December 3, 2010: The first U.S. Marine Corps “instant gunship” arrived in Afghanistan two months ago. Last month, it fired one of its weapons (a Hellfire missile) for the first time (killing five Taliban). Called “Harvest Hawk,” the “instant gunship” system, enables weapons and sensors to be quickly rolled into a C-130 transport and hooked up. This takes a few hours, and turns the C-130 into a gunship (similar in capabilities existing AC-130 gunships). The sensor package consists of day/night vidcams with magnification capability. The weapons currently consist of ten Griffin missiles and four Hellfires. A 30mm autocannon is optional.
The 15.6 kg (34.5 pound) Griffin, recently entered service in Afghanistan, aboard UAVs. The Hellfire II, which weighs 48.2 kg (106 pounds), carries a 9 kg (20 pound) warhead and has a range of 8,000 meters. The Griffin has a 5.9 kg (13 pound) warhead which is larger, in proportion to its size, than the one carried by the larger Hellfire missile. Griffin has pop-out wings, allowing it to glide, and thus has a longer range (15 kilometers) than Hellfire. UAVs can carry more of the smaller missiles, typically two of them in place of one Hellfire. There are similar arrangements for Griffin.
Harvest Hawk enables marine KC-130J tankers to be transformed into gunships with the addition of the portable weapons and sensors. The marines had long noted the success of the U.S. Air Force AC-130 gunships that SOCOM (Special Operations Command) uses. But they couldn’t afford them, as an AC-130 costs more than three times as much as a marine KC-130J aerial refueling aircraft. But the marines developed a solution. This is something the marines often do.
The KC-130J is the latest, and largest, USMC version of the C-130 transport used for aerial refueling. But the KC-130J can also carry cargo, and weapons (bombs and missiles) hung from the wings. Thus the Harvest Hawk version of the KC-130J adds a targeting pod, with the data going to a special cargo container containing control equipment (computers, commo and displays) enabling operators use of the day/night sensors of the targeting pod, to fire missiles hung from the wings.
The original plan was to have a 30mm Bushmaster cannon fired out the door, so that there would be gunfire support as well. But this was made optional, as the 14 missiles seemed to provide sufficient firepower. It also means less for Harvest Hawk to carry. The Mk44 30mm Bushmaster cannon weighs 157 kg (344 pounds) and fires at 200 or 400 rounds per minute (up to 7 per second). The cannon has 160 rounds available, before needing a reload. That means the gunner has 25-50 seconds worth of ammo, depending on rate of fire used.
Each 30mm round weighs about 714 g (25 ounces, depending on type.) Explosive anti-personnel rounds are fired when used in gunships. The fire control system, and night vision sensors, enable the 30mm gunners to accurately hit targets with high explosive shells. Existing SOCOM AC-130 gunships are armed with a 105mm howitzer, a 25mm and 40mm automatic cannon. But the two smaller caliber guns are being phased out of military service. The air force is considering equipping its gunships just with smart bombs and missiles.
The big thing with gunships is their sensors, not their weapons. Operating at night, the gunships can see what is going on below, in great detail. Using onboard weapons, gunships can immediately engage targets. But with the appearance of smart bombs (GPS and laser guided), aerial weapons are more available to hit any target that is found. So Harvest Hawk would be able to hit targets that were “time sensitive” (had to be hit before they got away), but could also call on smart bombs or laser guided missiles for targets that weren’t going anywhere right away. Most of what Harvest Hawk does in Afghanistan is look for roadside bombs, or the guys who plant them. These the marines want to track back to their base, and then take out an entire roadside bomb operation.
Ultimately, the air force and SOCOM see the potential for the Harvest Hawk approach replacing custom built AC-130 gunships. There would still be a need for specially trained gunship crews. But they, and the several cargo containers of Harvest Hawk gear, could be held ready to go wherever they are most needed. SOCOM will be using their version of Harvest Hawk (the Precision Strike Package) in their MC-130 transports (which are already equipped for all-weather operations.) Meanwhile, SOCOM is expanding its existing AC-130 gunship fleet to 33, with the acquisition of 16 new AC-130J models.
Washington Examiner – By: Sara A. Carter
More than 500 suspected Taliban fighters detained by U.S. forces have been released from custody at the urging of Afghan government officials, angering both American troops and some Afghans who oppose the policy on the grounds that many of those released return to the battlefield to kill NATO soldiers and Afghan civilians.
And those numbers understate the problem, military officials say. They do not include suspected Taliban fighters held in small combat outposts or other forward operating bases throughout the region who are released before they ever become part of the official detainee population.
An Afghan official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that President Hamid Karzai’s government has personally sought the release of as many as 700 suspected Taliban fighters since July, including some mid-level leaders. “Corruption is not just based on the amount of money that is wasted but wasted lives when Taliban return only to kill more NATO forces and civilians,” said the official, who opposes what he considers corruption in the Karzai administration.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Karen Davis, a spokeswoman in Kabul, told The Washington Examiner “nearly 500 detainees held in the [detention facility in Parwan] have been released outright or transferred to the [Afghan government] for disposition under Afghan law” so far this year.
She did not comment on detainees held at other facilities throughout the country, dozens of whom have been released, according to U.S. military officials in Afghanistan. Parwan is the main prison facility located at Bagram Airfield, just north of the capital of Kabul.
Davis added “nearly 200 of those 500 [at Bagram] have been released” since July.
The criteria for detention is not based upon a particular affiliation, such as the Taliban, “but rather is an assessment based upon a preponderance of evidence that an individual participated in the conflict as an enemy combatant and, if so, detention is necessary to mitigate the threat posed to the government and people of Afghanistan, the U.S. and its coalition partners,” Davis said.
The Detainee Review Board, made up of three U.S. commissioned officers with a rank of major or above, determines when a prisoner is eligible for release and whether a detainee is likely to be rehabilitated.
Prisoners held at the Bagram facility are not considered guilty or innocent but rather a determination is made “based upon evidence that detention is necessary to mitigate the threat the detainee poses to the government and people of Afghanistan, the U.S. and its coalition partners,” states a document provided by the International Security Assistance Force.
Earlier this year, The Examiner reported that numerous insurgents captured in Pakistan, including some members of al Qaeda, were returned to Afghanistan upon the request of the Karzai government, and then, according to a senior Pakistani official, “released back to the Taliban as bargaining chips in negotiations.”
A marine stationed in southern Afghanistan’s volatile Helmand province told The Examiner that efforts to detain insurgent fighters are “worthless.”
Earlier this year, his unit held a man known to be working with the Taliban. The Marines had gathered evidence that the man was transporting hundreds of pounds of bomb-making equipment and explosives for the Taliban. But, shortly after they captured him, he was set free.
“Less than two weeks later, we saw the same guy walking through the bazaar,” said the marine, who spoke on condition that he not be named. “He recognized us. I wanted to shoot him right then and there. We got the guy, and yet there he was, walking around planning to kill again, and we couldn’t do a thing about it.”…]
LB REMINDER: Since many DoD and military personnel read this blog site, I have disabled the below links within the linked article to the actual cables because the Obama Administration and the Department of Defense have ordered federal employees and contractors not to view the secret cables and other classified documents published by Wikileaks and news organizations around the world unless the workers have the required security clearance or authorization. Source: NY Times & OMB’s Email: WikiLeaks: Model Agency Notice to Employees
New American – Written by Christian Gomez
The release of over 250,000 diplomatic cables has revealed a lot about the intricacies of U.S. diplomacy. However, one aspect of the WikiLeaks release that has been much under the media’s radar is what the leaked cables have said about Russia and its surrogate-state sponsorship of what would most accurately be described as an international terrorist network.
In a diplomatic cable dated August 6, 2008, regarding a meeting between U.S. and Russian experts on the export of Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) from Russia, the State Department expressed its concern about “Russian ammunition, sold to Venezuela … found in possession of the FARC” Colombian terrorist group.
Four days later, in another cable, the State Department reiterated its concern regarding “recovered Russian-origin ammunition in Colombia, the ongoing Russian sale of advanced Igla-S MANPADS to Venezuela,” which “have all reinforced growing concerns about the risk of increasing proliferation of arms to terrorist and criminal organizations in the region.”
When “questions and comparisons were raised by the U.S. side about Russian ammunition, sold to Venezuela, and found in possession of the FARC,” the cable states that the leader of the Russian delegation, a Col. Oleg Skabara, “first suggested that the ammunition did not come from Russia, but was probably a sale from ‘unlicensed production,’ a suggestion that it was manufactured in a third country without appropriate permits from Russia.”
When the U.S. delegation did not buy into Skabara’s explanation so easily, indicating “that the ammunition carried factory stamps, and that we provided this information,” the Russians tried to brush off the accusation by asserting “that the meeting was to discuss MANPADS, not ammunition, and that these are different weapons and the approach, scale, and control applied to them are different.”
Again, Russia only offered feeble assurances that it was in the process of “carrying out an investigation,” and restated its position that the scenario of Russian MANPADS supplied to Venezuela making their way to the hands of FARC terrorists was “impossible.”
However, such a scenario is not as impossible as Skabara would have one believe.
Prior to the arrest of Russian arms seller Victor Bout, the infamous “Merchant of Death,” Bout told undercover DEA agents posing as FARC members — including DEA agent Louis Milione who recalled the conversation — that he would supply them with a vast assortment of weapons: “Anti-personnel mines, fragmentation grenades, armor piercing rockets … all within the context of speaking about a shared ideology of communism and fighting against the Americans.”
Another concern brought to the attention of the Russians, as mentioned in the same cable, was that of “Russian-made Eritrean MANPADS discovered in Somalia.”
The Russian side responded only by stating that its “relationship with Eritrea is not strong, thus Russia cannot guarantee any further useful information on this issue.”
When the “U.S. delegation then reiterated a request … for a detailed list of all Soviet and Russian MANPADS transfers to Eritrea and the HOA [Horn of Africa] in general,” the cables state that the “Russian delegation responded that this was impossible, as all records of MANPADS transfers prior to the year 2000 were destroyed in accordance with Russian laws governing classified information.”
In another cable, then-U.S. Ambassador to Italy Ronald P. Spogli observed that “Putin’s Russia bears little resemblance to communist ideals.” Nevertheless, Spogli noted that “this fact has not deterred Italian communists and other radical left politicians from being openly pro-Russia on the basis of ideological solidarity.”
Among the most well-known and active of Italian communists and radicals is the terrorist organization Red Brigades/Communist Combatant Party (BRCCP), which originated as an offshoot of Renato Curcio’s Red Brigades (Brigate Rosse in Italian) founded in 1969. During the Cold War, Red Brigades members were known to travel across the Iron Curtain into communist Czechoslovakia, where they would receive instruction at the KGB-run special training center in Karlovy Vary.
Between 1999 and 2003, the BRCCP claimed responsibility for the assassination of three Italians, including Massimo D’Antona, an advisor to the cabinet of Italian Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema. Although D’Antona was a member of Italy’s left-wing political apparatus, his assassination embodies the original objectives of the Red Brigades, as laid out by Renato Curcio: “Faced with working-class terror, the bourgeoisie by now has an obligatory course: to reestablish control by intensified repression and progressive militarization of the state.”
Through the application of terror tactics, the steady erosion of a state’s existing power structures into an unbearable repressive regime has historically been the method by which communists and other terrorists have sought to foster dissent and instigate armed revolution.
This is no different from what the Red Brigades/BCCP and Islamist terrorists have endeavored to accomplish. Just as the Red Brigades relied on Soviet aid, weapons, ammunition, and training for its survival, this diplomatic cable reveals the Italian communists’ continued solidarity with Moscow.
In one recent cable dated February 18, 2009, in what is described as an “action request for Posts in Abu Dhabi, Amman, Cairo, Kuwait City, Manama, and Riyadh,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton relays instructions requesting them to “raise with appropriate government officials our [U.S.] concerns about Russian plans to transfer the S-300 long-range air-defense system to Iran.”
Clinton reemphasizes this point: “In the spirit of our bilateral cooperation, we request your government’s support in urging Russia to not transfer a highly sophisticated air-defense system to Iran.”
In the cable, Clinton even specifically names Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov as having “brushed off U/S … concerns over such a transfer.” It also states that Lavrov “did not reiterate Russia’s year-long position that the S-300 transfer depends on Iranian behavior,” which indicates that Russia is planning to move forward with the weapons system transfer regardless of Iran’s current actions.
In the following sequence of talking points, listed in the cable and below, Clinton outlines the history behind the weapons transfer along with Russia’s unwillingness to cooperate with U.S. concerns:
• In 2005 Russia signed a contract to sell the modern long-range S-300 air defense missile system to Iran.
• In 2006, after it was exposed that Iran was not in compliance with its international nuclear obligations, Russia assured us it would not complete the transfer until Iran changed course.
• Despite these assurances, we are concerned that Russia is in a position to deliver the S-300 to Iran as soon as a political decision is taken.
• Moreover, when we raised our concerns in recent senior-level conversations with Russian officials, we were not reassured by the Russian response.
Meanwhile, as if the news of Russia’s armament of Iran is not alarming enough, another cable made reference to the resurgence of the once pro-Soviet Tudeh Party within the government of Iran. In the cable it is stated that an unnamed Iraninan “former non-Marxist revolutionary activist” has avowed that Iran’s “Tudeh (communist) party is reorganizing support among factory and government workers, and intellectuals.”
These “many former Tudeh sympathizers,” the activist claimed, “hold positions in the bureaucracy and elsewhere.”
It should be noted that the Tudeh was the party to which Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh belonged before he was overthrown by the CIA in the 1953 d’etat, which the CIA warned would lead to blowback — and such was the case in 1979 with the Islamic revolution and the taking of American hostages.
The reemergence of the communist Tudeh Party and the increased Russian arms sales to state sponsors of terrorism — Iran, Venezuela, and possibly Eritrea — along with expressed solidarity of Italian communists with Russia, reads almost like a page from the Cold War.
This would all seem to vindicate the claims made by Sergei Tretyakov, one of the highest-ranking members of the Russian FSB (successor to Soviet KGB) to defect the United States, who stated that Russia currently views the United States as a “target.”
RIA Novosti – TOKYO, December 8
A joint U.S.-Japanese military exercise in the Sea of Japan was suspended when two Russian Il-38 May anti-submarine aircraft flew over the area, the NHK channel said on Wednesday citing the Japanese defense ministry.
The biennial Keen Sword drills were suspended amid fears that the Russian aircraft may obtain top-secret data, the channel reported.
Around 34,000 Japanese military personnel with 40 warships and 250 aircraft joined more than 10,000 U.S. troops with 20 warships and 150 aircraft in the drills in the Sea of Japan, off the southern island of Okinawa.
The agenda of the exercises, which will continue until December 10, include integrated air and missile defense, base security, close-air support, live-fire drills, maritime defense and search and rescue missions.
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