Archive for January, 2009

US Navy, Partners Deter Pirate Attacks

January 31, 2009

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The presence of partner nations and the newly formed task force to reduce the number of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden seem to be working, according to the commander of Combined Task Force 151.

“I think the combination of the coalition working together [with] the maritime community has decreased the pirate activity over the last couple of months,” Navy Rear Adm. Terry McKnight, also the commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 2, told bloggers and online journalists during a Defense Department bloggers’ roundtable Jan. 29.

The task force was formed earlier this month and comprises three ships — USS San Antonio (LPD 17), USS Mahan (DDG 72) and HMS Portland (F 79) — that are collaborating with other nations to deter future pirate attacks.

While a number of factors — even the weather — can impact the number of attacks, McKnight gave credit to the European Union and the nations involved in anti-piracy operations, as well as the task force, with helping to decrease attacks since early December.

“Some things have changed that have helped us in this case to combat piracy,” McKnight said. “The United Nations has come out with several resolutions … that give us more authority to combat piracy.”

U.N. Resolution 1846, approved by the United Nations Security Council on Dec. 2, authorizes states and regional organizations cooperating with the Somali transitional government to enter Somalia’s territorial waters and use “all necessary means” to combat piracy. Two weeks later, U.N. Resolution 1851 was approved, and calls for those states and organizations to “actively participate in defeating piracy and armed robbery off Somalia’s coast by deploying naval vessels and military aircraft, and through seizure and disposition of boats and arms used in the commission of those crimes.”

The other recent change that has assisted in combating piracy is the maritime community itself, McKnight said.

“We have tried very hard to say to the maritime community, there are just not enough Navy ships out there to cover 1.1 million square miles,” he said.

McKnight added that creating a safe corridor allows the nations involved in combating piracy to offer protection to the maritime vessels transiting through the Gulf of Aden.

In standing up Combined Task Force 151, McKnight said, he hopes to “make it unpleasant to be in the pirate business.”

“Right now, we have about 14 nations out here with about 20 ships,” he said. “We’ve had some encouraging signs from other ships and other nations to join the task force. I expect that by the spring we will have quite a few ships joining.”

McKnight said these and other nations involved and those interested in participating in the future all share the same goal of “free commerce.”

“We have to make sure that we have free commerce throughout the open seas and throughout the world,” said McKnight.

Jennifer Cragg (NNS)

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Obama’s Geopolitical Poker Game

January 25, 2009

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“A new start with the Muslim world, as pledged by President Obama in his inaugural speech, has a sine qua non,” writes veteran political analyst Arnaud de Borchgrave: “a Palestinian settlement, a quest that has eluded the last five U.S. presidents. Following Israel’s invasion of Gaza and its 22-day campaign of airstrikes, tank and artillery bombardment that left 1,300 Palestinians killed for the loss of only 13 Israeli soldiers, a Palestinian state remains a diplomatic chimera.

“Peace Now activists to the contrary, the perennial Israeli-Palestinian crisis is one Obama can afford to leave in the hands of the diplomatic pros who have built careers on the “Mideast peace process.” Following the Feb. 10 elections, Israel’s next prime minister is likely to be Binyamin Netanyahu, the 59-year-old Likud leader who will spare no effort to prevent the emergence of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

“For Palestinians, even the most moderate ones, a Palestinian state must have as its capital Arab East Jerusalem, anathema to an overwhelming majority of Israelis. Obama, therefore, should resist being drawn into what will remain a quagmire as far as anyone can see into the future.

Read Arnaud de Borchgrave’s complete editorial at upi

Gen. Craddock Says: Leave Troops, Nukes in Europe

January 21, 2009

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NATO Supreme Allied Commander – Europe (SACEUR) General Bantz Craddock has endorsed recommendations by a special Pentagon commission which confirmed the need to retain US nuclear weapons in Europe.

General Craddock, who previously served as Commander, US Army Europe, also said the U.S. command needs to retain four Army brigades, instead of cutting to two as has been proposed, and needs to retain current Air Force and Navy force levels.

Read more on Gen. Craddock’s remarks at Government Executive

Trade-In, Anyone? Presidential Jet Air Force One to be Replaced

January 20, 2009

Freedom Fighter

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The Air Force is looking for a new aircraft to serve as primary Presidential transport (aka Air Force One), replacing the Boeing VC-25s that have flown US Presidents since 1990.

The VC-25, based on Boeing’s 747-200, is approaching the end of its 30-year design life, and, with commercial versions leaving airline service, the cost for parts and maintenance has increased, reports Air Force Magazine. The Air Force has conducted an analysis of alternatives, vying the cost of maintaining the current aircraft against buying a new one, and found that “replacing the VC-25 was the most cost-effective option.”

The new Air Force One, like its predecessor, will be a highly modified commercial wide-body aircraft that USAF expects to see delivered—complete with communications, interior, and aerial refueling capability modifications—in Fiscal 2017, followed by a second and third aircraft in two year increments, reports Air Force Magazine.

The Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio-based Aeronautical Systems Center, which is managing the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program, expects industry responses to its contractor capability survey by Jan. 28.

Navy Names Virginia Class Submarine USS John Warner

January 19, 2009

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The Secretary of the Navy, Donald C. Winter announced Jan. 8 that the next Virginia-class attack submarine will be named in honor of recently retired U.S Sen. John Warner of Virginia. Warner retired Jan. 3, 2009 after 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate.

“Senator Warner has served his country for over 63 years and has been an unwavering advocate of the men and women of our nation’s armed forces. It gives me great pleasure to be able to honor him in this manner and I thank him for his support and mentorship,” said Winter.

The USS John Warner, designated SSN 785, honors Warner’s lifetime of service to the nation and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Warner’s career in public service began in January 1945, the last year of World War II, when he enlisted at the age of 17 in the U.S. Navy, where he earned the rank of petty officer third class.

In the Fall of 1949, he joined the Marine Corps Reserve. At the outbreak of the Korean War in October 1950, he volunteered for active duty and was commissioned in the U.S. Marine Corps and served with the 1st Marine Air Wing as a ground communications officer in Korea. He continued his affiliation with the Marine Corps Reserve, reaching the rank of captain.

In February 1969, he was appointed and confirmed by the Senate as under secretary of the Navy, and succeeded Secretary John Chafee as the 61st secretary of the Navy in 1972 following Senate confirmation during the height of the war in Vietnam. During this period, Warner was designated as chief negotiator for the conference between the U.S. and Soviet navies which led to the Incidents at Sea Agreement which is still in effect today between the U.S. and Russian navies.

Entering politics in 1978, he was elected to represent the Commonwealth of Virginia in the U.S. Senate. He served five consecutive terms becoming the second longest serving U.S. senator from the Commonwealth of Virginia in the 218-year history of the Senate. During his 30 years of service in the Senate, Warner was a leader in national defense issues serving continuously on the Senate Committee on Armed Services. He held leadership roles as chairman or ranking member for half of his tenure on this committee and also served many years on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

In this capacity, and throughout his career, he has shown unwavering support for the men and women of the armed forces, and has been a champion of modernizing the structure and operations of the military to ensure its effectiveness in the 21st century.

This next-generation attack submarine will provide the Navy with the capabilities required to maintain the nation’s undersea supremacy well into the 21st century. It will have enhanced stealth, sophisticated surveillance capabilities and special warfare enhancements that will enable them to meet the Navy’s multi-mission requirements.

USS John Warner will have the capability to attack targets ashore with highly accurate Tomahawk cruise missiles and conduct covert long-term surveillance of land areas, littoral waters or other sea-based forces. Other missions include anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare; mine delivery and minefield mapping. It is also designed for special forces delivery and support, a subject Warner worked on throughout his career in the U.S. Senate.

The Virginia-class is 7,800-tons and 377 feet in length, has a beam of 34 feet, and can operate at more than 25 knots submerged. It is designed with a reactor plant that will not require refueling during the planned life of the ship – reducing lifecycle costs while increasing underway time.

The USS John Warner will be built by Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding in Newport News, Va., in partnership with General Dynamics/Electric Boat Corporation. Warner was instrumental in developing this construction teaming arrangement concept which was later codified into law. (NNS)

“Fifth Generation War”

January 18, 2009

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War has evolved rapidly in the last 100 years, prompting historians and strategists to come up with new terms for new ways of fighting. They call mechanized warfare, which originated in the early 20th century, the third “generation” of war, and ideological warfare waged by guerilla groups the fourth.

But what about guerilla-style warfare waged by non-ideological groups against traditional states — pirates, for instance, whose attacks can destabilize trade-dependent nations, but who don’t have strategic goals beyond just getting rich? Free-for-all violence, with indirect global effects, represents a fifth generation of war, according to some experts. And when it comes to defeating fifth-gen enemies, “the old rules of warfare do not apply,” declared Marine Lt. Col. Stanton Coerr, writing in Marine Corps Gazette, a professional journal.

So the U.S. military and its government partners are writing new rules, and putting them to the test on the first of the fifth-generation battlefields emerging in Africa.

Fifth-gen enemies do not have traditional “centers of gravity” — armies, governments, factories, charismatic leaders — that can be destroyed by military attacks. By their mere survival, these enemies undermine the notion that nation-states, their ideals and their economies are viable in the modern world.

Examples of emerging fifth-generation wars include: Read the entire article at World Politics Review

Army Pilot Trainees Go Straight to Combat

January 17, 2009

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The days of sending pilots out of Fort Rucker’s aviation flight school for a year of on-the-job-training are over, said the installation commander there.

“We’re now sending many of them directly into theater. And, feedback so far from commanders is that they’re doing pretty well,” said Maj. Gen. James O. Barclay III, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Aviation Warfighting Center and Fort Rucker, Ala. He said the Army aviation community is experiencing a very high operating tempo.

“While the combat brigades are drawing down in Iraq, Army aviation is seeing a plus-up with shorter times away from the fight and less predictability in deployment cycles,” Barclay said. “It’s not an easy business right now and I don’t see any changes in the near term.”

The general said that with forces thinning in Iraq, demand on remaining troops increases, requiring them to be in more places. That puts an increased demand on aviation units. He said Army aviation is increasing its presence in Afghanistan as well.

While focus on the combat mission is clear, Barclay said the lines are blurred between training and operations commands involving the aviation community.

“We quit separating the components and commands,” he said, indicating the units train, fight and talk to each other more than ever before. Organizations he was referring to include: Training and Doctrine Command, Forces Command, Army Materiel Command, Fort Rucker and Installation Management Command, as well as Guard, Reserve and active components.

“We’re truly a combined force, tied at the hip. We have to be. It’s about being more effective, not just more efficient,” he said, citing the Army Enterprise best practices model as aviation’s campaign plan.

Barclay said there’s a continual and rapid movement of personnel and their equipment from training to deployment to reset, then looping back to training, with relevant and responsive feedback throughout the cycle. For example, he said, lessons learned in combat are immediately applied to training and to new aviation equipment design.

Although the aviation community is combat-oriented, planning and rollout of new manned and unmanned aircraft to meet current and future needs is still a high priority, with design for crew survivability ranking at the top, he noted.

There is also an emphasis of empowering leaders from the bottom up and giving them more responsibility.

“There’s an effort of decentralization of leadership; a push-down of tasks and decision-making designed to enfranchise the small-unit leaders,” he said.

Although it is a busy time, he said the aviation community is not broken. Barclay noted that although dwell times in and out of theater are not good-about a 1:1 ratio for the aviation brigades-the enlistment and reenlistment rate is “doing well, despite not only the time deployed, but also attractive job offers from the contracting community.”

Barclay said that while improved technology is important, success still depends on good people. He said leaders “must keep the focus on our young men and women who voluntarily answer the call to duty and go in harm’s way over and over again.”

David Vergun (ANS)

Technology prepares NATO Soldiers in Northern Europe

January 16, 2009

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 U.S. Army Garrison Benelux may not have the armor power of Fort Hood, Texas, or the infantry forces of Fort Bragg, N.C., but when it comes to technology, its installations are equipped with some of the Army’s best automation equipment: The Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 and Northern Europe’s only Digital Training Facility.

The Army deployed the EST 2000, a digital marksmanship training tool, to installations around the world at the turn of the century. Chièvres Air Base, in Belgium, and USAG Schinnen, in the Netherlands, were among the recipients of the platform. Both garrisons provide training support to NATO servicemembers stationed in their regions.

The EST 2000 allows troops to practice firing the small arms in their unit’s inventory, using scenarios appropriate to the unit’s mission.

Luiz Velez, a training support specialist at the Chièvres EST, recently taught Soldiers from the USAG Benelux Military Police, 650th Military Intelligence Group and the U.S. Army NATO SHAPE Battalion how to operate the system.

“The training allows Soldiers more flexibility, he said, “so now they can train anytime they want.” They don’t have to draw ammo or have a safety officer present, he added.

The diversity of the EST 2000 allowed the noncommissioned officers to adjust the downrange scenarios to a situation appropriate for their line of work.

“I’ve used this [weapon] in a deployed environment, and this is a great way to train,” said Staff Sgt. John Phillips, a training NCO with 650th MI Group.

Phillips had only been at SHAPE for two months when he received the operator training, but he could already see how it was going to benefit his unit. The 650th MI Group is made up of Soldiers and civilians who deploy downrange, and while the Soldiers attend basic training and learn the ins-and-outs of certain weapons, civilians don’t have those same requirements.

Phillips said the EST 2000 is a great way to keep civilians prepared for their missions. “It ensures you don’t lose familiarity,” he said.

In addition to training scenarios like encountering an enemy or friendly helicopter or facing a desert ambush, the computer-based platform allows Velez and the new operators to control other elements.

“You can design your own type of scenarios,” he said. “You can change the weather and the daylight experience.”

Another benefit of the EST 2000 is the immediate feedback. Following a one- to two-minute exercise, the monitor displays shots fired, hits, misses, percentages and more, allowing the training NCOIC to adjust accordingly for individual Soldier’s needs.

“It’s good for Soldiers in the unit who haven’t fired in a while,” said Sgt. Joe Daley, USAG Benelux MP, adding that it helps them perfect their skills and prepare for weapons qualification.

In addition to maintaining marksmanship skills, as Soldiers’ careers progress and as Army systems evolve to support ever-changing missions, the Army requires additional schooling like the Basic Noncommissioned Officers Course and Medical Protection System.

Living on the other side of the planet can make traveling to military schools in the States challenging and expensive for those working with NATO, which is one of the reasons the Army launched the Distributed Learning System.

“Distributed Learning leverages technology to bring training to Soldiers anytime, anywhere,” said Brett Anderson, the Digital Training Facility manager at Chièvres Air Base.

“Army-wide there are 200 DTFs around the world. All of the DTFs can link with one another to facilitate training that takes place at a single location,” he added.

The recently-upgraded DTF at Chièvres Air Base, operated by the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command, is the only one in Northern Europe, and therefore services every unit within the USAG Benelux’s seven-nation footprint.

At the DTF, Servicemembers, civilians, military and DoD Family members and some foreign military personnel can take part in Web-based training, Video Teletraining and more.

“Some of the courses delivered via VTT are BNCOC Phase I, Battle Staff Non-commissioned Officer Course, and MEDPROS,” said Anderson.

“The DTF is also set-up like any traditional classroom, and resident training can be conducted using technology such as PowerPoint presentations, CD-ROM, DVD in tandem with multi-media projectors available at the facility,” he added.

Aside from professional development, the DTF is available for Army e-Learning courses. Army e-Learning offers thousands of free course hours in a variety of languages like Dutch and French, using Rosetta Stone. It also provides training in business skills, system administration, office systems and more.

“Soldiers may access these resources using any computer,” said Anderson. “The DTF, however, provides a clean, quiet place free of distractions where soldiers can complete their online training requirements.”

Anderson encouraged units and individuals in the region to use the free resource. “In doing so, money is saved, readiness is increased through training standardization and morale is improved as families no longer have to endure long separations when possible,” he said.

Christie Vanover

Navy Announces Decision on Mayport Homebasing

January 15, 2009

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Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Installations & Environment, B.J. Penn, signed a Record of Decision for the Mayport Homeporting Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Jan. 14.

The Navy’s decision is to implement the preferred alternative, which is to homeport a single nuclear powered aircraft carrier (CVN) at Naval Station (NAVSTA) Mayport, and to complete associated infrastructure modifications. These include dredging, infrastructure and wharf improvements, and construction of CVN nuclear propulsion plant maintenance facilities.

“We have studied this issue very carefully and considered multiple factors,” said Donald C. Winter, Secretary of the Navy. “This allows the Navy to obtain the benefits of fleet dispersal without negatively impacting our carrier capability or operations. Homeporting a carrier in Mayport best supports the Navy’s mission and safeguards our nation’s security needs.”

Homeporting a CVN at NAVSTA Mayport reduces risks to fleet resources in the event of natural disaster, manmade calamity, or attack by foreign nations or terrorists. This includes risk to aircraft carriers, industrial support facilities, and the people that operate and maintain these crucial assets.

Mayport allows for advantages of fleet dispersal and survivability without impacting operational availability. On the West Coast, the fleet accepted some reduced operational availability associated with homeport dispersal. Ships lose operational availability during the additional transit time required to reach operational and training areas from the Pacific Northwest.

By establishing a second CVN homeport on the East Coast, the Navy gains the dispersal advantage without the increased transit time. The proximity to training areas and transit time to operating areas is about equal from Norfolk and Mayport.

West Coast CVN homeports and maintenance facilities are not viable options in planning for Atlantic Fleet CVN assets in the event a catastrophic event occurs in the Hampton Roads area. The nuclear powered aircraft carriers are too large to transit the Panama Canal, requiring a 12,700 nautical mile voyage around South America to reach the closest CVN homeport on the West Coast at NAVSTA San Diego.

The EIS examined potential environmental consequences of constructing and operating facilities and infrastructure associated with homeporting additional surface ships at NAVSTA Mayport. It assessed 13 alternatives, including a “no action” alternative. The EIS evaluated resources in the Mayport area that may be affected by the proposed action, such as air and water quality, biological resources (such as marine mammals and threatened and endangered species), land use, cultural resources, and socioeconomics. The EIS also accounted for cumulative impacts from other activities in the Mayport area.

For more information on the record of decision, go to www.mayporthomeportingeis.com.

(NNS)

$ 70 Billion Needed For Next 6 Months of War

January 13, 2009

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has outlined a $69.7 billion estimate of funds needed for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from the spring through September, a sum he calls a “personal assessment” that includes $23 billion for new weapons but does not account for costs associated with a likely increase of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

In a Dec. 31 letter to the leaders of the four congressional defense committees, Gates said the estimate — which would bring total fiscal year 2009 war costs to $135.6 billion — “would fund operations through the remainder of the fiscal year; replace combat losses, worn-out or stressed equipment; and replenish supplies.”

Gates characterized the figure as a “personal estimate” and not the position of the Bush administration or the incoming Obama administration. “As such, I fully expect that the new administration will conduct a fresh review of these matters and provide an updated and more authoritative proposal” once in place, he writes.
Read the full report at www.insidedefense.com (paid subscription required)