Tuesday, January 28, 2014

US Navy Status Report;MK V Special Operations Craft

US Navy personnel as of November 2013 numbered 323,951 active duty and 109,738 Ready Reserve,for a total of 433,689 in uniform.They were supported by 201,000 civilians in the Department of the Navy.*
Battle force ships and submarines totalled 283.That is 17 short of the Navy's stated goal of 300.There are also a number of unnamed force protection,Coastal Riverine Force and Special Operations armed small boats.
One of these small,little known combat vessels is the MK V Special Operations Craft.It inserts and extracts Navy SEALs and possibly other Special Operations Forces in low to medium threat environments.The radar-equipped boats can be transported to theatre by ship or US Air Force C-5 Galaxy aircraft;are deployable in 48 hours;and operational in 24 hours from delivery in theatre.These Halter Marine-built vessels carry up to four Combat Rubber Raiding Craft to transport the SEALs to and from shore.
With a crew of 5 and up to 16 passengers,the 82 foot-long Special Operations Craft can sail at a formidable speed of 50 knots for more than 500 nautical miles.The MK V is armed with an assortment of up to 5 .50-caliber,7.62mm or Mk19 40mm machine guns.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Nature Note:Leucistic Bald Eagles

In January,you may find bald eagles on their wintering grounds.Among them may be a rarity,the Leucistic bald eagle.Until the other day,this blog had never heard of the rare colour phase of America's national symbol.A photo came across from Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Tulelake,California,which is near the Oregon border.It was of a stunning bald eagle,heavily feathered with white.The eagle has been wintering on the refuge for a couple of years now.
Interestingly,an Ann Kisling of Southern Oregon had reported a Leucistic bald eagle at her location in 2010,accompanied by photos.It appeared to this blog that this could be the same eagle that has shown up at Tulelake,California the past few years.Each Leucistic bald eagle has unique plumage,and the photos do show plumage similarity.*
Leucistic bald eagles have a genetic mutation that causes pigment suppression in patches.White is not a colour;it is an absence of pigment.These are birds with white,colourless feather patches.They may present with white wing tips,speckled breasts or heavily flecked breasts.
Leucistic bald eagles are not ill.There is no evidence that they live shorter lives than normal bald eagles.The only possible disadvantage is,they may be mistaken for immature bald eagles during mating season,possibly causing potential mates to avoid them.
What they are is,exceptionally attractive creatures,an example of the endless variety of the natural environment.*
Bald eagle(Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Author Stephen Hawking Visits RAF Lakenheath

Theoretical physicist and author Stephen Hawking paid a surprise visit to RAF Lakenheath,England on 29 December,2013,according to 2nd Lieutenant Keenan Kunst,US Air Force 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs.Hawking,who wrote the bestseller "A Brief History of Time,"arranged the trip through the good offices of his late friend's widow.When the retired master sergeant passed away,Hawking was supposed to have scattered his ashes at the base,but was unable to do so.At the end of 2013,however,Hawking felt well enough and had the time to finally make the trip,so the UK Ministry of Defence and US Air Force set it up on short notice.
Hawking arrived the next day and was greeted by RAF Squadron Leader Jerry Neild and USAF 48th Operations Group Commander Colonel Mark Slocum,as well as astonished security forces personnel.Hawking,who is a professor at Cambridge University and director of its Centre for Theoretical Cosmology,was given a windshield tour of the facility and a breifing at Radar Approach Control.Attired in an RAF sweater,he was also briefed at a protected aircraft shelter by members of the 48th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron with an F-15E Strike Eagle they maintain.
Hawking posed for photos with the airmen and mutual admiration was expressed,with the Cambridge professor praising the airmen's intelligence and level of responsibility,while Hawking's stature was recognised and appreciated by all.Clearly it was a memorable occasion for those concerned.*
Labels:Stephen Hawking,US Air Force,Royal Air Force,RAF Lakenheath,48th Fighter Wing,Cambridge University,F-15E Strike Eagle,England

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Last Out:I MEF Heads For Afghanistan

The last major US Marine Corps deployment to Afghanistan is underway.On Saturday 4 January,about half of I Marine Expeditionary Force(Forward) command element said goodbye to their families and boarded buses at Camp Pendleton,California to begin their journey.This contingent has around 300 Marines and Sailors and will operate out of Camps Leatherneck and Bastion upon arrival in country,according to Sgt.Jessica Ostroska.The next group of the command element plans to deploy on 12 January.The unit is under the command of Brigadier General Daniel D. Yoo.*
The I MEF(Forward) will assume command of Regional Command(Southwest),comprised of Helmand and Nimroz Provinces.They are replacing Marines and Sailors of II MEF(Forward).Following the command element,other units will join I MEF,including elements of 1st Marine Division;1st Marine Logistics Group;and 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing,for a total of more than 4,000 Marines and Sailors in Operation Enduring Freedom.I MEF is slated to return at the end of 2014.*
The Afghan president,Hamid Karzai,has been given a matter of weeks to sign an agreement to keep US forces in Afghanistan for advice and assistance beyond 2014.The agreement has already been approved by the Afghan national council,the Loya Jirga.The mercurial leader is apparently putting on a display of national pride,when the rest of the country has moved beyond that point to the practical reality of the situation.
Labels:Afghan War,US Marine Corps,Camp Pendleton,I Marine Expeditionary Force,US Navy,President Hamid Karzai,Helmand Province,Nimroz Province,California,Afghanistan