Posts filed under ‘News Developments’

LOOKING AHEAD: December defense and homeland security events

Busy December.

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December 3-5

Egypt Defense Expo – At the  Egypt International Exhibition Centre, New Cairo, Egypt

December 5-6

IQPC Border Management Summit in San Antonio, Texas at the Hilton Garden Inn San Antonio-Live Oak Conference Center

December 5-7

IDGA’s Future Ground Combat Vehicles summit in Detroit, Michigan at the Sheraton Detroit Novi hotel.

December 5

9:00 a.m. – 10 a.m. The Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies presents  a discussion on “Air Force Operations: Increasing Readiness and Lethality” featuring Lieutenant General Mark Kelly, Air Force deputy chief of staff for operations, at the Key Bridge Marriott’s Potomac Ballroom, Salon A in Arlington, Virginia.

11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. —  Book launch event for Dr. Max Abrahm’s newly released Rules for Rebels: The Science of Victory in Militant History (Oxford University Press). Presented by the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Transnational Threats Project at 1616 Rhode Island Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20036.

frifo-1-20-2012icebreaker

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Benjamin Nocerini)

12:30 p.m. — United States Coast Guard commandant Admiral Karl L. Schultz, discusses America’s presence in the Arctic as a matter of national security at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, 529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor, Washington, DC 20045.

December 6

9:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m. — Richard V. Spencer, 76th Secretary of the Navy, discusses the state of the Navy and Marine Corps and innovation in the naval domain at a Maritime Security Dialogue jointly sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the United States Naval Institute (USNI). At CSIS Headquarters, 1616 Rhode Island Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20036.

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December 3, 2018 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Nigeria’s Boko Haram Troubles

NIGERIA-Boko Haram.

Extremist attacks of military bases between November 2 and 18, killed 39 soldiers and wounded 43 more, Nigerian officials conceded Wednesday (November 28).

The attacks are an embarrassment and political setback for the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari, who has maintained the Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram has been defeated. On Wednesday Buhari declared that Boko Haram and Islamic State-linked fighters should be wiped “from the surface of the earth.”

MAP-Nigeria

(Nigeria map: CIA World Factbook)

Shocked by the deaths, Buhari backed off past declarations that Boko Haram has been defeated and urged the military to “rise to the challenge.” He addressed security leaders in the turbulent northeast as he faces growing criticism ahead of next year’s election over the failure to end what he called a “must-win war,” the Associated Press reported.

The Islamic State West Africa Province, the largest IS-linked extremist group in Africa and a recent Boko Haram offshoot, claimed responsibility for the deadliest attack, a Nov. 18 assault on a military base in Metele. Concerns are growing that the group, which has killed two abducted health workers in recent months, is becoming more vicious, according to AP.

Mamman Nu, a slightly more moderate leader of the brutal terrorist group was killed three months ago by his more fanatical followers, according to The Economist.

Claims that the Buhari administration and the Nigerian military are inadequately equipping soldiers for the fight against Boko Haram are reminiscent of similar charges made against then-President Goodluck Jonathan at the height of the Boko Haram insurgency between 2014 and 2015, according to the Council on Foreign Relations blog. Then, as now, Nigeria faced upcoming presidential elections, which Buhari would go on to win. He campaigned on a platform of tackling corruption and restoring security, and central to his campaign was the defeat of Boko Haram.

nigerian-refugees-un-photo

A group of Nigerian refugees rest in the Cameroon town of Mora in 2015 after fleeing armed Boko Haram attacks.
(United Nations Photo by Mbaoirem)Enter a caption

“The apparent revival of Boko Haram therefore constitutes for President Buhari an electoral liability as well as added danger now faced by ordinary Nigerians in the northeast. Furthermore, according to officials from Niger, the terrorist group recently kidnapped around eighteen girls from two villages near the border with Nigeria. The episode recalls the Boko Haram kidnapping of school girls from Chibok in 2014, though the large-scale kidnapping of school girls has become a common feature of the Boko Haram insurgency. The failure of the Jonathan administration to provide adequately for the military was widely ascribed to corruption. President Buhari has launched a high-profile initiative against corruption, though many Nigerians see it as ineffective. Hence, the revival of Boko Haram and claims that the military is ill-provisioned may call to mind earlier allegations of the Jonathan government’s fecklessness and corruption that Buhari campaigned against,” writes John Campbell on the CoFR website.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian military says Boko Haram is using drones — unmanned aircraft — to gather intelligence on Nigerian troop movements, according to the BBC.

In a statement by Brigadier General Sani Kukasheka Usman on Wednesday, the Army said “we have noticed daring moves by the terrorists, increased use of drone against our defensive positions and infusion of foreign fighters in their ranks, according the Nigerian news site Vanguard.

 

 

November 30, 2018 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (November 16, 2018)

Airborne Medical Assistance.

HSC-22 Conduct Flight Operations in Colombia in Support of Enduring Promise Initiative

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Scott Bigley)

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Nicholas Glass looks out from an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter over the landscape near Turbo, Colombia. This photo was taken November 14, 2018, during a medical support mission to Central and South America as part of the Enduring Promise initiative.

Sponsored by U.S. Southern Command, the 11-week mission is working with health and government partners in Ecuador, Peru and Honduras, as well as Colombia. The embarked medical team will provide care on board the USNS Comfort hospital ship and at land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems caused, in part, by an increase in cross-border migrants fleeing a severe economic crisis in Venezuela. The economic collapse of once oil-rich Venezuela has led to severe shortages of food, medicine and basic goods. Many of those fleeing the country said they cannot get the operations and medical care they need.

November 16, 2018 at 10:13 pm 1 comment

Ground Combat Vehicles

Planning Ahead.

Back in the Fight!

A Bradley Fighting Vehicle moves into position during training at Fort Irwin, Calif., August 6, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin May).

The U.S. military is changing the way it will fight in the next 30 years. The rise of China as a global competitor and Russia’s increasing belligerence in the regions around the Baltic and Black seas, have U.S. military planners – especially in the Army — rethinking their procurement needs, including what kind of armored ground combat vehicles will be needed.

“Russia and China continue to assert themselves in an effort to gain dominance in key regions and are developing advanced weapons to achieve parity both strategically and in close combat,” Army Secretary Mark Esper told a Senate appropriations panel in May. The potential threat was on full display in mid-September when Russia conducted its largest military exercise since the Cold War in Eastern Siberia.  The week-long Vostok 2018 maneuvers, involved not only 300,000 Russian personnel, but 3,200 Chinese troops and 36,000 tanks and other armored ground vehicles.

But prototypes of the Army’s future ground combat vehicles are not expected to be delivered for another two or three years. So U.S. military leaders are looking for interim defensive systems that can protect tank and armored vehicle crews from advanced armor-piercing shells and missiles. The usual solution–adding more armor– isn’t feasible with 70-ton M1A Abrams tanks already too heavy for Eastern European bridges to accommodate.

The added weight of heavier armor–sometimes several tons–can slow the vehicle down, make it less maneuverable and complicates logistics from transportation to maintenance to repair. Instead, the Defense Department is looking at lightweight, off-the-shelf solutions utilizing active or passive technology. Active protection systems, or APS, use physical countermeasures, such as blast or projectiles that destroy or limit the impact of incoming fire.

In February, officials announced the Army would buy the Trophy active protection system — made by Israel’s Rafael — for more than 250 of the Abrams main battle tanks. Currently deployed with the Israeli Defense Force, Trophy is the only battle-tested APS in the Western world, although Russia has had success with its own APS in Ukraine. Trophy maintains a ring of radar around the vehicle to detect threats in all directions. Once the system detects an incoming weapon, Trophy tracks it, determines its trajectory and destroys it with a blast of metal pellets like a shotgun.

Bravo Company, 1/4 Mechanized Raid

(Marines operate an assault amphibious vehicle during a simulated mechanized raid at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., on August 28, 2018. The shaped steel Enhanced Applique Armor Kit is visible on the AAV’s flank. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Private First Class Brendan Mullin).

There are also “passive” solutions of specialized armor plating that use composite materials to simply deflect or absorbs blasts and projectiles, like the EAAK (Enhanced Applique Armor Kit), developed by Rafael and installed on the U.S. Marine Corps’ ageing Assault Amphibious Vehicles. Baseline protection was increased through a shaped-steel external armor fitting. However, that forced modifications to the engine and suspension system to counter the additional weight of the EAAK installation.

A survivability upgrade that would have replaced the EAKK armor with more advanced defensive and amphibious technology was cancelled by the Marine Corps in late September, according to USNI News.

Metal Foam

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a range of composite metal foams that are lighter and stronger than the materials they are made of. The composite material offers much more protection that all other existing armor materials while lowering the weight by as much as one-third, say researchers. (Photo by Afsaneh Rabiei)

One promising composite solution is metal foam, literally metal with sponge-like holes, that combines strength, thermal shielding and both ballistic and thermal radiation detection. Developed by researchers at North Carolina State University and the Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate, composite metal foam, or CMF, “offers much more protection than all other existing armor materials while lowering the weight remarkably,” according to Afsaneh Rabiei, senior author of the paper outlining CMF’s benefits. “We can provide as much protection as existing steel armor at a fraction of the weight – or provide much more protection at the same weight,” added Rabiei, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at N.C. State.

Advanced armor materials will be among the topics discussed at IDGA’s Future Ground Combat Vehicles summit in Detroit, December 5-7. Click here for more information.

September 27, 2018 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (September 21, 2018)

Worth a thousand words.

Florence Flooding in Bladen County

(Nebraska National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Herschel Talley)

Nebraska Army National Guard Spc. Matthew Reidy surveys the flooding from the air on September 19 (Wednesday) in Bladen County, North Carolina.

Two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters and 13 Soldiers assigned to a Lincoln-based Nebraska National Guard aviation unit supported the ongoing Hurricane Florence relief operations from the Army Aviation Support Facility at the Raleigh International Airport in North Carolina. The Company G, 2-104th General Aviation Battalion Soldiers are equipped and trained to conduct search and rescue operations, as well as air movement missions.

For days, the storm dumped relentless rain — in some places about 3 feet — and rivers keep on rising. The storm’s death toll ticked up to 41 people in the Mid-Atlantic region on Thursday (September 20); 31 of them in North Carolina alone, according to NPR.

The disaster sparked a widespread government response from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and National Guard units — as well as the Department of Homeland Security and local emergency workers.

September 21, 2018 at 8:10 pm Leave a comment

LATIN AMERICA: Brazil Presidential Knife Attack; Nicaraguan Political Violence; Venezuelan Migration Crisis.

Brazil: Far-Right Candidate Stabbed.

Just when it looks like Brazil’s wild presidential election campaign can’t get any wilder — a far-right candidate is stabbed and seriously injured.

Jair Bolsonaro was stabbed during a campaign rally in Minas Gerais Thursday (September 6). Several videos posted on social media showed Bolsonaro riding on the shoulder of a supporter during a rally when he was stabbed in his abdomen, the Voice of America website reported. Other videos show him being carried to car and his supporters hitting the apparent attacker, who was arrested at the scene.

MAP-Brazil

Brazil (CIA World Factbook)

Flavio Bolsonaro, the candidate’s son, wrote on Twitter that his father had been wounded in the liver, lung and intestine. “He lost a lot of blood, arrived at the hospital … almost dead. He appears to have stabilized now,” he said.

General Antonio Hamilton Mourao, Bolsonaro’s running mate, told Reuters by telephone that the candidate’s condition was stable but still worrying.

The attack on Bolsonaro is a dramatic twist in what is already Brazil’s most unpredictable election since the country’s return to democracy three decades ago. Corruption investigations have jailed scores of powerful businessmen and politicians, and alienated infuriated voters, according to Reuters.

Violence in Brazil is rampant – the country has more homicides than any other, according to the United Nations – and political violence is common at the local level.

Bolsonaro, who has spent nearly three decades in Congress, is a law-and-order candidate who routinely says that Brazilian police should kill suspected drug traffickers and other criminals at will. He has openly praised the military dictatorship that ran Brazil in the past said it should have killed more people.

The controversial politician, who has outraged many in Brazil with racist and homophobic comments, has performed strongly in recent polls, the BBC reported.

Polls suggest he would get the most votes in next month’s presidential elections if former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva fails in his attempt to overturn a ban on him standing for election. Lula, who served as president from 2003-2010, is ineligible for office under Brazil’s “Clean Slate” law, which prohibits candidates from running if they have convictions that have been upheld on appeal.

Despite his conviction and several graft cases pending against him, Lula leads Bolsonaro  with 39 percent of voter support, according to pollster Datafolha. Lula has denied any wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, thousands fleeing Venezuela’s  collapsing economy have flooded Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru with refugees. Things were so unsettled in northern Brazil that President Michel Temer signed a decree August 28 to send troops to the country’s northern state of Roraima, where Venezuelans fleeing food shortages have streamed across the border.

Temer said the armed forces were being sent to “guarantee law and order” as Venezuela’s migrant crisis was “threatening the harmony of the whole continent.” He said the move was for the safety of both Brazilian citizens and Venezuelan migrants, NPR reported.

*** *** ***

Defense Secretary Tours South America.

Brazil was the first stop on U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis’s four-nation tour of  South America last month to shore up strong defense ties with the governments of  Argentina, Chile and Colombia — as well as Brazil.

Mattis met with Defense Minister Joaquim Silva e Luna, the chief of Brazil’s joint staff, Admiral Ademir Sobrinho, and the Brazilian service chiefs. Later he told military officers at Brazil’s war college that the United States wants a “stronger relationship” with a focus on using Brazil’s Alcantara space center, which is located near the equator, Agence France-Presse reported.

SECDEF Mattis in Brazil

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis (second from right) met with Brazilian defense leaders during his trip to Brazil, Aug. 13, 2018. (Defense Department photo)

China is developing its space infrastructure in Latin America, with a base in southern Argentina’s Patagonia region. It has also pushed deep into the continent’s economies as an investor and major client for agricultural, mineral and other commodities, AFP noted.

Mattis told reporters  in Brazil that Russian and Chinese involvement in South America has had “zero impact” on military-to-military relationships with America’s Latin partners.

He cautioned against potentially damaging “inroads by other nations,” according to VoA. “There’s  more than one way to lose sovereignty in this world. It’s not just by bayonets. It can also be by countries that come bearing gifts and by large loans…piling massive debt on countries knowing they know will not be able to repay it,” Mattis added in an apparent poke at Chinese loans to countries like Venezuela.

On his trip to Colombia in August, Mattis said he was impressed by the progress Colombia has made in human rights, democracy and rule of law after more than 30 years battling terrorist attacks, a violent Marxist insurgency and corruption fueled by narcotics cartels. As a sign of the changed atmosphere, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced in May that his country will formally become NATO’s first Latin American “global partner.”

But Mattis added that he’s concerned about the unrest in neighboring Venezuela.

Hyperinflation in that country is expected to hit 1 million percent this year, and tens of thousands of people are fleeing the country to other neighbors. Neighboring nations are helping with these refugees and looking to ensure peace along a desperate border, according to the Defense Department.

The U.S. State Department is providing $56 million in aid to refugees and the Defense Department is sending the hospital ship USNS Comfort to the region to help.

***

Venezuela’s Woes.

The United Nations says that more than 1.6 million Venezuelans have left their country since the start of 2015, generating an international migrant crisis that has set off alarms in South America and recently led to violent confrontations between migrants and local populations.

Venezuelans are fleeing a severe economic crisis which has led to severe shortages of food, medicine and basic goods. Many of those fleeing the country say they are doing so because they cannot get the operations and medical care they need.

The Associated Press explains the situation here.

_103142757_venezuela_map_640-3x_v2-nc

Late last month, the United Nations refugee and migration agencies has called on Latin American countries to ease entry for Venezuelan nationals fleeing economic hardship and a deepening political crisis, Reuters reported.

The U.N. agencies said they were concerned about new passport and border entry requirements in Ecuador and Peru. At the same time they praised states for hosting more than 1.6 million Venezuelans who have fled economic and political upheaval since 2015.

*** *** ***

Nicaragua Violence.

Another refugee crisis is growing in Central America, where tens of thousands of Nicaraguans are fleeing to Costa Rica to escape political violence in the wake of a wave of anti-government protests.

For more than four months, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has responded forcefully to nationwide protests, which initially began in opposition to a hike in social security taxes and quickly erupted into a call for his resignation, NPR reports. More than 300 people have been killed, hundreds more disappeared and thousands have fled the country, according to the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, a nongovernmental organization in Managua.

MAP-Nicaragua

Nicaragua and neighbors (Map: CIA World Factbook)

 

At the United Nations, the United States warned the Security Council Wednesday (September 5) that Nicaragua is heading down the path that led to conflict in Syria and Venezuela’s mass migration that has spilled into the region. But Russia, China and Bolivia said Nicaragua doesn’t pose an international threat and the U.N. should butt out, the Associated Press reported.

The sharp exchanges took place at the first Security Council meeting called by U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, the current council president, to address what the U.N. says is Nicaragua’s violent repression of student and opposition protests.

September 7, 2018 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: Light Show, Teaming with Air Force jets; Paris patrol; Assassination Weapon?

A new kind of Fireworks.

Drone Light Show entertains Team Travis

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Conrad)

More than 500 drones illuminated the sky during a light show at California’s Travis Air Force Base on July 5, 2018. Intel’s new lightweight Shooting Star drone — it weighs just 330 grams — is designed to carry only a light that can change colors. Together, the 500 little quadcopters are capable of 4 billion color combinations, reported CBS Bay Area TV station KPIX.

Originally scheduled for the Fourth of July, the drone light show had to be postponed for a day because of high winds. Even so, a glitch required landing the fleet, early in the show, and resetting the drones before they could conduct five minute light show — controlled by one lap top and one operator, according to ABC TV station KGO.

The tiny drones, made of plastic and foam, swooped and swirled in the night sky forming images of the American flag, an airplane, the Golden Gate Bridge and the California Grizzly Bear.

Intel, the silicon chip maker, unveiled its drone light show capabilities in 2015 using just 100 little quadcopters. “The difference between 100 and 500 is mind blowing,” Natalie Cheung, who heads the Intel light show business unit, said in a company video. The drone display integrates computing, communication, sensor and cloud technology.

“All this drone can do is light up the sky, but it is something it can do really, really well,” the light show lead engineer, Daniel Gurdan said in the video.

Teaming Drones with Manned Aircraft

Intel’s flying light show is just one way scientists and engineers are working on ways to operate drones in large numbers. The military, in particular, has been looking at ways large numbers of fast-moving, evasive drones could overwhelm and enemy’s air defense systems.

The Army has looked into pairing its MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with attack helicopters, using the drone as a kind of hunting dog to seek out targets and threats out in front of the manned helicopter. Your 4GWAR editor first wrote about that for Smithsonian’s Air&Space magazine blog in 2011

Now Air Force thinkers are looking at teaming manned aircraft with unmanned drones. In a policy paper released late last month (July 2018), the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies says maximizing the attributes of human operators and aircraft autonomy could boost affordable, effective combat capacity.

The paper notes that as a result of advancements in autonomy, processing power, and collaborative information exchange, the U.S. Air Force may soon be able to fly traditionally manned combat aircraft in partnership with unmanned aircraft.

The paper’s authors urge the Air Force to explore the advantages that could come through collaborative teaming of manned and unmanned combat aircraft. They noted  that the “combination may provide increased numbers of affordable aircraft to complement a limited number of exquisite, expensive, but highly potent fifth-generation aircraft.”

In short, that could mean meeting the requirements of Air Force Combat Command in a sustainable way during a time when there is a shortage of pilots and funds for newer, more expensive aircraft.

In other unmanned aircraft news …

Protecting Paris.

During Bastille Day celebrations in France last month (July 15), two MQ-9 Reaper drones patrolled the skies over Paris and southwestern France.

According to the manufacturer of the unmanned aircraft — San Diego-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems — the French Air Force (Armee De L’Air) operated its drones over Paris and the city of Cognac, providing airborne surveillance over the national celebration.

Equipped with an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance suite of sensors, the Paris MQ-9 flew safely over a populated area of seven million people among numerous other military aircraft participating in the airborne parade.

SONY DSC

(Photo of French MQ-9 Reaper courtesy of Business Wire)

Two French MQ-9s are based in Cognac Châteaubernard Air Base, where they perform daily training or ISR support in French airspace. Another six Reapers are operated by the 1/33 Belfort Squadron, providing intelligence and support to Operation Barkhane, the ongoing French anti-insurgent operation in Africa’s Sahel region along with Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

Assassination Attempt by Drone?

Two drones packed with explosives reportedly flew toward Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Saturday night (August 4) in what his government says was a failed assassination attempt. New York Times site has video here.

MAP-Venezuela_large_locator

Venezuela in South America (Source: CIA World Factbook)

The attack  occurred while Maduro was making a speech at a huge outdoor event in Caracas to celebrate the 81st anniversary of the country’s national guard, according to USA Today, which detailed what happened.

Maduro blamed the “far right”, Colombia’s outgoing president, Juan Manuel Santos, and shadowy forces in Miami for the attack, The Economist reported. He has denounced a score of plots since he took over from the late Hugo Chávez in 2013.

August 17, 2018 at 12:28 am

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