SHAKO: “Old Ironsides” Last Voyage — for Now

Heading to Dry Dock.

USS Constitution gets underway in Boston Harbor for the ship's 217th birthday cruise. This is Constitution's last scheduled cruise before entering dry dock in 2015 for three years of restoration work.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Kinney)

USS Constitution gets underway in Boston Harbor for the ship’s 217th birthday cruise. This is Constitution’s last scheduled cruise before entering dry dock in 2015 for three years of restoration work.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Kinney)

The oldest commissioned vessel in the U.S. Navy —  USS Constitution, better known as “Old Ironsides  — is heading for dry dock soon for several years of repairs and renovations.

Old Ironsides made a final tour of Boston Harbor on October 17 to commemorate the U.S. Navy 239th birthday and her own 217th birthday, according to the Navy.

The ship received  a 21-gun salute off Fort Independence on Castle Island in South Boston before  the 44-gun frigate returned to her berth at Charlestown Navy Yard.

More than 500 guests — individuals and organizations with long-standing ties to both the ship and the Navy — accompanied Constitution on her fifth and final demonstration voyage of 2014. It was also the historic warship’s final Boston Harbor underway (but not under sail) until 2018. She is scheduled to enter dry dock in March 2015 for a three-year planned restoration period.

Officials have said the effort is intended to more closely align Old Ironsides with its historical shape after decades of repairs that did not follow the original design, according to the Boston Globe.

Among the efforts, the Constitution will get new copper plates for the hull to make the ship more seaworthy. Officials will check the blueprints of the Constitution’s sister ship, the USS President, as they design the repairs. The repair work will include de-rigging and removal of the ship’s upper masts and offloading the ship’s long guns. Constitution will be open for public tours from Thursday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting this week. The ship’s captain, Commander Sean Kearns, advises visitors who want to see the tall ship, should come and see her before she goes into dry dock in March.

The first time your 4GWAR editor saw the mighty frigate was back in the mid 1970s and she was in dry dock at Charlestown then.

To see a brief Navy video of The Last Ride, click here.

 

October 20, 2014 at 11:37 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (October 19-October 25,1814)

Raids and Skirmishes (Food Fights)

October 18-19

Cook’s Mills, Upper Canada.

Northern Frontier 1812-1814 (Map: U.S. Army Center of Military History)

Northern Frontier 1812-1814
(Map: U.S. Army Center of Military History)

While the British are building up an army in the Caribbean to invade Louisiana and seize New Orleans, skirmishing and raids continue along the U.S. Canadian border and in and around the Chesapeake Bay.

On October 18, Brigadier General Daniel Bissell leads an American force of 1,200 Army regulars out of Fort Erie toward the British line along Chippawa Creek in Canada. British Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond orders Colonel Christopher Myers to conduct a reconnaissance towards Cook’s Mills to learn where the Americans are vulnerable.

On October 19, 750 British and Canadian troops, heavily entrenched and supported by a cannon and Congreve rockets, attack a brigade of roughly 900 U.S. soldiers. The Americans outflank the British, forge across Lyons Creek at Cooks Mills, seizing the town and its important millworks.  The British-Canadian force withdrew, but the following day — October 19 — 700 British troops march west to engage the Americans and retake the town. Then on October 20, it’s the Americans’ turn to withdraw and on the 21st they joined General George Izard‘s general retreat to Fort Erie, and back to Buffalo, effectively ending combat on the Niagara frontier.

The British lose 19 men killed or wounded and the American losses total 67 men. The skirmish had little consequence, apart from the American destruction of 200 bushes of wheat and flour

Castle Haven, Maryland

Meanwhile, far to the south, a British raiding party comprising of eighteen barges and a schooner entered the Choptank River on Maryland’s Easter Shore on October 19. Landing at Castle Haven they seize poultry and cattle from a tenant farmer.

October 21

Ghent, Belgium

At the peace treaty talks in Ghent, Belgium, they haven’t heard about the British failures in September to take Baltimore and Plattsburgh, New York. The British delegation are still ecstatic over the Americans’ rout at Bladensburg, Maryland and the burning of the White House, Capitol and other public buildings in Washington, so they’re pretty smug in their negotiations. They offer to end the fighting and send a treaty of uti possidetis: where both sides get to keep whatever territory they occupy. For the British, this would mean ownership of eastern Maine and parts of the Upper Mississippi Valley near present day Wisconsin and Mackinac Island where Lake Michigan and Lake Superior meet.

The Americans hold only a small bit of land in Canada surrounding  Fort Erie across the Niagara River from Buffalo, New York.

 

October 19, 2014 at 11:25 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO Extra (October 17, 2014)

This Way Out.

Michigan National Guard photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Helen Miller

Michigan National Guard photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Helen Miller

U.S. paratroopers rush from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during Operation Silver Arrow in Adazi, Latvia, Oct. 5, 2014. The helicopter engines are so powerful, look at how the heat wave distorts the background to the right of the Chinook. Looks almost like an impressionist painting.

The multinational exercise includes forces from Latvia, Estonia, Great Britain, Norway and the Michigan Army National Guard, and is being held in conjunction with U.S. Army Europe and Operation Atlantic Resolve. The paratroopers are assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, Airborne, Vicenza, Italy.  Elements of the 173rd have been conducting exercises with troops in Poland and the Baltic states (like Latvia and Estonia) to show these NATO countries their partners support them in and response o Russian aggressive behavior in Eastern and Central Europe.

 

 

October 18, 2014 at 12:41 am Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Ebola Death Toll; Boko Haram Ceasefire and Kidnapped Nigerian Girls

Ebola Death Toll

WHO declares Ebola outbreak over in Senegal (World Health Organization image)

WHO declares Ebola outbreak over in Senegal
(World Health Organization image)

The death toll in the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has risen to 4,493, according to the latest situation report by the World Health Organization.

The WHO said there have been 8,997 confirmed, probable or suspected cases of what the U.N. agency calls Ebola virus disease (EVD) in seven affected countries:  countries (Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, and the United States of America) up to the end of  October 12.

Today (October 17) the WHO declared the Ebola outbreak in Senegal over. The U.N. agency commended the country’s authorities for their “diligence to end the transmission of the virus.” The WHO said it has been 42 days since any new cases had developed in Senegal.

However, the WHO said the situation in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone “is deteriorating, with widespread and persistent transmission of EVD.” The situation report said an increase in new cases in Guinea is being driven by a spike in confirmed and suspected cases in the capital, Conakry, and the nearby district of Coyah.

“In Liberia, problems with data gathering make it hard to draw any firm conclusions from recent data.” The the report stated, adding that it suspects “almost certainly significant under-reporting of cases from the capital, Monrovia.” While there does appear to be a genuine fall in the number of cases in Liberia’s Lofa district, the WHO said a concerted effort will be needed to confirm that drop  and whether it means EVD has been eliminated in that area.

In Sierra Leone, intense transmission is still occurring in the capital, Freetown, and the surrounding districts.   

Back in the United States, President Obama has appointed Ron Klain, “a seasoned Democratic crisis-response operative and White House veteran,” to manage the U.S. government’s response to the deadly virus as public anxiety grows over its possible spread, the New York Times reported. The new Ebola czar is a former chief of staff for Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden, is known for his ability to handle high-stakes and fast-moving political challenges, according to the Times.

An Air Force C-17 cargo plane arrives with the first shipment of U.S. military equipment and personnel to help contain Ebola in Liberia, Sept. 23, 2014. The cargo included a heavy duty forklift, drill set and generator.  (U.S. Army Africa photo courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia) Liberia

An Air Force C-17 cargo plane arrives with the first shipment of U.S. military equipment and personnel to help contain Ebola in Liberia, Sept. 23, 2014. The cargo included a heavy duty forklift, drill set and generator.
(U.S. Army Africa photo courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia) Liberia

Hundreds of U.S. military personnel are already in Liberia assisting in the construction of Ebola treatment centers and training local personnel. They include Marines helicopter crews, Navy SeaBees and lab technicians, Air Force cargo handlers and Army engineers.

The Pentagon says between 3,000 and 4,000 military personnel may be sent to Liberia to help with logistical, construction and administrative tasks. Obama has authorized the Pentagon to call up reservists, if necessary. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby says no U.S. military personnel will be involved in treatment of Ebola patients during the mission, which is called Operation United Assistance.

*** *** ***

Nigeria: Kidnapped Girls

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook map)

Nigeria
(CIA World Factbook map)

Nigeria’s military says it has agreed to a ceasefire with the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram and that the militants will release hundreds of schoolgirls it kidnapped earlier this year.

Nigeria’s chief of defense staff, Alex Badeh, announced the truce but Boko Haram has yet to make a public statement, according to the BBC.

Boko Haram, which seeks to create an Islamic state governed by a severe interpretation of Sharia law, requiring beheadings, whippings and limb amputations for crimes launched an insurgency against the Nigerian government in 2009. Thousands have been killed in the struggle, including some 2,000 civilians reportedly killed this year, the BBC said.

The group, whose name translates roughly into “Western education is fraudulent” and by implication, forbidden, has bombed police stations, churches and bus terminals and attacked high schools and colleges, killing students and teachers. It sparked worldwide outrage in April when it raided a high school in predominantly Muslim northeast Nigeria and carried off hundreds of teenage girls.

Many in the country have been critical of the government’s slow response to the kidnappings and the counterinsurgency in general. They remain skeptical about the ceasefire announcement.

Clement Nwankwo, the executive director of the Policy and Legal Advocacy Center in Abuja, says the negotiations in Saudi Arabia and Chad between the government and Boko Haram will only increase the stature of the group.

“It has acquired its own status that puts it on its own pedestal.  But the reality is there [are] a lot of people in northeastern Nigeria who have an incentive to join Boko Haram because of the failures, corruption and the inability of the government to exercise transparency and good governance,” Nwankwo tells the Voice of America.

He’s also worried that Abuja’s willingness to negotiate with Boko Haram may reflect the government’s “desperation” bring the abduction crisis to a close. 

October 17, 2014 at 3:20 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 17, 2014)

Hitting the Beach.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Private First Class Matthew Casbarro

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Private First Class Matthew Casbarro

This photo is so sharp, you can almost hear the splashing water as U.S. and Filipino Marines (in camouflage helmets) wade toward the beach during a simulated raid for Amphibious Landing Exercise at PHIBLEX15  in Palawan, Philippines on  October 2. (Make sure to click on the photo to see a larger image).

PHIBLEX is an annual, bilateral training exercise conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy to strengthen interoperability across a range of skills including disaster relief and amphibious warfare operations. U.S. Army officials this past week  in Washington at the Association of the United States Army conference  stressed the importance of such multi-national training exercises to solidify both militaries’ readiness for amphibious operations in times of crisis.

 

October 17, 2014 at 1:04 am Leave a comment

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: An Industry Just Bursting to Take Off

Commercializing Unmanned Aircraft.

Drones large and small on display at an AUVSI Expo in Washington. (Click on photo to enlarge) 4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle

Drones large and small on display at an AUVSI Expo in Washington.
(Click on photo to enlarge)
4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle

For more than a decade the world has become well acquainted with the capabilities unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) provide in warfare, from “eyes in the sky” reconnaissance to delivery platforms for Hellfire missile strikes.

But the pent up demand for commercial unmanned aircraft in the United States is still waiting for federal regulators to ease rules banning most UAS from operating in the national airspace. Until they do, a predicted flood of new employment and business opportunities for UAS designers, manufacturers, instructors, mechanics, evaluators and operators will have to wait.

One business sector, the film and television industry, got some relief recently when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which oversees air safety, gave permission to six production companies to fly UAS over movie sets – but under strict limits.

Meanwhile, unmanned aircraft – some tiny enough to fit in the palm of your hand — are being sought for a variety of non-military activities: inspecting infrastructure in dangerous to reach places like suspension bridges and oil drilling platforms; monitoring the migrations of land and sea creatures; keeping an eye on crops and livestock; patrolling vast stretches of desert, forest and ocean; supplying video and still photography for the real estate, travel and motion picture industries and enhancing real time news coverage by television stations or Internet web sites.

The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the industry trade group for all things robotic including UAS, says unmanned aircraft could generate more than $82 billion in economic impact and 100,000 jobs in the United States in just the first decade after UAS are integrated into the national airspace.

But it may take more than a decade before drones are delivering pizzas because of two thorny issues: public concern over privacy and civil liberties; and government concerns about safety.

To read the rest of this story click here.

October 17, 2014 at 12:12 am Leave a comment

U.S. ARMY: Learning to Win in a Complex World [UPDATE]

AUSA: So Many Tanks, So Little Time.

One of the exhibit halls on the first day of AUSA 2014. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

One of the exhibit halls on the first day of AUSA 2014.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

UPDATES to clarify late night — sometimes clunky –writing, and add background and perspective.

The Association of the United States Army’s massive annual conference and exposition just ended. And while there were few, if any, tanks on display, enough trucks, and armored vehicles — including a vintage Volkswagen bus with a rooftop machine gun — were on view to satisfy any military gadget junkie

During its three-day run in Washington’s Convention Center there was much discussion at AUSA about where the U.S. Army is going — and how it’s going to get there–  in a world where a war, insurgency, terrorist attacks, disease outbreaks or natural disasters seem to be breaking out every day. Compounding the problem — thanks to budget cuts —  which Congress may reintroduce in a year or so — the Army is shrinking and disposing of war-worn equipment to stay within its budget.

But Army Secretary John McHugh and Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno said those previous across-the-board budget cuts meant developing projects like the Ground Combat Vehicle had to be scrapped and there is little money to buy new vehicles, aircraft and weapons that will be needed to tackle future crises. They also said more budget cuts starting in Fiscal Year 2016 (October 1, 2015) will mean even less money for training and that will lower the Army’s readiness for the complex world it faces. Assistant Army Secretary Heid Shyu explained that congressional budget cutting through sequestration has drastically reduced research and development for new technologies that could help a smaller Army deal with multiple challenges.

We heard at least two generals and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, himself a former Army sergeant, say they didn’t want to see another Task Force Smith  as an example of what could happen if a major crisis breaks out after precipitous, post-war cuts to defense spending. Task Force Smith was a disastrous delaying action by an understrength, poorly equipped and makeshift Army battalion cobbled-together in Japan and rushed to Korea during the first days of the Korean War. The valiant but ineffective effort to stop the Communist advance in July 1950 came as a shock to U.S. leaders and the public just five years after America ended World War II with the largest, best-trained and best-equipped army in the world.

4GWAR Photo by John M. Doyle

4GWAR Photo by John M. Doyle

Despite the often grim forecasts about defense funding, thousands of military and civilian visitors turned out for AUSA 2014 to see hundreds of armored vehicles, unmanned aircraft, helicopters, small arms and body armor on display in the two floors of exhibits by industry and service organizations. Also on display: the latest sensors and video cameras, robots and communications equipment.

While the AUSA exhibit floor has often been used to unveil industry’s latest solutions to the Army’s problems — like coping with roadside bombs or lightening soldiers’ equipment loads — several big defense contractors this year trumpeted new contracts to upgrade, or extend the lifespan, of aging equipment like the Humvee or Stryker armored vehicle. In addition to pavilions for foreign exhibitors and products, there was also a homeland security pavilion that emphasized the links between defending America over here as well as over there.

In coming days we’ll be exploring some of the things we heard discussed at AUSA 14 including developments like the new Army Operating Concept of what it takes to win in a complex world. We’ll also be discussing the regionally aligned force concept and the Pacific Pathway initiative to facilitate America’s strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific region.

One of the exhibit halls on the first day of AUSA 2014. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

One of the exhibit halls on the first day of AUSA 2014.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

October 15, 2014 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

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