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Around the Globe

Israel Deploys New Mortar

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

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The IDF recently deployed the Keshet 120 mm Autonomous Self Propelled Recoil Mortar System (manufactured by Soltam Systems Limited) that the head of the Army Headquarters Weapons Department, Lieutenant Colonel Eren Garnet, explained would enable a battalion commander to fire artillery autonomously. “The battalion commander should be able to guide the fire in the unit he commands as opposed to requiring outside assistance.“

The Keshet can be integrated on any M1064 Tracked Vehicle and is currently in serial delivery to the US Army, the IDF and other customers. The autonomous mortar system is capable of a maximum range of 7KM (with NATO std unassisted bombs) and can fire all types of 120mm smooth bore ammo. Its rate of fire burst is 16 per minute (intense burst, 4 rounds). The total weight is 750kg, elevation (deg) 40–85 and traverse (deg) 360.

According to Valentec Systems Inc., the Keshet offers commanders of infantry and armor unique enhanced operational capabilities. Indeed, improvements in inertial navigation systems and a sophisticated target acquisition system further enhance the accuracy of mortar ammunition delivery.

IDF Lieutenant Colonel Tal Aharon notes that the “Keshet weapons system is, without a doubt, the most advanced weapons system of the Infantry Corps.”

(more…)

US to Supply Lebanon SOF

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

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Inside the Pentagon has an interesting story on America’s assistance to Lebanese special forces. Seems like a good idea to me, though I’m sure each side would have rather kept the deal quiet. No one in the Middle East wants to appear like a US stooge, but Lebanon’s army is really the glue that holds together a fractured society.

Could Lebanon’s army be a model for Iraq’s? They’re dealing with a similar set of paradoxes in terms of religiosity and sectarianism. Anyway…

The other things that’s cool about this Lebanon deal is that my boy Dave Woroner was pretty close to inking a deal to supply the Lebanese army with his popular TacRail system. The deal didn’t go through, but it’s kinda cool to see a DT friend playing in this big deal.

From Inside the Pentagon:

Amid U.S. concerns that Iran and Syria are destabilizing Lebanon by supporting Hezbollah, the Pentagon is poised to bolster Beiruts military with new shipments of weapons, trucks and other gear.

(more…)

“Merchant of Death” Nabbed by Feds

Friday, March 7th, 2008

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In the “truth is stranger than fiction” category there’s this one.

Viktor Bout, legendary arms dealer and global scoundrel, was arrested yesterday in a DEA-sponsored sting operation in Thailand.

It is Bout whom Nicolas Cage modeled his “Yuri Orlov” character after in the (I thought pretty entertaining) “Lord of War” flick released in 2005.

There’s an excellent story on the arrest in the Washington Post today, and I’ve got to tell you, there’s something in my Cold War bones that sort of admires the idea of a guy like Bout taking advantage of all the conflict around the world to make a profit. I mean, he supplied both sides of most of these third-world conflicts…

The list of Bout’s alleged customers since the early 1990s stretches across at least four continents, with a focus on Africa, Western law enforcement officials and human rights groups say. The Treasury Department accused him of supplying armaments to both the Taliban and its al-Qaeda allies in Afghanistan before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, while also providing weapons to the opposing Northern Alliance.

(more…)

Could Israel Deploy C-RAM for Border?

Friday, December 21st, 2007

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Our Defense Tech contributor who keeps a close eye on the Middle East, Aharon Etengoff of Weaponsurvey, reports:

The Israeli Defense Ministry holds high-level talks with the Pentagon on purchasing the Phalanx B, or C-RAM, a rapid-fire cannon to protect strategic installations against Palestinian projectiles. It should be noted that the C-RAM (manufactured by Raytheon) is fully operational and available for immediate deployment.

The C-RAM is a radar-controlled gun adapted from a US Navy original, which can fire 4,500 rounds a minute and destroy incoming mortar bombs before impact. According to Jane’s Defense Weekly, the Land-based Phalanx Weapon System (LPWS) “is a reconfigured variant of the widely sold Phalanx 20 mm shipborne close-in weapon system [that] combines a 20 mm M61A1 Gatling gun with a Ku-band search-and-track radar featuring closed loop spotting.”

Sean Osborne, Associate Director of NEIN Military Affairs & NEIN Blog:

“The C-RAM is deployed at US FOBs (Forward Operating Bases) all over Iraq — not just in the so-called Green Zone. C-RAMs success rate in shooting mortar rounds and other incoming indirect ordnance out of the sky is better than 85% according to data I’ve received from those who’ve installed these systems in Iraq. C-RAM counter-fires which miss the incoming target do not simply fall to ground — each 20mm round is fused to self-destruct if contact is not made with the target.

The IDF Research & Development Directorate’s (MAFAT) refusal to acquire and deploy the C-RAM system in defense of Sderot or other Israeli towns is several echelons below unfortunate, and appears to be couched in political considerations which have nothing to do with the suffering of the citizens of Sderot. The non-acquisition is sending a message of abandonment to the women and children of Sderot who are under severe traumatic stress and psychological pressures not unlike that of soldiers in combat.“

Uzi Rubin:

“This is a very effective system for protecting strategic installations…It covers a radius of up to a kilometer and would be ideal for protecting key installations like power plants and IDF bases.”

IDF Chief Intelligence Officer Brig.-Gen. Yuval Halamish:

“This [Palestinian rockets] is a close-to-home threat that has an impact on the home front as well as the national morale…Our ability to deal with this threat is difficult until being almost impossible in certain places.“

– Aharon Etengoff

Libyan-French Connection Rekindling?

Friday, December 14th, 2007

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It seems a long time ago that Muammar Gadaffi was the root of all evil, doesn’t it? Those were the good old days of “Freedom of Navigation” ops (remember the “Line of Death”?) and VF-32 Tomcats picking on kids coming off the short bus.

Of course, Gadaffi has done an “Abominable Snowman after the dental work” and made nice with the world, right? Well, Joe at DID has an interesting report about Libya’s recent outreach to … wait for it … FRANCE.

Here’s a bit:

Libya’s military has traditionally been Soviet supplied, alongside some equipment from France. The demise of the Soviet Union, the 1990s drop in oil prices, and Libya’s pariah status all combined to choke military modernization but Libya’s new political direction, and the rise in oil prices, are changing that. Unsurprisingly, there have been widespread reports in recent days that France and Libya have signed a Memorandum of Understanding covering arms deals worth up to EUR 4.5 billion, including the first foreign sale of the Rafale fighter. Has France learned the lessons of Morocco and Saudi Arabia? Can the Rafale find an export home at last? Will the deals come to fruition?

See the rest here.

Meanwhile, Christian and I are flying back from corporate headquarters on the west coast, so we’ll be post-light for the rest of today. See you for the Sunday Paper.

– Ward

Warm up the Croissants, Nautical Nerds!

Monday, December 10th, 2007

…I mean, I want to be pithy and all with this one…but it speaks for itself.
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In the old days naval recruiters used to get young men drunk in bars, make them scrawl their signature on a bit of paper and next thing the young men knew they woke up not only with a hangover but aboard a ship.

Young men (and women) today spend less time in bars drinking and a lot of time in internet cafes and 11 million of them are pretending to be somebody else on Second Life. So, that’s where the French Navy recruitment drive decided to go and get them, well, a few anyway. It’s the first time a French armed force has used this kind of method to recruit: some say it’s a world first but I couldn’t guarantee that.

From 29 November to 4 December a virtual frigate (which looks remarkably like the yet-to-be-built Franco-Italian FREMM) called in on Second Life which could be visited 24 hours a day and where youngsters could meet virtual sailors who would answer questions about the jobs and careers they might have if they joined the Navy. A competition was also held, first prize being a day aboard a frigate, a real one this time!

Aboard the virtual frigate visitors were given virtual red pompoms (traditionally worn on the hat, the pompom, I learnt the other day, was designed to provide additional protection for the head which, as everyone whose been aboard a ship knows, frequently gets knocked) , could see films, visit an exhibition, hold daily chats with naval pilots, submariners, combat divers but also go up to the command deck for more serious discussions.

OK, so my whole impression of France in the national security realm has changed with the election of Sarkozy. But after this little story, I think I’m going back to calling them “freedom fries.”

Read more about how you can join the French Navy from our Aviation Week friends on Military​.com

– Christian

Brits See Longbow as Key to Apache Ops

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

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British army Apache attack helicopters in Afghanistan are the only Apaches in the country that fly with the mast-mounted Longbow radar installed — and that is giving them a distinctive edge in the NATO-led operations against Taliban and other opposing militant forces, the commander of the unit says.

Lt.Col. Jon Bryant, commanding officer of the Apache-equipped No. 3 Regiment (Army Air Corps) at Wattisham, Suffolk, says that the Longbow radar is “extremely useful in airspace deconfliction terms.”

“When on patrol, we are sharing the airspace with other Apaches, Chinooks, Lynxes, fixed-wing aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles,” says Col. Bryant, who recently returned from a tour as commanding officer of Britain’s Joint Helicopter Force (Afghanistan) at Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan.

Especially at night, the radar helps pilots to build up situational awareness and to prevent getting dangerously close to other aircraft during tactical maneuvers.

See the rest of this article from our Aviation Week partners at Military​.com.

– Christian

Israel’s Cyber Shot at Syria

Monday, November 26th, 2007

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Our friends at Av Week have this story so wired, I couldnt wait to post this update. And, as you well know, Im a bit obsessed with it.

It now seems that one of Israels first shots in its raid into Syria in September was a fusillade of 1s and 0s.

From Aviation Week:

The U.S. was monitoring the electronic emissions coming from Syria during Israels September attack; andalthough there was no direct American help in destroying a nuclear reactorthere was some advice provided beforehand, military and aerospace industry officials tell Aviation Week & Space Technology.

That surveillance is providing clues about how Israeli aircraft managed to slip past Syrian air defenses to bomb the site at Dayr az-Zawr. The main attack was preceded by an engagement with a single Syrian radar site at Tall al-Abuad near the Turkish border. It was assaulted with what appears to be a combination of electronic attack and precision bombs to enable the Israeli force to enter and exit Syrian airspace. Almost immediately, the entire Syrian radar system went off the air for a period of time that included the raid, say U.S. intelligence analysts.

There was no U.S. active engagement other than consulting on potential target vulnerabilities, says a U.S. electronic warfare specialist.

Elements of the attack included some brute-force jamming, which is still an important element of attacking air defenses, U.S. analysts say. Also, Syrian air defenses are still centralized and dependent on dedicated HF and VHF communications, which made them vulnerable. The analysts dont believe any part of Syrias electrical grid was shut down. They do contend that network penetration involved both remote air-to-ground electronic attack and penetration through computer-to-computer links.

There also were some higher-level, nontactical penetrations, either direct or as diversions and spoofs, of the Syrian command-and-control capability, done through network attack, says an intelligence specialist.

These observations provide evidence that a sophisticated network attack and electronic hacking capability is an operational part of the Israel Defense Forces arsenal of digital weapons.

Despite being hobbled by the restrictions of secrecy and diplomacy, Israeli military and government officials confirm that network invasion, information warfare and electronic attack are part of Israels defense capabilities.

And the cool thing was that it seems that Israel was able to do this cyber attack from the air.

That ability of nonstealthy Israeli aircraft to penetrate without interference rests in part on technology, carried on board modified aircraft, that allowed specialists to hack into Syrias networked air defense system, said U.S. military and industry officials in the attacks aftermath.

Network raiders can conduct their invasion from an aircraft into a network and then jump from network to network until they are into the targets communications loop. Whether the network is wireless or wired doesnt matter anymore, says a U.S. industry specialist.

And it seems the Syrian governments self-imposed secrecy was partly to blame for the shut-down.

The raid on Syria was a strategic signal, not a threat, says a retired senior military official who flew combat in the region for decades. This [raid] was about what we perceived are their capabilities [for developing weapons of mass destruction] and about deterrence more than creating damage.

He contends that Syrian procedures even contributed to the successful bombing raid.

Part of the vulnerability of the Syrian facility was that they kept it so secret that there werent enough air defenses assigned to it, the official contends.

Be sure to read the rest of this fascinating story and really kick ass reporting HERE.

(Gouge: NC)

Christian

Can the Russkis Build Their 5th Gen Fighter?

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

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An update on the India/Russia 5th gen fighter development from the Dubai air show.

Via RIA Novosti:

…Unfortunately, Russia has so far failed to master production of the purely experimental Su-37, built by Sukhoi at its own expense. Nevertheless, the plane’s lay-out makes it possible to streamline various engineering solutions under the Advanced Tactical Aircraft (PAK FA) program.

The United States and Europe spent over $20 billion on the F-35 JSF program. Therefore, experts believe that Russia should team up with a foreign partner in order to develop a fifth-generation fighter. It will take $600–800 million to design the engine, the most expensive element, and another $1.5 billion to launch serial production.

Moscow considered China and India to be the best partners. However, Beijing prefers to develop its own aircraft engines, and India is more interested in state-of-the-art designing methods and does not want to manufacture “ready-made” planes.

Russia and India started negotiating on the joint fifth-generation fighter program in 2003. New Delhi insisted that the new plane be developed from scratch. Moscow was not very happy about this because it implied another highly expensive project.

Apart from outstanding achievements, bilateral military-technical co-operation has been marked by major setbacks and even conflicts. And this explains why it took India so long to get involved in the new fighter program.

Both countries have faced serious problems such as upgrading the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier. Under a bilateral contract, the Indian Navy was to have received the warship in 2008. However, the Admiral Gorshkov will only conduct its trial run from 2010 to 2012.

Moreover, Russian bureaucrats have failed to approve the preparatory documents of the Multi-Role Transport Aircraft (MTA) project during last two years and have nearly stopped it. New Delhi has already said that it could withdraw from the project and develop the MTA together with Brazil or the EU.

Tatyana Shaumyan, head of the Centre of Indian Research at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies, said Russian red tape, the inadequate fulfillment of contracts and delayed shipments had impaired many aspects of bilateral relations. This is why India is trying to protect itself from such negative developments.

For instance, the national air force floated a global tender for 126 combat jets worth $10 billion. Eighteen of the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) will be purchased in flyaway condition and the remaining 108 manufactured in the country under a transfer of technology (TOT) agreement with the chosen supplier.

The 211-page request for proposal (RFP) has been sent to the manufacturers of six aircraft: the U.S. F-16 and F-18 Super Hornet, the Swedish Gripen, the French Rafale, the Russian MiG-35 and a European consortium’s Eurofighter.

(more…)

Bad Days for Pirates

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

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Events like this sort of validate parts of the CNO’s new maritime strategy, don’t they? This from Military​.com

Sailors from the Norfolk-based destroyer James E. Williams boarded a North Korean merchant ship that had been hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia, while two other Navy vessels tailed a pirated Japanese ship in the same region.
The Williams, which left Norfolk in July , was about 50 nautical miles from the ship Dai Hong Dan in the Arabian Sea when it received word of the pirate attack, said Lt. John Gay , a spokesman for the Navy’s Central Command in Manama, Bahrain.
The Williams dispatched a helicopter and ordered the pirates to give up their weapons via a bridge-to-bridge radio. The North Korean crew, which had retained control of the steering and engineering spaces, then confronted the pirates and gained back control of the bridge, according to a Navy news release.
Initial reports from the North Korean crew said two pirates were killed and five others captured, the release said.
Soon afterward, the North Korean crew permitted a small party from the Williams to come aboard, Gay said.
Three corpsman, accompanied by armed Sailors and a Williams crew member who spoke Korean, boarded the Dai Hong Dan from a rigid hull inflatable boat. The corpsman assisted wounded crew members and attackers.
Three Koreans were transported to the Williams for medical attention before being returned to their ship, Gay said. The pirates were being held on the Dai Hong Dan.
Hundreds of miles away in the same region, two other Navy ships were tracking a Japanese-owned ship seized by pirates over the weekend, Gay said.
The spokesman said that two “coalition” ships from Combined Task Force 150 had responded to the hijacking of the Golden Mori , a Japanese-owned ship registered in Panama.
Combined Task Force 150, which conducts maritime security operations in the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden, includes vessels from the Pakistani, British, French, German and U.S. navies.
Navy officials with knowledge of the incident confirmed that the U.S. destroyers Porter and Arleigh Burke, both based in Norfolk, responded to the Golden Mori’s distress call.
One of the responding ships fired warning shots in front of the Golden Mori.
It also aimed disabling shots at two skiffs — the boats the pirates used to approach the ship — towed behind the Golden Mori. The skiffs caught fire and sank, Gay said.
Gay said coalition crew members have observed men carrying small arms aboard the bridge of the ship, which was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden, a critical body of water between Yemen, Djibouti and Somalia that links the Red and Arabian seas.
After the hijacking, the Golden Mori sailed 380 miles south and remained off Somalia’s coast, Gay said
.

The article also rolls out the duty critic (it wasn’t my turn):

“Essentially, you don’t want to use a billion dollar DDG [guided missile destroyer] to suppress pirates,” [Robert Work, a retired Marine officer and analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington] said. “That’s a mission for a much smaller ship. But we have a lot of ships in that area because of ongoing operations in the Horn of Africa. These are ships designed for high-end war fighting, not chasing pirates.”

Hey, not every day’s a missile day. Plus, as we say in the fighter business, a kill’s a kill, right?

Kudos to our blackshoe brethren here.

(Official U.S. Navy photo showing a pirate ship headed for Davy Jones’ locker.)

– Ward