Archive for January, 2012


January 31, 2012

Fox News on January 30, 2012, reported on the advancment of the futuristic railgun — which uses magnets to shoot bullets for hundreds of miles at speeds of up to Mach 7 — just took another step toward reality. Excerpts below:

Military supply company Raytheon announced on the 30th that it had been awarded a $10 million naval contract to develop a way to supply enough juice to power the whopping gun — which could someday reshape naval warfare.

“This new system will dramatically change how our Navy defends itself and engages enemies while at sea,” said Joe Biondi, vice president of advanced technology for Raytheon’s Integrated Defense Systems business.

Rather than relying on a explosion to fire a projectile, the railgun uses an electomagnetic current to accelerate a non-explosive bullet at several times the speed of sound. The conductive projectile zips along a set of electrically charged parallel rails and out of the barrel at speeds up to Mach 7.

Raytheon is building a “Pulse Forming Network” or PFN. That’s a large power system that stores up electrical power and then converts it to a pulse that is directed into the gun’s barrel, John Cochran, the railgun program manager in Raytheon’s Advanced Technology, says.

The next step: turning the test versions of the railgun into an actual gun. Current firings have been limited to Naval test facilities on dry land.

The future of the railgun looked in doubt last summer. The Senate Armed Services Committee voted in April of 2011 to eliminate funding for two of the Navy’s most futuristic (and by the same token least concrete) weapons: the free electron laser, essentially a super-powered death ray, and the railgun.

That changed on Dec. 31, 2011, when President Obama finally signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, or H.R. 1540. A section in that bill demands an update on the feasibility of the electromagnetic railgun.


January 30, 2012

On “Inside China” the Washington Times on January 25, 2012, commented on the China surge at an unprecedented speed as the world’s major contender to dominate space exploration. Excerpts below:

Last year, China’s 19 space launches surpassed the U.S. rate for the first time in history. For 2012, China’s government has announced plans to loft 21 spacecraft carrying 30 satellites into orbit, and it has vowed to keep up that pace at least through 2020. That’s when China presumably will take over as the leading spacefaring nation, and the only nation remaining with an operating space station.

Analysts say China is doing this with a clear strategic objective in mind: to edge out the United States from space competition at a time when Washington is viewed as rapidly retreating from its space programs.

Space competition between China and the United States began in earnest in January 2007. That’s when the Chinese military blasted a defunct Chinese weather satellite in space using the anti-satellite variant of the DF-21 medium-range ballistic missile. The test demonstrated China’s ability to destroy an adversary’s orbiting spacecraft as part of the emerging anti-access, area denial strategy.

China is taking full advantage of the recent American slowdown in space. In 2010, the Communist Party of China included in its 12th Five-Year Plan an ambitious multiyear space program aimed at dominating the world in the number of manned and unmanned space launches. In 2011, China sent into orbit its first unmanned space station and later docked a spacecraft on it. It also launched a number of its own version of GPS satellites for the Chinese military’s satellite navigation system.

Unlike in the West, China’s space program is run exclusively by the military and is mainly used to support the rapidly expanding armed forces. Beijing considers America’s aircraft-carrier-based warfare and space-assisted weapons systems the two key pillars of the U.S. power projection forces in the Asia-Pacific region that threaten its rising national ambitions. The rapid research and development of anti-ship missiles and anti-satellite capabilities are a major strategic emphasis for the army, especially in the context of the recently announced U.S. Air-Sea Battle concept that is aimed primarily at China.


January 30, 2012

Wall Street Journal on January 28, 2012, reported a big defeat by ACLU in its lawfare campaign against American national security. The victory for legal sanity came on January 23 when the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision to toss out a suit brought by aspiring terrorist Jose Padilla against a slew of Bush Administration officials. Excerpts below:

Padilla was arrested in 2002 for plotting to set off a dirty bomb on U.S. soil. He was detained as an enemy combatant, convicted in a Miami court and sentenced to 17 years in prison. Padilla has been adopted as a legal mascot by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Litigation Project at Yale Law School, which have sued far and wide alleging mistreatment and lack of due process.

Padilla may in fact have had more due process than any defendant in history. His case has been ruled on by no fewer than 10 civilian courts, and as a prisoner in the Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina from 2002 to 2006 he received the benefit of protections under the highly disciplined U.S. Code of Military Justice. Your average bank robber should be so lucky.

The lawyers suing for Padilla aren’t interested in justice. They’re practicing “lawfare,” which is an effort to undermine the war on terror by making U.S. officials afraid to pursue it for fear of personal liability.

The ACLU and the rest of the legal left have failed to persuade several Congresses and two Administrations to agree to their anti-antiterror policies. So instead they’re suing former officials in civilian court to harass them and damage their reputations. It’s shameful stuff, and if it succeeds it would have the effect of making Pentagon officials look over their shoulder at potential lawsuits every time they had to make a difficult military or interrogation decision.

The good news is that the Fourth Circuit’s three-judge panel saw this for what it was and unanimously rejected the claims. In his 39-page opinion, the influential Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson wrote that the Constitution gives authority over military affairs to Congress and to the President as Commander in Chief, but it never created a similar role for the courts.

“It takes little enough imagination,” Judge Wilkinson wrote, “to understand that a judicially devised damages action would expose past executive deliberations . . . [and] would affect future discussions as well, shadowed as they might be by the thought that those involved would face prolonged civil litigation and potential personal liability.”

The ACLU may appeal to all of the Fourth Circuit judges, but Judge Wilkinson’s ruling is comprehensive enough that an appeal is unlikely to prevail. The judges deserve credit for understanding that the Constitution gave war powers to the political branches, not to courts. The country will be safer for it.


January 29, 2012

Fox News on January 28, 2012, reported that the Pentagon is seeking a more powerful bomb after acknowledging that the U.S.’s largest bomb, the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, is not capable of destroying Iran’s most heavily fortified underground facilities. Excerpts below:

“We’ve long said we need the capability these weapons will provide us,” Capt. John Kirby, Pentagon spokesman told Fox News.

“We’re committed to their development and comfortable that they will contribute to all the capabilities our military can bring to bear against hardened targets,” Kirby said.

Doubts about the MOP’s effectiveness reportedly prompted the Pentagon to secretly submit a request to Congress for funding to enhance the bomb, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “acknowledges shortcomings in the development of the weapon,” a senior U.S. defense official told Fox News.

Initial tests reportedly indicated that the bomb wouldn’t be able to destroy some of Iran’s facilities, although it was unclear if depth was a factor, or if Tehran had since added new fortifications to protect them, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The request for a more powerful bomb is part of contingency planning for a possible strike against Iran’s nuclear program, U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal.


January 27, 2012

Fox News on January 26, 2012, reported on the US potential threat list. Excerpts below:

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has revealed his list of the risks and the most pressing threats to America’s security.

“This is going to be tough,” Panetta told reporters on the 26th. “Obviously it will be a smaller force, and when you have a smaller force there are risks associated with that in terms of our capability to respond.”

So in the near future where will the world’s strongest military need to respond?

Panetta says there’s a long list of potential problems. Among his top concerns, he says, are: the ongoing war in Afghanistan; the threat of terrorism; the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan; Yemen; a nuclear-capable Iran; a nuclear-capable North Korea; proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; turmoil in the Middle East, and the potential for cyber warfare.

The U.S. military’s ground forces, specifically the Army and Marines are slated to lose nearly 100,000 troops. The Army will shrink to 490,000 troops down from the current 562,000. The Marines will shrink by 20,000, down to 182,000.

But retired Maj. Gen. Bob Scales says the Pentagon is ignoring the lessons of history.

“Every administration since the fall of the Berlin wall has been trying to cut heavy forces,” Scales said in an interview with Fox News on Thursday. “So should we ever face a conventional enemy again – and we will – the chances are very high that we’ll march off to war with a force that isn’t heavy enough to fight sustained land combat.”


January 26, 2012

Washington Times on January 25, 2012, published an AP report on a U.S. Navy SEAL unit that killed Osama bin Laden parachuted into Somalia under cover of darkness early on the 25th and crept up to an outdoor camp where an American woman and Danish man were being held hostage. Soon, nine kidnappers were dead and both hostages were freed. Excerpts below:

President Barack Obama authorized the mission by SEAL Team 6 two days earlier, and minutes after he gave his State of the Union address to Congress he was on the phone with the American’s father to tell him his daughter was safe.

The Danish Refugee Council confirmed the two aid workers, American Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted, a Dane, were “on their way to be reunited with their families.”

Buchanan, 32, and Thisted, 60, were working with a de-mining unit of the Danish Refugee Council when gunmen kidnapped the two in October.

The raiders came in quickly, catching the guards as they were sleeping after having chewed the narcotic leaf qat for much of the evening, a pirate who gave his name as Bile Hussein told the Associated Press by phone. Hussein said he was not present at the site but had spoken with other pirates who were, and that they told him nine pirates had been killed in the raid and three were “taken away.”

A U.S. official confirmed media reports that the SEALs parachuted into the area before moving on foot to the target. The official said SEAL Team 6 carried out the mission, the same team that killed al Qaeda leader bin Laden in Pakistan last May. The raid happened near the Somali town of Adado.

The hostage rescue was carried out by the same SEAL unit behind the operation in Pakistan last May that killed bin Laden, two U.S. officials said on condition of anonymity to discuss the operation. The unit is the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, also known as SEAL Team 6. One official said that the team parachuted into the area before moving on foot to the target.

A Western official said the rescuers and the freed hostages flew by helicopter to a U.S. military base called Camp Lemonnier in the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the information had not been released publicly. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited Camp Lemonnier just over a month ago. A key U.S. ally in this region, Djibouti has the only U.S. base in sub-Saharan Africa. It hosts the military’s Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.

The two aid workers appear to have been kidnapped by criminals — sometimes referred to as pirates — and not by Somalia’s al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab. As large ships at sea have increased their defenses against pirate attacks, gangs have looked for other money making opportunities like land-based kidnappings.

The Danish Refugee Council had earlier enlisted traditional Somali elders and members of civil society to seek the release of the two hostages.

The two hostages were working in northern Somalia for the Danish Demining Group, whose experts have been clearing mines and unexploded ordnance in conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East.

Several hostages are still being held in Somalia, including a British tourist, two Spanish doctors seized from neighboring Kenya, and an American journalist kidnapped recently.


January 26, 2012

Wall Street Journal on January 26, 2012, reported that the Pentagon plans to expand its global network of drones and special-operations bases in a fundamental realignment meant to project U.S. power even as it cuts back conventional forces. Excerpts below:

The plan, to be unveiled by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on the 26th and in budget documents next month, calls for a 30% increase in the U.S. fleet of armed unmanned aircraft in the coming years, defense officials said. It also foresees the deployment of more special-operations teams at a growing number of small “lily pad” bases across the globe where they can mentor local allies and launch missions.

The utility of such tools was evident on January 25 after an elite team—including members of Navy SEAL Team Six, the unit that killed Osama bin Laden—parachuted into Somalia and freed an American woman and Danish man held hostage for months.

The strategy reflects the Obama administration’s increasing focus on small, secret operations in place of larger wars. The shift follows the U.S. troop pullout from Iraq in December, and comes alongside the gradual U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, where a troop-intensive strategy is giving way to an emphasis on training Afghan forces and on hunt-and-kill missions.

Defense officials said the U.S. Army plans to eliminate at least eight brigades while reducing the size of the active duty Army from 570,000 to 490,000, cuts that are likely to hit armored and heavy infantry units the hardest. But drone and special-operations deployments would continue to grow as they have in recent years.

At the same time, the Army aims to accentuate the importance of special operations by preserving light, rapidly deployable units such as the 82nd and the 101st Airborne divisions.

“What we really want is to see the Army adopt the mentality of special forces,” said a military officer who advises Pentagon leaders.

The new strategy would assign specific U.S.-based Army brigades and Marine Expeditionary units to different regions of the world, where they would travel regularly for joint exercises and other missions, using permanent facilities and the forward-staging bases that some advisers call lily pads.

Many of the proposed bases will be secret and could temporarily house small commando teams, the officials said.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, sees the bases and drones as part of an effort to offset cutbacks that some critics say will undercut the U.S.’s global dominance. The Pentagon says it will have more than enough force to fight at least one major troop-intensive ground war.

The Pentagon still will invest in some big-ticket items, including the F-35 stealth fighter, as a counterweight to rising powers, including China—although the department is poised to announce this week that it is going to slow procurement of the new plane, said defense officials.

The plan envisions a 10% increase in special-operations forces over the next four years, from 63,750 this year to 70,000 by 2015, U.S. officials said. Mr. Panetta also will announce a buildup in the drone fleet in the coming years, U.S. officials said, following growth under predecessor Robert Gates.

The Air Force now operates 61 drone combat air patrols around the clock, with up to four drones in each patrol. Mr. Panetta’s plan calls for the military to have enough drones to comfortably operate 65 combat air patrols constantly with the ability to temporarily surge to 85 combat air patrols, officials said.

The use of secretive commando teams and small, low-profile bases is appealing to the Obama administration because of the reduced costs, said a U.S. official briefed on the plans. They also risk less apprehension by host governments.

Military leaders are looking into the creation of new special-operations bases in Turkey and eastern Jordan, near the border with Iraq. U.S. officials said. Those will supplement a network of airstrips and other facilities in the region that house drones and operatives used for missions in Yemen, Somalia and beyond.


January 26, 2012

Fox News on January 25, 2012, reported that GOP hopeful Newt Gingrich is unveiling a dramatic new vision for America’s space program, which he promises to implement should he become president. Excerpts below:

“By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon,” Gingrich vowed at a campaign stop on Florida’s space coast. “And it will be American.”

The former speaker went even further, calling for a significant increase in the number of trips into orbit.

“We need to figure out how to do five or eight launches a day, not just one,” he insisted. “If we’re going to get to the moon permanently, we have to do this. Does that mean I’m a visionary? You betcha.”

“I will as president, encourage the introduction of the Northwest Ordinance for space to put a marker down that we want Americans to think boldly about the future and we want Americans to go out and study hard and work hard and together we’re going to unleash the American people to build the country we love.”

On the Northwest Ordinance Gingrich said:

“At one point early in my career I introduced the Northwest Ordinance in Space,” the Republican presidential candidate told thousands of voters on Florida’s Space Coast. Under Gingrich’s proposal, once there were “13,000 Americans living on the moon, they [could] petition to become a state.”

Comment: It is important for further space exploration that an American moon colony is established. The Obama administration has cancelled the plans for an American moon colony presented by earlier administrations. This is a dangerous mistake.


January 25, 2012

Professor Brahma Chellaney on January 24, 2012, published a commentary in Washington Times on how to check China. Excerpts below:

The launch of trilateral strategic consultations among the United States, India and Japan, and their decision to hold joint naval exercises this year, signal efforts to form an entente among the Asia-Pacific region’s three leading democracies. These efforts – in the world’s most economically dynamic region where the specter of a power imbalance looms large – have also been underscored by President Obama’s new strategic guidance for the Pentagon. The new strategy calls for “rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific” and support of India as a “regional economic anchor and provider of security in the broader Indian Ocean region.”

At a time when Asia is in transition and troubled by growing security challenges, the United States, India and Japan are seeking to build a broader strategic understanding to advance their shared interests. Their effort calls to mind the pre-World War I Franco-British-Russian “Triple Entente” to meet the threat posed by the rapid rise of an increasingly assertive Germany.

The intention of the three democratic powers is to create an “ententecordiale” without transforming it into a formal military alliance. Yet this entente could serve as an important strategic instrument to deter China’s rising power from sliding into arrogance. The three partners also seek to contribute to the construction of a stable, liberal, rules-based regional order.

Important shifts in American, Japanese and Indian strategic preferences and policies, however, are needed to build meaningful trilateral collaboration. Japan, America’s treaty ally, has established military interoperability only with U.S. forces. After its 2008 security-cooperation declaration with India, Japan must also build interoperability with Indian naval forces, so that, as former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said, “Japan’s navy and the Indian navy are seamlessly interconnected.”

Whereas Japan is separated from China by a sea and the United States is geographically distant, China has sharply escalated border violations and other incidents in recent years to increase pressure on India, even as the U.S. has maintained tacit neutrality on Sino-Indian disputes.

Building true military interoperability within the entente will not be easy, owing to the absence of a treaty relationship between the United States and India, and to their forces’ different weapon systems and training. But given that no formal tripartite alliance is sought, limited interoperability may mesh well with this ententecordiale’s political objectives. Indeed, the entente’s political utility is likely to surpass its military value.

Even so, the deepening cooperation between the United States, India and Japan can help to strengthen maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region – the world’s leading trade and energy seaway – and shape a healthy and stable Asian power equilibrium.

Brahma Chellaney is professor at the independent Center for Policy Research in New Delhi and the author of Asian Juggernaut: The Rise of China, India, and Japan (HarperCollins).


January 24, 2012

Trouble Spots: The World Atlas of Strategic Information by Andrew Duncan and Michel Opatowski Stroud, United Kingdom: Sutton Publishing, 2000. 324 pp. $39.95

There are few geopolitical atlases. The Duncan-Stroud is concentrated on areas of conflict around the world. It is impossible to include every actual or potential trouble spot in a book of this size, but the major areas of strategic importance are covered.

The book has 15 sections–12 of which are regionally focused on trouble spots–together with a useful stop-press addition. Each section is lavishly illustrated with maps and photographs, mostly in color, and there are helpful summaries and tables in the margins.

The section on the United States provides a sound analysis of the military reach and global intentions of the only superpower. In addition, there is a realistic examination of ballistic missile defense and a critical survey of sanctions.

The treatment of Russia and the former Soviet Union raises many more problems, given the abundance of trouble spots. Apart from the development of Russia itself and its military capabilities, the areas considered are the northern Caucasus, the Baltic States, and the Kuril Islands.

The section on the Balkans presents the most complete coverage in the book. Each state is considered in the context of past, present, and future problems, and myriad issues are treated under the rubric of “The Crescent of Crisis.” The highlights are oil in the Caspian Basin, the Kurds, and the Tigris and Euphrates. Among these trouble spots are the southern Caucasus and Afghanistan.

Middle East flashpoints appear in three sections entitled “The Middle East,” “North Africa,” and the “Middle East-African Interface.” Prominence is given to the continuing Arab-Israel conflict and future water problems.

The section which follows on “Sub-Saharan Africa” offers examples from each area of the continent. It is both detailed and well illustrated.
All the major states are included in the section on South Asia, and there are useful sub-sections on Kashmir and Myanmar. The section on East and Southeast Asia considers most trouble spots in the region. The final section is focused on Latin America.

Throughout the regional parts of the text, historical background provides an appreciation of the current issues which are detailed in a clear and unbiased fashion. The key points are tabulated in the margins, and each section concludes with a bibliography and list of Web sites. As a concise guide to trouble spots, these sections compare well with other available reference works.

In many respects it is unfortunate that the remaining sections on strategic matters were included. Some subsections attempt to cover huge topics in only a few pages, while the overall selection reveals obvious omissions.

On balance, Trouble Spots is an invaluable reference for both experts and armchair critics who depend on television for news coverage of world events. It deserves a place on the bookshelf of anyone interested in international security affairs, if only for its excellent maps.

This review is based on a review by British Professor em. Ewan W. Anderson, who is the author of An Atlas of World Flashpoints: A Sourcebook of Geopolitical Crises. The Anderson review was published on Internet in 2002 by the Business Library