Archive for February, 2010
Moving on Marjah
Two weeks ago (FRIDAY FOTO, Feb. 12), 4GWAR showed you what planning operations look like inside a CH-47 Chinook helicopter through night vision equipment. We thought we’d show you how crowded the interior of one of those helos is just before going into action.
Here we see 39 U.S. Marines from Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment and Afghan security forces packed to capacity in an Army CH-47F Chinook helicopter from the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, prior to the air assault into Marjah, Helmand province, Afghanistan. Nearly 300 Marines and Afghan security forces were inserted by 12 U.S. Army helicopters into the Taliban stronghold at the start of Operation Moshtarak.
Digging In, At Sea
U.S. Marines clear snow from the flight deck of the HNLMS Johan De Witt, an amphibious transport ship of the Royal Netherlands Navy during the NATO-sponsored 2010 Cold Response exercise in Norway on Feb. 24. The Marines are assigned to the 4th Marine Division’s Foxtrot Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment. Norwegian armed forces host the invitational extreme weather exercise with participants from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Austria and other NATO partners.
Coast Guard Makes Plans for Unmanned Aircraft
The U.S. Coast Guard isn’t quite ready to start spending money again on unmanned aircraft.
Adm. Thad Allen, the Coast Guard commandant, says his people are working on unmanned aerial systems (UAS) with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – a sister Homeland Security Department agency – as well as the U.S. Navy.
The Coast Guard and CBP formed a Joint Program Office in 2008 to explore common requirements for a land-based maritime patrol UAS.
In December, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) unveiled a Predator B unmanned aerial vehicle – called the Guardian – equipped with a Raytheon maritime radar system that can monitor surface ships from miles away. The radar is being tested this Spring. “We need to kind of see how that operates before we make a decision on how far to go in getting into a program of record and a production line with CBP.”
He also said the Coast Guard was “drafting behind the Navy” in its development of Northrop Grumman’s Fire Scout unmanned helicopter as a shipborne vertical take off and landing UAV.
The Coast Guard hads planned to use the Textron Eagle Eye VUAV to extend the maritime patrolling reach of its new National Security Cutters, but “we thought there was a lot of technical risks associated” with that tilt rotor VUAV and the project was canceled, Allen says.
Instead, the Coast Guard, which the Obama administration is downsizing slightly in its 2011 budget request, is happy to let the Navy take the lead in testing Fire Scout’s radar and ship interfacing. “We’re looking, at some point in the future, at the possibility of taking Fire Scout and doing interface testing with the National Security Cutter,” Allen says.
Eventually, he adds, the Coast Guard would like to get into high altitude, wide area surveillance with a UAS like Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk. But Allen, whose four-year term as commandant ends in May, says the Coast Guard isn’t ready to own one because “of the lack of critical mass we have to support those kinds of systems.”
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Paul D. Ballesteros, with Bear Troop, 8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, passes out colored pencils to Afghan children during a goodwill visit to a village in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, on Jan. 28, 2010.
Hopefully, in 10 years these kids will still have some pleasant memories of their interaction with Americans.
Look at their headgear. Now look at their feet. Even when the shooting stops, Afghanistan will have a long way to go.
We’d be interested in hearing what you think about the prospects of restoring civil society in Afghanistan to where it was after the fall of the Taliban — but before the distraction of the Iraq war.
COIN-ing A New Phrase
Paul McLeary has an interesting bit of news over at the ARES blog. It seems the Pentagon is getting ready to re-write the three-year-old Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency (COIN) Field Manual. Paul says the manual, also known as FM 3-24, has been praised and panned since it came out in 2006. Most of the mainstream press attention it received at the time concerned its guidance on torture and coercive interrogation methods. In short: Don’t Do It.
McLeary says a rewrite team leader has been picked but is still deployed in Afghanistan, so the first editorial meeting won’t be for a while.
License and Registration, Please
Here’s something you don’t see very often: police stopped for operating without a license. In this case its Merseyside Police in Britain. The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority says the police were wrong to fly an unmanned aerial vehicle without a license, according to the BBC.
Police in the Liverpool area have had the closed circuit TV-equipped drone since November. They said they didn’t know they needed CAA’s permission to fly the tiny two-pound, unmanned helicopter, which helped capture a car theft suspect last week.
As seen through a night-vision device, members of a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter crew go over a flight briefing at Falcon Base, Afghanistan, Feb. 10, 2010. The crew is assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, which provides tactical support and transportation.
Winning Hearts and Minds in the Philippines (updates with new link and photo)
The Jan. 30 issue of The Economist (subscription required) has an interesting — and unexpected – article about the success of the U.S. military mission in the Philippines, started in 2002 to counter the rise of Islamist terror groups like Abu Sayaf.
Philippine regulations forbid foreign troops from fighting on their soil, so the Armed Forces of the Philippines handle combat duties while Americans “keep busy with aid projects designed to woo locals in areas thick with militants,” according to the British-based magazine. Insurgents numbers are down, the Philippine military is getting both training and experience and the U.S. is reaping the public relations benefits with a minimal outlay of money and personnel.
The strategy is working according to the The Economist, which highlights the work of Lt. Col. Stephen Goldsmith, an Army veterinarian, who has been treating villagers’ cattle, goats and poultry for malnutrition and parasites. In the photo above, Goldsmith — assisted by an unidentified Army Special Forces soldier — deals with an uncooperative goat in Sulu, Philippines. Healthy livestock means a healthier economy and the magazine says U.S. military thinkers are wondering if the experience of Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines is applicable to other parts of the world facing insurgencies.
The U.S. mission isn’t limited to agricultural assistance. At the request of the government in Manila, the JSOTF-P — with less than 600 members — partners with the Armed Forces of the Philippines on a number of humanitarian, engineering and educational projects. JSOTF-P personnel also advises Philippine military and police units on techniques like bomb detection and disposal. In the photo below, Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Jonathan
Porter assists a dehydrated patient at an elementary school in Zamboanga. Last fall, the JSOTF-P assisted a Philippine armed forces unit in treating more than 1,000 patients over a three-day period.
Despite the successes — 15 of 24 high value targets on a list of insurgent leaders have either been killed or captured — a Christian Science Monitor article notes that keeping things stable on the violence-wracked island of Mindanao and elsewhere in the Philippines could take years.
In the photo below, Philippine National Police Officer Efrem Sissay (left) and Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 2nd Class Dave Friedman assemble an explosive device during a training exercise at the Regional Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Detection Unit 9 headquarters in Zamboanga. Friedman and two other members of the JSOTF-P Explosive Ordnance Disposal Task Unit conducted a two-day bomb detection course, instructing members of the Philippine National Police bomb squad on what types of chemicals can make up a homemade bomb.
Inside the Globemaster
The Pentagon announced plans again this week to stop buying Boeing’s C-17 Globemaster III, saying that at 223 planes, the U.S. Air Force will have enough of them when the last one rolls off the line in 2012. Because parts of the big plane (174 feet long with a wingspan just under 170 feet) are made in over 40 states — and unemployment remains high across the nation — Congress is expected to push back and force the military to buy more C-17s in the Fiscal 2011 defense spending bill. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warns he will urge President Obama to veto any bill with additional C-17 money, saying the funds are needed elsewhere. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, 4G WAR thought it would be interesting to peek inside one of the huge planes which can carry more than 80 tons of equipment. This one, bound for the Haitian earthquake relief effort, is packed with trucks, construction equipment and outdoor lighting units. (Click on the picture for a more detailed image).
On the Lookout for Loose WMD (Updated Feb. 2, 2010)
U.S. Homeland Security and Defense Department organizations recently completed a series of maritime and table top exercises in the Middle East, practicing ways to intercept weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It’s all part of the Proliferation Security Initiative, a global effort with more than 90 countries participating, to stop trafficking in WMD, delivery systems and related materials.
Called Leading Edge 2010, the exercise was held in Abu Dhabi and the waters off the United Arab Emirates (UAE). At a Defense Department Bloggers Roundtable last week, two participants – Mike Perron of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Navy Commander Tony Crego from the DoD’s Joint Staff, explained the exercise and its outcome.
U.S. participants included elements from the Department of Homeland Security including: CBP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Coast Guard. The FBI and Energy Department also participated.
The Coast Guard Cutter Adak (WPB 1333), a 110-foot patrol boat was used for a “visit, board, search and seize (VBSS)” team exercise in which Coast Guard and Navy personnel approach a commercial ship get permission to come aboard and conduct an inspection. (See FRIDAY FOTO, Jan. 15, 2010). The Adak, homeported in Sandy Hook, New Jersey, was among four Coast Guard cutters assigned to Middle East waters as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and was the first Coast Guard vessel to capture maritime enemy prisoners of war at the start of the Iraq war.
Perron, who is program manager for the DHS Office of Intelligence and Operations Coordination, says the U.S. normally doesn’t conduct random checks at sea. When officials board a vessel for inspection “ they’re specifically targeted” based on intelligence reports. But Crego said the focus of the exercise “was more on the broad international cooperation” rather than a maritime interdiction.
While no new screening technologies were tested in the exercise, Perron said there were demonstrations of existing methods from scanning technology used by many countries’ customs services to canines and robotic technology used to open shipping containers.
An Australian Navy frigate also participated in the maritime interdiction as did a boat boarding team from Qatar. UAE customs, police and chemical detection officials participated in the port security part of the exercise. But the largest participation – by 30 countries (See Below) – was in the table top exercise. There were eight playing teams representing the full range of a country’s military, police and intelligence units. But some countries that didn’t send a full complement participated in a seminar-like overview of the able top exercise. Crego and Perron were expecially pleased that three countries that are not PSI signatories – India, Pakistan and Lebanon – participated in the table top seminar.
“I thought participating in that particular aspect of the exercise was very effective at bringing a lot of countries into the discussions and allowing them to get a lot of benefit out of that particular portion of the exercise,” Crego said. Perron added that the PSI would like to look at air and ground aspects of interdiction in future exercises. Crego said there are plans to include a PSI aspect into Phoenix Express, a U.S. Africa Command exercise slated for May or June. There may also be a WMD interdiction segment of Southern Command’s Panamax exercise in late sumer. “We just look for opportunities with geographic combatant commanders to inject exercises with PSI as part of their regularly scheduled exercise,” said Crego, adding that “whenever PSI partners express a desire to host an exercise in their region, we’ll do our best to support that.”
Nations participating in Leading Edge in some form included: Australia, Bahrain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Netherlands, New Zealand, Oman, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Turkey, the U.K. and Yemen.