Sunday, October 26, 2008

New Iraqi Air Force Buying Hardware

New Iraqi Air Force Buying Hardware (NSI News Source Info) October 26, 2008: Iraqi Air Force and government officials are in the United States meeting with U.S. Air Force officers on plans for the new Iraqi Air Force. The Iraqis want to use the U.S. Air Force as a model. This is a follow up on an earlier request to buy 36 U.S. F-16 fighters. When told that it would take at least five years to train Iraqi pilots and ground crews to effectively use and maintain such aircraft, the Iraqis responded that they understood, and wanted to do whatever it takes to build an effective air force. They know, even then, there will probably be problems.
The historical experience has been that, in Arab countries, buying such high tech warplanes, usually run into personnel problems. Pilots are often selected more for their loyalty to the government, than for their flying skills. Ground crew jobs pay well, and are sometimes given out at gifts to loyal supporters of whoever is running the government at the moment. As a result, the high-tech aircraft tend to be flown by substandard pilots, and not available for operations (because of poor maintenance) as much as in Western air forces. The Iraqis want to deal with those problems. The old Iraqi Air Force suffered under Saddam, with pilots selected for loyalty more than competence, and readiness compromised by corruption and inept administration. The Iraqis have noted how these traditional methods have created second and third rate air forces. So they want to try and be diligent students. While Americans, and some Iraqis, see all this as an attempt to better deal with Iran, even more Iraqis are willing to do whatever it takes to create an air force that can do some damage to Israel.
Seen above is an AH-6 Helicopter The Iraqis also want to discuss the purchase of 24 armed Bell 406 and 24 AH-6 helicopters. The Iraqis have heard about the success of the Bell 406 (on which the U.S. Army OH-58 is based) in Saudi service. The Iraqis want the AH-6 because they have seen it in use by U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command). The AH-6 is also derived from the Bell 406. Iraq is also interested in the new C-130J transport, which is performing very well in U.S. service, and with several other countries.

Iran Is Arabian Nightmare

Iran Is Arabian Nightmare (NSI News Source Info) October 26, 2008: U.S. and Iraqi forces regularly capture Iraqis smuggling weapons in from Iran. Over the Summer, nearly 10,000 Iranian weapons were seized from smugglers, usually by American troops. Iran denies any involvement, as there is a lot of smuggling from Iran to Iraq. But many of the captured smugglers admit that they received military training in Iran, as part of a plan to build a pro-Iranian terrorist organization inside Iraq, to be used whenever Iran believes it needs a little more chaos inside its Shia neighbor. The Iraqi government officially thanks Iran and Syria (a client state of Iran) for helping to halt the flow of aid to Sunni terrorists inside Iraq. But many Iraqis suspect that Iran wants to annex southern Iraq, which is over 80 percent Shia, has the major Shia holy places and oil fields that would increase Iranian exports by over 50 percent. Iraqis, particularly Shia Iraqis, note that Iranian Arabs, living just across the border in Iran's oil producing region, are not treated well, never have been, and probably never will be. Ethnic Iranians (an Indo-European people) have a low opinion of Arabs, and do little to hide it. Iran's Central Bank, which controls the nation's banking system, has had three governors (the guy in charge) removed in the last three years. Each of the former governors was a professional banker who rebelled at government orders to make bad loans and subsidize make-work (economically inefficient enterprises) to try and reduce the unemployment rate (officially about 10 percent, really more than twice that). That has sent inflation to nearly 30 percent and starved legitimate firms for credit. The professional bankers see this as economic suicide, even though there is some political wisdom in trying to reduce the unemployment rate in the short term. What the bankers are smart enough to not bring up is that the majority of Iranians oppose the clerical dictatorship they have been living under for nearly three decades, but are not yet ready to go into open rebellion against. Growing hostility between Arab Sunni and Iranian Shia religious zealots has resulted in a Cyber War. Last month, Sunni hackers defaced hundreds of web sites of Iranian clerics. This month Shia hackers have responded by shutting down the news site of Saudi satellite TV news channel Al Arabiya. The two main web sites for dispensing al Qaeda propaganda were also shut down. Media in Iran and the Arab world generally deplore this religious Cyber War, urging the hackers to go after Israel instead, or do something, anything, more productive. The hackers are not listening. Many Sunnis believe the Iranians will somehow take over Iraq, and then invade Arabia and seize all the Arab oil. Some Iranians believe this as well, and talk openly about how the Moslem world would be better off if the Shia (that is, the Iranians) were in charge. When the Sunnis see Iranian weapons being smuggled into Iraq, and Iraqi politicians being bribed by Iran to vote for laws the Iranians prefer, they see their fears being realized. The general Iranian strategy appears to be getting U.S. troops out of Iraq so that pro-Iranian Iraqi groups, perhaps with the help of the Iranian military, can take over the government. The war against Kurdish separatists (the PKK, for the most part) continues in the north. There are several dozen casualties or arrests each week. The government continues its crackdown on the Arab minority as well, arresting more people each week for being American spies, or simply suspected of disloyalty. A new law passed by the parliament will inflict the death penalty for any Iranian Moslem male who converts to Christianity. Women converts got to jail for life. There have been 189 executions so far this year, most of them for drug offenses (heroin and opium are pouring in from Afghanistan). The government is trying to muzzle criticism of this by Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, one of the senior clerics. An aide to Montazeri was recently arrested (for putting critical, of the government, comments on Montazeri's web site). Montazeri has long been a critic of the radicals, and was under house arrest from 1997-2003. The government is becoming more vocal in its support of Hamas, a Sunni dominated Palestinian terrorist organization that controls the Gaza Strip (between Israel and Egypt.) This is seen as an unnatural arrangement, given the growing hostility between Shia and Sunni radicals. But Hamas is so intent on attacking (and destroying) Israel, that Iranian radicals make an exception. Hamas cooperates by not joining its fellow Sunni radicals in openly hating Iran. October 24, 2008: The U.S. has imposed more sanctions on Iranian banks and businesses, in a continued effort to cripple the Iranian smuggling network. For over two decades, the Iranians have been successfully smuggling in components for weapons and other technology they are not allowed to buy openly (because Iran is a supporter of Islamic terrorism.) October 21, 2008: Security forces seized two pigeons near the Natanz nuclear plant and declared that the birds had been equipped with some mysterious Israeli technology, so the nuclear plant could be spied on. Or at least that's how it's being reported in the Iranian media. We're not making this up. October 15, 2008: An Iranian-American graduate student, in the country do research on women's rights, was arrested for a traffic offense. But now she is being held indefinitely, apparently because of her academic work. In the past, Iranian expatriates have been arrested and beaten to death, apparently while being interrogated. October 14, 2008: Compulsory military service has been cut from 18 to 16 months (except in areas with very high unemployment, where it is only cut to 17 months). The half million man armed forces is expensive to operate, even if the conscripts are paid very little. They still have to be fed, housed and supervised. Moreover, there are more young Iranian men becoming eligible for the draft each year, than the military needs. This is causing social unrest as draft exemptions are for sale, and become another annoying example of government corruption. October 10, 2008: The government made it pretty obvious who controls the Lebanese Shia terrorist organization Hezbollah, by sending a senior intelligence officer, Mohammad Rida Zahidi, to serve as the new military commander (and number two guy) for Hezbollah. The previous incumbent, a Lebanese Shia Arab, was assassinated in Syria last February. Zahidi is apparently under orders to make sure Hezbollah does not start any more unauthorized wars, like it did two years ago with Israel. Hezbollah is now pushing the other factions in the country (which comprise the majority of the population) into a civil war, which Iran does not want. In Somalia, pirates freed an Iranian cargo ship, which had been seized two months ago. Apparently a ransom had been paid. The ship was carrying chemicals and raw materials from Iran to the Netherlands. There were rumors that 16 pirates died when they opened one of the cargo containers holding what appeared to be holding a poisonous substance. Exactly what the ship was carrying is not yet known. October 8, 2008: Israeli officials convinced Russia to announce that Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile systems would not be shipped to Iran. This system is similar to the U.S. Patriot system. Israel did not reveal what it used to persuade the Russians to halt the S-300 shipments, but it was believed to be a promise not to market technology that would help attackers defeat S-300 missiles and radars. Meanwhile, Iran is being criticized for exporting weapons to Sudan, where the government is slaughtering its own people in Darfur. October 6, 2008: An airplane from Iraq, carrying a senior politician (the Sunni Arab speaker of the parliament) was refused permission to land at the capital. The official reason was a technical problem on the ground. More radical Iranian clerics are very hostile to Iraqis Sunnis (who are all seen as still secretly loyal to Saddam Hussein.) Elsewhere, a passenger plane carrying Hungarian air traffic controllers and air port administrators, to work in Afghanistan, mistakenly strayed into Iranian air space and was forced to land by Iranian warplanes. The Iranians promptly announced that they had captured an American military plane and its crew. It took almost a day for the real story to get out. The Hungarians were allowed to continue on their way.

Venezuelan AK-47 Factory Opertionable From 2009

Venezuelan AK-47 Factory Opertionable From 2009 (NSI News Source Info) October 26, 2008: Venezuela has obtained a license to produce the AK-103 assault rifle. Manufacturing equipment has been shipped, and production of Venezuelan made AK-103s is expected to begin next year. Three years ago, Venezuela bought 100,000 of these assault rifles. The AK-103 is the most recent model of the original AK-47. Russia hasn't manufactured the AK-47 (or its upgraded version, the AKM), for many years. Instead, Russia now makes the AK-74, a weapon similar to the American M-16 (firing a slightly smaller 5.45mm bullet), and the AK-101 (which fires the U.S. 5.56mm round) and the AK-103 (which fires the same 7.62mm bullet of the old AK-47). The AK-103 is essentially a very up-to-date design of the old AK-47. Normally, the AK-103 sells for about $800 each (including cleaning supplies, magazines, spare parts and the like.) But many of the AK-103 sold to Venezuela from Russia are being billed at $1200 each, the additional $400 going into the pockets of Venezuelan politicians who got behind the weapons purchase and distribution (to friends of the current Venezuelan government) of the weapons. New weapons, old traditions. Venezuela could have bought newly manufactured (but not by Russia) AK-47s for $400. But this purchase was not so much about weapons, as it was about politics. Russia is eager to encourage licensed production of the AK series of rifles. It is believed that over 100 million AKs (most the AK-47 and AKM models) have been produced so far. Most of these AKs were unlicensed models built by other communist countries. Currently, only about ten percent of the million AK type rifles built each year are manufactured legally. The Venezuelan deal is part of an attempt to change that.

The Israeli Mayor's Military Advisor

The Israeli Mayor's Military Advisor (NSI News Source Info) October 26, 2008: Israel is now assigning civil affairs troops to work with local governments inside Israel, if the country undergoes more rocket attacks, like those that occurred on the Lebanese border during the Summer of 2006. These civil affairs officers would assist local officials in dealing with wartime conditions, and dealing with the effects of rockets falling in their territory. Civil Affairs troops are the folks who deal with any civilians in the combat zone. This has always been a problem, or, as many commanders have noted, a necessary nuisance. Until the 19th century, a general would, at most, assign some officers and troops to go talk to the local civilian leadership to establish some ground rules so that the locals would not interfere with military operations. This, as any competent general knew, was preferable to just allowing civilians to wander all over the place (often to be abused or looted by the troops, and to sometimes fight back.) But in the last century, dealing with civilians has become a specific military skill. Much of Napoleon's success in the 19th century was due to the attention he paid to civil affairs. During World War II, soldiers with foreign language or government administration skills were collected and used to work with the local civilians and avoid problems. Current Civil Affairs operations were developed from experience U.S. troops had dealing with occupied Germany and Japan after World War II (1945-55), and "civic action" operations in the Vietnam war (1960-75). Since then, Civil Affairs troops have also been used to administer foreign aid and peacekeeping programs. Israel studied their 2006 experience and realized that this was the first time Israeli civilians had been under sustained military attack for nearly half a century. Local civilian officials often didn't know how react, and many called on the military for help. So rather than expand the civil service bureaucracy, it seemed easier just to train a lot of reserve officers on what the needs to be done by civil officials during such attacks. These civil affairs officers would also act as a liaison with the military.

Iraq: Various Military Trucks Rolling The Roads

Iraq: Various Military Trucks Rolling The Roads (NSI News Source Info) October 26, 2008: The "gun truck" (a military truck equipped with armor and several machine-guns) seen in Iraq in the last four years is not a new development. But the Iraq experience has led to the development of new weapons and equipment that enables more powerful and better protected gun trucks to be created within a few hours. Already available are armor kits, which can be quickly fitted to standard military vehicles. The next generation of military vehicles will be designed to more easily accept these armor kits. Another innovation was MTTCS (Multipurpose Troop Transport Carrier System). This is basically modified cargo containers, built to fit on the beds of 2 ½, five and seven ton military trucks. The lightweight armor protects against rifle bullets (7.62) and nearly all bomb fragments. MTTCS is actually a modular system. With center and end modules. There are two and four foot long (7.8 feet wide and 8 feet high) and two foot long center sections, as well as end sections. The four foot module has a hatch on top, and a ring mount, so you can mount a machine-gun and swing it around in all directions. There are also small windows, firing ports and, of course, doors. The four foot sections weigh 4,400 pounds with the roof and end sections, 3,650 without the roof. The sections are light enough to use available lifting equipment to put them on a truck bed, where they are quickly bolted together.
MTTCS (Multipurpose Troop Transport Carrier System)
Finally, there is PAWS (Palletized Autonomous Weapons System), a 25mm or 30mm auto cannon sitting on a pallet, with a generator, and able to be bolted onto the back of a flatbed truck in ten minutes of so. Weighing 300 pounds, the PAWS units quickly provide heavy, long range firepower for convoys. The first gun trucks were built in late 1967, in South Vietnam, by members of the U.S. Army 8th Transportation Group. They armored and armed some 2 ½ ton trucks to provide escorts for convoys getting ambushed by Vietcong gunmen. As with Iraq, fuel, ammo, and much more, had to be constantly moved, by truck, from South Vietnamese ports to American and South Vietnamese bases inland. The Vietcong guerillas did not have access to the explosives and other materials needed to make a lot of roadside bombs, so their typical tactic was an ambush using rifles, machine-guns and RPGs. The 2 ½ ton gun trucks proved underpowered. So some five ton trucks were armored and armed (usually with four machine-guns, ranging in caliber from 7.62mm to 12.7mm). Some trucks were equipped with several radios, allowing the truck crew to call in supporting firepower from artillery units, or bombers and helicopters overhead. Accurate records were not kept, but it is estimated that over 400 gun trucks were built, and served as convoy escorts from 1967, until 1973 (when American ground troops withdrew from South Vietnam.) Because there were so many thousand tons of explosives and artillery shells left lying around Iraq after Saddam's government was defeated in 2003, and there are more wireless devices available (from toys, garage door openers and so on), roadside bombs have become the major danger to convoys. The gun trucks can still handle the old style ambushes. But the Iraqi foe preferred the roadside bomb, since the attacker is much less likely to take casualties. This led to the development of MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected). These are 8-20 ton trucks that are hardened to survive bombs and mines. These are built using the same construction techniques pioneered by South African firms that have, over the years, delivered over 14,000 landmine resistant vehicles to the South African armed forces. The South African technology was imported into the U.S. in 1998, and has already been used in the design of vehicles used by peacekeepers in the Balkans. These vehicles use a capsule design to protect the passengers and key vehicle components mines and roadside bombs. The primary weapon against roadside bombs is patrolling (to find the bombs, or someone trying to plant them) and alertness on the part of the people in convoys. Most roadside bombs are either found by patrols, or by convoys (before the bombs can go off.) Some roads are so well patrolled that the bombers don't even bother trying to place them anymore. But there are thousands of kilometers of roads used by convoys, and not all can be patrolled intensely enough to find all the bombs, and discourage all the bombers.

Belarusian Military Training

Belarusian Military Training (NSI News Source Info) October 26, 2008: This is only a test: A Belarusian officer fires a Kalashnikov assault rifle as soldiers of the Interior Ministry special unit negotiate an obstacle course during a qualification test near the village of Volovshchina, Belarus.