Archive for August, 2013

FRIDAY FOTO (August 30, 2013)

Red Stars in Arctic Skies

U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jason Robertson

U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jason Robertson

U.S. and Russian leaders may be engaged in diplomatic tussling over what to do about Syria or rogue NSA contractor Edward Snowden, but the militaries of both countries are still working together on solutions to terrorist threats.

Here we see Russian Federation air force Su-27 Sukhois intercepting a simulated hijacked aircraft entering Russian airspace during Vigilant Eagle 13, a trilateral exercise operating out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska.

The four-day exercise kicked off Aug. 26 with scenarios requiring the United States, Canada and Russia to respond to simulated terrorist hijackings of commercial aircraft. Both NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) — a U.S.-Canadian bi-national command — and Russia, had to scramble fighter jets to track and intercept the jetliner as it crossed international boundaries.

To see a Defense Department slideshow of the exercise including Royal Canadian Air Force fighter jets, click here.

To see a DoD video explaining the exercise’s purpose, click here.

August 30, 2013 at 11:02 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: Fort Mims Massacre 1813

Creek War

While U.S. Army regulars and militiamen from the states battled British troops, Canadian militia and warriors from the First Nations (as Canadians now call them) along the Great Lakes and the Upper Midwest during the war of 1812, the Army and state volunteers were also battling the Creek Indians of the Southeast in what has become known as the Creek War.

On August 30, 1813, pro-British members of the Creek Indian nation (also known as the Muskogee) attacked a poorly designed stockade known as Fort Mims in southern Alabama where hundreds of white settlers and pro-U.S. Creeks had taken refuge.

According to some accounts, as many as 500 militia, settlers, slaves and Creeks favoring peace with the Americans were killed or captured in what has become known as the Fort Mims massacre. Modern historians generally put the death toll at about 250 men, women and children.

Fort Mims massacre re-enactment ( photo)

Fort Mims massacre re-enactment ( photo)

The bloodshed between whites and the Creeks in 1813-1814 was an outgrowth a civil war among the Creeks themselves.

That struggle erupted within the Creek nation, which inhabited parts of what is now Alabama and Georgia, over whether to join Shawnee leader Tecumseh‘s campaign against whites of the United States. The Red Sticks faction favored war with white America. Indian leaders from what was known as the Lower Creek towns were against war with the whites. They were known as the White Sticks.

The Fort Mims slaughter terrified whites in the South, who had waged war on and off with various tribes including Cherokee and Seminole Indians since before the American Revolution.  Future President Andrew Jackson, an Army and Tennessee militia general, led a long campaign against the Creeks culminating with the battle (and for all intents a massacre)  against the Indians at Horseshoe Bend in 1814.

Map Courtesy of PCL Map Collection at the Universtity of Texas at Austin

Map Courtesy of PCL Map Collection at the Universtity of Texas at Austin

A year later, Jackson would rise to national prominence following the Battle of New Orleans.


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.

August 30, 2013 at 12:42 am Leave a comment

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: Aerospace States Offer Guidelines for UAV Legislation

Easing Privacy, Civil Liberties Concerns

Unmanned aerial vehicles — also known as unmanned air systems, remotely piloted aircraft or simply, drones — have been getting a lot of attention lately because their use in missile strikes against terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Critics of U.S. policy say those strikes also kill civilians, causing hard feelings against the United States among the very people it’s trying to win over.

A Gray Eagle UAV in flight 9U.S. Army photo)

A Gray Eagle UAV in flight (U.S. Army photo)

There is also concern that when the Federal Aviation Administration finally allows drones to fly in U.S. airspace, many will be used by police, government agencies, paparazzi and just plain snoops to spy on people — violating innocent people’s privacy and suspected criminals’ civil rights.

An organization of aviation-friendly state officials is also concerned that a growing wave of UAV-restricting state laws could hurt a burgeoning industry that they predict will some day create thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in commercial business and tax revenues for the states.

Already, at least six states have passed legislation restricting UAVs including who can fly them and what they can be used for. Several of those laws limit how law enforcement can use the robotic aircraft in investigations.

Now the Aerospace States Association has come up with guidelines for state lawmakers on how they can regulate UAVs without killing off a job-creating industry in its infancy. The association, after consulting with two state government national organizations and other stakeholders like the American Civil Liberties Union, came up with proposals such as when a search warrant should be required for an aerial search of property by a UAV.

Your 4GWAR editor was at the association’s briefing on the guidelines at the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (the Industry’s largest trade group) conference and expo in Washington earlier this month.

You can see that story — written in collaboration with colleague Michael Bruno — in the latest (Aug. 19) issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology (subscription required).

Unmanned aircraft play a vital role in counter terrorism, counter insurgency, maritime and border security as well as special operations.

August 28, 2013 at 11:30 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (August 23, 2013)

Point of Departure

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Scanlan

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Scanlan

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Pablo Ruiz, a rifleman serving with the 2nd Battalion of the 5th Marine Regiment, fires an AT-4 light anti-armor weapon on Range 800 at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base in California.

Ruiz’ unit, Echo Company, conducted day and night platoon attacks reinforced by a combined anti-armor team, mortar fire and machine gun fire as one of their last training exercises before deploying in support of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The 31st MEU is capable of conducting limited contingency operations, amphibious operations and crisis response in the Asia-Pacific region.



August 23, 2013 at 12:19 am Leave a comment

TECHNOLOGY: Pentagon’s Cyber Warriors

More Than 40

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander at Aspen Security Forum (Photo courtesy Aspen Institute)

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander at Aspen Security Forum (Photo courtesy Aspen Institute)

Army Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency — and the Pentagon’s Cyber Command — made headlines back in March when he told Congress that the Defense Department was readying 13 teams to go on the offensive against enemies in cyberspace.

Another 27 teams will be created to support the needs of the military’s regional combatant commands in the cyber world, he said.

But that’s not all.

Many more teams are planned to safeguard the Defense Department’s information networks. Your 4GWAR editor writes about them and the manpower needs they will require in the Aug. 19 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology (subscription only).

Defending cyberspace and acquiring the tools and talent was a hot topic at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado and we wrote about that July 19 on 4GWAR. We got additional information and details about planning for the cyber teams from some top officials, like the commander of the Navy’s Fleet Cyber Command, at the Global Intelligence Forum, sponsored by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) in Washington.


August 19, 2013 at 2:37 pm 2 comments

FRIDAY FOTO (August 16, 2013)

Mongolian Horsemanship

U,S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt John M. Ewald)

U,S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt John M. Ewald)

Members of the Mongolian Armed Forces 234 Cavalry Unit demonstrate their riding skills during the opening ceremony of Exercise Khaan Quest at Five Hills Training Area in Mongolia earlier this month.

Khaan Quest is an annual multinational exercise sponsored by the United States and Mongolia, designed to strengthen skills and cooperation in international peace support operations. About 1,000 service members from 14 nations participated in the joint event, which ran from Aug. 3-14 outside Ulan Bator, Mongolia’s capital. 

Army and Marine Corps photographers took so many good photos of this colorful event that we were hard-pressed to pick just one for the FRIDAY FOTO — so we didn’t.

Below is another exotic scene that you don’t see at modern military exercises. It’s easy to imagine how Mongol warriors mounted on sturdy ponies like these swept out of Central Asia in the 13th century and conquered one of the largest empires in human history.

To see a slide show with more photos from this exotic event, click here.  To see some videos of the opening ceremonies, click here.

U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt John M. Ewald

U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt John M. Ewald

August 16, 2013 at 11:47 am Leave a comment

TECHNOLOGY: AeroVironment Tests Solar Powered Small UAV (UPDATE)

News from AUVSI 2013 (UPDATES with additional quotes and Insitu ScanEagle certification to fly in Arctic)

Unmanned air vehicle (UAV) maker AeroVironment has been making a lot of news lately.

The Monrovia, California-based company makes a line of small UAVs including the 13-pound RQ-20A Puma, the smaller RQ-11 Raven and the Wasp micro air vehicle (MAV). All three are man portable and launched by hand — almost like a paper airplane.

A Marine launches a Puma UAV by hand in Afghanistan. (Photo by Sgt. Bobby J. Yarbrough)

A Marine launches a Puma UAV by hand in Afghanistan. (Photo by Sgt. Bobby J. Yarbrough)

Your 4GWAR editor was interviewing David Heidel, AeroVironment’s business development manager, at this week’s robotics and unmanned systems conference in Washington when he brought up the company’s plans to make unmanned aircraft in India.

AeroVironment has signed an agreement to team up with Indian aerospace and automotive manufacturer, Dynamatic Technologies to make small UAVs. Potential customers include India’s Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Home Affairs.

“International is a target of ours. We had significant [international sales] growth at the end of last year. We’re in over 24 countries right now,”  Heidel said. “We see this as a big opportunity and a big step to form a teaming agreement with an organization to do local manufacturing,” he added during our interview at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

In a press release, Udayant Malhoutra, Dynamatic’s CEO and managing director said teaming with AeroVironment is strategic to our efforts to build capabilities in the Aerospace Segment.” He cited “the combination of AeroVironment’s technical capabilities and unmatched experience in unmanned aircraft systems and Dynamatic’s precision engineering capabilities.”

At AUVSI, we also discussed the big news of the week for small UAVs:  the test flight of a solar-powered Puma AE (All Environment) UAV, which stayed aloft for over nine hours. That’s more than four times the standard flight time of the battery-powered Puma AE.

Solar Puma launch in July. (AeroVironment photo)

Solar Puma launch in July. (AeroVironment photo)

On that project, AeroVironment is working with Alta Devices, a Sunnyvale, California manufacturer of thin, flexible solar cells. “It was a standard Puma platform with the solar technology of Alta integrated into the wings,” said Heidel. He said the flight test in July also included a new AeroVironment long endurance battery that extended the Puma’s normal two-hour flight to three hours and then the small UAV flew another six hours and 11 minutes using solar power. (Please click on the photo above to enlarge the image and get a better look at the solar panels on the Puma’s wings.)

In other AeroVironment news, the Army has ordered $13.5 million in Raven UAVs as well as spare parts. It was the fourth and final part of a 2012 contract valued at $59.6 million.

And AeroVironment has won certification from the FAA to fly the Puma AE as one of the few UAVs allowed to operate in the national airspace for commercial purposes. AeroVironment is expected to fly Pumas in the Arctic to monitor oil spill response.

We forgot to mention earlier that another UAV manufacturer, Insitu, also received FAA approval to fly its catapult-launched ScanEagle from a ship in Arctic waters. The larger and heavier (44 pounds) ScanEagle will be surveying ice floes and whale migration in areas of planned oil exploration, according to our friends at Aviation Week’s ARES blog.

August 15, 2013 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment

UNMANNED SYSTEMS: Big Droid, Drone and ‘bot Show Opens in D.C. UPDATE

AUVSI Unmanned Systems 2013

UPDATES with Teal Group UAV analysis

Customs and Border Protection photo

Customs and Border Protection photo

Hardly a day goes by now when unmanned aircraft, submarines or robots aren’t in the news: flying up to the International Space Station, monitoring dangerous weather or discovering long lost shipwrecks.

They’re also in the news because they can conduct surveillance on bad guys and launch missile strikes on terrorist hideouts — all from a safe distance. And that has some people worried about Big Brother intrusions on civil liberties and due process. There are also concerns — especially about the safety of unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) — among the public and some lawmakers in Congress and several states.

But a recent study by an aerospace and defense market analysis firm indicates that future looks bright for UAVs — even in tough budgetary times for the U.S. government. According to Teal Group’s 2013 market study,  UAVs continue to be “the most dynamic growth sector of the world aerospace industry this decade.”

Teal Group estimates that UAV spending will more than double over the next decade “from current worldwide UAV expenditures of $5.2 billion annually to $11.6 billion” for a total of “just over $89 billion in the next 10 years.”

An excerpt from the report’s executive summary , released in conjunction with this week’s annual conference and expo of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. (AUVSI), attributes the growth projections to the “enormous growth of interest” in UAVs by the U.S. military. “UAVs have proved their value in Iraq and Afghanistan and are being sought by a growing number of militaries worldwide,” says Philip Finnegan, Teal Group’s director of corporate analysis and an author of the UAV study.

The study cites the demands on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) needs for the expected growth in UAV payloads. The UAV electronics market will grow steadily — with the fastest growth coming in synthetic aperture radar SAR and signals intelligence/electronic warfare SIGINT/EW technology, according to David Rockwell, another author of the study.

Meanwhile, the people who design, build, equip, use and regulate unmanned systems of all types are gathered at the Washington Convention Center in the nation’s capital this week to discuss all the ways robots and ‘droids can free humans from tasks that are dirty, dull and dangerous.

U.S. Army Photo

U.S. Army Photo

Officials from the Army, Navy, Department of Transportation, business and academia will be among the speakers discussing robots that operate in the air and space, on the ground and on or under the sea at the four-day conference put on by the AUVSI.

More than 600 products and services will be on display in the enormous exhibit hall. Thousands of attendees are expected — including your 4GWAR editor.

August 12, 2013 at 5:54 pm Leave a comment

AFRICA: Elections Roundup UPDATE

AFRICAN ELECTIONS 2013 -UPDATE- (Updates with Keita winning in Mali after opponent concedes.)

Three African countries held national elections last month: Mali and Togo in West Africa (July 28) and East Africa’s Zimbabwe (July 31). Here is a roundup of the results:


Mali (CIA World Factbook)

(CIA World Factbook)

Voters in the war-ravaged West African nation of Mali went to the polls again Sunday (August 11, 2013) to pick a president in a run-off election between the top two vote getters in last month’s polling.

On Monday night (August 12) underdog candidate Soumaila Cisse conceded, handing the election to  Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, a former prime minister of Mali.

Cisse urged Malians to accept the result even though he told reporters at the news conference that he believed there were serious irregularities and incidents of ballot-box stuffing, the Los Angeles Times reported. Cisse said he had not made plans to challenge the result.

The wide open field – 27 candidates – was winnowed down in the July 28 vote to just two contenders: Cisse, a former cabinet minister from Timbuktu and Keita, a one-time prime minister and former National Assembly president from the southern part of Mali.

Keita – widely known by his initials IBK – appears to be the frontrunner, according to the Voice of America. He led the first round with 39 percent of ballots and almost all of the other 26 first-round candidates  backing him in the run-off, according to the Voice of America website.

Nearly 50 percent of Mali’s 6.8 million registered voters cast a ballot in first round election last month July. A lot is at stake in the election. The winner will oversee more than $4 billion in foreign aid promised by France and the United States to rebuild Mali, the BBC reported. Final tallies of the vote are not expected until Friday.

Mali, regarded as one of West Africa’s few successful democracies, plunged into chaos last year when Tuareg mercenaries – returning from fighting for Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafy – launched the latest in a series of independence revolts in the country’s desert north. That led to a military coup in March 2012 that ousted the democratically-elected president, Amadou Toumani Toure.

The revolt in Bamako, the nation’s capital, emboldened the Tuaregs who swept over the Texas-sized northern half of the country – backed by Islamic extremists, many from outside of Mali. At the request of the government in Bamako, French air and ground forces intervened, driving the rebels back into the mountains before they could seize the capital. France, the former colonial ruler, said the intervention was necessary to keep the country from turning into a safe haven for terrorists to attack targets in Europe.

Meanwhile, a 12,600-strong United Nations Stabilization Mission in Mali (Minusma) is deploying to take over security, as France begins to withdraw its 3,000 troops.

— — —


Togo in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Togo in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

The ruling party in the small West African nation of Togo, has increased its majority in the national legislature following last month’s elections. And that has increased the control President Faure Gnassingbe holds over the country of six million.

Opposition activists say that the ruling Unir party’s 62-seat majority victory was the product of a rigged election. They worry that the party will use its majority to pass reforms allowing Gnassingbé – whose family has ruled tiny Togo since 1967 – to remain in office indefinitely, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Voters went to the polls July 28. About 1,200 candidates competed for 91 seats in the National Assembly.

The electoral commission said the Unir party won 62 of 91 seats, up from 50 of the legislature’s then-81 seats in 2007. There have been no elections to the National Assembly in the intervening six years.

One family has controlled the government since 1967 when Etienne Gnassingbe Eyadema came to power through a coup and ruled for 38 years until his death in 2005. The military — dominated by the family’s Kabye ethnic group — picked his son, Faure Gnassingbe, to take over.

The opposition party leader, Gilchrist Olympio, is the son of Togo’s first post-independence president who was gunned down in 1963 by assassins outside the U.S. Embassy in the capital Lome.

Despite one family/one party rule all those years, politics in Togo is complicated according to an article in The Economist.

— — —


Zimbabwe in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Zimbabwe in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

When the votes were counted in Zimbabwe following last month’s presidential and legislative elections, one of the few people unsurprised by the outcome was President Robert Mugabe.

The 89-year-old Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, won a crushing 61 percent of the vote and his ZANU-PF Party took two-thirds of the seats in the Southeast African nation’s parliament.

But the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Party has claimed massive fraud and has gone to court to overturn the election.

The size of Mugabe’s latest electoral victory raised eyebrows in Zimbabwe. In the first round of voting in the previous presidential election in 2008, he won fewer votes than Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the MDC. But Mr. Tsvangirai refused to participate in a runoff because of violent state-sponsored attacks on his supporters, according to the New York Times. More than 200 people died in post election violence, with thousands more beaten and intimidated.

It is unclear when Mugabe will be sworn in for a new term. Under Zimbabwe’s constitution, once there is litigation,administering the oath of office is withheld until the case is finalized. The constitutional court has 14 days to dispose of the case, according to the Voice of America website. If the election is nullified, fresh polls will be called in 60 days. If the case is dismissed, Mugabe will be sworn in within 48 hours after the ruling.

Zimbabwe’s election is expected to dominate the meeting of Southern African leaders in Malawi next week, according to VoA. In 2008, African leaders refused to recognize the 2008 Mugabe victory and forced him and Tsvangirai to form a fragile power-sharing government with the MDC as the junior partner.

August 11, 2013 at 1:49 pm Leave a comment

LATIN AMERICA: Colombia Defense Industry, Ecuador Border Clash, Cocoa Growing Down, Kerry to Visit Brazil, Colombia

Colombia Defense Industry

(CIA World Factbook)

(CIA World Factbook)

After decades of a brutal insurgency by Marxist rebels and equally violent battles with narcotics cartels, Colombia is looking to regenerate and expand its defense industries, according to UPI.

Quoting the Bogota-based newspaper, El Espectador, UPI reports that South Korean defense company LIG Nex1 said it will help Colombia’s armed forces develop sonars and radars for the country’s defense sector. Colombia recently bought 16 missiles from LIGNex1 to be deployed on four Colombian Navy vessels, according to the newspaper.

LIG Nex1 will work with the Colombian defense industry installations in Villavicencio in central Colombia to develop projects to design, develop, manufacture, assemble, integrate and test the operation of sensors, UPI reported.

Colombia has long had close ties with the U.S. military — especially in battling illegal drugs and improvised explosive device technology. But according to the Colombian business magazine, Dinero, South Korean corporations — like LIGNex1’s parent, LG Group — have been increasing investments in Colombia from $30 million in 2007 to $160 million last year. However, the magazine also notes Brazil, Chile and Mexico do much more export and import business with South Korea than Colombia.

— — —

Colombia-Ecuador Border Clash

An Ecuadorean soldier was killed and another wounded in a firefight with guerillas at the border with Colombia. A Colombian army general identified the shooters on the Colombian side of the border as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by the Spanish acronym, FARC.

FARC, has waged a violent insurgency against the government in Bogota since the 1960s that has claimed thousands of lives.   FARC guerillas often seek refuge in Ecuador’s forests when being pursued by Colombian troops. here have been clashes in the past between the rebels and Ecuador’s army, but this was the first known instance of an Ecuadorean soldier being killed in a clash with a Colombian irregular, the Associated Press reported.

Ecuador’s top military leader said the two-hour firefight errupted when his troops surrounded FARC rebels on Ecuador’s side of the San Miguel River, which separates the country from a cocaine producing region of Colombia. Colombian authorities say many FARC units finance themselves through cocaine trafficking.

— — —

Colombia Cocoa Production

Map from UN Office of Crime and Drugs

2010 map from UN Office on Crime and Drugs

Cocoa growing in Colombia — the world’s biggest cocaine producer — fell by 25 percent in 2012, according to a United Nations report.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said farmland under cocoa cultivation shrank from 64,000 hectares (xx acres) last year from 135,000 hectares in 2011.  A survey jointly conducted by Colombia’s government and UNODC shows that coca bush cultivation affected 23 of the country’s 32 departments; decreased in 17 departments; increased in the 3 departments of Norte de Santander, Caquetá and Chocó; and remained unchanged in the remaining 3.

Peru, Colombia and Bolivia are the world’s biggest coca producers. (See story below)

— — —

Bolivian Cocoa Down, Too

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime says cocoa cultivation is down again in Bolivia for the second year in a row.

Bolivia’s coca production dropped by 7 percent from 2011 to 2012, according to the UN report. This follows an 11 percent reduction from the year before, according to analysis by InSight Crime and reported in the Christian Science Monitor.

The biggest drop came in the largest coca growing region of the country known as Yungas de la Paz, which went from 18,200 hectares to 16,900 hectares, according to the UNODC. The agency says that two major factors played a role in the drop: 1) the government’s efforts to “eradicate/rationalize” the size of the fields and 2) the drop in yield due to the long periods in which the fields have been cultivated.

— — —

Kerry to Colombia, Brazil

(State Department photo)

(State Department photo)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is slated to travel to Colombia and Brazil next week (August 12-13) to improve “cooperation and dialogue with important regional partners,” according to the State Department.

Kerry will visit Bogota, Colombia, on August 12. From Bogota, he will travel to Brasilia, Brazil, where he will spend the day on August 13.

August 10, 2013 at 3:21 pm Leave a comment

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