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Monday, February 27, 2017

That Attack on the Saudi Frigate Revisited

I got to thinking about a discussion we had as part of Midrats yesterday in which we talked about the attack on a Saudi frigate in the Red Sea by some sort of high speed boat or something. I think it began about the 10:09 point.

In any event, today I took the opportunity to closely examine the Saudi video of the attack -

As I viewed the video I noted what appears to be the bow of the attack vessel appearing out of the sea spray. In the screen shot of the video, I've circled the area and placed an arrow pointing at what I believe to be the bow.

That got me thinking about an Iranian video of an alleged "drone" boat attack on a mock up of a U.S. aircraft carrier from a couple of years ago:

Now, the North Koreans have a plethora of small fast semi-submersible craft - at least one version of which has been seen in Iranian hands:

First, from NOSI, a look at such a vessel in NORK yards:

Second, from Covert Shores Naval Warfare, some drawings of the NORK Taedong B

Finally, one of those critters bobbing along with the Iranian fleet:

If I were an Iranian naval or IRGC officer and I had a cool toy, I might want to try it out somewhere against an enemy - not the "A" team probably but perhaps against the "SA" team. So I wonder - was this an application of something akin to what they used in that practice/publicity attack on the fake carrier? Or was this some sort of hybrid attack using something like that Taedong B semi-submersible or one of its ilk?

Or did they steal someone's ski boat?

Given the amount of spray around the attack boat, I have an inclination toward some sort of semi-submersible whose bow came out of the water when it hit the frigates bow wake, but I am open to suggestions.

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 23 January - 22 February 2017

Special warning from ONI:
NGA Special Warning 134

Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait and Gulf of Aden Commercial vessels in the region of the Red Sea, Bab el Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Aden should operate under a heightened state of alert as increasing tensions in the region escalate the potential for direct or collateral damage to vessels transiting the region. These threats may come from a variety of different sources such as missiles, projectiles or waterborne improvised explosive devices. Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for an 01 October attack on a UAE vessel. Vessels in the region should report hostile activities immediately and contact coalition naval forces via VHF bridge to bridge radio

Sunday, February 26, 2017

On Midrats 26 February 2017 Episode 373: End of February Free For All

Please join us at 5pm (EST) for Midrats Episode 373: End of February Free For All:
Is your head swimming in the 2nd month of the Trump Administration? While we are distracted with intramural politics, the world keeps moving and other nations move forward.

How are the national security and international order reacting to the change in USA leadership? From NATO to China and Russia, what signals are coming from and going to the new American government?

No guests this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern, just our quarterly free-for-all with the show co-hosts, Sal from "CDR Salamander" and EagleOne from "EagleSpeak."

If you'd like to join the conversation, feel free to call the switchboard number at the top of the show page, join the chatroom, or if you can't make the live show, you can send you questions via twitter to @cdrsalamander or @lawofsea.
Listen live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or you can pick the show up later by clicking that link or by visiting either our iTunes page or our Stitcher page.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Candy Matson "The Donna Dunham Case" (1949)

An old San Francisco treat with a woman (shocking for the time) detective:

More about the show at Candy Matson:
Candy, played by Natalie Parks, was hard-boiled in her own way. She never compromised her femininity but she did know how to use a gun and didn't hesitate to use when it was necessary. She didn't take any guff from the guys--the good guys or the bad guys. With a snappy comeback, she could take anybody's head off. Candy was fearless, never hesitating to go wherever she needed to solve a case from the lowest dive to the classiest night club. Candy worked hard to get her goon.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Call Them Mass Murderers: Criminals Who Prey on Migrants/Refugees

Reportedly, the death toll of migrants/refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean for the year 2016 was over 4000 that we know about. Here's a report on how 74 died this year allegedly due to the criminal acts of some who are indifferent to human life, from the UK Express Migrants DROWN after traffickers STEAL their boat's motor at gunpoint:
The bodies of 74 drowned African migrants have washed ashore in Libya, leading to speculation people traffickers removed the motor from their boat during the treacherous Mediterranean crossing.

It is claimed the refugees making the treacherous trip to Europe from Libya came into difficulty after human traffickers intercepted their vessel at sea and stole its motor at gunpoint, according to the Libya Observer.

However, a spokesman for Libya's Red Crescent said the circumstances of the drowning was unknown.
Let's suppose that the report of the theft of the motor is not true - even then, putting people in unsafe boats while charging them for transport to "safety" is just as criminal.

The problem needs to be solved on the shore and that means putting an end to those who trade on the hopes of these desperate peoples. The problem does not lie in the European community, but in the Third World hellholes these migrants/refugees are fleeing.

UNHCR map of Migrant Routes

UNHCR site discussing the Mediterranean situation here

Fun with Fake News: World to End, etc

Sometimes, after a day of scanning various media and electronic things, I have to go to Weekly World News (THE WORLD'S ONLY RELIABLE NEWS), for real fake news (and they are proud of it), for instance, EARTH TO COLLIDE WITH NIBIRU ON OCTOBER 17, 2017!
NASA scientists have reportedly confirmed that the planet Nibiru will
collide with Earth on October 17, 2017 or 17/10/17.

The Nibiru collision with Earth in 2017 has been predicted for a long time, but astrophysicists, cosmologists and astronomers around the world have now come to a consensus that Earth will indeed collide with the planet, which lies just outside Pluto.

Nibiru, in Babylonian Astronomy translates to “Point of Transition” or “Planet of Crossing,” especially of rivers, i.e. river crossings or ferry-boats, a term of the highest point of the ecliptic, i.e. the point of summer solstice, and its associated constellation. The establishment of the Nibiru point is described in tablet 5 of the Enuma Elish. Its cuneiform sign was often a cross, or various winged disc. The Sumerian culture was located in the fertile lands between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, at the southern part of today’s Iraq.
Natural disasters are accelerating exponentially and astronomers believe that they are being caused by Nibiru coming closer and closer to Earth.
I guess we'll all have a ring-side seat.

I'll bring the popcorn.

More on Nibiru here.

You'd think those alleged "NASA scientists" would be going more public with this sort of information.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Islam's Schism and the Middle East Mess

Interesting article at The National Interest by Geneive Abdo on "Why Iran's Shia Threat Is Very Real for Faraway Egyptians" Yes, it's the Shia vs. Sunni thing, but an interesting take and well worth your time. Excerpt:
As of 2013
The wars in Syria and Iraq—perceived to be driven by Shia Iran’s hegemonic ambitions in the Arab world—also frame the narrative the Sunnis throughout the region use to bolster their argument that if the Islamic Republic of Iran had its way, the government would rule every Sunni-dominated Arab country. This fear has reached new heights in recent years, after Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards, the most militant part of the state’s security apparatus, became heavily involved in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

“The Dawa Salafiyya,” a particular trend in the movement that opposes violence, “has taken up the issue of the Shia to deal with religious minorities in Islam and outside Islam that have deviated from the tradition,” explained el-Shahat, who, at first glance appears a bit frightening with his long beard and stocky frame, but is actually an affable man. “For Iran, the religious and political perspectives are one in the same. They want to create their [Persian] empire again and that means spreading Shiism.”
Rather, the Sunnis see the Shia’s primary motivation as tied directly to their theology, and that any political gain in the process is an added bonus. This is the widespread belief among Sunnis across the Middle East, from Syria and Lebanon to Yemen.
Although the Shia-Sunni divide has persisted for centuries, the Arab uprisings dramatically escalated the conflict for several reasons.

First and foremost, religious identity has become more relevant to Arabs than in recent decades. The notion of citizenship—being an Iraqi or a Syrian—became less important, due in part to the virtual collapse of states and governments. Second, the political leadership of Shia Iran and its Sunni neighbors, chiefly Saudi Arabia, have openly fanned the flames of sectarian rivalry in their pursuit of power and territory.
As I say, well worth the read.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Merchant Sailor Killed, Six Kidnapped in Attack in Sulu Sea

The Philippine Star reports that attack of some sort left one merchant sailor dead in the Sulu Sea :
Gunmen attacked a Vietnamese cargo ship off the Philippines' southern
tip, killing a Vietnamese crewman and abducting six others including the vessel's captain, the Philippine coast guard and the ship's owner said Monday.

Coast guard spokesman Armand Balilo said the Vietnamese coast guard reported that the MV Giang Hai, with 17 crewmen on board, was attacked by pirates Sunday night about 20 miles (31 kilometers) north of Pearl Bank in Tawi-Tawi, the Philippines' southernmost province.

Personnel of the Philippine coast guard, police and marines found the ship had drifted near the province's Baguan Island. Upon boarding the vessel, they found 10 Vietnamese sailors alive and one dead.

Pham Van Hien, head of the safety department of Pham Hai shipping company, the owner of the cargo ship based in Vietnam's northern port city of Hai Phong, said the captain was among those abducted. The attack occurred while the vessel was transporting 4,500 tons of cement from Indonesia to the Philippines, he said.

Dangers at Sea: Remotely Piloted Explosive Laden Anti-Ship Weapons and the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 16 January - 15 February 2017

An interesting report from Chris Cavas at Defense News New Houthi weapon emerges: a drone boat
The Houthi boat that attacked and hit a Saudi frigate Jan. 30 in the Red Sea, reported earlier as a suicide boat, was instead carried out by an unmanned, remote-controlled craft filled with explosives, the US Navy’s top officer in the Mideast said.

“Our assessment is that it was an unmanned, remote-controlled boat of some kind,” Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan, commander of the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet and head of US Naval Forces Central Command, told Defense News in an interview here Saturday.

The attack on the frigate Al Madinah appears to be the first confirmed use of the weapon which, Donegan said, represents a wider threat than that posed by suicide boats and shows foreign interests are aiding the Houthis.
Read the whole article, which reflects an opinion that those "foreign interests" are Iranian:
The unmanned boat was likely supplied by Iran, Donegan said.

“I don’t know that it’s Iranian-built, but I believe that it’s production in some way was supported by Iran,” Donegan said.
Why would Iran do this (in addition to just making trouble)? I had thoughts earlier Missile Attacks Off Yemen and the Iran- Saudi Proxy War for Oil Shipping Chokepoints and Fun with Iran: Iran "Naval Ambitions".

Recall that the Bab el Mandeb Strait is a vital choke point (as pointed out in the Cavas article) or as the U.S. Energy Information Administration sets out:
Closing the Bab el-Mandeb Strait could keep tankers in the Persian Gulf from reaching the Suez Canal and the SUMED Pipeline, diverting them around the southern tip of Africa.
The U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Intelligence has a warning out here:
Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait and Gulf of Aden Commercial vessels in the region of the Red Sea, Bab el Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Aden should operate under a heightened state of alert as increasing tensions in the region escalate the potential for direct or collateral damage to vessels transiting the region. These threats may come from a variety of different sources such as missiles, projectiles or waterborne improvised explosive devices. Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for an 01 October attack on a UAE vessel. . .
and so to the regular ONI report.

Friday, February 17, 2017

On Midrats 19 Feb 2017 -Episode 372: Andrew Jackson’s Navy; Now More Than Ever?

Please join us at 5pm EST on 19 Feb 2016 for Midrats Episode 372: Andrew Jackson’s Navy; Now More Than Ever?
Since his election in November, the administration and several articles have suggested Donald Trump is a new Andrew Jackson whose portrait now hangs in the Oval Office. What might that mean for the Navy? How did Andrew Jackson approach his Navy and what lessons can we draw from that?

Our guest for the full hour for a discussion of an understudied part of our naval history and what it could mean for the current administration is returning guest Claude Berube.

Claude is the Director of the Naval Academy Museum and has taught in both the Political Science and History Departments at the Naval Academy. He has worked in the U.S. Senate, as a maritime studies fellow at the Heritage Foundation, as the head of a terrorism analysis team for the Office of Naval Intelligence and as a defense contractor.
An intelligence officer in the Navy Reserve, he deployed with Expeditionary Strike Group Five in 2004-05. His articles have been published in Orbis, Vietnam Magazine, Naval History, The Washington Times, Jane’s Intelligence Review, Naval Institute Proceedings and others. He’s also written or co-authored five books. He’s completing his doctoral dissertation through the University of Leeds.
Listen live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or you can pick the show up later by clicking that link or by visiting either our iTunes page or our Stitcher page.

Friday Film: U.S. Coast Guard "Alaska Patrol" (1958)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Mr. Mattis Goes to NATO

The Secretary of Defense does not mince works in Speaking Truth to Eurocrats
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, echoing his boss in Washington, warned on Wednesday
that the amount of American support for NATO could depend on whether other countries meet their own spending commitments.

Americans cannot care more for your children’s future security than you do,” Mr. Mattis said in his first speech to NATO allies since becoming defense secretary.* “I owe it to you to give you clarity on the political reality in the United States and to state the fair demand from my country’s people in concrete terms.”

“America will meet its responsibilities,” he said, but he made clear that American support had its limits.

In his speech to NATO defense ministers, Mr. Mattis repeated a call made by previous American secretaries of defense, for European allies to spend more on their militaries. His comments on Wednesday give teeth to President Trump’s expressed skepticism about the alliance.

What’s more, Mr. Mattis went further than his predecessors in apparently linking American contributions to the alliance to what other countries spend.

“If your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to this alliance, each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defense,” he said.
I think I hear Euro heads exploding - their social welfare spending does not include sufficient defense of their nations - because they long have counted on the U.S. to have the laboring oar. However, the U.S. has carried some of them for over 70 years and that is not how partnerships are supposed to work. I know previous SecDefs have made the same point - but Secretary Mattis, well, he seems to have a way with words.

By social welfare, I include the idea that a primary function of a state is to protect its citizenry.

Next, how about a discussion of those sea lines of communication the U.S. is protecting? How about some load sharing?

That being said, we, of course, properly should thank France for using its carrier and carrier air as an ally.

*Emphasis added

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Philippines Piracy: China, U.S. and Japan to Assist Philippines?

Crude Oil Flows in the South China Sea
The Republic of the Philippines sits on major sea lines of communication (SLOCs) which makes those nations that use those SLOCs have a vested interest in keeping them open for use for ships to transit them free of action by pirates and/or terrorists who would disrupt the flow of goods and petroleum on these SLOCs.

The Philippines, about as near to a failed state as one can get without actually being Somalia, knows  that it needs help in patrolling its own waters from the scourge of entities like the formerly al Qaeda affiliated - now ISIS pledged Abu Sayyaf and other terrorist groups that seek to peel away the Muslim majority southern Philippine islands from the ROP. So, the Philippines seeks US, China help to fight pirates:
U.S. National Counterterrorism Center map

The Philippines is seeking US and Chinese help to guard a major sea lane as Islamic militants shift attacks to international shipping, officials said on Wednesday.
Manila does not want the Sibutu Passage between Malaysia’s Sabah state and the southern Philippines to turn into a Somalia-style pirate haven, coastguard officials said.
The deep-water channel, used by 13,000 vessels each year, offers the fastest route between Australia and the manufacturing powerhouses China, Japan and South Korea, they added.
In the past year Abu Sayyaf gunmen from the southern Philippines have boarded ships and kidnapped dozens of crewmen for ransom in waters between Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, raising regional alarm.

Indonesia has warned the region could become the “next Somalia” and the International Maritime Bureau says waters off the southern Philippines are becoming increasingly dangerous.
In addition to the U.S. and China, the ROP reports that Japan has offered to "assist" in this situation, as set out here:
Japan has offered to send patrol ships to deal with a growing piracy threat in the southern Philippine waters bordering Indonesia and Malaysia, a senior Philippine defense official said on Tuesday.
A surge in piracy off parts of the southern Philippines is forcing ship-owners to divert vessels through other waters, pushing up costs and shipping times. Dozens of sailors have been taken captive by Abu Sayyaf.
Japanese vice minister Ro Manabe offered the assistance at a meeting in Tokyo on Friday and expressed readiness to contribute to efforts by the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia "in addressing piracy and terrorism", said Raymund Quilop, assistant defense minister for assessments and international affairs.
A senior Japanese defense ministry official, however, gave a different account of the Tokyo meeting and said no offer of patrols was made to the Philippines, just "capacity building".
Leaders from the two countries agreed last fall that Japan would give the Philippines high-speed small boats for its counter-terrorism efforts, but it was not clear if that was part of the apparent offer made by Manabe.
I don't think any of the nations that are mentioned have any desire to see the ROP actually fall into full failure mode and they surely want to have this affected SLOCs clear for normal merchant transits.

It should also be noted that Australia has made long-term commitments to aid the ROP. See here:
Total Australian Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the Philippines will be an estimated $81.9 million in 2016-17. Our economic partnership with the Philippines will focus all elements of our trade, investment and aid initiatives working together to promote growth.

Australia delivers targeted advice and technical assistance that aims to have a catalytic effect both on reform efforts and capacity development of the Philippine Government. Given the Philippines’ current positive economic position we will shift focus from basic service delivery, such as classroom construction, towards supporting the Philippine Government to better manage its own resources.

The strategic direction of Australian aid to the Philippines is informed by the Australian Government’s development policy Australian aid: promoting prosperity, reducing poverty, enhancing stability; Australia’s national interests; by our ability to add value; and our previous development results. Australia’s aid will align with the priorities of the Philippines Government which is seeking to put the country on the path of accelerated and inclusive development. The Philippine Government has had an ambitious reform agenda in recent years to tackle poverty, improve governance and address corruption, while pushing through important social sector reforms, including education, and promoting peace in the Southern Philippines.
UPDATE: Fixed a portion that was somehow turned into gibberish when first posted.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Iranian Fake Navy News: "Navy Repulses Pirate Attack on Iranian Vessel in Bab-el-Mandeb"

For several years I've had some fun with the elaborate claims made on behalf of the Iranian navy's apparently single-handed war against "Somali" pirates claims that follow a cookie-cutter format with minor variations as to the number of pirate vessels involved.

Iran Navy's Alvand, Alleged Pirate Fighter
One common thread in these reports has always been the claim that the pirates seem to concentrate on Iranian shipping - which is interesting because no other country reports any such attacks in the area since major anti-piracy programs - both naval and private security - have been in place.

In any event, here's a "story" from Iran's Tasnim News Agency "Navy Repulses Pirate Attack on Iranian Vessel in Bab-el-Mandeb":
Iran’s naval forces saved one of the country’s trade vessels from a massive pirate attack in the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, which links the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea.

The Navy’s 44th flotilla of warships, which patrols the Gulf of Aden waters in an overseas mission, saved the trade vessel when Somalian pirates tried to hijack it.

The pirates, equipped with modern and expensive vessels such as refueling ships, launched the attack on the Iranian trade vessel on board 11 speed boats.

The timely presence of the naval flotilla forced the pirates to flee the zone.
An interesting aspect of this version is the claim of the alleged pirates possessing "modern and expensive vessels such as refueling ships."


The Mess in Syria: Counter- Assad Jihadists Go Joint

Can't keep track of who is fighting whom in the former state of Syria? It's nice to have a guide through the maze of groups like ISIS, JTS which became HTS, etc. One of the best guides is the gang at Long War Journal, especially Thomas Joscelyn.

For example, I recommend reading Jihadists and other rebels assault Syrian regime positions in southern city, a portion of which is set out below:
On Feb. 12, the newly formed Hay’at Tahrir al Sham and its allies launched an offensive
against Syrian regime forces in the southern city of Daraa. The assault was led by two suicide bombers who detonated their vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) in the regime-controlled neighborhood of al Manshiyeh. Daraa, which lies just several miles from Syria’s border with Jordan, has long been divided between the insurgents on one side and forces loyal to Bashar al Assad on the other.
Al Nusrah Front was the name of al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria until July 2016,
Arrow points to Daraa vicinity. Underlying map Ermanarich 
when the organization was rebranded as Jabhat Fath al Sham (JFS). Then, in January, JFS and four other insurgent groups merged to form Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS), or “Assembly for the Liberation of Syria.”

HTS has posted photos (seen below) on social media from the fighting in Daraa, including an image of one of its “martyrs.” HTS identified the suicide attackers as Abu Riyan al Muhajir, a Jordanian, and Abu Muhammad al Ansari. The use of suicide bombers is telling. Although HTS has tried to obscure the role al Qaeda plays in its operations, “martyrdom” attacks are one of al Qaeda’s signatures. Other Islamist groups allied with al Qaeda in Syria have, by and large, abstained from carrying them out.

Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s Islamic State, which rivals HTS, is prolific in its use of suicide terrorists. But al Qaeda has been far more selective, only using the tactic in key operations. For example, a number of “martyrs” were deployed during the battle for Aleppo late last year. Their appearance in Daraa likely indicates that HTS has deemed the offensive to be especially important, for one reason or another.

The anti-Assad forces in Daraa coordinate their movements in a joint military operations room known as Al Bunyan al Marsous. (Another, unrelated coalition of forces used this same name in Sirte, Libya.)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Nightfall "The Monkey's Raincoat" (1982)

From the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in the 1980s, Nightfall:
. . is the title of a radio drama series produced and aired by CBC Radio from July 1980 to June 1983. While primarily a supernatural/horror series, Nightfall featured some episodes in other genres, such as science fiction, mystery, fantasy, and human drama. One episode was even adapted from a folk song by Stan Rogers. Some of Nightfall's episodes were so terrifying that the CBC registered numerous complaints and some affiliate stations dropped it. Despite this, the series went on to become one of the most popular shows in CBC Radio history, running 100 episodes that featured a mix of original tales and adaptations of both classic and obscure short stories.
Here's a less scary show that involves a look at U.S. presidential - um- inaugurations with a very odd twist to it -

Friday, February 10, 2017

On Midrats 12 Feb 2017 - Episode 371: Rice Bowls, Silos, & Firewalls - the National Security Bureaucracy

Please join us at 5pm on 12 Feb 2017 for Midrats Episode 371: Rice Bowls, Silos, & Firewalls - the National Security Bureaucracy
For the first time in eight years, we are watching a new team take over the national
security infrastructure. Now is a good time to review, "Who is who in the zoo" and what exactly they do.

In the alphabet soup of organizations, how do the NSC, NSA, CIA, DOD, DIA, DHS and DNI all work together - and in competition - to enhance national security? Though everyone likes to bash bureaucracies, they are important and are only as good as those who populate and lead them.

Our guest for the full hour to help us navigate the swamp the "blob" lives in will be Loren DeJonge Schulman.

Lauren is the Deputy Director of Studies and the Leon E. Panetta Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security. She most recently served as the Senior Advisor to National Security Advisor Susan Rice. Before returning to the White House in 2013, she was Chief of Staff to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. She served as Director for Defense Policy on the National Security Council staff from 2011­–2012 and prior to that as a special assistant to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. She is a Texan (the obnoxious kind), mom to the most awesome pizza loving two year old ever, and spends too much time on twitter.
Join us live if you can by clicking here. Or you can pick the show up later by clicking that link or by visiting either our iTunes page or our Stitcher page.

Friday Film: "Seapower: Supply - - - Lifeblood of the Fleet" (1959)

Like as lot of line officers, I have done my share of teasing the Supply types, but we couldn't do without them.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Game Night: Round 1

A little distracted today:

UNC v. Dook tonight 8pm EST

Update: Congrats to the Dookies.

Ah, well, round 2 is March 4 at the Heels home court.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Combat Decisions: Experience Matters - Even Experience Gained Gaming

The Office of Naval Research is Helping Marines Make Faster, Better Combat Decisions
Battlefield commanders face many scenarios requiring fast decisions—attacking an enemy position, evacuating injured warfighters, navigating unfamiliar terrain. Each situation pushes leaders to make quick yet informed choices.

To enhance these decision-making capabilities, especially for small-unit leaders, the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines (2/6) —“The Spartans”— recently held a weeklong exercise called Spartan Emerging Technology and Innovation Week at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The event, also called Spartan Week, featured various training technologies—from quadcopters to augmented reality—developed with support from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to accelerate the development of decision-making skills.

“We are working with 2/6 to develop a suite of new training tools that are easy to implement, tailorable to Marines’ needs and include the ability to assess decision-making skills.” said Dr. Peter Squire, a program officer in ONR’s Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combating Terrorism Department. “Exercises like Spartan Week enable the Marine Corps to better examine the use of training technologies to improve tactical decision-making at the small-unit level.”

During Spartan Week, Marines used several ONR-sponsored technologies. These included the Interactive Tactical Decision Game (I-TDG) with an associated augmented-reality headset, the Augmented Immersive Team Trainer (AITT) and a quadcopter-based system for surveying and modeling terrain quickly.

I-TDG is a web technology-based application that allows Marines to plan missions and conduct “what if” tactical-decision games or simulation-based exercises. It supports maps and multimedia tools and links to ONR’s HoloLens augmented-reality headset.

AITT comprises a laptop, software and battery pack, and helmet-mounted display—and can support forward-observer training in live field environments. It employs augmented reality technology, which inserts virtual objects into a real environment, to create realistic tactical scenarios—including friendly and opposing ground vehicles, aircraft and battlefield effects such as explosions from mortar shells and artillery.

To rapidly develop terrain models to support these technologies, Marines were trained to operate a prototype, quadcopter-based terrain-mapping system. Two Camp Lejeune training sites were flown over and mapped out, and the resulting imagery was used to build terrain models for the training systems.

“Small-unit leaders are tasked with making big mission decisions in an extremely short time window,” said Natalie Steinhauser, a senior research psychologist at Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division in Orlando, Florida who took part in Spartan Week. “These decisions not only impact the success or failure of a mission, they affect life and death. With technologies like I-TDG, Marines can perform simulated missions in a safe classroom environment, carry out multiple missions and even use I-TDG as an after-action review tool.”

Steinhauser said Camp Lejeune’s Spartan Week was a success and that another event will be held at another location in early 2017. Perhaps the real measures of success, however, are endorsements from Marines who participated.

“For me, the best part of I-TDG was recreating simulated battles we conducted in the past and using the system as a debrief on what we did wrong and how we could be better,” said Lt. Andrew Veal. “Like athletes watching game film, you really experienced that ‘a-ha’ moment.”

“The Spartan Week technology enabled all Marines, from squad leaders to riflemen, to evaluate their ability to make fast decisions,” said Cpl. Fredrick Zuberer. “Marines tend to focus on using their bodies as weapons, but the most important weapon is the mind. Spartan Week helped sharpen that weapon beyond just pulling a trigger.
Part of what we talked about with MG Robert Scales was this sort to simulation training:

All of which ought to remind us that many of our great military leaders, while lacking the modern tech that ONR provides, cut their teeth is wars fought before the wars for which they became famous - nearly all the major leader of both sides in the U.S. Civil War fought first in the Mexican War, Washington fought in the French and Indian War, etc.

While I doubt that anything matches the pace and chaos of real combat, it can only help young officers to gain experience without actual risk to troops in the field.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: "What it was was football" (Andy Griffith 1953) and Frank Merriwell - "The Ransomed Football" (1948)

It's not old radio, but it is sorta about football in this case, college football as recounted by a stranger to the spectacle:

Here is an old radio show about the All-American hero Frank Merrriwell (1948)

Friday, February 03, 2017

On Midrats 5 Feb 2017 - Episode 370: The SECNAV's In Basket With James Holmes

Please join us at 5pm EST on 5 Feb 2017 for Midrats Episode 370: The SECNAV's In Basket With James Holmes:
There will be no rest for the next Secretary of the Navy. He will need to lead his Navy and Marine Corps as they continue to engage in the Long War against expansionist Islamic extremism, while at the same time come up with the best way to respond to the new direction and guidance coming from President Trump and Secretary of Defense Mattis.

From China, to Russia, to Europe, the Islamic world to South America and India on one side of the house, to Congress, academia, and industry - what are those subjects tha the needs to tackle first, which need to be put on a slow boil, and which ones need to be thrown over the transom?

We have for the full hour to discuss this and more, returning guest James Holmes, PhD.

Dr. Holmes is a professor of strategy and former visiting professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College. A former U.S. Navy surface-warfare officer and combat veteran of the first Gulf War, he served as a weapons and engineering officer in the battleship Wisconsin, engineering and firefighting instructor at the Surface Warfare Officers School Command, and military professor of strategy at the Naval War College. He was the last gunnery officer to fire a battleship’s big guns in anger.

Jim is a Phi Beta Kappa received his BA from Vanderbilt University and completed graduate work at Salve Regina University , Providence College, and received his PhD at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

His most recent books (with long-time coauthor Toshi Yoshihara) are Strategy in the Second Nuclear Age and Red Star over the Pacific.

Jim has published over 25 book chapters and 200 scholarly essays, along with hundreds of opinion columns, think-tank analyses, and other works.
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Friday Film: "Negro Colleges in Wartime" (1943)

Things we should remember:

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

"Iran confirms new missile test, says it does not violate nuclear deal"

UN Resolution 2231 section dealing with ballistic missiles found here. You need to look at paragraph 3 of Annex B, which reads in pertinent part:
3. Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology, until the date eight years after the JCPOA Adoption Day or until the date on which the IAEA submits a report confirming the Broader Conclusion, whichever is earlier.
4. All States may participate in and permit the activities described below provided that the Security Council decides in advance on a case-by-case basis
to permit such activity:
(a) the supply, sale or transfer directly or indirectly from their territories, or
by their nationals or using their flag vessels or aircraft to or from Iran, or
for the use in or benefit of Iran, and whether or not originating in their
territories, of all items, materials, equipment, goods and technology set
out in S/2015/546 and of any items, materials, equipment, goods and
technology that the State determines could contribute to the development
of nuclear weapon delivery systems; and
(b) the provision to Iran of any technology or technical assistance or
training, financial assistance, investment, brokering or other services,
and the transfer of financial resources or services, or Iran’s acquisition of
an interest in any commercial activity in another State, related to the
supply, sale, transfer, manufacture or use of the items, materials,
equipment, goods and technology described in subparagraph a of this
paragraph or related to the activities described in paragraph 3.

provided that in the event of an approval by the Security Council: (a) the contract for delivery of such items or assistance include appropriate end-user guarantees; and (b) Iran commit not to use such items for development of nuclear weapon delivery systems.(emphasis added)
Which the UN says means:
Paragraph 3 of Annex B of resolution 2231 (2015) calls upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.
Effective to 2023 or maybe earlier.

So, with that as background, here's the Reuters report (from whence the post header), "Iran confirms new missile test, says it does not violate nuclear deal":
Iran's defense minister said on Wednesday it had tested a new missile but this did not breach the Islamic Republic's nuclear accord with world powers or a U.N. Security Council resolution endorsing the pact.

Iran has test-fired several ballistic missiles since the nuclear deal in 2015, but the latest test was the first during U.S. President Donald Trump's administration. Trump said in his election campaign that he would stop Iran's missile program.

"The recent test was in line with our plans and we will not allow foreigners to interfere in our defense affairs," Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan told Tasnim news agency. "The test did not violate the nuclear deal or (U.N.) Resolution 2231."

A U.S. official said on Monday that Iran test-launched a medium-range ballistic missile on Sunday and it exploded after traveling 630 miles (1,010 km).

The Security Council held an emergency meeting on Tuesday and recommended the matter of the missile testing be studied at committee level. The new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, called the test "unacceptable".

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Tuesday that Tehran would never use its ballistic missiles to attack another country.
Hmmm. The question facing the UN is whether the missile that was fired was "nuclear capable" - if so, that's a clear violation of Resolution 2231, despite Iran's preemptive denial of that fact. Note that Resolution does not even come close to suggesting that "nuclear capability" refers somehow to the current capacity of Iran to load a nuclear warhead onto such missile. I would assert that if anyone - Russia, US, China, North Korea, Pakistan or others has a nuke that could fit the missile now or if Iran could, with or without the help of some other rogue state could develop that technology, Iran is in violation of the Resolution.

Which leads to question number 2, does Iran's assertion that its missile is, essentially, "for defensive purposes only" matter? No, that's not part of the Resolution as I read it.

Question 3: What can the UN or others do about this violation? Why, it's supposed to trigger a "snapback" of the sanctions lifted by the nuclear deal with Iran, according to this:
Under a council resolution that endorsed the historic nuclear deal with Iran, Tehran is barred from developing missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads.
Any violation of that resolution could trigger a snapback of sanctions that were lifted under the nuclear agreement, opening up the Iranian economy to investment and opportunities.
Now, who is going to move to reinstate the sanctions? And how do you enforce it?

Anti-UAV Tech: AUDS

Aviation Week noted AUDS Counter-drone System First to Achieve TRL-9 Status Following Successful Deployment with U.S. Forces.

So what's that mean? Blighter Surveillance Systems reports
TRL-9 is the very highest technology readiness level or maturity that a technology system can attain. According to the United States Department of Defense (DoD) and NASA definitions, TRL-9 signifies that a technology system or product is in its final form and that the actual system is proven through successful mission operations.

Mark Radford, speaking for the AUDS team, said: “Achieving TRL-9 status is an important milestone for AUDS in the embryonic counter-drone market. The sale and deployment of multiple AUDS systems to the U.S. military to protect critical assets and personnel makes AUDS, we believe, the only TRL-9 rated fully integrated strategic counter-UAS system on the market.”

Blighter photo of AUDS
"AUDS" stands for Anti-UAV Defense System and is a product offered by British company Blighter Surveillance Systems and U.S. company Liteye. According to Blighter:
The AUDS system – developed by Blighter Surveillance Systems, Chess Dynamics and Enterprise Control Systems – can detect a drone six miles (10km) away using electronic scanning radar, track it using precision infrared and daylight cameras and advanced video tracking software before disrupting the flight using a non-kinetic inhibitor to block the radio signals that control it.

This detect, track, defeat process is very quick and typically takes 8-15 secs. Using AUDS, the operator can effectively take control of a drone and force a safe landing. The AUDS system works in all weather, day or night and the disruption is flexible, proportional and operator controlled.

AUDS is positioned at the strategic end of the UAS countermeasures market for use by government agencies, the police and military to protect high value critical national infrastructure or strategically important sites/events. These include nuclear power stations, borders, political, sporting or VIP events, airports and airbases.

Video of AUDS in operation here.