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Friday, December 30, 2011

Somali Pirates: EU to take on pirate shore support?

A hint that the Somali support infrastructure might - just might- be getting some cross hairs fixed on it at Germany: EU Mulls New Powers For Piracy Mission:
German officials say the European Union is considering expanding the scope of its anti-piracy mission off the Horn of Africa to allow the destruction of pirates’ equipment on the beaches of Somalia.
If so, it's about time. The key to pushing back the pirates is on the land and in the littoral waters of Somalia.

UPDATE: More here:
The EU is apparently considering ramping up the operation to target the pirates' weapons arsenals, speedboats and fuel depots on the beach. The plan foresees helicopters targeting the infrastructure from the sea. The aircraft would not, however, fire on people. The German Foreign Ministry stressed that the expanded mission would only involve destroying the onshore infrastructure and would not be "an operation on land."
Some opposition tool is whining:
Omid Nouripour, the defense spokesman for the Green Party's parliamentary group, was even more outspoken. He called the idea of targeting the pirates' onshore facilities "sheer madness." He spoke of the danger of mission creep should the pirates retreat further onshore in response to attacks.
Someone ought to explain to Omid Nouripour the difficulties imposed on the pirates by making them perform logistics 100 miles from the beach.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hormuz Strait Word Games Ratcheting Up

A few days ago, we had an Iranian political bozo stirring up international concern with a threat to close down the Strait of Hormuz, followed, as noted in How many Iranian threats to "close the Strait of Hormuz" does it take to make oil prices jump?, by a near immediate denial of the intent of the Iranians to close the strait, now followed by Iranian war games in the Arabian Gulf showing their forces of various types, as they do nearly every year.

In case you are wondering, yes, the U.S. and its allies monitor these games.

In addition, the U.S. and its allies also occasionally rise to the bait tossed out by Iran's clowns and threaten that, surprise, surprise, any effort by Iran to really close the Strait of Hormuz would be "a very bad thing" and that could result in serious letters of warning, meetings of the UN Security Council and perhaps, maybe, at some point in all of Iran's forces being sent to the bottom of the ocean and/or painted pink and being made to live in a country like Iran. This week's counterpoint to Iran's point comes to us via the 5th Fleet via CNN, who are trying very hard to drum this up into a story:U.S. Navy won't tolerate 'disruption' through Strait of Hormuz from

The U.S. Navy said Iran's threat to block the strategically and economically important Strait of Hormuz is unacceptable.

"The free flow of goods and services through the Strait of Hormuz is vital to regional and global prosperity," Navy 5th Fleet in Bahrain spokeswoman Cmdr. Amy Derrick Frost told reporters on Wednesday.

"Anyone who threatens to disrupt freedom of navigation in an international strait is clearly outside the community of nations; any disruption will not be tolerated."
It's all part of the on-going war with Iran, being fought in many ways, but always asymmetrically by Iran, because, while its leadership may be a bunch of wild and crazy guys, they are not completely nuts.

USS John C.Stennis - Not exactly liking finding Waldo
UPDATE: To add to the fun, the Iranians report, apparently with great joy, they were able to "spot" an aircraft carrier the size of a city block transiting the Strait of Hormuz with its escorts. The real news story would have been if they were unable to see something akin to the Empire State Building floating by their Navy. Report here:
The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain across from Iran and guards the passageway, confirmed to ABC News that two of its ships did pass through the Strait of Hormuz on Dec.27 en route to the Arabian Sea where they are assisting operations in Afghanistan.

USS Mobile Bay
“The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), conducted a planned, routine transit through the Strait of Hormuz, Dec. 27

UPDATE2: Okay, Iran got what it wanted Iranian threats push crude above $101/bbl in New York market. Now, if only we had a crude oil pipeline from Canada, this sort of thing wouldn't be so - - dramatically unnecessary.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Somali Piracy 2011

From the ICC IMB's Live Piracy Map
Some IMB numbers (there are a couple of changes needed - final report later):
Worldwide Incidents: updated on 16 Dec 2011
Total Attacks Worldwide: 421
Total Hijackings Worldwide: 42

Incidents Reported for Somalia:
Total Incidents: 231
Total Hijackings:26
Total Hostages: 450
Total Killed: 15

Current vessels held by Somali pirates:
Vessels: 10
Hostages: 172

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Somali Pirates: Early report of ship grabbed off Oman

NATO Shipping Center Map of hijacking off Oman
 Pirates hijack Italian ship with 18 on board off Oman:
Pirates hijacked an Italian cargo ship with six Italians, five Ukrainians and seven Indians on board at dawn on Tuesday . . .
NATO Shipping Center report:
A piracy alert has been raised by the Maritime Security Centre.

Date of alert : December 27, 2011
Alert type : Pirate Attack
Location : [249] ARABIAN SEA 18 18N 057 36E
Latitude : 18 18N
Longitude : 057 36E

Alert number 250 / 2011.

Reference previous Alert number 249 / 2011.

At 0403 UTC a merchant vessel was reported under attack by pirates in position 18 18 N 057 36 E.


Sunday, December 25, 2011


From the Gospel of Luke:
2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

2:2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

2:3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

2:5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

2:6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

2:8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

2:9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

2:12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And to all of you on watch in case "peace on earth" does not break out, thanks - and Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Waiting for the "good" explanation

BBC News - Finland 'finds Patriot missiles' on China-bound ship:
Police are questioning the crew of the MS Thor Liberty after what were described as 69 Patriot anti-missile missiles were found aboard.

Interior Minister Paivi Rasanen said the missiles were marked "fireworks".

The MS Thor Liberty had docked in the Finnish port of Kotka after leaving Germany last week.

Dock workers became suspicious after finding explosives poorly stored on open pallets, and the missiles were then found in containers marked "fireworks".

The managing director of the ship's owner, Thorco Shipping, expressed surprise. Thomas Mikkelsen told AFP news agency from Denmark that he was unaware of the matter.

Another company official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the ship had been detained in Finland and said the missiles could have been loaded on to the vessel by mistake, AFP adds.(emphasis added)


Now, who has "misplaced" 69 Patriot missiles and how much was earned in doing so.

And who played the double agent in this "surprise discovery?"

UPDATE: CNN reports Patriot missiles found on a ship bound for Asia were being sent legally. Belong to South Korea, they say.

Doesn't explain reported "surprise" of shipping company, labeling of "fireworks" - does it? Although, given the nature of first reports, perhaps it does . . .

Somali Piracy: US Navy Slows Pirates

USS Pinckney - Royal Australian Navy photo by Able Seaman Paul Berry
Or, as the U.S. Navy puts it "USS Pinckney Disrupts Piracy":
At approximately 11:00 a.m., the M/V Heather, operating 30 nautical miles from Nordic Apollo, reported suspicious activity by a skiff.

Pakistan Navy Rear Adm. Kaleem Shaukat, CTF 151's commander, authorized Pinckney to investigate.

Nordic Apollo confirmed the pirate attack, but stated they no longer had sight of the skiff. In response to the distress call, Pinckney made best speed to the area, issued a radio warning to other vessels in the vicinity, and launched its MH-60R helicopter.

US Navy photo
The helicopter crew successfully tracked and located the skiff, observing nine suspected pirates and pirate paraphernalia on board, including several ladders, weapons and fuel containers. The suspected pirates were seen attempting to cover their weapons with blankets and throwing the ladders overboard as Pinckney closed their position.

Intercepted by the helicopter and Pinckney, the skiff stopped and the suspected pirates threw their weapons, identified as five AK-47 rifles, one rocket propelled grenade (RPG) launcher and three RPG rounds, overboard.

US Navy photo
Pinckney was given authorization to conduct a boarding using their visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team and once aboard, the VBSS team confirmed there were nine suspected pirates, one grappling hook, 36 barrels of fuel, and 75 and 45 horsepower outboard engines. The VBSS team scuttled one outboard motor and left the skiff with enough fuel and water to return back to shore.
Related: A questioning of the counter-piracy rules of engagement.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

EU NAVFO on Somali Pirate Hostages

Press release on the some of the evils of Somali piracy from EU NAVFOR at European Union Naval Force Somalia - Operation Atalanta | Merchant ship crews held hostage in Somalia:
While the issue of piracy off the coast of Somalia has received significant coverage over the past 4 years, with the exception a number of high-profile individuals, the fate of the merchant crews which make up the majority of those held hostage, is not often considered or reported.

This humanitarian tragedy is especially pertinent over Christmas, a time when families normally gather to celebrate.

The Shiuh Fu No.1 fishing boat, pirated Christmas Day 2010; the whereabouts of the crew of 13 Chinese, 12 Vietnamese and 1 Taiwanese mariners is unknown
There are currently 199 men and one woman held hostage in Somalia following the pirating of their ships in the Indian Ocean and all are being held against their will to be used by criminal gangs as part of a ransom business. Since the start of the EU NAVFOR counter-piracy mission in December 2008, a total of 2317 merchant seamen have been held hostage for an average of nearly 5 months. The longest period in captivity is 19 months for the 24 crew members of the M/V ICEBERG 1, who are still being held.

The PRANTALAY 12 fishing boat, pirated 18 April 2010 and beached on 14 July 2011. 5 of the crew died in captivity, 1 is missing and 4 remain in Somalia following the release of the remainder.
It is estimated that at least 60 merchant seamen have died as a result of their captivity in the hands of the pirates and many more have suffered torture and abuse. 49 of the 200 hostages are held without the collateral of a ship, following the ship sinking or being abandoned which means that their future is less clear as their value is seen as less than that of a ship. Additionally, a recent tactic of the criminal gangs has been to agree to the ransom payment for the return of ship and crew and then hold-back some of the crew when the ship is released to use to negotiate for the release of convicted Somali pirates from the home country of the detained crew members. Currently 4 South Korean and 7 Indian crew members from the M/V GEMINI and the ASPHALT VENTURE are held following the release of the ships.

Today, there are 3 ships abandoned and derelict on the beach, creating a source of potential pollution, whilst their crews, totalling 54 men, remain in captivity.
Photos and captions are from EU NAVFOR.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Death in the DPRK"

Good advice in "Death in the DPRK" at Shadow Government:
Western leaders should send clear messages to the new regime that it will not tolerate aggression, the need to resume serious de-nuclearization talks, and push for North Korea's opening up to the region and the outside world.

Nor is this the time to rush and offer humanitarian assistance to try and use food aid as leverage with the new regime.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Kim Jong Il Dead

North Korea Says Supreme Leader Kim Jong Il Has Died

I don't plan to miss him.

Midrats: Episode 102 The Military Media at a Pivot 12/18 at 5pm Eastern

Join us at 5pm Eastern on Sunday for Midrats Episode 102 The Military Media at a Pivot :
It started after 911, something not seen for any significant duration since Vietnam - and sustained interest in military matters. As a result, we have seen an increase in the variety and number of places where you can find reporting on military matters.

From retired officers on the news networks using maps to explain the big picture, to new media, to expanded traditional coverage - a decade of war has brought a depth of knowledge that was almost non-existant in the last two decades of the last century.

With two wars and smaller skirmishes in the Long War taking place on a regular basis, the need and interest for information has kept knowledge of military history, strategy, tactics, equipment, and plans as an ongoing requirement in the media.

As the American military presence in the Iraqi war ends, Afghanistan scheduled to fade, and defense budgets contract - what is the state of the military focused media going forward?

To discuss the above and to review the major Navy and military topics of the year will be returning guest Phil Ewing, previously with Politico and Navy Times.

Somali Pirates: Slowed by Weather, Naval Forces

Somali pirates are in a slowdown, caused in part by weather and by "disruption" by naval forces.

TCG Gediz
First, the naval side, a Turkish warship did its job, as reported at CTF-151 SHIP TCG GEDIZ DISRUPTS SUSPECTED PIRATE MOTHER SHIP AND SKIFF
Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) warship TCG GEDIZ of the Republic of Turkey, assigned to CMF’s counter-piracy mission, Combined Task Force 151 disrupted a suspected pirate mother ship and a pirate skiff in the southern Somali Basin.

The task force received a report of an attack on the merchant vessel MV JEANNE as it transited international waters off the coast of the Somalia/Kenya border. CTF 151 Commander, Rear Admiral Kaleem Shaukat, Pakistan Navy tasked GEDIZ, patrolling in the area, to search for the skiff that had participated in the attack.

GEDIZ located a suspected mother ship for the pirate action group operating in this area, a group which included the skiff responsible for the earlier attack on MV JEANNE, Nov 21. This vessel was also suspected of involvement in two other recent attacks in this operating area. GEDIZ’s boarding team conducted a search of the vessel, and destroyed all equipment associated with piracy, including multiple grappling hooks and a boarding ladder.

GEDIZ identified the suspected pirate skiff and witnessed the crew toss multiple items overboard, including grappling hooks and what appeared to be weapons. When GEDIZ was in close enough proximity for a more thorough examination of the skiff, they assessed that it presented no further threat and that all materiel involved in possible acts of piracy had been discarded.
This leads into the NATO Shipping Center weekly assessment:
During the reporting period of 8 to 14 December 2011 the piracy activity level was less than the previous reporting period. Suspicious activity was seen in the North Arabian Sea and a mothership was located off the coast of central Somalia, which was later disrupted by Naval Counter Piracy forces.

The NE monsoon is fully established, and this is likely a contributing factor to the decrease in piracy activity in the Greater Somali Basin.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Not Cookie Cutters

It's a hotel room. In a crane. in the Netherlands
Sometimes wanderlust strikes.

When it does, here is a site and a publication of places to stay that definitely are not "cookie cutter" boxes that make Paris like Des Moines or whatever.

If anyone would like to fund our travel and expenses, my wife and I are available to sample and report back on these places.

Unusual and Unique Overnight directory

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Short Break

Short gap in posts may occur over next two days.

MBA graduation ceremonies for #1 son are my excuse.

Enjoy yourselves with an old "Seabase" concept . . .

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How many Iranian threats to "close the Strait of Hormuz" does it take to make oil prices jump??

One, apparently, even if made by some obscure clown who was almost immediately slapped down for being a dolt, as reported in Strait of Hormuz Not Closed, Iran Foreign Ministry Says:
The Strait of Hormuz remains open to shipping, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said, after oil prices surged amid speculation that vessels might be blocked from using the strategic waterway.

The spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, said reports about the strait’s closure were untrue. Oil prices spiked by as much as 3.6 percent today in New York and London.

“These claims are sometimes made, but they are by people who have no role, no official title or authority,” Mehmanparast said by telephone from Tehran.
"No role, no official title or authority" - sounds like just the guy to quote to make oil prices jump a bit.

About 1/6 of the daily global consumption of oil travels through the Strait, but that's just because it's easier that way.

Closing the Strait would not mean the end of civilization as we know it and the rest of the world would adjust in a fairly short time.

More to follow on this when I get time.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

China: Small Footprint in Seychelles?

As a follow on to my earlier post regarding Seychelles offer of some sort of anti-piracy base to the Chinese at Somali Pirates: Seychelles asks China for counter-pirate "presence"

Reuters reports "China considers Seychelles port offer, denies base plan":
"According to escort needs and the needs of other long-range missions, China will consider seeking supply facilities at appropriate harbours in the Seychelles or other countries," the ministry said on Monday, according to the China Daily.

"This approach is transparent, and there's no cause for worry," the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters, referring to those discussions.

"China has no plans for establishing military bases abroad," said Liu, adding that he had not heard of any ideas of stationing personnel or aircraft on the Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands.

Somali Pirates: Weather Impact

In last week's Weekly Piracy Assessment, the NATO Shipping Center reported that the on-coming monsoon season in the Indian Ocean will impact piracy:
The NE monsoon has begun but tempered by a low pressure area in the region. As a result it is not likely to impede piracy activity in the near term. The monsoon is expected to go into full swing over the next couple weeks and, as weather deteriorates, piracy activity is likely to be hindered.
The U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly (PAWW) (pdf) expands the same point:
A. (U) GULF OF ADEN: Moderate winds and light seas (ENE 15 – 20, 2 – 4 feet) exist in the GOA and will continue through the next 72 hours. EXTENDED FORECAST: Expect ENE winds to continue through forecast period. A modest increase in sea heights will occur in the western half of the Gulf of Aden as 3 – 5 foot seas provide moderate impacts to small boat operations by 11 Dec.
B. (U) SOMALI COAST: Continued NE winds over the Somali Basin have increased sea heights from Socotra Island southwest to the Kenyan border. Expect high winds and seas (NE 20 – 25, 6 – 8 feet) to affect small boat operations through the next 72 hours. EXTENDED FORECAST: Winds and seas will remain prominent impacts to the area through 14 Dec as the NE monsoon fully sets in over the region.
C. (U) NORTH ARABIAN SEA: Light to moderate winds and seas (NE 12 – 16, 2 – 4 feet) in the North Arabian Sea will continue through the next 72 hours. EXTENDED FORECAST: A large portion of the NAS will continue to experience little to no impacts through 14 Dec. Expect a region just south of the Gulf of Oman to show increased sea heights (4 – 6 feet) by 13 Dec.
D. (U) INDIAN OCEAN: Residual seas from the Somali Basin will provide moderate impacts (3 – 5 feet) to the Kenyan and Tanzanian waters, while winds in the region vary in direction and remain mainly below 10 knots through the next 72 hours. Expect light winds and seas (ENE 8 – 12, 1 – 3 feet) in the sheltered waters of the Mozambique Channel through 11 Dec. EXTENDED FORECAST: Variable light winds and residual seas from the Somali Basin will continue to provide the only impacts to the Kenyan and Tanzanian waters through 14 Dec. Expect an increase in winds through the Mozambique Channel by 12 Dec to slowly increase seas in the southern portion. Moderate winds and seas (N 15 – 20, 3 – 5 feet) will affect the region by 13 Dec.
The PAWW weather forecast map suggests a potential decline in pirate activity due to the weather. See the map above.

But you can also look over the right, where the WeatherOnline charts appear constantly updating winds in the Somali pirate operating areas. Here's the 13 Dec 2011 winds:
Arabian Sea winds
Gulf of Aden Winds

Lots of 15+ knot winds out there except relatively near shore . . .

Weather takes its toll on the pirates, as reported by SomaliaReport "Six Pirate Groups, Six Boats Missing at Sea":
The number of pirate attacks off the Somali coast has declined considerably in recent weeks due to strong winds and storms with pirates reporting that at least six of their groups and six of their boats were lost at sea.
Before merchant ships get too cocky, remember that there have been plenty of attacks during the monsoon seasons over the years and the winds are much lower near the entrance to the Red Sea.

The NATO Shipping Center also has an updated "Pirate Action Group" map, putting PAGs in a couple of areas near lower reported winds:

Monday, December 12, 2011

UK Rules for Private Armed Guards on British Merchant Shipping Revealed

Rules and concerns expressed here:
The guidelines stipulate that ship owners should include certain factors in a risk assessment motivate for selecting a private security company (PSC). Shipping companies wishing to use armed guards will also be required to submit a detailed counter-piracy plan to the UK Department for Transport in advance.
No word on the number of bullets that will be allowed each armed guard - Barney "One Bullet" Fife or Rambo-style.

Based on recent events in India, as reported here, a strict count of bullets might be important.

Rambo may have trouble with that.

Somali Piracy: Interrupted

CTF-151, the Combined Maritime Anti-Piracy Force, reports a case of "piratus interruptus" in CTF-151 SHIP TCG GEDIZ DISRUPTS SUSPECTED PIRATE MOTHER SHIP AND SKIFF:
Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) warship TCG GEDIZ of the Republic of Turkey, assigned to CMF’s counter-piracy mission, Combined Task Force 151 disrupted a suspected pirate mother ship and a pirate skiff in the southern Somali Basin.

The task force received a report of an attack on the merchant vessel MV JEANNE as it transited international waters off the coast of the Somalia/Kenya border. CTF 151 Commander, Rear Admiral Kaleem Shaukat, Pakistan Navy tasked GEDIZ, patrolling in the area, to search for the skiff that had participated in the attack.

GEDIZ located a suspected mother ship for the pirate action group operating in this area, a group which included the skiff responsible for the earlier attack on MV JEANNE, Nov 21. This vessel was also suspected of involvement in two other recent attacks in this operating area. GEDIZ’s boarding team conducted a search of the vessel, and destroyed all equipment associated with piracy, including multiple grappling hooks and a boarding ladder.

GEDIZ identified the suspected pirate skiff and witnessed the crew toss multiple items overboard, including grappling hooks and what appeared to be weapons. When GEDIZ was in close enough proximity for a more thorough examination of the skiff, they assessed that it presented no further threat and that all materiel involved in possible acts of piracy had been discarded.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Midrats, Sunday: Episode 101 Kido Butai at Pearl Harbor

The Japanese carrier strike force, the Kido Butai, lead the attack at Pearl Harbor in 1941. Since then, the discussion about the attack and its ramifications has hardly paused. We offer up the latest iteration with Sunday's 5pm (Eastern U.S.) program on Midrats - Episode 101 Kido Butai at Pearl Harbor 12/11 :
A lot has been written about what went wrong at Pearl Harbor - a very American perspective.

If you are a neutral tactical or look at things from a Japanese perspective - there was a lot that went right at Pearl Harbor at the Tactical and Operational Level.

Join Sal from CDR Salamander and me as we discuss for the full hour many of the less understood aspects fo the attack on Pearl Harbor and the development in the Imperial Japanese Navy's tactical innovations with one of the co-authors of the article in December's Naval History magazine, Pearl Harbor's Overlooked Answer - Jonathan Parshall.
Mr. Parshall is one of the authors of the book, The Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway, a book highly recommended by many naval readers, including this one:
"I have begun reading Shattered Sword... and had to stop. It is too large, reads too well, contains too much information, and is too difficult to put down. Start it at your own risk! My congratulations to the authors and to Brassey's/Potomac Books for an excellent and valuable product."

— Norman Polmar, noted analyst, consultant, and author specializing in naval, strategic, and intelligence issues.
Join us, please.

The link is Episode 101. If you can't join us live, you can listen to the archived version at the same site, or download the show as an MP3. Or, if you prefer, listen or download from iTunes.

Friday, December 09, 2011

India and Pakistan: Water War May Go Nuclear?

Indus River Basin (from U.S. Senate report)
Interesting link up from to an editorial in a Pakistani newspaper in John Daly's Pakistani Editorial Says Nuclear War with India "Inevitable" as Water Dispute Continues:
Every now and again, one reads an editorial that stops the reader in his tracks.

On 8 December, with the headline "War Inevitable To Tackle Indian Water Aggression," Pakistan’s Urdu-language Nawa-e Waqt, issued such a screed.

Nawa-e Waqt bluntly commented on India’s Kashmiri water polices and Islamabad’s failure up to now to stop New Delhi’s efforts to construct hydroelectric dams in Kashmir, “India should be forcibly prevented from constructing these dams. If it fails to constrain itself, we should not hesitate in launching nuclear war because there is no solution except this.”
Read it all.

It seems that India is building dams in Kashmir that may allow it to control the flow of water through Pakistan - water vital to Pakistan's agricultural survival. The Pakistanis take exception to having their fate lie on the hands on some flow control wheel on Indian dams. Daly reports:
Bashir Ahmad, a geologist in Srinagar, Kashmir commented grimly about the Indians’ future intentions, “They will switch the Indus off to make Pakistan solely dependent on India. It’s going to be a water bomb.”
As noted in the article, Afghanistan is also looking to build dams on the Kabul River, which also would impact Pakistan. India is reported to be supporting these dams. The effect is to make the Pakistanis even less comfortable.

Of all the rivers flowing into Pakistan, the Indus is the most essential because of its importance to the agricultural sector. Pakistan’s agriculture relies on the world’s largest contiguous irrigation system fed by the Indus waters; in fact, water withdrawals for agricultural irrigation represent almost 97 percent of all withdrawals in Pakistan. This irrigation network covers an estimated 83 percent of cultivated land in the country and contributes to nearly a quarter of its gross domestic product.
Water. Can't live without it. Might go to war over it. One of those "national survival" threats.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

China's Navy: "Peaceful Development?"

Some recent comments by the Chinese president seem to indicate an interest in instilling a bellicose attitude in the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy:
A day before Chinese and US military officials started military talks in Beijing, Chinese President Hu Jintao told it's navy to accelerate modernisation and prepare for war.

Speaking to military officials on Tuesday, Xinhua, China's official media agency quoted President Hu as commanding the Party congress of People's Liberation Army Navy to "make extended preparations for warfare in order to make greater contributions to safeguarding national security and world peace."

Many observers believe that President Hu's blunt comments are in stark contradiction to his often repeated claims of China's "peaceful rise".
Peaceful rise? Well, here's a little background in an interesting read from Eurasiareview, "PLA And China's Peaceful Development - Analysis":
China has thus found a near justifiable way of modernizing its Defence Forces, particularly its Navy by emphasizing on the importance of non-traditional roles for its forces. The 2008 ‘White Paper on China’s National Defence’ enunciated for the first time that China now sees the Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW) as an important form of applying military force. The PLA Navy has accordingly widened its scope of operations to include “…integrated offshore operations in distant waters …” The uninterrupted anti-Piracy patrols mounted by the PLA Navy ships since December 2008 in the Gulf of Aden and off Somali coast, wherein nine task Forces have been deployed till date for escort duties, is the most notable instance of MOOTW.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Pearl Harbor Attack, 7 December 1941

An overview from the Naval History and Heritage Command at The Pearl Harbor Attack, 7 December 1941:
Nagumo's fleet assembled in the remote anchorage of Tankan Bay in the Kurile Islands and departed in strictest secrecy for Hawaii on 26 November 1941. The ships' route crossed the North Pacific and avoided normal shipping lanes. At dawn 7 December 1941, the Japanese task force had approached undetected to a point slightly more than 200 miles north of Oahu. At this time the U.S. carriers were not at Pearl Harbor. On 28 November, Admiral Kimmel sent USS Enterprise under Rear Admiral Willliam Halsey to deliver Marine Corps fighter planes to Wake Island. On 4 December Enterprise delivered the aircraft and on December 7 the task force was on its way back to Pearl Harbor. On 5 December, Admiral Kimmel sent the USS Lexington with a task force under Rear Admiral Newton to deliver 25 scout bombers to Midway Island. The last Pacific carrier, USS Saratoga, had left Pearl Harbor for upkeep and repairs on the West Coast.

At 6:00 a.m. on 7 December, the six Japanese carriers launched a first wave of 181 planes composed of torpedo bombers, dive bombers, horizontal bombers and fighters. Even as they winged south, some elements of U.S. forces on Oahu realized there was something different about this Sunday morning.

In the hours before dawn, U.S. Navy vessels spotted an unidentified submarine periscope near the entrance to Pearl Harbor. It was attacked and reported sunk by the destroyer USS Ward (DD-139) and a patrol plane. At 7:00 a.m., an alert operator of an Army radar station at Opana spotted the approaching first wave of the attack force. The officers to whom those reports were relayed did not consider them significant enough to take action. The report of the submarine sinking was handled routinely, and the radar sighting was passed off as an approaching group of American planes due to arrive that morning.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Offshore Safety

Nice piece by Dennis Bryant on Offshore Oil Spills and A Culture of Complacency:
It is incumbent upon the offshore oil and gas industry and its regulators to not only take the steps necessary to prevent another Deepwater Horizon casualty, but to adopt wholeheartedly a safety culture that will root out complacency. We are smart enough to develop technologies and processes that will significantly reduce risk. Only time will tell if we are smart enough to overcome the human fallacy of complacency in the face of those risks.
It's short and well worth the read.

I handled too many cases in which the following of proper safety procedures would have either prevented or mitigated the resulting harm.

There is a reason for checklists - they prevent "errors of complacency."

Asian Partnerships: India and Vietnam

Interesting read from the Turkish Weekly analysis on the India-Vietnam Strategic Partnership Getting Stronger:
The India-Vietnam Neighborhood
The relationships between the two countries make a lot of sense when they share common interest- maritime security, fighting terrorism, security of the sea lanes of communications, piracy and natural disasters. Ever since India and Vietnam signed the New Strategic Partnership in 2007, there witnessed significant improvement in a multifaceted ties ranging from political and economic engagements, security and defence cooperation, science and technology and close cultural contacts. Despite Chinese objections, India and Vietnam went a step ahead to signing six agreements encompassing promote oil exploration in South China Sea, extradition treaty, deepen trade, security and strategic ties, etc. *** What makes this relationship special is because of the close understanding that both countries share over the growing rise of China and its subsequent implication on the security of both countries.

India’s ONGC has entered into a deal with a Vietnamese oil company to jointly explore resources in the South China Sea. This move has caused significant alarm in China because it perceive such move is aimed at containing China’s growing clout in the South East Asian region. Vietnam offer for the exploration of resources is part of the gaining strategic understanding between the two countries. However, the Chinese foreign ministry has repeatedly warned India against such moves that amount to interference in China’s relationship with its neighbors. In response to Chinese reaction, Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna asserted that the exploration projects do not violate international law, and that China’s opposition has no legal basis.

While China on the other hand is steadily increasing its military presence close to India’s borders in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Srilanka. By doing this, Chinese have never thought what would be its implications to India’s security. In recent times, China has expanded its footprint to Pakistan occupied Kashmir, which India claimed to be its own. How can China warn India to remain away when it is expanding close to India’s border and even to India’s claim territory?
Not much doubt about who is believed to be the big threat in the area, is there?

The "post-Cold War world" heads off on a lot of interesting paths.

UPDATE: India is not interested, apparently, in multinational alliances but prefers bilateral agreements, according to this report:
India on Thursday firmly rejected any prospect of joining or forging a trilateral security pact with the US and Australia, remaining steadfast on its long-standing stand of bolstering defence cooperation with other countries on a strictly bilateral basis.
No reason to rattle the Dragon's tail too much, I suppose . . .

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Midrats Sunday 5pm: Episode 100 Where are the Carriers?

Join us today, at 5pm Eastern for Episode 100 Where are the Carriers?:
"Where are the Carriers?"

Whenever the expected unexpected happens on the globe, that is the question that is often asked first. As our nation also faces one of its greatest budget crisis - it is also one that the budget cutters are asking as well.

What is the status of our carrier force as we approach 2012 and what possible directions are we heading? Is the carrier more important in supporting our national strategy than it used to be, or less? Are we buying the right kind of systems to go on and in our carriers? Are we buying enough? How are we assessing our technology risk as we bring in new tools?

Our guest for the full hour will be J. Talbot Manvel, CAPT, USN (Ret.), presently teaching at the U.S. Naval Academy and is a frequent writer on issues of carrier issues and larger Navy policy issues. In the course of his career he served on three carriers and led development o f the maintenance plan for the Nimitz class and design of the Ford class carriers.
You can join us at 5pm by clicking here. If you miss the show, you can listen to it later or download from here or from iTunes.

Episode 100? 100 years of Naval Aviation.

Iranian Press TV accused of making up stories about U.S. drone strikes in Somalia

Not really surprising, giving the silliness of some of their other fake reporting, but it is nice to see other people noticing. Here's a Daily Telegraph report, "Iranian Press TV accused of faking drone strike reports":
The channel, which is based in Tehran and broadcasts around-the-clock in English, claims that more the 1,370 people have been killed in 56 drone strikes since September - an average of 24 deaths per attack.

But an analysis of their reports by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found no evidence to back up the claims.
The US is known to have used drones in Somalia but Tony Burns, the director of operations at the charity Saacid, which is based in Mogadishu, said the cited casualty figures were "simply not possible".
A UN official told the Bureau: "Press TV is not a reliable source. It exaggerates and openly fabricates reports," while American diplomats said the reports were "wholly false".
The Iranian Department of Clumsy Disinformation gets another red card.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Somali Pirates: Seychelles asks China for counter-pirate "presence"

UPDATE here.

Perhaps reflecting a shift in the currents of international sea power or perhaps just an extension of an existing relationship, the Chinese have been invited to extend some power to an island cluster in the the Indian Ocean bothered by Somali pirates.

As reported by AFP as "Seychelles invites China to set up anti-piracy presence":
"We have invited the Chinese government to set up a military presence on Mahe to fight the pirate attacks that the Seychelles face on a regular basis," Adam said.

"For the time being China is studying this possibility because she has economic interests in the region and Beijing is also involved in the fight against piracy," he explained.
"Together, we need to increase our surveillance capacity in the Indian Ocean... as Seychelles has a strategic position between Asia and Africa," Michel said in a statement, adding that China had given its army two light aircraft.

The two countries signed a military cooperation agreement in 2004 that has enabled some 50 Seychelles soldiers to be trained in China. They renewed their agreement Friday, with China to provide further training and equipment.

If the Chinese military presence goes ahead, "it won't be the first foreign military presence here because the Americans already have a small drone station here that they use in the fight against piracy," Adam said.

After warships started deploying in the Gulf of Aden in 2008 to thwart attacks on vessels, Somali pirates enlarged their field of operations into the Indian Ocean, including towards the Seychelles.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Physics: The Fabric of the Cosmos

If you have not seen the PBS series, NOVA | The Fabric of the Cosmos, let me recommend that you take the time to watch it.

Great graphics help make the complex easier to grasp for people like me who last took physics when it was believed the sun revolved around the earth.


Watch The Fabric of the Cosmos Preview on PBS. See more from NOVA.

Pakistan: NATO Suppy Routes to Afghanistan Closed, New Rules of Engagement Adopted

Following the confusion of the attack on a Pakistan border post (see here), the words continue to fly fast and furious, with the truth of what happened becoming less and less relevant.

The U.S. claims a couple of defenses in the incident, including an assertion by Afghan forces that they called in the airstrike.

"Whatever" - as the saying goes- the Pakistanis are not in the mood to listen to explanations. As the story notes,
Pakistan's army claims the attack was unprovoked and insists there was no militant activity in the area.

Meantime, Islamabad has closed its border to the trucks that deliver supplies to coalition troops and is demanding the U.S. vacate a base thought to be used for launching drones.
Further, Reuters reports, "After NATO strike, Pakistan adjusts rules of engagement,
"I do not want there to be any doubt in the minds of any commander at any level about the rules of engagement," Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani said in a communique on Friday.

"In case of any attack, you have complete liberty to respond forcefully using all available resources. You do not need any permission for this."

A military source explained that this amounted to a change in the rules for Pakistani forces guarding the Western border against militant movements to and from Afghanistan.

"In the past, we were only guarding ourselves or reacting against militants," said the source, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
An analysis of the potential impact of the closed Pakistani border can be found at where reporter John Daly lays out the logistics issues posed by the Pakistan border closing in Furious at Latest U.S. Attack, Pakistan Shuts Down Resupply Routes to Afghanistan "Permanently",
So, what does this mean for logistical support of ISAF forces? According to Nesar Ahmad Nasery, the deputy head of Torkham Customs, around 1,000 trucks cross into Afghanistan on a daily basis, nearly 300 of which are NATO contractors carrying NATO supplies in sealed containers. Khyber Transport Association chief Shakir Afridi said that each oil tanker has a capacity of 13,000-15,000 gallons. In October 2010 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen said that fossil fuels are the number one import to Afghanistan.

Noting the obvious, as Afghanistan has no indigenous hydrocarbon supplies, every drop must be brought in, with transit greatly increasing the eventual cost. For 2001-2008, almost all U.S. and NATO supplies were trucked overland to Afghanistan through parts of Pakistan effectively controlled by the Taliban.
Credit: Alyson Hurt/NPR
As shown on the map from NPR and Transcom (Logistics into Afghanistan), the logisticians have come up with alternative routes - which Mr. Daly discusses in his report:
But NATO and the Pentagon have a backup plan – since 2009 they have been shifting their logistics to the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), a railway link running from Latvia’s Riga Baltic port through Russia and Kazakhstan terminating in Uzbekistan’s Termez on the Afghan border.
There is also another route, involving ships entering the Black Sea with several modal transfers. These alternative routes are much more costly. I suggest reading the excellent piece for details.

Logistics, logistics, logistics. Can't fight wars without it.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Somali Pirates: Royal Navy and the Dogs of (Pirate) War

Royal Navy Photo by LA(Phot) Dave Jenkins
Some sea dogs come in handy, as reported in Royal Navy catches Indian Ocean pirates :
The Royal Navy has detained seven suspected pirates in the Indian Ocean, the Ministry of Defence said today.
On Monday the supply ship, patrolling about 420 nautical miles from the Seychelles, received information that a Spanish fishing vessel had come under attack from a group of pirate vessels.

"The ship's Lynx helicopter was quickly despatched to investigate," the spokesman said.

"Once at the scene, the helicopter identified two suspect vessels, a whaler and a skiff, in the vicinity of the fishing vessel.

"The faster of the two, a skiff, sped away at over 25 knots as the helicopter gave chase.

"When the skiff ignored orders to stop, a specially trained sniper on board the Lynx helicopter fired warning shots ahead of the fleeing vessel which stopped and the suspected pirates on board were then taken to Fort Victoria via boat.

"Fort Victoria's Royal Marines boarding team then boarded the whaler and another skiff in the vicinity. As a result of the day's action, a total of seven suspected pirates were held on board Fort Victoria along with their whaler as evidence, with no injuries being sustained by either side."
The Foreign Office (FCO) said that a UK-trained police dog team had today gathered vital evidence to help prosecute the suspected pirates.

A spokeswoman said the dogs and their handlers were trained by the Surrey Police dog handling team as part of a Foreign Office and United Nations (UN) funded project to tackle piracy.

She said: "Providing sufficient evidence to convict pirates has been a real problem for the international community as pirates often throw their weapons overboard and claim to be fishermen.

"However, the dog handling team is able to search the suspected pirate vessel for traces of explosives and firearms.

"Rocket propelled grenades are a weapon of choice for the pirates, but even if they are disposed of in the sea they leave explosive residue that the dogs can identify.

"Today's search by Diesel (a spaniel) and Millie (a labrador) indicated that the suspected pirates' vessel may contain traces of explosives or firearms.

"This evidence will be passed to the Seychelles prosecutor who will conduct further investigations.

"The seven suspected pirates are alleged to have been involved in an attempted act of piracy on a vessel that supplies the Seychelles tuna fleet."
More at the Royal Navy News site here.

US Coast Guard - Busting Drug Runners

USCG photo
Coastie Press Release: "Coast Guard Cutters Bertholf, Boutwell nab drugs, smugglers on high seas":
The Coast Guard announced Thursday the interdiction of more than 2,470 pounds of cocaine, and the detention of 12 suspects, during three separate missions in the Eastern Pacific the week of Nov. 21.

The Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf, a national security cutter, and the Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell, a Secretary Class high endurance cutter, were on counter-drug patrols in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Boutwell’s crew intercepted a drug-laden fishing vessel more than 200 miles west of Ecuador while Bertholf’s crew recovered cocaine jettisoned from a speed boat they were pursuing near the coast of Panama.

The Coast Guard executed 120 drug interdiction cases in fiscal year 2011, keeping 75.6 metric tons of cocaine and 17.3 metric tons of marijuana from reaching U.S. shores. More than 23 metric tons of cocaine have been seized since Aug. 29. The Coast Guard also seized 40 vessels and detained 191 suspects in fiscal year 2011, which ended Sept. 30.

The primary method of maritime drug smuggling remains the “go-fast” boat, which accounted for 58 percent of interdiction cases. Self-propelled, semi-submersible vessels, commonly referred to as drug subs, accounted for 19 percent, while fishing vessels accounted for four percent of maritime drug smuggling activity.

USCG photo
Boutwell’s interdiction began Nov. 23 when the cutter approached the Ecuadorian-flagged fishing vessel El Soberano, approximately 230 miles west of Ecuador. The Coast Guard crew observed suspicious packages on board, saw there was no fishing gear on the deck and noted the El Soberano was towing a smaller launch. The Boutwell’s boarding team conducted a search of the fishing vessel, discovering 40 bales of cocaine weighing between 50 to 56 pounds each. The boarding team detained all nine individuals aboard the two vessels and brought them aboard Boutwell.

"I couldn't be prouder of my crew for their vigilance and decisive actions during this interdiction," said Capt. Matthew J. Gimple, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell. "For more than 42 years, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell has safeguarded America’s maritime interests – at home and around the world – saving those in peril, defending our maritime border, and protecting the maritime transportation system, natural resources and the marine environment. We’ve had three interdictions this month, all of which were 200 miles or more offshore; the ability to operate multiple, over-the-horizon boats and aircraft from our cutter for sustained periods is key to success.”

Bertholf’s action began five nautical miles west of Punta Caracoles, Panama, while the cutter was on patrol in Panamanian waters under the authority of an embarked Panamanian shiprider. Bertholf was alerted by a maritime patrol airplane that a “go-fast” drug smuggling speedboat was in the area. The crew of the Bertholf located the “go-fast” using the ship’s Forward Looking Infrared sensor and radar. The cutter’s over-the-horizon boat was launched and its crew intercepted the suspect boat. The “go-fast” fled, jettisoning about nine bales, one of which was recovered by the crew of the pursuing Bertholf over-the horizon boat. The suspect boat eluded law enforcement using the cover of coves and islands in the area of the chase. The pursuit ended as the chase neared the territorial seas of Colombia. The marine patrol airplane identified a debris field from which seven bales and one kilo of cocaine were subsequently recovered.

Two nights prior, the crew of the Bertholf intercepted another “go-fast,” netting two bales of cocaine and three suspects who were turned over to SENAN, the Panamanian Maritime service.

"My crew's response was exceptional during the prosecution of this case, and I'm proud to report we foiled these drug smugglers and kept the narcotics from reaching their ultimate destination - the United States," said Capt. Thomas E. Crabbs, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf. “The Bertholf is one of the Coast Guard's newest cutters, unique to the United States and uniquely equipped to respond to all threats; it served the nation well during this case.”