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.