Archive for January, 2013


January 31, 2013

Fox News on January 29, 2013 reported that the Missile Defense Agency quietly tested a “kill vehicle” successfully showing that the nation’s first line of defense can block the threat of ballistic missiles. Excerpts below from Allison Barrie:

At hypersonic speeds, the Raytheon-made warhead — a 120-pound spacecraft that has been described as “a telescope mounted on a pack of propane cylinders” — operates at the edge of space to seek out and ram into threats, ultimately destroying them.

On the afternoon of January 26, the Agency successful launched and tested the craft, which they call an Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle or EKV, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It’s a key element of Boeing’s Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, which acts as the nation’s shield.

GMD is the first and only operationally deployed missile defense program to defend against long-range ballistic missile attacks, such as inbound ICBMs.

And that shield is apparently sturdy.

Instead of using a traditional warhead, EKV destroys the threat by colliding with it using only the force of impact — a process known as “hit-to-kill.”

The EKV has already had eight successful intercepts throughout the life of the program.

Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at


January 29, 2013

Fox News on January 28, 2013, reported that the U.S. military is planning to set up a new drone base in Northwest Africa, senior defense officials confirmed to Fox News, in the latest effort to track the ever-expanding network of Al Qaeda affiliates and help the allied nations fighting them. Excerpts below:

The development comes as the U.S. increases its assistance to French forces fighting in Mali, where Islamist extremists who control the northern part of the country have pushed south toward the capital. A move to station U.S. drones nearby could help France with surveillance.

Officials say the U.S. is looking at neighboring Niger as the location for the base, meant for unarmed drones only. The effort is still in the planning phase and has not been formally approved by the Pentagon, the White House or Niger.

In Mali …the U.S. military is helping fly French troops and supplies in and out of the country in support of the French military…

While officials are talking about positioning a base for unarmed drones in Niger, it marks the steady expansion of the administration’s overall drone program — which is increasingly used to target and kill terrorists.

In Obama’s first term, there was a roughly 435 percent increase in the number of drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan, according to one tally. Nearly 290 drone strikes were documented in Pakistan, though the administration does not confirm those numbers.


January 28, 2013

J.E. Box1, J. Cappelen2, C. Chen1, D. Decker1, X. Fettweis3, T. Mote4, M. Tedesco5, R.S.W. van de Wal6, J. Wahr7

1 Byrd Polar Research Center, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA2 Danish Meteorological Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark
3 Department of Geography, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium
4 Department of Geography, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA
5 City College of New York, New York, NY, USA
6 Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research Utrecht, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
7 Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA

A report on the melting Greenland ice sheet on January 13, 2013, highlighted what can be a great future for mining on the huge island under Danish administration but with a regional government on its own. Excerpts below:

The duration of melting at the surface of the ice sheet in summer 2012 was the longest since satellite observations began in 1979, and a rare, near-ice sheet-wide surface melt event was recorded by satellites for the first time.

The lowest surface albedo observed in 13 years of satellite observations (2000-2012) was a consequence of a persistent and compounding feedback of enhanced surface melting and below normal summer snowfall.

Field measurements along a transect (the K-Transect) on the western slope of the ice sheet revealed record-setting mass losses at high elevations.
A persistent and strong negative North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index caused southerly air flow into western Greenland, anomalously warm weather and the spatially and temporally extensive melting, low albedo and mass losses observed in summer 2012.


In 2012, ice sheet surface melting set two new, satellite era records – melt extent and melt index – according to passive microwave observations made since 1979 (e.g., Tedesco, 2007, 2009). Melt extent is the fractional area (in %) of the surface of the ice sheet where melting was detected. The melt index (MI) is the number of days on which melting occurred multiplied by the area where melting was detected.

Melt extent over the Greenland ice sheet reached record values during 11-12 July, covering as much as ~97% of the ice sheet on a single day. Confirmed by different methods for analyzing passive microwave observations (e.g., Mote and Anderson, 1995; Tedesco, 2009), the almost 100% melt extent is nearly four times greater than the ~ 25% average melt extent that occurred in 1981-2010.


January 27, 2013

Fox News on January 26, 2013, published an AP report that French and Malian troops regained control of the airport and bridge of the crucial, northern city of Gao , marking their biggest advance yet in their bid to oust Al Qaeda-linked extremists who have controlled northern Mali for months, military officials said. Excerpts below:

The move comes just two weeks after France launched its military offensive in support of the shaky, central government of this former French colony. It is unclear what kind of resistance French and Malian troops will face in the coming days.

The French military said in a statement on its website that their special forces, which had stormed in by land and by air, had come under fire from “several terrorist elements” that were later “destroyed.”

Swooping in under the cover of darkness, the French and Malian forces faced sporadic “acts of harassment” during the day, said Col. Thierry Burkhard, a French military spokesman in Paris. He had no immediate estimate on casualties.

Gao, the largest city in northern Mali, was seized by a mixture of Al Qaeda-linked fighters more than nine months ago, and the battle to retake the city is expected to be tough.

The rebel group that turned Gao into a replica of Afghanistan under the Taliban has close ties to Moktar Belmoktar, the Algerian national who has long operated in Mali and who last week claimed responsibility for the terror attack on a BP-operated natural gas plant in Algeria.

His fighters are believed to include Algerians, Egyptians, Mauritanians, Libyans, Tunisians, Pakistanis and even Afghans.

The French assault began with the capture of the airport, a strategic landing strip that opens the way for easier sorties all over northern Mali.

The further capture of a major bridge leading into the town means that the jihadists “saw their means of transport and their logistics sites destroyed,” French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement.

The operation in Gao comes at the same time as airstrikes in the two other provincial capitals held by the extremists — the cities of Timbuktu and Kidal, which like Gao fell to the rebels last April, during the chaotic aftermath of a coup in the distant capital. Nearly 30 bombs have been fired from fighter jets over the past two days, said France’s military in a communique.

The Pentagon said late Saturday that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has told Le Drian the U.S. will aid the French military with aerial refueling missions.

U.S. aerial refueling planes would be a boost to air support for French ground forces as they enter areas of Mali that are controlled by Al Qaeda-linked extremists.

The U.S. was already helping France by transporting French troops and equipment to the West African nation.

French and Malian forces are also heading to Timbuktu, via the central corridor that leads straight north from the central Malian city of Segou, via the recently recaptured town of Diabaly.


January 26, 2013

I ett ledarstick i Svenska Dagbladet den 26 januari 2013 kommenterar Claes Arvidsson: Ska ÖB Sverker Göranson åtalas för brott mot rikets säkerhet? Ja, chefsåklagare Tomas Lindstrand funderar i alla fall på om ÖB:s uttalande om en-veckas-försvaret 2019 (förutsatt att personal finns och ökade anslag) ska föranleda en förundersökning. Den borde i så fall även omfatta försvarsministern som glatt gav sin bekräftelse. Utdrag nedan:

ÖB har dock inte avslöjat några som helst detaljer utan redovisat resultatet av ett ”spel”.

Nog får man känslan av att frågan om tystnadsplikt mest handlar om att få tyst på försvarsdebatten.

Och om ÖB ska åtalas för att ha talat om hur illa ställt det är, hur ska vi då ställa oss till dem som beslutat om försvarspolitiken?


January 24, 2013

Angela Merkel has said she is prepared to consider renegotiating Britain’s membership of the EU in the wake of David Cameron’s landmark speech pledging an in-out referendum by 2017.

The London Telegraph on January 23, 2013, reported that Prime Minister Cameron wants to negotiate the return of some powers from Brussels to Britain, possibly within a new treaty. Excerpts below:

The revised relationship would then be the subject of a referendum in which Mr Cameron would campaign for Britain to remain a member — if the Conservatives win the next election.

There were signs that the German and Dutch governments will support exploratory talks over a new European deal, while Downing Street welcomed the backing of prominent business figures.

The issue was threatening to spark turmoil within the Labour Party after Ed Miliband, its leader, initially appeared to rule out supporting a referendum only for other senior figures to suggest this may not be the case in the years ahead.

The pledges were expected to unify the Conservative Party until the next election. However, the practicalities of renegotiating the thousands of different laws which define Britain’s EU membership could reopen old fault lines.

In the speech, which was… rearranged after being cancelled in Amsterdam last week, Mr Cameron said that “nothing should be off the table”. He called himself a “heretic” for challenging the apparent consensus over the EU.

…Mrs Merkel said: “We are prepared to talk about British wishes but we must always bear in mind that other countries have different wishes and we must find a fair compromise. We will talk intensively with Britain about its individual ideas but that will be some time over the months ahead.”

The Dutch government also complimented the speech.

Mr Cameron promised to personally campaign for Britain to stay in the EU after renegotiating a better deal and clawing back some powers from Brussels. “It does not seem to me that the steps which would be needed to make Britain — and others — more comfortable in their relationship in the European Union are inherently so outlandish or unreasonable,” he said.

“Countries are different. They make different choices,” he said.

“We cannot harmonise everything. For example, it is neither right nor necessary to claim that the integrity of the single market, or full membership of the European Union, requires the working hours of British hospital doctors to be set in Brussels irrespective of the views of British parliamentarians and practitioners.

“In the same way, we need to examine whether the balance is right in so many areas where the European Union has legislated, including on the environment, social affairs and crime. Nothing should be off the table.”

Mr Cameron also said that many problems blamed on the EU were actually legal judgments from the European Court of Human Rights.. …

In his speech, Mr Cameron said it will be the decision of the British people whether to remain in the EU and said that he “understood” those who said the country should leave immediately. “I understand the appeal of going it alone, of charting our own course,” he said. “But it will be a decision we will have to take with cool heads. Proponents of both sides will need to avoid exaggerating their claims.”

He added: “If we leave the EU, we cannot of course leave Europe. It will remain for many years our biggest market and forever our geographical neighbourhood.

We are tied by a complex web of legal commitments.

Boris Johnson, the London mayor, described the speech as “bang on” while Lord Lamont, the former Chancellor, said it would appeal “not just to the Conservative party but to a very large section of the British people who are uneasy about our position in Europe”. Bernard Jenkin, a member of the 1922 back-bench committee, called it a “watershed” speech, saying the commitment to give voters a say was “a very, very big moment in British politics”. However, Tony Blair, the former Labour prime minister, said Mr Cameron faced a major challenge in securing the support of all other EU leaders to back treaty changes and repatriate powers.


January 23, 2013

Washington Times reported on January 22, 2013, that the Philippines that it is taking its feud with China over competing territorial claims in the South China Sea to an international tribunal. Excerpts below:

Philippines Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario’s office summoned Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing in Manila and challenged the assertion that China’s sovereignty extends over “virtually the entire South China Sea.”

Manila says China seized control of the Scarborough Shoal, a rocky outcrop, last year and then illegally barred the Philippines from the area. China calls the shoal Huangyan Island.

Manila wants a tribunal operating under the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea to declare as “unlawful” Beijing’s actions in the disputed waters.

“The Philippines has exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful, negotiated settlement of its maritime disputes with China,” Mr. del Rosario said at a news conference in Manila, according to a report by The Associated Press. “To this day, a solution is still elusive.”

Meanwhile, a Japanese envoy visited Beijing on Tuesday for talks aimed at calming tensions over another island dispute. Beijing and Tokyo claim sovereignty over a group of five East China Sea islands, known as Diaoyu in China and as Senkaku in Japan.

Natsuo Yamaguchi, the Japanese official, reiterated Tokyo’s position that the islands are Japanese territory and rejected Chinese demands that Japan acknowledge a dispute over their sovereignty.


January 20, 2013

Washington Times on January 19, 2013, published an AP report on the Islamic terrorist kidnapping at the Algerian gas facility in southern desert. Excerpts below:

The Algerian government says 32 terrorists of various nationalities and 23 captives were killed during the three-day military operations against Al Qaeda terrorists to end the hostage crisis at a natural gas plant in the Sahara.

The provisional death toll was issued by the Interior Ministry on Saturday after the special forces operation crushed the last holdout of the militants at the gas refinery, resulting in 11 extremists killed along with seven hostages.

A total of 685 Algerian and 107 foreigner workers were freed over the course of the standoff, which began on Wednesday, the statement added.

The military also confiscated machine guns, rocket launchers, missiles and grenades attached to suicide belts.

(Comment: In this excerpt the term “militant” has been changed to “terrorist”, which should be the correct term).


January 19, 2013

The Washington Times on January 17, 2013, reported on he chaotic end of Algeria’s hostage crisis at a natural-gas plant in the Sahara. It highlights the broad front on which Islamic extremists can strike back against France’s military intervention in Mali. Excerpts below:

Algerian officials said their troops and helicopter gunships stormed the gas facility where Islamic extremists were holding foreign hostages, including several Americans, when the terrorists tried to leave plant with their captives.

An unknown number of hostages were killed in the military assault, according to various accounts.

Algerian state media said four foreign hostages had been freed in the raid and at least one of them, Michael McFaul, a Briton from West Belfast, was able to speak by telephone to his family.

The extremists, loyal to Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an Algerian jihadist who was formerly a regional commander for al Qaeda, told a Mauritanian news agency that they had more than 40 foreign hostages from nine countries.

Algerian officials said they feared the terrorists were heading across the nearby border to Libya, where large areas of the country are without effective government and have become havens for extremists since the 2011 revolution that toppled dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Information coming from Algeria was “pretty sketchy” even after the assault began.

An unarmed U.S. surveillance drone soared overhead as the Algerian forces closed in, U.S. officials said.

The U.S. offered military assistance to help rescue the hostages, but the Algerian government refused, according to a U.S. official in Washington cited by The Associated Press. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the offer.

British Prime Minister David Cameron had not been informed in advance of the operation and would have liked to have been, a spokesman for Mr. Cameron said.
Mr. Cameron himself warned his countrymen: “We should be prepared for further bad news.”

In addition to several Americans and Britons, there were Norwegian, Romanian, French, Filipino, Japanese, Malaysian and Irish citizens among the hostages, dozens of whom remained unaccounted for… One Associated Press report hours after the Algerian raid, said at least some Americans were still held or unaccounted for.

The Algerian government said it was forced to intervene because of the militants’ stubbornness and their desire to escape with the hostages.

Wednesday’s terrorist attack was large and coordinated enough that some security specialists were skeptical it had been planned in the five days since French troops arrived in Mali.

The French troops came at the invitation of the country’s government to help defend it from an increasingly threatening Islamic extremist insurgency that already holds the north and was poised to defeat government forces altogether, according to one scholar.

“[The terrorists] have the military capability,” said Michael Shurkin, a political scientist at the Rand Corp., a think tank based in Santa Monica, Calif.

“They probably would have taken down the Malian government if they had wanted to and if the French hadn’t stopped them,” Mr. Shurkin said of the extremists — a coalition of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the terrorist network’s affiliate in Northern Africa, and two indigenous Malian Islamic groups.

BP, the Norwegian company Statoil and the Algerian state oil company Sonatrach operate the gas field, and a Japanese company, JGC Corp., provides services for the facility.

But the French raised their terrorism-threat level over the weekend, anticipating a response to their deployment that eventually will grow to 2,500 troops, officials in Paris have said.

Mr. Shurkin said that the French “are going to be much more involved on the ground than they want to be” and potentially for much longer.

For the French, the risks of not acting and allowing al Qaeda to topple the Malian government were greater than the risks of intervening with troops, he added.

“Aside from the terrorism risk [of allowing al Qaeda a safe haven], which is debatable, the regional risks of having a potent military force like that on the loose” were unacceptable, Mr. Shurkin said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, predicted more trouble in the region, and specifically in Mali.

“This is where jihadists from all over northern Africa and other places will come because they think they’re winning the fight,” Mr. Rogers told CNN.


January 18, 2013

The Washington Times on January 15, 2013, published a comment by Admiral James A. Lyons Jr. the underpinning of American global power. One of the key elements, Admiral Lyons pointed out is its power-projection capability. Excerpts below:

That capability is centered on the Navy’s ability to deploy and maintain maritime superiority at point of entry wherever required. Central to that capability is the Navy’s potent war-fighting capability, represented by its carrier strike groups. In any crisis situation, the first question from the White House is:

Where are the carriers? However, the Navy now has only nine aircraft carriers available for deployment or power-projection missions.

Extending the deployment time by 50 percent places a tremendous strain on our ships, on the carrier air wing and, most of all, on our personnel. In an all-volunteer force, this can be a key factor. Required planned maintenance is being deferred, which eventually will affect the Navy’s overall readiness. About 50 ships currently have deferred major overhauls. The Navy has shrunk to about 287 ships. To put that number into perspective, that is about the number of ships I had under my command of the Pacific Fleet.

With these reduced numbers, it is understandable why the Navy is having difficulty meeting the Obama administration’s requirement to maintain a two carrier strike group presence in the Middle East.

The fundamental problem is that the numerous missions with which the Navy has been tasked require a force of about 350 ships, a point made eloquently by Seth Cropsey, a deputy undersecretary of the Navy under President Reagan. However, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert said the Navy plans to increase its number of ships only to 292 by 2020. This number is understandable. Facing severe budget cuts, the Navy can support only an anemic shipbuilding program, which makes it questionable whether it could reach the force of 292 ships, let alone the 350 ships required.

Regretfully, we have fallen into the same trap as we did under the Carter administration, keeping two carrier strike groups boring holes in the North Arabian Sea in order to be ready to respond to any Iranian provocation.

As a matter of principle, potential enemies always should be kept off-balance. Forces need to remain unpredictable. This is particularly true for carrier strike groups. We do not accomplish that by keeping two carrier strike groups on what appears to be a static geographic location. This is because our potential enemies — in this case, Iran — and our regional allies get used to seeing them steam around in circles. When this happens, we lose the impact of having a carrier present with its deterrent effects and instead become part of the background.

To keep pressure on and raise the level of deterrence, movement of naval forces, particularly carrier strike groups, must remain unpredictable.

…The Navy should be provided relief now on the two-carrier commitment to the Middle East. Further, flexibility of operations on deployed carrier strike groups should be instituted now so that their deployments can remain as unpredictable as possible, thereby remaining potent forces for deterrence or power-projection capability, ready to respond to a crisis situation when called upon.

Navy Adm. James A. Lyons Jr., now retired, was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.