Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Special Ops Trouble???

Interesting story from the New York Times.  It seems that General McChrystal is bringing all Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan under his personal control.  Interesting and troubling.  It seems that in addition to muzzling Conventional Forces, he's doing the same to the SpecOps guys.  Read about it here.

Navy leadership is broken...

Ok, maybe not broken but the problems are piling up.  According to this article this is the 7th "Skipper" to be fired this year.  Wow.  The pathetic news is via Navy Times...It is past time for them to revamp the selection boards for these positions.

CO of attack sub fired for ‘drunkenness’

By Philip Ewing - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Mar 16, 2010 16:21:40 EDT
The commanding officer of a Pearl Harbor-based attack submarine was fired Monday after he was found guilty of “drunkenness” and “conduct unbecoming an officer,” in nonjudicial punishment, a spokesman said Tuesday.
It was the seventh CO firing of 2010.
Cmdr. Jeff Cima, skipper of the attack submarine Chicago, was relieved by Capt. Daryl Caudle, commander of Submarine Squadron 3, after allegations regarding Cima’s behavior during a March 10 visit with a Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps unit, said Lt. Cmdr. Dave Benham, a spokesman for Submarine Force Pacific.
Benham said he could not give more details about the visit or Cima’s alleged misbehavior. He said Cima has been temporarily assigned to the staff of SubRon 3.
The squadron’s deputy commander, Capt. James Horten, has temporarily taken command of Chicago until a permanent replacement is named, Benham said. Horten is a former commander of the attack sub Olympia.
Cima’s career has included tours aboard the attack submarines Drum and Pasadena, as well as with the ballistic-missile submarine Pennsylvania, culminating with a stint as executive officer of Pennsylvania’s Blue Crew.
He graduated from Boston College in 1991 and received his commission through Officer Candidate School.
Other skipper firings this year:
Capt. John Titus Jr. was fired Jan. 8 as CO of Naval Supply Corps School in Georgia. An investigation found that he did not adequately punish a subordinate accused of fraternization.
Capt. Holly Graf was fired Jan. 13 as CO of the Yokosuka, Japan-based cruiser Cowpens for “cruelty,” a spokesman said.
Capt. Glen Little was fired as CO of Naval Weapons Station Charleston, S.C., after he was arrested Jan. 26 on a charge of solicitation of prostitution.
Cmdr. Scott Merritt was relieved as head of Naval Support Activity North Potomac on Feb. 12 following nonjudicial punishment. Sources told Navy Times the NJP involved fraternization with junior Navy personnel.
Cmdr. Timothy Weber, the CO of the Norfolk, Va.-based destroyer Truxtun, was relieved Feb. 17 for having an inappropriate relationship with a female officer in his command, according to a Navy statement
Capt. William Reavey Jr., CO of Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., was fired Feb. 26 for “inappropriate conduct,” officials said.

Being Expeditionary means being Green...

Environmentally green as well as Marine Green.  This is via Marine TV...


US Navy 'Royal Maces' Squadron...

I found an interesting site that you should see.  Its called miyf27.com  and it covers VA-27, now VFA-27.  Naval History will fade away if we don't protect it.  This website is a good start on making sure that it never does.  Check it out!

A400M's for the US Coast Guard? Think Again...

I wrote a couple of earlier posts here and here referring to EADS plans to sell 210 A400M's to the US military.  I won't rehash that but in the comments section a poster stated that the US Coast Guard might be in the market for the airplane.  I had the same thoughts and posted it earlier.

Well a quick Google search revealed that we both might be wrong.  I thought it interesting that the US Coast Guard didn't follow suit with the rest of the military and recapitalize their air fleet.  Seems like they have.  This from the US Coast Guard website... 
Coast Guard C-130J Deepwater Missionization Underway
Missionization work is underway on the first Coast Guard C-130J at the Lockheed Martin Aircraft Logistics Center in Greenville, S.C. Plans call for all six of the service's C-130J aircraft to be outfitted with interoperable mission packages for long range surveillance under the Deepwater Program.This first aircraft was inducted by the C-130J team late last December and is now undergoing extensive modifications including installation of a belly-mounted surface search radar, nose-mounted electro-optical infrared sensor and a flight deck mission operator station. The project was assigned to Deepwater to ensure integration and interoperability with all new and existing aviation assets, including its legacy fleet of C-130H aircraft.The Coast Guard is scheduled to accept the first aircraft in September 2007, with completion of the missionization program by Fall 2008.
And there you have it.  Unless the Obama Administration is in the mood to anger the Senators from the state where the C-17 is being built and wants the added anger of the workers building it then this idea of a sale of A400M's to the US is a total non-starter.  Add the cost issue (yeah I know --I'm beating the cost of the airplane like a drum) and the ability to buy C-17 at darn near the same price and this just won't happen.

ThinkDefence and UK ground vehicle programs...

ThinkDefence some interesting videos depicting the UK's ground vehicle programs.  Check it out.

Two F/A-18E's Collide...

via Navy.mil...
Navy pilots Safe after Mid-air Collision 
By Commander, Naval Air Forces Public Affairs

NAVAL AIR STATION FALLON, Nev. (NNS) -- Two single seat, F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft, were involved in a mid-air collision at approximately 10 p.m. March 15 while on a routine training mission flying in the Fallon Range Training Complex. Neither pilot was injured.

Both aircraft are assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron One Three Seven (VFA 137) based at NAS Lemoore, Calif.

One pilot safely landed his aircraft with reported damage at 10:13 p.m. at Naval Air Station (NAS) Fallon. The other aircraft crashed in a remote area east of NAS Fallon. The pilot ejected safely and was recovered near the crash site at 11:20 p.m. by the NAS Fallon "Longhorns" Search and Rescue team, which flew a SH-60F Seahawk helicopter to the site. The pilot was transported to a local medical facility for further evaluation and has since been released.

The cause of the mishap is under investigation.

Haiti Flag Flap...

I originally dismissed this story because it didn't really strike me as a big deal.  Everyone knows it when US forces arrive.  Everyone can tell instantly, US forces from European units.  I don't know what it is.  Perhaps tradition, operating styles...whatever.

As a matter of fact the only units that even caused me pause when observing them in the field were the Brits.  Specifically the Royal Marines.  Operating on foot, they're remarkably similar in style.  On reflection the same can be said of the Royal Netherlands Marines.  And no, I'm not talking about weapons fit.  Philosophy of arms ... just operating style in the attack.

Having said that, it appears that this 'flag flap' is gaining traction.  Minutes ago Rush Limbaugh noted it on his radio show.  Interesting.  I can't wait to see where this goes.  via Air Force Times...

Flap flies in Haiti over U.S. flag absence

By Alan Gomez and Oren Dorell - USA Today
Posted : Monday Mar 15, 2010 15:35:11 EDT
The many nations helping Haiti recover from the devastating earthquake that struck there have set up their own military compounds and fly their flags at the entrances.
France's tricolor, Britain's Union Jack and even Croatia's coat of arms flap in the breeze.
But the country whose contributions dwarf the rest of the world's — the United States — has no flag at its main installation near the Port-au-Prince airport.
The lack of the Stars and Stripes does not sit well with some veterans and servicemembers who say the U.S. government should be proud to fly the flag in Haiti, given the amount of money and manpower the U.S. is donating to help the country recover from the Jan. 12 quake.
The Obama administration says flying the flag could give Haiti the wrong idea.
"We are not here as an occupation force, but as an international partner committed to supporting the government of Haiti on the road to recovery," the U.S. government's Haiti Joint Information Center said in response to a query about the flag.
The absence of the American flag bothers former Navy man Arthur Herriford, national president of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.
"It's very improper," Herriford said. "Our military people always engage and function under the American colors — always have and always will."
The U.S. flag has flown in Haiti under circumstances that were not always friendly.
In 1915, Marines invaded Haiti to restore stability after several coups. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan pressured dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier to renounce his rule and leave. In 1994, President Bill Clinton sent troops to prop up President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In 2004, President George W. Bush's administration eased Aristide out of office amid a brutal civil war.
France, the former colonizer of the country, has its flag up at its base in Port-au-Prince. The Haiti flag is based on the French flag, turned on its side with the white stripped out.
Army Col. Billy Buckner, spokesman for Joint Task Force-Haiti, a group representing various Obama administration agency heads, said the decision not to fly the American flag was made out of respect as guests of the government of Haiti.
"It is no mystery that U.S. forces are on the ground, and we proudly wear an American flag on our right sleeve," he said.
U.S. Air Force air operations specialists and FAA air-traffic controllers manage air traffic at Haiti's main airport, where millions of dollars in aid from the United States has been arriving for weeks. More than 12,000 U.S. military personnel support relief operations.
"Our commanders are smart and intuitively understand their mission here in Haiti, and clearly the sensitivities that come with supporting the mission," Buckner said.A U.S. flag went up at a temporary consular station set up in the first few days on the airport tarmac, according to Charles Luoma-Overstreet, a State Department spokesman in Haiti.
"Apparently, the prime minister (Jean-Max Bellerive) saw this" and thought it appeared as if the United States were taking over the airport, Luoma-Overstreet said.
He said Bellerive said something to U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Merten, who agreed that flying the flag wasn't a good idea and told the consular officials to take it down.
The decision is not unprecedented, noted Joe Davis, spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who says he is not bothered by the flag's absence.
During the Gulf War in 1991, U.S. forces took control of the main airport in Kuwait and briefly flew the American flag over their installation, Davis said, but higher-ups ordered it taken down to avoid an impression that U.S. forces were conquerors.
The missing American colors at Port-au-Prince airport were no problem to Don Hollenbaugh, a former Army Delta Force operator who received the Distinguished Service Cross for actions in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004.
"Everybody in the world knows the U.S. is there," Hollenbaugh said. "So by not flying the flag, we're not changing anyone's mind about anything."

MV-22 at 29 Palms...

via DefenseTalk.com...

Osprey Landing at Naval Hospital Provides New Life-Saving Option

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS: The MV-22 Osprey, long touted by the Marines as an advanced, flexible, transformational and all-around “great piece of gear,” didn’t do anything spectacular in a landing zone capability exercise at LZ 16 at the Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital here Tuesday.
The tilt-rotor helicopter flew in relatively quietly, hovered, kicked up a little dust and then landed smoothly.
To some, the low-key landing would seem anticlimactic and disappointing; to Combat Center planners, onlookers and Navy medical personnel, it was about as motivating as it could get. Successfully landing the Osprey has great medical implications, said Navy Capt. Michael Moeller, the executive officer of the Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital, who is from “just a stone’s-throw away from Camp Lejeune” in Emerald Isle, N.C.
Since the Ospreys were already training in the area conducting combined aerial landings, reduced-visual landings and low-altitude tactics, Combat Center range personnel and hospital officials asked the pilots to add one more exercise to their list.
Scott A. Larson, the Combat Center’s range operations officer, from Kankakee, Ill., said they wanted to test how landing on the hospital’s main medical evacuation LZ would affect surrounding equipment, an adjacent parking lot and patient care operations.
Larson said officials took safety very seriously. They were concerned the rotor’s downdraft would hurl debris or rocks, damage vehicles or hurt bystanders, so they cordoned off the area and stopped traffic from coming into the parking lot during the landing. The landing exercise was very successful, he said.
The Osprey is replacing the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter in the Marine Corps’ arsenal. It combines the range and speed of a fixed-wing aircraft, and the vertical lift and transport capacity of a helicopter. The Osprey can travel 1,100 nautical miles at speeds up to 300 knots to transport up to 24 combat-loaded Marines and sailors in and out of remote and austere environments. If needed, it can evacuate 12 litter casualties or a combination of litter casualties, ambulatory patients and medical personnel, said Maj. David L. Lane, an MV-22 pilot and operations officer from Marine Medium Tilt-Rotor Squadron 161, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego.
Lane, a Paris, Ark., native, and his crew; Maj. Kevin Grindel, the co-pilot and tilt-rotor training instructor, Master Sgt. Michael Brodeur, the crew chief and Lance Cpl. Steven A. Froehlich, a crew chief under instruction, all from VMM-161, are part of the first West Coast Osprey Squadron.
Soon after landing, the Marine aviators gave hospital leaders and personnel a tour of the Osprey and explained its capabilities.
“Hospital personnel were very excited about the prospect of having the capability to transport casualties during the very important golden hour,” said Lane, referring to the critical period immediately following a serious injury in which lives can be saved if necessary medical attention is provided.
In the event a Marine or sailor at the Combat Center suffers a serious injury, an Osprey can reach a trauma center in Yuma, Ariz., 116 miles away or Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego, 109 miles away, in less than 30 minutes after lift-off, Lane said.
“We have a large number of corpsmen and [casualty evacuation] staff who deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, so this is an opportunity for them to go through and see the aircraft and get some familiarization,” Moeller said.
Thanks to the teamwork and hard work of everyone involved, the hospital now has one more emergency transportation option to help save lives, Moeller said. “We look forward to seeing the Osprey in the skies here soon.”

I was at 29 Palms when a heavy rain over the mountains turned into a flood.  3rd LAR was assembled at the base of the mountain in a wadi and the flood waters (about 4 feet deep) struck the unit.  A LAV-25 was overturned killing the vehicle commander.

The unit made radio calls for help but the elderly CH-46's couldn't fly because of the bad weather.  WE NEED MV-22's at these training bases.  29 Palms--Bridgeport--Camp Pendleton and Camp Lejeune all need to have a detachment of these aircraft.  Not CVN's!

BAE revises its bid...

Note:  I said earlier that I believed the BAE offering of the modified CV90 was the superior platform for the UK's FRES competition.  When word broke that General Dynamics might have won, I assumed that it had to do with price...or more precisely economics.  Looks like I was right.  via Jon (thanks and keep'em coming) from DefenseManagement.com

BAE makes UK jobs pledge on FRES

Monday, March 15, 2010

BAE Systems is to put in a revised offer to produce block 1 of the FRES specialist vehicle programme in the UK, following reports the contract is to be awarded to rival General Dynamics.

BAE had initially bid to build their proposal, based on a shortened, lower profile version of the existing CV90 chassis, at the company's production line in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden. The final assembly of the scout turret would have been completed in the UK.

The company is understood to be proposing to move production to Britain following suggestions that General Dynamics had secured the contract.

Alan Garwood, BAE's business development director, said: "We want the Army to have the best kit and we want to protect vital skills in the UK. To achieve this we are proposing to transfer work to Newcastle. This will create or sustain 800 skilled jobs.

"It would also sustain manufacturing at our Newcastle site until at least 2020. Finally, it would provide a platform for exports from the UK worth hundreds of millions."

General Dynamics' ASCOD SV features an upgraded chassis and drive train over the ASCOD vehicles currently in service with the Spanish and Austrian armies The bid would see Lockheed Martin UK integrate the ASCOD's 40mm Case Telescopic Weapon System.

The FRES SV programme currently consists of three blocks of reconnaissance vehicles plus medium armour and manoeuvre support, with up to 1,300 vehicles to be procured.

Reconnaissance Block 1 consists of scout, repair, recovery and protected mobility vehicles, with the scout set to replace the Scimitar armoured reconnaissance vehicle currently in use.

The German Navy...a cold war relic...follow-up..

GvG ( a contributor at Information Dissemination) wrote a followup to the question I asked about the German Navy.

In an article for ID he gives a quick over view of the German Navy's attempt to gain expeditionary/amphibious platforms.  He also explains why Germany doesn't have a history of having an amphibious fleet.  Interesting reading.  Check it out.

Where a Wheeled IFV Makes Sense...

Wheeled IFV's make sense if you're operating in a highly urbanized area.  It is here that the advantages of high road speed, lack of cross country mobility and high network connectivity can mean something.

via Focus Taiwan from Jon!

Mass production of Clouded Leopard armored vehicles scheduled
2010/03/15 19:52

Taipei, March 15, (CNA) Taiwan will begin mass production of locally developed CM-32 Clouded Leopard armored vehicles in November, a Ministry of National Defense (MND) official said Monday.

Fielding questions at a legislative session, the official said that production of the vehicles is expected to begin soon, once various "technical problems" involving cracks in the chassis in several of the first batch of 14 have been solved.

According to reports, Taiwan will produce over 650 of the vehicles at a cost of NT$58.1 billion, to replace its aging fleet of M-113 and V-150 armored vehicles.

The wight-wheeled Clouded Leopard, which has a crew of either nine or 10, is seven meters long and weighs 22 tons. It can be configured for various types of service in the army. The official said that the main developers of the vehicles -- the Ordnance Readiness Development Center and the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology -- both of which are under the MND's Armaments Bureau -- are collaborating well with other related institutes to address the technical problems.

Roughing it.

This is what "Expeditionary" really means.  via Stars and Stripes....

Marines endure fleas, flies, filth in Marjah

KAREZ-E-SAYYIDI, Afghanistan — By any estimate, the living conditions at Combat Outpost Coutu can only be described as grim.
Named after Pfc. Kyle J. Coutu, a 20-year-old from Providence, R.I., who was killed Feb. 18 during the initial push into the Taliban stronghold of Marjah, the small camp sits in a sun-baked mud-brick compound that belongs to a local honcho who the Marines suspect is an opium dealer.
There are no beds, no showers, no toilets and no electricity. Chickens and ducks roam the bare dirt yard amid scraps of trash and rotting animal dung. Fleas, flies and filth are the grunts’ constant companions.
“It’s definitely rough living,” said Capt. Josh Winfrey, 30, of Tulsa, Okla., the commander of Company L, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.
The Marines of Company L have been living in the compound since late February. Unless they’re ordered to move into another sector, it will probably remain their home until they redeploy to Camp Lejeune, N.C., in August.
In the meantime, there’s little prospect for significant improvement anytime soon.
Over the next couple of weeks, the Marines of Company L will likely receive a couple of large tents to house their combat operations center, or tactical headquarters. They’ll get generators to power their battle-tracking computers and other mission-essential equipment. They’ll get air conditioners to keep the tents cool in the summer, when temperatures in Helmand province routinely soar past 100 degrees. Maybe they’ll get some weights so they can work out in their spare time, but probably not much else.
They can forget about living in the shipping container-sized trailers that many U.S. servicemembers call home at other bases in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Marines call them “cans.” But the grunts of Company L are unlikely to see them at Combat Outpost Coutu.
“No way,” said Winfrey. “Not for us, anyway. Maybe if the RCT (regimental combat team) determines that this will be a permanent position, but not for as long as we’re out here.”
What about cots?  “Hopefully, eventually, yeah,” Winfrey said. “But I wouldn’t bet on it anytime soon.”
Austere conditions are “just the nature of the beast” when deploying to the combat zone in Afghanistan, Winfrey said.
A big part of the problem is that there is simply very little in the way of infrastructure. In remote villages such as Karez-e-Sayyidi, a hamlet on the northeastern outskirts of Marjah, few traces of the modern world are visible. A handful of motorcycles, Toyota Corollas and minivans ply the rutted dirt tracks that link the villages in the area, and a few tractors are occasionally visible plowing the fields. Take these away, along with the precious few other modern amenities in Afghanistan — mobile phones, radios and automatic weapons — and the local villagers are pretty much living the same way they did a hundred years ago.
The dirt roads are in poor shape, and the threat of mines and buried bombs is constant, making resupply by ground convoy an unreliable proposition.  Nearly all supplies are brought in by helicopter.
“The ability to provide long-term sustainment on a regular basis is very challenging here,” Winfrey said, with a bit of understatement accentuated by a deadpan voice resembling that of actor Gary Sinise.  “It’s challenging just to get the basics. The priority for moving things back and forth is for mission-essential gear.”
Another factor is the Marine Corps’ ethos.
“Our mantra is being expeditionary,” he said. “And to be expeditionary, you have to be able to live with the bare minimum.”
In the meantime, the men make do. The only electrical power they have comes from a mine-resistant truck that serves as Company L’s makeshift combat operations center. An extension cord snakes out the back and keeps two large coffee pots heated around the clock. Batteries are recharged on a communal power strip.
The men share two satellite phones, their only link to the outside world and their families back home.
“I told my wife before we came out here that if you hear from me twice a week, be happy,” says Staff Sgt. Bryan Crowder, 32, of McPherson, Kan. “If not, then no news is good news.”
Until recently, the Marines of Company L ate only prepackaged Meals, Ready to Eat. But once they moved into the compound, supply helicopters dropped off boxes of Gatorade, juices, potato chips and power bars. Hot food is a rare commodity. An Army Stryker unit that pulled out of the area in early March left behind a stack of self-heating tins of Szechuan chicken, corned beef hash, boiled ham, cream beef and biscuits, but the food will soon be gone. Occasionally, the Afghan army company the Marines are partnered with invites them over for rice and lamb.
At night, the men sleep on camping mats and in sleeping bags or rolled up in bivouac sacks on the hard-packed dirt of the compound’s few available rooms. But the fleas and chiggers are often so bad that some Marines sleep outside instead.
Garbage and waste are disposed of in a large burn pit that a squad of Marines recently dug out by hand.
“We’re the Marine Corps’ improvised Bobcats,” joked Lance Cpl. Stephen Korbisch, 25, of Appleton, Wis., as he took a short break from the digging.
The only running water comes from an old-fashioned hand pump in the middle of the yard. If a Marine wants a shower, he has to fill up a large rubber bag and wait for the sun to heat the water, but it’s such a hassle that hardly anyone bothers. Most of them haven’t had a proper bath since before the Marjah operation started more than a month ago. They rely on baby wipes instead.
They wash their clothes at the pump, too, filling a large bowl or ammo can with water, throwing in a bar of soap, and working out the dirt by hand.
“It really doesn’t get them clean, but at least it gets the smell out,” says Cpl. Steven Atkins, 23, of Rochester Hills, Mich. Atkins, who has done two previous deployments to Iraq, says Afghanistan is by far the worst of the two.
With life reduced to the barest of essentials, some of the Marines say they’ve learned to appreciate the smallest of things.
“Last night, I was telling my wife how happy I was that I was finally able to get a bath and wash my clothes,” said Lance Cpl. Christopher Bello, 23, of Jacksonville, N.C., drying his desert camouflage trousers one night next to a small fire. “I feel like a pioneer in the 1800s.”