Friday, September 30, 2011

US 2nd Fleet Stands Down

After 65 years of faithful service to the U.S. Navy, the three-star flag of Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet (C2F) was hauled down for the final time during a disestablishment ceremony Sept. 30.

As many of C2F's assets, personnel and responsibilities merge into the new Fleet and Joint Operations organization of Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces (USFF), the disestablishment allows the Navy to continue the 2nd Fleet mission while achieving vital cost-savings through a streamlined organizational structure.

Second Fleet traces its origins to the reorganization of the Navy following World War II and the creation of U.S. 8th Fleet March 1, 1946, under the command of Vice. Adm. Marc A. Mitscher. In January 1947, 8th Fleet was renamed Second Task Fleet, and in February 1950, the command was redesignated as U.S. 2nd Fleet, with the primary mission of supporting the newly formed North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the forward deployed U.S. 6th Fleet.

Throughout its history, C2F has trained and certified warships and units for deployment, conducted wide-ranging fleet and amphibious exercises with NATO and other foreign navies and provided dozens of humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HA/DR) missions to Central American and Caribbean nations since the first such support to Haiti in 1954.

Specific fleet operations included establishing a quarantine in the Caribbean as ordered by then-President John F. Kennedy during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, rescuing Americans in Grenada during Operation Urgent Fury in October 1983, and training and certifying half the U.S. Fleet for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990-1991.

Following the end of the Cold War and the diminished threat from Russia, C2F stood down its "Striking Fleet Atlantic" role for NATO Feb. 22, 2005.

On May 31, 2006, the Combined Joint Operations from the Sea Centre of Excellence was established as a multinational military body that promotes transformation in Joint Maritime Expeditionary Operations, in support of NATO. In July 2007, C2F expanded its joint, maritime, and combined operational capability by becoming the first three-star standing headquarters amongst all the military services to be certified as joint task force capable.

In recent years, Second Fleet continued to carry out its HA/DR mission throughout its area of operations. C2F ships and personnel provided HA/DR support to the Gulf Coast following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, positioned themselves in advance of a potential tasking during the active 2008 hurricane season, and worked in concert with a myriad of organizations in Haiti after the devastating 7.0 earthquake in 2010. As recently as August 2011, C2F led the way with its sortie of ships from Hampton Roads in preparation for Hurricane Irene, positioning the fleet in advance for any potential HA/DR or Defense Support of Civil Authorities tasking.

"Throughout our 65-year history of U.S. Second Fleet, it has been our Sailors, Marines and their families, our civilians, and contractors that have been the cornerstone to this command's success," said Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet Vice Adm. Daniel P. Holloway.

"Second Fleet has always been ready to answer the call, from providing trained and ready forces for global assignment to humanitarian assistance and disaster response; we've truly been a global force for good."

Adm. John C. Harvey Jr., commander, U.S. Fleet Forces, spoke about the importance of merging the staffs of C2F/USFF and how the merger affects the mission of the Navy.

"So today we begin another chapter - our mission remains the same, our standards remain the same - only our structure has changed," said Harvey. "Our new structure is an operational structure, a command structure, not an administrative one. Our purpose and our focus is on the deckplates and the flight decks - ensuring our Sailors have the tools, training, and time they need to deploy confident in their ability to execute their assigned missions."

As C2F began merging with USFF, Holloway encouraged his staff to keep their focus on communication, collaboration and coordination-accelerated by trust and anchored by teamwork.

"As the sun sets on the Second Fleet staff, it will rise once again on a maritime nation at war. I know that you and your families will continue to meet and overcome the future challenges. I am confident that you will remain combat ready," said Holloway.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Iran plans to send ships close to US waters: report

Iran's navy is going to deploy ships close to US territorial waters, its commander in chief was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

"As the global oppression (the US) is present not far from our maritime border ... our navy is going to have a strong presence not far from US territorial waters," the Irna news agency quoted Admiral Habibollah Sayyari as saying.

On July 19 Sayyari also said that Iran was going to send "a flotilla into the Atlantic".

The remarks come as another high-ranking Iranian appeared to reject a recent US request to establish a "red phone" link between the countries to avoid unwanted confrontation between their armed forces in the Gulf region.

"When we are in the Gulf of Mexico, we will establish direct contact with the United States," Ali Fadavi, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, was quoted in press reports as saying.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Groundbreaking Radar Pinpoints Impact of Rapid Shell Fire for US Navy and Army

Cambridge Consultants has announced the successful demonstration of its holographic radar technology for target scoring in live firing trials under a US Department of Defense (DoD) program.

The program is aimed at improving the projectile scoring capabilities of the US Navy and Army on land and sea-surface ranges, to mitigate the high costs of live fire training and deliver more accurate data. The system is the first to align holographic radar and target scoring technologies.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Taking iPads into battle

For soldiers in the 21st century, iPads, iPhones, Androids and other smart devices could eventually be as common on the battlefield as helmets, canteens and rifles.

These devices are being tested across all branches of the military. Seeing an opportunity, software companies and defense contractors are developing mobile applications that will enable soldiers to pass along intelligence, view reconnaissance images or even pilot small drones by remote control.

This high-tech hand-held revolution, of course, opens the military up to the same problems that everybody else with a smart device faces — security threats and concerns about dropped service. There are concerns among military strategists about passing military secrets on a device that can easily be hacked.

In years past, the Pentagon probably would have spent billions of dollars creating its own custom devices, but modern technology offers a much cheaper alternative, said Michael McCarthy, who leads an effort by the Army to test smartphones for use on the battlefield.

The Army is using iPhones, Androids and BlackBerrys in mock wartime situations in New Mexico and Texas.

Such devices are coming in handy in simulated security raids and checkpoint stops to take pictures of Arabic writing and gather biometric data, such as fingerprints and iris scans, McCarthy said.

"It's all about information gathering, and tools to make the job easier," he said.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Navy Bids Roughead Farewell, Greenert Takes Helm

With 38 years of service, Adm. Gary Roughead steps down from the position of Chief of Naval Operations during the change of command ceremony at the U.S. Naval Academy, Sept. 23.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus was the keynote speaker for the ceremony and highlighted Adm. Roughead's accomplishments during his naval career while thanking him for his leadership.

"I don't think anyone can ever fully express how much we're going to miss Gary Roughead's counsel and20his family for the continued support and guidance during his tenure. He spoke about his unique experiences in the armed service, especially in the relationships built.

"There has been a lot of change but throughout there has been the decisive, constant and the aspect of the Navy that will be my enduring memory - our Sailors," said Roughead.

In an emotional conclusion, Roughead did the best he could to summarize his naval career.

"To echo what another Navy man said nearly five decades ago at this academy, when asked what I did to make my life worthwhile I will respond with a great deal of pride and satisfaction, I served in the United States Navy."

Mabus spoke about the transparent transition the Navy will go through when Adm. Roughead is relieved by Adm. Greenert as the top Navy officer.

"Adm. Roughead's contributions may be hard if not impossible to surpass but I am confident that if anyone can match them it is Jon Greenert," said Mabus.

Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, the newly appointed 30th Chief of Naval Operations, took the podium after Roughead, thanking him for his service and bringing the Navy to where it is today.

Greenert said Roughead has done a magnificent job and the plan would be to keep it that way.

"My priorities, our course, are one we've got to remain ready to meet the current challenges today, we've got to build a relevant and capable future fleet, and we have got to continue to care for our Sailors, our civilians and their families, and recruit and nurture a motivated, relevant and diverse force," said Greenert.

Greenert then went on to talk about the three tenets he will focus on during his time in office which include warfighting first, operate forward and be ready.

"We will approach our challenges and we will implement our changes that will have to be done in the future with three tenets in mind," said Greenert. "They will be effective [and] efficient. Our Solutions will be joint and the Marine Corps will remain our primary partner."

Contested, Congested and Competitive:
US Space Security Posture and Military Space Forces

Outer space has become the new strategic high ground. Whether commercial or military, space assets are vital to everything from weather forecasting to communications to strategic and tactical reconnaissance. Western nations must be concerned as rival (and sometimes overtly hostile) actors increase their own space presence. No nation is more dependent on space for its national security and economic welfare than the technology-oriented, globally active USA. This issue of HRISQ will focus on US space security policy and space strategy, and examine the armed forces components dedicated to space operations. ur primary partner."

Contested, Congested and Competitive:
US Space Security Posture and Military Space Forces

Outer space has become the new strategic high ground. Whether commercial or military, space assets are vital to everything from weather forecasting to communications to strategic and tactical reconnaissance. Western nations must be concerned as rival (and sometimes overtly hostile) actors increase their own space presence. No nation is more dependent on space for its national security and economic welfare than the technology-oriented, globally active USA. This issue of HRISQ will focus on US space security policy and space strategy, and examine the armed forces components dedicated to space operations.

Pakistan’s Spy Agency Is Tied to Attack on U.S. Embassy

In comments that were the first to directly link the spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, with an assault on the United States, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, went further than any other American official in blaming the ISI for undermining the American effort in Afghanistan. His remarks were certain to further fray America’s shaky relationship with Pakistan, a nominal ally.

The United States has long said that Pakistan’s intelligence agency supports the Haqqani network, based in Pakistan’s tribal areas, as a way to extend Pakistani influence in Afghanistan. But Admiral Mullen made clear that he believed that the support extended to increasingly high-profile attacks in Afghanistan aimed directly at the United States.

These included a truck bombing at a NATO outpost south of Kabul on Sept. 10, which killed at least five people and wounded 77 coalition soldiers — one of the worst tolls for foreign troops in a single attack in the war — as well as the embassy assault that killed 16 Afghan police officers and civilians.

“With ISI support, Haqqani operatives planned and conducted that truck bomb attack, as well as the assault on our embassy,” Admiral Mullen said in a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “We also have credible evidence that they were behind the June 28th attack against the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul and a host of other smaller but effective operations.”

Contested, Congested and Competitive:
US Space Security Posture and Military Space Forces

Outer space has become the new strategic high ground. Whether commercial or military, space assets are vital to everything from weather forecasting to communications to strategic and tactical reconnaissance. Western nations must be concerned as rival (and sometimes overtly hostile) actors increase their own space presence. No nation is more dependent on space for its national security and economic welfare than the technology-oriented, globally active USA. This issue of HRISQ will focus on US space security policy and space strategy, and examine the armed forces components dedicated to space operations.

MUSIC integrates manned, unmanned aircraft

The systems on display at the Manned-Unmanned Systems Integration Capabilities, or MUSIC, exercise, which concluded last week at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, are expected to make their way to Afghanistan within the next two years.

The MUSIC exercise was meant to demonstrate interoperability and system integration among multiple Army aviation assets, including both manned aircraft such as the AH-64D Apache helicopter and the OH-58D/F Kiowa Warrior helicopter, and unmanned air vehicles like the Gray Eagle, Hunter, Shadow, and others.

Also demonstrated at the exercise were controllers for the unmanned systems, including the Universal Ground Control Station, the mini-UGCS, and the One System Remote Video Terminal, or OSRVT.

Vehicle control and passing of video information from system to system was a key part of the exercise.

"We demonstrated flawless exchange of video products between the complete unmanned aircraft systems fleet, including all the small unmanned aircraft, plus the larger systems such as Shadow, Hunter, and Gray Eagle," said Tim Owings, deputy project manager, Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

Integration between manned vehicles and the unmanned aircraft was also important, Owings said. The Apache block III aircraft demonstrated advancements in interoperability with its ability to control the Gray Eagle; the Apache block II also demonstrated video transmission to the OSRVT via the "Efficient Digital Data Link"; and the Kiowa Warrior demonstrated its ability to re-transmit unmanned aircraft video and metadata to the OSRVT and troops on the ground, via the TCDL link and the Hunter Platform.

"We demonstrated flawless and seamless integration between the unmanned fleet and the manned fleet, primarily Apache Block II and Kiowa Warrior," Owings said.

The exercise also proved multiple vehicles could be controlled by the same controller, and that multiple controllers could direct a single set of sensors on one vehicle.

The Triclops is an MQ-1C Gray Eagle carrying three sensors. Owings said it was demonstrated during the MUSIC exercise that all three sensors could be controlled independently of each other, with three different controllers.

"One particularly poignant way that we showcased the capability [of the OSRVT] is with Triclops, a three-sensor variant of Gray Eagle," Owings said. "We controlled one of the sensors from the OSRVT, we controlled one of the sensors from the M-UGCS, and one from the primary control station. [It's] quite a demonstration of the complete gambit of interoperability, open architecture, and manned/unmanned teaming.

Owings said it's expected systems like the UGCS, the m-UGCS and the OSRVT will be fielded within the next two years -- and part of the plan is for those systems to be in Afghanistan.

For Soldiers, it means a whole new way of doing things. Information about surroundings will come instantly, for use immediately.

"This helps Soldiers get information right now, as opposed to a few hours from now, or maybe days from now," said Lt. Col. James Kennedy, product manager, Common Systems Integration. "That has been the case in the past. The huge situational awareness piece, as well as receiving the information right away, that's key."

Owings said systems like the OSRVT, which control sensor payloads on unmanned aircraft, can provide another layer of security to Soldiers in dangerous situations.

"If he is in a convoy that is under attack and there is a UAS doing some type of route clearance patrol or force protection mission, there is a point-at-me feature in there where he can immediately point the UAS sensor at his location, based on the location of the RVT," Owings said. "The other thing he can do is point it to gain situational awareness of exactly what he wants to see. With the TRICLOPS capability he can control one or multiple sensors simultaneously to inspect different things."

For Soldiers using the mini-UGCS, flying a Raven or Puma unmanned aircraft -- their controller will also be able to control the Triclops payload aboard the Gray Eagle through Digital Data Link. The capability expands their horizon.

"Now, even if he has just a Raven or a Puma capability, he has the capability to see what is flying in the larger class of vehicles as well," Owings said.

The after-effect of the MUSIC exercise was to prove to program managers that what they have been working toward is functional in an operational environment, said Ed Gozdur, deputy project manager, Common Systems Integration.

"It confirmed what I believed all the time," Gozdur said. "That we could in fact do it. This was the first time it came together in a scripted exercise, and scenarios like something you'd see in the field."

Owings said the exercise also pushed them harder, and closed gaps in the development of systems that might have taken longer to close.

"What ends up happening is, that last tactical mile of development becomes the most difficult," Owings said. "So you saw a lot of gaps close the last two and a half months before we actually did the demonstration, that would have probably stretched on truthfully for a year or more, but instead, those things were done."

Owings said he hopes within the next two years a similar exercise can be held, to again demonstrate what Army aviation is working on.

"What we are looking at now is expanding this and to do this every two years, with ever-increasing capability," Owings said. "We are in the processes of defining exactly what we are going to do on this next two-year cycle, but we think it is a fantastic way to showcase information. Plus it acts as a forcing function to get all of our programs aligned, plus the manned systems aligned, and ensure we are staying in lock-step with each other periodically."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

U.S. assembling secret drone bases in Africa, Arabian Peninsula, officials say

The Obama administration is assembling a constellation of secret drone bases for counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula as part of a newly aggressive campaign to attack al-Qaeda affiliates in Somalia and Yemen, U.S. officials said.

One of the installations is being established in Ethi­o­pia, a U.S. ally in the fight against al-Shabab, the Somali militant group that controls much of that country. Another base is in the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, where a small fleet of “hunter-killer” drones resumed operations this month after an experimental mission demonstrated that the unmanned aircraft could effectively patrol Somalia from there.

European special forces fought in Libya: Iraq FM

European special forces fought alongside Libyan rebels to oust the country's strongman Moamer Kadhafi, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said on Tuesday.

"Not only have been there been air attacks on Tripoli and other places, I can tell you there have been special forces, European forces fighting on the ground to defeat Kadhafi," Zebari said.

Media reports have said that British and French special forces took part in the fighting, in addition to the NATO air campaign, but London and Paris have not officially confirmed the reports.

Zebari, who was addressing the Concil on Foreign Relations in New York, did not give any further details.

German naval commandos are called Kampfschwimmer or "combat swimmers". These German navy counterparts to the US Navy SEALs are Germany's oldest Special Operations Forces. The Kampfschwimmer roots go back to World War II.

Today's Kampfschwimmer formations are heavily involved in international operations against terrorism, including missions in the mountains of Afghanistan.

This e-book is written by a German Navy lieutenant who serves as a Kampfschwimmer team leader -- the equivalent of a US Navy SEAL platoon leader.

"German Navy SEALs" is a profile of the Kampfschwimmer units. The e-book covers the history of the Kampfschwimmer beginning with the World War II era; describes their organization, command structure, capabilities and training; discusses their cooperation with US Navy SEALS and other Special Operations Forces; and their role in German and NATO operational planning.

Other German Special Operations Forces are also briefly discussed.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

US considers emergency hot line with Iran

The United States is considering setting up a direct military hotline with Iran after a series of close encounters between US and Iranian forces in the Gulf, a defense official said Monday.

Fearing that a misunderstanding could lead to wider conflict, US officials are weighing establishing emergency communications but a final decision is still pending, said the defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"This idea has been circulating for a while in some places, but it's just that at this point: an idea. No such proposal has been reviewed by the secretary of defense," the official told AFP.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on the possible hotline, saying the United States was especially concerned about a fleet of speedboats that often challenge US and allied warships that transit the Persian Gulf.

USS Boone Returns from Twilight Deployment

The guided-missile frigate USS Boone (FFG 28) returned to homeport at Naval Station (NS) Mayport, Fla. Sept. 18 following a six-month deployment in support of Southern Seas 2011 and counter illicit trafficking operations in the U.S. 4th Fleet (C4F) area of responsibility.

Southern Seas is a U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM)-directed operation implemented by U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and C4F (COMUSNAVSO/C4F). This year it involved the deployment of USS Boone (FFG 28) with embarked Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 74 detachment 4 and U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachments 401 and 406.

Over the course of six months, the Boone team circumnavigated the South American continent making eighteen port visits, transiting the Straits of Magellan, Panama Canal and visiting seven countries in addition to participating in major multinational exercises including both Pacific and Atlantic phases of UNITAS.

"This is the reason we deploy," said Lt. Jason Lautar, Boone operations officer. "Accomplishing various missions and conducting a variety of simultaneous operations not only showcases the versatility and multi-mission capabilities of naval warships such as Boone, but also emphasizes the criticality of seamless teamwork."

Boone had a highly successful and rewarding deployment, including invitations to revisit several countries in South America. In the Eastern Pacific Ocean Boone conducted one of the highest dollar-value drug busts in the past six years, nabbing more than $40 million worth of cocaine from a single vessel. The drugs and detainees were later transferred to the USS Rentz (FFG 46) for transport to Costa Rican authorities. The drug bust came on a day already planned for celebration: Aug. 30, the 116th birthday anniversary of the ship's namesake, Vice Admiral Joel T. Boone.

"As the ship concludes its last deployment before decommissioning, I have no doubt that Admiral Boone himself would have been proud of the rich tradition the USS Boone has accomplished," said Cmdr. Roy Love, Boone commanding officer, Cmdr. Roy Love. "Throughout the past six months, I have been impressed on a daily basis by the well-trained professionals that make up my crew. Although they were separated from their loved ones, the Boone crew excelled everyday and completed countless missions on behalf of the United States."

Boone, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate, has been in service since May 15, 1982 and is scheduled for decommissioning February 2012.

COMUSNAVSO/C4F supports USSOUTHCOM joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.

Raytheon Air and Missile Defense Radar Modules Excel During Testing

Raytheon's transmit/receive (T/R) modules for the U.S. Navy's Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) program have passed a significant developmental testing milestone. Raytheon's Gallium Nitride modules exceeded Navy-specified requirements for extended, measured performance, demonstrating no degradation after more than 1,000 hours of testing.

Currently working Phase II of the AMDR program, Raytheon is developing a technology demonstrator for the system's S-band radar and radar suite controller. During the radio frequency operating life testing, the modules demonstrated consistent power output across multiple channels.

The more than 1,000-hour Radio Frequency Operating Life test was a self-imposed early milestone for Raytheon.

US Air Force vows to spare F-35 from budget cuts

The US Air Force vowed Monday to "protect" costly weapons programs despite budget pressures, saying the country needed the F-35 fighter jet, a long-range bomber and other aircraft.

While acknowledging the need for reductions to the defense budget, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley proceeded to list several big ticket programs that were not up for negotiation.

"There are certain capabilities we will protect. We will apply best military judgment to oppose reductions that would cause irreparable harm," Donley told retired members of the Air Force in a speech.

The firm line taken by Donley comes as the Pentagon seeks to fend off possible deep budget reductions by lawmakers. Congress has to find a way to trim the country's deficit by a November 23 deadline or else automatic cuts will be triggered that could derail the Pentagon's budget plans.

With an aging fleet of fighter planes, it was crucial to build the next generation combat aircraft, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, to ensure US air superiority, Donley said.

F-22 fighters allowed back in the air

The US Air Force said Monday its fleet of F-22 fighter jets will be allowed back in the air after officials grounded the planes over concerns about the aircraft's oxygen system.

The F-22 Raptors, the most advanced combat aircraft in the world, were barred from flying for four months, a highly unusual move that reflected serious worries over safety.

"We now have enough insight from recent studies and investigations that a return to flight is prudent and appropriate," Air Force chief of staff General Norton Schwartz said in a statement.

"We're managing the risks with our aircrews, and we're continuing to study the F-22's oxygen systems and collect data to improve its performance," said.

Scientists Find Earliest Known Evidence of 1918 Influenza Pandemic

Examination of lung tissue and other autopsy material from 68 American soldiers who died of respiratory infections in 1918 has revealed that the influenza virus that eventually killed 50 million people worldwide was circulating in the United States at least four months before the 1918 influenza reached pandemic levels that fall.

The study, using tissues preserved since 1918, was led by Jeffery K. Taubenberger, M.D., Ph.D., of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. The researchers found proteins and genetic material from the 1918 influenza virus in specimens from 37 of the soldiers, including four who died between May and August 1918, months before the pandemic peaked. These four cases are the earliest 1918 pandemic influenza cases they know to be documented anywhere in the world, the scientists say.

The clinical disease and tissue damage seen in the pre-pandemic cases were indistinguishable from those evident in cases that occurred during the height of the pandemic. This suggests, says Dr. Taubenberger, that over the course of the pandemic, the virus did not undergo a dramatic change that could explain the unusually high mortality it ultimately caused.

In the current study, the autopsy materials showed that the virus replicated not only in the upper respiratory tract but also the lower respiratory tract, in a pattern very similar to that of the 2009 pandemic influenza virus. The team also found evidence that two virus variants were circulating in 1918. In one, a key viral protein called hemagglutinin bound well to receptors on human respiratory cells, while the hemagglutinin from the other variant bound less efficiently. Despite this difference in binding ability, both viruses caused similar disease symptoms and replicated in a similar pattern within cells lining the respiratory tract, suggesting that differences in hemagglutinin binding capacity alone do not fully explain the unusually high mortality seen in the 1918 pandemic.

Bacterial co-infections were found in all 68 cases studied, the researchers noted. The role played by bacterial co-infections, such as bacterial pneumonia, in contributing to deaths in the 1918 pandemic was previously described by Dr. Taubenberger and his colleagues in a 2008 study. According to the study authors, the new data underscore the crucial role that bacterial infections can play in conjunction with any influenza virus, whether historic or future, and the need for public health officials to prepare to prevent, detect and treat bacterial co-infections during future influenza outbreaks.

Z-M Sheng et al. Autopsy series of 68 cases dying before and during the 1918 influenza pandemic peak. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1111179108 (2011).

Study co-authors Jeffery K. Taubenberger, M.D., Ph.D., Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, NIAID, and David M. Morens, M.D., Office of the Director, NIAID, are available to provide comment.

Friday, September 16, 2011

U.S. Now Relies On Alternate Afghan Supply Routes

To the west of Afghanistan lies Iran. Pakistan, politically unstable and home to a ruthless Taliban movement, lies on the south and east, across a mountainous border. It is no wonder that the shipment of supplies and equipment to U.S. forces in Afghanistan has been a source of headaches throughout the 10 years the United States has been engaged there.

"This is the logistics challenge of our generation," says Vice Adm. Mark Harnitcheck, deputy commander of the U.S. military's Transportation Command and a student of military logistics history. "The challenge of my father's generation was escorting convoys across the north Atlantic when we didn't know how to do that very well. Convoys in 1943 would lose 16 of their 32 ships. The Army had their challenge supplying Patton in his race across France, keeping him resupplied. Supporting operations in Afghanistan is our generational challenge."

For the first seven years of the Afghanistan war, almost all supplies and equipment were shipped by sea to the Pakistani port of Karachi. From there, they were trucked overland to Afghanistan, through parts of Pakistan effectively controlled by the Taliban.

In 2008, according to Harnitcheck, the U.S. military lost as much as 15 percent of its supplies in those areas due to ambushes and theft. Establishing another supply route became a top priority.

When President Obama decided to surge 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan, the use of alternative routes became all the more critical, notes Mitchell.

NATO 3.0

At the Lisbon NATO Summit, the US-European alliance made an open ended commitment to Afghanistan. NATO 3.0 has the details.

Young Afghan fighters eager to rejoin Taliban

NATO 3.0

At the Lisbon NATO Summit, the US-European alliance made an open ended commitment to Afghanistan. NATO 3.0 has the details.

As the Taliban presses its efforts to recruit teenage fighters, Afghan officials and their international backers have crafted a program to reintegrate the country’s youngest insurgents into mainstream society. But that ambition is coming up against the intransigence of the teens, who say they would rather be on the battlefield.

“We’ll fight against America for a thousand years if we have to,” said Ali Ahmad, 17, sitting at a desk that has hearts and Koran verses scratched in the wood. “Jihad is the duty of every Muslim.”

Before joining the insurgency in their early teens, the fighters were students, part-time shopkeepers and farmhands, mostly living in the Pashtun-dominated regions of southern and eastern Afghanistan. Some say their parents supported the decision to take up arms. Others left home without warning, disregarding the wishes of relatives and heeding what they call a religious and moral obligation.

Nato & Taliban fight it out on Twitter

As the guns fell silent in Afghan capital Kabul after a 20-hour stand-off between Nato forces and Taliban, the two sides began another battle: on Twitter. Nato and Taliban may be shying away from a peace process but they had no inhibition to trade in barbs and indulging in no hold barred spat, in a burst of virtual talks.

The first salvo was fired by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), who spokesman tweeted, "Re: Taliban spox on #Kabul attack: the outcome is inevitable. Question is how much longer will terrorist put innocent Afghans in harm's way?"

The Taliban - who, when in rule, barred modern technology, including television and music players - fired back.

NATO 3.0

At the Lisbon NATO Summit, the US-European alliance made an open ended commitment to Afghanistan. NATO 3.0 has the details.

Pakistan angrily reacts to U.S. defense chief warning

NATO 3.0

At the Lisbon NATO Summit, the US-European alliance made an open ended commitment to Afghanistan. NATO 3.0 has the details.


Pakistan Thursday angrily reacted to remarks by U.S. defense secretary that Washington would do whatever it takes to defend U.S. forces from Pakistan-based militants launching attacks in Afghanistan.

Leon Panetta's remarks came two days after Taliban militants from the Haqqani network were blamed for attack on the U.S. Embassy compound in Kabul and NATO offices.

"Time and again we've urged the Pakistanis to exercise their influence over these kinds of attacks from the Haqqanis. And we have made very little progress in that area," Panetta told reporters flying with him to San Francisco on Wednesday.

Reacting to the U.S. defense chief's remarks, Pakistan said that the remarks about unilateral action inside Pakistan is out of line with the type of cooperation between the two countries on counter-terrorism.

Referring to his statement during weekly news briefing in Islamabad, Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua said Pakistan condemns terrorism and terrorist incidents anywhere in the world.

She, however, pointed out that terrorism is a complex issue requiring close cooperation amongst all concerned. Pakistan and the United States have cooperated in counter-terrorism and Pakistan's cooperation is premised on the respect for the country's sovereignty.

The spokesperson said there was need to launch joint action against sanctuaries on the other side of the border from where militants have been launching attacks on Pakistani border posts and villages.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

NATO in Libya a 'model' for Euro-US cooperation: US official

A senior US State Department official on Wednesday hailed NATO's air strike campaign in Libya as a "model" for future cooperation between European members of the military alliance and the US.

The operation in Libya was "in many ways a model on how the United States can lead the way that allows allies to support," Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Philip Gordon said at an event in Washington.

"What is new about Libya is the approach that the United States would do an initial phase that only the United States could do, and then that Europeans were playing a leading role in certain aspects," he said.

Raytheon Aims to Integrate Griffin on AT-6 Light Attack Aircraft

Raytheon is seeking to integrate the combat-proven Griffin missile onto the Hawker AT-6 light attack aircraft.

Griffin weighs 44 pounds with its launch tube, is 43 inches long and is an air- and ground-launched, precision-guided missile designed for rapid integration onto rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft and ground-launch applications.

"Integrating Griffin on the AT-6 aircraft gives the warfighter a cost-effective solution to provide persistent surveillance and low-collateral damage in counterinsurgency and irregular warfare operations," said Harry Schulte, vice president of Raytheon Missile Systems' Air Warfare Systems.


German naval commandos are called Kampfschwimmer or "combat swimmers". These German navy counterparts to the US Navy SEALs are Germany's oldest Special Operations Forces. The Kampfschwimmer roots go back to World War II.

Today's Kampfschwimmer formations are heavily involved in international operations against terrorism, including missions in the mountains of Afghanistan.

This e-book is written by a German Navy lieutenant who serves as a Kampfschwimmer team leader -- the equivalent of a US Navy SEAL platoon leader.

"German Navy SEALs" is a profile of the Kampfschwimmer units. The e-book covers the history of the Kampfschwimmer beginning with the World War II era; describes their organization, command structure, capabilities and training; discusses their cooperation with US Navy SEALS and other Special Operations Forces; and their role in German and NATO operational planning.

Other German Special Operations Forces are also briefly discussed.

Advanced US drone set to watch over N. Korea

The United States is close to deploying an advanced unmanned spy plane over South Korea which could provide a much more detailed view of North Korea's military activities, a report said.

The US military newspaper Stars and Stripes said Washington is negotiating with Seoul to fly a Global Hawk drone near the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas.

"I think we are very close," the paper quoted Lt. Col. Terran Reneau, chief of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for the 13th US Air Force in Hawaii, as saying.

Another air force officer, Lt. Col. David Gerhardt, was quoted as saying in the article published Monday that the Global Hawk "will likely fly over land in Korea as soon as agreements have been solidified to do that".


German naval commandos are called Kampfschwimmer or "combat swimmers". These German navy counterparts to the US Navy SEALs are Germany's oldest Special Operations Forces. The Kampfschwimmer roots go back to World War II.

Today's Kampfschwimmer formations are heavily involved in international operations against terrorism, including missions in the mountains of Afghanistan.

This e-book is written by a German Navy lieutenant who serves as a Kampfschwimmer team leader -- the equivalent of a US Navy SEAL platoon leader.

"German Navy SEALs" is a profile of the Kampfschwimmer units. The e-book covers the history of the Kampfschwimmer beginning with the World War II era; describes their organization, command structure, capabilities and training; discusses their cooperation with US Navy SEALS and other Special Operations Forces; and their role in German and NATO operational planning.

Other German Special Operations Forces are also briefly discussed.

Obama still highly popular in Europe: poll

US President Barack Obama's ratings have plunged at home but he remains highly popular in Europe, with 75 per cent in 12 EU nations approving his handling of global affairs, a poll has said.

He is also much better liked than his predecessor George W Bush, whose rating in Europe was just 20 per cent in 2008, said the Transatlantic Trends poll by the German Marshall Fund

Since 2009, when Obama had a 80-90 per cent approval rating in Europe, his popularity has declined 17 points in Spain, 13 points in Slovakia and 12 points in France and Italy
But he still received an 82 per cent approval rating for international affairs in Portugal and 81 per cent in Germany and the Netherlands, with an average of 75 per cent across the 12 EU states surveyed.

Obama's success in eliminating Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden appeared to be a factor in his popularity in the EU, with 73 per cent backing his efforts to fight international terrorism.

In contrast, just 51 per cent approved of his handling of conflicts in Libya and Afghanistan.

US-India relationship among the world's most important: CRS

Relationship between India and the US is being among the world's most important in the coming decades, a Congressional report has told American lawmakers.

"President Barack Obama's Administration has sought to build upon the deepened US engagement with India begun by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and expanded upon during much of the past decade under President G W Bush,"the Congressional Research Service (CRS) in its latest report 'India: Domestic Issues, Strategic Dynamics and US Relations.'

An independent and bipartisan wing of the US Congress,the CRS prepares periodic reports on issues of interest to the US lawmakers.

The 94-page report was released by the CRS for US lawmakers on September 1, a copy of which made public by the Federation of American Scientists yesterday.

"This US-India diplomacy was most recently on display in July 2011, when the second US-India Strategic Dialogue session saw a large delegation of senior US officials visit New Delhi to discuss a broad range of global and bilateral issues," it said.

As Wars Drag On, U.S. Interest Wanes

When U.S. forces launched the war in Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001, they were riding a wave of anger and a call for justice by a broad swath of the American public.

Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, says the initial support for the Afghan invasion was around 90 percent, and the war was closely followed by a large number of people. But since then, the public has been slowly disengaging, he says.

In 2001 and 2002, about 40 percent of the public said they were following news about Afghanistan very closely. From 2009 to 2011, that number had fallen to 25 percent, Kohut says, adding that the pattern in Iraq was the same.

Kohut says he's not surprised by these numbers. The public is typically more engaged at the start of a military operation. But he says the support and interest in the Iraq War started to tumble within months after it began in March 2003.
"The public soured on the decision to go to war in Iraq by 2004, when not only were there no weapons of mass destruction found, but all of a sudden, the cost of that war began to increase, [and] casualties began to be rather substantial," he says.

Army Col. Matthew Moten, a professor of history at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, says it's unrealistic to sustain public interest on any issue year after year. Moten says the American public has obviously moved on from the two wars.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Senate panel would freeze fiscal 2012 defense spending

The Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee voted Tuesday to freeze basic Pentagon spending next year to the 2011 level of $513 billion, cutting about $26 billion from President Obama’s original request for fiscal 2012.

With an additional $117.8 billion to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the panel voted on a total of $630.8 billion — $18 billion below the amount the House passed in July.

Intel chiefs: Al Qaeda offshoots more menacing

Al Qaeda-linked groups around the world are growing dangers, recruiting a new generation of terrorists, many with Western passports who can infiltrate the United States or Europe for deadly, small-scale attacks, U.S. intelligence chiefs warned Congress on Tuesday.

Islamic extremists inspired by al Qaeda are well-established in Yemen and Somalia and are emerging in countries such as Nigeria, CIA Director David H. Petraeus told a joint hearing of the Senate and House intelligence committees.

These affiliate groups “have their own command structures, resource bases and operational agendas, and they largely operate autonomously,” he said.

Many of their recruits have Western passports and backgrounds that “make them well-suited for targeting the United States and Europe,” Mr. Petraeus said.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen, is the most dangerous of the affiliates, he said. Political unrest in Yemen has helped the terrorists expand their territory and influence.

Al-Shabab in southern Somalia is “large and well-funded,” and the lawless East African nation is now “one of [JUMP]the world’s most significant havens for terrorists,” Mr. Petraeus said.

His warnings were given weight by the weekend arrest of four men in Sweden, charged with plotting a terrorist attack in the city of Gothenburg. The suspects, three of whom are naturalized Swedish citizens, are linked to al-Shabab, according to Swedish media reports.

Computer-based attacks emerge as threat of future, general says

The general in charge of U.S. cyberwarfare forces said Tuesday that future computer-based combat likely will involve electronic strikes that cause widespread power outages and even physical destruction of thousand-ton machines.

Army Gen. Keith Alexander, commander of the new U.S. Cyber Command, also said that massive losses of private and public data in recent years to computer criminals and spies represent the largest theft in history.

Threats posed by cyber-attacks on computer networks and the Internet are escalating from large-scale theft of data and strikes designed to disrupt computer operations to more lethal attacks that destroy entire systems and physical equipment.

“That’s our concern about what’s coming in cyberspace — a destructive element,” Gen. Alexander, who is also the director of the National Security Agency, the electronic spying agency, said in a speech at a conference on cyberwarfare.

Gen. Alexander said two cases illustrate what could happen in an attack.

The first was the August 2003 electrical power outage in the Northeast U.S. that was caused by a tree damaging two high-voltage power lines. Electrical power-grid software that controlled the distribution of electricity to millions of people improperly entered “pause” mode and shut down all power through several states.

The example highlighted the threat of sophisticated cyberwarfare attackers breaking into electrical grid networks and using the access to shut down power.

“You can quickly see that there are ways now to get in and mess with [electrical] power if you have access to it,” he said.

The second example was the catastrophic destruction of a water-driven electrical generator at Russia’s Sayano-Shushenskaya dam, near the far eastern city of Cheremushki, in August 2009.


Cyber Defense

The US military is preparing for 21st Century electronic warfare and cyber terrorism. A joint US Cyber Command and four service cyber commands have been set up.

Their mission is to defend American military networks and civilian American infrastructure from cyber terrorism and from foreign government hackers.

The officers leading these cyber commands explain how they are organized, how they operate, and how they will protect the United States from foreign military hackers, intelligence agencies, and cyber terrorists.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Israel seeks to boost UAV strike power

The Israeli air force is expanding its wing of unmanned aerial vehicles built by Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit Systems, some to be used as missile-armed gunships.

Meantime, The Jerusalem Post reports that state-run IAI, Israel's leading defense contractor, is working with Rheinmetall Defense of Germany to develop a new weapons system for aerial drones to cope with proliferating threats facing the Jewish state.

The air force plans to form a new squadron of medium-altitude, long-endurance UAVs consisting of Elbit's Hermes 900 and IAI's Heron 1 to enhance its drone capabilities.

U.S.-Romanian Ballistic Missile Defense Agreement Signed Tuesday

On Tuesday, September 13, 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi will sign the Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Romania on the Deployment of the Ballistic Missile Defense System in Romania, at the Department of State. This legally-binding agreement will allow for the establishment and operation of a U.S. land-based SM-3 ballistic missile defense system in Romania.

The signing and a joint press availability will take place at approximately 12:15 p.m. following a bilateral meeting.

Countdown Begins for Launch of Navy Communications Satellite

The Department of the Navy began counting down the final days to a Sept. 27 launch of its new joint tactical satellite, which will bring on-the-go communications to the battlefield.

The Tactical Microsatellite (TacSat)-4, funded by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and developed by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), is scheduled to begin transmitting data 30 days later.

"TacSat-4 fills a Navy and Marine Corps capability gap by enabling 'comms on the move,'" said Bob McCoy, an ONR senior scientist. "That is a unique feature of this system-no other Department of Defense [DoD] satellite system can relay information from the satellite all the way down to warfighters' portable communications packs and handheld radios."

It enables warfighters to use a regular handheld radio for mobile communications without having to stop and set up an antenna in the field. This eliminates downtime and maintains connectivity to the base of operations at all times, so one is never out of touch, said John Moniz, ONR's program officer for Expeditionary Warfare Command, Control, Computers and Communication, whose work could potentially benefit from TacSat-4.

The fourth-generation microsatellite, TacSat-4, is smaller - weighing 990 pounds as opposed to the industry average of approximately 4,300 pounds and is less expensive than a conventional system. It is designed to support traditional satellite communications, providing two hours of coverage, up to three times per day in multiple theaters, worldwide in a 24-hour period.

"This gives additional capability and more communications channels to where there's a 'hot spot' in the world," McCoy said.

TacSat-4's communication is also flexible and faster, providing dynamic channel assignments within 24 hours during normal operations rather than the typical several days. It offers a smarter, more efficient way of assigning channels.

The satellite will carry an ONR-sponsored payload built by NRL on infrastructure funded by the former DoD Office of Force Transformation and built by NRL and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. The Operationally Responsive Space Office funded the launch, which is managed by the Space Development and Test Directorate, a directorate of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, and performed using a Minotaur-IV rocket built by Orbital Sciences.

Turkey asks US to base Predators on its soil: report

The United States is considering a request from Turkey to base Predator drones there to operate against Kurdish separatists based in northern Iraq, The Washington Post reported late Saturday.

Citing unnamed senior US military officials, the newspaper said a decision to deploy the drones could strengthen the US-Turkish diplomatic alliance but draw the United States deeper into the conflict.

The US military has flown unarmed Predators from Iraqi bases since 2007, sharing their surveillance video with Turkey as part of a secretive crackdown against fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the report said.

But the counterterrorism partnership could end by December 31, when all US forces are scheduled to withdraw from Iraq.

According to The Post, US President Barack Obama's administration has not yet made a decision on the Turkish request.

Fear of rising China unites polarized US politicians

With the 2012 election cycle heating up, US politicians this week harnessed worries over a rising China to power support for everything from patent law reform to debt reduction -- and their own ambitions.

US President Barack Obama led the pack, warning Thursday that crumbling US infrastructure threatened Washington's standing as "an economic superpower" as he laid out a battle plan for assaulting 9.1 percent unemployment.

"And now we're going to sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads?" he said in a campaign-style speech aimed at shoring up his embattled reeletion prospects, weighted down by the sluggish US economy.

Fighting much the same battle, Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney on Tuesday made confronting China over its alleged currency manipulation and rampant theft of US intellectual property a cornerstone of his economic plan.

"I have no interest in starting a trade war with China, but I cannot accept our current trade surrender," said the former Massachusetts governor, who trails Texas Governor Rick Perry in the fight for the party's presidential nomination.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Live Attenuated Malaria Vaccine Opens New Frontier in Vaccine Research

Science Magazine published medical research online Sept. 8 about a promising new malaria vaccine developed by a team led by a Navy scientist, marking the first time the magazine published an article about a clinical trial of a malaria vaccine.

Capt. Judith Epstein, a Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC) researcher with the U.S. Military Malaria Vaccine Program (USMMVP), led a team of military and civilian research scientists in developing a vaccine against malaria, a life-threatening disease for which there is currently no licensed vaccine.

The discovery of a highly effective vaccine is an important biomedical research and development priority for Navy Medicine because of the significant impact malaria has had and continues to have on the readiness of the U.S. military.

While additional studies are required, Epstein is pleased with the groundbreaking work the team has made to date.

"Our goal is to protect the lives and welfare of our military personnel," said Epstein. "We need a vaccine which is as effective against malaria as the vaccines we use every day to prevent other life-threatening diseases. Also, the Department of Defense has a long tradition of transitioning life-saving vaccines and drugs to the developing world; if we are successful, a vaccine used to protect our Sailors and Marines could also be used to save thousands of lives in malaria-endemic areas."

The initial research for a malaria vaccine began in the 1970s in studies by the Navy and the University of Maryland in which volunteers were exposed to bites from mosquitoes harboring weakened malaria parasites. Using radiation-attenuated sporozoites delivered by mosquito bite, researchers achieved sustained sterile protection. A sporozoite is a form of the malaria parasite that is concentrated in the salivary glands of an infected mosquito and is introduced into a person's blood when the mosquito bites.

Today, the approach being pursued by Navy researchers and their partners capitalizes on these prior studies. The recent published results focus on the first-in-humans clinical trial of the PfSPZ (Plasmodium falciparum sporozoite) vaccine given by injection, either subcutaneously or intradermally. The PfSPZ vaccine was developed by Sanaria, Inc. a biotechnology company in Rockville, Md.

The trial, funded primarily by the nonprofit PATH (Program for Appropriate Technology in Health) Malaria Vaccine Initiative, was conducted at the NMRC Clinical Trials Center and at the Center for Vaccine Development, University of Maryland. The biting of immunized volunteers was conducted by collaborators at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, USMMVP. While most malaria vaccines in clinical development consist of genetically engineered recombinant proteins and viruses that represent small portions of the parasite, this vaccine contains a weakened form of the entire malaria parasite. According to Epstein, the testing of the vaccine by Navy Medicine and their partners opens up a new area of vaccinology.

As reported in Science, scientists from the Vaccine Research Center, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) National Institutes of Health (NIH) demonstrated in a non-human primate model that when the vaccine was given intravenously, rather than via subcutaneous or intradermal injection, immune responses were extremely impressive. This showed the critical importance of the route of vaccine administration.

Epstein believes these advances in vaccine research are a credit to the dedicated efforts of many military and civilian scientists working in tandem.

"It's all about the partnerships," said Epstein. "The results in this publication reflect the successful collaborative efforts of Navy Medicine and other leading researchers in academia and private industry and demonstrate the immune responses that those involved in the treatment or prevention of malaria have been seeking for decades. The results of the next clinical trial are highly anticipated."

Other members of the research team included Protein Potential LLC, Rockville, Md.; and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Baltimore, Md.

US hails 'extraordinary' French, British roles in Libya

Britain and France played "extraordinary" roles in NATO's air war in Libya but the United States provided the critical assets that ensured its success, the US ambassador to NATO said Thursday.

"We're clearly getting near to the end of the operation," said ambassador Ivo Daalder, nearly six months since NATO took over a mission to protect civilians from Moamer Kadhafi's forces.

British and French aircraft flew one-third of some 22,000 sorties while their warplanes hit 40 percent of the 5,000 military targets that NATO destroyed in Libya, Daalder said.

"France and the United Kingdom did an extraodinary job and they were equally indispensable to the success of this operation," Daalder told reporters.

While around half of NATO members contributed military assets to the operation, only eight conducted air strikes: the United States, France, Britain, Canada, Italy, Denmark, Norway and Belgium.

Daalder highlighted the roles played by Belgium, Denmark and Norway, saying that combined they bombed as many targets as France despite their relatively small air forces.

Britain and France spearheaded the air war against Kadhafi's forces in Libya, launching the first salvos under a coalition led by the United States on March 19.

On the Afghan frontline, U.S. soldiers see longer war ahead

U.S. soldiers deployed on the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan say the war isn't going away for another ten years, even after Washington pulls troops from a country locked in a deadly Islamist insurgency.

With failing public support for the war, President Barack Obama has announced a plan to gradually draw down the 100,000 troops in Afghanistan and hand over all security responsibilities to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

But ten years after the September 11, 2011 attacks, which brought U.S. forces to Afghanistan, the country still faces a Taliban insurgency that the world's formidable military has been unable to quell.

As budget cuts linger, a call to spare special operations funds

As Congress bickered toward a debt limit deal, the price for compromise included $350 billion worth of defense spending cuts over 10 years, an amount Pentagon officials said they could live with, without putting national security at risk. That figure could yet grow as a congressional panel looks to find additional cost savings.

Several of President Barack Obama’s handpicked crop of new top military officers have in recent weeks sought budget-cutting immunity for special operations forces and counterterrorism operations across the Middle East. But the budget deal Obama signed on Wednesday leaves most of the Special Operations Command budget exposed to the proposed cuts.

The bill is supposed to protect war funds contained in the special “overseas contingency operations” account, but only 34 percent of SOCOM funds requested for 2012 fall under that account.

Vice Adm. William McRaven, Joint Special Operations Commander and Obama’s choice as next SOCOM commander, told the Senate in June that any budget cuts “would severely impact my ability to meet the demand for [special operations forces] and significantly increase the risk to our nation’s security.”

“Since 9/11, SOF manpower has roughly doubled, the budget has roughly tripled and the overseas deployments have quadrupled. Demand is outpacing supply,” he said. “The pace of the last 10 years is indicative of what we expect for the next 10 years.”

Odierno: Leaving too many troops in Iraq would be 'counterproductive'

New Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno warned on Thursday that leaving too many U.S. troops in Iraq after this year would be “counterproductive.”

Odierno’s comments follow several news reports this week saying the White House and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta were considering leaving 3,000 to 5,000 troops in Iraq past Dec. 31, well below the force size of 10,000 or more troops that most believed the Pentagon would leave, if Iraqi leaders agreed.

The general, the former commander of the Iraq War, said he hesitated to pitch an exact troop number, leaving that decision for current Iraq War commander Gen. Lloyd Austin and Central Command’s Gen. James Mattis.

With budget cuts ahead, Odierno planning to shape downsizing

On his first full day in office, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno warned congressional budget negotiators against shrinking the force too quickly or taking away the flexibility to fight threats of all types.

“Be careful of going too small, too fast,” he said in a roundtable interview Thursday at the Pentagon.

Congress and Pentagon leaders are posturing to protect against deeper defense spending cuts in budgetary battles this fall, and Odierno is leaving much of that fight to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. In the background, the new chief is figuring out how to downsize an Army that is still fighting wars by reviewing the entire force structure – including size, organization, training and equipment – through the next four to eight years.

Notably, Odierno said he does not think the Army will shrink to a maximum size of 520,000 soldiers, as former Defense Secretary Robert Gates proposed. That total was still "reasonable," Odierno said, if the assumptions made at the time are fulfilled, including withdrawing from Afghanistan by 2014.

"I’m comfortable with 520," he said. "Do I think we’re going to end up at 520? Probably not. So, what is the right number?"

Odierno insisted the Army remained agile — a word he stressed repeatedly — and appropriately balanced so it could continue to meet a wide range of unpredictable future national security threats, from wars of all sizes to terrorism and transnational criminal activity.

Survey Reveals 92 Percent of Young Afghan Men Have Never Heard of 9/11

More than 90 per cent of young Afghan men in southern provinces home to sustained fighting between U.S. and Taliban forces do not know about "this event which the foreigners call 9/11," The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

According to a survey of 1,000 15 to 30-year-old men in Kandahar and Helmand -- where U.S. President Barack Obama sent the bulk of American surge troops -- 92 percent of respondents said they were unaware of 9/11 after being read a three-paragraph description of the attacks.

"Nobody explained to them the 9/11 story -- and it's hard to win the hearts and minds of the fighting-age males in Helmand if they don't even know why the foreigners are here," said Norine MacDonald, president of the International Council on Security and Development, which conducted the survey.

"There is a vacuum -- and it's being filled by Al Qaeda and Taliban propaganda claiming that we are here to destroy Islam."

The events of September 11, 2001, are known to educated Afghans, but elsewhere in a predominantly rural country where 42 percent of the population is under the age of 14 and 72 percent of adults are illiterate, many people have never been told about the atrocity.

Even in the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul -- near the country's eastern border with Pakistan -- there are people who have never heard of the terror attack that led to their nation being invaded by Western armies, the Journal reported.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

US debates paring down mission in Iraq

As the White House debates keeping a much smaller force in Iraq after 2011, it must decide whether to axe a peacekeeping role in the country's volatile north, officials and analysts said Wednesday.

Amid negotiations with Iraqi leaders on the scope of a future US military mission, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has approved a tentative proposal to retain as few as 3,000-4,000 troops beyond an end-of-year deadline, a senior defense official told AFP.

The proposed smaller footprint, first reported by Fox News, has been floated as a way of navigating the politically-charged talks with Baghdad, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"If you go in with 10,000, then you may get nothing. You don't want to go heavy and overplay your hand," the official said, referring to the higher training force troop numbers previously touted by senior officers.

The Obama administration's internal debate on Iraq requires the president's advisers and commanders to contemplate what tasks will be carried out by any follow-on force, and what missions might have to be jettisoned.

With the Iraqi military designed for counter-insurgency missions, US and local officers have long argued that forces will need help with logistics, intelligence, counter-terror operations, air power and naval security.

But lighter US numbers of roughly 3,000 would be too small to address what top generals have said is perhaps the most serious threat to Iraq's stability -- ethnic tensions between Kurds and Arabs in the country's oil-rich north.

Obama wants to keep 3,000-5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq into 2012

The Obama administration would like to keep about 3,000 to 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq beyond the end of this year but has not begun formal discussions with the Iraqis about the size or makeup of the force, U.S. officials said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has expressed a desire to keep some U.S. trainers in the country in 2012, past the deadline negotiated by the George W. Bush administration to remove all U.S. troops from the country.

But the Iraqi leader faces staunch opposition from key members of his coalition government who are deeply opposed to any U.S. presence. Some members of the coalition have threatened to boycott the government if it allows any U.S. forces to stay.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Civilian Planes Enlisted in the World of Airborne Spying

For a military that loves to create shiny hardware from scratch, dipping into the used-plane market is a rarity, done only under the most urgent conditions. Remotely piloted drones have been the intelligence stars of the wars, but the Pentagon cannot build them quickly enough to meet the demand.

So the Air Force bought eight used King Airs and equipped them with video cameras and eavesdropping gear as part of a broader effort to supplement the drones with manned aircraft. The Army has also retooled similar planes to track insurgents who plant bombs.

In turning to the King Airs, the Pentagon has appropriated an aircraft that is commonly associated with business executives flying to meetings and wealthy vacationers to weekend ski outings. King Airs have also drawn celebrity pilots like the late actor and comedian Danny Kaye.

The military has used older King Airs to carry V.I.P.’s and conduct other operations in the past. Now, military commanders say the twin-propeller planes, which carry two pilots and two sensor operators, have carved out a niche in working more closely than the unmanned drones with soldiers on hazardous missions.

The crews on the planes, now called MC-12s, are in nearly constant radio contact with convoys and troops in firefights. They can chat more easily with them than the drone crews, which are based in the United States, to position the spy gear and interpret data about enemy movements.

With budget cuts looming, Air Force officials say the rapid fielding of the MC-12s also shows how the military could make greater use of commercial products to reduce costs and contracting delays.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Are we finished in the Philippines?

U.S.-backed Philippine marines swept through the jungles of Sulu on a pre-dawn scouting mission in late July and came upon a camp of kidnappers, terrorists and bandits.

After a deadly five-hour firefight, the marines took the hideout, U.S. special operations forces treated casualties and a terrorist leader with a $1 million U.S. bounty on his head fled back into the green wilderness.

That game of cat-and-mouse has played out for nearly a decade in the southern Philippines, where the United States opened a front in the war against terrorism shortly after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The U.S. has spent hundreds of millions of dollars and 17 servicemembers have died in the effort to root out al-Qaida-linked terrorism networks in a violence-plagued region that has vexed Manila for decades.

Now, military leaders and experts say the assistance operations have been widely successful in eliminating the threat of international terrorism. But the way out of the fight remains unclear.

With Osama bin Laden dead, the Iraq War wrapping up and a drawdown looming in Afghanistan, the U.S. commitment in the southern Philippines remains open-ended and the country’s independence from military aid appears as elusive as terrorist rebels who disappear into the Sulu jungle.

Russian Ambassador To U.S.: Don't Flee Afghanistan

When the Soviet military occupied Afghanistan in the 1980s, Andrey Avetisyan served as a young diplomat in Kabul who witnessed a war that ultimately ended with a humiliating Soviet withdrawal.

Today, he is back in Kabul, this time as the Russian ambassador. And his advice to the United States is not to pull out of Afghanistan precipitously.

NPR Morning Edition co-host Renee Montagne, who is reporting from Afghanistan this month, sat down with Avetisyan and asked him about the U.S.-Soviet rivalry in the 1960s, when the superpowers were competing to help develop a poor — but peaceful — Afghanistan.

Crocker Says U.S. must stay in Afghanistan or risk more attacks like 9/11

The United States must keep fighting the Taliban or risk more attacks like those of September 11, 2001, because the insurgent group is a ruthless enemy that has not cut ties to al-Qaida, the U.S. ambassador to Kabul told Reuters in an interview.

Ryan Crocker also said the the U.S. must be prepared to spend billions more in the coming years to bolster Afghanistan's government and security forces. "As expensive as this (war) has been ... it has cost a lot less than 9/11 did," he said.

He described building a stable Afghanistan as "the ultimate guarantee that there will not be another 9/11."

Crocker told Reuters that although he understands Americans are weary after a decade of war, the Taliban must be defeated in order to preserve national security.

"With the Taliban will come al-Qaida, and we will have the same situation that we had pre-9/11, and that to me is an utterly unacceptable outcome," he said.

Friday, September 2, 2011

US Army's "Next Generation" M109 Paladin Howitzer

The U.S. Army is developing a next-generation, 40-ton 155mm Howitzer artillery cannon able to fire precision rounds, accommodate additional armor protections and power more on-board electrical systems.

The M109 Paladin Integrated Management, or PIM, is slated to begin low-rate initial production by 2013, and features a 600-volt on-board power system designed to accommodate emerging networking technologies as they become available.

The PIM is the Army's modernization program for the 155mm self-propelled Howitzer fleet, said Lt. Col. Dan Furber, product manager, Self-Propelled Howitzer Systems.

"The [space, weight and power] buy-back the PIM will provide is huge," Furber said. "It allows us to add additional armor to the platform and it allows us to add additional capabilities such as automation or electronic packages."

The PIM's on-board power system harnesses technologies developed for the Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon, or NLOS-C, a 155mm Howitzer formerly developed for the Future Combat Systems, Manned-Ground Vehicles program. That program was canceled in 2009.

"We've also harnessed the electric drives from the NLOS-C, which are faster than the hydraulic drives used in the existing fleet," Furber said. "With the electric drives and rammer, we are finding more consistent ramming of the round which allows for more consistent muzzle velocities and we are a little more accurate and responsive with the electric drives."

Prototypes of the vehicle, built by BAE Systems, are now undergoing government testing in preparation for an low-rate initial production decision. The PIM vehicle's cannon rests on a chassis built with Bradley Fighting Vehicle common components including engine, transmission and tracks.

"Being common with Bradley decreases the logistics footprint that echelons above brigades will have to manage," Furber said. "In the long term, it will decrease the amount of money needed to sustain the Bradley and Self-Propelled Howitzer fleets. We will only have to manage one engine, for example, in the supply chain, so there are economies of scale that are beneficial to the Army."

The testing includes reliability, availability and maintainability mission testing as well as ballistic hull and turret testing. Both testing regimes are designed to prepare the program for a Milestone C production decision by 2013.

Like other 155mm artillery systems, the Paladin will be configured to fire precision munitions such as the Excalibur and the Precision Guidance Kit. The PIM is being designed to provide key fire-support for a range of potential combat operations to include conventional, hybrid, irregular and counterinsurgency scenarios.

"While PIM is associated with the heavy brigade combat team, it is a full-spectrum operational platform," Furber said. "For instance, it would allow the artillery crew supporting light infantry on a forward operating base to be protected from indirect fires -- something towed artillery pieces are not able to do."

The PIM includes a sustained rate of fire of one round per-minute and a maximum rate of fire of four rounds per-minute, said Ed Murray, Department of the Army Systems Coordinator - Artillery.

The Army plans to build 580 new Paladin PIM sets. Each set includes a self-propelled howitzer and an ammunition resupply vehicle. The existing fleet of M109A6 Howitzers are nearing obsolescence. Those weapons were originally designed in the 1950's and produced in the 1960's.

As a result, the current fleet exceeds its weight and power capacity and does not provide for growth in mobility and force protection, thus emphasizing that the PIM program is necessary to address the existing capability gaps for self-propelled artillery.

Army Gets Lighter Weight Mortars

The Watervliet Arsenal released this week its first shipment of redesigned 60mm lightweight mortar barrels that are part of a new U.S. Army contract valued at more than $9.5 million.

These new mortar systems are up to 20 percent lighter than the previous versions and this is the first major redesign of the widely used infantry mortar system since the late 1970s, said Col. Mark F. Migaleddi, the Arsenal commander.

"What we have been able to achieve by using advanced manufacturing techniques to machine a new materiel called Inconel was to help lower the weight of the 60mm mortar system by about nine pounds," Migaleddi said.

After years of process refining and development, Migaleddi announced earlier this month that a revolutionary "flowform" manufacturing process is now a reality at the Arsenal.

"Because the flowform process uses cold forging versus heat forging, we are able to forge lighter weight Inconel barrels," Migaleddi said.

According to the Army's Program Executive Office for Ammunition, the Army's first M224A1 60mm Lightweight Company Mortar Systems were tested in June by the 1st Special Forces Group at Fort Lewis, Wash., to great success.

The average load for a 60mm assistant gunner is 122 pounds and so, reducing the weight of the mortar system by more than nine pounds has proven in testing to not only reduce crew fatigue, but has also reduced crewmen's movement time over a cross-country course, said Peter Burke, PEO Ammunition's deputy product manager for Guided Munitions and Mortar Systems.

The 60mm mortar system is used primarily by the infantry as an indirect fire weapon when a high angle trajectory is required to hit enemy troops, materiel, and positions. The new mortar system will fire the same family of munitions as the previous model and at the same rate of fire.

The Army will replace all of its 1,550 60mm mortar systems and the Arsenal's share of this fleet-wide replacement program is about 500 mortar barrel assemblies. The Arsenal's contract runs through fiscal year 2013.

The Arsenal's business model has changed in recent years from a focus on cannon production to the production of mortar systems due to the type of ground combat that the U.S. military is doing in Afghanistan. During the past year, the Arsenal has manufactured various parts -- such as tubes, leg assemblies, and base plates -- for more than 2,000 mortar systems for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps.

According to Tom Pond, the Arsenal's current director of operations, the Army's Benet Laboratories also deserves must praise in the research and development of this new manufacturing process. Benet Labs is a premier military weapons research and design facility located on the Arsenal.

"This was truly one of those projects where Benet engineers walked across the street and spent a significant amount of time with the machinists," Pond said. "You can't beat having the designer of the system and the manufacturer of the product within the same fence line."

Turkey agrees to host missile early warning radar for Nato

Turkey has agreed to host an early warning radar as part of Nato's missile defence system aimed at countering ballistic missile threats from neighbouring Iran.

A Turkish foreign ministry statement said discussions on the country's contribution to Nato's missile defence shield had reached "their final stages".

It did not say when or where the US early warning radar would be stationed.

Nato members agreed to an anti-missile system over Europe to protect against Iranian ballistic missiles at a summit in Lisbon last year. A compromise was reached with Turkey, which has cultivated close ties with its neighbour Iran and had threatened to block the deal if Iran were explicitly named as a threat.

Under the Nato plans, a limited system of US anti-missile interceptors and radars already planned for Europe – to include interceptors in Romania and Poland as well as the radar in Turkey – would be linked to European-owned missile defences. That would create a broad system that protected every Nato country against medium-range missile attacks.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

U.S. money is Taliban's No. 2 revenue source

(CBS News) It's no secret that war is expensive, but a report out Wednesday says the U.S. has wasted billions in Iraq and Afghanistan. More tax dollars will go down the drain unless the government makes big changes.

CBS News correspondent David Martin reports that in ten years of war, the U.S. has paid contractors $206 billion to do everything from building schools to guarding diplomats. Today, a blue ribbon commission put a number on how much has been lost not to violence but to mismanagement and corruption.

Commission on Wartime Contracting Chairman Christopher Shays says: "We are wasting between $30 and $60 billion during the course of our engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Shays says $30 billion in waste can be documented; Everything from leasing four-wheel vehicles at "grossly exorbitant rates" of about $40,000 a year, to a $124 million prison renovation that was never finished. The larger $60 billion figure includes an estimate of how much money lined the pockets of corrupt officials and even the enemy.