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Archive for May, 2010

Strict ROE, Nausea Inducing Screens Curb Use of MV-22 Osprey Gatling Gun

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Our own Christian Lowe is embedded with U.S. forces in Afghanistan through June 1 and sends us this dispatch from Camp Bastion in southern Afghanistan.

By Christian Lowe

CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan — It was touted as the answer to critics who said the MV-22 didn’t have enough firepower on board to shoot its way into a hot LZ.

And here in Afghanistan, this deployment of the MV-22s with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261 marked the first real-world test of the BAE Systems-made Remote Guardian machine gun system – known in the Corps as the Interim Defensive Weapon System, or “belly gun” for short.

The squadron based here at Bastion air field, adjacent to Camp Leatherneck in Helmand province, has 12 aircraft and an inventory of five of the belly gun systems.

Problem is, they don’t want to use them.

Squadron commander Lt. Col. Ivan Thomas downplayed the difficulties with the system, saying simply that the manufacturer was sending over trainers who could help Marines learn how to use the system more effectively. The IDWS consists of a 7.62mm rotary cannon mounted in a retractable box near amidships on the Osprey’s undercarriage. There’s a targeting and control system inside the bird that uses an X-Box-like controller to steer the optics and gun for 360-degree coverage of the LZ.

Each Osprey also has a M240 7.62mm machine gun mounted to the ramp in the tail. Previous reports have indicated that the Afghanistan Ospreys would have .50 cals mounted on the tail ramp, but the squadron only does that when they think they’re going in guns blazing, which isn’t often.

Thomas said they’ve test fired the Remote Guardian system once, “and it’s extremely accurate,” he said. But with the kind of dynamic approaches these MV-22s are flying into the zone and the difficulty of looking through a soda straw at the LZ and firing at what’s firing at you in time, Thomas has opted to keep the IDWS off every one of his planes.

He argues that the rules of engagement here are so restrictive and the potential downside of a civilian casualty from a misaimed shot so high, he can’t take the risk of firing the Gatling gun if there’s a chance it will miss.


M-ATV Builder Oshkosh Pushes Back on DT Reports From the Field

Friday, May 28th, 2010

M-ATV builder Oshkosh, and the Marine Corps program office that manages M-ATVs, didn’t much like the story we ran the other day from our embedded correspondent Christian Lowe who reported that troops in Afghanistan are no longer allowed off base in anything but heavily armored IED-resistant vehicles. Well, they liked parts of the story.

This part where Christian reported what soldiers were telling him about the M-ATV gave them fits: “But what the M-ATVs gain in agility, they give up in protection against IEDs. Soldiers here say the M-ATV protects against roadside bombs better than an up-armored Humvee, but not much.”

We told Oshkosh that in the interests of fairness, we’d let them have their say as to the effectiveness of M-ATVs in Afghanistan. Ken Juergens, vice president and general manager of joint programs for Oshkosh Defense, emailed the following:

“The Oshkosh M-ATV meets the same government-specified survivability requirements as MRAPs in service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Troop protection is a driving force behind everything we do at Oshkosh, from design through production and aftermarket support of our vehicles. We worked with renowned armor developer Plasan North America to design and manufacture the M-ATV for outstanding survivability to protect the Warfighter in the rugged off-road and mountainous terrain that makes up Afghanistan’s battlefields.

Plasan’s battle-tested armor solutions have proven successful for multiple in-theater operations, including on MRAPs currently in Iraq and Afghanistan. Additionally, protection kits and bolt-on armor permit in-theater upgrades and repairs to meet mission demands with quick turnaround times. The M-ATV underwent government testing and delivers MRAP-equivalent protection capabilities.”


Gen. McChrystal and Adm. Olson Actually on the Same Page

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Afghan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s counterinsurgency guidance has taken what many considered to be a very, very soft approach to combating insurgents as laid down in the COIN manual, and softened it even more.

Protecting the population, respecting their culture and sitting and drinking lots of tea with local leaders to gain their trust basically by doing no wrong is the basis of what has been labeled the “population centric counterinsurgency” approach in Afghanistan. The Economist called it “the least violence-oriented military document you’re ever likely to see.”

“We will not win by simply killing insurgents,” McChrystal wrote; the supply of willing insurgent foot soldiers in that part of the world is infinity. He then explained his version of COIN arithmetic which turns the conventional mindset of wearing down the enemy through attrition on its head.

“From a conventional standpoint, the killing of two insurgents in a group of ten leaves eight remaining: 10–2=8. From the insurgent standpoint, those two killed were likely related to many others who will want vengeance… Therefore, the death of two creates more willing recruits: 10 minus 2 equals 20 (or more) rather than 8.”

According to some reports, the highest ranking Navy SEAL and the commander of Special Operations Command, Adm. Eric Olson, believes this whole counterinsurgency thing is getting out of hand. He called the prevailing COIN doctrine an “imperfect template,” crafted as an Iraq specific doctrine, that should be discarded. “Counterinsurgency should involve countering the insurgents,” he said.


The Sri Lanka Option: Brutal Dictatorships Learning Bad COIN Lessons

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

The Economist reports that military delegations from some of the world’s less savory regimes have been visiting Sri Lanka ever since it crushed the Tamil Tiger insurgency in search of a model they can reverse engineer and apply in their own countries.

Sri Lanka’s COIN approach is about as far from Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s population centric COIN as you’re likely to find, outside of maybe German counter-partisan operations during World War II.

“Louise Arbour, head of the International Crisis Group (ICG), says the Sri Lanka model consists of three parts: what she dubs “scorched-earth tactics” (full operational freedom for the army, no negotiations with terrorists, no ceasefires to let them regroup); next, ignoring differences between combatants and non-combatants (the new ICG report documents many such examples); lastly, the dismissal of international and media concerns.

A senior official in President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s office, quoted anonymously in a journal, Indian Defence Review, says “we had to ensure that we regulated the media. We didn’t want the international community to force peace negotiations on us.” The author of that article, V.K. Shashikumar, concludes that “in the final analysis the Rajapaksa model is based on a military precept…Terrorism has to be wiped out militarily and cannot be tackled politically.” This is the opposite of the strategy America is pursuing in Afghanistan. It is winning a widespread hearing.”

– Greg Grant

COIN in Afghanistan: The Tyranny of Fires

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

If you haven’t already stumbled across Travels With Shiloh’s write up of the Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center COIN conference held earlier this month at Ft. Leavenworth, I heartily recommend it. Here is part one.

Monday’s entry featured notes from a presentation by British Army Lt. Col. Rupert Jones, son of another famous LTC Jones, he who commanded 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment during the Falklands campaign. There, LTC Jones lost his life and won the Victoria Cross by charging an Argentine machine gun nest when his battalion’s attack had stalled in the face of enemy fire at Goose Green.

Jones the son had some interesting, and certain to be controversial, comments on the “tyranny of fires.”

“We have become seduced by the easy availability of air and artillery support. Commanders are giving up maneuver in favor of fire support. Successive ISAF commanders have worked to reduce civilian casualties but we’ve made very little progress and the issue is a strategic threat. We need to break our dependence on fires.

Our reliance on fires creates a toxic psychological dynamic. Among insurgents, the domestic population AND our forces it is assumed that we can’t win without fires and technology.

Assets cost big money to move and maintain in theater. Every asset owner wants to prove their usefulness and contribute to the mission. We’ve got a ‘I’ve got it, I’ll use it’ mentality.

Junior leaders need to accept short term tactical risk and apply the skills they’ve learned when in contact with the enemy.”


Everyone Knows More than the Person Responsible for Cyber Security

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

By Kevin Coleman
Defense Tech Cyber Warfare Correspondent

Why is it that people without security clearances and no insight into the many classified cyber attacks discredit information derived from these incidents because the sources and some data cannot be disclosed? Some immediately jump to conspiracy theories and claim these incidents are made up for one reason or another in support of someone’s agenda.

For example, recently I read a report that was said to “debunk” a report of a specific cyber incident. The debunkers claimed the incident didn’t happen. Yet, I was personally involved in the incident at a classified level and experienced it first hand so I know it took place.

Another individual actually thought they knew more about a national cyber security issue than Mike McConnell, a former Vice-Admiral in the U.S. Navy, former Director of the National Security Agency, as well as being the Director of National Intelligence. It’s one thing to disagree with analysis or statements by Admiral McConnell, but to think they know more is quite different!


Navy Shipbuilding Plan Not Affordable; New Boomers to Cost $8 Billion Each: CBO

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

The Congressional Budget Office is out with a new estimate (.pdf)  of the Navy’s latest 30 year shipbuilding plan, issued in February. While that new plan reduces the total number of ships purchased between 2011 and 2040, and thus shipbuilding costs, CBO says the annual price tag is still much higher than the total shipbuilding funds the Navy has received in recent years.

The Navy’s new plan calls for buying 276 ships between now and 2040; the previous 30 year plan called for 296 new ships. Still, with the annual shipbuilding budget at around $15 billion (the average for the past three decades), the Navy can’t afford to buy all of those ships, CBO said.

CBO puts the annual shipbuilding price tag at around $19 billion versus the Navy’s projections of around $16 billion. If the costs to refuel aircraft carriers is included, the cost to buy and outfit new ships rises to about $21 billion a year.

Included in CBO’s projection is the cost to build a new class of ballistic missile submarines, the SSBN(X). The Navy estimates that building 12 SSBN(X)s will cost $86 billion, which is about $7.2 billion a copy. Based on the historical track record for building subs, CBO estimates it will cost $99 billion to build 12 boomers, at $8.2 billion a copy.

– Greg Grant

Dueling Rifle Rounds: It’s All About the Wound Channel

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

The Times (the British one) has a story about the continuing debate over the 7.62mm round versus the 5.56mm as employed in the long range firefights in Afghanistan. The story asserts that the 5.56mm round used in the M4 rifle “lacks sufficient velocity and killing power in long-range firefights.” As Defense Tech readers know, we’ve covered this issue before.

As for the stopping power of the 5.56mm round, that very topic came up at a roundtable discussion I attended with the Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier last month at Aberdeen Test Center, Md. It led to an interesting discussion about wound dynamics, the “wound channel” and the “bleed out effect.”

Responding to claims that high-velocity 5.56mm rounds pass straight through the body without killing, Brig. Gen. Pete Fuller, the commander of PEO Soldier, said a new 5.56mm round that will be shipped to troops beginning in June, the M855A1 lead free slug, will get rid of what he called “yaw dependency.”

“The current M855 (5.56mm) ball round is yaw dependent. The closer you are to something you’re shooting at, the less yaw it has and it’s going to go right straight through,” said Fuller. Also, the M4 carbine has a 14 ½ inch barrel compared to the 20-inch barrel on the standard M16. “That shorter barrel cut out 5 ½ inches for that round to get to full muzzle velocity,” he said.

Col. Doug Tamilio, project manager for Soldier weapons with the PEO Soldier, discounted the reports of multiple 5.56mm rifle rounds penetrating straight through enemy bodies, “If you look at the bone mass of the human body, there is a lot of bone, if you hit a bone, [the bullet] is not going through the body, its putting an individual down.”

Knockdown is actually a misnomer, said Lt. Col. Christopher Lehner, program manager for individual Soldier weapons at PEO-Soldier. “You generally don’t knock anyone down, unless you have a very, very large round and you hit bone.” What typically brings down a human being when hit with a bullet is the “bleed-out effect”: massive blood loss that causes the body to shut down, the person staggers and then collapses.


Marine Prowlers ‘Jam’ Afghan Skies

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Military​.com editor Ward Carroll and managing editor Christian Lowe are currently embedded with American troops in eastern Afghanistan.

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, AFGHANISTAN – Although the bureau numbers on the fuselages of Marine Electronic Attack Squadron 2’s EA-6B Prowlers tell of jets harkening from the Cold War, the venerable jammers have found a new and vital niche in the counterinsurgency of Afghanistan.

The Prowler was originally designed to fight complex integrated air defense systems like those designed by the former Soviet Union. Through the use of powerful pods slung under each wing, the airplane would “jam” ground-based radars, blinding the enemy and paving the way for attack jets and fighters to hit their targets.

And in the event a SAM site did fire its missiles, the Prowler would launch high-speed anti radiation, or “HARM,” missiles to wipe out the air defense site before it could shoot down any of the American airplanes.

But the Taliban have no complex Soviet-style SAM systems; and the closest thing they have to an integrated air defense is when they coordinate their RPGs with their AK-47s. So what are the Marine Prowlers doing in Afghanistan?

“The EA-6 has always been predominantly non-kinetic type of asset,” said Marine Maj. Robert “Kid” Kudelko, VMAQ-2’s operations officer. “And in a fight that’s increasingly non-kinetic in terms of ‘hearts and minds’ – not wanting to cause collateral damage – we bring another dimension.”

Read the rest of Ward’s story here.

Dissident Web Site Reports Kim Jong Il Ordered North Korean Military Prepare for Combat

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

According to this Bloomberg report, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il broadcast a message last week to the North Korean military telling it to prepare for combat. The content of that broadcast, that Kim issued apparently issued a warning order to his military, first hit wires last night.

A web site run by former computer scientists who have defected from the North, called North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity, reported the broadcast. South Korean officials said they couldn’t confirm the report because Kim broadcast the message on a closed circuit radio the South can’t monitor.

Of course, threats from Kim are nothing new. But with South Korea and the U.S. preparing for joint naval exercises near where the Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean torpedo on March 26, things could easily get out of hand as the uber-paranoid and rather nutty Kim feels backed against a wall.

– Greg Grant