Archive for May, 2014

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (May 11-May 17)

Ships Vs. Fort.

Stephen Macdonough

Stephen Macdonough

Things are beginning to heat up on Lake Champlain, an avenue from Canada into New York and New England. Both the Americans and British are building ships to battle for supremacy on the long, narrow lake. The Americans are based at Vergennes, Vermont on Otter Creek, which feeds into the lake. The British were based at Isle aux Noix at the northern end of the lake.

On May 9, 1814, a small British fleet sails down to the mouth of Otter Creek, hoping to blockade the creek or sail in and destroy the U.S. fleet. But an earthworks, dubbed Fort Cassin, bars the way.

Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough, who is charge of naval operations on Lake Champlain, has the defenses built when he learns the British force is coming south to attack his shipyard. Macdonough,  along with with Lieut. Stephen Cassin – for whom the “fort” is named – some sailors, and a company of artillery sent from Burlington, Vermont, trade cannon fire with the British for about 90 minutes on May 14. There are few casualties on either side but the British withdraw, although what the British naval commander, Captain Daniel Pring, sees at Vergennes prompts him to begin construction of the Confiance, a 37-gun frigate.

The Fort Cassin skirmish protects the American fleet, but sets in motion the naval arms race that will result in the Battle of Plattburgh in September.

Lake Champlain and the Northern Front (U.S. Army Office of Military History)

Lake Champlain and the Northern Front
(U.S. Army Office of Military History)



May 12, 2014 at 12:26 am 1 comment

FRIDAY FOTO (May 9, 2014)

Night People.

U.S. Army photo by Specialist Philip Diab

U.S. Army photo by Specialist Philip Diab

Like green-eyed alien hunters, U.S. Army Rangers peer into the dim light of dusk through night vision goggles. These two soldiers — from Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment — are taking part in annual Task Force Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Rangers are constantly training to maintain the highest level of tactical proficiency.  The 3rd Battalion is being evaluated for how its soldiers perform during operational situations. The Ranger Regiment (despite the high number, there is only one) is one of the components of U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

To see more photos of this training exercise, click here. And don’t forget to click on the photo to enlarge it for better viewing.


May 9, 2014 at 1:53 am 1 comment

TERRORISM: Latest on Abduction of Nigerian Schoolgirls

 Nigerian Abductions

Parents of some of the kidnapped girls mourn their losses. (Voice of America photo via Wikipedia)

Parents of some of the kidnapped girls weep and pray.
(Voice of America photo via Wikipedia)

The United States, Britain, France, Canada and China are among the countries pledging to assist Nigerian authorities locate and rescue hundreds of schoolgirls abducted by the violent Islamist group, Boko Haram.

According to the Voice of America, a military spokesman said almost a dozen staff officers were already in Nigeria and would form the core of the U.S. team to aid in finding the nearly 300 kidnapped schoolgirls. Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said the team is “moving as quickly as possible.” About 10 more members from U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) will join the team within days.

The team will be based at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, and will help with communications, logistics and intelligence, VOA reported.

President Barack Obama directed the formation of an interagency coordination and assessment cell after Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan accepted a U.S. offer of assistance, the colonel told reporters Wednesday (May 7).

Eight more Nigerian schoolgirls were abducted Sunday (May 4) in the turbulent northeast part of the country and the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram – which has admitted kidnapping hundreds of other girls last month — is suspected to be behind the latest attack, Reuters reported this week.

It happened at a village in Borno state, where their earlier mass abduction took place. That attack has prompted demonstrations in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital … a massive protest on Twitter … and calls for U.S. and British military assistance to help find the girls.

U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama joined the international Facebook and Twitter campaign to spur the return of kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls. (White House photo)

U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama joined the international Facebook and Twitter campaign to spur the return of kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls.
(White House photo)

In addition to the U.S., Britain has promised to provide satellite imagery, France said it will send security agents and Canada offered surveillance equipment and personnel to run it. China became the latest nation to offer help on Thursday, VOA said.

Breaking a three-week silence, Abubaka Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, which wants to restore a very conservative version of Islamic law to the majority Muslim region of Nigeria, threatened to sell the girls his followers seized April 14 at their school in Borno state, Al Jazeera and other news outlets reported.

There has been a great deal of confusion about how many girls were taken, how many were still being held and what the Nigerian government was doing to find them and punish the kidnappers.

Government and school officials first claimed most of the girls had escaped or were returned, But complaints by parents led officials to concede more than 200 – as many as 279 – girls were still being held in a remote, densely-forested area on the Nigeria-Cameroon border.

Nigeria map (CIA World factbook)

the Nigeria map
(CIA World factbook)

UNICEF told the New York Times that the second kidnapping in the village of Chibok involved at least eight girls who were seized from their homes to prevent them from attending school. The girls taken Sunday were between the ages of 12 and 15.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and recently determined the continent’s largest economy has been rocked in recent months by increasingly violent attacks from Boko Haram. 

Bomb attacks in April and again last week in Abuja, the capital, killed a total of 94 people.  In February, 29 male college students in Yobe province were killed in an attack blamed on Boko Haram. And between 100 (the government’s figures) and 300 people (local residents’ count) were killed by suspected Boko Haram gunmen in another northeast Nigerian town on a busy market day Monday, the BBC reported.

The school abduction has embarrassed oil-rich Nigeria, which is hosting the World Economic Forum on Africa in Abuja this week. Jonathan, who has faced angry protests over the lack of progress in finding the girls, requested help Sunday from the U.S. and other nations.

The Los Angeles Times reported in March, that U.S. troops were helping the Nigerian army establish a special operations command to defeat Boko Haram. U.S. and French air forces fly unarmed Reaper surveillance drones over northern Nigeria, from Niamey in neighboring Niger, to collect intelligence, the L.A. Times noted. The U.S. also has stepped up efforts in North Africa and East Africa against al Qaeda-linked extremist groups.



May 9, 2014 at 12:00 am 1 comment

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: First FAA-Sanctioned Test Flights, Big Industry Conference Starts

First Steps.

Late last year, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) selected organizations in six states to begin testing ways to bring unmanned aircraft – also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones – into the nation’s skies for commercial purposes.

FAA-uas-test-site-operators-largeCongress has directed the FAA – the government agency charged with keeping U.S. skies safe and orderly – to develop a comprehensive plan for safely integrating civil UAS into the national airspace system. Congress set a deadline of September 2015 for non-government UAS to begin flying in the same space as manned aircraft.

On Monday (May 5) the first UAS in the test program took off in Alaska. The two-and-a-half-pound Aeryon Scout quad copter – a four-rotor robot helicopter – rose to 200 feet, hovered for a few minutes and landed at the Large Animal Research Station of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. This summer researchers plan to use the tiny chopper to survey animals at the research station. The aim is to see how effective drones can be at conducting animal population surveys, according to the Alaska Dispatch news site.

Aeryon Scout quadcopter Assembled with Backpack (Photo courtesy of Aeryon Labs Inc.)

Aeryon Scout quadcopter Assembled with Backpack
(Photo courtesy of Aeryon Labs Inc.)

The other UAS testing sites in Nevada, North Dakota, Texas, Virginia and New York State are expected to begin test flights this week as well. Industry officials estimate unmanned aircraft could grow into an $85 billion business by 2023.

Currently the FAA strictly limits where non-military unmanned systems can fly. Law enforcement and federal government agencies like NASA are required to obtain FAA approval to fly in very limited areas. No commercial UAS operations are allowed, although the FAA’s authority is being challenged. Private citizens are allowed to fly small UAVs at low altitudes for recreation as long as the drones remain in sight and under the operator’s control.

Businesses ranging from real estate and photography to film-making and farming have all expressed interest in using unmanned aircraft. Law enforcement agencies, scientists and emergency management officials have cited numerous public uses for drones including search and rescue and non-intrusive environmental studies in remote areas.

But pilots and commercial aviation interests are concerned about how drones can maneuver safely in the airspace used by manned aircraft. And civil rights and privacy concerns have been raised by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups about the use of drones by the police and commercial interests for surveillance and tracking.

*** *** ***

AUVSI 2014

AUVSI 2013 in Washington (4GWAR Photo by John M. Doyle)

AUVSI 2013 in Washington
(4GWAR Photo by John M. Doyle)

Commercial UAS use, as well as safety and civil rights issues will be among the topics discussed next week at a massive trade show and expo by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) – the droids, drones and robots industry.

AUVSI 2014 will showcase hundreds of unmanned systems for use in the air, on the ground and in space as well as on and under the sea. The increasing demand by the military for  intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance gathering through all manner of unmanned systems, will also be a hot topic.

Your 4GWAR editor will be reporting all next week from the conference, which runs from May 12 to May 15 in Orlando, Florida. Space Florida will also hold a live, outdoor demonstration of air and ground systems and the Kennedy Space Center on the day before the conference opens, Sunday (May 11). We’ll be at that, too.

Last year’s conference, which drew thousands of attendees to the Walter Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC, saw the debut of the SOLARA high altitude, solar-powered “atmospheric satellite” by Titan Aerospace — recently acquired by Google. Sample legislation was introduced by the Aerospace States Association for legislatures contemplating laws to ban, encourage or limit the use of unmanned aircraft; and the potential use of small unmanned aircraft by peacekeepers and international relief groups in natural and man-made disasters was discussed.

AUVSI 2013 in Washington, DC (4GWAR Photo by John M. Doyle)

AUVSI 2013 in Washington, DC
(4GWAR Photo by John M. Doyle)


May 7, 2014 at 8:23 pm 1 comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (May 4-10, 1814)

Raid on Oswego.

Raid on Fort Oswego, New York 1814.

Raid on Fort Oswego, New York 1814.

A British-Canadian raid in force sails across Lake Ontario from Kingston, Canada in the early hours of May 3, 1814 heading for the U.S. fort at Oswego, New York.

Fort is a relative term for the facility at Oswego, built by the British before the French and Indian War, the fortress has deteriorated over the years. Now less than 300 American troops – including 240 regular Army troops, 200 New York militiamen and 25 sailors of the U.S. Navy – guard a massive amount of supplies including arms and ammunition intended for the naval base at Sackets Harbor.

The Americans only have five cannon and most of them have no carriage or mounting. But in the time it takes the squadron of British ships to sail within cannon shot of Fort Oswego since their sails were first spotted at dawn on May 5, the cannons are mounted and positioned to defend against attack from the lake.

The British forces number about 1,000 troops from two British units — the 2nd Battalion, Royal Marines and the Regiment de Watteville — as well as the Canadian Glenngarry Light Infantry and about 200 Royal Navy sailors. They mount an amphibious attack while two frigates and six smaller ships shell the Americans’ positions.

Although most of the British troops’ ammunition is ruined while they wade ashore through deep water, they manage to overwhelm the Americans with sheer numbers and a bayonet charge despite withering fire.

Once its clear the fort will be taken, Major General George Mitchell of the 3rd U.S. Regiment of Artillery orders his men to retreat to Frdericksburgh. The British suffer about 80-to-90 casualties in the assault. The Americans lose between 70 and 119 killed, wounded and captured.




May 5, 2014 at 12:18 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (May 2, 2014)

The British Are Coming

Defense Dept. photo by Claudette Roulo

Defense Dept. photo by Claudette Roulo

In bearskin headgear known as a busby, the pipes and drums of the British Army’s 1st Battalion, Scots Guards, performs in the Pentagon courtyard Thursday (May 1, 2014). The Scots Guards is the oldest unit in the British Army, tracing its lineage back to 1642 in the service of King Charles I.

The pipe band is made up of 12 bagpipers, 10 drummers and two dancers (see photo below) and is led by a pipe major.

In between performances, James Townsend Jr., deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy noted that in addition to being the oldest infantry battalion in the United Kingdom, the unit has skills in engineering and combined arms, which have been displayed on the battlefield. “So while we enjoy your musicianship here, we [also] know being good Scots Guards you enjoy a scrap” he added.

The Scots Guards served alongside U.S. Marines in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province in 2012-2013, said British Army Brigadier General Douglas Chalmers, liaison officer for the chief of the U.K. defense staff.

The dancer below is attired in a kilt with the Regiment’s official tartan, Royal Stewart. If you click on the photo and enlarge it, look for the traditional dirk, or dagger, tucked into the stocking on his right leg.

One of the two Highland dancers attached to the 1st Battalion, Scots Guards, band performs outside the Pentagon.  (Defense Dept. photo photo by Claudette Roulo)

One of the two Highland dancers attached to the 1st Battalion, Scots Guards band performs outside the Pentagon.
(Defense Dept. photo photo by Claudette Roulo)

There doesn’t appear to be any video/audio of this event yet, but to hear what the full band (brass and woodwinds) sounds like click here.

Or click here to see a YouTube video of the pipes and drums leading the 1st Battalion’s 2013 homecoming parade through the streets of Glasgow after their deployment in Afghanistan. We suggest skipping to the 2:00 or 3:00 minute mark of the 14:00 video.


May 2, 2014 at 3:00 am 1 comment

COUNTER INSURGENCY: Philippine Troops Battle Islamist Rebels

Battling Abu Sayaf

Members of the U.S.  Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines work side-by-side with Philippine troops in a non-combat, training and advisory role to battle terrorists.  (Defense Dept. photo)

Members of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines work side-by-side with Philippine troops in a non-combat, training and advisory role in the battle against terrorism.
(Defense Dept. photo)

 Fourteen Islamist militants and a Philippine Marine were killed in a clash in a remote southern part of the Philippines this week (April 29-30), the Voice of America reports.

The fighting began Tuesday and continued into early Wednesday near the town of Patikul on the island of Jolo in Sulu Province. About 300 Abu Sayyaf fighters tried to retake a camp captured by the Marines on Monday. They attacked with mortars and rifle grenades, killing one Marine and wounding 19, officials told the BBC.

The Marines, assisted by reinforcements including artillery and helicopter support, were able to drive the rebels off.

The camp had been used as a training base for Abu Sayyaf’s new recruits and as a launching pad for frequent kidnapping raids, Reuters and AFP reported. Abu Sayyaf is suspected of abducting a female Chinese tourist and a Filipina resort worker from the neighboring Malaysian island of Sabah this month.

Formed in the 1990s with seed money from al-Qaeda, Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for terror attacks including kidnappings of foreigners and locals who are then held for ransom. Abu Sayyaf is one of many small Islamist groups in the southern Philippines opposed to a peace deal with the Philippine government recently signed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The United States has been rotating about 500 Special Operations Forces experts in the southern Philippines for more than a decade to train the Philippine military how to fight Abu Sayyaf. Philippine law forbids foreign troops from engaging in combat on Philippine soil.



May 2, 2014 at 12:52 am 1 comment

TERRORISM: Attacks on Transportation Points in China, India, Nigeria and Pakistan

 Second Nigerian Bombing.

Nigeria map (CIA World factbook)

Nigeria map
(CIA World factbook)

Another bomb has gone off near Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.

The blast Thursday (May 1) occurred in Nyana near the transit center where a suicide bombing last month (April 14) killed 70 people and injured more than a hundred. Initial reports indicate 12 have been killed and many more have been injured in the latest attack, which is believed to have been a car bomb, according to the BBC.

Thursday’s bomb exploded near a checkpoint across the road from the bus station hit by the April 14 blast, according to the Associated Press, and just days before Abuja hosts scores of world leaders, philanthropists and business leaders arrive for the World Economic Forum on Africa.

The violent extremist group, Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the April bombing – part of a five-year terror campaign to install Islamic sharia law in the predominantly Muslim parts of Africa’s most populous nation. There’s no word on any group claiming credit for the latest blast.

*** *** ***

Train Attack in India

A young woman was killed and several other people injured Thursday (May 1) when two blasts rocked a train in the south Indian city of Chennai.

Chennai Central railway station in 2007 (Photo by PLanemad via Wikipedia)

Chennai Central railway station in 2007
(Photo by PLanemad via Wikipedia)

The bombings come in the middle of India’s on-going general election, but officials can’t say if the two are related, the BBC reported. The incident happened minutes after the express train from Bangalore in southern India to the northeastern city of Guwahati arrived in the Chennai station.

Investigators said Chennai might not have been the target since the train was running an hour and a half late, according to the New York Times.

In April, another bomb ripped through a railway car parked at a station in southwestern Pakistan, killing at least 13 people. The blast in the town of Sibi also wounded 35 people, the Associated Press reported.

*** *** ***

 China Attack

China President Xi Jinping (2012 Defense Dept  photo)

China President Xi Jinping
(2012 Defense Dept photo)

 Chinese President Xi Jinping is calling for “decisive actions” against what he termed “terrorist attacks” following a deadly blast Wednesday (April 30) in a railway station in far Western China.

Xi was winding up a four-day visit to the restive region of Xinjiang when the attack occurred. Local police said three people were killed and 79 were injured when attackers used knives and detonated explosives at a railway station in the city of Urumqi, according to the BBC.

Officials believe two of the dead were the attackers, the Associated Press reported. It was the third attack in seven months by what officials call Xinjiang extremists, the AP said.

Officials in Beijing have blamed such attacks on separatists from the mainly Muslim Uighur minority who number about nine million. The Uighurs have complained for years about political, religious and cultural repression by the Chinese government in Xinjiang.

In March, 150 people were injured and 29 were killed in an attack at a Kunming train station by several men armed with long knives. Chinese officials blamed Uighurs for that attack.

May 1, 2014 at 9:47 pm 1 comment

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