Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Afghan War Briefing:US Helicopter Crashes;Australian Troops Withdraw

A Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed about 4pm Tuesday local time in Zabul Province,Afghanistan,killing six US troops and injuring the sole survivor,defence and local officials said.Preliminary indications are that the chopper experienced mechanical difficulties before crashing.*
The Shojae District of Zabul is mountainous,forested,and frequented by the enemy,according to Ghulam Jilani Khan,Provincial Security Chief.The survivor was rescued by a US/Afghan quick reaction force.Taliban militants claimed responsibility for the crash,as is their custom regardless of the facts.Although they have brought down some US helicopters,the main cause of such mishaps throughout the Afghan War has overwhemingly been mechanical or weather-related.The crash is under investigation,and brings the ISAF death toll for 2013 to 139,including 109 US soldiers.Last year,the toll was 394,and 297 of them were American.The improvement is because ISAF turned over security operations to Afghan forces last summer,with coalition troops assuming an advise and assist role.*
Meanwhile,Australia has withdrawn its last combat troops from the ISAF Tarin Kowt Base,their headquarters in Uruzgan Province,where they were providing security training to an Afghan National Army brigade and police.Australia was the leading contributor of non-NATO forces to the war effort,sending about 1550 troops to the conflict,40 of whom were killed.About 400 Australian soldiers will remain through 2014 as trainers in Kabul and Kandahar.*
About 43,000 American troops remain in Afghanistan.They are to withdraw by the end of 2014.According to a deal approved by the Afghan national council,the Loya Jirga,10,000 US soldiers will remain for 10 years after that in an advisory and special operations role.Afgahnistan's mercurial President Hamid Karzai is refusing to sign the pact because he says the US is applying "colonial pressure" to him.He wants his successor,who is to be elected in April 2014,to sign the pact.
Nonetheless,Ambassador James Dobbins,US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan,said the US is nowhere near deciding to withdraw completely.Afghan Defence Minister Bismillan Khan assured Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on 7 December that the deal will be signed in a timely manner.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Capitol Hill Deals Bode Well for Military,Industry

Two major legislative compromises on Capitol Hill offer significant relief to the armed forces and defence industry.First,the House and Senate Armed Services Committee leaders announced that a compromise had been reached on the 2014 Defense Authorization Bill.This bill authorises the budget committees to appropriate 14.5 billion dollars for defence needs.
We've worked across party lines,said Congressman Buck McKeon,R-California,chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.We found common ground on Guantanamo Bay and sexual assault issues.We are where we are.We owe the men and women in uniform to complete this bill.*
Senator Carl Levin,D-Michigan,chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee,said the bill extends authority to fund harsh duty and combat pay;enables the President to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay to third countries,and forbids their transfer to the US for detention and trial;and makes Article 32 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice more of a grand jury process.It also funds the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile,and for the government of Jordan to secure its border.
It is a bill by consent,abandoning many ammendments.We reached agreement on a bill that at least has a chance of getting passed by both houses.Our troops are in harms way;there a number of authorities that will expire,a whole list of them,including combat pay-about 30 of them.*
Senator James Inhofe,R-Oklahoma,ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee,said it has to be done in December.Things are gonna expire on December 31,such as hazard pay;re-enlistment bonuses;impact aid for the school system and major construction projects such as the new Strategic Command headquarters,which is halfway through;and CVN 78,the aircraft carrier Gerald Ford.We'd be wasting billions of dollars if we don't do this.We have a good product and we're gonna do our best to get it passed.*
When we consider our men and women in uniform,the answer is yes.We have the bill.We're ready to move forward,Congressman McKeon added.*
Retaliation is made a crime in the revised UCMJ.Commanders are held accountable for the climate inside their units.They cannot reverse the finding for a court marshal.If there's a sexual assault claim that is filed that doesn't reach a court marshal,it must go to a senior official,a high-ranking officer or service secretary,Senator Levin explained.*
Soon afterward,Congressman Paul Ryan,R-Wisconsin,and Senator Patty Murray,D-Washington,chairs of the House and Senate Budget Committees,announced a budget compromise that would allocate a trillion dollars over two years,avoiding further government shutdowns and saving defence spending from draconian cuts under sequestration.The deal puts 63 billion back into defence,infrastrucure and medical research spending for two years,blunting seqestration in critical areas.*
Neither side is getting everything it wants,the two Members of Congress on opposite sides of the aisle emphasised,praising one another for their collaborative efforts.
The deals are to be voted on in the House of Representatives this week,before the House goes into recess December 13.
Update:The Pentagon heaved a sigh of relief as the House passed both the budget and defence authorisation bills by a wide majority Thursday.The Democrat-controlled Senate is expected to follow suit.The most draconian cuts under sequestration have been nullified and there will now be stability in defence spending for the next two years.Basically,it means we stay at about current spending levels-not ideal,but avoiding the blatant damage to national security that would have occurred had the compromise not passed.
Under sequestration,the Pentagon would have been faced with a decline to 498 billion dollars in 2014 from the current level of 518 billion.The bills just passed grant the Pentagon 520 billion-a slight increase from 2013.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Navy Deploys New P8-A Aircraft to Tense Region

The US Navy has made the first deployment of its new P-8A Poseidon Multi-Mission Maritime Aircraft,or MMA,to Kadena Air Base,Okinawa,Japan.Two of the large,combat-ready reconaissance warplanes took off from Norfolk,Virginia recently,headed into a very tense East Asian theatre of operations.In light of China's new Air Defence Identification Zone over the East China Sea,the aircraft are now most welcome by Japan,a country that almost kicked the US out of Okinawa a few years ago.*
The Navy took delivery of the 12th P8-A on 31 October.It is a modified Boeing 737-800 ERX,featuring a fully connected,state of the art open architecture mission system that,combined with the next generation sensors and highly reliable airframe will dramatically improve Anti-Submarine and Anti-Surface Warfare capabilties.The nine-person crew will have at its disposal an internal,five-station weapons bay;4 wing pylons and 2 centerline pylons;a rotary reloadable,pneumatically controlled sonobuoy launcher;and a Net Ready suite of Link-11/Link-16,Internet Protocol,Common Data Link(CDL) that is FORCEnet compliant.*
The P8-A is armed with joint attack munitions;cruise missiles;mines;and torpedoes.The Open Mission System Architecture is a reconfigurable and expandable system facilitating easier,more affordable upgrades.*
The P-8A Multi-Mission Maritime Aircraft secures the Navy's future in long-range maritime patrol capability.It provides more combat capability from a smaller force and less infrastructure,while focusing on worldwide responsiveness and interoperability with both traditional manned forces and evolving unmanned sensors.*
The P-8 is a true multi-mission platform,according to Rear Admiral Matt Carter,Patrol and Reconaissance commander.The number of submarines in the world is increasing rapidly.Other countries are either building or purchasing advanced,quiet and extremely hard to find submarines and we need to be able to match that technology to be able to detect them.*

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

B-52H:The Plane That Challenged China

The US Air Force sent two B-52H Stratofortress bombers through China's newly declared Air Defence Identification Zone over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea on Monday.China,Japan and Taiwan lay claim to the islands.The previously scheduled training mission went off without incident,despite the American refusal to heed Chinese requirements to file a flight plan;radio frequencies;and transponder information-or face emergency military measures.There was no communication with China during the flight.
The B-52s are part of the 20th Bomber Squadron and flew out of Andersen Air Force Base,Guam.They were deployed there in August from Barksdale AFB,Louisiana in accordance with the new US defence strategy of rebalancing forces to the Pacific.The Air Force has 76 of the venerable bombers,which were built in 1962.They can fly at a speed of up to 650 mph(Mach 0.84) at an altitude of up to 50,000 ft/15,151.5 m.They have a crew of 5,and can fly 8800 miles/7652 nautical miles unrefueled.
Armed with precision-guided bombs and air-launched cruise missiles,it flies both high altitude strategic bombing,interdiction and close air support missions.It can assist the US Navy,as it is highly effective at ocean surveillance,as well as minelaying and anti-ship operations.In 2 hours,2 B-52s can monitor 140,000 sq mi/364,000 sq km of ocean.The planes can serve till 2040,the latest engineering studies show.
The bombers,which are under Global Strike Command,have been receiving a B-52 Software Block(BSB) upgrade this autumn.This will allow them to fully utilise new equipment and advanced weapons as they are introduced.As well,existing systems can be improved and enhanced by the upgrade.Such items as the Offensive Avionics System;GPS;GPS Interface Unit;and Advanced Targeting Pod computer can be enhanced by the upgrade.
New lines of code are created to access new weapon or equipment capabilities such as the new ability to attack fast moving ground targets with smart weapons,Global Strike Command program analyst Nathan Dawn said.The upgrade can also correct software errors and patch deficiencies not found during development and testing.When errors are found in new and complex software,they are documented and prioritised for repair in the next upgrade cycle.
Boeing was the original manufacturer of the B-52H.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Billionaire Ted Turner Receives Lone Sailor Award

Cable TV pioneer Ted Turner was one of three honorees at the US Navy Memorial's Lone Sailor Awards Dinner on September 18 at the National Building Museum in Washington,DC.The award is given to Sea Service veterans who have excelled in civilian life,while exemplifying the Navy's core values of honour,courage and commitment.Mr.Turner,75,said he served in the US Coast Guard 50 years ago.My time in the Coast Guard was life-changing,the media magnate said.It provided me with structure and discipline,which no doubt played a key role in my future success as a businessman and philanthropist.*
Turner told The Washington Post he was assigned to Charleston and Fort Lauderdale,then served in the Coast Guard Reserve for eight years.He had been suspended from Brown University for discipline infractions,and joined the Coast Guard to avoid the draft and because he liked boats,having begun sailing at age nine.
Turner founded Cable News Network,the first 24 hour news channel,as well as Turner Network Television,the first satellite channel,and Headline News Network.He also owns 15 bison ranches,making him one of the largest industrial landowners in the United States.*
Also receiving the award were General P.X. Kelley,former Commandant of the US Marine Corps and businessman,and Dan Akerson,Chairman and CEO of General Motors,a US Navy veteran.
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas received the Naval Heritage Award for her staunch support of the Sea Services.Sponsors of the awards included Lockheed Martin;General Motors;Northrop Grumman;USAA;Kratos;and Raytheon.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

President Ford's Daughter Christens Aircraft Carrier

The Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R Ford,first of a new class of nuclear aircraft carrier,was christened on Saturday,November 9 at Huntington Ingalls Industries' shipyard in Newport News,Virginia.The late President Gerald R Ford's daughter and Ship's Sponsor,Susan Ford Bales,broke a bottle of champagne on the bow of the ship and named it in honour of her father,the nation's 38th president and a US Navy veteran of World War II.Mr.Ford was aware of plans for the carrier at the time of his death in December,2006 at age 93,and expressed both pride and humility that it would be named for him.
The new warship is expected to enter service in 2016.It will be followed by PCU John F Kennedy,already under construction.Carriers are intended to serve for 50 years.The Ford class features a new and repositioned island,or control tower,;a redesigned and more efficient flight deck;and three flight deck elevators instead of four.These improvements will allow a 25% increase in sorties,or missions.
The new class also has two advanced nuclear reactors and 250% more electrical capacity,as well as dual-band radar and electronic catapults for launching aircraft.The cumulative effect of the latest engineering will save the Navy a projected 4 billion dollars over the carrier's lifespan,according to Newport News Shipbuilding,the HII unit that designs and builds the Ford class.The number of valves has been reduced by over a third,for example.The greater electrical capacity ensures the ship can handle new weapons systems that come along over the next several decades.
Gerald R Ford was president from 1974-77,following his 9 months as Richard Nixon's Vice President and a long career in the House of Representatives from 1949-73,where he became known for his integrity and bipartisanship.A football player during his student days at the University of Michigan,Mr.Ford was a gunnery and training officer in the Navy from 1942-46,seeing extensive action in the Pacific theatre aboard the light carrier USS Monterey(CVL 26) and rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander.He was decorated with the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 9 Battle Stars;the Phillipine Liberation Medal with 2 Bronze Stars;the American Campaign and World War II Victory Medals.After the war,he was a member of the American Legion;AMVETS;and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Susan Ford Bales,born in 1957,is the youngest of Mr.Ford's 4 children and has been deeply involved in preserving her father's legacy as a Trustee of the Gerald R Ford Presidential Foundation.As Ship's Sponsor,she participates in all the ship's milestone events.
Huntington Ingalls Industries(HII)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Marines Conduct Interdiction Op in Helmand

On Thursday 31 October,about 15 US Marines from First Battalion,9th Marine Regiment conducted an interdiction operation in Helmand Province,Afghanistan and sent back photos to document some of the mission.They departed Camp Bastion in a CH53E Super Stallion helicopter.Before they left on the daylight mission,however,they and their military working dog practiced entering and exiting the chopper,supervised by a corporal.
British and Afghan forces have jointly conducted a similar interdiction operation-also with a military working dog-and recorded it in a YouTube video.
Even while on the ground before they left,the Marines were guarded by an aerial observer with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 82,who manned a .50 caliber machine gun in the open tail of the chopper.Security is a passion in Afghanistan.A tail gunner was posted during the flight as well.
These helicopters typically churn up a lot of dust when they land on the barren Afghan terrain.There's an element of chaos in the situation.
An interdiction operation is intended to delay,disrupt or destroy any enemy forces or supplies en route to a battleground.
At 10pm on 14 September,2012,Camp Bastion was infiltrated by 15 Taliban militants who slipped through a hole in a perimeter fence,killing two Marines and wounding nine others.Six irreplacable AV-8B Harrier jump jets were also blown up.These critical aircraft are no longer in production,so lasting damage was done to the Marine Corps by the incursion.
Security sweeps through the area are more crucial than ever in light of the devastating nighttime militant raid.
Two Marine Corps generals were recently forced to retire because of their failure to properly secure the base.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Advanced Destroyer Leaves Drydock

The first of a new class of US Navy destroyer,the pre-commissioning unit Zumwalt,floated out of drydock at Bath Iron Works,Maine on Tuesday.It will be tied up pierside until its construction is completed.At 610 feet long,it is the largest destroyer in history.It's been decscribed as being absolutely huge and massive.*
The christening of a ship traditionally occurs when it leaves drydock,but the Zumwalt's had to be postponed till Spring 2014 because of the government shutdown.The late Admiral Elmo Zumwalt's two daughters will christen the ship at that time.Zumwalt was a decorated veteran of World War II,and became the youngest Chief of Naval Operations at age 49.He instituted the practice of women serving on US Navy warships.*
The weird-looking Zumwalt,which uses electric drive propulsion,is highly automated,so its complement of 158 personnel is only about half that of Arleigh Burke class destroyers.Unlike previous warhsips,its antennae are hidden within the superstructure,and its stealthy,low in the water hull has a wave-piercing bow for stability.The Zumwalt's advanced 155mm gun can lob rocket-propelled warheads almost 100 miles.*
Only three of the Zumwalt class of destroyer will be built,at a price of 3.5 billion dollars each.The Zumwalt is within budget and on time,in contrast to other high profile programs.Sea trials will occur in Fall 2014,and the ship is to be delivered by builder General Dynamics in 2015.*
General Dynamics(GD)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Transit Center at Manas:Gateway To Hell Closing Down

The US Department of Defense has announced it has begun closing down the Transit Center at Manas International Airport,or TCM,in Kyrgyzstan,Central Asia.The so-called "Gateway To Hell" has long been a critical staging area for US and international forces on the way to the frontlines in Afghanistan.The air base is slated for closure by July 2014,when the agreement between the US and Kyrgyz governments on hosting TCM expires.*
The US Government appreciates the support provided by the Kyrgyz people to US forces and coalition efforts to counter the threat of terrorism and to achieve security and stability in Afghanistan and the region,and respects the decision of the Government of Kyrgyzstan to end hosting the Transit Center at Manas after more than 12 years,the DOD said.The US will continue to support the International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan while working closely with Kyrgyzstan to manage the relocation effort.The US intends to continue supporting the democratic and economic development of the former Soviet Republic and developing further our bilateral relationship in the years ahead.*
TCM is operated by the US Air Force 376th Air Expeditionary Wing.Aircraft based there over the years have included F-15Es;US Marine Corps F/A-18 Super Hornets;F-16s;C-5 Galaxies;C-130s;and KC-135 tankers.Nagged by Russia and China,Kyrgyzstan has chafed at the base's presence at times,nearly shutting it down prematurely and hiking compensation.*
Most US and coalition forces will leave Afghanistan by 31 December 2014.An agreement between the US and the Afghan government to allow a limited US military presence beyond that date has been drawn up and is awaiting approval by the Loya Jirga,an Afghan assembly of elders,leaders and other prominent individuals,within a month.In the past,the Loya Jirga has gone along with President Hamid Karzai's wishes.*

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Australia Beefs Up Bases for US Marines

The Australian Ministry of Defence is upgrading facilities at two Darwin bases to accomodate a marked increase in US Marine Corps numbers in 2014.Parliamentary Secretary of Defence Darren Chester announced that an 11 million dollar contract has been awarded to Sitzler to build new facilities at both Robertson Barracks and Royal Australian Air Force Darwin in the remote Northern Territory.
While the US Marines will mostly use existing facilities,as they have in previous rotations,some modest facilities works are required to meet additional requirements.The facilities will ensure that appropriate living and working accomodation is available for the US Marine Corps,Mr.Chester said.The construction project begins later this month and is slated for completion by the end of February 2014.*
Some 200 US Marines rotated through Australia in 2012 and 2013,but next year this will surge to about 1150.Most of the Marines will live at Robertson Barracks;while an aviation support contingent of about 130 troops-plus four heavy lift helicopters- will be based at RAAF Darwin.*
The Marine Corps rotation is in line both with Australian defence strategy and America's plan to augment its military presence in the Pacific.Australia is a key partner in combined or joint task force operations in the region,so such opportunities for training for interoperability,shared tactics,techniques and procedures are highly valued by the Marines.*
Reflecting the increased defence activity in Darwin,the inaugural Northern Australia Defence Summit will take place from 29-30 October at Darwin Convention Centre,supported by the Northern Territory Government.The event will bring together key Government,military and industry representatives to discuss current and new Government initiatives,and what industry can bring to the table in support of Defence's strategic objectives.*
Sitzler Pty Ltd. is one of the largest privately held construction companies in Northern Australia.Besides the new Marine Corps facilities,its projects include the Australian Federal Police Building in Darwin and the Darwin Convention Centre&Wave Pool.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

US Coast Guard-RCMP Integration Stepped Up

Since June 2013,the US Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Mounted Police have more fully integrated their operations in the Great Lakes and Vancouver,British Columbia areas.At that time,the Integrated Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations,ICMLEO,were finalised.The program,also called Shiprider,had been successfully tested from 2005-10 at such events as the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and G20 and G8 summits.*
Under Shiprider,specially trained and designated USCG and RCMP members ride on each other's boats and have law enforcement powers on both sides of the border.The USCG members are trained in Canadian law and procedure;the RCMP members are trained in US law and procedure.When the jointly crewed vessels enter either country,the appropriate member assumes supervision.
The old method of two nations separately patrolling binational waters was found to be cumbersome,presenting significant logistical and communications challenges to law enforcement,while benefiting elusive criminals.Shiprider allows teams to seamlessly move across the border and transition lead agencies,depending on where suspects are going,while respecting the sovereignty of both nations.*
Shiprider basically involves jointly detecting,monitoring and boarding of suspicious vessels on both sides of the US-Canadian border,making arrests as warranted.The focus is on the smuggling of drugs,weapons and humans.
According to RCMP Sgt.Peter Koersvelt,it allows us to simply transition lead agencies and intercept the vessel and contraband.We have the ability under exigent circumstances to come ashore.We can also do surge operations for special events.It's only on shared,undisputed waterways.Electronic charters and plotters on the vessels,as well as shore operations centres,determine which country they are in at any given time.*
Some Canadians expressed concern about the program's effect on Canadian sovereignty.An online poll conducted by CBC-Windsor in June showed that 66.28% of respondents approved of Shiprider,while 33.72% opposed.
The program is reminiscent of NORAD,the North American Aerospace Defense Command,which has successfully integrated US and Canadian aerospace defence for decades.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Nature Note:Quaking Aspen

Kaibab National Forest,Arizona has just released a set of fall colour photos.This reminded me of the beauty of the quaking aspen,an iconic tree of Western and Northern America and Canada.To see the photos,please visit my blog The Friday Late Post.*
The quaking aspen(Populus tremuloides)grows from near sea level in the north of its range,up to 10,000 feet/3048 meters.It is an early succession tree,appearing in new clearings,abandoned farms or burns,and is eventually replaced by conifers.The leaves tremble readily in the wind and are famous for their bright gold autumn colour.
Quaking aspen may grow in pure stands and propagate by root sprouts,especially in the West,as well as by tiny seeds.
It may be planted as an ornamental and tends to form clumps.An important wildlife tree,it is browsed by elk,moose,deer,sheep and goats,as well as rabbits,beavers,quail and grouse.The aspen may reach 70 feet/21 meters in height,and 1.5 feet/0.5 meters in diameter.Its bark ranges from white to dark grey on larger specimens.
Quaking aspen only grows in the mountains in the southern parts of its range,including Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

ICBM Launched From California

A Minuteman 3 ICBM was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base,California on Sunday at 3am in a test flight.The routine test of accuracy and reliability successfully sent the missile,which contained an unarmed warhead equal in weight to a nuclear warhead,about 4200 miles to a designated target on Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.Another test of an ICBM is slated for Thursday.*
Kwajalein Atoll is a large,circular coral island with water in the center.It is the US Air Force's customary test range,and is known as the Ronald Reagan Missile Defense Test Site.There are several ICBM tests a year.The mission of the tests is to maintain a secure and effective nuclear deterrent,the Pentagon said.*
Vandenberg AFB is located near Lompoc on the Southern California coast,about 150 miles Northwest of Los Angeles.

F-22 Raptor Intercepted Iranian F-4,General Reveals

More details of a March 2013 encounter between US Air Force and Iranian jet fighters were recently provided by General Mark Welsh,Air Force Chief of Staff.Speaking at an Air Force Association conference September 17,General Welsh indicated an F-22 Raptor,currently the Air Force's most advanced tactical aircraft in service,approached an Iranian F-4 Phantom,a Vietnam era fighter,and,flying beneath it undetected,assessed its armament.The Iranian had been closing within 16 miles of a US MQ-1 Predator drone off the coast of Iran.Assessment completed,the F-22 pilot,Lt.Colonel Kevin "Showtime" Sutterfield,US Air Force Reserve,pulled alongside the Iranian's left wing and radioed a warning to the F-4 pilot,according to General Welsh.No shots were fired during the incident,which the Pentagon disclosed when it occurred in March,but did not then identify what type of US aircraft were involved in the successful intercept.*
During a March Pentagon briefing,spokesman George Little specified that two US aircraft participated.The Predator drone had been on a routine classified surveillance mission over international waters when the Iranians drew near to it,he said.This was seen as an unacceptable threat to the drone's force protection mission,so the US fighters responded.*
In November 2012,an Iranian fighter had actually fired on another US drone in the Persian Gulf area.Iran also threatened to close the strategically important Strait of Hormuz,the entrance to the Gulf through which much of the world's oil supply passes.This threat had reportedly caused the Air Force to base an F-22 squadron at Al Dhafra Air Base in the UAE in April 2012,which would explain where the F-22s in the March 2013 incident came from.*
The F-22 is known for its stealth and extreme agility.Some F-22 Raptor pilots have experienced blackouts for lack of oxygen,causing the Air Force to ground the planes on occasion.General Welsh expressed confidence that the problem would be solved.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Navy Secretary Leads Massacre Recovery

The horrific events of Monday at the Washington Navy Yard have brought Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus into the spotlight,an official the general public is not normally aware of.We are dealing with this as a Navy family,Mabus said Monday.We lost friends,family,co-workers.We're gonna marshal all the resources the US Navy and Government have to deal with this.
I meet with families.I write a handwritten letter to every family member.These people were patriots no less than those who go into combat.They died patriots.They died serving their country.We will mourn them in an appropriate manner.*
All of the twelve victims of Aaron Alexis' rampage were civilians,some with the Navy Department,others working for Navy contractors like Alexis himself.Two of the dead were US Naval Academy graduates who went on to serve more than 20 years in the Navy,then continued to work after military retirement in a civilian capacity at the Navy Yard.*
Mr.Mabus has been Navy Secretary since 2009.A surface warfare officer from 1970-72,serving on the cruiser USS Little Rock,he had been state auditor and then Governor of Mississippi from 1988-92.He was Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1994-96.In the wake of the Navy Yard tragedy,he has ordered a quick look at the physical security of Navy and Marine Corps installations,to be followed by a longer,in-depth review.
Mabus attended a brief wreath laying ceremony Tuesday morning with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and others at the Navy Memorial in Washington.The eight victims who were wounded are eligible for treatment at miltary hospitals,and grief counseling has been made available.*
The organisation many of the victims worked for,Navy Sea Systems Command,or NAVSEA,designs and builds Navy ships.The District of Columbia had eagerly sought the location of the NAVSEA building at the Navy Yard.
The Navy Yard is a gated compound that includes the Navy Museum and several other tenants.It is secured by US Marines and civilian guards,and has a mixed military-civilian workforce of about 3,000.*
Aaron Alexis,a former Navy Reserve Aviation Electrician's Mate 3rd Class,was authorised to enter the base and had a Secret clearance as a Navy IT contractor there.Although he had a long history of gun violations and anger management issues,he had no felony convictions and had only recently sought psychiatric treatment at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals,which do not share such information.
Alexis' father felt his son's troubles stemmed from the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder he acquired while helping to rescue victims of the 9-11 attack.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Whether a Military Strike is War

The House Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the Syria crisis Tuesday,at which a number of miltary issues were hashed out.Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel spoke about the Russian proposal that Syria surrender its chemical weapons to international control,saying that the proposal has to come rapidly.I would assume this is on a very fast track.*
A concern about the aftermath of military action was raised.There is always unpredictability anytime when a strike option is taken,Mr.Hagel said.There are a significant number of responsible individuals in the Syrian opposition.We have been vetting them through our partners that are in the opposition.The strikes and the options we have given the president have all factored in the uncertainty.
If we do nothing,Assad will continue to do what he's doing and worse.We have exhausted almost every diplomatic option in this effort.We believe,based on our intelligence and our partners in the area,if we carry forward,this will specifically deter and degrade.If Assad should accelerate and use chemical weapons again,my guess would be the president would come back to the Congress and ask for further authorization.*
General Martin Dempsey,Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,said it's challenging to vet the rebels,but we have a methodology.*
A discussion arose as to whether even a limited strike amounts to war.In an article,General Dempsey wrote that "the use of force is no less than an act of war."To a soldier,when you put them in a conflict,it tends to be a war,he told the House Armed Services Committee.Secretary Hagel,a Vietnam veteran,agreed that's how it is.
Our ability to over-match regime forces and our forward presence leads us to believe we can handle retaliation,General Dempsey continued.*
Turkey,Saudi Arabia,Qatar and France would participate in military action in some way.President Obama's first priority has been and is diplomacy-all to date to no avail,Secretary of State John Kerry told the committee.Russia and China have vetoed all UN resolutions,and even press releases condemning the generic use of chemical weapons.General statements have been blocked.We're waiting for that Russian proposal,but we're not waiting for long.It cannot be simply a debating society in the UN.*
Mr.Kerry will meet Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva,Switzerland on Thursday to discuss the Russian proposal.Meanwhile,the president has ordered US forces in the region to remain on standby while the diplomatic process runs its course,ready to strike should it ultimately fail.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Russians Shadow US Navy Ships Near Syria

Russia has sent at least four ships to the Eastern Mediterranean to support its ally Syria.One of them is a spy ship that is monitoring events in the area,including the activities of US Navy ships.There are five US Navy destroyers in the area,each armed with about 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles,plus at least one attack submarine.On station in the Red Sea is the USS Nimitz(CVN 68)aircraft carrier and its strike group,which has four more destroyers and a guided missile cruiser.
The USS San Antonio(LPD 17),a transport dock ship with 300 US Marines and sophisticated communications capability,is in the area to serve as an afloat staging base for special operations forces,and can also assist with evacuations.On its way to the Red Sea is the USS Kearsarge(LHD 3),an amphibious assault ship that can carry more than 1900 Marines.
Each Tomahawk cruise missile has a 1,000 pound conventional warhead.They have a range of 700-900 nautical miles and a speed of about 550 mph.It is believed the Russian spy ship will be able to send the Syrians up to two hours of advance warning of a US Navy cruise missile attack,as the spy ship will detect preparations by the US destroyers long before they actually launch their cruise missiles.
According to General Martin Dempsey,US Army,Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,there is some evidence the Russians have told Syria they will replace anything the US destroys during military action against the Assad regime.We have been asked to maintain a collateral damage estimate of "Low,"which means lower than a certain classified number.
Senator John McCain,R-Arizona,added that there are reports the Syrians are hiding things in a Russian naval base.
Raytheon manufactures the Tomahawk cruise missile.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Nature Note:Meadow Vole

A meadow vole(Microtus pennsylvanicus) scampered across the driveway one August morning,from under a hedge to under an eastern red cedar.It was a rare sighting of the small mammal,a rodent most people never realise is around.They mainly eat grasses,roots,twigs and other vegetable matter and do not come indoors;nor are they considered a pest.*The meadow vole's colouration is variable,from reddish to blackish brown or gray,and it has a short tail.They range from Northern Canada and Alaska down the Rockies and Appalachians south to New Mexico and Northeast Georgia,favouring meadows,marshes and woodland glades.*These rodents have a system of runways and burrows.Prolific,they nest below ground or under rocks and logs in a grass or shredded bark nest.In winter,they nest under the snow.They are sometimes called field mice,and some species of voles are known for a cyclic buildup and crash of population,keyed to the food supply.*The meadow vole is pretty much of a ghostly creature.In more than 20 years,I have only noted them a handful of times along the Pennsylvania-Maryland border.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Marine Corps F-35B Aces Night Landing

On 12 August,the F-35 Integrated Test Force from NAS Patuxent River,Maryland embarked with two F-35B Joint Strike Fighters on the USS Wasp(LHD-1)for Development Test Phase Two,or DT-II.The US Marine Corps characterises the 18 day test as a key milestone on the path to F-35B initial operating capability,or IOC.The short takeoff-vertical landing aircraft successfully completed eight night landings last Wednesday,piloted by Marine Lt.Colonel C.R."Jimi" Clift,who said the landings went extremely well.This puts the aircraft on course for IOC in 2015,the Marine Corps said.*Besides the dramatic night landings,DT-II consists of expanding the wind envelope for launch and recovery,as well as evaluating mission systems;aircraft operations on a moving flight deck;and shipboard sustainment of the F-35B.*DT-II is the second of three planned shipboard tests of the advanced warplane.An onsite engine removal was also performed in record time to ensure the aircraft's readiness for deployment.When DT-II has been completed,the US Navy and Marine Corps should have enough data to support certification for future shipboard operations,the Marine Corps noted.*The Wasp,an amphibious assault ship which carries a mix of helicopters and STOVL aircraft,had been modified with a composite deck coating for additional heat protection,and installation of equipment to monitor environmmental effects and collect data during the test,as well as relocation of lights and sensors to better accomodate F-35B shipboard landings.*The F-35B is the planned successor to the AV-8B II Harrier,currently the backbone of Marine Corps combat air power.Its development has been a long and costly process,but the successful test should garner more support for continuing the program.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Philippines Seeks More US Troops

The government of the Philippines is seeking more US troops to rotate through Philippines military bases,as well as pre-positioned equipment.It is on a temporary basis,the Philippines stresses.Negotiations are to begin today,Wednesday.*Hundreds of US troops currently rotate through the Southeast Asian nation,providing counterterrorism training and holding annual combat exercises with Filipino forces,in response to internal threats by various militant groups,including one linked to al-Qaida.*The Philippines wants a bigger US presence to deter foreign incursions in its territorial waters as well,providing more maritime security and maritime domain awareness,as well as natural disaster response.In recent times,they have become preoccupied by territorial disputes with China and Vietnam.Last year China seized a lagoon off the country's Northwest coast inside the Philippines 200-mile/332 kilometer exclusive economic zone,the Filipino government says.China also claims a shoal further south which was occupied by Chinese troops in 1995.*The US had previously maintained Subic Bay Naval Base and Clark Air Base.In 1991,the Pinatubo volcano erupted,devastating both US bases.Clark was closed permanently,but Subic was restored.In 1992,the US left Subic as well when the Philippines Senate refused to ratify a new base lease agreement,against the wishes of President Corazon Aquino.*In November 2012,the Benigno Aquino III government invited the US Navy and Marine Corps back to Subic Bay on a semi-permanent basis.The new negotiations are intended to extend this presence to other areas besides the Southern Philippines,where Subic Bay is located.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

USCGC Healy Underway in Arctic

One of the two functional icebreakers in the US inventory,USCGC Healy(WAGB-20)is on a four month deployment that includes three scientific missions.The first of the missions,HLY 1301,began on 29 July and ends on 15 August.This blog reviewed a number of AloftCon photos giving the view from the ship's bow.It has encountered open sea to moderate fractured ice,but nothing really substantial as far as ice goes.It visited a small harbour,then a pier where a white ship with two radomes was tied up.It also visited a more urbanised channel with a warehouse and two bridges in the background.The second and third cruises will be National Science Foundation missions.The entire package is called Arctic West Summer 2013 and ends in October.*The Healy is a platform for a broad range of research activities,with more than 4200 square feet of lab space;electronic sensor systems;oceanographic winches;and accomodations for up to 50 scientists.It also supports other Coast Guard missions,such as logistics;ship escort;search and rescue;environmental protection;and law enforcement.*According to the ship's Public Affairs Officer,ENS Rebecca Follmer,the current deployment began on 11 July after five months of intensive preservation and maintenance at Vigor shipyard,Seattle.In June,they had shakedown and sea trials,when the crew refreshed their sea skills and trained new crew members;conducted engineering tests;flight operations;small boat operations;and several drills.They bid farewell to departing crewmembers,wishing them fair winds and open leads,and welcomed new ones.*The first two weeks of July,they had loaded science equipment,including coring equipment from Oregon State University for the second mission;food stores;and general ship's supply;changed the oil in the engines;and completed several final repairs.Shortly after getting underway,the Healy conducted flight operations with a MH-65D helicopter from Air Station Port Angeles.The crew thoroughly cleaned the ship for two days and made way to their first stop of Kodiak,Alaska,ENS Follmer reported on 13 July.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

VFW National Convention:Distinguished Guests,Sobering News

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention in Louisville,Kentucky Tuesday morning.Hagel,a double Purple Heart recipient and enlisted man Vietnam veteran,took note of the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice on July 27.It's an opportunity for the country to fully express its gratitude for your service and sacrifice,Secretary Hagel said. I grew up in small towns in Nebraska,where life revolved around the VFW and American Legion posts.I've been a VFW member for 45 years since I came home from Vietnam in 1968. The US is emerging from the longest period of sustained combat in our history in Iraq and Afghanistan.The world is complicated,and it's dangerous.America must have a strong,capable and ready military,but fulfilling that obligation will require us to realign and reshape in difficult budgetary times,prioritising our core mission of defending our country;maximising our combat power;and taking care of our military men and women past and present. The Department of Defense must set clear priorities within the sequestration realities of the largest reduction since the post-Korea drawdown.Sequestration is an irresponsible process and it is terribly damaging,but we cannot lead the DOD based on hope.We have to prepare an institution for whatever comes.Many DOD missions and capabilities are essential,but others are not. The President must be assured that the options we present to him are ready and real.In an era of reduced resources,every dollar we spend on large staffs and overhead are dollars not spent on our troops.If we are to preserve out decisive miltary edge,we must find savings everywhere in our budget.I expect these cuts to result in organisations that are more efficient and agile-but it will require far more than cuts. We've had to reduce,stop and defer training,maintenance and modernisation.These cuts have had,and are continuing to have,very damaging effects such as a shortage of training rounds;planes are not flying;ships are not sailing.Unfortunately,military readiness does not always have a vocal constituency,and you cannot buy back readiness.There is a cost in precious human lives to sending out a hollow force. DOD is not a corporation,and cannot be run like one.The cost of our decisions is how they have a real effect on human lives. Our people are under stress,and so are the institutions that support them.Our people have been pushed to,and beyond,the breaking point.They must have the same care at home they had on the battlefield.DOD and the VA are building a seamless system to ensure our veterans never again encounter the problems they are having now.We're making good progress;we're committed to do it.We will get through this,but only if we're prepared to make wise and difficult decisions,Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Also present at the VFW convention was US Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert Papp,Jr.He received a VFW medal for his service and presented the organisation with a cheque for his own VFW membership dues.Admiral Papp cited the Coast Guard's history of bravery under fire as the nation's fifth member of the Armed Forces.Coast Guard members have received the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross.It has 1700 of its men and women currently deployed overseas in Afghansitan,Kuwait,Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.The Coast Guard patrol boat squadron in Bahrain is securing the Northern Arabian Gulf,Admiral Papp noted.A Coast Guardsman was killed in 2004 by a terrorist bomb as he served alongside US Navy Sailors in a boarding party in the region.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Reagan Era B-1B Still Relevant Today

A US Air Force bomber first envisioned in the 1960s and produced in the 1980s,the Rockwell B-1B Lancer,saved from oblivion by President Ronald Reagan,remains an integral part of US Strategic Command,and will be for decades.Highly controversial for its cost and questions about its utility early in its life,it has proved much more valuable than many ever thought it would be. Indeed,the B-1B is the only supersonic bomber in the US inventory today,with the biggest payload.What is more,it is the cheapest to fly,even given the extensive maintenance and upgrades it requires. Capable of flying at Mach 1.25 at altitude,or 950 mph/1130 kmh,it was originally solely a nuclear bomber.By the 1990s,it had been given a conventional role as well.In 1995,it was removed from the nuclear forces. Though not technically a stealth aircraft,it is about fifty times less detectable than the ancient B-52 and features variable-sweep wings.Forward sweep is for takeoff,landing and high altitude maximum cruise.Aft sweep is for high subsonic and supersonic flight. The Lancer is still getting upgrades to its cockpit displays,communications and instrumentation.It holds 61 world records for such things as speed,payload,distance and climb rate.It can strike anywhere in the world and safely return to a broad variety of bases without refueling.Extensive electronic countermeasures,reflective coating and stealthy intake design make it highly survivable. The B-1B has been extensively used for missions in the Iraq and Afghan Wars,as well as in Operation Odyssey Dawn over Libya in 2011;Operation Desert Fox in 1998;and Kosovo in 1999.In the Afghan War,it has been used in an armed overwatch capacity,loitering in flight until tasked by ground forces for precision strike with advanced munitions. The Air Force intends to fly the Lancer into the 2030s,gradually replacing it with the Next-Generation Bomber.It believes the B-1B is particularly well-suited for the new Pivot to East Asia strategy,given its long range,speed and survivability.It will continue to invest in this reliable aircraft in support of Pacific and other strategic objectives.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

US Marine,Canadian RAF Firefighters Train Together

US Marine Corps Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Specialists trained with their Canadian Royal Air Force counterparts at Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake,Alberta in Exercise Maple Flag 46.The annual Canadian RAF multinational air combat exercise provides Coalition forces the opportunity to learn how to work together and share best practices.
The Marine specialists assisted the Canadian RAF in fuel delivery and quality assurance,as well as supply,administration,communications and flightline support.Maple Flag 46 ran from 27 May to 21 June,2013.
In the course of the training,Marine and Canadian RAF personnel fought simulated aircraft and structure fires.The Marines were also on standby for any actual emergencies that might occur at Cold Lake.
Marine ARRF Sergeant Brad Alexander contrasted the Marine and Canadian RAF methods.While the Marines focus on speed and reaction time,they benefited from the Canadians' measured strategy.The Canadians don't run anywhere,but they move with a purpose.They get the mission done and they don't waste any time.They step back,look at the big picture,assess the situation and how to attack it
Sharing a crash barn,or fire staion,with the Canadians has been nothing but a positive experience,Sgt.Alexander said.
It was a valuable experience working with another country.The blending of strategies contributes to mission success.
Aircraft rescue and firefighting involves the response,hazard mitigation,evacuation and rescue of air crew and passengers in an air base ground emergency.There cannot be air combat without such support operations.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pacific Bond 13:Pacific Allies Exercise

The US Navy is currently on exercise with two allies,Japan and Australia.On 23 June near the Marianas Islands,an anti-submarine warfare exercise was conducted by warships of the three partners.It was a building block toward  seamless iintegration to promote security and prosperity in the Western Pacific,according to Lt.j.g. Joshua Foote,Assistant Plans Officer Destroyer Squadron 15.It improves individual tactical proficiency,as well as increases understanding of how each of us achieves success in difficult tactical situations through the particular skills each of us brings to the table,Lt.Foote said.
Such exercises advance participants' military-to-military coordination and capacity to plan and execute tactical operations in a multi-warfare environment.
The three allies integrated their skills to detect,track and defeat an adversary submarine in a variety of scenarios over the course of two days.They also developed proficiency in other aspects of warfighting,such as air defense and surface warfare.
Those paricipating include guided missile destroyers USS Preble(DDG 88) and USS Chung Hoon(DDG 93);members of forward deployed Destroyer Squadron(DESRON) 15;a PC-3 Orion aircraft;Royal Australian Navy guided missile frigate HMAS Sydney's(FFG 03);and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ship JS Murasame(DD 101).

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

New Astronaut Class Selected-could go to deep space

NASA has selected eight candidates for the new class of astronaut trainees.Chosen from a pool of more than 6100 applicants,the second largest pool in history,they will begin training at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston in August.
Most of the candidates are currently serving in the US military;another was formerly in the service.NASA said they will receive a wide array of technical training at space centers worldwide,preparing them for an array of missions from low-Earth orbit,to an asteroid and Mars.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said the candidates applied because they know we're doing big,bold things here-developing missions to go further into space than ever before.They're ready to help lead the first human mission to an asteroid and then on to Mars.
Candidates from the sea services include Lt.Commander Victor J.Glover,US Navy,37;Major Nicole Aunapu Mann,US Marine Corps,35;and Josh A.Cassada,PhD,39,a physicist and former naval aviator.
There are also two US Army officers and a US Air Force officer.Four of the eight candidates are women.
Exploration Flight Test-1,an unmanned test flight of the new Orion spacecraft,which will carry astronauts to deep space destinations,is slated for 2014 on the Delta IV heavy rocket.This will be followed by another unmanned test flight in 2017 on the new deep space rocket,the Space Launch System.
Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for Orion and EFT-1.
Lockheed Martin(LMT).

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Nature Note:Helping a Snapping Turtle

A juvenile snapping turtle(Chelydra serpentina) was crossing the Maryland roadway,so with some degree of caution I lended a hand to the native predator.Many would have just left it alone,either through fear,disdain or both.
It's not a friendly or handsome turtle.It's definitely reptilian,prehistoric looking.Yet it was headed for nowhere,into a fenced yard,so I gingerly carried it a tenth of a mile to a nearby stream.
A mature snapping turtle can deliver a serious bite if handled,but in the end,this little fellow was totally docile.Indeed,it was placid,while an eastern box turtle I had also transported was quite resistant to being carried,struggling with its legs to get free.
This juvenile snapper was about 15cm/6in long,not counting its long tail,and was all black in colour.The carapace,or upper shell, had an interesting,sculpted quality,with keels and serrations.
Why help such a disagreeable character?Because it belongs here,in this northern piedmont ecoregion.It plays a role in the environment,feeding on invertebrates,aquatic plants,birds and small mammals.It may not be appealing as an individual,but it is integral to the whole.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Assuring the Future:Navy Awards Destroyer Contracts

Two US shipbuilders are celebrating this week,as the US Navy awarded them a total of 6.1 billion dollars in contracts for the design and construction of nine Arleigh Burke class destroyers,with the option for a tenth pending congressional approval.The multi-year buy extends through 2017.Such deals are conducive to cost savings by allowing the shipyards to operate more efficiently.
Huntington Ingalls Industries and General Dynamics Bath Iron Works will reap 3.3 and 2.8 billion dollars,respectively, for an advanced version of the DDG 51 destroyer,which is really the heart of the surface combatant fleet.These multi-mission ships are equipped for anti-submarine;anti-air;and anti-surface warfare,a Navy spokesman said.
From the second ship on,they will feature the new Air and Missile Defense Radar(AMDR),plus more electrical power and cooling capacity for next generation AMD and joint battlespace awareness.The acquisition helps assure the ability to carry out the Air-Sea Battle Concept and new Pacific-centric national security strategy.
What is more,the Navy plans to add up to 8600 Sailors to its end strength-the only service to increase its ranks.They will be trained for maintenance;cyber;nuclear;electronic attack aircraft;and littoral combat ship specialties.The Navy is growing slowly over time,said Rear Admiral Joe Mulloy,Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget.
Huntington Ingalls Industries(HII),General Dynamics(GD)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

AV-8B Still a Marine Corps Mainstay

With the F-35B Lightning II program trundling along,the US Marine Corps is very glad it has the AV-8B Harrier II jump jet to rely on for fire support,close air support and interdiction missions.The Harrier is to be in service till 2030.
Several upgrades over the years have kept the Harriers in fighting trim,such as equipping 74 of them for night operations with a Forward-Looking Infrared senso;,APG -65 radar;and night-vision-goggle-compatible cockpit.
The Lintening targeting pod gave the aircraft a video downlink capability for improved close air support;time-sensitive targeting;and intelligence,search and rescue.The latest upgrade,6.0 Block,provides a new bomb rack;countermeasure dispensing system;and advanced radar software.
In their essential role with the Marine Air-Ground Task Force,these short-takeoff,vertical-landing warplanes offer the fastest response time of any fixed-wing aircraft.From both austere forward operating bases and amphibious assault ships,the AV-8B has been critical to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan,as it was to Operations Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn and Operations Oddysey Dawn/Unified Protector in Libya.
The Marines had 117 of the Harrier jump jets as of late 2012.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Nature Note:Helping an Eastern Box Turtle

An eastern box turtle(Terrapene carolina) crossed the street on a recent spring morning in far Northern Maryland.To ensure it got to a suitable habitat in one piece,I picked it up and walked it about a quarter of a mile,or a half a kilometer, to a nearby patch of  streamside woodland.From its red eyes,I saw it was a male-probably a young male searching for his own territory.
It was at risk from inattentive motorists and children looking for an attractive pet.These are the species' biggest problems,along with habitat loss,which have caused it to be listed as threatened by the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species,or CITES.
Consequently,Maryland has outlawed the sale of box turtles by pet stores and sends officers on raids to enforce the statute.These threatened reptiles really belong in nature where they can live their intended lifestyle and breed.
Few Mid-Atlantic predators can crack the turtles' shells,but Eastern coyotes(Canis latrans var.),with their powerful jaws,sometimes prey on turtles.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Northrop Drone Makes Naval Aviation History

It was a smooth engineering event.There was no drama at all.The deck crew,some of them taking cell phone photos,almost seemed irrelevant as Northrop Grumman's X-47B was launched from the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush(CVN 47) off the coast of Virginia Tuesday.It wasn't Top Gun,yet it was an historic flight nonetheless as the first drone to be launched from a US aircraft carrier signaled the dawn of a new era in naval aviation.
This drone landed at nearby Naval Air Station Patuxent River Maryland-again without incident;but the next step for the Unmanned Combat Air System-Demonstrator,or UCAS-D, program will be to land one on the deck of a moving aircraft carrier later in the year.Eventually,the Navy will arm drones and be able to fly them anywhere in the world without the need for an air base in a distant land:a new degree of independence for unmanned air combat operations.
What is more,the X47-B doesn't need human controllers with a joystick.Its flight is totally computerised.
The Top Gun era is by no means over,however.The Navy's manned F-35 Lightning IIC Joint Strike Fighter program is barely off the ground and will be the standard of aircraft carrier combat operations for many decades into the future.Drones will be a valuable tool,but just one of a range of options for theater commanders.Land-based drones haven't replaced land-based US Air Force fighter or bomber aircraft in the Iraq and Afghan Wars.
Combat air drones are slated for deployment aboard carriers by 2020.
Northrop Grumman(NOC)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Australia Moves Ahead With F-35 Program,EA-18G

The Australian government has reaffirmed its plan to purchase up to 100 F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters under its long term defence strategy.Australia intends to have the advanced technology fighter in service by 2020.
Lead F-35 contractor Lockheed Martin said it was honoured by Canberra's trust and confidence.The first two of its stealthy warplanes are in production and slated for delivery in mid-2014.Lockheed will work closely with the government to support the purchase of their remaining 100 F-35 aircraft.
In contrast,Italy,Canada and Denmark are reducing their F-35 purchases.Costly delays and reworking have marred the transformative Joint Strike Fighter program to this point.More than 3,000 of the aircraft are to be produced over the life of the program,the bulk of them for the US armed forces.
Australia also said it would buy 12 Boeing EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force.They had initially planned to modify 12 of their 24 F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters with EA-18G technology;but have now decided to purchase the new Growlers instead,fearing any future delays in the F-35 program.They will keep their two dozen Super Hornets as they are.
Australia is the only other country besides the US to acquire the EA-18G,which are fully in production and qualified for immediate service.The Growlers are used to detect,identify,locate and suppress hostile emitters;the F-35s will project power over long distances from any point on the globe,integrating advanced payloads today and beyond,Lockheed says.
Australia's advanced aircraft purchases reflect growing unease in Asia over China's ongoing military buildup.
Lockheed Martin(LMT),Boeing(BA)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

US Coast Guard Status and Missions

As of 2012,the US Coast Guard had 42,190 active duty personnel and 7,899 Reserve,supported by 8,722 civilian employees and 32,156 Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteers.The Coast Guard operated 941 shore facilities and 24 air stations.It had 244 ships plus 1,776 boats less than 65 feet ,along with 198 aircraft.
In the course of 2012,there were 162 drug operations netting 70 seized vessels,352 detentions and about 361,000 pounds of illegal drugs.Migrants intercepted and repatriated numbered 2,995.
Patrol boats and personnel were deployed to the Persian Gulf in support of US Central Command,patrolling Iraqi oil platforms and securing ports,as well as monitoring the movement and shipment of hazardous materials.
A Maritime Safety and Security Team was sent to Guantanamo Bay,Cuba on port security and coastal patrol missions and a Redeployment Assistance Inspection Detachment was ordered to Afghanistan.The Coast Guard also participated in Operation Arctic Shield,exercises that increased readiness in the ever more active region.
Fisheries-enforcement operations were carried out,along with thousands of search and rescue missions.The Deepwater Horizon oil spill cleanup and Hurricane Sandy recovery were significant preoccupations of the Coast Guard in 2012.
In spite of all these responsibilities,the service was planning to cut around 1,000 personnel for budgetary reasons.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Special Intelligence Briefing:DNI

Iran has not decided to build a nuclear weapon,said Lieutenant General James R. Clapper,Jr.,US Air Force retired,Director of National Intelligence.That would be decided solely by the Supreme Leader,Ayatollah Khamenei.We would only have a brief forewarning,General Clapper told the Senate Armed Forces Committee April 18.
Pakistan views India as their preeminent threat.They have lost thousands of troops in pursuit of militants,whose presence in Pakistan hasn't changed basically.
The Defense Intelligence Agency has a higher degree of confidence that North Korea can weaponise a missile than the rest of the intelligence community.We do not know if that would work.
I saw how little the DIA was devoting to terrorism when I was its director in the 1990s.I fear I've seen this movie before.
The Iranians are developing two systems that could have intercontinental capability.The sanctions on Iran are having a huge impact on their economy,but have not yet changed their policy.
In Sudan,a very high proportion of the population is young,unemployed males,susceptible to jihadism.This is also true in other African countries.
The sequestration is certainly consuming us,the capability.We collectively are gonna have to correct what people expect of the intelligence community,because it is not gonna be the same.
We won't know what we've missed until something blows up,as Senator Angus King(I-Maine) put it.
We are facing more threats now than at any time in the past fifty years,General Clapper believes.
General Clapper,72,served in the US Air Force from 1963-95 in various military intelligence capacities.The Vietnam veteran went on to head the Defense Intelligence Agency from 1992-95;and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency from 2001-05.He was Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence from 2007-10,when President Barack Obama appointed him Director of National Intelligence,the nation's senior intelligence official.
General Clapper was decorated with the Legion of Merit(3);the Bronze Star(2);the Air Medal(2);and the National Intelligence Defense Service Medal.He is also an Officer of the Order of Australia(Honorary).

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

After Years in Port,Polar Star Back at Sea

The US Coast Guard Heavy Icebreaker Polar Star(WAGB 10) has finally gone back out to sea following years of engineering upgrades.It joins the Healy(WAGB 20) as the only other heavy icebreaker in the fleet.The Polar Star's sister ship,Polar Sea(WAGB 11),was also upgraded,but suffered an engine failure in 2010 and is slated for decommissioning.
The Polar Star is on a two week shakedown voyage,the Coast Guard said,out of its Seattle homeport.The ship is capable of rocking itself free of ice by means of three pairs of connecting tanks on opposite sides of the ship.Returning it to sea has been a priority in recent years as the Healy was left to do all the Arctic icebreaking on its own.
Polar Star was commissioned in 1976.It is estimated that building a new heavy icebreaker would cost upwards of a billion dollars-no mean feat in these cash-strapped times.
The vessel has five scientific labs and room for 20-35 researchers,in addition to the Coast Guard complement of 134 crew.It is 379 feet long,with a beam of 83.5 feet,and can sail at a speed of 20 knots.
Besides Arctic and Antarctic icebreaking,it supports research in such fields as geology,vulcanology,oceanography and sea-ice physics.
Polar Star carries two helicopters on major deployments.They are used for ice reconnaissance,scientific support,cargo transfer and search and rescue.The ship's armament consists of small arms.
Two blog posts by the Polar Star's crew are posted below to give an idea of the years of engineering work that was done to upgrade the ship.

Polar Star Blog: Can Fan Fun

Polar Star Blog: Can Fan Fun: Last week marked the completion of the installation of our new can fans (ventilation fans) on the starboard side of the Polar Star. The task...

Polar Star Blog: Keep Your Fingers Crossed!

Polar Star Blog: Keep Your Fingers Crossed!: Today was the second day of filling the potable water tanks in Aux. 4 on the Polar Star. Not only does this bring the boat one step closer ...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Feeling the Impact:Sequestration and the Defence Industry

Drastic and arbitrary US budget cuts are hindering the defence industry in a big way.Sequestration is the single worst piece of public policy in my 35 years of experience,said Clay Jones,CEO of  leading defence contractor Rockwell Collins.We've laid off 150 in Iowa and the rest of the year will lay off another 150 throughout our enterprise.
That's just the tip of the iceberg.One of the biggest problems is,it is impossible to plan.2014 will be even worse.We already took 60 million in restructuring charges.We don't like it,but we're gonna manage well.
Our defence business went down 8% last year;it will go down another 10% this year.By 2015,however,our commercial business will grow 10%.There's a high demand for fuel-efficient aircraft.We're about 33-35% international.That will grow to over 40% by 2020.
We'll be paid eventually.The biggest impact will be on the cash flow.
We produce the helmet-mounted sight for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter-the most Buck Rogers thing in the aircraft,so I think we're secure in that project.
Senator Ben Cardin,D-Maryland,said he doesn't expect any progress in resolving the sequestration issue.
Rockwell says the world's leading aerospace and defence companies rely on them for smart communications and aviation electronics solutions.Their products span displays,electronic warfare/intelligence,navigation and guidance,precision targeting and weapons,space components and other engineering applications.
Rockwell Collins,Inc(COL)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Marines Headed For Afghanistan Killed in Training Explosion-complete details

Seven US Marines training for Afghanistan died Monday night when a 60mm mortar shell exploded prematurely at Hawthorne Army Depot in Western Nevada,about 120 miles from Reno and just east of Toiyabe National Forest.Mountain peaks in the area are from 9-11,000 feet in elevation.
Another seven service members,including a US Navy corpsman and six other Marines,were wounded in the blast.They have penetrating trauma,fractures and vascular injuries.Two Marines and the Sailor are in very serious condition,while three Marines are in serious condition and another has minor injuries.
In response to the incident,all 60mm mortar rounds and tubes have been withdrawn from both training and combat operations in Afghanistan.The 60mm is the smallest mortar the Marines use.It can fire up to 30 rounds per minute and is manned by one to three individuals,depending on firing mode.
Hawthorne Army Depot consists of 147,000 acres with more than 2,000 bunkers and harsh terrain.It is used for storing ammunition and weapons stocks awaiting demilitarisation,and also provides high desert training facilities for service members.
The Marines are part of II Marine Expeditionary Force,2nd Marine Division,based at Fort LeJeune,North Carolina.They had been training for about a month with live ammo at Hawthorne and the nearby Marine Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport,California.
President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel were immediately informed of the incident,which is under investigation.About a year ago,seven other Marines were killed when two helicopters collided near the California-Arizona border.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Ohio Class Submarine Replacement A Priority

Speaking at a Senate Armed Forces Committee hearing Monday,General Robert Kehler,US Air Force,Commander,US Strategic Command,said we have to get on with it-referring to the replacement for the US Navy's Ohio class nuclear submarine.I continue to support the triad of land,air and sea-based nuclear weapons.They provide the survivability,flexibility and responsiveness which confound the enemy.
We intend to keep the Ohio submarines longer than any other submarines.I believe we understand when we will reach that point of replacement.
The land-based missile silos and airfields are not dependent on the local power grid.They are not vulnerable in that way.They are threatened by electromagnetic pulse.Defense against that is needed.
We made a number of judgements about the future.The value of a submarine-based deterrent will remain as high as it is today.The Navy's assessment is what's driving this.It's the cycles on a submarine,the pressure doing things to the metallurgy and fittings that encase them,affecting the continued safety.
Sliding the submarines over an additional two years puts them in the zone of concern.Twelve of the new class of submarine looks like the right number.It's the right capability/cost balance.We need  new long range strike aircraft as well,and the viability of land-based ICBMs beyond 2030 is an issue.
The UK wants to piggyback on the new submarine program for their own nuclear deterrent as well.It's a delicate dance.The 2013 budget continued the modernisation effort.I don't know how the 2014 budget will affect it.It continues to be a wise investment,I believe.
The 14 Ohio class submarines are the launch platform for the Trident II D5 intercontinental ballistic missiles that are the sea-based leg of the nuclear triad.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

US Navy Ship Status Part 2-plus DOD news

All dates are 2012.
Littoral combat ships:
The commissioning ceremony for the USS Fort Worth(LCS 3) was held September 22,2012 in Galveston,Texas.Coronado(LCS 4) was christened January 10 at Austal USA in Mobile,Alabama.The keel-laying ceremony for Jackson(LCS 6) was held October 18 at Austal USA.The construction contract for Little Rock(LCS 9) was awarded to Lockheed Martin on March 16;the same day,the company was awarded the construction contract for Omaha(LCS 11).
Also on March 16,Austal USA was awarded construction contracts for Gabrielle Giffords(LCS 10) and Sioux City(LCS 12).
Amphibious ships:
America(LHA 6) was christened October 20 at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula,Mississippi.A construction contract for Tripoli(LHA 7) was awarded May 31 to the company.USS San Diego(LPD 22) was commissioned May 19 at her San Diego home port.
Anchorage(LPD 23) was delivered September 17 from Avondale Shipyard,New Orleans.Arlington(LPD 24) was delivered December 7 from Ingalls Shipbuilding.Somerset(LPD 25) was christened July 28 at Avondale Shipyard.
A construction contract for pre-commissioning unit LPD 27 was awarded to Ingalls Shipbuilding on July 27.
DOD News:
Chuck Hagel was sworn in as Secretary of Defense on February 23,2013 and has attended his first cabinet meeting.He is the first former enlisted man to assume the office.Hagel is a decorated Vietnam veteran of the US Army.
Lockheed Martin was awarded a contract for the next batch of F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike fighters.The company was also awarded a US Navy contract for a long range anti-ship missile.
The Pentagon said all major weapons programs will proceed,regardless of the budget impasse.
Lockheed Martin(LMT),Huntington Ingalls Industries(HII)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

US Navy Ship Status Report

On December 1,2012,the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise(CVN 65) was inactivated at a ceremony in Norfolk,Virginia.The name of a new ship,which is to be a Gerald Ford class carrier,was announced the same day:Enterprise(CVN 80).
January 20,2012,the submarine USS Memphis(SSN 691) was decommissioned and stricken.The USS Chicago(SSN 721) shifted its homeport from Pear Harbor,Hawaii to Guam on April 19,2012.The USS Mississippi(SSN 782) was delivered from General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton,Connecticut on May 2,2012 and commissioned on June 2 in Pascagoula,Mississippi.It is homeported at Groton.
The USS Minnesota(SSN 783) was christened October 27 at Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding  in Newport News,Virginia,and launched on November 9.
The following names of submarines were announced April 13,2012:Illinois(SSN 786);Washington(SSN 787);Colorado(SSN 788);Indiana(SSN 789);and South Dakota(SSN 790).Delaware(SSN 791) was announced November 19.
The USS Maine(SSN 691) was damaged in an arson fire on May 23 while in drydock at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery,Maine.She is being repaired for around 450 million dollars.
The Arleigh Burke class destroyer USS Michael Murphy(DDG 112) was commissioned October 6 in New York and is homeported at Pearl Harbor.The name of  destroyer John Finn(DDG 113) was announced February 15.Fabrication started September 3 at Huntington Ingalls Industries Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula,Mississippi.
Two other destroyer names were announced February 15,2012:Ralph Johnson(DDG 114) and Rafael Peralta(DDG 115).A construction contract for Thomas Hudner(DDG 116) was awarded February 28,2012 to Bath Iron Works,Maine.The name of Lyndon Johnson(DDG 1002) was announced April 16 and construction was started April 4,also at Bath Iron Works.
The sequestration budget crisis is not expected to halt construction of ships already under contract,according to Mike Petters,President and CEO of Huntington Ingalls Industries.The real question is new contracts such as that for carrier Enterprise(CVN 80).
General Dynamics(GD),Huntington Ingalls Industries(HII)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Nature Note:Russian Scientists Find Meteorite Fragments

A team of Russian scientists have gathered small fragments of the Chelyabinsk meteorite,which caused a spectacular explosion over the city of one million in the Ural Mountains.These are experts with more than 30 years' experience,said Konstantin Bugrov of Ural Federal University in Yekaterinburg,Russia.The scientists located the fragments from the trajectory of the massive object and talking with local residents.They were able to find more than 50 pieces of the meteorite.
The pieces were small,black chondrites- stony meteorites that contain chondrules,which are small,rounded masses of various minerals of pea-size or smaller.What's unusual about the Chelyabinsk Event is that it happened over a city.We believe most of it went into Lake Chebarkul.Our experts just stayed around the lake,did not dive into it.
Most of the land is covered with snow.You can find them easier than in summer.Our experts found the fragments before the common people did.They would be unable to distinguish them.The only special thing about them is,they are from outer space.Only a very powerful microscope can verify they are from outer space.They have only sentimental value.
Every year,we go to Siberia to collect meteorites.The people wouldn't be able to find these very small pieces,but they will find beautiful nature in the area,and we welcome them.
The region is trying to develop a tourism industry.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Joint Chiefs Paint Somber Picture of Sequestration

Members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff bitterly criticised the massive cuts the military will sustain in just a few weeks' time,should Congress fail to halt implementation of sequestration,or arbitrary huge budget cuts,on March 1.Appearing before the Senate Armed Forces Committee,the senior officers painted a bleak picture of a hollowed-out force and a grave threat to national security that Congressional inaction is already imposing on the armed forces and the nation.
Admiral Mark Ferguson,Vice Chief of Naval Operations,said the across the board budget cuts will immediately erode the readiness of the force.We will be compelled to lower our force levels.Our sailors and their families are exhibiting increased anxiety over this.We will make every effort to sustain sailor and family support programs.
On February 15,we will notify private shipyards to defer maintenance.Three carriers are already tied up and delayed.We effectively shut down four air wings on March 1.Our pilots will lose certification.Then it will take 6-9 months to retrain them,at greater cost.
General James Amos,Commandant of the US Marine Corps,feels sequestration will have a devastating impact on readiness.Short term and long term,the effect of disruption to global order will have significant economic consequences for the American people.The devastating impacts on the Marine Corps will include ships being stuck in port;aircraft grounded;units only partially trained;modernisation programs cancelled.
The long term results will put us at an unsustainable tipping point.
Its impact is already being felt.Sequestration does not hurt things;it hurts people.Inadequate training;degraded equipment;reduced survivability-even our wounded warriors will be increasingly placed at risk.
It's a dramatic resourcing cliff that will threaten the foundation of the all-volunteer force.These are all risks that demand our immediate attention.
Senator John McCain said the signal we are sending to the Iranians is don't worry;this aircraft carrier isn't coming.We are in the most unstable period since the end of the Cold War.
It's disgraceful to treat the men and women of our armed forces this way.We owe them a certain amount of certainty.This can have a long term effect on retention.
General Martin Dempsey,US Army,Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,noted that,on a scale of 1-10,it's a 10 danger to our country.It's the steepest,biggest reduction to the Defense Department in history.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Crazed Ex-Marine Kills Navy SEAL Hero Chris Kyle

Eddie Ray Routh,a former US Marine reportedly suffering from PTSD,allegedly shot and killed noted Iraq War veteran Chris Kyle,38,and his friend Chad Littlefield at a Texas shooting range Saturday,February 2.Routh was arrested that night after a brief highway chase and arraigned on two counts of capital murder.
Kyle,who served as a US Navy SEAL from 1999-2009,wrote the best-selling "American Sniper:The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in US Military History" along with Scott McEwen and Jim Defelice.It was published in hardcover last year and in trade paperback on January 29,2013.He is credited with 160 confirmed kills in Iraq,where militants called him "al-Shaitan,"the devil,and put a 20,000 dollar bounty on his head.
In a C-SPAN interview last year,Kyle revealed his mindset.He didn't think of himself as being better than other Navy SEALs or other soldiers generally.It was all a matter of honour.
He got chills and sometimes choked up when the national anthem was played.You're gonna do something for the greater good,Kyle said,for everybody in the country.As a civilian,that's definitely a problem;it's for your own good.This is still the greatest country in the world.
I'm not out there to rack up kills and get these huge numbers.I'd like to be known by how many I saved-not just military,but the Iraqi civilians also.You can't think of the person you're shooting as an actual person.It's unfortunate,but war is hell.It's hit the fan,and we're there to make it stop.I'm just trying to save my guys.
It's doing the right thing at the right time.A lot of math is involved,especially the farther out you go.
I didn't write the book to glorify myself,but those I served with and who are still out there serving.All of my portion of the proceeds are going to the families of the two I lost.Protesters should protest Congress and the President.Leave the military guys alone.They're willing to die for our safety and security.
PTSD is nothing to be looked down on.We need to help them.It's something you have to live with or work around.Just be there for them.Just give them your undying support,Kyle urged.
Kyle achieved the rank of Chief Petty Officer.He was awarded two Silver Stars; five Bronze Stars with Valor;and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Awards with V.He fought at Fallujah and Ramadi.Ironically,it was one of his own that brought him down.
"American Sniper" is getting an average rating of about four out of five stars from readers.The paperback is listed at 9.99 new.Another book was reportedly in the works.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Special Intelligence Report:ISAF Afghanistan Status

Lieutenant General James Terry,US Army,ISAF Afghanistan Joint Commander,said the progress there is very substantial.With our partners,we're gonna be working on the challenges.The Afghan National Police and Army can and do fight for the people of Afghanistan.
The general briefed reporters at the Pentagon on the status of International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan,or ISAF.
The ISAF mission is Train,Advise and Assist,he continued.Today the insurgents fear the Afghan National Security Forces,or ANSF.They are taking the lead because long term stability demands it.It undermines the insurgents' doctrine of fighting foreign forces.
The militants have been forced out of urban areas.Cellphone coverage extends to over 80% of the population and the kids are back in school.The people are tired and have no desire to be controlled by insurgents.The majority believe the country is headed in the right direction.
We are now bringing in brigade-size training and assistance forces.These forces are accelerating self-security.We are witnessing examples of increasing ANSF capability.There are Afghan-planned and executed operations using Afghan helicopters and pilots.We are putting our advisors and enablers at the right levels in the ANSF.
The future is not without risk.We are confident we can mitigate that risk.While ANSF move to the lead,coalition forces will still conduct operations in combat conditions.As we look toward national elections in 2014,I am confident the security provided by the ANSF will be sufficient.
It can and will work.They will need a partner and our help,but they are well on the way to taking the lead.From where I'm at,they're at the run phase.I was recently pleased the insider threat has in my mind receded.The vetting and counterintel are ongoing.
We'll be with the ANSF through this fighting season,providing help with logistics;counter-IED;surface fires;and the Afghan helicopter fleet.
Besides the US Army,the US Marines,US Air Force and Individual Augmentees from the US Navy are a part of ISAF Afghanistan,along with NATO and other coalition partners.Around 60,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan and most are slated for withdrawal by the end of 2014.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Department of the Navy Status Report

The US Navy had 318,406 active duty personnel as of October 2012.There were also 108,718 Ready Reservists.
Battle force ships totaled 288 vessels.
Raymond E. Mabus is Secretary of the Navy,overseeing more than 200,000 civilians of the Department of the Navy as well as the active duty and reserve forces and the US Marine Corps.He was a surface warfare officer in the Navy,then governor of Mississippi and ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
Robert O. Work,a retired US Marine Corps officer,is Undersecretary of the Navy.
Admiral Johnathan W. Greenert is Chief of Naval Operations and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff..He was a career submariner.
General John F. Amos,a former naval aviator,is Commandant of the US Marine Corps.Always close and members of the same Department,the Navy and Marine Corps plan to become even more of a cohesive force in the years ahead.
Marine Corps personnel carry Department of the Navy ID cards.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Intelligence Special:NGA Receives Joint Meritorious Unit Award

An obscure Defense Department agency,the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency,or NGA,received a Joint Meritorious Unit Award on January 11.Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter presented the honour.It was bestowed for extraordinary contributions to the warfighter and national defense from January 1 to December 31,2010.
The award consists of a framed citation and service ribbon.
Carter hailed NGA as a constant source of innovation,aiding our efforts in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations,using new sensors,technologies and analytic methods.NGA's success on the battlefield in all phases of operations prompted many tactical commanders to declare they would never go to war without NGA.
Attending the ceremony were Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper and NGA Director Letitia A. Long.Long,the first woman to head a US intelligence agency,said every employee played an important role in the effort.NGA will continue to be totally dedicated to providing the highest quality GEOINT products,information and knowledge to support our many mission sets.
Geospatial intelligence,or GEOINT,is the exploitation and analysis of imagery and geospatial information to describe,assess and visually depict physical features and geographically referenced activities on the Earth.NGA provides timely,relevant and accurate GEOINT in support of national security.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Low-Flying Helicopters Prepare For Nuclear Emergencies

The National Nuclear Security Administration,or NNSA,a US Department of Energy agency,is actively preparing for an emergency such as a  low level nuclear or radiological attack by terrorists,a so-called dirty bomb,on major urban areas.Special response teams are being trained and equipped for such an eventuality.More obviously,low-flying helicopters have been repeatedly buzzing major urban areas within the past year as they survey background radiation for the Nuclear Emergency Support Team,NEST,a collaboration of NNSA and the Department of Homeland Security.
So that's what it was doing.I observed such a civilian helicopter flying back and forth at a low altitude in the greater Washington,DC area one morning recently.It certainly struck me as peculiar,if not alarming.The twin engine helicopters may fly a grid pattern at an altitude of 300 feet and can cover dozens of square miles for the intensive surveys.
The purpose of the surveys is to improve aerial radiation measurement in order to swiftly detect an incident's exact parameters and respond to it
.A certain amount of radiation occurs naturally or in the course of daily business in urban areas-even in asphalt roadbeds-and in order to find a nuclear debris field,you need to know the radiological lay of the land so you can indentify any anomalies.
Besides Metropolitan Washington,DC,surveys have also been done in the San Francisco Bay Area,the Puget Sound area in Washington state,and the Chicagoland area.
The NNSA also secures National Laboratories where nuclear research is conducted,and transports nuclear materials by road in heavily armed truck convoys.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Special Intelligence Report:Inside Iran

Iranian authorities have asked some 1.5 million residents of the city of Isfahan to leave the city if they can because of dangerous air pollution.The air quality is not expected to improve for another two days.
Pollution has been particularly bad this year because of the cold,which traps polluted air near the ground unless winds blow it away;millions of cars on the roads of the city that lacks mass transit;and the use of diesel cars spewing untreated carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
With Western sanctions ratcheted up on Iran for failing to halt its suspected nuclear weapons development program,Iran has been forced to convert petrochemical plants into refineries that lack adequate pollution controls.Isfahan is an old,picturesque city of tiled mosques and minarets blanketed with smog.
A year ago,the World Health Organisation listed four Iranian cities on its list of the ten worst polluted cities in the world.
In another development,Iran has been conducting five days of naval maneuvers,Velayat-91,near the strategically significant Strait of Hormuz,through which one fifth of the world's oil supply passes.According to the semi-official Mehr news agency,military spokesman Admiral Amir Rastgari claimed that Iran issued 30 warnings to foreign spy planes,drones and warships approaching the maneuvers,and that the reconnaissance assets distanced themselves from the activity in response.
The naval exercises involved the firing of the new Ghader anti-ship cruise missile,a sea-skimmer with a range of 120 miles/200 kilometers.The Ghader,or "Capable,"was delivered in late 2011.Both the Iranian navy and Revolutionary Guard navy have the weapon in their arsenals.It is claimed to be able to sink large warships.
The Noor anti-ship missile was also fired during the exercises.Video showed the missiles hitting target vessels.The maneuvers took place in an approximately one million square mile area extending from the Strait of Hormuz to the Northern Indian Ocean.

Fox Picture – Animal Wallpaper – National Geographic Photo of the Day

Fox Picture – Animal Wallpaper – National Geographic Photo of the Day