Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Response Boat-Mediums:New Coast Guard Workhorse

The Response Boat-Medium is destined to be the U.S. Coast Guard's workhorse for shore-based units.A multi-mission craft,it is survivable in seas up to 12 feet and features twin diesel engines with waterjet propulsion,as well as advanced navigation.With a speed of up to 42.5 knots,the RB-M is much faster than its predecessor,the 41-foot Utility Boat,Big,which can only reach 26 knots.
The RB-M was introduced to the fleet in 2008 and will be added to it until 2016.Marinette Marine Corporation and its partner,Kvichak Marine Industries,are building 180 of the highly maneuverable boats,which are lightly armed with two M240 machine guns.The RB-M is 44.9 feet in length and has a complement of four.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

China Proposes Emergency Talks

China has proposed emergency talks on the Korea crisis for early December.South Korea said it is seriously considering the idea.Meanwhile,South Koreans went about their Sunday routines in their capital,Seoul,attending religious services or shopping.
The U.S. has been frustrated by China's failure to pressure its ally North Korea into better behavior.
Artillery fire from the north was heard Sunday on Yeongpyeong Island,site of North Korea's deadly attack last Tuesday,sending the remaining civilians into shelters.No shells landed there today.Many of the residents have left the island chain near the sea border between the two Koreas.
An armada of 10 U.S. Navy and South Korean warships have begun exercising nearby in the Yellow Sea.Communications,logistics and defensive tactics will be practiced during the four-day maneuvers.They are part of a series of exercises which began after North Korea sank a South Korean warship,the Cheonan,in March of this year,and are intended to improve coordination and demonstrate solidarity.No weapons will be fired during the drills.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Early Edition:Naval Exercises To Continue

Naval exercises in the Yellow Sea off the Korean peninsula by South Korean and U.S. forces will proceed in spite of North Korea's violent outburst Tuesday.The aircraft carrier USS George Washington(CVN 73) left its homeport in Japan as scheduled on Tuesday and will join the maneuvers shortly.
North Korea had opened fire with K-9 155mm Howitzers on Yeongpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea,7 miles off the coast of South Korea,killing 2 South Korean Marines and injuring 3 civilians and 16 military personnel.The attack lasted about an hour.
Fires from the barrages were still burning at nightfall.Thousands of civilians were being evacuated from a chain of 31 islands.South Korea had responded to the aggression with barrages of its own.The Pentagon said it had no plans to attack the north,and U.S. forces were not put on alert.
In March,a North Korean submarine sank the South Korean warship Cheonan in the same area,killing 46 South Korean sailors.The north doesn't recognize the western maritime border established by the U.N. in 1953,at the truce of the Korean War,which was never formally ended.Several clashes have occurred over the disputed maritime border and along the Demilitarized Zone on land.
President Barrack Obama was awakened at 3:55 am and told of the incident,which he later condemned.North Korea is in the midst of a transition of power from Kim Jung Il to his son Kim Jong Un,who was recently made a four star general,and many observers see the attack as the son's baptism of fire,gaining him credibility with North Korea's powerful army.
The USS George Washington carries about 80 aircraft.Powered by two nuclear reactors,it can cruise at 30+ knots.Around 28,000 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea.
Update:The bodies of two construction workers were found buried in the rubble left by North Korea's artillery barrage on Tuesday,raising the death toll to four.The USS George Washington and her carrier battle group should arrive on scene by Sunday to conduct four days of naval exercises with South Korea.North Korea has threatened more attacks if the exercises violate even a millimeter of its perceived territory.
An angry protest against the North Korean aggression took place in Seoul,South Korea.
Update 2:South Korea has reinforced Yeongpyeong Island and other islands nearby with 4,000 more of its marines.General Walter Sharp,commander of U.S. forces in Korea,has toured the devastated island,describing North Korea's attack as being in clear violation of the armistice agreement of 1953.South Korean veterans bitterly criticized the government's response to the aggression,considering it weak and slow.Fire was not returned for 13 minutes.
U.S. and South Korean naval exercises will begin in the Yellow Sea around noon on Sunday,a U.S. Navy spokesman said.They will not be live fire exercises because they are being held in a high traffic area.The maneuvers were planned in advance of the North Korean attack.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Last of the Color

The last of the autumn leaves are being viewed in the Mid-Atlantic region.Scattered red maples and oaks still have some color on them,as well as the exotic Asian pears.
The snowbirds are present in force.Firearms deer season is fast approaching.The white-tailed deer are having their last calm days for a few weeks or so.
The first lowland snow flurries can't be far in the future.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Afghan War Progress:Militants Low On Funds

Taliban militants trying to unseat the Afghan government and reinstate their radical Islamist reign are finding their funding drying up,the result of the predominant U.S. Marine and other coalition forces being active in Helmand and neighboring Kandahar Provinces.From threatening poppy growers to processing and smuggling heroin,the militants' fund-raising habits are being disrupted,forcing them to resort to unearthing stashes of old weapons and ammunition.
Mullah Omar,the Taliban leader in hiding since U.S. forces and the Afghan Northern Alliance drove him from power in 2001,issued a plea for Muslims to fund the militant cause.He spoke in a greeting on Eid-al-Adha,the major Muslim observance.
Afghan villagers and farmers are bolder in standing up to the militants with the coalition troops around.Soon,the Marines and British troops will be setting up self-defense units of 50 Afghans apiece,formalizing their independent streak.A similar tactic proved successful in Iraq,tapping anti-Al Qaida sentiment there and focusing it on dislodging that Islamic militant group.
Although neither the Taliban nor Al Qaida in Iraq are likely to disappear entirely,they are being marginalized over time,to the point where indigenous security forces can contain them.They are being pushed to outlying villages and the cover of darkness.
The NATO defense alliance plans to completely turn security over to Afghan forces by 2014.NATO emphasizes,however,that this is a goal.If conditions in certain areas do not warrant the transfer of authority,U.S. and allied troops may remain on station there.
Scholars point out that the ultimate challenge is setting up honest governments the locals can rely on,backed by competent indigenous security forces to defend them from the gruff Islamic militants.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Carnival Splendor Arrives Home

The cruise liner Carnival Splendor has safely docked in San Diego,several hours ahead of schedule.The ship had been protected by the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Morgenthau(WHEC 722).The Morgenthau is homeported at Alameda,California.A Hamilton class high endurance cutter,the Morgenthau has a complement of 162.
Many of the Hamilton class cutters saw combat duty in Vietnam.They are heavily armed with several guns and a Phalanx Close-In Weapons System,and have long-range capability,with a range of 14,000 nautical miles at a speed of 15 knots.
A U.S. Navy corpsman aboard the cutter was available for any medical needs of the cruise liner's passengers and crew.Fortunately,it appears they suffered only varying degrees of discomfort and aggravation.
On this Veterans Day,America salutes you,our military men and women.
Carnival Corp(CCL)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cruise Ship Phones Back

Cell phones aboard the disabled Carnival Splendor are working again,providing a clearer picture of conditions on the vessel.A third tugboat has joined the small armada helping the cruise liner,which should arrive in San Diego by late Thursday.
An NBC affiliate employee who is cruising on the Splendor said people are trying to keep their spirits up.Musicians are providing some entertainment for the passengers.The inner cabins are still in the dark,and have to keep their doors propped open for fresh air and light.
There is still no hot food.It is a "diet cruise" of fruit,salad and small sandwiches.Many of the passengers say they will never take another cruise.
Carnival Corp(CCL)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Early Edition:Military Aid Arrives At Cruise Ship

Help has begun arriving off the coast of Baja California,Mexico,where the cruise liner Carnival Splendor was disabled by an aft engine room fire early Tuesday.The first of two tugboats had reached the liner as of Tuesday evening,a Carnival spokesperson said.
The fire left the huge ship without plumbing,air conditioning and cooking.Carnival said the Splendor should reach San Diego by late Thursday.The company is arranging for hotels and flights home for the passengers,and will provide full refunds plus a future cruise for them.
The Splendor had left Long Beach,California on Sunday with 3299 passengers and 1167 crew.The U.S. Navy responded to a request for aid.Sailors sent eight planeloads of food-including plenty of Spam-water and other supplies from an air station to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan(CVN 76),which will in turn supply the Splendor by helicopter.
Navy personnel who have been delivering the supplies report that the passengers are in good spirits,taking photos of the Navy helicopters.
There have been no serious injuries reported,but two passengers and one crew member had panic attacks.A U.S. Coast Guard cutter is shadowing the Splendor.Security is a concern,given the disabled liner's vulnerability to drug traffickers and terrorists.
Update:Both tugboats are now pulling the Splendor,and the operation is proceeding without incident.The liner's crew got auxiliary power going last night,so cold water is now on tap.For some historical context,see this week's post in International Daybook,which you can reach from the link list in the right column.
Carnival Corp(CCL)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wintry Hints

Hard freezes have descended on the Mid-Atlantic region,greeting motorists with frosty windshields in the morning.It was below 0 Celsius in some locations.The winter ahead is predicted to be average for the region,which will seem mild after last winter's multiple blizzards.
Snowbirds were seen at feeders this morning,and some human snowbirds are already making their annual migration to Florida from Canada and New England.The cheaper sacks of birdseed are stacked at the store for today's budget-conscious shoppers.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

D.C. Area Mystery:Assailant Targets Sea Services

A serial assailant has been attacking sea services facilities in Northern Virginia.Tuesday morning,it was discovered that the shooter had fired on a U.S. Coast Guard recruiting station at a Woodbridge,Virginia mall.
The individual has also taken pot shots at the Pentagon;on two occasions,at the Marine Corps museum in Quantico;and at a Marine Corps recruiting station.The same weapon was used in the Marine Corps shootings.
An FBI profile theorized that the person has a grudge against the Marine Corps,but the attack on the Coast Guard calls that motivation into question.
No one has been injured in the shootings,which took place in pre-dawn hours.At least some of them were believed to have been carried out from a highway.There are no suspects in the incidents so far.
What would normally be considered safe postings have suddenly taken on menace for the service members who work in the area,as well as the civilians who have business there.
Update:The FBI has ascertained that the Coast Guard shooting was from the same weapon as the other four attacks.