Tuesday, 27 December 2005

A picture comparing the UK future carrier with other carriers. opswarfare has always [rightly or wrongly] believed that a LHD multipurpose amphibious assault ship is more useful than a pure aircraft carrier.

Army to get electronic warfare kit

Army to get electronic warfare kit
This is a pretty old article, but "project soothsayer" sounds like a very useful piece of equipment. Direction-finding equipment have mostly being off the limelight for obvious reasons [armed forces do not like to advertise their capabilities too much], but with the unyielding push towards network-centric warfare, this area of electronic warfare could reap benefits beyond the cost outlay for the equipment. Worth a closer look. opswarfare will be keen to research further.

Saturday, 12 November 2005

Sunday, 25 September 2005

Wednesday, 31 August 2005

the winner selected to be the new US Army Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter, it seems a bit strange that the sight is not mast-mounted like its predecessor, the Kiowa Warrior.

Saturday, 27 August 2005

Europe's Future Infantry

Europe's soldier systems of the 21st century leave the past behind
a summary of the future soldier systems in europe. while it all sounds well & good, opswarfare feels that an important point is weight. modern warfare dictates a much higher tempo of operations than before, with the soldier on the ground having to cover more ground. weight is a penalty in this area, with every kilogramme added a liability, reducing endurance and increasing fatigue, eventually reducing combat effectiveness. as the saying goes, light is right.

Update (23 April 2011)
eDefense no longer online. Full-text from www.archive.org

Europe's Future Infantry
Europe's soldier systems of the 21st century leave the past behind

by Michal Fiszer
Mar. 25, 2005

The challenges of the 21st century will require a new type of soldier to fight its wars. Low-intensity conflicts characteristic of the global war against terrorism and prolonged stability operations are much different than the full-scale wars of the 20th century. Industrialized, mechanized warfare stressed numbers and attrition, both of men and materiel. If current conflicts are any guide, wars of the 21st century will place much more emphasis on the skills and kit of individual infantrymen. It is interesting to note that aside from weapons, the line soldier's gear has not changed much since WWII, particularly compared with "upscale" systems such as aircraft, armored vehicles, warships, guided weapons, and command-and-control systems.

Can a soldier be a system? The answer is yes. A human being can be treated as a self-propelled combat unit, armed and equipped with that most effective of mission computers – the human brain. As in the case of fighter aircraft, the individual soldier-system can be integrated with useful sensors, navigation systems, communications, and means for "friend-or-foe" identification. Or, rather, "friend-or-foe-or-non-combatant" identification, speaking in terms of 21st-century warfare.

And as in the case of combat aircraft, room and payload capacity for additional soldier equipment is very limited, so every item has to be carefully evaluated as to whether it adds sufficient capabilities to justify the penalty of encumbrance and cost. The most difficult aspect of this calculation is measuring the degree to which the "synergy" of a soldier's equipment fit enables capabilities that are more than the sum of its components. We can create a system around a soldier, and such a soldier will be able to fight much more effectively than a current soldier loaded with various more or less useful items, ranging from gas masks, ammunition, grenades, compass, helmet, frag-jacket, spare meal rations, and fresh T-shirts. And even better, when we take such soldier systems and, as "subsystems," integrate them into squad- and platoon-level systems, connected by voice and data networks, these tactical formations can be lethal and highly survivable combat assets (see "Dressed for Success"). In fact, the squad and platoon "system of systems" will be the most effective tools for commanders tasked with executing missions on the low-intensity battlefields of the near future.

Some countries in Europe have started to recognize this transformation. Individual approaches might be different, but the basic requirements and basic avenues of development are much the same. The lessons of modern war learned by those militaries that have experienced it, when properly analyzed, must lead to similar conclusions. These, in turn, drive requirements for so-called future soldier programs.

Similar Requirements

The first requirement can be illustrated through a story that I witnessed myself during my military career. A column of 10 BMP-1 armored personnel carriers (APCs) stopped in a small village in the vicinity of the large Drawsko Pomorskie training range in Poland. Three officers, looking somewhat confused, unfolded a map and started a vigorous discussion about their location. A 10-year old boy, observing the scene, turned to his father and said: "Dad, why don't they just ask us for directions?"

The story illustrates the first and most basic challenge confronting any infantryman of the past, present, or future: "Where am I?" In the 20th century, answering that question was the problem of commanding officers. An officer's men followed him into a full-scale conflict scenario, and theirs was not to question why or worry about where. In low-intensity conflicts, in which problems of location are compounded in a battlefield that is most likely a built-up or urban area, each individual soldier will almost certainly be isolated from his platoon leader by a house or a wall at some point during a fight. At night, he would be even more alone, with friends unseen even a few meters away, just around the corner or across the street. A map and compass is never enough since the required accuracy can be counted in meters and 20 meters away would position a soldier on another street or in another garden than where he should be.

This leads to the second challenge of the infantryman: "Where are my friends?" To be alone in combat is the last thing any infantryman wants. Soldiers are expected to provide mutual cover and supplement each other's firepower. Knowledge about the position of all colleagues in a platoon greatly helps in the recognition of who is a friend and who is the enemy. GPS navigation and integrated communications and computing systems enable the plotting of platoon members on a map display.

When all friendly soldiers in a team can accurately locate themselves and their colleagues, the next question is "Where is the enemy?" The "first see, first shoot, first kill" rule is well known among air forces, but it can be applied to the infantry much more literally. In a traditional full-scale war engagement, infantry in trenches created a "wall of steel," using its firepower to repulse the enemy's assault or to support own forces advancing. Being hit or achieving a kill was more a matter of an incident than anybody's specific intent. Areas were targets, not individuals. In urban warfare, when distances are measured in meters rather than hundreds of meters, individual fire is aimed at particular targets and carefully executed – as much as we can use the term "carefully" in the heat of combat. Targets in urban environments tend to emerge for a short while, as the enemy's combatants (rarely soldiers) run from one hiding place to the other or expose themselves to take a shot or a look at the scene. Many of these engagements take place at night, when darkness helps in achieving surprise and supports those who know the terrain best. Therefore, night-vision and thermal-imaging devices and sights are essential.

The next important question, especially in face of an unexpected attack, is: "What should I do?" It is a responsibility of the team leader to tell his subordinates what they should do. For centuries, commanders at the platoon level have used their own voices to communicate with their troops. This has always been a problem given the terrible noise and distractions of the battlefield. But in an urban engagement, some soldiers are searching a house, some are providing cover for them from one street, and the rest are on another street – and the platoon leader has to maintain contact with all of them. Reliable communications are essential for any military activity. Now every soldier has to carry a radio for voice communications and has to have his hands free to carry a weapon.

Finally, there is the question every soldier asks in combat: "Am I safe?" Survivability is the main focus of any "Soldier of 21st Century" program. The threshold of what constitutes "acceptable losses" in warfare has come as close to "none" as it is ever likely to get. All of the aforementioned means and technologies contribute to solving this issue. The observer's eye is drawn to the intriguing body armor that characterizes many of the future soldier programs. But ideally, the synergy created by the array of technologies involved in the future soldier's kit will make him safer so that protective materials are a last line of defense.

Germany's Infanterist der Zukunft

The German Armed Forces are reorganizing to meet future requirements, taking the emphasis off heavy armored divisions for homeland defense and placing it on lighter, deployable forces for out-of-area operations. The changes include new concepts of operations and careful adherence to the network-centric warfare model, at least with regard to deployable maneuver forces. To enable such operations, Germany formed two large tactical units: the Special Operations Division and the Airmobile Division.

Germany's deployable forces are first in line for new equipment and employing new concepts of operations (see "Germany Looks Outward With Bundeswehr Reorganization"). This is partially because they were less prepared for their intended mission than the "core" heavy divisions. Another reason is that demands are urgent and already existing, while the threat of a conventional conflict in the heart of Europe seems remote.

The main forces for out-of-area operations are drawn from the Special Operations Division, reformed from 9th Airborne Division. This formation currently consists of two airborne brigades (26th and 31st) and the Special Operations Command. The integration of the special forces into the tactical, deployable infantry units is something of a novelty, but it makes the new unit even more flexible and capable. Both airborne brigades are fully equipped with Wiesel APCs, most of them armed with TOW anti-tank missiles. Some of the latest and most important equipment that will enhance the capabilities of the light infantry and special forces are coming online with the introduction of the "Infanterist der Zukunft" (IdZ) soldier of the future program. The contract for the program covers delivery of 15 sets for a like number of 10-soldier squads, for a total of 150 sets. In July 2004, the first such system was handed over to the German Army by EADS Defense Systems (Ulm, Germany).

In addition to ballistic and nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) protection, the IdZ equipment consists of night-vision binoculars, GPS with a navigation calculator, and a personal radio. The night-vision device will be connected to a laser rangefinder. The weaponry of the squad will consist of standard G36 automatic rifles with 40mm grenade launchers and a 12.7mm heavy machine gun as a squad automatic weapon. The squad will also have portable anti-tank weapons. Every soldier will have a portable palm-type computer with a tactical-situation display, but these will be mainly passive systems for receiving data. The devices will be able to display the soldier's own position and the position of the other soldiers in the squad via GPS, positions of known minefields and danger zones, target positions and movement, and the enemies' known positions and situation. Additionally, the commander of the squad will have a portable laptop-type computer terminal. This will connect the commander to the overall command-and-control system (see "German FAUST C4I System Evaluated").

The first recipients of the IdZ system are to be the special forces. However, in the future it is anticipated that all airborne and light infantry units will be thus equipped. The system will greatly increase the combat effectiveness of infantry around the clock, especially during fights in difficult urban environments. Current conflict experience has shown that the biggest challenges are the engagements in villages and small cities, as terrorists and other guerilla-type opponents usually avoid big cities as they are too densely patrolled by numerous troops and security forces. Of course, there are exceptions, such as the al-Sadr uprising in Baghdad and Najaf.

It is not expected that "heavy" mechanized infantry will receive IdZ. According to EADS Defense Electronics, the system has been already tested in operational conditions – by special forces in Kosovo.

The French FELIN Program

In March 2004, the French defense-procurement agency, the Delegation Generale pour l'Armement (DGA), awarded Sagem (Paris, France) a contract for the development, engineering, and production of FELIN (Fantassin à Équipements et Liaisons Intégrées; or Integrated Soldier Equipment and Communications) systems that will become the standard equipment of French Army soldiers.

Under the $1-billion contract, the French Army will receive 22,600 systems, which will fully equip 20 infantry regiments, as well as an additional 9,000 systems for dismounted soldiers belonging to armored, artillery, and combat-engineer units. The first infantry regiment will be fully equipped by mid-2007, and by the end of 2008, two-thirds of the army's infantry units will have been equipped with the new system. The process will be completed in 2012.

Under the FELIN program, the weapons of an infantry section (three sections per platoon) will include FAMAS assault rifles as the basic infantry weapon, a MINIMI light machine gun, and a FRF2 sniper rifle. All weapons will have low-light TV devices for day and night observation. The sight of the FAMAS rifle (10° field of view) will incorporate a video camera (50° field of view) that will transmit images to a video monitor on the soldier's chest or to his helmet-mounted display. One soldier per section will have a thermal sight (10° field of view). Similar sights will be mounted on the MINIMI machine guns (8° field of view) and FRF2 sniper rifles (4° field of view).

The soldier's helmet, in addition to its protective function, will be fitted with optronic systems that will display images provided by the weapon-mounted video camera or the helmet-mounted thermal imager. The faceplate display will provide ballistic protection, as well as protect the soldier against non-eye-safe lasers. The helmet-mounted display will also be able to display warning symbols sent by other soldiers.

There will be communications systems that will establish a local combat network at the infantry-section level. A portable electronic terminal is the core of the FELIN system. Designed around a high-volume databus (USB 2.0), it will manage the power resources and signal exchanges between the various subsystems. The system also provides the access to higher-level battle-management systems. Such terminals will be carried by platoon leaders or all soldiers in special-forces groups.

Platoon commanders will be equipped with a multifunction (compass/telemetry and rangefinder) thermal-imaging monocular sight, providing an additional day/night observation capability, as well as the aforementioned computer terminals. France chose not to equip individual soldiers with an identification-friend-or-foe (IFF) system because of the weak operational performance of current technologies, such as interrogation lasers and response radios. However, IFF systems could be an option for the future.

The FELIN equipment, including clothing and protective material, weighs 25 kg, while the helmet weighs an additional 2.5 kg. The ammunition stock, water, and battery enables 24 hours of continuous combat operations. The present "core" capability is called FELIN V1, and there are plans to develop FELIN V2, in which new types of firearms will be incorporated, probably with modernized observation and sight equipment.

The FELIN system is very well suited for night combat and urban operations, as well as special operations. In the nature of current conflicts, there is a requirement that almost every infantry soldier be special-operations capable. We can see examples in the guerilla warfare and anti-terrorist operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The FELIN system provides tools for soldiers to gain a significant advantage over semi-trained and poorly equipped combatants who would like to use night or urban areas to achieve tactical surprise in ambush-type encounters.

The UK's FIST Program

The UK's Future Integrated Soldier Technology (FIST) program dates back to 1994. At that time, the UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) established a tri-service dismounted-soldier program initially called the "Future Fighting Soldier System" (FFSS). A three-year, jointly funded MoD/industry technology-demonstrator program has been completed, the lessons from which have now been applied to help define the future requirements for dismounted close combat and for risk-reduction efforts.

In its current incarnation, FIST includes an all-weather surveillance and target-acquisition capability (thermal imagers and remote sensors); power supplies; rapid area effects (a weapon, ammunition, and fire-control system that can suppress and kill the enemy with increased accuracy and ranges); and wide distribution of light and effective voice and data communications – aspects of which are currently being addressed under the Bowman program. The Bowman system will probably be integrated with a future FIST communications system at a platoon-leader level, which means that a platoon leader will have a Bowman interface enabling him to communicate with his commanders, while all the soldiers within platoon will have short-range communications sets to enable them to communicate within the platoon. However, various means of Bowman integration are being examined. Finally, the entire system is to be implemented with an eye toward logistics and sustainability in the field.

On March 12, 2003, Thales UK received a contract worth $28.5 million for the FIST assessment phase, with the aim of testing just concepts, not developing a system prototype. Thales UK used various types of off-the-shelf equipment, integrated into a single system and built around a soldier as an operator. The V1.0 tests were conducted in September-November 2004. They took place at the British Army's Salisbury Plain Training Area and involved some 70 soldiers, representing the organizational structure of an infantry company. Each soldier was equipped with a kit of experimental FIST systems, including radios, computers, GPS, weapons sights, and cameras.

The tests compared the capabilities of a soldier carrying currently used gear and a FIST-equipped soldier. The trials demonstrated significant time reductions in performing activities such as reporting, navigation, casualty finding, and communication of tactical information. The study also showed the potential for reducing casualties. In addition, FIST-equipped soldiers suffered less from fatigue and strain than their non-FIST-equipped colleagues.

Further trials (V2.0 tests) are to take place in October-November of this year. Until that time, the outcomes of the V1.0 tests will be evaluated, and some of the aspects of the program will be decided. One question is how many different standard system layouts of the system should exist within a platoon. The other challenge is assessing the combat value of individual pieces of equipment against their weight and cost. After a thorough analysis, the V2.0 tests will be conducted using an equipment configuration close to the final requirements of the FIST program. The outcome of these tests will then form the basis for setting final program requirements for industry bids. This process is expected to be complete by September 2006, after which industry will be invited to submit proposals for a prototype FIST system.

After testing of the prototypes of FIST system, a major commitment to full-scale production is to take place in 2007. Full operational capability of the selected system is expected between 2015-2020. At this stage of the project, it is anticipated that approximately 29,000 individuals across all three services (Royal Marines, Infantry, and the Royal Air Force Regiment) will be issued FIST equipment.

The Dutch Soldier Modernization Program

The Dutch MoD treats the improvement of soldier capabilities as a "moral duty," to provide personnel sent on missions abroad with the best tools to reduce losses and to enable them to complete the mission. The latest Dutch Defense White Paper says exactly that: "A prosperous country such as the Netherlands is able to give its soldiers the state-of-the-art materiel they need to limit their risks and increase their effectiveness. In new procurements, [issues of] the safety of the personnel, the capability to limit collateral damage to civilian targets as much as possible, and round-the-clock action will be given priority."

For its future soldier program, the Dutch MoD has decided on what might best be termed a "gradual approach" as opposed to the "systems approach" pursued by other armed forces. The Dutch Soldier Modernization Program, begun in 1998, is an ongoing effort consisting of multiple steps over which a soldier's capabilities will be improved. By June 2000, the Dutch MoD was able to organize its Soldier 2000 Demonstration for NATO, which triggered NATO to set up Topical Group 1 On Soldier System Interoperability. The main objective of the group is to ensure that the systems developed by individual countries will comply with NATO standards and interoperability requirements. As such, Topical Group 1 – which, at last count, formally consists of 27 NATO countries – is not to provide the basis for any common program. Instead, national programs should be constructed in such a way that the NATO armies will be able to conduct multinational, combined operations, maintaining levels of cooperation and interoperability in combined formations as demanded by the alliance. Most of the countries that have joined Topical Group 1 are still far from even launching their own soldier-improvement programs. Some of them will never do this alone, mainly due to the lack of industrial capabilities (such as the Baltic states, for example) and would rather seek international cooperation or join an existing program. Such a posture has been, among others, presented by Denmark, which is interested in the UK's FIST and other European programs, to develop a solution suitable for Danish Army.

According to military analyst George C. Marshall, the NATO Topical Group 1 identifies five capability areas: mobility, lethality, sustainability, survivability, and command and control. For the purpose of the Dutch Soldier Modernization Program, these areas have been translated into five distinct modules: clothing, equipment, communications and information, armament, and power supply. After these basic areas were defined, it was possible to develop more detailed requirements to embark on the more "technological" parts of the program. There are collectively known as the Dutch Dismounted Soldier System (D2S2), sometimes called the Dutch Digital Soldier System.

The Communication and Information Module (CIM) is to form the core of the D2S2. As Marshall wrote, the CIM is likely to contain a "soldier computer," GPS, digital compass, personal radio, and an energy grid. Navigation functions of the CIM will enable a soldier to orient himself and will provide his position information continuously. The communications functions of the CIM will enable voice communications within a platoon. Additionally, the wireless connection of every CIM with the Battlefield Management System in the platoon's command vehicle will offer more possibilities. For example, it will be possible to display elements of the tactical situation on a soldier's laptop or helmet-mounted display. The detailed concept has not yet been finalized, though. The CIM is to be developed by Thales Communications (NL) and is to enter major field trials conducted by the 13 (NL) Mechanized Brigade at Oirschot starting in the summer of 2006.

In keeping with the "gradual approach" philosophy, other pieces of equipment are being procured separately and are to be integrated into the Dutch Soldier Modernization Program. The MoD purchases limited numbers of a specific type of equipment and then subjects them to brief, intense trials by the user in operational circumstances to determine its added value. Examples are a rapid-aiming sight for the DIEMACO rifle, a hands-free radio for infantry units, and the Thales Lion uncooled thermal-imaging system.

Dutch efforts initially concentrated on elite forces, such as special forces, Marines, and airmobile units. It seemed to be justified, since these formations are tasked with the most complicated and dangerous missions. However, it was soon discovered that the approach was too limited. In real operations, such as those experienced by the Dutch in Iraq and Afghanistan (see "Dutch AH-64D Apaches at War"), all of the soldiers deployed in the combat zone are exposed to serious threats and need improved capabilities to survive and be effective. Thus, the scope of the program will soon be widened to cover regular infantry. Dutch military forces are now fully professional (i.e., there is no conscription), and the expansion of the program should not be difficult.

Sweden's MARKUS

The Swedish MARKUS (Markstridsutrustad Soldat; Ground Warfare Equipped Soldier) program was launched in 2002 and is, thus, one of the newest European programs of this type. According to Swedish Armed Forces Headquarters, the project is aimed at finding technical solutions that improve a dismounted soldier's capability without resorting to a "Christmas-tree system," in which equipment is hung on the soldier.

The project is currently in the study phase. Interestingly, the Swedish concept, in contrast with almost all other similar European projects, focuses on homeland defense rather than on overseas operations. This might change however, when a common European Foreign and Security Policy is implemented. Sweden, in terms of military involvement, is a neutral country, although it is a member of the European Union. As of now, though, the Swedish Armed Forces are expected to provide self-sufficiency in the defense area, and their main objective is to defend the country. Only then can consideration be given to assist other nations in maintaining peace and stability in the world.

Currently, the MARKUS program is concentrated on evaluating methods to prepare the proper set of detailed requirements for the system a whole and its individual components. This project is led by Colonel Per-Eric Gustavsson, commander of the Jämtland's Regiment at Östersund. He is assisted by Lieutenant Colonel Christer Olofsson, who heads the department of development at the Army Combat School in Borensberg. The work has so far resulted in the following priorities:

1. Communications within the squad

2. Combat at night and in reduced-visibility situations

3. Determining one's own position and the positions of other squad members

4. Pointing out targets to others within the squad

5. Pointing out targets to others outside the squad

6. Sending and receiving data and graphic information

7. Differentiating friend from foe

8. Acquiring improved thermal-signature masking and better ballistic protection

The evaluation phase of the project will be completed in 2006. A report will be submitted stating the principles of design and technology upon which Sweden's future soldier should be based. In addition to this, the report will offer suggestions as to the order in which base capabilities should be developed and integrated. Only then are any contracts for developing real systems to be expected.

A Russian Soldier of the 21st Century?

It is very difficult to make a proper assessment of Russian future soldier programs. Officially, the Russian MoD has stated that studies are being conducted, but currently there are higher-priority programs being developed and implemented across the Russian Armed Forces.

However, Russian sources wishing to remain anonymous have added some clarity to this enigmatic response. They confirmed that intellectual changes occur very slowly in Russian high command circles. Despite 25 years of real combat experience in low-intensity conflicts in Afghanistan and Chechnya, the Russian MoD focus is on strategic force capabilities, strategic defense, air-force programs, new tanks, new missiles, and the building of a common information network (a Russian version of network-centric warfare). The life of individual soldiers was never valued particularly highly in the Soviet Union, and this has changed little in Russia. One source, tongue planted firmly in cheek, suggests a typical Russian MoD statement would read as follows: "In order to fight international terrorism, being presently a goal of the highest priority, the procurement of six new ICBMs has been authorized."

The other problem is the conscript system on which Russian forces are still based. Only the 42nd Evpatoriyskaya-Krasnoznamennaya Guard Mechanized Division has been experimentally "professionalized," with career officers and all of its soldiers serving multi-year contracts. The unit, belonging to North-Caucasus Military District, is being successfully employed in combating Chechen guerilla forces, although only from early December 2004 as a fully professional unit. The "professionalization" of all of Russia's military forces has not yet been decided on, and there are strong opponents to the idea.

This being the case, a study group for developing requirements for the soldier of 21st century for Russia has to factor the existing conscript system into its requirements. Almost all the soldiers and junior non-commissioned officers – the foundation of any future soldier concept – are drafted. Moreover, many recruits are able to avoid military service or obtain for themselves posts in the less arduous internal forces, militia, border guards, and other public institutions. Usually, the best-educated young men living in cities are able to do this, so the military recruits are mostly villagers. Of the pool of recruits left for regular military service, the Strategic Rocket Forces pull out the best men, since the service standards in the nuclear forces are high. From among those left, strategic air defense and the air force take the best men, since maintaining the high technology associated with surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), radars, and aircraft demand so. Airborne and special force also make rigorous selections. Then the navy and marines make their selections from the recruit pool. The army has little choice, being the last in the chain.

Even now, although it is extremely difficult, the army has to take the best men from among those left to serve in communications, combat-engineer, anti-tank, SAM, artillery, and tank units. Infantry is the very bottom.

We are talking about hands-free radios for intra-platoon communications, when some Russian infantrymen from various autonomous republics do not speak Russian. We talk about reading a digitized situational picture and GPS indicators, when some Russian infantrymen do not know Cyrillic characters. So there is no little wonder that when President Vladimir Putin announced Russia's procurement plan for 2005 (which, by the way, is to be doubled from 2004), there are references to new ICBMs, new ships, new missiles and SAM systems, new tanks and APCs, and modernized aircraft and helicopters – but no mention of any soldier-modernization program. The Russian infantryman, alas for him, is likely to tread the battlefields of the 21st century in the boots – and kit – of the 20th century.

Thursday, 25 August 2005

uav for squad level operations

watching my brother playing "brothers in arms", with its situational awareness mode, shows the potential of a mini-uav in the hands of a squad. especially a rotary-wing type. instead of a global hawk or a predator, these mini-uavs could reduce the problem of the sensor-shooter dilemma.

Tuesday, 9 August 2005

Personal Role Radio

Personal Role Radio
section-level communications are often characterized by loud yelling and wild hand gestures. an easy-to-use radio, that works in dense urban jungles, is more in tune with 21st century warfare than mere shouting. soldiers just need to be careful not to use these for platoon/company level communications. not sure if this personal role radio has it, but a battery level indicator would be crucial.

Monday, 20 June 2005

Philadelphia Online | Blackhawk Down

Philadelphia Online | Blackhawk Down
the online version of the original series that first appeared on the newspapers, before turning into a book, and of course, finally the movie.

Refining the rifle

It probably doesn't get more basic than this. The M16 rifle has been around since the 1960s. Age aside, the rifle has several critical problems, namely stopping power and jamming. 2 new rifles attempt to resolve each issue. The Barrett M468 introduces a 6.8mm cartridge that provides more stopping power as compared to the 5.56mm cartridge. The Heckler & Koch HK416 uses a gas piston system that does not introduce propellant gases and the associated carbon fouling back into the weapon's interior. This was a problem with the M16, which caused jamming of rounds, which could only be prevented by frequent cleaning. Both weapons are available as upper receivers, meaning to say that existing M16 lower receivers can be reused, resulting in savings in costs and also training times. Not that the US Army seems to be interested though, as the front runner in contention for the M16 replacement is Heckler & Koch's XM8, which is a modified G36. The XM8 uses 5.56mm ammunition, and is an offshoot of the failed OICW project. But all 3 are conventional layout, as compared to a bull-pup design, with the magazine behind the pistol grip. A conventional design is better for urban warfare, as the rifle would be capable of being fired with either hand. While they're at it, a bullet-trap grenade should also be introduced, together with an in-built battery-free reflex sight. What about the millions of 5.56mm rounds lying around in most countries's armoury? Simple. Most countries deploy a squad automatic weapon [SAW] of sorts, e.g. M249 & Ultimax 100. These utilize 5.56mm rounds, so they can continue to utilize the surplus ammunition. Also, recruits could hone their shooting skills [and cleaning skills] on the original M16. True, the logistics of providing 3 calibers [5.56mm, 6.8mm, 7.62mm] as compared to 2 will be tougher, but that should not stop the introduction of a better cartridge that will kill the enemy with 1 shot, instead of the 2 or 3 that the M16 needs. [even a room clearing section of a field manual recommends a "double tap", 2 rounds fired in quick succession] While we're talking about rifles, it might be interesting to consider that the US Marines are sticking to the M16A4, the Special Forces have bought the FN SCAR, and the Army still hasn't decided. It wouldn't be strange if they had different calibres, but they all stick to 5.56mm. Could it be politiking that's preventing a change for the good?

Sunday, 19 June 2005


yes, opswarfare knows that it's advocating for less US-centric military articles, but this one's quite good, and its from an unlikely source.
What the generals don’t know.
Issue of 2005-01-17
Posted 2005-01-10

During the early weeks of the Iraq war, the television set in my office was tuned all day to CNN, with the sound muted. On the morning of April 3rd, as the Army and the Marines were closing in on Baghdad, I happened to look up at what appeared to be a disaster in the making. A small unit of American soldiers was walking along a street in Najaf when hundreds of Iraqis poured out of the buildings on either side. Fists waving, throats taut, they pressed in on the Americans, who glanced at one another in terror. I reached for the remote and turned up the sound. The Iraqis were shrieking, frantic with rage. From the way the lens was lurching, the cameraman seemed as frightened as the soldiers. This is it, I thought. A shot will come from somewhere, the Americans will open fire, and the world will witness the My Lai massacre of the Iraq war. At that moment, an American officer stepped through the crowd holding his rifle high over his head with the barrel pointed to the ground. Against the backdrop of the seething crowd, it was a striking gesture—almost Biblical. “Take a knee,” the officer said, impassive behind surfer sunglasses. The soldiers looked at him as if he were crazy. Then, one after another, swaying in their bulky body armor and gear, they knelt before the boiling crowd and pointed their guns at the ground. The Iraqis fell silent, and their anger subsided. The officer ordered his men to withdraw.

It took two months to track down Lieutenant Colonel Chris Hughes, who by then had been rotated home. He called from his father’s house, in Red Oak, Iowa, en route to study at the Army War College, in Pennsylvania. I wanted to know who had taught him to tame a crowd by pointing his rifle muzzle down and having his men kneel. Were those gestures peculiar to Iraq? To Islam? My questions barely made sense to Hughes. In an unassuming, persistent Iowa tone, he assured me that nobody had prepared him for an angry crowd in an Arab country, much less the tribal complexities of Najaf. Army officers learn in a general way to use a helicopter’s rotor wash to drive away a crowd, he explained. Or they fire warning shots. “Problem with that is, the next thing you have to do is shoot them in the chest.” Hughes had been trying that day to get in touch with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a delicate task that the Army considered politically crucial. American gunfire would have made it impossible. The Iraqis already felt that the Americans were disrespecting their mosque. The obvious solution, to Hughes, was a gesture of respect.

Hughes made it sound obvious, but, shortly before the Americans invaded Iraq, the Army had concluded that its officers lacked the ability to do precisely what he did: innovate and think creatively. In 2000, the new Army Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinseki, was determined to shake up the Army and suspected that about half of a soldier’s training was meaningless and “non-essential.” The job of figuring out which half went to Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Wong (retired), a research professor of military strategy at the Army War College. At forty-five, Wong is handsome and voluble, with the air of a man who makes his living prodding the comfortable. Wong found that the problem was not “bogus” training exercises but worthwhile training being handled in such a way as to stifle fresh thinking. The Army had so loaded training schedules with doctrinaire requirements and standardized procedures that unit commanders had no time—or need—to think for themselves. The service was encouraging “reactive instead of proactive thought, compliance instead of creativity, and adherence instead of audacity,” Wong wrote in his report. As one captain put it to him, “They’re giving me the egg and telling me how to suck it.”

Wong’s findings impressed Shinseki, who in February of 2001 sent him into the lion’s den of a two-star generals’ conference to present his research. Some of the generals were suspicious, others openly hostile. “I sympathize,” Wong told me. “When you allow people to innovate and to lead, you invite failure.” Wong’s report generated no policy changes, but, by stating plainly what many knew instinctively, it started the Army thinking about how to free up its junior officers’ decision-making.

Then came Iraq. Every war is different from the last, with its own special learning curve, but there is a growing sense within the Army that Iraq signals something more significant. In the American Civil War, Army manuals taught Napoleonic tactics, like close-order formations, even though they were suicidal against rifled muskets that could kill accurately at three hundred yards. In the First World War, the French, British, and German troops persisted in attempting to storm trenches before recognizing the defensive supremacy of the machine gun. In Iraq, the Army’s marquee high-tech weapons are often sidelined while the enemy kills and maims Americans with bombs wired to garage-door openers or doorbells. Even more important, the Army is facing an enemy whose motivation it doesn’t understand. “I don’t think there’s one single person in the Army or the intelligence community that can break down the demographics of the enemy we’re facing,” an Airborne captain named Daniel Morgan told me. “You can’t tell whether you’re dealing with a former Baathist, a common criminal, a foreign terrorist, or devout believers.”

Wong flew to Baghdad last April, a year after the supposed cessation of “major combat operations,” to find out how the “reactive” and “compliant” junior officers the Army had trained were performing amid the insurgency. He and an active-duty officer flew to bases all over Iraq, interviewing lieutenants, who lead platoons of about thirty soldiers, and captains, who command companies of one to two hundred. These officers, scrambling to bring order to Mosul, Fallujah, and Baghdad, had been trained and equipped to fight against numbered, mechanized regiments in open-maneuver warfare. They had been taught to avoid fighting in cities at all costs. Few had received pre-deployment training in improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.s, the insurgents’ signature weapon. None had received any but the most rudimentary instruction in the Arabic language or in Iraqi culture. They were perhaps the most isolated occupation force in history; there are no bars or brothels in Baghdad where Americans can relax, no place off the base for Americans to remove their body armor in the presence of locals. Every encounter was potentially hostile. The chronic shortage of troops and shifting phases of fighting and reconstruction forced soldiers into jobs for which they weren’t prepared; Wong found field artillerymen, tankers, and engineers serving as infantrymen, while infantrymen were building sewer systems and running town councils. All were working with what Wong calls “a surprising lack of detailed guidance from higher headquarters.” In short, the Iraq that Wong found is precisely the kind of unpredictable environment in which a cohort of hidebound and inflexible officers would prove disastrous.

Yet he found the opposite. Platoon and company commanders were exercising their initiative to the point of occasional genius. Whatever else the Iraq war is doing to American power and prestige, it is producing the creative and flexible junior officers that the Army’s training could not.

There may be a generational explanation. While most high-ranking officers are baby boomers, most lieutenants and captains are of Generation X, born in the mid-sixties or after. Gen X officers, often the product of single-parent homes or homes in which both parents worked, are markedly more self-reliant and confident of their abilities than their baby-boomer superiors, according to Army surveys of both groups. Baby boomers moved up the ranks during the comfortable clarity of the Cold War, but the Gen Xers came of age during messy peacekeeping missions in Kosovo, Bosnia, Somalia, and Haiti. Gen Xers are notoriously unimpressed by rank, as Donald Rumsfeld discovered in December, when enlisted soldiers questioned him sharply about the lack of armor on their vehicles. This turns out to be a positive development for the Army, because the exigencies of the Iraq war are forcing the decision-making downward; tank captains tell of being handed authority, mid-battle, for tasks that used to be reserved for colonels, such as directing helicopter close-air support.

The younger officers have another advantage over their superiors: they grew up with the Internet, and have created for themselves, in their spare time, a means of sharing with one another, online, information that the Army does not control. The “slackers” in the junior-officer corps are turning out to be just what the Army needs in the chaos of Iraq. Instead of looking up to the Army for instructions, they are teaching themselves how to fight the war. The Army, to its credit, stays out of their way.

Prior to the Second World War, officers heading into combat buttonholed veterans or gleaned what they could over evening beers at the Officers’ Club to fill holes in their training. After Guadalcanal, the Army knocked together the insights of soldiers in combat and published them in cheap newsprint booklets called “The Mailing List.” The booklets were imprecise, slow to arrive in the field, and unidirectional. “Teach not to waste ammunition,” wrote one Marine colonel. “The Japanese fire is not always aimed,” a sergeant wrote. “It is harassing fire and scares recruits.” The system for recycling combat experience didn’t improve much for the next forty years.

Then, in October, 1983, came Operation Urgent Fury, against the government of Grenada, which should have been relatively straightforward but instead was a mess. Communications were so poor that soldiers had to rely on pay phones. Intelligence was so spotty that troops used tourist maps to find their way around the island. Nineteen service members died in the operation, some needlessly. In response, the Army opened the Center for Army Lessons Learned—or call—at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. call was supposed to gather and distribute more efficiently the insights that soldiers glean from battle. Colonel Larry Saul, who says he is “one of about a hundred Vietnam vets still on active duty,” is call’s director. Dark-haired at fifty-four, he shares with most of his colleagues a strikingly direct manner of speaking. For efficiency of conversation, Army officers are tough to beat. Trained to convey critical information under stress, they enunciate like radio announcers, in complete, unhesitating sentences. Moreover, they tend to be good listeners, with a refreshing ability—and willingness—to get to the nub of a difficult issue. Ask an Army officer a painful question and he or she will answer it, provided it doesn’t involve secrets, with a kind of Boy Scout candor all but unknown in, say, the corporate or political realm. I asked Saul what lessons the Army has learned in Iraq, and he said, “Not much, because lessons learned, in past tense, means you’ve modified behavior. Until you demonstrate changed behavior, you haven’t learned a lesson.”

In its early days, the lessons came not from combat but from the training centers in California and Louisiana where troops go to experience a week or two of lifelike combat. call would ask trainers what mistakes were being repeated and would write up the results in four bulletins a year, which were then filed away and largely forgotten. The Web changed everything. During the battles of Bosnia and Kosovo, in 1993 and 1999, call placed “embeds”—full-time liaison officers—with the soldiers; it now has two in Afghanistan and five in Iraq, and also receives a flood of daily “after action reviews” from line officers. The reviews contain tips on everything from running field kitchens to avoiding mortar attacks. At Fort Leavenworth, thirty analysts, all of them military retirees, digest the reviews, identify trends, and reconcile the lessons with established Army doctrine. call still distributes lessons on paper—in binders, in booklets designed to fit in the cargo pocket of a soldier’s fatigues, and on plasticized pocket cards. But the centerpiece of call is its Web site, which is restricted to military personnel, Defense Department civilians, and coalition allies. Mostly, officers use it before they are deployed, to train soldiers in Iraq-specific tactics. One call lesson on I.E.D.s, for example, opens with a video-game graphic of a Humvee hitting a mine and being fired upon by guerrillas: men scream, blood splatters. The segment ends with a cartoon sergeant grading the answers to a test: “That’s a go, soldier!” or “No go, soldier!” “Some of our soldiers are nineteen years old,” Colonel Saul explained. “This has to be aimed at them.” When call wants to distribute highly sensitive material, it uses the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or siprnet. siprnet is walled off from the civilian Internet; its messages travel over separate wires, and only special computers can reach it. (In Iraq, it is available at the battalion level, but rarely at the company level.)

The Army is struggling to figure out the Iraq war even while it’s up to its neck in it. Lieutenant Colonel Ernie Benner is one of about eighty members of the Joint I.E.D. Defeat Task Force, which the Defense Department created in July to analyze the insurgents’ maddeningly simple yet deadly homemade bombs. “There is no technology silver bullet,” Benner told me when we spoke in a windowless conference room at the Pentagon. The task force posts on siprnet intelligence that it gathers from all four military services and a hundred and thirty-three different government and private agencies, ranging from the F.B.I. and the Agency for International Development to Kellogg Brown & Root. It uses F.B.I.-style forensics on bombs and fragments to trace their makers and financiers, and it looks for techniques that soldiers can use to spot and disarm them. I.E.D.s first appeared in large numbers along roadsides during an insurgent offensive in Baghdad, in November, 2003, during Ramadan, Benner said. They have also been found in the carcasses of dogs, in venders’ carts, and strapped behind highway guardrails. Benner showed me a picture of a road sign that had a big bomb hidden inside it. The sign read “Welcome to Fallujah.” Lately, suicide bombers have driven I.E.D.s into control points and Iraqi police stations, and, in September, the tactics for delivering I.E.D.s mutated into what Benner calls moving-vehicle-on-moving-vehicle attacks: a car zips between two vehicles in a rolling convoy and explodes. “The field team investigated and wrote up what tactics, techniques, and procedures could defeat that,” Benner said, “and within twenty-four hours they were disseminated into training for units going to Iraq.”

The problem with both call and the I.E.D. Task Force is that their information is as unidirectional as “The Mailing List” in the Second World War. The Army identifies a need, prepares a response, and hands it down from the top. Officers in the field can e-mail questions to call, and usually get a response within twenty-four hours, but most officers told me that the information often seems stale or, having been processed in the maw of Army doctrine, irrelevant. The war in Iraq is so confusing and it changes so fast that there’s often no time to wait for carefully vetted and spoon-fed advice. So officers look for help elsewhere.

Majors Nate Allen and Tony Burgess became friends at West Point in the nineteen-eighties, and at the end of the nineties they found themselves commanding companies in separate battalions in the same Hawaii-based brigade. Commanding a company is often described as the best job in the Army; a company is big enough to be powerful and small enough to be intimate. But the daily puzzles a company commander faces, even in peacetime, are dizzying, and both Allen and Burgess felt isolated. “If I had a good idea about how to do something, there was no natural way to share it,” Allen said. “I’d have to pass it up, and it would have to be blessed two levels above me, and then passed down to Tony.” Luckily, they lived next door to each other and spent many evenings sitting on Allen’s front porch comparing notes. “How are things going with your first sergeant?” one would ask. Or “How are you dealing with the wives?” “At some point, we realized this conversation was having a positive impact on our units, and we wanted to pass it along,” Allen told me. They wrote a book about commanding a company, “Taking the Guidon,” which they posted on a Web site. Because of the Internet, what had started as a one-way transfer of information—a book—quickly became a conversation.

“Once you start a project, amazing people start to join,” Allen said. Among them was a captain based at West Point who was familiar with a Web site called Alloutdoors.com, which lets sportsmen post questions and solicit advice about everything from how to skin a squirrel by yanking on its tail to how to call a turkey by blowing on a wing bone. Burgess and Allen liked the Alloutdoors model, which allows for lots of unmediated, real-time cross-chat and debate. They figured that such a site for company commanders would replicate, in cyberspace, their front porch.

In March of 2000, with the help of a Web-savvy West Point classmate and their own savings, they put up a site on the civilian Internet called Companycommand.com. It didn’t occur to them to ask the Army for permission or support. Companycommand was an affront to protocol. The Army way was to monitor and vet every posting to prevent secrets from being revealed, but Allen and Burgess figured that captains were smart enough to police themselves and not compromise security. Soon after the site went up, a lieutenant colonel phoned one of the Web site’s operators and advised them to get a lawyer, because he didn’t want to see “good officers crash and burn.” A year later, Allen and Burgess started a second Web site, for lieutenants, Platoonleader.org.

The sites, which are accessible to captains and lieutenants with a password, are windows onto the job of commanding soldiers and onto the unfathomable complexities of fighting urban guerrillas. Companycommand is divided into twelve areas, including Training, Warfighting, and Soldiers and Families, each of which is broken into discussion threads on everything from mortar attacks to grief counselling and dishonest sergeants. Some discussions are quite raw. Captains post comments on coping with fear, on motivating soldiers to break the taboo against killing, and on counselling suicidal soldiers. They advise each other on how to kick in doors and how to handle pregnant subordinates. Most captains now have access to the Internet at even the most remote bases in Iraq, and many say they’ll find at least ten or fifteen minutes every day to check the site. They post tricks they’ve learned or ask questions like this, which set off months of responses: “What has anyone tried to do to alleviate the mortar attacks on their forward operating bases?” Here are snippets of conversations posted on Companycommand and Platoonleader in the past year:

Never travel in a convoy of less than four vehicles. Do not let a casualty take your focus away from a combat engagement. Give your driver your 9mm, and carry their M16/M4. Tootsie Rolls are quite nice; Jolly Ranchers will get all nasty and sticky though. If a person is responsible for the death of an individual, they do not attend during the three days of mourning; that is why if we kill an individual in sector, we are not welcome during the mourning period. Soldiers need reflexive and quick-fire training, using burst fire. If they’re shooting five to seven mortar rounds into your forward operating base, whatever you’re doing needs to be readjusted. The more aggressive you look and the faster you are, the less likely the enemy will mess with you. It is okay to tell your soldiers what the regulation is; but as a commander, you should make the effort to get the soldier home for the birth. A single wall of sandbags will not stop any significant munitions. Take pictures of everything and even, maybe more importantly, everyone. The right photo in the right hands can absolutely make the difference. It’s not always easy to reach the pistol when in the thigh holster, especially in an up-armored humvee. If they accept you into the tent, by custom they are accepting responsibility for your safety and by keeping on the body armor, you are sending a signal that you do not trust them. If tea or coffee are offered, be sure to accept the items with the right hand. Do not look at your watch when in the tent. Have the unit invest in Wiley X’s—these sunglasses also serve as sun-wind-dust goggles. Supply each soldier with one tourniquet; we use a mini-ratchet strap that is one inch wide and long enough to wrap around the thigh of a soldier. Cotton holds water. Even with the best socks, and plenty of foot powder, your feet are likely to start peeling like you’ve never experienced. You’re more likely to be injured by not wearing a seatbelt than from enemy activity. You need to train your soldiers to aim, fire, and kill. The average local is terrible at trying to read a map; however they do understand sketches—the simpler the better. The second you see your soldiers start to lose interest, or roll their eyes, or not pay attention, your S2 has failed and you, your soldiers, and the mission are in danger. Vary the departure and return times, vary the routes even if the route includes a U turn, doesn’t make sense, etc. Let’s talk about what not to bring: perishable food, lighter fluid, porn, alcohol, or personal weapons. But you might be able to get away with a Playboy or two as long as you’re not stupid about it. The 9mm round is too weak, go for headshots if you use it.

Captain Stephanie Gray was a twenty-four-year-old communications officer in Baghdad when, in January of 2004, she was abruptly ordered to serve as her battalion’s adjutant, whose job is to manage pay, evaluation reports, and other personnel issues. She’d had minimal training. On Gray’s first morning on her own, a call came in at nine-thirty informing her that one of her battalion’s convoys had been struck by an I.E.D. in Sadr City. The commander, executive officer, and sergeant major—the battalion’s entire leadership—jumped up and sped to the site, leaving Gray in the command tent. She got a call saying that Sergeant First Class Ricky Crockett had been killed—the unit’s first death. “I knew there were a lot of things an adjutant needs to do when a soldier dies,” she told me, “but I had no idea what.” She logged onto Companycommand and clicked feverishly through the site looking for guidance. Finally she clicked “contact us” and explained her situation. “Within thirty minutes, I got my first response, and all day I got e-mails,” she said. “Some were from active military and some retired. One was a chaplain. ‘Look at this regulation,’ they told me, or ‘Here’s what I tried.’ I learned how to report it up, then look in the soldier’s file and generate letters from the company commander, the battalion commander, and the brigade commanders to his family. . . . There were death-benefit papers to fill out, and on and on.”

Two months before deploying to Iraq, Captain Raymond Kimball, of the Seventh Cavalry, learned from Companycommand never to send a vehicle bound for Iraq to the docks before checking its hydraulic lines for leaks. “Even a little trace of hydraulic fluid means it can’t be loaded on a ship or train,” he told me. “The worst thing is, you deploy and find out in Iraq that your vehicle is still on the wharf in Jacksonville.” Captain Jason Miseli learned to stuff a medic into the scout Humvee that travels miles ahead of his tanks, even if it meant hanging gear on the outside to make room. It was a nuisance, but it saved the life of Specialist Timothy Griffin. Lieutenant Brittany Meeks, who chose the military police as a woman’s back door into combat and is in Baghdad, was advised by Platoonleader to memorize the “nine-line” procedure for summoning medical-evacuation helicopters. She took the precaution of writing the procedure on a slip of paper. In a hellish attack on a convoy last April, a soldier was gravely wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade that exploded close to his head. Amid the blood, the screaming, and two burning fuel tankers, the wounded man’s buddies were having trouble remembering what to do, but Meeks pulled her notes on the procedure from her pocket.

Though Companycommand and Platoonleader require passwords, they could presumably be hacked, and a determined enemy could learn a good deal about how officers think. A lively discussion thread that began with a plea for “information, advice or comments . . . on convoy training” went on for months, with contradictory views on whether to lay sandbags on the floors of vehicles (they offer protection from mines, but wear out Humvees), admonitions to look upward as well as to the sides (guerrillas may shoot from rooftops and overpasses), and suggestions for replacing vehicles’ canvas doors with 8-mm. steel (“It will stop AK-47 and most frag”). “Hey guys,” one captain wrote. “Remember this is an open-source Web site. Everything you type is being read by the enemy.”

Beyond the how-to details, the Web sites offer the comfort of connection to a brotherhood of officers who are trying to master the same impossible job. “Their stories prepare you mentally for what it is you’ll be facing when you get here,” Meeks wrote in a long e-mail from Iraq. “What they actually did is of limited value,” Miseli said. “It’s the why, and the thought process.” Companycommand’s membership more than doubled last year, to ten thousand, or more than a third of all captains in the Army; they went to the site sixty-seven thousand times and looked at more than a million pages.

Officer after officer told me that they use call when they have the leisure, but it’s Companycommand or Platoonleader they check regularly and find most useful. call’s director, Colonel Saul, wondered if “maybe captains shouldn’t be spending so much time in front of their computer, but should be with their soldiers.” He pointed out, however, that call itself has found Companycommand useful; earlier this year, call posted a request on Companycommand for advice on using interpreters in Iraq, eliciting replies that became a call lesson on the subject. Saul’s ambivalence about the Web sites is emblematic of the Army’s attitude. “Institutional education has three components,” said Lieutenant Colonel Kelly Jordan, an active-duty officer who also runs the R.O.T.C. program at Notre Dame. “It’s got to have a common curriculum, a dedicated cadre of trained instructors, and common experience.” Companycommand and Platoonleader are free-for-alls of shared experience, with no designated interpreter. “What you get out of it may not be what I get out of it,” Jordan said. “You may get the occasional Napoleon or Alexander the Great out of it, but it does nothing to raise the educational level of the officer corps.”

Little by little, the Army is absorbing Companycommand.com and Platoonleader.org. In 2002, West Point put Platoonleader on its server, and a year later added Companycommand; both sites now have military addresses. The Army also began paying the Web site’s expenses. It sent all four of its founders to graduate school to earn Ph.D.s, so that they can become professors at West Point, where they will run the sites as part of their jobs. And the Army is starting to pay the Web sites the sincerest form of flattery: in April, the commanding general of the First Cavalry Division, Major General Peter Chiarelli, ordered up a conversation site for his officers. Cavnet, as it’s known, exists only on siprnet, and is vetted, as an official Army site. “We had a guy put up something that wasn’t within the rules of engagement,” Major Patrick Michaelis, who created the site, told me, “and within half an hour the staff judge-advocate guys put a response up.” But, of all the Web-based means of sharing combat information, Cavnet is the most immediate. While call is used mostly in training units in the U.S., and both Companycommand and Platoonleader are intended to build leadership skills and share general tips and tricks about fighting in Iraq, Cavnet is oriented, Michaelis said, to “the next patrol, six to nine hours out.” Lieutenant Keith Wilson, for example, read a “be on the look out” posting about insurgents who were wiring grenades behind posters of Moqtada al-Sadr, counting on Americans to detonate the explosives when they ripped the posters down. He spread the word among his men, and a few days later a soldier whom he’d sent to peel a poster off a wall peeked behind it first. Sure enough, a grenade was waiting.

“There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader,” Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin is said to have remarked during the 1848 revolutions in France. The Army finds itself in a similar relationship with its junior-officer corps. Leonard Wong worries that an institution as hierarchical and doctrinaire as the Army will have trouble reining in its young officers after the war. “Iraq has released the capabilities that our leaders had, but that we’d dulled and numbed previously,” he said. “It’s one thing for individuals to be nimble mentally. But can the Army as an institution be nimble enough to leverage them? Do we now sit these captains down and treat them as we used to? They all wear combat patches. Have we changed anything in the organization to respond to that? If you go to any school or unit, they’ll say, ‘Yes, we’re doing things right,’ but, really, the Army is struggling.”

No matter how clever its captains and lieutenants are becoming in the face of the insurgency, the Army may never be able to declare victory in Iraq. Thirty years after the fall of Saigon, the military finds itself thrust into another war with limited public support, insufficient resources, and a murky definition of success. It remains to be seen whether its appetite for learning the lessons of Iraq will extend to analyzing how it got into such a war in the first place. When General Shinseki failed to persuade Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to allocate more troops to the initial effort, he appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee, where, under cover of answering a senator’s question, he went public with his estimate that the war would require “several hundred thousand” troops. His move failed. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz called Shinseki’s estimate “wildly off the mark,” and the Army invaded Iraq with about a hundred thousand soldiers.

Marybeth Ulrich, a professor specializing in civil-military relations at the Army War College, said it’s too soon for the Army to be analyzing whether Shinseki could have played his hand better, or whether generals might lobby more forcefully in the future. “The Army’s pretty busy right now,” she said. But the lieutenant colonels and colonels who attend the War College will eventually find themselves analyzing those early days of 2003, to learn, as she put it, “what steps were taken to get the Army’s point of view across.” Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution makes the military subordinate to the civilian leadership, and there’s an undefined line between the two that the Army never crosses, Ulrich said. “Was the Army ten steps behind the line? Or did the Army go all the way to the line? I don’t know.”

Thomas White, who was fired from his job as Secretary of the Army in May of 2003 for clashing with Rumsfeld on a number of issues, including how many troops would be needed, told me that the lesson the Army needs to take away from the run-up to Iraq is precisely the one no officer wants to learn. “If I had it to do again, what Shinseki and I should have done is quit, and done so publicly,” he said. White called it a measure of Rumsfeld’s contempt for the Army that he didn’t name a permanent Secretary of the Army to replace him until this past November. “To spend more than a year at war without a Secretary of the Army is unthinkable,” White said.

A week before the Presidential election, the Association of the United States Army held its annual convention in Washington. Membership in the association is open both to Army personnel and the corporations that sell things to the Army, and the gathering transformed the lower level of the Washington Convention Center into an arms bazaar. Attractive women posed fetchingly beside Bradley Fighting Vehicles, Volvo displayed its trucks, Barrett Firearms showed off its new .50-calibre sniper rifles, and the Gallup Organization offered an array of “business improvement services.” Upstairs, professional-development experts gave officers tips on everything from “actionable intelligence” to unit finance. Officers mingled in the hallways in dress-green droves, those who had been in combat distinguished by unit patches on the right arm rather than the left. The talk of the convention was a book published in 1997 that the officer corps has recently rediscovered. Many carried the volume under their arms, and no fewer than six urged me to read it: “Dereliction of Duty,” written by an Army major named H. R. McMaster. Using once classified Vietnam-era documents, McMaster finds fault not just with Robert McNamara, then the Secretary of Defense, who dismissed warnings from the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the Vietnam War would be hard to win, but with the four Chiefs themselves, who were complicit, because they failed to publicly voice their misgivings. “Each one of those four went to their graves thinking they didn’t do enough to protest,” White told me. “They should have put their stars on the table and said, ‘We won’t be part of this.’ ”

The officers fighting in Iraq are, most of the time, remarkably enthusiastic. This is their war, the only one they may get in their careers. It follows an attack on the United States, even if the connection between the attack and the war has been questioned. Within the tiny sliver of the war each sees, examples of brilliance and bravery abound. They’re proud to be a part of “the most beautiful Army in the history of the world,” as one recently returned captain put it; he praised his immediate commander for wisdom and compassion, and his company for being so disciplined and professional that it could turn off the violence “like a good hunting dog.” They brag about the Q36, a computerized weapon system that is so sophisticated it can spot an enemy mortar or rocket in midair, trace its trajectory backward, and fire a response before the enemy round lands. But they will also tell you that the war is excruciating. Despite their Buck Rogers technology, they are losing friends to weapons made from RadioShack gizmos, and the people they’ve been sent to help seem to hate them more every day. They can’t imagine when or how they will earn a victory parade.

Wednesday, 18 May 2005

C-130 Hercules: the limiting factor?

It seems that many weapon platforms, especialy light tanks and IFVs, tend to be limited by the C-130. They have to fit in it, in terms of both weight and size. This leads to platforms like the Stryker, and also the upcoming FCS. Both platforms have been severly compromised due to this restriction. Why don't we built a bigger Hercules? A payload limit of 37 tonnes sounds like a weight in which armour vehicle designers would have more to work with, as compared to 19 tonnes. What am I talking about? The A400M. Sure, its in another class, but heck, as long as the job gets done...I like the sound of a sub-40 tonne main battle tank already.

Tuesday, 5 April 2005

Harrier jet shakes off past to prove itself in Iraq

Harrier jet shakes off past to prove itself in Iraq
Chicago Tribune March 19, 2005

Harrier jet shakes off past to prove itself in Iraq

By James Janega, Tribune staff reporter.

Lt. Col. Robert Kuckuk helped redesign the Harrier fighter jet after a series of deadly accidents killed 45 of his fellow Marine pilots. Now he is helping rebuild the plane's reputation.

With every hour in the air, he believes, his VMA-311 Tomcat squadron is slowly vindicating the single-seat Harrier, which can take off vertically but has been plagued by a checkered history.

A decade ago, the Harrier was known as the most accident-prone aircraft in the American arsenal, a mark that sidelined it from many major missions in Operation Desert Storm and Afghanistan. But since the invasion of Iraq nearly two years ago, and especially after November's fighting in Fallujah, Marines say the Harrier has played a key role in the fighting in Iraq's Anbar province, and in ways few envisioned.

Just after midnight last Sunday, Kuckuk tipped his Harrier over the provincial capital of Ramadi, high above Marines under mortar attack.

The Marines thought the incoming rounds were coming from insurgents in a car, moving from spot to spot to fire mortars--a common tactic to evade counterfire. But the Marines on the ground couldn't see for themselves, and in a heavily populated area they were worried about shooting back.

Hovering above, Kuckuk looked down "and sure enough, there's a car going by," glowing gray-green on the cockpit monitor by Kuckuk's right knee. It was flouting a curfew and bouncing off-road through the desert, fleeing an area where the Marines thought their assailants had been.

Kuckuk called in an artillery strike. Moments later, the shells began landing. "No more car," he said.

Such are the successes that make Harrier fighter pilots say they are at last living up to the promises made a generation ago.

Of British design
The Marines first bought the British-designed Harriers in 1971, replaced them with a newer model in 1985, upgraded them in 1993 and fixed them in 2000.

But safety issues have plagued the aircraft, notably problems with the engine that allows the plane to take off vertically.

As engine program manager for the Marines' Harrier program office, Kuckuk helped redesign both the Harrier's engine and its maintenance program.

Congressional overseers have said that while they are satisfied with the new engine, rigid attention to its maintenance is key to the Marine Corps' seven squadrons of Harriers. No more are being made, and the aircraft is expected to be replaced with another vertical-takeoff fighter in a decade.

After the Harrier's most recent engine redesign overhaul, serious accidents dropped from 39 every 100,000 flight hours to 3.17 per 100,000 flight hours in 2001.

The Navy reported two serious accidents in 2004, comparable to previous years. During the current fiscal year, there have been two more: an engine fire in Arizona and a crash at sea. Both pilots ejected safely.

But in Iraq, Harriers have now flown nearly 11,000 hours without a mishap since May 2004.

Jet's strong points
Though the Harrier's nemesis has been its engine, its best systems include a 2-year-old camera pod attached like a torpedo under its stubby right wing.

The tool was designed to guide bombs but can spot enemy fighters and vehicles in almost any weather, at distances unlikely for subjects to know they are being watched. In a war that has often involved guerrillas fighting in urban areas, the camera has proved more useful than even its designers believed it would be.

"Certainly the utility of the improved sensors to manage close air support has attracted attention in certain parts of the Pentagon," said John Pike, a military expert at watchdog group GlobalSecurity.org. "They are being noticed in some places."

The Marines on the ground are noticing too. Within hours of landing at Al Asad last November, the Harriers were flying missions over Fallujah. They brought "total confidence," said Maj. Andrew Hesterman, air officer for Regimental Combat Team 7, part of the Marine force that attacked Fallujah last fall.

Of the 170 air strikes RCT-7 called in, half were delivered by Harriers. It was a remarkable step forward, Hesterman said. "I was calling ordinance drops within 150 meters of friendlies," he said.

Still, for every one hour the Harrier flies, a crew of maintenance technicians spends an average of 25 man-hours working on the plane's frame and engine.

A status board in the maintenance office of Kuckuk's squadron tells the tale. Of 16 Harriers, four were ready for flight Thursday night. Among the others, one had a radio altimeter problem, another needed a routine inspection. There was a troublesome hover mechanism, a fuel meter problem, one with lingering gripes after an engine replacement, one OKd as a backup.

In a repair hangar a short walk away, two Harriers were being dismantled and reassembled. "This aircraft requires a lot of attention to details," said Sgt. Francisco Martinez, part of the repair crew. "Anything you might miss would really take a toll. . . . It's a great job if you like to turn a wrench."

So far, so good
When the Tomcats shipped to Al Asad from Yuma, Ariz., they took over the former home of an Iraqi MiG-21 squadron. Arab lettering and unit insignias still cover the walls.

Shortly after arriving, Kuckuk added a document called the Commander's Intent to the bulletin board just inside the unit's front door. His Tomcats were beginning what would be their current 4,700 flight hours without a serious accident.

"KEEP DOING WHAT YOU'RE DOING," Kuckuk wrote in capital letters.

A few paragraphs later: "I see our critical vulnerability as complacency," he wrote. "We are one mishap away from being heroes to being goats."

Sunday, 27 March 2005

Modernising Defence Training - Report of the Defence Training Review

DTR - Contents

rational training

not only must training be realistic, it must also be rational. soldiers of today are no longer the brainless mob that will charge up the hill at your call and bidding. the dichotomy between conscripts and career soldiers, and more critically, the dichotomy between soldiers who really love their job and soldiers who are in it for something else, is the most pressing problem stopping the development of our armed forces.

Monday, 21 March 2005


its finally out, the merkava-based heavy APC. it even has a toilet facility for long watch missions. the Trophy Active Protection System will also be available if needed. opswarfare feels that adding slat armour [ala stryker] will further improve on its protection.

Monday, 7 March 2005

black hawk down postmortem

After watching "Black Hawk Down" on TV recently, opswarfare has some thoughts about urban warfare. First, the issue of tactics. Seems almost all urban warfare films fail to show the use of smoke as a concealment of troop movement, especially across open spaces. Second is concerning the weapons. Seems that US forces don't have a RPG7-styled weapon that they can use. The M203 is plain too weak, in range or firepower. A possible solution may be bullet-trap grenades. It turns every rifleman into a grenadier, instead of just the soldier holding the M203. Of course this thoughts have not been hypothesized properly. Maybe another potential project article in the making?

Thursday, 3 February 2005

Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection System
Already used in Iraq, this looks like a feasible unmanned weapon system that can be deployed in full-scale production soon. The gun mounting (Telepresent Rapid Aiming Platform) is capable of 70 degrees of rotation in the horizontal axis and 45 degrees of elevation in the vertical axis, and is capable of panning fast enough to track a crossing target moving at a speed of 48 kph (30 mph) at a range of 100m (330 feet).

Monday, 3 January 2005

Fratricide Prevention: A Multi-tier Solution

Fratricide Prevention: A Multi-tier Solution

Fratricide is the employment of friendly weapons and munitions with the intent to kill the enemy or destroy his equipment or facilities, which results in unforeseen or unintentional death or injury to friendly personnel.

Fratricide in modern warfare is prevented through Combat Identification [Combat ID] and Situational Awareness equipment, together with proper tactics, techniques, and procedures.

Presently, many western countries use thermal panels and IR beacons for Combat ID. A thermal panel show up as a cold spot on a hot target image, when viewed through Forward Looking Infra Red [FLIR] sensors. Soldiers that see this contrast will identify the target as friendly. IR beacons emit a pulse signal that can be seen by night vision goggles [NVG]. Targets producing this signal will be identified as friendly.

However, enemy forces with similar equipment can also see them. Adverse weather, smoke, obscured panels, and human errors also hamper positive identification. Also, a modern weapon often has an engagement range that exceeds the sensor range of FLIR or NVG.
A better solution is now being evaluated. The Battlefield Target Identification Device [BTID] is similar to Identification Friend or Foe [IFF] used on fighter jets.

BTID works by having an electronic interrogator on the firing platform send an encrypted millimetre-wave Ka Band [33-40 GHz] radio wave towards the target. Transponders on the target receive the signal and send an encrypted "reply" signal back to the firing platform, confirming its friendly status, with a working range of about 5km.

The system works in adverse weather and smoke, and human error is eliminated by visual and audio confirmation on the equipment. Encryption and the narrow beam used reduce detection by enemy forces. The transponder antenna is mounted prominently to reduce the occurrence of an interrogator-signal being obscured, e.g. a tank in hull down position. By physically incorporating BTID into the firing process, identification before firing is assured.

A faulty transponder or an enemy will not send any signal back to the firing platform, thus presenting the soldier with an "unknown". Second-tier solutions like blue-force tracking will next be utilised.

Blue-force tracking offers situational awareness by showing all friendly forces on a screen. Force XXI Battle Command, Brigade-and-Below [FBCB2], a combat net radio-based system already in use in the US Army, is also used for command and control of units. RF tags can also be used similarly; these can be detected by the synthetic aperture radar mounted on command and control aircraft like the E-8 Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System [JSTARS].

Radio Based Combat Identification [RBCI] offers a hybrid solution, using Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System [SINCGARS] combat net radios. Software is installed onto the SINCGARS radio and no additional equipment is needed. An omni-directional GPS-tagged signal is sent out by the RBCI radio. Nearby units with RBCI radios will respond with its identity and location. RBCI is suited for indirect-fire platforms like mortars, unlike BTID, a directional system suited for direct-fire weapons like main battle tanks.

Individual soldiers can use the Dismounted Soldier Identification [DSID] system, which is similar to BTID, but uses laser instead of millimetre radio wave for interrogation. The system can also replace the Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System [MILES] for tactical engagement simulation.

Tactics [e.g. battle-lines], techniques [e.g. rules of engagement], and procedures [e.g. muzzle orientation] round up the final multi-tier solution, although fratricide data during actual combat and training exercises show that tactics, techniques, and procedures have a limited effect on reducing fratricide. This may be due to related factors like high tempo of operations, fatigue, and stress.

Priority for Combat ID systems should be given to weapons with substantial killing power and beyond visual range [BVR] characteristics, e.g. strike aircraft, artillery and main battle tanks. These weapons have in the past produced most of the fratricide incidents.

Most wars are now fought by coalition forces involving several countries and various services. Therefore, fratricide prevention has to be a multi-nation and multi-service effort, with a standardised platform to work with. NATO's Coalition Combat Identification [CCID] project, which involves Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, U.K., and the U.S., is the one that looks most promising.

A NATO Standardization Agreement [STANAG], specifically STANAG 4579, has been drafted. There are now 3 STANAG 4579 compatible systems, BTID [U.S. Army, by Raytheon], BTID [British Army, by Thales], and Battlefield Identification Friend or Foe [BIFF] [French Army, by Thales]. Each offers slightly different features. The U.S. version is slaved to the main armament, while the U.K. version is steerable, so identification need not be done by pointing the weapon at the target. The French version offers a "bolt-on" feature for ad-hoc installation. Similar STANAG will be drafted for DSID & perhaps RBCI, with an eye on keeping compatibility.

Future fratricide prevention systems may move in a few directions. Combat ID may be embedded in other platforms like guided munitions and unmanned vehicles. This will depend on whether costs can be driven down over time.

There is also room to explore combining Combat ID with tactical engagement systems e.g. One Tactical Engagement Simulation System (OneTESS).

Finally, counter measures [e.g. jammers and direction finders] are likely to be developed when Combat ID equipment begin to proliferate.

Sunday, 2 January 2005

NDM Article - Army Badly Equipped To Fight in Low-Intensity Wars

NDM Article - Army Badly Equipped To Fight in Low-Intensity Wars
Nothing new here, but its still important to reiterate the problems of big acquisition programmes. Communications, protection and sensor-shooter problems were all cited, as usual. But hopefully this type of frank admittal "...the Icom radio we bought them is hideously useless" will spur on change.


Army Badly Equipped To Fight in Low-Intensity Wars

by Roxana Tiron

The Army's most ambitious procurement program, the Future Combat Systems, may be directed at the wrong threat and the service needs to adjust its investments accordingly, asserted a senior official.

Much of the FCS program's network of combat vehicles and unmanned systems predicated upon fighting an enemy who employs conventional weapons and tactics, but the outlook has changed, said Brig. Gen. Philip Coker, director of capabilities development at the Training and Doctrine Command's Futures Center in Fort Monroe, Va. The focus should be on prolonged low-intensity conflict and on systems tailored for small combat units, he said. Army intelligence predicts low-intensity conflicts will be the dominant form of warfare through 2025, Coker said.

Opponents will possess mostly low-tech weapons, and U.S. forces can expect to see a continuation of urban combat on par with missions in Iraq and the pursuit of roving insurgents in the mountains of Afghanistan.

When FCS was conceived in the late 1990s, the Army was anticipating potential enemies making comparable investments in traditional hardware, Coker said at a recent expeditionary warfare conference in Panama City, Fla., sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association. "Nobody is making those investments," he pointed out, adding that traditional large-scale warfare does not appear imminent. In this changed environment, the Army must concentrate on meeting technology gaps that affect soldiers at the lowest levels, said Coker.

The Futures Center has identified what Coker terms residual gaps that the Army needs to fill by acquiring the appropriate technology. The research is based on "lessons learned," he said. The number one problem for soldiers is network-enabled battle command, Coker said. Small units lack situational awareness technologies, such as Blue Force Tracking, a common operational picture and the ability to fuse disparate data.

The flow of information in real time is a problem, explained Coker. The Army has limited battle command on the move, both for its vehicles and for dismounted troops. Non-line-of-sight communications in non-contiguous battle spaces also are poor, he said. There is insufficient joint data access, limited encryption of satellite communications networks and wideband communications and not enough tactical satellite channels.

Another critical problem is soldier and combat support unit protection in counter-insurgency environments, such as Iraq. Soldiers need capabilities to defeat rockets, artillery, mortars and snipers, said Coker. The light-vehicle defense against rocket-propelled grenades also is inadequate. Current equipment gives soldiers limited blast debris protection, poor hearing protection and inferior shielding from small arms fire.

On another front, he observed, "We are bad at logistics, and we have not invested well. We should have automated it, at least up to this point." The current system cannot support fast-paced operations, and the distribution system is not responsive to war-fighter requirements, Coker said. The visibility of assets in transit also is restricted.

He said training also must be improved, both in garrison and in the battle zone. Coker said troops are taught poorly how to use their equipment. Soldiers also receive minimal training for operating autonomous platforms, such as unmanned aerial vehicles and robots.

Responsive and networked precision fires were high on Coker's list of priorities. Troops have insufficient extended-range, precision-lethality against moving targets, and forward-observers lack equipment that can interoperate with other services, he suggested.

"We have wonderful precision weapons, but we can't put them on the battlefield accurately because we do not know where we are and we do not know where they are, and we can'tÑwithin a reasonable accuracyÑ place a point on the ground to tell somebody where it is," he said.

The Army needs reliable communications systems for urban operations, said Coker. Troops were sent to war with a squad radio, produced by Icom America Inc. But that radio proved so ineffective that the soldiers resorted to a $60 Sony walkabout, which works at ranges of 3 kilometers and is compatible with Army frequencies, said Coker.

"Here we have the only way for these kids to talk because the Icom radio we bought them is hideously useless," he said.

In order to use the radio, soldiers had to turn off the jammers in the vehicles, because otherwise the radio could not function. "That is criminal. We have failed our soldiers." The Army, however, proceeded to buy another Icom radio, this time produced by the Japanese Icom company. Now, the Icom 43 is "wonderful," Coker said. The Army plans to buy 43,000 during the next three months.

Coker said a solution must be found to better coordinate special operations forces and conventional troops on the battlefield. "The integration of SOF and conventional forces was a strength for the joint guys, but not for us," he said. "We do not see, at the tactical level, a good ability to talk across and operate across formation. There are a number of holes in the process." Specifically, "our radios do not communicate, and we do not train together," the general said.

Moreover, joint and interagency cooperation remains a problem, despite extensive efforts. "There are a number of challenges, not the least of which is that our responsibilities are unclear," he said. Closing the list of the most serious gaps in Army capabilities is the timeliness of analysis and information sharing. Current intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technologies provide an unprecedented ability to observe the enemy, but the analysis of data and its dissemination lags behind, Coker said. "Our ability to know is grandly hampered by our inability to pass what we know to the person who needs it," he said. The Army needs to have the ability to rapidly analyze information and "put it in the hands of people who have to make use of it," he added. The Army faces a "difficult responsibility" in addressing the technological gaps at the tactical level, said Coker. "We have a process governed by the federal acquisition" regulations, he said. "It is not designed to answer these problems." Furthermore, existing buying rules are aimed at purchases spanning years or decades.