Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Somali Pirate Attacks and Warnings (to 30 Nov 11)

NATO Shipping Center Map, my arrows. Numbers refer to Alerts/Warnings
From NATO Shipping Center at All Alerts:
Alert 243 / 201130/11/2011 14:05 12.3 44.05 Attacked
Attacked A piracy alert has been raised by the Maritime Security Centre.

Date of alert : November 30, 2011
Alert type : Attempted Attack
Location : [243] GULF OF ADEN 1218N 04403E
Latitude : 12 18 N
Longitude : 044 03 E


Alert number 243 / 2011.
NSC 15/1130/11/2011 10:55 11.98 45.11 Suspicious Activity
Suspicious Approach
At 1053Z 30 Nov 11, Merchant Vessel reported a suspicious approach in vicinity of 1159N 04507E, by 3 skiffs with 2/3 POB each skiff. Two skiffs approached from the stern closing to within 1nm and one from ahead closing to within 2nm. The skiffs did not attack and broke off and moved away from the vessel. The vessel is safe.

Alert 242 - WARNING WARNING WARNING29/11/2011 08:20 15.01 56.6
A piracy alert has been raised by the Maritime Security Centre.
Date of alert : November 29, 2011
Alert type : Attempted Attack
Location : [242] Arabian Sea- Indian Ocean 1502N 05639E
Latitude : 15 02 N
Longitude : 056 39 E

Alert number 242 / 2011.

At 0857 UTC / 29 NOV 11 / a merchant vessel is currently under attack by 1 skiff in position 15 02 N 056 39 E.

AMPLIFYING INFORMATION: Pirates attempted to board the vessel, and as of 290902Z Pirates ceased attack.

Vessels are advised to exercise extreme caution when navigating within 100 nautical miles of the position given in this report and maintain maximum CPA with any ship acting suspiciously.


Another Large U.S. Natural Gas Discovery?

Geology.com asks, "Utica Shale - The Natural Gas Giant Below the Marcellus?":
The Utica Shale is a rock unit located a few thousand feet below the Marcellus Shale. It also has the potential to become an enormous natural gas resource. The Utica Shale is thicker than the Marcellus, it is more geographically extensive and it has already proven its ability to support commercial production.

It is impossible to say at this time how large the Utica Shale resource might be because it has not been thoroughly evaluated and little public information is available about its organic content, the thickness of organic-rich intervals and how it will respond to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. However, the results of early testing indicate that the Utica Shale will be a very significant resource.

Where is the Utica Shale?

The potential source rock portion of the Utica Shale is extensive. In the United States it underlies portions of Kentucky, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia and Virginia. It is also present beneath parts of Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and part of Ontario, Canada. ***
On the map above, I added a red box to the outline of the Utica play, with a blue arrow pointing to what I believe to be the line showing the estimated range. There's a nice map at the Geology.com link.

I think we are a lot more "energy independent" than most people believe.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mystery Iranian Ship Off India Draws Protest

Reported as Concerns grow over armed Iranian ship: (emphasis added)
Arrow points to Lakshadweep Islands
A mysterious Iranian ship, anchored for close to 30 days near Lakshadweep, has become a major cause of concerns for the government and coastal security agencies.

The ship has been anchored there for over a month and so far Iran has given no explanation to Indian authorities in this regard. The Iranian Ambassador to India was summoned last week and explicitly told that the vessel MV Assa needs to be shifted from its current location as the country faces grave terrorist threats from the sea.

Another area of concern for the coastal security agencies is the unclear status of several boats, which regularly visit MV Assa, drop cargo and return. Iran has been maintain a stoic silence on the issue and it later claimed that the vessel was headed to Singapore.

Contrary to it, the crew claimed they were going to Colombo, then China. However, the ship has not moved an inch since then.

India cannot press for answers as rules of the sea allow complete freedom of navigation within a country’s EEZ.
More here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

"They Hate Your Job"

Fred Fry nails it with his post You're Not Going to Get Job Stimulus From Democrats - They Hate Your Job:
One of the hated jobs
Other than union jobs for private employers, all of the kinds of jobs that the Democrats like require the rest of us to pay taxes to that they have the money to pay the salaries for these workers. This is the heart of the problem. Government needs more private workers so that more tax revenue is collected to pay the salaries of Government employees. So it should be an easy task to pass a bill that will result in stimulating the creation of jobs. One problem, Democrats hate most kinds of private jobs.
Oh, you know those oil pipeline, offshore oil and gas shale jobs we could have? Those jobs are really hated by the crowd that is trying to "create" a market for more expensive "alternative" fuels - having failed to learn from the ongoing ethanol fiasco (in which, to be fair, the Republicans have played a large part).

Read Fred's post.

Monday Read: Border War

The drug and illegal alien troubles on the border with Mexico are the topic of a disturbing post at Herschel Smith's The Captain's Journal "Border War". Then NBC News report is good and shows the use of boats to move large quantities of drugs.

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plan for the border here, from whence came the map above. That blue thing wandering the border is not a security zone, but an environmental planning area.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Logistics into Afghanistan

Preceding the latest contretemps with Pakistan but after some discussions on Midrats about the difficulty of the logistic flow in the current war, a nice NPR piece, U.S. Now Relies On Alternate Afghan Supply Routes:
"This is the logistics challenge of our generation," says Vice Adm. Mark Harnitchek, deputy commander of the U.S. military's Transportation Command, and a student of military logistics history. "The challenge of my father's generation was escorting convoys across the north Atlantic when we didn't know how to do that very well. Convoys in 1943 would lose 16 of their 32 ships. The Army had their challenge supplying Patton in his race across France, keeping him resupplied. Supporting operations in Afghanistan is our generational challenge."
Logistics, always logistics.

Somali Pirates: Shipping Alerts

Arrows point to areas of interest (NATO Shipping Center map, my arrows) (updated 28 Nov 11)
NATO Shipping Center alerts found here:
UPDATE: (Blue arrow) Alert 241 - Suspicious Activity 27/11/2011 17:00 -1.33
49.58 Suspicious Activity Alert 241 - Suspicious Activity A piracy alert has been raised by the Maritime Security Centre.
Date of alert : November 28, 2011
Alert type : Suspect Vessel
Location : [241] SOMALIA BASIN 01 20 S 049 35 E
Latitude : 01 20 S
Longitude : 049 35 E
Alert number 241/2011
At 1700 UTC / 27 NOV 11 / a Pirate Attack Group consisting of am other vessel and 4 skiffs was reported in position 01 20 S 049 35 E.

(Yellow arrow) alert 240/11 26/11/2011 10:10 -2.87 48.62 Approached Alert 240/11 A piracy alert has been raised by the Maritime Security Centre. Date of alert : November 26, 2011
Alert type : Suspect Vessel
Location :
Latitude : 02 52 S
Longitude : 048 37 E


Alert number 240/2011

At 1010 UTC / 26 OCT / a Pirate Action Group consisting of one whaler and one skiff was reported in position 02 52 S 048 37 E.

Vessels are advised to exercise extreme caution when navigating within 100 nautical miles of the position given in this report and maintain maximum CPA with any ship acting suspiciously.
(Red Arrow)NSC 14/11 Suspicious Approach 26/11/2011 06:00 12.62
43.43 Approached NSC 14/11 Suspicious Approach
NSC has received reports of a single skiff approaching a vessel in the Bab al Mandeb, in position 12 37N 043 26E. it approached to 0.5nm before breaking off and is believed to be loitering in the area. The skiff is reportedly white with a red stripe, and is carrying 6 persons on board.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Somali Pirates: Counter-Pirate Forces Short of EU Ships - Budget Issues

Too expensive to use for the designed purpose
Reported here:
The European Union(EU)’s anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia is plagued by a shortage of warships due to budget cuts, the bloc’s top military officer said on Tuesday.

"I can imagine that there are many different reasons for this, but one is of course economy and also the budget cuts," said General Hakan Syren, chairman of the EU Military Committee.

EU’s Atalanta operation requires a minimum of four to six ships, but the number would fall "below the red line" in December, the general said after a meeting of military chiefs from the bloc’s 27 member countries.

"We are all aware of that. We are near the end of Novermber now. I think it is no repairable in this short time. But in March, we will above the red line again," he said.

"When it comes to this kind of assets, I can imagine that member states have felt a bit insecure about the situation in the Mediterranean Sea connected to the Arab Spring and the Libyan crisis, but primarily it is a question of resources," he said.

EU nations contributed about 10 warships to the Atalanta operation when it was launched in 2008 to fight against pirates off the coast of Somalia.

However, there are only six or seven EU warships that are taking part in the operation, which has been extended until the end of next year.
Given all the stirring resolutions about fighting the pirate menace, I guess it just a matter of priorities and "All hat, no cattle," as the Texas saying goes.

I suspect private security companies will fill in part of the security gaps caused by this issue.

Photo of the ship? Old U.S. Navy battleship.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Take the Day Off, It's Time for Giving Thanks

All of us have something to be thankful for, even it sometimes seems that we carry heavy burdens in hard times.

Count your blessings. If you are reading this, you are breathing, able to read and have access to the internet.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Somali Pirates: The Past 30 Days

From the NATO Shipping Center All Alerts. The most recent incidents:
Arrow points to Alert 239 (NATO map, my arrow)
ALERT 239 21/11/2011 05:35 -4.6 43.3

NSC 13/11 19/11/2011 14:20 22.6 59.85


NSC 12/11 19/11/2011 06:00 12.48 43.53
Approached Suspicious Approach
A merchant vessel reported a suspicious approach by 2 skiffs in the area 1229N 04332E. Vessel is safe

ALERT 238 18/11/2011 04:50 12.55 43.55



NSC 11/11 16/11/2011 07:40 -11.733333 42.6666667
Approached Suspicious Approach
Vessel reported a suspicious approach in the Northern Mozambique Channel. 1144S 04240E. The vessel was approached by 3 skiffs. Vessel is safe. Masters are advised to exercise extreme vigilance while transiting this area.
Winds off Kenya, Northern Mozambique Channel

Looks like the winds are up to over 10 knots in much of the northern pirate operating areas, so that my account for some slowing of piracy. Along with the escorts and armed guards and the like, of course.

Wind and waves seem more amenable to small boat operations in the Northern Mozambique Channel as shown in the nearby map from WeatherOnline. See also WeatherOnline info in the right column.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Strait of Malacca Maritime Security: DoD-funded Integrated Maritime Surveillance System

An announcement from the U.S. Department of State DoD-funded Integrated Maritime Surveillance System:
Fact Sheet
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
November 18, 2011

From FY2006 to FY2008 the U.S. Government provided approximately $57 million via the National Defense Authorization Act Section 1206 to support Indonesia’s establishment of an Integrated Maritime Surveillance System (IMSS) strategically located to cover Malacca Strait, Sulawesi Sea, and Moluccas Strait.

The fully operational IMSS enhances Indonesia’s ability to detect, track, and monitor vessels passing through territorial and international waters. This capability is crucial to combating piracy, illegal fishing, smuggling, and terrorism within and around Indonesia’s maritime borders. The IMSS helps achieve Indonesian and U.S. maritime security goals and exemplifies bilateral cooperation under the Comprehensive Partnership, along with setting conditions for increased multilateral collaboration with Malaysia and the Philippines.

The IMSS is a tightly integrated network of ship and shore based sensors, communications devices, and computing resources that collect, transmit, analyze and display a broad array of maritime data including automatic identification system (AIS), surface radar, surveillance cameras, global positioning system (GPS), equipment health monitors and radio transmissions of maritime traffic in wide operating areas. Redundant sensors and multiple communication paths make the IMSS a robust and capable system.

The IMSS was officially handed over to the Government of Indonesia following an Operational Demonstration conducted in Surabaya on October 25, 2011. The IMSS is manned and operated by the Indonesian Navy, and consists of 18 Coastal Surveillance Stations (CSS), 11 Ship-based Radars, two Regional Command Centers, and two Fleet Command Centers (Jakarta and Surabaya)

The U.S. government remains committed to improving maritime domain awareness in the region and has allocated an additional $4.6 to ensure sustainment until 2014.

More on the IMSS from it's developer here:
Integrated Maritime Surveillance System (Techno-Sciences, Inc. photos)
Trident's Integrated Maritime Surveillance System (IMSS) is designed for governments and other appropriate authorities challenged with demanding Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) and Common Operating Picture (COP) requirements.

The IMSS is a tightly integrated network of ship and shore based sensors, communications devices and computing resources that collect, transmit, analyze and display a broad array of disparate data including automatic information system (AIS), radar, surveillance cameras, global positioning system (GPS), equipment health monitors and radio transmissions of maritime traffic in a wide operating area. Redundant sensors and multiple communications paths make the system robust and still functional even in the case of a major component failure.

The clever open architecture and purposeful use commercial off-the-shelf components provides the customer tremendous flexibility in making performance-cost trade offs today and in making capability upgrades and additions tomorrow.

China and the Obama Pacific Front

The revised United States Pacific approach, as announced by President Obama in his recent Remarks By President Obama to the Australian Parliament sounds tough and reassuring to our allies in the region:
Our new focus on this region reflects a fundamental truth -- the United States has been, and always will be, a Pacific nation. Asian immigrants helped build America, and millions of American families, including my own, cherish our ties to this region. From the bombing of Darwin to the liberation of Pacific islands, from the rice paddies of Southeast Asia to a cold Korean Peninsula, generations of Americans have served here, and died here -- so democracies could take root; so economic miracles could lift hundreds of millions to prosperity. Americans have bled with you for this progress, and we will not allow it -- we will never allow it to be reversed.

Here, we see the future. As the world’s fastest-growing region -- and home to more than half the global economy -- the Asia Pacific is critical to achieving my highest priority, and that's creating jobs and opportunity for the American people. With most of the world’s nuclear power and some half of humanity, Asia will largely define whether the century ahead will be marked by conflict or cooperation, needless suffering or human progress.

As President, I have, therefore, made a deliberate and strategic decision -- as a Pacific nation, the United States will play a larger and long-term role in shaping this region and its future, by upholding core principles and in close partnership with our allies and friends.
Let me tell you what this means. First, we seek security, which is the foundation of peace and prosperity. We stand for an international order in which the rights and responsibilities of all nations and all people are upheld. Where international law and norms are enforced. Where commerce and freedom of navigation are not impeded. Where emerging powers contribute to regional security, and where disagreements are resolved peacefully. That's the future that we seek.
My guidance is clear. As we plan and budget for the future, we will allocate the resources necessary to maintain our strong military presence in this region. We will preserve our unique ability to project power and deter threats to peace. We will keep our commitments, including our treaty obligations to allies like Australia. And we will constantly strengthen our capabilities to meet the needs of the 21st century. Our enduring interests in the region demand our enduring presence in the region. The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay.
Okay, so far, so good. This speech and all the diplomatic stuff that goes with it, helps to stiffen the spines of our allies. Australia, "rejects China concerns on Australia-US ties," the Philippines, a treaty ally of the U.S. says,
The U.S. presence “bolsters our ability to assert our sovereignty over certain areas,” Ricky Carandang, a spokesman for Philippines President Benigno Aquino, said Nov. 17.
China is reported to be taking two routes. First, it "plays down" freedom of navigation issues in the South China Sea while promising soft power as a counter to the U.S.:
China is “soft-talking to prevent more members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations from joining the Washington-led containment policy,” Willy Wo-Lap Lam, an adjunct history professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said by e-mail. “Placatory gestures are being bolstered by dollar diplomacy: More developmental and infrastructure aid will be pouring into Asean countries, particularly those that have not fallen for America’s siren song.”

China is seeking to reassure countries in the region after its moves to assert sovereignty in waters that may contain oil and gas reserves provided Obama an opening to expand strategic ties in Asia. Over the course of a nine-day Asia-Pacific trip that began Nov. 11 in Hawaii, the president announced plans to advance regional trade talks that don’t include China and called on leaders of the world’s second largest economy to “play by the rules.”
China's Nine-Dotted Line Map
Second, reportedly China's fury building over Obama's new Asia policy:
Chinese scholars and commentators lashed out with barely repressed anger at President Obama's trip to Asia, complaining that his efforts to shore up U.S. influence in Asia were by implication aimed at containing China.

"The United States has alienated 1 billion Chinese. It's not smart public diplomacy," Shen Dingli, a professor of American studies at Shanghai's Fudan University, said Monday.

The English-language China Daily in its lead editorial on Monday accused the United States of "scaremongering" over the perceived threat of China's rise and a signed Op-Ed article on Sunday declared, "East Asia not U.S. playground."

"The aim of America's strategic move east is in fact to pin down and contain China and counterbalance China's development," echoed Jiefang Daily, a Chinese-language version of the official Xinhua news agency, in a commentary on Sunday.
Now, here comes this odd little kicker to the President's strong talk from a meeting with the Chinese Prime Minister, after all the other strong talk:
US officials have praised China's attitude on South China Sea territorial disputes after talks between Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and President Barack Obama.
The meeting came after spats between Beijing and Washington over trade, currency and territorial rights in the South China Sea.

The sea holds potentially vast reserves of oil and gas, and is an important shipping route.

China lays claim to the whole of the sea, while other South East Asian nations claim parts of it.
US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said the "informal meeting" between Mr Obama and Mr Wen focused mainly on economic issues.

He said the two leaders discussed "specific issues around business practices" as well as Chinese currency controls.

Mr Donilon said the United States did not have a view on sovereignty on the South China Sea, but wanted to see shipping lanes remain open.

"We don't have a claim, we don't take sides in the claims, but we do as a global maritime power have an interest in seeing these principles applied broadly," he said.
Take a look at the maps. They both mark the Chinese South China Sea claims and the color map, in addition, marks the claims of those of the South China Sea littoral nations, including the very allies which Mr. Obama promised to support, including the Philippines, our "treaty ally" so comforted by the earlier speeches.

How the National Security Adviser can say, "We don't have a claim, we don't take sides in the claims . . ." is beyond me.

Those are the sort of words that lead to the invasion of South Korea 61 years ago. If we are drawing a line in the sands of the Pacific, it has to be a much firmer line than that.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Midrats Episode 98 Tom Bowman with the Darkhorse in Afghanistan

Join us Sunday, 20 Nov 11 at 5 pm (Eastern U.S.) for Episode 98 Tom Bowman with the Darkhorse in Afghanistan on Blog Talk Radio:
For those who listen to All Things Considered on NPR, earlier this month you caught an outstanding series on the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines – the Darkhorse Battalion — the Marine unit that suffered the highest casualty rate of any Marine unit during the 10-year Afghan war.

Our guest for the full hour is the journalist who brought the American people that story - Tom Bowman, NPR National Desk reporter covering the Pentagon.

In his current role, Bowman has traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan often for month-long visits and embedded with U.S. Marines and soldiers.

Before coming to NPR in April 2006, Bowman spent nine years as a Pentagon reporter at The Baltimore Sun. Altogether he was at The Sun for nearly two decades, covering the Maryland Statehouse, the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Naval Academy, and the National Security Agency (NSA).
The show link is here. You can also download the program there (shortly after we finish on air) for later listening. Or you can find Midrats on iTunes.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Truth to Power

This is a blog that mostly deals with maritime and national security. However, in addition to sea piracy, there are people out there who hijack other people's money just as pirates hijack ships - and this hijacking has an impact on our national security in the economic sphere.

Here's a little look at one outraged former hedge broker who has a message. From BizzyBlog, "Thank You, Ann Barnhardt; We Need More People With Your Courage", which needs to be read in its entirety - but you should be aware of at least these words of Ann Barnhardt (her blog is here):
Everything changed just a few short weeks ago. A firm, led by a crony of the Obama regime, stole all of the non-margined cash held by customers of his firm. Let’s not sugar-coat this or make this crime seem “complex” and “abstract” by drowning ourselves in six-dollar words and uber-technical jargon. Jon Corzine STOLE the customer cash at MF Global. Knowing Jon Corzine, and knowing the abject lawlessness and contempt for humanity of the Marxist Obama regime and its cronies, this is not really a surprise. What was a surprise was the reaction of the exchanges and regulators. Their reaction has been to take a bad situation and make it orders of magnitude worse. Specifically, they froze customers out of their accounts WHILE THE MARKETS CONTINUED TO TRADE, refusing to even allow them to liquidate. This is unfathomable. The risk exposure precedent that has been set is completely intolerable and has destroyed the entire industry paradigm. No informed person can continue to engage these markets, and no moral person can continue to broker or facilitate customer engagement in what is now a massive game of Russian Roulette.
Why Mr. Corzine is not under arrest is a mystery to me. Arrest him for suspicion of theft and then sort the mess out. As the woman in the cartoon above knows, when a ship sinks, someone has to be called to task.

It does remind me of an old newspaper column by, I think, Mike Royko ( I could be wrong), in which the writer received one of those "invest with me - it's sure thing" calls from some broker or another. As I remember, the conversation went something like this:
The writer offered the broker a deal, "If I invest my life's saving with you, I only ask one thing."

Broker: "What's that?"

Writer: "If you lose my money, I get to kill you."

Broker: "What?"

Writer: "Look, my whole working life and the future lives of my wife and children are wrapped up in that money. If it is gone, my working life as been wasted. Don't you think it fair that in exchange for giving you my life's work, you should offer up something in exchange for me investing in your 'sure thing" - and I think your life would be a fair exchange."

The broker hung up the phone.
I'll try to track down the original column, but I think I captured the essence if not the quality of writing.

The bigger point is, however, that these money managers - who make money coming and going - need to have something real at risk - instead of just a sullied reputation. While execution may be too harsh, breaking rocks in the hot sun might not be.

So, while I may not have chosen all the words Ms. Barnhardt used, her speaking "truth to power" and in going "John Galt" is worthy of note.

Somali Pirates: The One Skiff Pirate Attack Group

From today's NATO Shipping Center Alerts:
ALERT 238 18/11/2011 04:50
12.55 43.55 Attacked WARNING WARNING WARNING


Map is a portion the NATO alert map, with a red circle I added to highlight location.

Merchant ships in the area ought to run the skiff over.

Is Italy a Failing State?

Given its economic situation, an interesting question posed in The End of Italy - By David Gilmour at Foreign Policy
The government's political and economic failures are not the only cause of the malaise that now threatens Italy's survival. Some flaws in the national structure were inherent in the circumstances of the country's creation. The Northern League -- Italy's third-largest political party, which suggested that the country's 150th birthday in March should be cause for mourning rather than celebration -- is not simply a bizarre aberration. Its attitude to the south, xenophobic and even racist as it sometimes is, demonstrates the truth that Italy has never felt itself to be a properly united country.
Worth a read, especially if you haven't thought about what a recent (relatively) construct Italy is.

What might happen if Italy falls apart? Revival of Piedmont, Tuscany, Lombardy, Venice and the kingdom of Naples?

Or might this current crisis cause the country, despite, Mr. Gilmour's words, to pull together or attempt to do so? Do the regions all hang together or wither separately? Go full Balkan or cobble together alliances?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Trend Lines

Chinese Shipping company Freezing Payments.

Baltic Dry Index:

Baltic Dry Index is a daily average of prices to ship raw materials. It represents the cost paid by an end customer to have a shipping company transport raw materials across seas on the Baltic Exchange, the global marketplace for brokering shipping contracts. The index is quoted every working day at 1300 London time. This index can be used as an overall economic indicator as it shows where end prices are heading for items that use the raw materials that are shipped in dry bulk.
Generally, a decrease in the BDI means demand is down for raw materials and that portends a decline in future planned production because of weak consumer demand. In the chart above, you will note a slight increase trend in the BDI in the past few days. In the last 12 months, the BDI has ranged from a low of 1043 (Feb 2011) to a high of 2261 (Dec 2010). Here's the last two years:

What's it all mean? Chinese shipping company not paying ship owners?

Is it because their demand is down and they don't need to be especially nice to the ship owners to ensure they can get ships in a tight market? Because they know there's too many ships chasing too few charters?

Glenn Reynolds gets an interesting question from one of his readers:
“Did the Administration punt on Keystone because there are more Solyndras out there dependent on high oil prices and Alberta oil threatens to lower the price enough to put more of them out of business?
"You don’t need a weatherman To know which way the wind blows," Dylan once wrote. How else do you create a market for overpriced fuels and products? Jack up the prices and costs of your competition. In private business it would be a violation of the law. Apparently, in government when the goal is "saving the planet" there are no rules. So we see the Department of the Navy getting into the "market creation business" for an unproven business (or, as the insiders put it, "investing in").

Of course, "investments" are always better when the fix is in. But, as Solyndra proves, sometimes the "fix" doesn't take. Which means, with private investors the investors take a bath. With taxpayer money? It was just "unexpected" that competition could drop the price model of Solyndra into the garbage pit.
Despite strong growth in the first half of 2011 and traction in North America with a number of orders for very large commercial rooftops, Solyndra could not achieve full-scale operations rapidly enough to compete in the near term with the resources of larger foreign manufacturers. This competitive challenge was exacerbated by a global oversupply of solar panels and a severe compression of prices that in part resulted from uncertainty in governmental incentive programs in Europe and the decline in credit markets that finance solar systems.
 A "global oversupply of solar panels?" Surely, someone should have been monitoring the market before a ton of money was "invested?"

Half a billion here, half a billion there, pretty soon you're talking real money.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Fighting Small Boat Swarms Idea

Raytheon photo
Robert Wall, an Aviation Week reporter blogs from the Dubai Air Show on an approach to fighting small boat swarms here:
Raytheon and Emirates Advanced Research and Technology Holding (Earth), its UAE partner, see potential application of the Talon laser-guided rocket to take on small boats.
Raytheon's TALON Laser Guided Rocket site:
AH-64D Apache (Boeing photo)
TALON is a low-cost, semi-active laser guidance and control kit that connects directly to the front of 2.75-inch unguided rockets currently in U.S. and international inventories. It has been designed to fill the critical operational gap between unguided rockets and guided heavy anti-tank missiles.

TALON provides an effective weapon against soft to lightly armored point targets while reducing potential collateral damage. Moreover, its precision standoff range results in improved platform survivability.
Cessna Grand Caravan
These rockets were designed for the AH-64 Apache, but it seems that Raytheon and its partner are thinking it could work on other platforms, too, as well as being capable of targeting small boats instead of just armor and land stuff.

See here where the Cessna Caravan and the AT-802U Air Tractor are mentioned. The latter is an interesting aircraft for anti-small boat ops - long linger time, reasonable pay load. As the Air Tractor site says:
Air Tractor photo of AT-802U
Particularly well suited for force application and situational awareness roles in asymmetrical warfare theatres of operation, the AT-802U is both economical and effective. Like a truck, the aircraft is utilitarian in nature: tough, powerful, and configurable to simply get the job done. It can maintain very long endurance over target and can employ a wide range of weapons simultaneously, with a high degree of accuracy to minimize collateral damage.

With its balloon tires and rugged landing gear, the AT-802U is built to land and operate off unimproved airstrips – even dirt roads – providing unprecedented direct support and coordination with ground troops. The AT-802U can fly in extreme heat and dust conditions and with its massive fuel reserves, loiter over target to find, fix and finish when other fighters have to return to the tanker.
Pilot and sensor operator on the AT-802U. Wonder how they'd do off and on a small flight deck?

Advertising from Air Tractor (and no, I don't own any shares in it or Raytheon or Cessna):
Air Tractor At-802u Brochure

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Defense Spending Questions

Aviation Week notes a lot of hype about defense cuts, asks most of the right questions in its editorial on Defense Spending Debate Misses The Point , but here's the rub in its conclusion:
Our intent is not to point fingers. Our goal is to make it clear that these are large, complex issues that must be addressed with rigor, intellectual honesty and sophistication about the broader foreign policy and economic implications. Defense spending is not arithmetic, it is calculus—and it is hard.
Hard work is not what Congress is noted for, so the unasked question is whether or not there are enough grownups in DC with the highlighted skill set to make mature decisions and avoid the "business as usual" drill?

Is this a self-answering question?

Somali Pirates: 15 Nov 11 Alert

From the friendly NATO Shipping Center
Attack off Oman - vessel safe
Alert 237 15/11/2011 04:30 15.85 55.11
Attacked Alert 237 Attacked, vessel safe
A piracy alert has been raised by the Maritime Security Centre.

Date of alert : November 15, 2011
Alert type : Attempted Attack
Location : [237] Arabian Sea- Indian Ocean 1551N 05507E
Latitude : 15 51 N
Longitude : 055 07 E


Alert number 237 / 2011.

At 0427 UTC / 15 OCT 11 / a merchant vessel is currently under attack by 1 skiff in position 1551N 05507E.

Warning area for possible Pirate Action Group
Attacked vessel reported possible mothership location 1548N 05507E. Unconfirmed.
**** UPDATE ****
**** Vessel is safe ****
**** Nato Shipping Centre is monitoring the situation ****

Monday, November 14, 2011

U.S. Coast Guard: Drug Sub Busts

Footage of capture of crew of scuttled drug semi-submerisible from the USCGC Mohawk from Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk interdicts drug sub

Drug subs and semi-subs used to be a Pacific issue but recent months have seen their appearance in the Caribbean. First Caribbean drug sub bust:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Listen to Midrats Sunday: Episode 96 The Journalist at War

Sunday, November 13, 2011, 5pm (Eastern U.S.) Episode 96 The Journalist at War 11/13 by Midrats on Blog Talk Radio:
They share the hazards, smell the smells; all that is needed so that those at home may understand what their countrymen are doing in the far reaches of the world on their behalf.

The best know that to tell a story, you have to be in it. Sometimes, the story catches up with them.

Our guest for the full hour will be Kimberly Dozier, foreign correspondent for CBS News Radio specializing in the Middle East from the disputed territories of Israel to the war in Afghanistan and the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

She reported on the war in Iraq from 2003 until she was injured by a car bomb in 2006. She recently returned to Afghanistan and Pakistan as an Intelligence/Counterterrorism correspondent for the Associated Press.

She is also the author of Breathing the Fire, the story of her recovery from her injuries in 2006.
Also you can listen on iTunes or BlogTalkRadio - Midrats or by downloading from either location.

Federal Stimulus Waste: Another "Green" Projecct Transferring Taxpayer "Green" into Private Pockets

From my brother, Rone Tempest, at WoFile,
Two Elk Stimulus: Big paychecks but no new jobs
Over the past two years, the federal stimulus program paid the owner of a Colorado-based energy company and the company’s Wyoming representative more than $1 million in salaries and benefits for a Department of Energy carbon storage study in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, according to records obtained by WyoFile under the Freedom of Information Act.

Federal pay invoices show that Michael J. Ruffatto, founder and CEO of North American Power Group Ltd., based in Greenwood Village, CO, received $955,343.29, and Brad Enzi, NAPG’s Cheyenne-based representative and son of Wyoming US Sen. Mike Enzi, $128,394.73 for the Two Elk Energy Park Carbon Site Characterization project from September 2009, when the study began, through July 31, 2011, the last date for which records were available. According to the National Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board, Ruffatto and Enzi’s compensation is nearly 20 percent of the total spent so far on the project.

Overall, the price tag of the Two Elk carbon site characterization project is nearly $10 million — $9,949,962.00. Its purpose is to determine if the sub-surface geology of the Powder River basin is suitable for storing CO2 produced by power plants and other industrial sources.

The project was awarded two grants from the DOE National Energy Technology Laboratory. It is part of the Obama administration’s National Recovery Act stimulus package aimed at jump-starting the economy and creating new jobs.

However, in his most recent quarterly filing to the National Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board, Ruffatto, a millionaire lawyer and philanthropist who heads the scientific project, reported that “no new direct jobs have been created for this project.”

Rather than creating new jobs, Ruffatto reported, a percentage of his and other North American Power Group employees’ wages were paid for with stimulus funds. He estimated that, in addition, 15 “indirect jobs” and 60 “induced jobs” have been created by the federal stimulus money.

Two Elk

The timing of the stimulus grants was particularly good for North American Power Group. The company had seen a series of setbacks to its ambitious – but long delayed — $1 billion, 320-megawatt Two Elk power plant project 40 miles southeast of Gillette.

North American owns four smaller operating power plants in California, but the Two Elk plant on 880 acres in Wyoming is to be its showcase project. At one point, Ruffatto told investors of plans to build seven power plants on the Two Elk site — biomass, coal and natural gas — to provide power to Colorado and the American Southwest.

Had the dream been realized, he would have commanded a sizeable private utility.

But before the first Two Elk plant could be constructed in Campbell County, a combination of financing, transmission and regulatory problems slowed the construction process to a crawl and then to a standstill. Local residents jokingly referred to the stalled project (in the works since the late 1990s) as “No Elk.”

The latest blow to Two Elk came this spring, when an IRS audit determined that not enough progress had been made on the plant for North American to continue to qualify for tax exempt status on the $445-million in Industrial Revenue Bonds the company holds. The bonds had been sponsored by Campbell County and approved by successive Wyoming governors — Republican Jim Geringer and Democrat Dave Freudenthal.

The bonds were issued in 2007 by Campbell County under a creative interpretation of the US Tax Code that classified the coal-fired Two Elk power plant as a “solid waste disposal and recycling facility” because the promoters, North American Power Group, said they intended to burn “waste coal” from the giant nearby Arch Coal and Peabody Coal mines.

“Waste coal” is coal that mining companies judge not worth the cost of interstate rail transport to power generators. It is generally reburied at the mine site.

Under the North American plan, the Two Elk plant would “recycle” the lower quality coal by burning it. (See earlier WyoFile Story for more details)

Because interest received by tax exempt bondholders is excluded from gross income, the bonds were originally a major selling point for the power plant project.

But in an April 14, 2011, letter to Campbell County officials, the IRS manager for Tax Exempt Bonds Robert E. Henn wrote that an agency examination “determined that the Bond proceeds were not sufficiently spent to provide a solid waste disposal facility as required by the Code. The issuer (Campbell County) and borrower (North American Power Group) asserted that such a failure was the result of unanticipated impediments in proceeding with the facility.”

As a result, Henn wrote, “the parties agreed to convert the tax-exempt bonds to taxable bonds.”

Ruffatto said that North American still hoped to convert the bonds, now taxable, to “tax exempt bonds at a later date.”

In his letter, however, IRS supervisor Henn wrote that Campbell County and North American Power Group “should strongly consider the appropriateness of any future tax-exempt issuances with respect to the project unless there is an imminently implementable plan to buy them back.”

Meanwhile, North American’s website and public statements no longer mention “waste coal” in connection with the Two Elk power plant. Instead, as Ruffatto wrote in an October 26, 2010 letter to the California Energy Commission, it now plans to burn “woody waste resulting from the removal of hazardous fuels in forests throughout the western United States due to an epidemic of mountain pine beetles.”

76 Hours Per Week @ $214.38 Per Hour

Approved in 2009 and 2010, the federal stimulus grants to North American Power Group allowed Ruffatto to use federal funds to pay a significant portion of his own salary and that of several of his key employees, including Enzi, while waiting for conditions to improve for the construction of the Two Elk power plant.
A salaries and fringe benefits invoice for employees from the North American Power Group and North American Land & Livestock for the month of October. (courtesy of the Department of Energy — click to enlarge)

Ruffatto bills the government $214.38 an hour as “chief investigator” for the stimulus project.

Both he and R. Paul Detwiler, chief counsel for the National Technology Energy Laboratory that awarded the stimulus grants, defended the payments to WyoFile as being consistent with the nature of the work and qualifications of the North American Power Group employees. This includes Brad Enzi, a 1997 University of Wyoming journalism-communications graduate and former Washington, D.C., lobbyist, who is paid $80 an hour from the federal stimulus grant, DOE documents show.

Ruffatto, 65, said in a telephone interview that his hourly rates were worked out in advance with DOE and, in his case, represented a “discount” from his normal rate of pay as chief executive of a regional energy company with offices in Colorado, California and Wyoming.

In one month alone — October, 2010 — Ruffatto was paid $73,369.52 in salary and benefits from the stimulus funds, according to the invoices obtained by WyoFile. Ruffatto reported working 305 hours in that month — or 76 hours a week— for the stimulus project, while also performing his other duties as CEO of North American Power Group.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Dutch Government Minister Warns Private Armed Guards On Dutch Ships Could Be Legal Violation

Reported as Armed guards on ships could be an offence, says minister:
Shipping firms which place private armed security guards on ships passing areas where pirates operate risk criminal prosecution, justice minister Ivo Opstelten said on Thursday evening.

Jumbo Shipping from Rotterdam and Vroon Shipping based in Breskens have both said they will carry armed guards while sailing under the Dutch flag.
Just one more complication in the battle against Somali pirates.

No wonder the Jolly Roger has a smile on his face. 

Turkey: Ferry Hijacked, Hijacker Killed By Commandos

VOA reports Turkish Forces Kill Ferry Hijacker :
Authorities say Turkish commandos stormed a hijacked ferry Saturday and killed the lone hijacker.

Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu told reporters Saturday that the crew and passengers were all safe, and the identity of the hijacker is still being determined. Earlier reports said up to five suspected Kurdish militants armed with explosives carried out the hijacking.

The ferry Kartepe was carrying 18 passengers, including five women, along with four crew members and two trainees. It ran out of fuel Friday after sailing from Izmit and dropping anchor in the Sea of Marmara, where it was reported commandos boarded the vessel.

Turkish media reported that the ferry was traveling between Izmit and the town of Golcuk in Kocaeli province Friday evening when the vessel was seized by militants.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Somali Pirates: Indian Navy Throws Them for a Loss

Reported at The Hindu : Navy foils Somali pirate attack off Gulf of Aden:
The Indian Navy patrolling the Gulf of Aden on Thursday thwarted a multi-boat attack by sea brigands on merchant vessels, apprehending 26 Somali pirates and confiscating arms and ammunition, in the fifth successful anti-piracy operation since September.

At 9.25 a.m. on Thursday, navy personnel aboard warship INS Sukanya spotted a group of five suspicious boats speedily approaching the merchant vessels of her group.

“The warship immediately altered (its direction) towards the suspicious vessels and challenged them. On seeing the resolve evident in the warship’s action and probably mindful of the reputation for resolute action that the Indian Navy justly enjoys in such deployments, the pirate skiffs reversed course and tried to flee the area,” Captain Manohar Nambiar, Chief Public Relations Officer, Defence, said.

While two of them managed to escape, INS Sukanya successfully intercepted the remaining three boats and, in a well-practiced and professionally executed boarding-and-search action, nabbed 26 Somali pirates with six AK 47 rifles, 12 magazines and about 300 rounds of ammunition.

This is the fifth successful anti-piracy operation conducted by INS Sukanya in the course of her ongoing patrol mission in the Gulf of Aden that commenced in September, the Navy said.
More on the Sukanya-class of offshore patrol vessels here.

Somali Pirates: Kenya's Punitive Expedition Hurting Their Business?

According to a report from the Kenyan Business Daily Africa, Kenya's punitive expedition into Somalia is having an impact on the business of the Somali pirates, as reported in Kenya’s Somali incursion cuts piracy costs in Indian Ocean:
Kenya’s operation against Al Shabaab in Somalia has helped reduce ransom demands on captured ships as pirates seek to close deals before a battle between the militants and Kenyan forces at Kismayo.
Shipping experts said that the amount of ransom demanded by pirates for vessels had dropped by about 50 per cent and could fall further in coming days once “Operation Linda Nchi” (Defend the Country) is completed.

“Initially, the pirates holding captive the Algerian flagged MV BLIDA were demanding $6 million to release the vessel and her multi-national crew. But a package of $3.5 million was delivered on the vessel and they freed it,” said Andrew Mwangura, the Seafarers’ Assistant Programmes (SAP) coordinator.

It is believed that the militants offer protection to pirates in exchange for cash, arms and logistics in a pirate value chain estimated to be worth between $4.9 billion and $8.3 billion.
Maritime sources privy to ransom negotiations in Mombasa said the military campaign had tilted negotiations in favour of vessel owners as pirates rush to close deals.
“Pirates are keener than before to make sure that negotiations for the release of at least nine vessels held in Somali are completed,” said a manager at one of a Mombasa-based shipping agents, who wished to remain anonymous. “It is clear the trend is due to the military operation in Somalia.”
Most of us who have been watching the Somali pirates for any time have noted that the key to their defeat was on the ground in Somalia.

Kenya and "Somalia" (presumably the recognized "government" of Somalia) have joined forces to fight the al Qaeda related militant group Al-Shabaab, as reported here:
Kenya and Somalia governments on Tuesday declared militant group Al-Shabaab, which has been terrorizing residents of the two neighbouring nations a "common enemy" and vowed to subdue its fighters.

In a joint communique issued in Nairobi after a meeting between the two governments in Mogadishu earlier on Tuesday, the two sides agreed to develop a common political and security strategy to address the threat posed by the militia.

"The two sides agreed to continue working together to stabilize Somalia and to stamp out the threats of the Al-Shabaab elements, especially terrorism, piracy, abductions, extortion, ransom demands and other international crimes," the joint statement said.

The meeting in Mogadishu was attended by Somalia President Sheikh Ahmed Sharif and Kenyan delegation led by Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula and his Defence counterpart Yusuf Haji.

During the meeting, the two sides agreed to cooperate in undertaking security and military operations in the Lower Juba regions of Somalia and to undertake coordinated pre-emptive action, and pursuit of any armed elements that continue to threaten and attack both countries.

"In this regard, both sides agreed to revamp the joint mechanism to ensure enhanced cooperation and coordination in all aspects," the statement said.
This provides cover for the Kenyan incursion, which began shortly after intruders from Somalia began assaulting the Kenyan coast and kidnapping aid workers and killing and kidnapping tourists from beach resorts. See here for background. Al-Shabaab has also been active in Kenya, working to destabilize that country, too.

Veterans Day 11-11-11

Thank a Veteran

President John F. Kennedy said:
" . . .[A]ny man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: 'I served in the United States Navy.'"

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Playing Politics with Energy: State Department delays Keystone XL decision until 2013

If, years from now, we look back and need to blame an administration for further screwing up our energy business and economy, we can look back at decisions like this: State Department delays Keystone XL decision until 2013 - Oil & Gas Journal. You know, after the election.
US oil industry and general business trade associations lashed out at the decision.

American Petroleum Institute Pres. and Chief Executive Officer Jack Gerard complained about a political dimension of the decision.

“Whether it will help the president retain his job is unclear, but it will cost thousands of shovel-ready opportunities for American workers” he said. “There is no real issue about the environment that requires further investigation, as the president's own State Department has recently concluded after extensive project reviews that go back more than 3 years.

“This is about politics and keeping a radical constituency opposed to any and all oil and gas development in the president's camp in November 2012.”

National Petrochemical & Refiners Association Pres. Charles T. Drevna said the decision “will strike a blow against American workers who need jobs, against American consumers who need energy, and against American economic and national security.”

Drevna said, “Turning our back on our good friend and ally Canada will exponentially increase the odds that Canadian oil is shipped to China and other countries overseas and will harm American fuel manufacturers and their employees.”

US Chamber of Commerce Pres. and Chief Executive Officer Thomas J. Donohue said, “Politics has trumped jobs in this decision, and we can only wonder if the administration’s delay will cause Canada to turn their pipeline west and ship their energy and American jobs elsewhere.”

National Association of Manufacturers Pres. and Chief Executive Officer Jay Timmons, citing what he estimated to be 118,000 jobs at stake, called on the administration to reverse a decision he described as “outrageous.”
Somewhere, some idiot "environmentalist" is happy, since the last thing he understands is where energy comes from. I doubt that idiot knows that pipelines already run across our country and Canada.

Meanwhile the President will waste more fuel and pollute more to attend the "carrier game." I guess he figures that he needs the environmental votes more than the U.S. needs jobs and this energy project. Way to put the country first, Mr. President.

Daylight Saving Time - And Energy Mistakes

Nice little video from the editor of the Oil and Gas Journal Setting clocks back recalls series of US energy mistakes :

Mine Sonar for Small Combatants

TrailBlazer combines wideband transmission, high directivity, and an advanced operator interface to provide superior detection capability against mines and other threats to
shallow-water operations
An somewhat aged press release (so take it as such) from General Dynamics Canada:
General Dynamics Canada today announced the release of TrailBlazer, a high-frequency, high-resolution sonar system specifically designed for mine and obstacle avoidance (MOAS) on patrol vessels, corvettes, frigates and destroyers operating in littoral waters. TrailBlazer combines wideband transmissions, high directivity and an advanced operator interface to provide superior detection capability against mines and other threats to shallow-water operations.

“With 250,000 sea mines in the inventories of over 50 navies worldwide, mines represent an ever-increasing threat to coastal and waterway security, especially in littoral waters,” said David Ibbetson, vice president and general manager of General Dynamics Canada. “TrailBlazer’s power, range and resolution make it a very effective solution against such underwater littoral mine threats.”

236th Marine Corps Birthday

236th Marine Corps Birthday

Glad to have them by our side. Happy Birthday, Marines!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

A Bleg

Okay, here's challenge to you all.

The NROTC almuni association at my old university is looking to load up Kindles or flash drives or some other media with books that every young officer ought to have in his library - with the rub that most (read "all") of them need to be free.

Having gone to Gutenburg.org's list of books, I was able to download versions of:

Mahan's Influence of Sea Power
Clausewitz On War
Sun Tzu Art of War
Corbett's Some Priciple of Maritime Strategy
Jomini's The Art of War
U.S. Grant's Memoirs
W.T. Sherman's Memoirs
U.S. Constitution
Declaration of Independence
De Tocqueville Democracy in America vol 1
The Federalist Papers
Adam Smith The Wealth of Nations

I know there are lot of other good reading materials out there that would make a nice library for these mids as they move into the fleet - pdfs like "One tribe at a time" and lots of other Navy and Marine official history type things that can be downloaded.

My question is this - what other books, writings, training manuals, etc, should I be looking for? Further, if you can, can you cite to a location?

If you have a couple of ideas that might cost a little, but are really important, toss those out, too.


Sign of the Day

Cargolaw.com, a product of The Law Offices of Countryman and McDaniel is one of my frequent reads. Why? Because it is full of good stuff relating to maritime and transportation law and much, much more, including some absolutely amazing pictures of various shipping, transport and aviation disasters.

In addition, it is home to some awful headline puns and the occasional humor shot that causes me to spray coffee all over my keyboard.

For example, after viewing pictures of mishaps, I ran across the following picture of a sign, which may, in reality, be some tort defense lawyer's dream of the ultimate warning label. Well, except for the fine print.

Pay them a visit.

Okay, I know the sign thing has been on the internets for years, but there is always one new victim out there somewhere. Today it was me.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

For My Sons' Navy I Want - What We Sell to Egypt

As reported by the shipbuilder VTHM Holds Dedication Ceremony for Egyptian Navy Fast Missile Craft (pdf):
VT Halter Marine, Inc. . . . held a dedication ceremony for the first of four Fast Missile Craft (FMC) built for the Egyptian Navy at its Pascagoula shipyard . The keel for this first FMC was authenticated on April 7, 2010.
The FMC is designed to perform coastal patrol, surveillance, interdiction, surface strike and naval battle group support. The vessels will allow the Republic of Egypt to maintain security of its coastal regions for both itself and friendly countries, while denying access to the areas by any potential adversaries. Each FMC will be approximately 62m in length and will incorporate ship signature control technology. High speed and maneuverability are two of the ship’s primary assets to fulfill these roles. The vessels will also incorporate numerous combat system assets and electronic sensors, equipping the vessels with capabilities in anti-aircraft, anti-surface and electronic warfare.
As reported by World Maritime News, US Navy Announces Launch of First Egyptian Navy Fast Missile Craft:
The primary mission of the FMC is to conduct independent and joint operations, primarily against armed surface adversaries. The Egyptian Navy has a requirement for a vessel with the capabilities of an FMC to combat these threats and to patrol and defend its coastal waterways of the Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea, and in particular, the Suez Canal.
Each of the 63 meter craft carry a 76mm Super Rapid Gun, Harpoon Block II missiles, MK49 Rolling Airframe Missiles, and the Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) Block 1B. These high-speed, agile craft can reach speeds of greater than 34 knots provide berthing for a crew of up to 40 sailors and operate up to eight days independently at sea.

The first of four FMCs are scheduled to join the Egyptian fleet in 2012. PEO Ships will continue to assist with acquisition and oversight efforts throughout the construction process and will provide follow-on technical and training support to the Egyptian Navy upon delivery of the vessels.
From the U.S. Navy's International Programs Office:


Some background.

I added the emphasis above.

UPDATE: Yes, small ships, heavily armed, short-legged. I got that. Less expensive for littoral warfare (surface) than another model which shall remain unnamed here. In a squadron of 5 or 6, joined by armed helicopters and a "mother ship" - they would be nice to have in the green and brown waters for asymmetric stuff.

I see putting a few in the Med, Guam, Pearl, Singapore, Bahrain, "Africa Station" and the Gulf of Aden (East African littorals) for counter pirate ops.