Archive for March 4, 2011
Two MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor helicopters land aboard the USS Makin Island, becoming the first of their kind to do so. The landings came during Iron Fist, a bilateral training exercise to enhance amphibious capabilities and increase interoperability between the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.
The 844-foot long Makin Island (LHD-8) is a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship. The LHDs are the second-largest vessels in the U.S. Navy after aircraft carriers. The LHD, which stands for Landing Helicopter Dock, is designed to remain offshore near troubled areas, ready to send forces ashore quickly by helicopters, tilt rotor aircraft and large Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) hovercraft, which skim across the surface of the water on a cushion of air.
The Makin Island is the second Navy ship with that name. The first, a World War II escort carrier, served in the Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa before being decommissioned in 1947. Like World War II-era aircraft carriers, the LHDs are named for famous battles like Bataan and Iwo Jima, or earlier illustrious ships, like the Bon Homme Richard or Kearsarge. Ironically — considering the nature of the Iron Fist exercise — many of them are named for combat with the Japanese in World War II. The Makin Island gets its name from the Marines’ 2nd Raider Battalion’s first battles in the Pacific. The brief, bloody episode became the basis for a 1943 Hollywood film, Gung Ho! The Chinese phrase, which means “work together” is also the current ship’s motto.
For those unfamiliar with procedures on seagoing aircraft decks, you probably wondered about all the different colors of the jerseys worn by folks working or waiting in this photo. Each color represents a job or specialty: Purple people handle aviation fuel, those in red handle ammunition and deal with fires and crashes (note the ones in the silver-colored flame resistant suits next to the crash wagon); blue means you’re a plane handler, tractor driver or aircraft elevator operator; folks in yellow are aircraft handling officers and plane directors, green jerseys have a number of tasks including maintenance, cargo and helicopter landing signals, but the only one visible in this photo appears to have camera equipment. so he or she is probably a photographer’s mate.
Dont’t forget to click on the photo to enlarge the image.
Forget rising oil prices, defense analysts say fallout from the unrest in Libya could include more small arms flooding the black market – including portable heat-seeking missiles capable of shooting down an airliner, the New York Times reports.
Besides the assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and ammunition taken by rebels from the captured armories and supply depots of the embattled Qaddafi regime, the Times says photos indicate some civilians are carrying around Soviet-era missiles like the Strella SA-7.
The fear is that more sophisticated shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, known as MANPADS (for Man-Portable Air Defense Systems) could wind up in the hands of terrorists, after years of non-proliferation efforts to collect and destroy what the U.S. State Department calls a “serious potential threat to global civilian aviation.”
MANPADS are an attractive weapon for terrorists and irregular armed forces because they are light, easy to conceal, widely available and relatively cheap, according to a June 2010 report by the Federation of American Scientists
The U.S. has destroyed more than 32,000 MANPADS in 30 countries since 2003, the State Department says The U.S. Homeland Security Department explored – but never deployed – a number of counter-MANPADS technologies for commercial airliners in the years after the 9/11 terror attacks, particularly after two missiles were fired at an Israeli charter airliner in East Africa in 2002 and one struck a civilian cargo jet over Baghdad in 2003. There was no loss of life in either incident.
While military aircraft have long had countermeasures to blind or confuse the infrared seeker mechanism of a MANPADS that focuses on the heat coming from an aircraft engine, similar technology was tested but ultimately rejected for U.S. commercial airline fleets as too expensive to install, too difficult to maintain — especially at foreign airports — or as too much of a drag on fuel efficiency, thus driving up operating costs. A RAND study in 2005 projected that it would cost as much as $11 billion to equip all U.S. commercial carriers with MANPADS countermeasures, and another $2.1 billion a year in operating costs.
So we found it interesting that the Fiscal 2012 defense budget seeks $21.4 million for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to continue developing Excalibur, a lightweight defensive laser weapon, to protect unmanned aerial vehicles and other low-flying aircraft from next generation MANPADS.
Times reporter C.J. Chivers updated his original story on a Times Blog site.