Archive for April, 2012

FRIDAY FOTO (April 6, 2012)

Garde d’honneur

U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade

For a change of pace, we thought we’d show a little pageantry in this week’s FRIFO, and when it comes to pageantry few military organizations can touch the French Defense Forces: camouflage uniforms with gold epaulettes!

Here French soldiers — we think they’re soldiers (note the diamond-shaped anchor patch on their sleeves, possibly Marines?) — render military honors to U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno during an arrival ceremony at L’Hotel National Des Invalides in Paris Thursday (April 5). Les Invalides is a complex containing an Army museum, monuments, a hospital and retirement home for military veterans. It also houses the tomb of Napoleon.

Odierno was in France as part of a tour of several U.S. commands and installations in Europe, according to Stars and Stripes.  The visits come as the Army prepares to shrink its personnel and facilities in Europe as part of the post-Iraq and Afghanistan drawdown and the Pentagon’s shifting focus on Asia and the Pacific. While in Paris, he delivered a speech at the French War College to students from more than 60 nations.

To see more photos of the ceremony — and how the new U.S. general officer’s uniform stands up against the French in the gold braid competition — click here. There are also some pretty interesting French uniforms, colorful kepis (caps), white gauntlets, etc.

We’d also like to hear from any visitors who also think that the French Army chief of staff’s kepi appears to be a size too small — compared to the other officers and enlisted men’s headgear.

April 6, 2012 at 1:54 pm Leave a comment

ASIA-PACIFIC: First Contingent of U.S. Marines Lands in Australia

Destination: Darwin

U.S. Marines have begun arriving in Australia in the first six-month rotation as part of a cooperation agreement between the two countries. But the pact has raised concerns with China and at least one other country in the region.

About 200 members of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment arrived Tuesday (April 3) in the northern city of Darwin. They are the first contingent of 2,500 Marines expected to be deployed in Australia by 2017. It’s all part of an agreement signed by President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard when Obama was Down Under in November, the New York Times reported.  At that time, Beijing criticized the move as a figment of “Cold War mentality” that would destabilize the region.

U.S. Marines on parade with the 5th Battalion (Mechanised) Royal Australian Regiment during welcome ceremony at Robertson Barracks, Darwin. (Australian Defence Force photo by CPL Christopher Dickson)

The Marines will be there largely to train with the Australian Defence Force – particularly in amphibious warfare operations, which the Marines see as one of their primary skills – and a primary reason for continued funding in hard budgetary times. The Third Marines are based in Hawaii.

The agreement between the U.S. and Australia also calls for greater access to Royal Australian Air Force bases for U.S. aircraft and eventually more visits by U.S. Navy vessels to the western Australian naval base outside Perth. The Marines, who will be stationed at Robertson Barracks outside Darwin, will also be better positioned to respond to natural disasters in Southeast Asia and provide humanitarian assistance, U.S. officials told the Voice of America. There will be no U.S. base in Australia, officials said.

Australia has been a close U.S. ally since World War II. Australia sent troops to the Korean and Vietnam wars and Australia has been one of the largest non-NATO contributors of military personnel in Afghanistan. Last year, for the fourth time, the U.S. and Australian militaries conducted a biennial training exercise, Talisman Sabre in northern Australia and adjoining waters. Fourteen thousand U.S. and 9,000 Australian troops participated in the exercise last July.

Amphibious Assault Vehicles with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, on Freshwater Beach during a mock amphibious assault rehearsal for Exercise Talisman Sabre 2011 with Australian Defence Forces. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Under the November agreement, the U.S. troops will be rotated in an out of Australia but not permanently based there. The deployment is part of the Obama administration’s strategy shift focusing on the Asia Pacific region after more than 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. has also reached an agreement with the island nation of Singapore to base two of the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) there. Singapore has been a key player in the efforts to halt piracy in the area near the Malacca Strait, a major maritime choke point through which much of the world’s oil is shipped. Australia is also negotiating with Washington about allowing U.S. unmanned aircraft to fly surveillance missions out of the Cocos Islands, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean about 1,700 miles/2,750 kilometers from Perth.

The Philippines is also in negotiations with the U.S. to allow a large U.S. troop presence in the former American colony, which evicted U.S. forces from a large air base and naval station there in the 1990s. Filipino law bars U.S. troops from fighting on Philippines oil although there are U.S. military advisers providing medical, veterinary and educational assistance as well as instruction in counter insurgency tactics. But like many of its neighbors, the Philippines has had territorial – and sometimes physical – confrontations with the China, which claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea.

Australia from CIA World Factbook

In addition to alarming China, the Marine deployment and the other military moves in Asia raised concerns in Indonesia, according the Australian Boadcasting Corp.

April 5, 2012 at 9:08 pm 2 comments

WEAPONRY AND EQUIPMENT: Little Raven UAV Getting Improved Sensor Payload

Moving Eye in the Sky (Adds dropped material)

The widely used, hand-launched RQ-11B Raven small unmanned aerial system (SUAS) is getting an improved sensor payload that will make it more effective in providing situational awareness for troops on the ground.

U.S. Army photo by Sgt. First Class Michael Guillory

AeroVironment Inc., the Raven’s manufacturer unveiled a new miniature gimbaled sensor payload for the RQ-11B this week at the annual professional forum and expo of the Army Aviation Association of America in Nashville, Tenn.

The 4.5-pound Raven, which can be carried disassembled in a backpack and launched by a single soldier, is 38 inches long with a wingspan of 55 inches. It provides wireless realtime video imagery to a ground control station.

The modular payload includes a high resolution color and infrared thermal video sensor on a gimbal, or small turret. The new payload replaces two stationary payloads – an electro-optical sensor and an infrared sensor – for day and night operation. The gimbaled sensor payload will enhance the Raven’s capabilities by allowing both higher visual fidelity and continuous observation of an item of interest – regardless of which direction the SUAS is flying.

AeroVironment says the new payload will be a standard component of future Raven systems and will be sold as an upgrade for already fielded units. AeroVironment recently was awarded an $11 million contract by the U.S. Army to provide logistics support for Raven systems. The cost-plus-fixed-fee sole source contract covers Army, Marine Corps and Raven systems acquired by foreign militaries through the Foreign Military Sale (FMS) program. Under the FMS program the U.S. government procures defense articles and services on behalf of about 160 countries deemed eligible by the president and vetted by the State Department.  

In its Fiscal 2013 budget request, the Army is seeking $26 million to acquire Ravens for small unit intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. In 2012 Congress authorized the purchase of 900 Ravens for $60 million. The raven is also used by the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and Special Operations Command.

April 4, 2012 at 12:21 am Leave a comment

AFRICA: Things Go From Bad to Worse After Mali Coup, Nomads’ Insurgency

A Tale of Two Uprisings

Mali (CIA World Factbook)Just 12 days ago young soldiers in Mali — frustrated with poor equipment and weapons in their battles against Tuareg insurgents in the country’s northern deserts — launched their own rebellion, driving out the sitting government and tearing up the constitution of one of the region’s few stable democracies.

Now the leaders of the March 22 coup face condemnation from the west, as well as economic and diplomatic isolation from their neighbors that could cause food, gasoline and government funds to dry up. Meanwhile, the Tuareg insurgency has filled the void during the nation’s unrest, seizing several key towns in Mali’s north – including the legendary desert city of Timbuktu, the Associated Press reported.

Troops at an Army base just outside the capital city of Bamako and at another camp near the northern city of Gao rebelled against President Amadou Toumani Toure’s government, claiming it was mishandling the Tuareg rebellion. The troops seized and looted the presidential palace, took over the government broadcast center and announced that Toure was desposed, the government dissolved and the constitution voided until a elections can be held and civilian rule restored. (See video here). But the coup’s leader, Capt. Amadou Hayo Sanogo, has declined to say when those elections will be held.

Ironically, the coup took place just a month before presidential elections to pick a successor for Toure who was stepping down because of term limits. At the time, Mali, which had seen four peaceful presidential elections since 1992, was seen as one of the best examples of democracy in action in the often troubled region.

Mali (CIA World Factbook)

Meanwhile, the rebellion by the nomadic Tuaregs which started in January, swept across the country’s arid northern region. The rebellion, the latest in a series of uprisings since the 1960s seeking an independent Tuareg homeland, began in January and picked up steam with the return of heavily armed tribesmen who had been serving as mercenaries for Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi before he was removed from power and killed. Since the Mali army coup, the desert rebels have seized the regional capital of Kidal; Gao, the desert area’s largest city; and Timbuktu (Tombouctou on the map), a caravan crossroads and center of Islamic learning in Africa for centuries. All three fell with little resistance in just three days. Timbuktu has been declared a United Nations World Heritage site.

Complicating matters, a conservative Islamist group has sprung up seeking to impose Muslim sharia law in the areas controlled by Tuaregs,  Reuters reported. That drive has worried religious leaders in the three recently seized cities where a more moderate form of Islam is practiced.

Meanwhile, a 15-member regional economic bloc, the Economic Community of West African States, has threatened to close Mali’s borders with the group, isolate it diplomatically and cut off access to ECOWAS’s central bank.

April 2, 2012 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

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