Archive for June, 2013

LATIN AMERICA: Brazil Security, Soccer Demonstrations, Iran’s Influence

Border Security

Brazil: CIA World Factbook

Brazil: CIA World Factbook

In advance of the Confederationss Cup soccer (football) tournament going on now at stadiums across Brazil, Latin America’s biggest country launched its biggest military exercise to secure its enormous border.

Called Operation Agatha, the exercise sought to halt the flow of drugs and weapons into Brazil, which will see a papal visit next month, Soccer’s World Cup next year and the Summer Olympics in 2016, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

The Brazilian government called out 33,500 troops and police to secure the country’s 10,492-mile border, which it shares with 10 other nations. Unmanned aircraft as well as planes, helicopters, river patrol boats and all manner of ground vehicles were used in the effort to impede cross-border drug, weapon and human trafficking.

Up to 90 percent of the narcotics entering the world market are trafficked into Brazil from Peru, Colombia, and Bolivia, according to Brazil’s ministry of defense. Over 25,300 tons of marijuana and 1,448 pounds of cocaine, crack, and hashish were seized.

During Operation Agatha, the Brazilian Army seized almost five tons of explosives coming into the country from Paraguay. According the military, the dynamite would likely have been used in the Amazon region to extract gold in the remote areas of the jungle by illegal miners, according to the Monitor.

The focus of the $20 million exercise was “about the protection of our people, which benefits our country as a whole. It is also about building good relationships with our neighbours as we help to protect their citizens as well,” General José Carlos De Nardi, Brazil’s Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, told The Independent.

* * *

Angry Brazil

Meanwhile, massive demonstrations continued in several Brazilian cities where Confederations Cup games were held, the Associated Press reported.

Originally sparked by a planned rise in Sao Paulo bus fares, the protests have taken on a life of their own – much like protests in Turkey, although have mostly been peaceful – and have drawn students, urban poor and middle class liberals protesting government corruption and the billions being spent on sports venues instead of funding improvements to schools, hospitals and transit systems.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff – previously one of the country’s most popular leaders – has seen her government’s approval rating plunge by 27 percent, since the unrest started, to just 30 per cent according to an opinion poll published Saturday, the Irish Times reported.

* * *

Iran Influence Waning?

CIA World Factbook

CIA World Factbook

The U.S. State Department says Iran is not actively backing terrorist cells in South America and Iran’s influence in Latin America is waning, Bloomberg reported.

A State Department report says Iran’s interest in Latin America is a “concern,” but sanctions have undermined efforts by the Islamic republic to expand its economic and political toehold in the region.

But some Republicans in Congress were unimpressed by the report’s findings. “I believe the Administration has failed to consider the seriousness of Iran’s presence here at home,” said Congressman Jeff Duncan, a South Caroloina Republican who wrote the legislation requiring the State Department report, told Bloomberg He said he questioned “the methodology that was used in developing this report.”

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced in May that three surveillance drones built with Iran’s help had been launched as part of an initiative to curb drug trafficking, FOX News Latino reported.

June 30, 2013 at 10:42 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (June 28, 2013)

Garuda Shield

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

Two weeks ago we showed you U.S. Marines jumping out of a helicopter with French paratroopers into the skies over East Africa. Now we have a photo of Army and Indonesian paratroopers jumping from a C-17 Globemaster into the skies over West Java in Indonesia. If you click on the photo to enlarge it you can see theC-17’s right wing and part of the stabilizer amid the opening chutes as it flies on.

The troops taking part in this nearly picture perfect tactical airborne drop are from the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division and Indonesian Army 1st Infantry Division. It was all part of an exercise called Garuda Shield, which ran from June 10 to 21. Here’s a link to the Garuda Shield Facebook page.

Garuda Shield 13, which marked the seventh iteration of the bilateral exercise since 2004, included planning and executing a combined brigade-level command post drill in which Indonesian and American soldiers planned and executed peacekeeping operations. Here’s a link to a Stars and Stripes story on the exercise.

To see more photos of the airborne drop click here.

To see other photos of the exercise in Indonesia, click here and here and  here.

June 28, 2013 at 1:10 am Leave a comment


Day for Night

(U.S. Marine Corps photo/Cpl. R. Logan Kyle)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo/Cpl. R. Logan Kyle)

In the May 2011 raid on a Pakistani compound where Osama bin Laden was killed, the helicopter pilots, the Navy SEALs who stormed the walled hideout – and according to some reports, the combat assault dog that accompanied them – were all wearing night-vision goggles on the super secret mission.

But night vision capabilities aren’t limited to special operations forces. Navy and Air Force pilots use them for search and rescue operations and other nighttime missions. Tanks and other vehicles are equipped with them for both targeting and maneuvering. U.S. military units like to boast that they “own the night” largely because of the widespread use of night-vision goggles and other night-vision devices that give warfighters an extra edge in the dark.

For more than 60 years the U.S. military has been developing technologies that allow troops to see in the dark — starting with rudimentary sniper scopes near the end of World War II — now there are night-vision goggles, helmets and weapons sights that allow troops to operate 24 hours a day.

According to the U.S. Army’s Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate, by the end of the 20th century more than 400,000 Image Intensifier Systems and 60,000 thermal systems had been fielded.

In the photo above, Romanian Marines navigate through a tree line during a night vision goggle familiarization exercise with U.S. Marines at Babadag Training Area, Romania in 2010.

To read more of this story, click here or visit theIDGA Website.

June 27, 2013 at 11:21 pm Leave a comment

LOOKING AHEAD: Obama’s Africa trip, Dempsey and Cyber security, Satellite ship-tracking

African Journey

President Barack Obama leaves Washington Wednesday (June 26) for an eight-day trip where he will visit South Africa — Africa’s largest economy — Senegal in West Africa and Tanzania in East Africa. Obama will not be visiting Tanzania’s neighbor, Kenya, his late-father’s birthplace. Details here.

Cyber Defense

090702-N-6932B-079The Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA) holds a three-day conference on cyber defense and network security beginning today (June 24) in Arlington, Virginia.

Officials from the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Cyber Command, the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps are slated speakers. Details here.

And on Thursday (June 27) Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks at the Brookings Institution on the military’s role in cyberspace and the threat posed by cyber attacks. Details here.

Maritime Domain Awareness

C-SIGMA, a maritime domain awareness group, co-founded by the former science and technology adviser to the U.S. Coast Guard holds a two-day conference on monitoring ocean-going vessels from space via a global network of satellites starting Wednesday (June 26) in Cork, Ireland. Details here.

June 24, 2013 at 11:09 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (June 21, 2013)

Low in the Water

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. John C. Lamb)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. John C. Lamb)

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Roger Skilling operates an assault amphibious vehicle (AAV) during a simulated amphibious raid with Thai marines at Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training 2013 in Hat Yao, Thailand, June 10, 2013.

The Marine Corps is looking to replace for the old, reliable — make that very old — AAV, which has been around since the early 1970s.

Skilling is assigned to the 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, attached to Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

How low in the water is the AAV operator? The photo below should answer that question.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)


June 21, 2013 at 1:35 am Leave a comment

HOMELAND SECURITY: Border Security surge; Nominee for FBI Chief [UPDATE]

More Border Agents?

If a compromise deal on pending immigration legislation holds up, it would double the number of federal agents on the U.S.-Mexican border. But according to Reuters, some officials question the benefits of the $50 billion pricetag for the boost from 21,000 to 40,000 border security agents.

Customs and Border Protection photo

Customs and Border Protection photo

In addition to the federal agent surge and completion of a 700-mile-long border fence, the compromise would also include $3.2 billion for a high tech border surveillance plan – including unmanned aircraft, infrared ground sensors and long range thermal imaging cameras, the New York Times reported.

James Comey tapped for FBI Post

[Updates with Comey nominated, praised by Obama, adds photo and link to 2008 UAV demonstration for FBI]

As predicted, President Obama formally nominated James Comey – a former high-ranking official in the George W. Bush administration – to be the nation’s next FBI director.

President Obama announced he is picking James Comey (left) to replace retiring FBI Director William Muller. (White House video screenshot)

President Obama announced he is picking James Comey (left) to replace retiring FBI Director William Muller. (White House video screenshot)

At a White House announcement in the Rose Garden, Obama praised Comey’s integrity — without going into specifics of his opposition, when Comey was Deputy U.S. Attorney General, to the continuation of a warantless eavesdropping program that he believed was  unconstitutional. Comey threatened to resign in opposition to the move. President George W. Bush later backed Comey’s position.

“This is a 10-year assignment.  I make this nomination confident that long after I’ve left office, our nation’s security will be in good hands with public servants like Jim Comey,” Obama said, calling for the Senate to “act promptly with hearings and to confirm our next FBI director right away.”

As a U.S. attorney in New York, Comey successfully prosecuted more than a dozen men for the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. service members.

If he is confirmed, Comey, 52, the former top federal prosecutor in Manhattan and areas north of New York City, will replace Robert S. Mueller III, who is leaving the agency after a dozen years. Comey’s nomination has been expected since last month when news reports indicated he had emerged as the top candidate.

Obama also praised the outgoing FBI director. “Under his watch, the FBI joined forces with our intelligence, military and homeland security professionals to break up al Qaeda cells, disrupt their activities and thwart their plots,” the president said, adding: “Countless Americans are alive today, and our country is more secure, because of the FBI’s outstanding work under the leadership of Bob Mueller.”

Earlier this week, the current FBI director told Congress that while the FBI has used drones in its investigations, it has been rare and only for surveillance purposes.

According to NBC, Director Robert Muller acknowledged that the FBI used drones in investigative practices but said the agency is working to establish better guidelines for their use.

Back in 2008, when your 4GWAR editor was working at Aviation Week, we went down to Quantico, Virginia to see a demonstration for FBI officials of a catapult-launched Insitu Scan Eagle unmanned air vehicle. You can see a short video of the launch and recovery here.

June 20, 2013 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

MARITIME SECURITY: Satellite-based ship tracking conference in Cork, Ireland

Busy Island

The dust has settled from the most recent meeting of leaders from the world’s top economies in Northern Island. And we have more evidence that U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin will never be Best Friends Forever.

But there’s another significant gathering next week at the other end of the Emerald Isle.

Scientists, space agency officials, security experts and maritime leaders will gather in Cork, Ireland to discuss keeping the world’s seas and ports safer by monitoring ocean-going vessels from space.

Ireland's National Space Centre, Elfordstown, County Cork, the site C-SIGMA's second day. (Courtesy of the National Space) Centre

The Elfordstown Earth Station in County Cork, the site C-SIGMA’s second day session. (Courtesy of the Irish National Space Centre)

On June 26th and 27th, international players from Japan, New Zealand, Germany, Canada, the United States and elsewhere will gather in Cork, Ireland’s maritime hub, for C-SIGMA IV, a conference to discuss using commercial satellites to monitor the automatic identification transponders

C-SIGMA – which stands for “Collaboration in Space for International Global Maritime Awareness” – is an international initiative to foster wider cooperation among government and international agencies in the use of, satellite based maritime surveillance information at global level.

The concept is the brainchild of Guy Thomas a former Navy signals intelligence officer and retired science and technology advisor for the U.S. Coast Guard (who has been explaining the ins and outs of Maritime Domain Awareness to your 4GWAR for about 10 years).

The speakers list for the conference can be found here along with the agenda.

June 20, 2013 at 11:27 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: Happy Birthday U.S. Army

238 Years Young

(U.S. Army photo by xxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxxx)

(Defense Dept. photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo)

Most Americans know that today, June 14, is Flag Day — when people are encouraged to show the colors at home, work and elsewhere. On this date in 1777, Congress approved the 13-Star, 13-Stripe, red, white and blue banner as the national flag.

Many Americans, don’t know that June 14 is also the birthday of the U.S. Army. That’s when the Continental Congress voted in 1775 to consider the rebel New England militia besieging the Redcoats in Boston as the united colonies’ Continental Army and also authorized $2 million to pay for it all.

Less than a month later, George Washington — French and Indian War veteran, Virginia planter and future president — took command of the “rabble in arms” at Cambridge, Massachusetts and began the daunting task of turning farmers, shopkeepers and apprentices into an organized fighting force..

Washington Takes Command (Courtesy of the xxxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx)

Washington Takes Command, an 1876 rendering. (Courtesy of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association via the National Institutes of Health)

The photo at the top shows Army brass at a Pentagon cake-cutting ceremony (with sword) on June 13.

From left, Army Col. Arthur Wittich, the oldest soldier serving in the Military District of Washington; Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno; Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (a Vietnam War Army veteran); Army Secretary John M. McHugh; Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III and Pfc. Andrew Segla, the youngest soldier serving in the Military District of Washington.

In the audience, the faces of today's Army. (Defense Dept. photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo)

In the audience, the faces of today’s Army. (Defense Dept. photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo)


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.

June 14, 2013 at 2:12 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (June 14, 2013)

On the Brink

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Christopher Q. Stone)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Christopher Q. Stone)

A U.S. Marine prepares to exit the back of an MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft high above Djibouti near the Horn of Africa.

The Marines — from the Maritime Raid Force with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) —  were conducting parachute operations with French special operations forces in May.

The Osprey can take off and land like a helicopter and fly like an airplane. The one is this photo is assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 266. The 26th MEU is a Marine Air-Ground Task Force deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility with the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group.

To see more spectacular photos of this jump, as well as what the Osprey looks like in flight — and the very interesting headgear of the French parachutists, click here.

June 14, 2013 at 1:04 am Leave a comment

ASIA-PACIFIC: Japanese Join U.S. Amphibious Exercise [UPDATED]

Dawn Blitz 2013

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are conducting a large amphibious exercise off the Southern California coast called Dawn Blitz 2013. But this year’s exercise, which runs from June 11-28, is  a little different from previous ones. It has morphed into a multi-national exercise with troops from New Zealand and Canada and — for the first time — the Japanese Self Defense Forces participating.

In fact about 1,000 Japanese sailors and soldiers are taking part in the exercise as well as . New Zealand and Canada which have have sent company-sized contingents of between 150 and 200 troops. There are also small detachments serving as observers from Australia,  Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

An Amphibious Assault Vehicle exits the surf during an Exercise Dawn Blitz live Maritime Prepositioning Force training event. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse L. Gonzalez)

An Amphibious Assault Vehicle exits the surf during an Exercise Dawn Blitz live Maritime Prepositioning Force training event. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse L. Gonzalez)

The participation of so many Latin American countries indicates that the shift — or pivot — in U.S. strategy to the Pacific takes in more than just the Far East. “When we talk pivot, it’s much more than Asia,” says Brig. Gen. John Broadmeadow, commanding general of both the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade and the 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force.

The American contingent in the massive exercise is about 4,000 sailors and Marines, Broadmeadow told a defense bloggers roundtable today (June 13)

Dawn Blitz is a multilateral amphibious exercise designed to strengthen international partnerships by improving the ability to respond to crises and protect the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners.

But both Broadmeadow and Brig. Gen. Richard Simcock II — who spoke to the blogger’s  group Tuesday (June 11) took pains to say the exercise had no political ramifications despite news reports in Asia that it was meant to send a message to China which is in a escalating dispute with Japan over possession of a group of uninhabited islands in the South China Sea.

Although amphibious operations on San Clemente Island are scheduled for June 17, the exercise “has nothing to do with retaking an island,” said Broadmeadow.

In addition to troops from Japan’s Western Army Infantry Regiment as well as helicopters and other units from the Western Army Aviation Group and Japanese Air Defense Command, the Japanese contingent included three ships from the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force which sailed across the Pacific from Japan to California with a stop in Hawaii.

U.S. Navy vessels from the Expeditionary Strike Group 3, including the USS Boxer, USS Peleliu, USS New Orleans and USS Harpers Ferry — all amphibious assault or transport ships –and the guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens, are taking part in the Exercise.

Another first for the exercise was expected Friday (June 14) when a Marine Corps MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft lands aboard one of the Japanese ships, the Hyuga [see photo below], for the first time. Broadmeadow said it wasn’t the first time an MV-22 had landed on the deck of a foreign Navy vessel — just the first time for a Japanese ship..

Japanese Helicopter Destroyer JS Hyuga (DDH 181) moored  at Naval Base San Diego. Hyuga is one of three Japanese Mariitime Self efense Force ships participating in exercise Dawn Blitz.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist Molly Evans) Read more:

Japanese Helicopter Destroyer JS Hyuga (DDH 181) moored at Naval Base San Diego. Hyuga is one of three Japanese Mariitime Self efense Force ships participating in exercise Dawn Blitz. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist Molly Evans)

Broadmeadow also said members of MARSOC, the Marine Corps special operations unit, would take part in the exercise.

June 13, 2013 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

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