Posts filed under ‘News Developments’
Next Gen GPS Satellite
U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin announced today (June 5) it has successfully completed final functional integration tests of the network communications equipment going on the next generation Global Positioning Satellite system known as GPS III.
GPS is a navigation system provided by two dozen medium earth orbit satellites maintained and operated by the U.S. Air Force. GPS allows users — both civilian and military — to track where they are on the Earth’s surface to within a couple of meters. The ageing system, first created during the Cold War, is to be replaced by the newer, more accurate GPS III satellites being built by a Lockheed Martin-led team. In addition to being more accurate, the new GPS satellites are said to be more resistant to signal jamming, a growing concern to the military and commercial air and maritime businesses.
Your 4GWAR editor recently completed a magazine article on technologies to improve or even replace satellite-based navigation. The piece will be in the July issue of Unmanned Systems magazine, published by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).
The Lockheed Martin team also successfully tested how the the spacecraft bus that will carry the GPS equipment and other payloads into space will integrate with other equipment on the satellite. That testing of the GPS III space vehicle — known as SV 1– assures that all the systems on the part of the space craft that carries mission payloads are functioning normally and ready for final integration with the satellite’s navigation system.
The systems that were tested include: guidance, navigation and control, command and data handling, on-board computer and flight software. The SV 1 satellite’s network communications equipment also passed all tests.
The successfull completion of the latest SV 1 testing “validates that the spacecraft is now ready to begin the next sequence of payload integration and environmental testing,” said Keoki Jackson, vice president of Lockheed Martion’s Navigation Systems mission area.
The satellite remains on schedule for flight-ready delivery to the Air Force in 2014, company officials said.. Lockheed Martin is under contract for production of the first four GPS III satellites and advanced procurement funding for certain components of satellites five through eight.
Arctic Council Meeting
The eight-member Arctic Council holds its ministerial meeting in Sweden later this month and, according to The Arctic Institute’s, Arctic This Week newsletter, observers are speculating about which countries/entities will be admitted as full observers at the session, which starts May 14 in Kiruna, Sweden.
Participants at an academic conference in Montreal last month thought China would be tapped but the European Union wouldn’t, according to Nunatsiaq News. The eight permanent members (Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Canada, Denmark, Russia and the United States) each have, in effect, a veto over observer candidates, and some are unhappy with the EU’s ban on seal products.
But the EU’s ambassador to Canada is confident EU will get in despite objections about the ban from countries like Canada, which takes over as chairman for the next two years at the meeting in Sweden, according to iPOLITICS.
The council is an intergovernmental forum that tackles issues confronting Arctic nations and indigenous peoples of the Arctic. At the last ministers’ meeting, they agreed on an arctic search and rescue treaty.
Dust in the Wind
The short, stormy life of the Distinguished Warfare Medal is over.
In a statement, Hagel said the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force all agreed to create a new “distinguishing device,” honoring unmanned aircraft operators and warriors in cyberspace, that can be affixed to existing medals. Hagel ordered Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, to conduct a review of the proposed medal shortly after taking over the Pentagon last month.
The Distinguished Warfare Medal was created by the Defense Department, at the behest of then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in February to recognize the achievements of drone and cyber operations that had a direct and immediate effect on combat operations.
But veterans groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion complained about the new medal’s placed of precedence between the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Bronze Star medal — which is awarded for both heroism and distinguished service. That, critics complained, would honor service members who did not see combat above those earning the Purple Heart medal for being wounded or killed in battle.
In his statement, April 15, Hagel said he was directing the Defense Department to develop and present final award criteria and other specifics of the distinguishing device within 90 days for final approval. The distinguishing device has not been named or designed.
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SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.
A series of suicide and bomb attacks ripped through Somalia’s capital city, Mogadishu, Sunday (April 14) striking a court complex and the outskirts of the city’s international airport. As many as 29 people were killed in at least two separate attacks, the British newspaper The Telegraph reported.
According to the BBC, the Islamist militant group, al-Shabab, said it carried out the attacks.
Al-Shabab, which has links to al-Qaeda, has been blamed for a series of attacks in Mogadishu over the last two years. The group has been pushed out of most of the key towns it controlled in the southern part of the country after a stepped-up offensive by African Union peacekeepers allied with troops for Kenya and Ethiopia.
Quoting Somalia’s interior minister, the Associated Press reports that nine militants attacked Mogadishu’s Supreme Court complex and that all nine have been killed. Abdikarim Hussein Guled said that six of the attackers detonated suicide vests and three others were shot and killed during the assault, the AP added.
A car bomb was detonated later, outside a building housing security forces on the road to the airport. The blast went off near a convoy carrying Turkish aide workers, killing two of them, BBC reported.
Ghana Running Dry
Almost 40 percent of Ghana’s population lacks access to tap water, forcing the poor to pay high prices to private suppliers, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports. The West African nation’s booming economy is also being hurt by water shortages.
According to Bloomberg, water is one of the biggest issues facing Africa’s urban areas, which the United Nations says will see a 66 percent population increase – to 1.2 billion people by 2050.
Tuaregs Scout for French
Here’s a switch: Nomadic Tuaregs who stayed loyal to Mali’s government – during last year’s military coup, the Tuareg rebellion that sparked it and the violent Islamist insurgency that followed it – are now scouting for the French military.
They work as scouts for the French-led mission to purge Mali of its al-Qaeda-linked militants and return the country to government control, according to an AFP story in Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper.
Chad Withdrawing Troops
After helping drive Islamist insurgents from Mali’s northern towns, Chad intends to withdraw its troops from the embattled North African country because it doesn’t want to get bogged down in a guerilla war, according to Chad’s president, Reuters reports.
About 2,000 troops from Chad – like Mali a former French colony in northern Africa – fought alongside French troops in the heaviest fighting to drive the radical Islamists from remote towns as well as the deserts and mountains in Mali’s north.
But President Idriss Deby says “the Chadian army does not have the skills to fight a shadowy guerilla-style war that is taking place in northern Mali. “Our soldiers will return to Chad,” he told French reporters, noting a mechanized battalion has already been withdrawn.
Desert Refugee Crisis
A report by the humanitarian group, Doctors Without Borders, says about 70,000 refugees who fled the violence in Mali are living in “appalling” conditions in a camp in the middle of neighboring Mauritania’s desert.
About 15,000 more refugees have flooded into the camp since the ench intervention in January and now conditions at the camp are so bad that many who were healthy became ill or malnourished after they arrived, CNN reports.
Troops Kill 14 Suspected Rebels
Nigeria says its troops have killed 14 suspected members of the Islamist extremist group, Boko Haram, during a raid in the northern city of Kano, the BBC reported Sunday (March 31).
At least on soldier was also killed in the assault in a building suspected of being a staging area for attacks on Christians over Easter in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north, where Boko Haram has been fighting to create an Islamic state.
Boko Haram has killed an estimated 3,000 people in attacks on churches, schools and government officies since 2009, according to the Voice of America. The group, whose name means “Western education is forbidden,” in Nigeria’s Hausa language, has also attacked police, markets and newspapers offices. The group claimed credit for the kidnapping of a French family of tourists in neighboring Cameroon last month.
But human rights groups have accused Nigerian security forces of being trigger happy and killing hundreds of people during their operations against Boko Haram.
Insurgents Attack Timbuktu Again
Two months after French and Malian troops drove Islamist insurgents out of the ancient city of Timbuktu, the rebel fighters were back, attacking inside the city.
Officials said about five insurgents were killed in the attack which started as a suicide car bombing Saturday (March 30) at a security checkpoint, the New York Times reported.
A Malian soldier was also killed, the Voice of America reported. It is not known how many insurgents are still inside Timbuktu, which was occupied by the insurgents for severasl months after a military coup in southern Mali emboldened Tuareg separatists and Islamic terrorist groups to sweep down from the north and seize an area the size of Texas.
French aircraft and ground troops intervened in January — at the request of Mali’s president — to halt an insurgent advance threatening the capital, Bamako. Recently officials in Paris, who had wanted a quick-in-and-out operation, said at least 1,000 French troops were likely to be in Mali until year’s end. But that force would be about 3,000 less than the current French deployment of 4,000 troops.
Kenyan Election Certified
Kenya’s Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that the recent presidential election was won (barely) by Uhuru Kenyatta fair and square, the Voice of America reported. Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta, won with just 50.7 percent of the vote. His closest rival, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, challenged the polling in court.
Violence after the election has been limited compared to the disorder after a close election in 2007 — which Odinga also lost. More than 1,000 people were killed in clashes between rival political groups and security forces.
Complicating matters, however: Both Kenyatta and his running mate, William Ruto, face trial at the International Criminal Court for their alleged roles orchestrating violence during that period.
Adds background, corrects size of Kenya’s economy
Kenya’s Supreme Court has been petitioned to examine the East African nation’s contested presidential election.
Uhuru Kenyatta – son of Kenya’s first president – was declared the winner of the March 4 election with 50.7 percent of the vote. But his opponent – Prime Minister Raila Odinga – says he has evidence of voter fraud and is asking the high court to examine his party’s claims. Kenyatta, who had been deputy prime minister, faces charges of crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court in The Hague for his alleged part in the post election violence that left more than 1,000 people dead. Kenyatta’s running mate, William Ruto, faces similar charges.
Odinga’s followers did not take to the streets to protest as they did when he lost another election in 2007 that was marred by widespread claims of fraud. Instead, his Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) party is taking his case to the courts, which have a better reputation for integrity now than they did in 2007, the New York Times reported.
Kenya’s constitution stipulates that the parties have one week to legally challenge an election and the Supreme Court has two weeks to rule on the challenge before the president is officially installed, according to the Voice of America.
Kenya, which gained its independence from Britain in the 1960s, is the 11th largest economy in Africa.
New AFRICOM Chief
Rodriquez, who is currently vice chief of staff of the Army, will take over from Army Gen. Carter Hamm, the current AFRICOM commander, who is retiring later this year.
AFRICOM, created by President George W. Bush, is responsible for protecting U.S. interests and assisting allies and partner nations in Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, its area of operation includes all of Africa except Egypt which comes under U.S. Central Command.
The command’s missions — outlined by Ham earlier — include: Countering terrorism and violent extremist organizations; Countering piracy and illicit trafficking; Partnering to strengthen defense capabilities; and preparing for and responding to crises.
France in Mali
Fighting against Islamist extremists in the mountains of northern Mali is turning out to be taking longer than first projected, says French officials who acknowledged today (Feb. 28) that their troops will likely remain in the North West African nation until July, the Associated Press reports.
The French military intervention, which began with helicopter and fighter jet airstrikes Jan. 11, was expected to be a quick in and out operation — officials had been talking about a March pullout. But now several French officials tell the AP that the 4,000 French troops in Mali will have to stay longer.
German Mali Mission Approved
German lawmakers have given their permission for German military advisers to begin training Mali’s battered army. The mission was approved by lawmakers Feb. 27. As many as 350 German troops could be sent to Mali. About 180 troops will provide training, while another 150 German troops will provide logistical support including air transport and aerial refueling. But German troops will not be deployed in combat operations, according to German broadcaster Deutsche Weller (DW).
German troops have had some experience in Mali. Between 2005 and the military coup last year that spiraled into unrest and chaos, Bundesweher (German Federal Defence force) advisers have been permanently stationed in Mali, the German defense ministry told DW. Those advisers help Mali’s army set up an engineers unit.
Top Insurgent Commander Killed?
French forces fighting in Mali are believed to have killed a top commander of al Qaeda’s North Africa wing according to an Algerian TV channel, Reuters reports. The TV channel said Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, was killed in operations against Islamist fighters in northern Mali. The television channel Ennahar of Algeria said Abou Zeid was among 40 militants killed three days ago near the border with Algeria. Reuters said Ennahar is well connected with Algeria’s security services. French and Chadian troops have been trying to dislodge fighters from northern Mali since mid-January.
Chuck in Charge
Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) was sworn in today as the 24th Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon.
In an address to uniformed and civilian workers at the Pentagon, Hagel called for teamwork with allies — “working with old allies and reaching out to new allies.” He added: “We must lead with our allies. No nation, as great as America is, can do anything alone.”
Mentioning the looming budget cuts posed by the sequestration deficit reduction measures scheduled to take effect March 1, Hagel said: “That’s a reality. We need to figure this out …we need to deal with this reality.”
After he was sworn in, Hagel said he spent some time at the Pentagon’s memorial to the 9/11 attack. He noted that Thursday (Feb. 28) will be the 22nd anniversary of the end of Operation Desert Storm, the first war in Iraq. In the time between those two events he said, one “starts to see a pattern of different kinds of threats,” Hagel said.
He noted that the military, and the country as a whole, faces a continuing number of challenges. “If nothing else, what we’re all dealing with is the uncertainty of the planning, the uncertainty of the commitments, the uncertainty of what’s ahead,” he said. Hagel promised to a defense secretary who “will be straight with you.” Then with a grin, he ended the brief session saying: “Now I’ve got to go to work.”
Obama’s Choice Approved
Now Leon Panetta can finally retire to his farm in California. The U.S. Senate today (Feb. 26) voted to approve — by a narrow margin — the nomination of Chuck Hagel as the next Secretary of Defense.
The Senate voted 58-to-41 to confirm Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska and Vietnam combat veteran, as the 24th Defense Secretary. It was the closest vote on a nominee for the Pentagon post since it was created in 1947, the New York Times reported.
The nomination was held up by his former Republican colleagues who staged a de facto fillibuster before Congress took a Washington’s Birthday break earlier this month.
In the end, only four Republicans voted for Hagel: Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Richard Shelby of Alabama, the Times reported.
Hagel’s opposition to the 2007 troop surge in Iraq and sanctions against Iran earned him the enmity of conservatives. And comments critical of Israel’s influence on Capitol Hill and an openly gay nominee for an ambassadorship created more enemies who sought to discredit him for what he had said or written in years past. Senate opponents also raised questions about whether — after leaving the Senate — he was paid by foreign governments and organizations hostile to the United States. No evidence was found.
The delay in Hagel’s nomination process forced Panetta to come back to Washington from an anticipated retirement to travel to a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels this month. Hagel earned two Purple Hearts during service as an Army sergeant, and served as senator from Nebraska from 1997 to 2009. He is scheduled to be sworn in Feb. 27
Special Operators Told to Leave
U.S. Special Operations forces are getting the boot from a strategically important Afghan province outside the capital.
On Sunday (Feb. 24), Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered all U.S. special operations troops out of Wardak Province southwest of Kabul, the capital. Karzai blamed “this suspicious force,” in a statement issued by his office for “harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people,” the Washington Post and other news outlets reported. A Karzai spokesman, seeking to clarify that statement, said the Kabul government actually blamed Afghans “working within these Special Forces groups” for the abuses.
The strategically significant, central province of Wardak has been the recent focus of counter-insurgency operations, noted the BBC.
The Afghan statement said all special operations forces must be gone from Wardak in two weeks.
NATO said Monday it has found no evidence to support Karzai’s allegations, CNN reported. The U.S. military has said it is investigating and officials of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force plan to hold talks about the allegations with Afghan officials.
Karzai’s demand is “an ominous development for future U.S. and NATO plans, which are expected to rely heavily on special operations forces to take on a greater role as the bulk of conventional forces are withdrawn from Afghanistan” in 2014, according to The Long War Journal.
Wardak Province is located below and to the left of Kabul in the map below.