04 June 2009

June 4th, 1942

Pause...

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Ponder...

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Remember...

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Honor..


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From these honored aviators, Marines and Sailors - those departed and the few left with us, we draw our heritage...our ethos.

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May they and their actions this day never be forgotten. And from their stand, may we evermore draw strength.
- SJS
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03 June 2009

North Korea: Here We Go Again - Part II

09broad190As if the 29 April statement from the DPRK Foreign Ministry wasn't provocative enough, comes the latest missive dated 29 May (full statement here):

As long as the UNSC fails to respond to the DPRK's just demand, the DPRK will not recognize any resolution and decision of the UNSC in the future, too.

Third, if the UNSC will make further provocative actions, this will inevitably lead to the DPRK's approach towards adopting stronger self-defensive counter-measures.

The end of the Cold War worldwide works only between big powers, but a Cold War still persists on the Korean Peninsula.

The UNSC-crafted UN Command itself is a signatory to the Korean Armistice Agreement.

Any hostile act by the UNSC immediately means the abrogation of the Armistice Agreement.

The world will soon find out how the army and people of the DPRK will stand up against the high-handed and get-it-alone approach of the UNSC in defending its dignity and sovereignty.

The U.S. is keen on using a catchphrase "Carrot and stick."

It would be better for the "Donkey" of the U.S. Democratic Party to lick the carrot.

Well. What next Alphonse?

Some have said another strong statement from the UNSC would do the trick and if the Russians or Chinese don't join in it won't matter - though in light of the above we are hard-pressed to see how this would work. Others argue that it's time to effect kinetic solutions on the DPRK homeland, to which we respond - 'done a count of tube artillery in the hills outside of Seoul recently?' Clearly those two COAs represent the extremes of the range of operations (assuming 'do nothing' isn't an option). Reflecting some of the rising frustration on this issue, a commenter on another site remarked -"I hear a lot of frustration from pretty much everyone I talk to about this. But what does anyone actually think we should do?" Actually - there is a good bit we can do short of direct, kinetic effects. A couple, for example might be:

1. Step up rigorous enforcement of the Proliferation Security Initiative. Every nK flagged vessel is suspect of carrying materials for their ballistic missile and/or nuke program and hence gets stopped, wherever they are, and searched. Any problems with manifests, logs, etc. and the ship is impounded and the crew interred or sent back to nK, minus the ship.

2. Crack down on the backdoor hard currency exchanges that only serve to keep the leadership elite in power and do nothing to aid the people. We started doing this back in ‘06-07 and it hurt them so much they agreed to come back to the 6-party talks. Do it again and this time keep the pressure up.

And work on regional confidence building measures with our allies in Australia (yes, Australia - look at yesterday's chart and plot out a southerly trajectory to 4,000 nm/7500 km, roughly the same distance to Hawaii and you are in the heart of Australia), South Korea and Japan. Things like strengthening theater and regional defenses to include missile defense, for example.

Because every carrot needs a stick.

02 June 2009

DPRK and Long Range Missiles: Here We Go Again

1_28_nk450Looks like the missiles of spring are coming back for return engagement this summer:

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea may this month test a missile designed to fly as far as U.S. territory and may also be gearing up for skirmishes with the South around their disputed sea border, South Korean media reported on Monday.

and

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea has shifted its most advanced long-range missile — capable of reaching Alaska — to a new west coast launch site near the border with China, reports said Monday, in a move that threatens to further escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula.

The regime could fire the long-range missile as early as mid-June — around the time South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and President Barack Obama hold a summit in Washington, the Dong-a Ilbo newspaper in Seoul said, citing unidentified officials in Washington and Seoul.

The missile at the Dongchang-ni launch site on the northwest coast is believed to be a version of the Taepodong-2 rocket that the North fired on April 5 saying it was a satellite launch, the report said. The JoongAng Ilbo newspaper carried a similar report. A new long-range missile launch would mark a significant escalation in tensions already running high after the North's April rocket launch and an underground nuclear test conducted a week ago. The U.N. Security Council has been discussing how to punish Pyongyang for the atomic blast.

Well, say this about nK - they do stick to the script:

"In case the UNSC does not make an immediate apology, such actions will be taken as:

"Firstly, the DPRK will be compelled to take additional self-defensive measures in order to defend its supreme interests.

"The measures will include nuclear tests and test-firings of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

"Secondly, the DPRK will make a decision to build a light water reactor power plant and start the technological development for ensuring self-production of nuclear fuel as its first process without delay."

slide1The new wrinkle in this iteration is the apparent use of a new west coast launch facility - adds al sorts of new factors in indications and warning and defense compared to the facility at T'aepo dong. Also raises questions about nK's turnaround/lessons-learned from the previous launch of a new TD-2 variant in April this year. Starts to possibly speak volumes about the nK's assessing the failure of April's launch and incorporating lessons learned form that event. By comparison is the almost three year period and new airframe from the 2006 TD-2 launch failure to April 2009 launch attempt.

It won't be a boring summer 'round these parts...that's for sure.

01 June 2009

Midway Week

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This week is the 69th anniversary of the Battle of Midway. In recognition of that, check with your local VFW/American Legion Post for local observances and try and make it a point to attend. To help, here's a listing of known events from around the country:

2009 BOM ANNIVERSARY AND UNIT REUNION ANNOUNCEMENTS

1. 3 June, Arlington, VA: formal banquet, Army-Navy Country Club

2. 4 June, Washington D.C.: USN commemoration at the Navy Memorial

3. 4 June, Washington DC, BOM symposium (IMMF)

4. 4 June, Houston, TX: BOM commemoration by NOUS

5. 4 June, Boston, MA: BOM commemoration aboard USS Constitution (I'm sure Maggie will be there - right? - SJS)

6. 4-7 June, New Orleans, LA: USS Yorktown (CV-5) reunion

7. 6 June, Chino, CA: Coral Sea & BOM symposium and air show

8. 6 June, San Diego, CA: BOM commemoration aboard USS Midway.

9. 6 June, San Francisco, CA: formal banquet, Marines Memorial Club

10. 6 June, Jacksonville, FL: BOM commemoration & banquet hosted by Navy League

11. 6 June, Monterey, CA: formal “Dining Out” at Naval Postgraduate School

12. 8 June, Chattanooga, TN: BOM event begins “Navy Week.”

I'll be observing here in the heartland since this week I am also TAD for training and so posting will, perforce, be light. There are some posts scheduled for publication here and over at the USNI blog (most there focusing on Midway). Wherever you are on the 4th, take pause and remember those who dared, those who fought heavy odds - those who gave their all; and how much different the course of the war in the Pacific would have been otherwise...

w/r, SJS

Links to More Midway Sites:

The Course to Midway: Turning Point in the Pacific

Naval History & Heritage Command

International Midway Memorial Foundation

Battle of Midway Celebration at Army Navy Country Club

Navy PA Resources Website

27 May 2009

BMD From the Sea - It's Not Just for SWO's

It is time for Naval Aviation to become more than interested bystanders and step up to the plate for the ballistic missile defense mission. For those who have been otherwise engaged or looking elsewhere, the cover and main article in the May 2009 issue of Proceedings is your wake-up call. Now, besides the ever-present threat posed by cruise missiles, we can add ballistic missiles to the list of concerns. And to the naysayers who point to the Aegis community and say it's their job because they're the archer, I say not so fast, for several reasons. Chief among these is the growing threat itself.

Since the end of the Cold War, ballistic missiles have become a growth industry, especially in the short- and medium-ranged categories (figure out to 1500km). Missiles in these categories don't require the engineering, technology, and support structure of their larger IR/ICBM cousins and as such, lend themselves to a variety of domestic production programs using proliferated knowledge and technology, or, may be purchased wholesale from willing proliferators, such as the DPRK. These missiles lend themselves to mobile launchers which may be deployed far forward, reducing warning and engagement times, and employed in sufficient quantities as to greatly complicate planning and operations in a number of areas and conditions ranging from APOD/SPOD operations to choke point transits. The numbers may be troublesome enough on their own - add in WMD, especially where certain countries that are expanding their ballistic missile capabilities are also engaged in nuclear programs that are unsupervised by international agencies and the problem 3-5 years out grows more complicated. Factor in the addition of sophisticated technology by near-peer nations - MaRV's based on the Pershing II missile with millimeter terminal guidance radar for example, that are deployed in significant numbers on mobile platforms well within denied territory, and planning at all levels - tactical, operational and even strategic grows more difficult as options are taken off the table. Difficult or impossible, that is, absent a robust and credible defense.

CNO has declared BMD to be a core competency for all Navy - not just Aegis BMD. To be successful in that mission area will require efforts and capabilities that cut across communities and the operational and electromagnetic spectrum, much like we have and are doing for cruise missile defense. We must be able to bring to bear the full capabilities of sea-based power, kinetic and non- as all the elements of that sea-based power can provide force multiplier roles from pre-launch to terminal intercept. Naval aviation is a major player in this effort and not just as an attempt to "get a piece of the action."

While it is true that at present, the only active (read: hard kill) defensive capability is via the SM-3 family and SM-2 BlkIV, there are a number of near and longer term instances where naval aviation, and carrier aviation in particular, will play an increasingly important role. Emphasis in the last several years in the development of these missiles and Aegis BMD has focused on the mid-course/exo-atmospheric (SM-3) and terminal/endo-atmospheric (SM-2 BlkIV) intercept of short- and medium range ballistic missiles, along with the long-range search/track contribution of Aegis BMD as part of the BMDS designed to counter intermediate- and intercontinental ballistic missiles. However, with the recent shift in emphasis to the regional/theater fight and a renewed focus on ascent phase intercept (API), maritime forces will come to play a substantially increased role in all three areas of BMD - offensive action, passive and active defenses. How will this be possible? Through a combination of emerging/evolving platforms and capabilities teamed with core competencies already found across several NAVAIR communities. Let's look first at the platforms.

A key requirement and necessary capability for API to be successful is persistent ISR with rapid cueing via fast, redundant network paths to the shooter(s), in this case Aegis BMD-equipped ships. CVW's in the 3-5 year out view will see their capabilities grow in this area following planned upgrades and introduction of new platforms. Close at hand will be the wider deployment of AESA equipped F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and the EA-18G Growler. One potential vulnerability of mobile TBMs is their command and control networks, especially if there is intent to employ them in saturation raids in concert with anti-ship or land-attack cruise missiles. Identification of critical communications nodes and attack via non-kinetic means may result in disruption of attacks or even disablement of the missiles themselves. The capabilities inherent in AESA-equipped aircraft and the electronic attack capabilities in the Growler lend themselves to further investigation in this field. Netted and linked data between these platforms, passed via current E-2C's and fused with other off-board sensors (e.g., Predators, EP-3, and other joint platforms) build a richer picture for the afloat and ashore command elements. At the far end of that 3-5 year period the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye should begin seeing fleet introduction and the addition of its networking capability and revolutionary mechanically- and electronically scanned radar, among many other new or improved capabilities will bring battle management in the missile defense realm to new levels. Tapped into CEC or one of the other links for cueing, an Aegis BMD ship should be able to fire on remote, significantly expanding the battle space for API. Farther out, the addition of BAMS, P-8 and EPX, a possible marinized-Predator/Reaper and UCAV-N grow the range of possibilities for persistent ISR and cued attack, non-kinetic and kinetic. Indeed, even today Predators and their IR tracking have been successfully used in BMD tests. The carrier version of the JSF, the F-35C, will bring additional capabilities to the fight with its integrated sensor/weapons suite. And don't forget - Fire Scout is already out there with potential near shore/over the beach surveillance as well.

While the platforms are coming on-line, what is more important is recognition within the various NAVAIR communities, especially VAW, VAQ and VQ of these inherent BMD capabilities, that BMD is a core mission across the Navy and that their particular communities have a natural affinity for BMD. Particular skill sets are required in the areas of C4I, Battle Management, ISR, net-centric operations and data fusion, all of which are an inherent part of those communities and representative of a natural and evolving growth. Joint and combined operational experience would certainly underscore these skill sets.

Thirty years ago the VAW community, was geared to the long-range AEW/AAW fight and gave little thought to the overland ABCCC mission, for example. Yet by the time of operations in the Gulf and over former Yugoslavia it was increasingly engaged and tasked so. Those skill sets evolved from the battle management skills developed over a half-century of AEW and refined in the digital age with the introduction of the E-2C/F-14 teamed with Aegis with the assistance of organizations like the Carrier AEW Weapons School and Naval Strike Warfare Center. Today it should be no less so and with organizations like the Navy Air and Missile Defense and Naval Strike and Air Warfare Commands serving as the laboratory cum schoolhouse for such evolutionary expansion, the time to start is now.

Because the threat certainly isn't marking time...

25 May 2009

North Korea's Nuclear Test

It appears that second-time around worked for the North Koreans:

SEOUL (AFP) — North Korea carried out a second and more powerful nuclear test, defying international pressure to rein in its atomic programmes after years of six-nation disarmament talks. The hardline communist state, which stunned the world by testing an atomic bomb for the first time in October 2006, had threatened another test after the UN Security Council censured it for a long-range rocket launch in April. The North "successfully conducted one more underground nuclear test on May 25 as part of the measures to bolster up its nuclear deterrent for self-defence in every way," the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said. "The current nuclear test was safely conducted on a new higher level in terms of its explosive power and technology," it said. The force of the blast was between 10 and 20 kilotons, according to Russia's defence ministry quoted by news agencies, vastly more than the estimated one kiloton blast three years ago.

While the Russians have historically over-estimated yields in their previous assessments, it is probably safe to say that the yield will fall around 10kt, more than surpassing 2006's fizzle @ 1/2 kt. Better refinement should come with independent verification by US and other international sources in the coming days.

And now all the chips are on the table. China has been vocal about not desiring to see North Korea armed with nukes and it has been the principle intermediary at the Six Party talks on behalf of the North Koreans. By far, it is the major supplier of energy resources to the North, keeping them from literally going dark. What will China do besides verbally condemn? Support full sanctions against the DPRK or block such a move? What about the Russians? Push-back expected on any measures beyond strong verbal condemnation in the Security Council? To be sure, expect one or both to forward the argument that harsher penalties will be "unproductive" and lead to greater instability in the region (read: China is afraid of provoking collapse of the DPRK government and subsequent rush of refugees across its borders into China). What of South Korea and Japan? The DPRK's on-gong missile tests, which have continued in the face of similar vocal condemnation and in spite of international agreements like the Missile Technology Control Regime or the International Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation, have energized Japan's missile defense efforts - will a successful DPRK nuclear test now result in a Japan that feels it must either develop its own nuclear weapons as a counter? Undertake a more offensively oriented military? How assured can/should the Japanese be about any U.S. guarantees via extension of its nuclear umbrella?

Unstated in the initial uproar is this little gem -- with a demonstrated proclivity towards proliferation whoring, particularly with Iran, what does this say about the future of nuclear arms control and non-proliferation? Were the parallel tests of an alleged new SRBM today demonstration of a nuclear capable missile? How close to a weaponized form was today's test? What are the implications for increased instability in other regions that are faced with their own issues of nuclear proliferation (viz. Israel-Iran)?

It's 0300 and somewhere there's a phone ringing...

06 May 2009

This Date in Naval History: Battle of the Coral Sea - 7 & 8 May

Sixty-seven years ago...

Day 1 - "Scratch One Flattop!":

The first day of the carrier battle of Coral Sea, 7 May 1942, saw the Americans searching for carriers they knew were present and the Japanese looking for ones they feared might be in the area. (more at NHHC)


Day 2: We lose USS Lexington:

. . . Japanese struck the American carriers shortly after Eleven, and, in a fast and violent action, scored with torpedoes on Lexington and with bombs on both carriers... rest of the story here and here



Midway awaits...


01 May 2009

Saturday at the Movies: 33 Minutes


Continuing the missile defense theme from the stand-up of the NAMDC, offered here is a new trailer for the Heritage Foundation film on the need for missile defense:


30 April 2009

Stand-up of the Navy Air and Missile Defense Center (NAMDC)

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namdc-01aOn Thursday, 30 April 2009, the Navy's newest Center of Excellence (COE), the Navy Air and Missile Defense Center, was opened for business onboard the Naval Weapons Development Center, Dahlgren Virginia. RADM Brad Hicks, who is also the Aegis BMD program director, will serve as the Center's first commander until a permanent flag is assigned later this year. The ceremony's keynote speaker, ADM Robert "Rat" Willard, Commander U.S. Pacific Fleet spared no words in underscoring the importance of this particular COE in the context of recent events to include the recent North Korean launch.

The challenge ahead of the center will be the role it plays in Navy's quest to equally field a national missile defense to shield the homeland, a regional defense for friends and allies and theater systems for protection of forward deployed forces while still accounting for the multi-mission nature of platforms like the Aegis-equipped cruisers and destroyers currently deployed. And the center's efforts won't end there, for the threat includes ever-increasingly proliferated cruise missiles and a host of other airborne threats. In that context the NAMDC will serve to integrate technical capabilities, warfighter concepts and C3 solutions to cover the entire kill chain, from the "high-end" of afloat BMD to the wave-tops.

The Center's focus also won't be Aegis- or even Navy-only, though that will constitute a good portion of its effort. As one of six envisioned Warfare Centers of Excellence that also include the Naval Strike Air Warfare Center in Fallon, Nev., and the Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command in San Diego, Calif, NAMDC as the lead organization for Navy and Joint AMD will also partner and work closely with organizations like Joint Force Command's Joint Warfighting Center down the road in Suffolk, VA. I should also note that with close proximity to Pax River and Norfolk/Oceana, the center should also have ready access to work with the VAW and VFA communities, especially important when one looks at the capabilities currently available (e.g. Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC), and the AESA in the newer Super Hornets) and planned (e.g., E-2D Advanced Hawkeye) for those communities.

This was a much needed step in beginning to restore balance to a force that has , frankly, become very power projection-centric. Along with other warfare areas, such as blue-water ASW, it seemed in the post-Cold War environment that integrated air and missile defense was increasingly pushed to the back even while threats like those posed by new generations of low-observable, fast cruise missiles were widely proliferated. However, the emerging area denial capabilities of countries like China and Iran, not to mention the requirements levied by the Maritime Strategy (and, one presumes, the NOC when it ever is released) clearly demand the establishment of an organization to oversee the disparate parts of the air defense picture. I would go further to say that it is one which should have taken place a couple of decades ago, around the time of the introduction of Aegis to the fleet with all the attendant integration, coordination and synchronization issues that presented with other ship- and airborne platforms, sensors and networks.

The NAMDC will have an initial staff of approximately 25 personnel, and grow over the next three years to a fully operational staff of about 75 members, equally divided between military personnel, government civilian employees and supporting contractors. Considering the magnitude of the challenge ahead, I'd say they will all be fully engaged, especially if what ADM Willard said, that the Center is "the most important thing to the future of this capability in the Navy" comes to pass.

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28 April 2009

Красная звезда среда - Red Star Wednesday

Several items on the docket today:


If at first you don't succeed...


bulava1From Ria Novosti comes word the much troubled Bulava SLBM will be tested five times in the coming year:

Despite five failures in 10 trials, Russia's Defense Ministry is planning to complete a series of Bulava tests and put the ICBM into service by the end of 2009.

"Considering that we must ensure reliable performance characteristics of the [Bulava] missile, we have decided to raise the number of additional test launches to five, if everything goes well," Vladimir Popovkin said.

Popovkin, who is visiting the Russian exposition at the IDEF-2009 arms show in Turkey, said that a faulty detail caused a test launch failure in December last year, and that the on-board systems would undergo additional ground testing in June-July prior to the next test launch.

At the same interview, it was revealed that sea trials of the Yury Dolgoruky, Russia's first Borey class strategic nuclear submarine, are due to start in the summer, and two other Borey class nuclear submarines - the Alexander Nevsky and the Vladimir Monomakh - are currently under construction at the Sevmash shipyard. They are expected to be completed in 2009 and 2011 respectively. Russia is planning to build a total of eight submarines of this class by 2015.

Some days you're the bug - others the windscreen

su-35bmOne of Russia's prototype Su-35's (SU-35BM) was destroyed earlier this week during testing. According to a plant spokesman, the prototype caught fire during take-off, but the pilot safely ejected:


"The accident occurred at 09.55 Moscow time [05.55 GMT] on Sunday at the Dzemgi airfield during the Su-35 prototype's take-off," Vitaly Tyulkin said, adding that the pilot ejected safely. "We will announce the details of the accident later in the day," he said.

According to the news report in Ria Novosti, speculation is centering on a faulty fuel pump. The aircraft was one of three Su-35 prototypes that incorporate improved engines and avionics (including the new Irbis-E AESA radar allowing automatic detection and tracking of up to 30 targets and engaging up to 8 of those) with the proven SU-27 airframe to create what is billed as a "4++ gen fighter with 5th generation features." The third prototype had been recently added to the program in hopes of speeding up test and development flights to 160 or so a month and stay ontrack for deliveries to the Russian air force, Malaysia and Algeria among others.

Aircraft carriers - everyone wants them it seems; India, China and now Russia talks about new plans:

kuznetsov-aftA deputy minister for defense procurements, Vladimir Popovkin was quoted on a recent trip abroad as saying that final plans for the next generation of new Russian aircraft carrier will be finalized sometime in the 2011-2012 timeframe. Nuclear-powered and with an expected displacement of close to 60K metric tons (for comparison, the Kuznetsov is about 55K metric tons), the new carrier is expected to host new fixed- and rotary wing aircraft (ed. think a hummerinski will be amongst them this time? - SJS) to include a fifth generation fighter to replace the SU-33/MiG-29K currently employed. In one interesting note that hints at the possible configuration, Vice Adm. Anatoly Shlemov, the head of defense contracts at the United Shipbuilding Corporation noted that unlike past carriers, the new one would not be armed with cruise missiles as "that's not part of it's job description..." Cost is estimated at $4 billion.

While the next item may seem surprising, when one considers Turkey already deploys Russian-made anti-tank and has cooperated with the Chinese on SRBMs, it seems less so:

s-400_launchAccording to Ria Novosti, Turkey has approached Russia regarding purchase of the S-400:

"Turkey has expressed a strong interest in buying S-400 air defense systems from Russia," said Anatoly Aksenov, a high-level adviser to the head of Russian arms export firm Rosoboronexport. "We have explained to Turkish officials that S-400 is not just a simple air defense system but an element of strategic missile defenses, which can be placed in one country but protect the airspace over a number of neighboring countries," said a source who accompanied Aksenov as part of the Russian delegation to this year's International Defense Industry Fair in Istanbul

The prospect of this sale raises questions on any one of a number of fronts. As Aksenov points out, the range of the S-400 is enough to provide defense to more than just the deploying nation. Given that there is no love lost between the Turks and Greeks, especially where Cyprus is involved, there may be something there (i.e., protection of Turk interests on Cyprus and in the Aegean). The same with Syria - no love lost there either. A more likely answer may lay to the east and southeast - towards one country (Israel) which has demonstrated an ability for long-range airstrikes that may have violated Turk airspace as well as an unacknowledged regional nuclear strike capability with its Jericho II MRBMs. Further to the east is another country that appears bent on acquiring nuclear weapons and certainly is working hard to develop and deploy a long-range missile system to deliver the weapons when able. The recent successful Safir SLV launch certainly imputes a nascent IRBM capability to Iran. Given the S-400's alternate role as part of a strategic (i.e., regional) missile defense system, Turkey may well be seeking an indigenous capability that will not rely on the US (which has been very busy in cooperative efforts with Israel to develop and build a multi-tiered BMD system for the protection of Israel) and provide protection from Israeli OR Iranian attack. To be sure, if Turkey goes through with the purchase, it would make it difficult to integrate with one of the US regional systems coming online - THAAD or land-based SM-3, for example.

То все для теперь - см. вас следующая неделя!

27 April 2009

Bye, Bye Bandit...

...and GTO.









GM puts a bullet in Pontiac, Saturn, Saab and Hummer.


And, of course, a greater share by the feds of the General...

The Ridiculous Not Restricted to DC

Air Force One


Meantime, the denizens of NYC were, not surprisingly, alarmed at the sight of a large airliner being intercepted and escorted by a fighter near the site of the World Trade Center:






hudson-480


Yep, you're not seeing things - it's the 747 that serves as Air Force One on a photo op over downtown NYC...


But hey, it's ok - the director of the White House Military Office apologized...

Springtime in DC

Ahhhh, just soak it in -- warm days, Dogwood blooming, pollen a dustin' and all around the city, the sap is rising:


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Alas, for the poor dears - not as many this year as in years past because, you know, it's *expensive* coming to DC and what with the economy and all, mom and dad just couldn't spring for a spring break trip to DC this year...


20 April 2009

Rememberig Columbine - 10 Years Later

It began as an ordinary, early spring day - teachers going about their business of teaching students; students doing what normal high school students are wont to do. At 1140, itdramatically, tragically changed with 12 students and a teacher dead and 23 others physically wounded - many more emotionally scarred.

Two years, four months and 22 days later, another "ordinary" day would close with thousands dead and many more physically and emotionally scarred. At the Pentagon, among the hundreds and thousands of cards and remembrance banners received, there was one that is still etched in my memory, for I saw it on my way into the building each and every day the following weeks and months. It was a profoundly simple banner from the students, faculty and parents of Columbine HS that stated their support, love and remembrance.

Today, I return my own as we remember the events of that day ten years ago and the innocence lost. God bless you all. - SJS

14 April 2009

This Date in Naval Aviation History: 15 Apr 1969 - Deep Sea 129

ec121 The weak can be rash. The powerful must be restrained.- Secretary of State William Rogers, April 1969

For most of these past several weeks, international attention has been focused on the activities taking place near a peninsula on the north-east coast of Korea. There, despite protests and warnings from around the world, the North Koreans attempted to duplicate the success of another pariah state, Iran, and place a satellite in orbit atop a missile that also had ICBM capability. That effort failed in its stated intent, with the payload finding a watery grave in the broad ocean area of the Pacific, but the fact that the North Koreans defiantly carried out their intent should not have come as a surprise to international community. Indeed, roughly 100 nm east-north-east of the launch site is the site, unmarked, of another North Korean action undertaken in contravention of international norms. That spot is the terminus of Deep Sea 129’s final flight, now forty years ago this April 15th (Korea time, April 14th US).
slide13Deep Sea 129 was a Navy EC-121 Warning Star operated by VQ-1. With a crew of 31 (8 officers and 23 enlisted), the flight launched from NAS Atsugi, Japan on what was known as a BEGGAR SHADOW mission to collect ELINT information off the Soviet port of Vladivostok. The big four-engined aircraft was originally designed and built as a land-based AEW follow-on to Project CADILLAC II’s PB-1W’s with a capability to haul a significantly larger and more powerful radar aloft, remain onstation much longer and carry a larger crew to support the expanded mission and endurance. All of those characteristics made it an ideal platform to modified for the PARPRO mission. PARPRO, the Peacetime Aerial Reconnaissance PROgram, covered the variety of airborne missions flown by US Army, Navy and Air Force crews near what was termed “denied territory” which constituted hostile nations such as the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea among others. These missions gathered information on radar and other electronic equipment (signals intelligence or SIGINT), communications such as those found at regional or sector air defense centers (communications intelligence or COMINT), photography of critical facilities or geographic features (PHOTOINT which later became imagery intelligence or IMINT) or a combination of COMINT and SIGNINT – ELINT. The program began shortly after WWII when it became apparent the Soviet Union had designs on expanding its reach in to western Europe, the Mediterranean and Far East. As an Iron Curtain was reigned down on the Soviet perimeter, the need for intelligence collection grew on the capabilities of Soviet forces. With the acquisition of the atomic bomb by the Soviets in 1949, the urgency of that requirement grew. Surprises, like the appearance of the MiG-15 jet fighter and China’s ground incursion during the Korean War underscored the importance of intelligence collection and the need for expanded coverage from the air and sea.
Most of the PARPRO missions were flown in international airspace – electronic signals don’t obey national borders, but some were flown immediately adjacent to and at times, across those same borders. Sometimes, the effort was safely completed, all too frequently it wasn’t. And sometimes, despite the fact the aircraft, or ships (viz. USS Liberty) were operating in international airspace or waters and clearly marked with US colors, they were still attacked. Some survived and were rescued or captured and disappeared into the Gulag – many never came back. That was Deep Sea 129’s lot.
There were no indications of possible hostile intent on the North Korean’s part when the WV-2 launched on the morning of the 15th, despite the capture of the USS Pueblo a bit over a year ago. Setting course for the operating area, a point off Musu Point where it would set up 120nm orbits focused on Vladivostok. Besides the Navy airmen onboard, there were 9 Naval Security Group cryptologists and Russian and Korean linguists onboard, including a Marine. The mission was under strict orders not to approach the Korean coast any closer than 50 nm and the two hundred-some odd flights in the past three months by USN and USAF aircraft on the BEGGAR SHADOW track had given no foreshadowing of possible action by the Koreans – but then, neither had there been for the Pueblo.
PARPRO missions, since the Gary Powers shootdown over Russia required monitoring and tracking by ground-based sites to serve as both a means of flight following and to provide warning if danger approached. That day, radar sites in Japan and Korea monitored Deep Sea 129’s mission, and the USAF 6918th Security Squadron at Hakata Air Station, Japan, and Detachment 1, 6922nd Security Wing at Osan Air Base monitored the North Korean reaction by intercepting its air defense search radar transmissions. Additionally, the Army Security Agency communications interception station at Osan listened to North Korean air defense radio traffic, and the Naval Security Group at Kamiseya, which provided the seven of the nine CTs aboard Deep Sea 129, also intercepted Soviet Air Force search radars. Still, there was no airborne escort and it would take several minutes, long agonizing minutes, for interceptors to be airborne and reach the Warning Star’s OPAREA should it come under attack. But with nothing showing on the boards that would lead commanders to think otherwise, no alerts were moved up or placed airborne.
It is an axiom of aviation that a problem in the developing stages tends to be slow and stealthy, but in the final stage it reaches completion in a rush. Thus an incipient icing condition builds slowly, steadily stealing lift until an aviator finds himself in an impossible coffin corner of airspeed, maneuverability and altitude with fatal results. So too did the final hour of Deep Sea 129’s mission progress.
At 1234 local, radar and listening posts reported the launch of suspected Mi-21’s in North Korea. Alerted, the larger monitoring network pricked it’s electronic ears and eyes to attempt and see and hear more. Deep Sea 129 completing a 1300L “ops normal” report to parent squadron VQ-1 and twenty-two minutes later the MiG’s were lost, not being re-acquired until 1337L. Alerted, VQ-1 passed a “Condition 3” report to the Warning Star indicating a possible intercept might be in progress. LCDR Overstreet, plane an mission commander for the flight, acknowledged the report and instituted abort procedures to terminate the mission. At 1337L the radar tracks of the MiG’s and Deep Sea 129 merged with radar and radio contact with the EC-121 and its crew lost two minutes later.
No CAP was launched and while a rescue effort was launched later that day, and eventually expanded to include over 20 aircraft, no debris was sighted until the following morning – which just happened to have been recovered by two Soviet destroyers in the area. When US ships arrived on the scene that evening, the USS Henry W. Tucker (DD 875) recovered a piece of the aircraft, riddled with shrapnel. The bodies of LTJG Joseph R. Ribar and AT1 Richard E. Sweeney were also recovered, the only ones thus so. The Soviet ships turned over what wreckage they had recovered to the US ships who then returned to Japan.
North Korea not only acknowledged the shoot down, they loudly and boastfully celebrated their action. President Nixon suspended PARPRO flights in the Sea of Japan for three days and then allowed them to resume, only with escorts. No reparations were ever paid to the US or the families of the lost airmen.
And Kim Il-Sung celebrated another birthday (April 15th).
The crew of Deep Sea 129:
LCDR James H. Overstreet,
LT John N. Dzema,
LT Dennis B. Gleason,
LT Peter P. Perrottey,
LT John H. Singer,
LT Robert F. Taylor,
LTJG Joseph R. Ribar,
LTJG Robert J. Sykora,
LTJG Norman E. Wilkerson,
ADRC Marshall H. McNamara,
CTC Frederick A. Randall,
CTC Richard E. Smith,
AT1 Richard E. Sweeney,
AT1 James Leroy Roach,
CT1 John H. Potts,
ADR1 Ballard F. Conners,
AT1 Stephen C. Chartier,
AT1 Bernie J. Colgin,
ADR2 Louis F. Balderman,
ATR2 Dennis J. Horrigan,
ATN2 Richard H. Kincaid,
ATR2 Timothy H. McNeil,
CT2 Stephen J. Tesmer,
ATN3 David M. Willis,
CT3 Philip D. Sundby,
AMS3 Richard T. Prindle,
CT3 John A. Miller,
AEC LaVerne A. Greiner,
ATN3 Gene K. Graham,
CT3 Gary R. DuCharme,
SSGT Hugh M. Lynch,(US Marine Corps).

Underway ... Again

Well, pulling the old blog out of mothballs and getting underway again. Seems certain organizations just can't get their blocking software to work uniformly across the net. Of course, for those of us who have experienced first hand those same organization's abilities at more mundane matters, like, oh, maybe migrating user's domains, we aren't very surprised...
So here's the gameplan. Check the mothership first, if no joy, pogo this.
Steeljaw sends...

02 February 2009

Come on Over...

...the water's great!

If by chance you have landed here from another site or print article, the location of the current/active site is http://steeljawscribe.com See you over there!
- SJS