise. With all this hoopla about how Dragon Skin is the new wonder armor, how could such well-informed readers ignore the cutting-edge performance of this as yet unnoticed system?

After viewing the scientifically-precise laboratory field tests for myself, I cannot help but agree whole heartedly with (may I go so far as to call him my colleague?) Foreign.Boy.

Watch a report on the new suit below (and dont mind the weird cover shot on the video screen).

(Be sure to read the continued entry, you won’t be disappointed.)


Soldiers Want a Bigger Bang

Friday, May 25th, 2007


Nearly 80 percent of Soldiers said in a recent survey they are satisfied with their weapons, though almost half recommended a replacement for the standard-issued M9 pistol or ammunition with more stopping power.

Additionally, nearly 30 percent of Soldiers in the December 2006 survey, conducted on behalf of the Army by the Center for Naval Analyses, said the M4 carbine should be replaced or more deadly ammunition fielded.

“Across weapons, Soldiers have requested weapons and ammunition with more stopping power/lethality,” the report said.

The study was commissioned by the Army’s Project Manager for Soldier Weapons to address concerns raised by Soldiers returning from combat about the dependability and effectiveness of their small arms.

Download the entire CNA report here (2MB pdf).

“This study assessed Soldier perspectives on the reliability and durability of their weapons systems in combat to aid in decisions regarding current and future small arms needs of the Army,” said the study, which was obtained by Military​.com.

CNA surveyors conducted over 2,600 interviews with Soldiers returning from combat duty, asking them a variety of questions about accessories, weapons training, maintenance and recommended changes to their small arms.

“The U.S. Army Infantry Center is conducting a study to refine the Army’s Small Arms Strategy, which focuses on the employment of rifles, carbines, ammunition caliber, and future technologies,” said Army spokesman, Lt. Col. William Wiggins, in a statement. “All Services are participating in this study, which is expected in the July/August 2007 timeframe.”