Archive for November, 2012

FRIDAY FOTO (November 30, 2012)

Nature’s Power Projection

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Greg Linderman)

Lighting flashes on the horizon briefly cast a weird light — combined with night vision photography — over the Hornets and Super Hornets on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69).

it is often said that aircraft carriers are one of the leading means for the United States to project power overseas. Here we see Mother Nature’s version of power projection. The Eisenhowerdeployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibilitywill be coming back to its homeport of Norfolk, Virginia in December for two months before heading back to the Middle East. The Ike had been conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Please click on the photo to see a bigger image. WordPress has changed its photo downloading software — eliminating the photo size option we used for the last three years at 4GWAR. Please bear with us as we try to figure out a workaround, to give you the bigger FRIFOs you are used to seeing at 4GWAR.

To see and read more about the Ike visit the carrier’s Facebook page.

November 30, 2012 at 1:04 am Leave a comment

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: First Pilotless Carrier Jet Comes Aboard UPDATE

Meet the Future

Defense Dept. photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lorenzo J. Burleson, U.S. Navy.

U.S. Navy sailors assist with the on-load of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator (UCAS-D) aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) late last month in Norfolk, Virginia.

This tailless, unmanned strike fighter aircraft is one of two built by Northrop Grumman for testing by the Navy in a carrier environment. Three days after this UCAS-D was delivered by barge to the Truman (Nov. 26),  the other UCAS-D was beinglaunched from a steam-powered catapult — another Navy first — at Patuxent Naval Air Station in Maryland (Nov. 29).

“We are working toward the future integration of unmanned aircraft on the carrier deck, something we didn’t envision 60 years ago when the steam catapult was first built here,” said Vice Admiral David Dunaway, commander of Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR)

The Navy will conduct X-47B carrier deck handling tests aboard the Truman, the first aircraft carrier to host test operations for an unmanned aircraft. Sea trials, set to begin later this month, will gauge the difficulty of integrating an unmanned aircraft into the confined space of a carrier flight deck. But no  test flights off the carrier are scheduled until next summer, according to NAVAIR.

Both X-47Bs are test aircraft designed and built to prove an unmanned jet aircraft can operate off an aircraft carrier at sea. We’ve written more on this for Smithsonian Air & Space magazine’s website here.

For more photos, click here.

November 29, 2012 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

SOFT POWER: Winning Hearts and Minds and Crops and Cattle

The Farmer/Soldier in the Dell

ARLINGTON, Va. – While U.S. and coalition troops training Afghan police and soldiers have gotten a lot of attention over the last year or two – mainly because of attacks by some of the people they’ve been training – less attention has been given another type of soldier: the ones teaching Afghan farmers how to do a better job of farming.

Sgt. 1st Class Mike Spurgin, a member of the Indiana National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team, in Khost, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jenny Lui)

Agriculture is still the largest source of income in Afghanistan – even though only 12 percent of the land is arable and only half of that is currently under cultivation.

Before the Soviet invasion and occupation (1979-1980) Afghanistan’s agricultural exports exceeded imports. But after nearly a decade of war, the fruit orchards have been cut down or bombed out. Forests have been decimated and irrigation canals destroyed or allowed to deteriorate.

Now, “they lack everything,” says retired Army Lt. Col. Craig Beardsley. “I don’t know how else to say it. They lack basic education in agriculture,” he told a recent conference on Human Geography.

Beardsley, is administrator of a program at Kansas State University that trains National Guard teams from agricultural regions how to teach better farming and livestock raising to the Afghans.

So far, KSU’s National Agricultural Biosecurity Center has trained four Kansas National Guard Agribusiness Development Teams and two from the South Carolina National Guard. They have also trained several units assigned to the 1st Infantry Division – including a Female Engagement Team (see below). The Agribusiness teams are from National Guard units in farm states.

The conference, sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA) brought together academics, military officers and industry experts to discuss trends and developments in human geography – a multi-discipline study of where a conflict is taking place and the culture, language and customs of the people who live there: friend and foe alike.

Beardsley said the teams his school send to Afghanistan are educated in Afghanistan culture and economics. They’re also trained in business development and business management to help Afghan farmers market their products and manage their resources.

He pointed out that while Afghanistan exports raw products like grain and fruit but imports processed – and value-added products like flour, juice and dried fruit. Most of Afghanistan’s agricultural exports go to Pakistan, India and Iran.

The emphasis is on keeping instruction simple and practical – something the Afghans can continue and maintain after the U.S. advisors leave.

He and others at the conference noted that the 11-year war in Afghanistan is more like a series of one-year wars because foreign trainers come for about a year and then are replaced by new trainers who might be from a different country.

For example, Beardsley said, it’s a mistake to assume the introduction of U.S. Agricultural techniques, equipment and seed “will solve all problems.” He noted 80 percent of the economy is agricultural, based on subsistence farming.

Two U.S. soldiers and a beekeeper look into a beehive during a visit to Afghanistan’s Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock Department in Khost. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jenny Lui)

Among other lessons learned: the importance of getting to know who is in charge in a village – whether it be an elder, mullah or landowner.

“In the home, the women have more influence than we give credit for,” Beardsley said. That’s where the Female Engagement Teams – squads of female soldiers or Marines who accompany patrols – prove their value, he said. They can glean a lot of information, both military and economic by talking to Afghan women, something their male counterparts cannot do because of cultural taboos.

November 29, 2012 at 1:19 am 1 comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (Nov. 25-Dec. 1)

The Niagara Frontier

Map courtesy of U.S. Army Office of History

Fort Erie is a stone fort on the Canadian side of the Niagara River opposite Buffalo, New York. It replaced an earlier wood and earth fort — destroyed by river ice — that the British first constructed in the 1760s after the French and Indian War.

Construction of the stone fort started in 1804, but Fort Erie is still undergoing renovation when U.S. troops attack its outlying fortifications on Nov. 28, 1812.

The Americans launch a two-pronged raid across the Niagara in advance of a full-blown invasion of Canada planned by Brigadier Gen. Alexander Smyth.

One group of 150 regular Army soldiers and 70 sailors captures and burns a small British-Canadian post and disables its cannons. Those guns pose a threat to any planned U.S. invasion across the Niagara River. A second group of 200 U.S. infantrymen have less luck destroying a bridge over Frenchman’s Creek. The axes they brought for the job either didn’t make it to shore or were left behind in the boats that did reach Canadian soil. The bridge needs to be taken out to deny the British a route for bringing up reinforcements to counter attack. A small party is left to tear up the bridge as best they can while the rest head back to the shore to be picked up..

Due to mis-communication and poor planning, not enough boats are sent to pick up all the raiders when their work is done. More than 30 soldiers and sailors are stranded on the Canadian side and captured. Another 350 reserve troops sent by Smyth to assist the raid, come under fire, suffer casualties and turn back.

U.S. casualties total 88 killed and wounded and 39 captured – out of a total force of 770. The combined British-Canadian forces – numbering about 650 troops – lose 13 killed, 44 wounded and 34 captured.

Brig. Gen. Smyth decides to go ahead with his invasion plans to send 3,000 U.S. troops to seize Fort Erie and drive the British off the Niagara Peninsula. But poor planning again leads to chaos in the nighttime attack. Only about 1,200 men make it into the boats before sunrise. The situation is aggravated by torrential rain and freezing cold. Smyth postpones the attack for another day.

U.S. troop morale plummets when Smyth calls off another chaotic amphibious assault on Nov. 31 and eventually drops plans for a late fall/early winter campaign. He sends the militiamen home and goes into winter quarters with the regulars. Three months later, President James Madison quietly fires Smyth, who is dropped from the Army’s rolls.

Exterior of Fort Erie, now a national park, today.
(Photo Parks Canada copyright)

The Americans will take another crack at Fort Erie in 1814 and the surrounding area will be the scene of the bloodiest fighting in Canada during the war.

Earlier in November 1812, the Royal Navy begins blockading the Georgia and South Carolina coast. The blockade with include the entire U.S. Atlantic coast before war’s end.

November 26, 2012 at 12:30 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (November 23, 2012)

Go Get ’em

Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Hillary Rustine

U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Tacket, launches an RQ-20 Puma, a Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) during training at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Small drones like the Puma are in high demand in Afghanistan, especially with Army and Marine Corps ground forces. The Marine Corps placed a $5.5 million order with the manufacturer, AeroVironment, in April. The Marines want the 13-pound, hand-launched UAV to help spot roadside bombs (known as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs), Marine Times reported.

In March, the U.S. Army placed a $20.4 million order with Monrovia, California-based Aerovironment for the RQ-20A AE, the latest version. Called the “all environment” it can fly in all weather, day or night, according to the manufacturer.

The RQ-20A AE is equipped with an electro-optical and infrared video camera that rotates on a gimbal.  The Puma is battery-powered and can stay aloft for two hours.

In 2008, U.S. Special Operations Command picked the Puma for its All Environment Capable Variant (AECV) program.
Tacket is assigned to Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.

November 23, 2012 at 3:18 am Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: Buying Tools of the Trade

Air, Sea and Land

An MH-60M Special Ops-variant of the U-60 Black Hawk helicopter being tested a Fort Knox, Kentucky.
(U.S. Army photo)

At a time when all of the armed services face cuts in personnel, U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) is one of the few Defense Department entities expecting to increase rather than decrease its force size. USSOCOM leaders also anticipate little or no reduction in funding for Fiscal Year 2013.

In the meantime, USSOCOM is looking for some special equipment to help preform its global mission.

SOCOM is a combatant command with Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps elements. So it needs aircraft, boats and ground vehicles tailored to its unique missions: providing a fully capable force to defend the United States and its interests, while synchronizing the planning of global operations against terrorist networks.

SOCOM’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget request of $10.4 billion includes — for the first time — overseas contingency operations funding: $2.5 billion for the upcoming fiscal year. Previously, OCO funding was listed off the baseline budget for years. The Fiscal 2013 request is down slightly from the $10.5 billion sought in Fiscal 2012.

The Fiscal 2013 baseline budget for Special Ops procurement dropped slightly from $1.9 billion in Fiscal 2012 to this year’s $1.8 billion request. Of that, $760.8 million is going for aircraft acquisition and upgrades of existing helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. For example, SOCOM seeks $126.8 million to complete the conversion of Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters into the SOF-configured MH-60M. These upgraded helicopters come in two versions: a troop transport configuration and a Defensive Armed Penetrator (DAP) configuration.

To read the rest of my article on Special Operations Forces, please visit the IDGA website by clicking here.

November 23, 2012 at 12:29 am Leave a comment

TECHNOLOGY: DARPA Trying New Methods for Building Marines’ Amphibious Vehicle

Cool Video

Here’s an interesting invitation: Join a virtual community that’s helping the Defense Department’s “think outside the box” research unit develop a new amphibious armored personnel carrier for the Marine Corps.

DARPA thinks it can design a replacement for the Marines’ amphibious assault vehicles using Silicon Valley design techniques. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is looking for a way to develop a faster, cheaper way of producing expensive military systems like tanks, which ususally take a lot of time, research, testing – and money – to get from the drawing board to the production line.

The idea is to use information technology industry techniques like crowd sourcing, a virtual factory and correct-by-construction system design to oversee how all a system’s parts work and interact before you actually build it.

This YouTube video explains it all with far fewer words than we could.

For its first project, DARPA is taking a shot at designing, developing and building an infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) for the Marines, who saw their state-of-the-art Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program cancelled last year because of cost over-runs and production delays. The Marines are exploring their options for a replacement amphibious vehicle but they’re are happy to let DARPA try its project on a parallel track.

The Marines are free to reject the DARPA vehicle if it doesn’t meet their needs but DARPA officials feel the exercise will still be valuable in determining how new design and manufacturing techniques can significantly trim the time it takes to develop and build defense vehicles and weapons.

DARPA has opened registration for the Fast Adaptable Next-Generation Ground Vehicle (FANG) Challenges, a series of three increasingly complex competitions that will use a collaborative process to design and fabricate its IFV.

According to DARPA, defense engineers or those with a military background can register online here for the first challenge, which will be focused on mobility and trhe vehicle’s drivetrain. The competition begins in 2013.

November 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (Nov. 18-Nov. 24)

Defeat and Retreat

Another hard week for American morale 200 years ago. A party of Indiana militia are ambushed and defeated at Wildcat Creek … and U.S. troops begin to withdraw – for the third time – from Canada.

Wildcat Creek

A historical re-enactor dressed like an Indiana Ranger charges the “enemy.”
A large group of Indiana Rangers was ambushed at Wildcat Creek in 1812.
(Photo courtesy Historic Fort Wayne Inc.)

Early in November, a large U.S. force consisting of three regiments of Kentucky infantry, a company of regulars from the U.S. 7th Infantry Regiment, a troop of mounted Indiana Rangers and a company of scouts march north from Vincennes on the Wabash River toward an Indian village near the scene of the Battle of Tippecanoe a year earlier. The punitive expedition, led by Major Gen. Samuel Hopkins, aims to destroy several Indian villages in retribution for attacks on Fort Harrison and Fort Wayne in Indiana as well as several Indian raids on civilian homes and farms along the frontier during the summer.

On November 20, a force of 300 from the Hopkins expedition burn an abandoned Kickapoo village near Tippecanoe on Wildcat Creek. The next day a scouting party is fired upon. One man is killed and the scouts retreat. A party of 60 Indiana Rangers set out the next day, Nov. 22, to retrieve the slain soldier’s body.

Lured up a narrow canyon by a taunting Indian warrior on horseback, the Indiana Rangers are ambushed by waiting Kickapoo, Winnebago and Shawnee warriors. More than a dozen soldiers are killed within minutes. The Rangers retreat in disarray back down Wildcat Creek.

Over the two days, Nov. 21-22, 17 regulars and militia men are killed and three wounded. An unknown number of Indians take part in the attack and their losses – if any – are also unknown.

Hopkins learns of a large force of Indians are coming to attack his troops and he prepares for battle but the weather turns bitter cold, a snowstorm threatens  and Hopkins heads back on Nov. 24 to Fort Harrison and then Vincennes. More than 200 of his men are down with sickness or frostbite.

Eastern Canada

The troops that failed to invade Canada from northern New York and Vermont earlier in the month begin heading south on Nov. 23. The troops are part of a large army commanded by Major Gen. Henry Dearborn.

As we previously chronicled (Nov. 6), Dearborn’s advance guard — commanded by Major Zebulon Pike — was turned back by Canadian troops and their Indian allies.

Some of the militia in Dearborn’s army balk at invading Canada and the general gives up the idea of a large scale invasion and goes into winter quarters.

November 19, 2012 at 1:28 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (November 16, 2012)

Snipers Three

U.K. Ministry of Defence. Crown Copyright/MOD. Photo by Mark Owens

A British sniper from 5 SCOTS (center), an Air Assault infantry battalion, and French snipers of the 8th Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment were among the participants in a company level live fire training exercise in Britain earlier this year.

They may look like a cross between Swamp Thing and Cousin Itt from the Addams Family, but all three are wearing versions of a camouflage outfit known as a ghillie suit.  The suit, worn by civilian hunters and military snipers, is designed to look like heavy foliage in a forest or field. It was originally developed by Scottish gamekeepers as a portable hunting blind and first adopted for war in 1916. The name derives from a Scottish word for “lad” or “servant.”

To see a very brief Polish video about ghillie suits on YouTube, click here.

Here’s another one click here. It’s kind of long — after about 2-3 minutes you get the idea. There’s also an ad at the beginning you can zap after a few seconds.

Exercise Boar’s Head, held at the U.K.’s Otterburn Training Area included a British Army infantry company from 5 SCOTS— the fifth of five battalions in the Royal Regiment of Scotland — a unit of the 16th Air Assault Brigade. A company from 8th Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment, a unit of the French 11th Parachute Brigade, also participated.

Any small arms experts out there who can identify the sniper rifles these three shooters are carrying? Please post a comment at the bottom of this posting or email us at:

November 16, 2012 at 1:39 am 4 comments

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: Shrinking World, Growing Problems

Numbers to Meet the Challenges

U.S. Army Rangers training
(Army photo)

Emerging from more than a decade of unconventional warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military now confronts looming budget cuts in Washington, but leaders of the nation’s Special Operations Forces (SOF) say they don’t expect any slowdown in their operational tempo around the globe.

“We will likely remain engaged against violent extremist networks for the foreseeable future,” Admiral William H. McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) told a Senate committee hearing earlier this year.

But that engagement won’t be limited to night raids, hostage rescues and covert insertions into hostile territory. McRaven and other U.S. officials say special operators also will be partnering with the State Department and other federal agencies, as well as friendly foreign militaries, on non-kinetic programs like working with civil authorities and training indigenous troops. The aim of both types of operation is to prevent extremists from capitalizing on political discontent, ethnic rivalries and economic frustration to fuel their strategy of terror and violence in places like Yemen, the Horn of Africa and countries bordering the Sahara Desert.

The Defense Department plans to trim $478 billion in spending over the next 10 years, leading to force reductions among all the services – particularly the Army and Marine Corps. But USSCOM — a joint command that includes the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps special operations commands as well as the Navy Special Warfare Command — expects its numbers rise from just over 66,000 personnel now, to 71,000 by Fiscal Year 2015.

Even as the number of conventional U.S. troops drops in Afghanistan between now and 2014, when U.S. and coalition forces turn national security responsibilities over to the Afghans, USSOCOM officials expect SOF troop levels there to remain stable, raising their size proportionally as the other troops depart.

To read the rest of my article on Special Operations Forces, please visit the IDGA website by clicking here.

November 14, 2012 at 10:48 pm Leave a comment

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