Archive for October 21, 2011

FRIDAY FOTO (October 21, 2011)

Getting Ready

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dominique Pineiro

U.S. Marines prepare for a training exercise on the flight deck of the USS New Orleans  in the Pacific Ocean. The Marines are assigned to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, (MEU) Maritime Raid Force. The helicopters are Boeing CH-46E Sea Knight helos, which can carry 14 Marines 151 miles for an air assault.

The New Orleans (LPD 18) is part of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, which includes the USS Makin Island (LHD 8), the Navy’s newest amphibious assault ship and the USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52), an amphibious dock landing ship. When this photo was taken (Oct. 10) the Ready Group was on a 12-day certification exercise off the southern California in preparation for a future deployment.

To see a slideshow of the exercise and duties sailors and Marines performed at sea, click here.

October 21, 2011 at 11:54 pm 1 comment

COUNTER TERRORISM: Basque Separatists Ending Violence Campaign

Peace in the Basque Country Still Uncertain 

While the demise of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi sparks headlines around the world, another development on the international terrorism front is largely being overlooked: in Europe, the militant Basque separatist group, ETA, has announced it is ending its decades-long campaign of bombings, shootings and kidnappings to win independence.

ETA announces end of violent Basque independence campaign.

The group, founded in 1959, called for “direct dialogue” with Spanish and French officials, the New York Times and other news outlets reported.

The Basque country, which straddles the border between northwest Spain and southwest France, includes the cities of Bilbao and Pamplona in Spain and Bayonne in France.

ETA, which stands for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna — “Basque Homeland and Freedom,” in the Basque language — has mounted a violent campaign against officials and police in both countries since the 1960s. Targets have also included journalists, academics, businessmen, railroads and a nuclear plant under construction. More than  800 people have been killed and thousands injured in Spain alone by ETA attacks.

ETA has declared, and then broken, ceasefires four times before. The group has been labeled a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States.

An international group of peacemakers that included former United Nations  General Secretary Kofi Annan met in Spain’s Basque country last week and issued a communique Oct. 17 calling for an end to “the last armed confrontation in Europe.” On Oct. 20 ETA issued a statement and a video (viewable on the website of Britain’s Guardian newspaper) declaring “definitive cessation of its armed activity.” The Spanish government welcomed the ETA proclamation but several thorny issues have yet to be addressed. ETA did not say it was disarming, and it is expected to seek the release of  hundreds of Basque prisoners being held in Spain, France and elsewhere.

The military dictatorship of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain from 1939 to 1975, banned the Basque language and other cultural activities in the region. In 1979,  Spain granted its part of Basque country a degree of autonomy.

Basque country map courtesy of The Basque Culture On-Line

The Basque Country On-Line

October 21, 2011 at 8:52 pm Leave a comment

COUNTER INSURGENCY: Kamikaze Drone in Afghanistan

Little and Lethal

The U.S. military has secretly deployed small, portable, kamikaze unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) to Afghanistan for use against Taliban insurgents, Bloomberg News reported this week.

Launching a Switchblade UAV. Photo courtesy of AeroVironment Inc.

The little, lethal UAV is known as Switchblade. It weighs less than six pounds, can be carried in a soldier’s backpack and is launched from a mortar-like tube. Once airborne, Switchblade, manufactured by AeroVironmentc Inc., sends back color video imagery and GPS (global positioning system) coordinates which the soldier can view on a hand-held ground controller. It’s the same controller that operates AeroVironment’s other small unmanned air systems (SUAS) like the hand-launched Raven. The 24-inch-long Switchblade is battery-powered and can stay aloft — at around 500 feet — for between five and 10 minutes.

But what makes Switchblade unique is the ability to transition from a low-flying reconnaissance drone to small bomb with the flick of a switch by the soldier operating the ground controller. It can then be aimed at a nearby — but out of sight — target  such as an un-armored vehicle or small enemy group on a rooftop or in a  shallow cave. When detonated, it acts like a flying shotgun blast, an Army official told Bloomberg. But the small, controlled explosion cuts down on the risk of harming nearby non-combatants and bystanders, according to AeroVironment. The soldier on the ground can also call off the attack even after the switch to flying bomb is made, AeroVironment says.

The Army secretly deployed the attack UAV to Afghanistan last year and plans to order more and deploy them where needed, according to the Bloomberg report.

For it’s part, AeroVironment announced in September that it had received a $4.9 million contract from the Army’s Close Combat Weapons Systems office. “The award is  for rapid fielding of this capability to deployed combat forces,” AeroVironment said in a press release, which did not specify where Switchblade would be deployed.

While some follow-on news accounts herald Switchblade as a “new weapon,” your 4GWAR editor first wrote about Switchblade in a posting at Defense Technology International’s ARES on Defense blog last year.

Here’s an AeroVironment promotional video of how the Switchblade could be used on TIME’s website.

 

October 21, 2011 at 12:37 pm Leave a comment


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