Archive for October, 2012

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (Oct. 28-Nov. 3)

Foreshadowing Future Battles

All is apparently quiet on land and sea this week 200 years ago, but communications from two commanders at opposite ends of the country to their superiors foreshadow battlers yet to come.

Gen. William Henry Harrison, commander of the Army of the Northwest (today’s Midwest states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin, is informed by traders with the Indians that the Miamis have been sending messengers to the Delawares, inviting them to join the fight against the United States. Word of these communications comes just a month after the garrisons at Fort Wayne and Fort Harrison (both in Indiana) have withstood attacks by Native American warriors in large numbers.

Indiana Territory map by Dingusdog via Wikipedia

On Oct. 26, 1812, Harrison writes to Secretary of War William Eustis in Washington seeking approval for a plan to attack Miami towns along the Mississinewa River in the Indiana Territory. On Nov. 5, Eustis writes back that Harrison should use his own judgment as to whether “the Miamis, as well as the other Indians, must be dealt with as their merits and demerits” may require.

A month later Harrison will order Lt. Col. John Campbell to lead an expedition of 600 mounted troops against the Miami villages along the Mississinewa.

Meanwhile, in New Orleans, the naval commander is worried that he doesn’t have enough ships and men to defend the port against the British or pirates.

Commodore John Shaw, who commands a small flotilla of boast and ships, writes to Navy Secretary Paul Hamilton to complain that the number of vessels under his command is inadequate to deal with the threat posed to American commerce at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

It will be two years before the British, finally done fighting Napoleon’s armies, will make a move against New Orleans. Some of the pirates Shaw fretted about will be among the motley force defending New Orleans in January 1815 including: U.S. Army regulars, Sailors and Marines, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi militia, New Orleans gentry and free blacks, slaves and Choctaw Indians.

Battle of New Orleans
(Library of Congress)

October 29, 2012 at 1:21 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (Oct. 26, 2012) UPDATE

After the Bomb

U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Bonebrake

The U.S. military and its coalition partners may be winding down their presence in Afghanistan, but just getting from Point A to Point B can still be a dangerous proposition.

Combat engineers (sappers) of the 20th Engineer Brigade were on their way to Combat Outpost Baraki Barak earlier this month in eastern Afghanistan’s contested Logar Province, when one of their vehicles was hit by a roadside bomb.

In the photo above, we see Army Sgt. Jonathan Butcher, a team leader with 1st Platoon, 102nd Sapper Company, 307th Engineer Battalion (Combat Airborne), 20th Engineer Brigade, set up security after the blast until a wrecker could haul away the damaged vehicle and a helicopter could evacuate the wounded.

Logar map and districts
(Via Wikipedia)

If you click on the photo to enlarge the image you can also see the vehicle in question is an MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle. The blast dug a wide hole in the road and appears to have damaged at least two wheels, but the MRAP — which has a V-shaped bottom to deflect the blast effects outward — is still upright and the crew/passenger cabin appears to be intact.

One soldier was wounded in the attack. The first platoon cleared a route in the Baraki Barak district to facilitate the movement of supplies to the combat outpost.

Sappers are combat engineers specially-trained to support front line infantry. To see more photos of this mission, click here.

October 26, 2012 at 12:29 am Leave a comment

INTERNATIONAL CRIME: Pirate Attacks Decline Off Somalia, but Rising in West Africa

Good News/Bad News

Updates photo caption to clarify nature of burning vessel.

Somalia Map courtesy of University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center

Pirate attacks by Somali pirates have fallen to their lowest level since 2009, an international piracy monitoring group says, but violent attacks and ship hijackings are on the rise off the coast of West Africa, the Paris-based International Maritime Bureau (IMB) adds.

The IMB says that in the first nine months of 2012, there were 70 attacks on ships in and around Somali waters, compared with 199 for the same period last year. And for the third quarter (July-September) only one ship reported an attempted attack by suspected Somali pirates compared to to 36 incidents for the same three-month period in 2011.

Worldwide, six crew members have been killed and 448 seafarers have been taken hostage by pirates, according to the IMB report. The IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre said 125 ships were boarded, 24 were hijacked and 26 were fired upon during the first nine months of 2012. Additionally, 58 attempted attacks were reported. For the year through September, there were 233 incidents worldwide. The most recent incident occurred Wednesday (Oct. 24, see photo).

The IMB, a unit of the International Chamber of Commerce, has been monitoring world piracy since 1991.

A suspected pirate ship burns off the coast of Somalia after being fired upon by the Dutch warship HNMLS Rotterdam, the flagship for NATO’s Ocean Shield counter-piracy mission. The Rotterdam opened fire when the pirate ship and suspected pirates ashore began shooting at a boarding party from the Dutch ship coming to inspect the suspicious fishing dhow on Oct. 24, 2012. (NATO courtesy photo)

As of September 30, 11 vessels were being held for ransom by suspected Somali pirates along with 188 crew members held hostage on land or aboard ship.

The IMB says the drop in piracy incidents around the Horn of Africa (see map above) is due to stepped up policing and interventions by international navies — including the European Union’s Operation Atalanta, NATO and Combined Task Force 151 — and individual ships’ use of armed guards and other onboard security measures.

Gulf of Guinea

Gulf of Guinea via Wikipedia

But it’s a different story in West Africa where piracy and kidnapping are growing problems, the IMB says. In the Gulf of Guinea there were 34 incidents between January 1 and September 30 — up from 30 last year. The IMB said attacks are often violent and aimed at stealing refined oil products which can be easily sold on the open market. Togo reported three vessels hijacked, two boarded and six reported attempted attacks. One ship was hijacked and another boarded off Benin. There were 21 attacks reported by Nigerian authorities: nine vessels were boarded, four were hijacked and seven fired upon. There was also one attempted attack.

IMB Director Captain Pottengal Mukundan commended the Nigerian Navy for its reaction in a number of incidents where it played a key role in rescuing ships from pirates. The full report can be found here, but note it has strict copyright restrictions on being reprinted.

October 25, 2012 at 11:50 pm Leave a comment

NAVAL WARFARE: Brazilian Navy S&T Chief Wants Access to U.S. High Tech

Blue Amazon

Brazilian submarines
Brazilian Navy photo via Wikipedia

The head of the Brazilian Navy’s science and technology (S&T) unit thinks the United States should ease up its technology export controls for one of its key allies in Latin America.

“We would like it if the U.S. would be sensitive to Brazilian technology needs,” Admiral Wilson Guerra told a session of the Office of Naval Research’s S&T Partnership Conference this week.

Guerra, speaking Portuguese and translated by simultaneous interpreters, said “technology embargoes” had prevented Brazil from obtaining radar-evading stealth technology. “Brazil is a major partner with the U.S.,” Guerra said, adding that both countries’ navies “have been working together for a long time.”

As Secretary of Science, Technology and Innovation for the Brazilian Navy, Guerra outlined the naval portion of his country’s new strategic plan. It involves strengthening the military’s presence in the Amazon Region and its many rivers. Another part calls for paying as much attention to the waters 100 miles off Brazil’s 7,491 kilometer/6,654 mile coastline as to the Amazon, long seen as a major contributor to Brazil’s economy.

“The Brazilian people didn’t understand the significance of the sea” Guerra said, so the shift in priorities was dubbed the Blue Amazon (Amazonia Azul video in Portuguese) to signify the economic and strategic importance of the sea coast and its deeper waters which are believed to contain vast petroleum deposits.

Keeping those resources secure is one reason for Brazil’s “new strategic vision,” which links national defense with national development. 4GWAR first reported about Brazil’s new strategic defense plan two years ago when then-Defense Minister Nelson Jobim spoke at George Washington University in Washington, DC.

Guerra said it was not just a naval strategy but a strategy “for the entire Brazilian state.”

A camouflaged Brazilian Navy patrol boat in the Amazon region.
Brazilian Navy photo via Wikipedia

For the military, the plan calls for one aircraft carrier, 23 escort vessels, 28 district patrol boats, eight submarines and the construction of a nuclear submarine with French assistance. Three French/Spanish-designed Scorpene subs have been built so far.

Guerra said eventually Brazil will have two fleets. One based in Rio de Janiero, the other farther north in or near the Amazon.

October 24, 2012 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: Quest for New Special Forces Vehicle

Road Kill(er)

Northrop Grumman photo

Northrop Grumman Corp. unveiled – literally – its entry in the competition for a new U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) high mobility ground vehicle Monday (Oct. 22) on the exhibition floor of the huge Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington.

When officials from Northrop Grumman and partners BAE Systems and Pratt & Miller Engineering pulled away the camouflage cover, reporters and photographers got their first look at the Medium Assault Vehicle-Light, or MAV-L.

Designed from scratch by Northrop Grumman and Pratt & Miller – which designs, builds and races motor sports cars – the MAV-L looks like a combination Humvee and dune buggy with a tubular frame but no doors or solid roof.

The sand-colored, 13,000-pound vehicle (when fully loaded) is designed to travel at speeds over 80 miles per hour over paved roads and 60 mph on cross country trails – although it can take on muddy, rocky, sandy, uneven terrain where there are no trails at all.

It seats six – including a gunner in a sling-like seat in a bare-bones circular gun turret. But it can zoom out of the back a large helicopter or cargo plane for a rapid assault mission – like an airfield seizure — with eight more Special Forces troops hanging onto the vehicle’s sides, says Frank Sturek, Northrop’s MAV-L program manager.

The seats are built wide to accommodate Special Forces troops with all their equipment, weapons and body armor. The MAV-L has a modular design that allows rapid reconfiguration of storage areas and communications and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment. Among the modules is an arctic one, that enables the engine to perform at extreme low temperatures.

One of Special Forces Command’s requirements for a new vehicle to replace its Humvees is that it can be driven on and off a cargo plane or helo, as is. The MAV-L fits on an Air Force C-130 Hercules cargo plane or an Army or Special Operations Aviation CH/MH-47 Chinook helicopter. A hydraulic system allows the vehicle’s 82-inch ride height to scrunch down to 72.6 inches – the way some city buses can “kneel” to allow handicapped passengers to board – and fit on an aircraft, Sturek added.

The MAV-L is one one of several vehicles offered by defense contractors in the U.S. Special Operations Command Ground Mobility Vehicle 1.1 competition. They include General Dynamics Land Systems’ GMV 1.1, the Navistar Defense Special Operations Tactical Vehicle and Humvee-maker AM General’s GMV.

The SOCOM GMV 1.1 program could purchase up to 1,300 vehicles for special operations missions requiring air transportability, weapons capabilities and high-performance ground mobility. No contract has been awarded but when SOCCOM makes its decision, production is expected to begin in 2013.

If the Northrop Grumman team wins, the vehicles will be manufactured at BAE Systems facility in Sealy, Texas.

October 23, 2012 at 1:56 am 1 comment

AFRICA: New Head of Africa Command Tapped

Rodriquez would succeed Ham

(U.S. Army photo)

President Barack Obama has nominated Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez as the next chief of Africa Command.

If the choice is confirmed by the Senate, Rodriquez (photo left) would be the third commander of the newest U.S. regional combatant command. He would succeed Gen. Carter F. Ham, who had headed AFRICOM since March 2011.

Africa Command, based in Stuggart, Germany is responsible for protecting U.S. interests in Africa and assisting allies to counter insurgencies, terrorism and piracy. The only U.S. military presence in Africa is Camp Lemonier, a former French Foreign Legion post in Djibouti near the Horn of Africa.

A 1976 West Point graduate, Rodriguez is currently commander of U.S. Army Forces Command.

He was the top deputy commander in Afghanistan during the surge of troops ordered by Obama to stabilize the country in preparation for a U.S. withdrawal in 2014.


October 22, 2012 at 12:47 am Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (Oct. 21-Oct. 27)

U.S. Navy Wins Again

Battle between United States and Macedonian

In mid-October the USS United States, one of the Navy’s original six frigates, is on patrol in the North Atlantic off the Azores when a sail is spotted on the horizon.

It is the British frigate HMS Macedonian heading for the West Indies. Stephen Decatur, captain of the United States and hero of the war against the Tripolitan pirates, sets a course to intercept the British ship and John Surman Carden, the Macedonian’s captain does the same.

The ships come together and Decatur orders the first broadside from his 44-gun vessel, which has bigger guns with a longer range. By noon the Macedonian’s masts have been knocked down and one third of the Macedonian’s 300-man crew have been killed or wounded.

When Decatur prepares to fire another broadside, Carden is forced to surrender.

The United States spends the next two weeks alongside the Macedonian, with Decatur’s crew seeking to repair the damaged ship. After sufficient repairs are made, Decatur sailed with his prize into New York Harbor where he and his crew are proclaimed heroes.

It is the first time in the war a British man of war is captured by a U.S. commander. The Macedonian will be renamed the USS Macedonian and spends many years in U.S. Navy service.

In 1813 a British squadron drives both ships into the harbor at New London, Connecticut for refuge. United States is kept bottled up there until the end of the war. Macedonian manages to evade the blockade and escapes to sea.

October 22, 2012 at 12:17 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 19, 2012)

Saber Junction

U.S. Army photo by Markus Rauchenberger

Aaah, autumn in Bavaria: the crisp air, the colorful foliage, the rumble of a U.S. Army cavalry column.

This convoy of vehicles, led by an Army Stryker vehicle, is entering the village of Schalkenthan, near Grafenwoehr, Germany, during Saber Junction 2012. The multinational exercise involves U.S. troops and 1,800 NATO and non-NATO personnel from 18 nations including Germany, Bulgaria, Italy, Moldova, Sweden, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Britain.

If you click on the image to enlarge it, you will see the grenade launching tubes to the left of the soldier in the top hatch of the Stryker, as well as the heavy machine gun just above the grenade launchers.

In addition to developing interoperability of communications networks and systems, the exercise seeks to overcome language barriers and promote cultural understanding.

The huge training and manuever area — 1,300 square miles — exposes the Army’s 2nd Cavalry Regiment (2CR) to the real-life challenges of civilian traffic, civilian authorities and civilians on the battlefield, in addition to the real-world experience of working as a coalition.

Saber Junction is the largest exercise of its kind in Europe since 1989. And before the exercise concludes on Oct. 30, it will see the use of jets, helicopters, Main Battle Tanks, Infantry Fighting Vehicles, Strykers and more than 200 wheeled vehicles and 90 tracked vehicles.

The 2nd Cavalry will have to deal not only with a mock insurgency but also force-on-force action against a conventional opponent. Army officials want to incorporate the lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan with scenarios U.S. troops my face in 10 or 15 years.

To learn more about Saber Junction click here. For more photos, click here.

To see a brief Army video outlining the exercise’s scope, click here.

October 19, 2012 at 12:55 am Leave a comment

MARINE CORPS: Light Armored Vehicles to Stay in Service Until 2035

Two More Decades

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Michael E. Warren)

Because of tight budgets and shifting priorities, the U.S. Marine Corps plans to hang on to its 1980s’ Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs) for another 23 years.

Earlier this year, Marine Corps Commandant James Amos told the House defense appropriations subcommittee that the Marines were exploring “options to adjust to changing fiscal realities” and that was creating “a clear imperative” to reset some legacy equipment while modernizing the rest. Amos said the venerable LAV is one of the programs “vital to our ground combat elements.”

The seven different versions of the LAV have been providing the Marines with reconnaissance, infantry support, anti-tank protection, troop and supply transport — as well as electronic warfare capabilities — for 29 years.  The eight-wheel, diesel-powered combat infantry vehicle first entered the Marine Corps inventory in 1983 and has had two service-extending upgrades since then. Now all of the 900-plus LAVs in service will get blast-protected seats and other upgrades to improve survivability against roadside bombs and vehicle crashes.

Three of the seven LAV variants are in line for additional upgrades like advanced weapons systems or satellite communications.

To read more of our LAV article for Seapower magazine, click here.

October 18, 2012 at 11:29 am Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Pirates and Militants in Nigeria, Congo’s Rebels

Pirates Seize 7 Off Nigeria

West African piracy incidents
(International Maritime Bureau)

Seven European sailors have been kidnapped by pirates who attacked a French company’s ship off the coast of Nigeria, the company said today (Oct. 17).

Paris-based Bourbon SA – an oil and gas services company – said in a brief press release on its website that the seven seamen  – six Russian nationals and an Estonian – were taken after their ship, Bourbon Liberty 249 (click here for photo), was boarded on Oct. 15 in Nigerian waters. Nine other crew members remain aboard the oil rig support vessel, which is bound for the port of Onne in Nigeria, the company said.

According to the Associated Press, the assault took place off Nigeria’s oil rich delta region. A military spokesman told the news service that forward deployed units have been ordered to comb the area for the pirates and their hostages.

Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa but the poverty-stricken delta region has been rife with violence and unrest. While oil has made billions for Nigeria, inhabitants of the delta have complained they have seen little benefit in money or services such as education and health care. For years, pipelines and oil rigs have been attacked by militants and foreign oil workers have been kidnapped, although most are released unharmed after a ransom is collected. The AP said gunmen attacked another oil supply company’s vessel in August, taking four workers who were later released unharmed.

The International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre lists several locations along West Africa’s coast as piracy-prone areas including: Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Ivory Coast.

— —

Sectarian Violence in Nigeria

(CIA World Factbook map)

At least 24 people have been killed by explosions and gunfire in what appears to be another outbreak in sectarian violence in northern Nigeria, according to the Voice of America.

Nigeria’s Joint Task Force says it has killed 24 suspected Boko Haram terrorists in the city of Maiduguri on Monday (Oct. 15). Boko Haram, the name means “Western education is sinful,” has been battling local governments and the Nigerian federal government since 2009. The group wants Nigeria – where Muslims predominate in the north while Christians are the majority in the south – to adopt strict Islamic law.

Nigerian officials blame Boko Haram for more than 1,500 deaths since 2009, but some human rights groups say both the authorities as wsell as the militants may be responsible for crimes against humanity.

— —

Congo Wars

A confidential United Nations reports says Rwanda and Uganda are arming rebels against the government of  neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The report, according to Reuters which got a look at the secret document, goes so far as to say that Rwanda’s Defense Minister, Gen. James Kabarebe, is directing the M23 rebels in the eastern DRC. The rebels have been battling Congolese troops for six months and the 44-page report, written by experts serving the UN Security Council, says both Rwanda and Uganda have been violating an arms embargo and supplying the rebels with weapons and other support.

The DRC and its neighbors Rwanda (RW) and Uganda (UG).
(CIA World Factbook)

Both Rwanda and Uganda deny the allegation and Ugandan officials angrily claim the U.N. is trying to undermine their efforts to bring peace to the DRC, which has been wracked by civil war, insurgencies and roaming bands of marauders like Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army.

More than 200,000 villagers have fled their homes in the DRC’s Kivu Province since the M23 uprising began in April. The M23 group — an outgrowth of a Congolese Tutsi rebel army created to fight Rwanda Hutu rebels who fled to the Congo – claims the DRC broke a 2009 peace deal that would integrate them into the regular DRC Army, the Associated Press reports.

October 17, 2012 at 5:29 pm Leave a comment

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