Archive for October, 2013

ARCTIC NATION: Temperatures Higher, Iceland Seeks Catbird Seat, Less Ice More Shipping

Arctic Temperatures Waaay Up

A new study by scientists at the University of Colorad-Boulder indicates that average summer temperatures in the Eastern Canadian Arctic over the last 100 years are higher than during any century in the past 44,000 years.

University of Colorado-Boulder professor Gifford Miller collecting dead plant samples from the edge of a Baffin Island ice cap. (University of Colorado photo)

University of Colorado-Boulder professor Gifford Miller collecting dead plant samples from the edge of a Baffin Island ice cap. (University of Colorado photo)

According to CU-Coulder Professor Gifford Miller, the study is the first direct evidence that the present warmth in the Eatern Canadian Arctic exceeds peak warmth in that same region during the current Holcene geological epoch – when the solar energy reaching the Northern Hemisphere in summer was 9 percent greater than it is today.

The Holocene epoch began after Earth’s last glacial period ended roughly 11,700 years ago and which continues today. Miller and his colleagues used dead moss clumps emerging from receding ice caps on Baffin Island as tiny clocks to determine what happened. At four different ice caps, radiocarbon dates show the mosses had not been exposed to the elements since at least 44,000 to 51,000 years ago.

Since radiocarbon dating is only accurate to about 50,000 years and because Earth’s geological record shows it was in a glaciation stage before that time, the indications are that Canadian Arctic temperatures today have not been matched or exceeded for roughly 120,000 years, Miller said.

The journal Geophysical Researcher Letters published the study’s findings this week.

Iceland Seeks to be Arctic Hub

Iceland wants to turn itself into a hub for business in the Arctic and strike more trade accords on its own after scrapping talks to join the European Union, Iceland’s Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson tells Bloomberg.

The island nation is focusing its foreign policy on the Arctic Sveinsson said, adding that it will seek deeper cooperation within the Arctic Council and seek to provide a base in the region to help support trade with China, Singapore and South Korea, among others, Bloomberg reported.

With temperatures rising and sea ice melting, the Arctic is attracting a lot of attention from the nations that border the polar region and countries like China seeking to navigate new ice-free shipping routes across the High North. The sea ice recession could also open the area up to oil and gas exploration. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas reserves and 13 percent of its untapped oil may lie beneath the Arctic Ocean’s waters.

Arctic Waters Could Get Crowded Soon

Arctic Regions

Arctic Regions

Satellite photos by NASA, show that the white Arctic ice around the North Pole is shrinking every summer and is being replaced by more open water. And that means an increase in commercial shipping across the Arctic, reports the Voice of America.

Last summer, China sent its first icebreaker over the top of Russia, from Shanghai to Iceland. And this summer, a freighter operated by China’s COSCO shipping company, became the first Chinese merchant vessel to take the shortcut, cutting two weeks off the usual route, through Egypt’s Suez Canal, according to VOA.

October 31, 2013 at 11:52 pm Leave a comment

TECHNOLOGY: Marines Test Wearable Solar-powered, Water Purifying Gear

Heavy Water and Power

Marines carry heavy, energy hungry gear while patrolling in austere places like Afghanistan, where water can also be scarce. (Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. James Mast)

Marines carry heavy, energy-hungry gear while patrolling in austere places like Afghanistan, where water can also be scarce. (Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. James Mast)

In the last 10 years of war, the U.S. Marine Corps has had to go to a lot of places without water taps or electrical outlets – in fact the nearest tap or plug-in was miles and miles away.

But troops in the field always need water and today’s warriors carry a lot of gear that needs batteries — which in turn need recharging – including radios, global positioning systems (GPS) and night vision goggles.

A unit of the 5th Marine Regiment just completed field testing of a wearable, solar-powered vest that extends the battery life of electronic devices.

But wait, there’s more. It also includes an individual water purifier.

MAPS vest (U.S. Navy photo by Elliott Fabrizio)

MAPS vest
(U.S. Navy photo by Elliott Fabrizio)

Sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), and assembled at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division, the double-duty vest is called the Marine Austere Patroling System, or MAPS. The idea is to lighten the load of Marines on patrol far from resupply points.

“MAPS provides two benefits,” says Capt. Frank Furman, logistics program manager for ONR’s Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combating Terrorism Department. “First, we can lessen the risk of batteries running out completely. Second, the weight of spare batteries and extra water is eliminated.” And that, says Furman “affects our endurance and ability to move and stay alert.”

The vest includes a small, wearable solar panel developed by the Naval Research Lab.

On a 96-hour patrol, MAPS has the potential to cut the weight of batteries and water carried by a Marine from more than 60 pounds to 13 pounds. Leathernecks from the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, tested the new gear at the Marines’ Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California.

An earlier successful test was conducted by the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Marines at Camp Pendleton, California in July.

October 30, 2013 at 11:52 pm 1 comment

AROUND AFRICA: Hostages Released, Somali Drone Strike; Kenya Mall Attack Arrests, Another Pirate Attack

(Click on images to enlarge)

Hostages in Niger Freed

Map of Niger (CIA World Factbook)

Map of Niger
(CIA World Factbook)

French hostages abducted from a uranium mine in Niger in 2010 have been released, French President Francois Hollande announced today (October 29). He said France’s foreign and defence ministers have left for Niger’s capital, Niamey, and the hostages would return home as soon as possible, according to the BBC.

The four men were seized in September 2010 in raids targeting two French firms operating a uranium mine near Arlit, northern Niger. The al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) group said it was responsible for the kidnappings.

Drone Targets al Shabab?

A U.S. missile strike destroyed a car in Somalia Monday (October 28) believed to be carrying a top leader of the al Shabab Islamist militant group, the Associated Press and other news outlets reported.

The attack was believed to be launched from an unmanned aircraft, or drone, but that has not been officialy confirmed. If a drone strike in southern Somalia is confirmed, it will further illustrate the increasing importance placed by estern powers on counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa, the AP noted. Among the dead in the attack was al Shabab’s top bombmaker, Ibrahim Ali, one of the group’s members told the AP.

U.S. Air Force photo via Wikipedia

U.S. Air Force photo via Wikipedia

Three weeks ago, U.S. Navy SEALS launched an unsuccessful raid at Baraawe on the Somali coast that targeted a Kenyan of Somali origin, known as Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, who went by the name “Ikrimah.” He was identified as the main planner of al-Shabab attack on Kenya’s parliament building and the United Nations’

The New York Times noted that the Obama administration has been reluctant to launch drone strikes in Somalia with the regularity it has in Pakistan and Yemen. The Times said that may be in part over whether the U.S. could legally target al Shabaab, which has not tried to attack on American soil. There are also concerns that drone strikes might only incite al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab, transforming the group from a regional organization aimed at driving Kenyan, Ethiopian and African Union troops out of Somalia into one with an agenda as violent and international as Al Qaeda’s.

Arrests in Nairobi Mall Looting

Two Kenyan soldiers have been fired – and arrested – for stealing cell phones and other items during last month’s deadly siege at an upscale mall in Nairobi, the Voice of America reported today (Oct. 29).

Nairobi Westgate Mall before the attack.  (Photo via wikpedia)

Nairobi Westgate Mall before the attack.
(Photo via wikpedia)

More than 60 people were killed during the four-day siege at the Westgate shopping center.

Security camera footage showed several soldiers taking things from various shop counters and walking away from stores carrying plastic bags during four-day ordeal.

At first the Kenyan military said soldiers only took water from the mall’s shops while battling Islamist militants. But after the carnage was over, shopkeepers claimed stores had been looted, including break-ins at automatic teller machines and banks themselves in the mall. Earlier, the Kenyan military said soldiers only took water from the Westgate shopping center as they battled Islamist militants.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the raid, saying it was retaliation for Kenya’s military intervention into Somalia two years ago. Kenya sent troops to Somalia to help battle al-Shabab, which has been fighting to turn Somalia into a strict Islamist state.

West African Pirates

The new Tom Hanks film, “Captain Phillips” illustrates how dangerous the waters off the coast of East Africa were just a few years ago.

But now the seafarers’ danger zone is on the other side of the continent, in West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, the Christian Science Monitor relates.

Gulf of Guinea via Wikipedia

Gulf of Guinea via Wikipedia

While Somalia’s pirates tend to engage in protracted hostage-takings that could stretch for months or even years, pirates in the Gulf of Guinea prefer smash-and-grab operations to steal cargo, according to the Monitor, adding “They especially favor refined oil products like gasoline and diesel that can be sold elsewhere.”

In the latest incident, two American merchant seamen – the captain and chief engineer of the C-Retriever – a 222-foot oil platform supply vessel, were seized by pirates in the waters off Nigeria, where pirate incidents have boomed lately.

The merchant sailors’ whereabouts are currently unknown.

The C-Retriever is owned by the company Edison Chouest Offshore in Louisiana. The ship and 11 other members of the crew were released, the Associated Press reported.

October 29, 2013 at 11:54 pm 1 comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 25, 2013)

Tight Squeeze

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Liam Kennedy

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Liam Kennedy

U.S. Navy Airman Tyler Dufford tightens a bolt on a water break (beneath what appears to be two jet engines, but we’re not sure) aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington deployed in the East China Sea.

October 25, 2013 at 12:32 am Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: A New Take on “Teach a Man to Fish…”

Foreign Internal Defense

WASHINGTON – Michael Sheehan, the former top special operations adviser to the Secretary of Defense,  says he doesn’t like to use the word “COIN” – as in COunter INsurgency – anymore.

Michael Sheehan (Defense Dept. photo)

Michael Sheehan (Defense Dept. photo)

“Because it’s so overused now,” Sheehan – former Assistant Defense Secretary for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (SO/LIC) – told the International Stability Operations Association’s annual summit recently. “For me, counter insurgency is done by local forces and the U.S. helps them do it,” he told the conference of companies that provide services ranging from construction to air transport for humanitarian aid, peacekeeping and development organizations.

And for direct action – when U.S. advisers are doers, as well as teachers – Sheehan says he’s advocated for a long time “that we train the locals to go through the door – not the U.S.” In other words, train and advise foreign armies or rebels – depending on their politics – how to defend themselves, but then taking a step back and let the locals doing the shooting or “kinetic action.”

Sheehan has had a little experience in this field. A former Special Forces (Green Beret) officer, counter insurgency adviser in Latin America, adviser to U.N. Peacekeeping missions in Somalia and Haiti, National Security Council staffer at the White House, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for counter terrorism, a high-ranking official in the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the New York Police Department’s deputy commissioner for Counter Terrorism – retired from the Pentagon this past summer. One of the key assignments of Army Special Forces and other special operators is Foreign Internal Defense: teaching the local population how to defend itself against terrorism by insurgents or a repressive regime.

Special Forces soldiers in Afghanistan 2007. (U.S. Army photo)

Special Forces soldiers in Afghanistan 2007.
(U.S. Army photo)

“I believe this is the future, where we train, advise and assist from behind, both in counter insurgency and direct action strategy,” Sheehan said. That belief is held by other SO/LIC leaders, like Adm. William McRaven, the head of Special Operations Command, which oversees the commandos and unconventional warfare specialists in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

To see a video of McRaven and Sheehan both speaking about these issues at a counter terrorism panel at the Aspen Institute last summer, click here.

Explanation of “Give a man a fish…”

October 24, 2013 at 11:57 pm 1 comment

HOMELAND SECURITY: Customs and Border Protection Seeks Technology to Close Security Gap

Maritime Weak Link

A group of CBP UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters on patrol over the Caribbean. (CBP photo)

A group of CBP UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters on patrol over the Caribbean. (CBP photo)

Maritime Domain Awareness – knowing who and what are in and around U.S. waters – is still “a major gap” for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unit charged with securing the nation’s borders, according to a top official of Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

“Nobody has a good solution set for MDA. We don’t, neither does the Navy or the Coast Guard,” Randolph Alles, assistant CBP commissioner and head of the agency’s Office of Air and Marine told a recent homeland security conference in Washington.

The solution, he said, is a number of technology programs to help see bad guys at night, on the water and on land. To that end, Alles, a retired Marine Corps major general, plans to put sensors, on as many of his 260 aircraft – like Guardian Drones and Blackhawk helicopters – and 300 watercraft that budget restraints will allow.

Randolph Alles, head of the Homeland Security Department's air force and navy: Custom and Border Protection's Office of Air & Marine. (CBP photo)

Randolph Alles, head of the Homeland Security Department’s air force and navy: Custom and Border Protection’s Office of Air & Marine. (CBP photo)

Alles told the conference, sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA), that he wants to take a “building block approach rather than a large system approach” because of tight money. His estimated budget for technology appropriations will hover between $50 million and $70 million per year for the near term, he said.

Alles, who took over as head of OA&M in January, said he wants to link video and data from numerous sensors. “Integrating all of these systems is one of my technology objectives,” he told the IDGA conference Oct. 17 – the day the U.S. government shutdown ended.

October 23, 2013 at 12:36 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 18, 2013)

Look, No Hands

Australian Defence Force photo by Cpl. Mark Doran

Australian Defence Force photo by Cpl. Mark Doran

A U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter hoists an Australian airman on a jungle penetrating cable during medevac training on Multinational Base Tarin Kot in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province.

To see a photo slideshow of this training exercise, click here.


October 18, 2013 at 12:52 am Leave a comment

SOFT POWER/SMART POWER: Treating Civilians, Training Troops in the Philippines


U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ammon Carter

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ammon Carter

U.S. and Philippine Marines slog through a jungle obstacle course during Amphibious Landing Exercise 2014 (known as PHIBLEX 14) at Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Ternate, Cavite, in the Republic of the Philippines.

PHIBLEX is a bilateral training exercise aimed at strengthening mutual security and the long-term partnership between the United States and the Philippines. It also ensures the readiness of a bilateral force to respond to regional humanitarian crises.

The participating U.S. Marines were from Force Reconnaissance Platoon, Maritime Raid Force, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). The Philippine Marines were with Force Reconnaissance Battalion.

Training was split between four areas: Clark Air Field in Pampanga; Marine Barracks Gregario Lim in Cavite; Naval Station Leovigildo Gantioqui in Zambales; and Crow Valley in Tarla. That exposed the Marines and sailors of the 13th MEU a wide variety of terrain.

The battalion Landing Team of the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, and Philippine forces conducted vehicle maneuver tactics, live-fire training and artillery firing, as well as small boat tactics, jungle survival training, a knife fighting skills session and sweeps for improvised explosive devices (roadside bombs.

The 13th MEU’s aviation combat and logistics combat elements — Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166 (Reinforced) and Combat Logistics Battalion 13 — provided close air, logistic and medical support to the Marines training with the Filipino forces.

The final event of PHIBLEX for the 13th MEU at Crow Valley was the combined arms live-fire exercise.

Meanwhile, Marine Corps and Navy personnel provided medical treatment during a cooperative health care event at Victory Village in the Philippines’ Albay province (see photo below).

Despite continuing fiscal restraints, the U.S. military is trying to increase its presence in the Asia-Pacific region as part of the Obama administration’s strategic pivot from the Middle East and Afghanistan-Pakistan to Asia.

Another goal in current military thinking is to develop regional partners around the globe and have local militaries do the heavy lifting in future counter terrorism or counter insurgency operations, while U.S. forces maintain a “light footprint” in the conflict zone.

Countries like the Philippines, which asked the U.S. to close its bases there in the 1990s, are now moving closer to the Americans — particularly if they clashed with China over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

U.S. Navy Lt. Stephanie Ellis, a family practitioner with the Marine Corps 3rd Medical Battalion, examines a Filipino woman during the  cooperative health engagement at Victory Village, Albay province. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Katelyn Hunter)

U.S. Navy Lt. Stephanie Ellis, a family practitioner with the Marine Corps 3rd Medical Battalion, examines a Filipino woman during the cooperative health engagement at Victory Village, Albay province.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Katelyn Hunter)

For more photos of the health event, click here.

October 17, 2013 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: War of 1812’s Battle of the Thames

Death of Tecumseh

Following the U.S. naval victory on Lake Erie in September 1813, the supply line to Fort Detroit (captured from the Americans a year earlier) was cut and British Major General Henry Procter deemed his position indefensible, so he retreated across the Detroit River back to Canada.

Kentucky Mounted Riflemen, led by Colonel Richard M. Johnson, charge the British line at Moraviantown (Courtesy Kentucky National Guard)

Kentucky Mounted Riflemen, led by Colonel Richard M. Johnson, charge the British line at Moraviantown
(Courtesy Kentucky National Guard)

Procter, with about 800 British regulars and some 500 Native Americans retreated slowly across Upper Canada, what is now Ontario. The Indians were led by Tecumseh, the Shawnee warrior who sought to unite a confederacy of tribes extending from the Great Lakes to the Deep South to resist the advance of white settlers from the United States encroaching on Indian land.

Major Gen. William Henry Harrison pursued the British and Indians with about 3,500 troops, including mounted Kentucky riflemen  and some U.S. Army regulars. They caught up with Procter on October 5, 1813 near Moraviantown — a peaceful Indian village on the Thames River. The Americans burned the village, inhabited by Christian Munsee Indians who had not joined Tecumseh.

The Kentuckians charged the outnumbereed and hungry British line, which quickly broke. The U.S. troops then advanced on the Indians who were formed up in a  swamp on the British right. Tecumseh rallied his men but was shot and killed. The ferocity of the Kentuckians’ assault was driven by a desire to revenge the massacre of Kentucky militia at the River Raisin in Michigan earlier that year.

Death of Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames in a 19th Century artist's rendering. Via Wikipedia

Death of Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames in a 19th Century artist’s rendering.
Via Wikipedia

Another Indian leader, Roundhead, a Wyandot chief also known as  Stiahta or Stayeghtha, was also killed. The Indian resistance collapsed.

Less than 30 British were killed, another 20-30 were wounded. But more than 500 were captured. Procter escaped capture with less than 300 men. The Indians’ casualties were also relatively light, some 20 to 30 killed. But Tecumseh’s dream of uniting the tribes died with him. Within a few decades, nearly all Indians East of the Mississippi River were driven out. Harrison went on to the White House as the ninth president of the United States in 1840.


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.

October 15, 2013 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

SOFT POWER: UAVs Could Help Peacekeepers, Relief Agencies UPDATE2

Stability Operations

(Updates with 7 aid workers kidnapped in northern Syria, four later released, 4 peacekeepers killed in Darfur))

The companies that that provide services ranging from translators to aircraft for humanitarian aid, peacekeeping and development organizations are meeting in Washington this week to discuss how to help people in an increasingly dangerous world.

That need was underscored over the weekend as seven relief workers — most working for the Red Cross — were kidnapped in Syria, according to the Los Angeles Times. All but three have been released but the continuing threat to aid workers in Syria and elsewhere remains.

And tree U.N. peacekeepers from Senegal were killed Sunday (October 13) in Sudan’s West Darfur region. Another peacekeeper from Zambia was stabbed to death Friday (October 11) in North Darfur. Nearly 170 U.N. personnel have been killed in Sudan since the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) was established in 2007, according to the Voice of America.

The K-MAX unmanned cargo helicopter. (Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

The K-MAX unmanned cargo helicopter.
(Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

The International Stability Operations Association, which has members ranging from BAE Systems and DynCorp to IAP Worldwide Services and Global Fleet Sales, is meeting Tuesday and Wednesday (October 15-16) at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.

One of the technologies some peace and relief organizations are interested in is unmanned systems – unmanned aerial systems, in particular. Jessica Mueller, director of programs and operations for the ISOA, says non-governmental organizations and relief agencies are very interested in obtaining intelligence about what dangers await in the next village, where refugees have fled to or where the greatest need for food is in a vast region with few roads. She thinks unmanned drones could be a big help obtaining that kind of information.

Industry experts say potential platforms range from small versions of the unmanned aircraft use for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, to unmanned helicopters, like the Lockheed Martin K-MAX cargo helicopter system being tested by the Marine Corps in Afghanistan (see photo). Sikorsky Aircraft plans to produce,through its Matrix Technology program, variants of all its rotary wing aircraft that are unmanned and autonomous.

To read more on this topic see your 4GWAR editor’s story in this week’s Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine (subscription required).

October 14, 2013 at 12:49 am Leave a comment

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