Friday, February 5, 2016

Sino Teufel Hunden

Sino Teufel Hunden!!?

Yessir - Chian's PLA is gon upgrade their very own Marine Corps!

In recent years the PLAMC is not merely maintaining its readiness to mount an amphibious invasion across the Taiwan Strait (or conduct other operations in the context of the East and South China Sea disputes). Rather, it is bulking up in order to give the Chinese political leadership another flexible tool for responding to contingencies not just within China’s immediate East Asian region, but also beyond.

 In particular, amphibious forces give China’s leadership the potential option of landing troops and equipment and conducting operations ashore, both near and far from China.

Notably, the future of the PLAMC will no longer be confined to just static defensive and offensive regional roles. One of the most obvious hints of Beijing’s interest in projecting the PLAMC further afield beyond its immediate region appeared back in August 2015, when it staged the first-ever joint amphibious landing exercise with Russia as part of the annual Exercise Joint Sea 2015 (II). This was the first time the PLA shipped armored vehicles and landed troops directly into an overseas exercise area following a long-distance voyage, according to a PLA official.

It involved landing more than 100 PLA marines in fourteen ZBD-05 amphibious infantry fighting vehicles—the Chinese equivalent to the USMC’s AAV-7—which were disembarked from the Type-071 landing platform dock Changbaishan more than one kilometer from the beach in Vladivostok. Another twenty-four PLA marines fast-roped by helicopter, whereas a smaller Type-072A landing ship tank Yunwushan disembarked six armored vehicles and twenty-six PLA marines directly onto the beach.

The PLAN already has a range of amphibious landing vessels. However, Beijing is long keen on building larger and more capable ones similar to those operated by the U.S. Navy, for example the newest America-class amphibious assault ships (LHAs). In April 2015, the Beijing-based magazine Maritime China revealed via its official Weibo account a model of the PLAN’s future LHA-type vessel. The ship appears to have landing spots on its flight deck for six to ten medium helicopters, though noteworthy is that besides having the internal well deck commonly found on such landing ships (except oddly enough, the lead ship USS America itself), it appears to have just one elevator astern, which risks paralyzing flight operations once rendered inoperable in combat.

Touted by Chinese and foreign sources as Type-075 (Kanwa Defense Review, for example, reported it as having the designation M1), the ship may measure no less than 200 meters in length and displace 40,000–50,000 tons. Like most of the America class, this Chinese LHA will be capable of launching vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) fighters, helicopters, air-cushion landing craft and amphibious assault vehicles.

These developments do point to the PLAMC’s quest towards forming, along with the PLAN, an analogue to the USN/USMC’s Amphibious Ready Groups (ARGs) and Expeditionary Strike Groups (ESGs). This would be a technically and financially less ambitious enterprise compared to building a carrier strike group revolving around aircraft carriers with their more complicated technologies. Moreover, Beijing may leverage on its existing accumulated experience in building and operating amphibious landing vessels as well as associated helicopter, air-cushion landing craft and amphibious armor capabilities.       

Looking not too far into the future, the PLA will possibly have multiple amphibious task forces organized and structured along the same lines as the USN/USMC ARGs and ESGs, allowing them to deploy throughout East Asia in the way that the Thirty-First Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) currently does. Moreover, it is not unthinkable a PLA ARG/ESG may routinely operate in the Indian Ocean as well—and, for that matter, even in the Mediterranean.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

SPAWAR

The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command has released its 2016 Strategic Plan, which places adding advanced cyber capabilities among its five key objectives. The plan, which supports SPAWAR’s seven-year vision launched last year, was issued recently by SPAWAR Commander Adm. David Lewis.

“SPAWAR’s vision is to rapidly deliver cyber warfighting capability from seabed
to space,” the strategy states in its overview, which emphasizes cyber’s inseparable presence in all warfighting systems.

The document defines cyber as “the all-encompassing domain of or related to computing, with networked capability that has been extended to provide a decisive advantage over our adversaries” adding that this capability extents to the core of the nation’s warfighting systems. “Our dependency on cyber for daily activities and warfighting advantage has revealed a new warfighting domain…Effective, assured cyber operations must become part of our core mission to maintain our warfighting advantage.”

To achieve SPAWAR’s vision, the document listed five goals: Accelerate and streamline delivery of new capability and advanced technology; enable the delivery of advanced IT and cyber capabilities and transform what it means to operate and maneuver within the cyber domain; provide the cyber technical leadership required across the Navy; reduce the cost of operations for affordable warfighting solutions, and; optimize the organization and workforce to enable these changes. 

Sweet!

Among several sub-objectives, SPAWAR described the need to identify, mature, integrate and deliver technical capabilities as to “get the right technology to the warfighter at the right time.”  

The document also calls for the establishment of an enduring SPAWAR organizational structure to own cyber technical leadership. The strategy says an annual SPAWAR cybersecurity master plan should be published to provide overarching guidance on the planning, execution and management of SPAWAR cyber activities, and calls for the establishment of a cyber war room to showcase successes, current activities and future initiatives to support the response to the rapidly changing cyber threat. 

Another priority: data access as a means of optimizing information for effective decision-making. “The purpose of this objective is to make institutional data easy, accessible, reliable, consistent and secure to support informed planning and decision making by all,” the strategy said. “This requires transforming the organization’s use, management and understanding of data…Through employment of advanced data practices, master data management and exploitation of data analytics, the organization will shift from being reactive to proactive.”

Cyber Command commander Adm. Michael Rogers recently described data as a commodity. “Data is increasingly a commodity of value all on its own,” he said at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council last week, adding that the power of big data analytics has changed this paradigm. “If you go back five, 10 years ago, I remember discussions where we thought there’s just so much data here no one could put it all together.” Prior to big data analytics, the sheer size of data rendered it useless to adversaries, he said. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Shin Shin!

 The land of backward comics, Harijuku Girls, future stealth fighters and cool robots - Japan is HOT! Instead of scary missiles and secret police - Japan built a fun, rich democratic tech saavy, tolerant, egalitarian society with a free, uncensored press, transparent, periodic elections, and independent judiciary that hasn't bothered anyone in over six decades A literacy rate of over 99%, Nippon is a wonderful example of the human spirit unbound.

This Thursday, Japan’s new Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency revealed the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Advanced Technology Demonstrator – Experimental (ATD-X) fifth-generation fighter technology demonstrator, now dubbed X-2 and unofficially named ‘ShinShin,’ to the media at a heavily guarded hangar at a regional airport near the city of Komaki, in Aichi Prefecture. It has previously been showcased once already in May 2014.

The X-2 is the country’s first domestically produced full-scale test model—a technology demonstrator—of a new indigenous stealth fighter jet design, which has been under development at a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries plant in Toyoyama since 2009, with total program costs estimated at 39.4 billion yen (around $331 million).

The aircraft—an “advanced technology demonstration unit,” according to the Defense Technical Research and Development Institute –unveiled to the press will not be armed and is slated to be retired in three years, after having undergone extensive tests of advanced fifth-generation fighter technologies, for which Japan’s Defense Ministry has allocated 2.3 billion yen ($19.3 million) in the next fiscal year alone. It will be a testbed platform for multiple technologies including next generation electronically scanned array radar systems, multi-dimensional 3D thrust vectoring concepts, and fine-tune the aircraft’s stealth capabilities. (The X-2 features a special carbon-fiber composite material that absorbs radar waves.)

X-2 program’s goal is to eventually produce Japan’s first indigenously-designed fifth-generation air superiority fighter, designated F-3, with serial production slated to begin in 2027, although various delays in the development of the X-2 prototype including issues with the engine control software –scheduled to be fully developed by 2018– make a later date more likely.

The X-2 with a length of 14.2 meters and a wingspan of 9.1meters is scheduled to make its maiden flight in February 2016.

Lockheed-Martin is purported involved in the development of the X-2 prototype. The American aircraft maker was prohibited from selling its F-22 Raptor stealth air superiority fighter to Japan in the 2000s, causing Tokyo’s defense industry to kick-start development of the X-2.

The aircraft unveiled this Thursday is the only X-2 prototype constructed so far.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

ISIL and WMD

ISIS and WMD?

When it comes to the intelligence profession, surprise is the ultimate enemy — and surprise just happens to be the Islamic State’s specialty.

The IS has delivered one after another with wanton brutality, from dramatic, border-busting early successes to urban conquests and the attacks it has planned or inspired around the world. As much as we should resist mongering fear, it behooves us to imagine what surprises are yet to come and whether the IS could take it up yet another notch.

One clue worth pondering comes from U.S. military reports, which show that the IS twice used a chemical agent called sulfur mustard — once against Kurdish forces and another time against rival rebel groups in August. It’s unclear whether the IS was able to manufacture the agent or whether they grabbed Syrian agent at some point. Were the IS to acquire and use unconventional weapons on a broader scale or branch out into biological agents or nukes, it would, of course, be a real game changer.

 First, while it remains strong and still draws recruits, its territorial losses have begun to mount, due to coalition bombing and ground operations by the Kurds in Northern Iraq and Syria and by Iraqi forces operating near Baghdad. These ops haven’t turned the tide yet, but the IS is probably experiencing at least some jitters, if not outright desperation. Its increased attacks outside the Middle East serve to keep its image of invulnerability, impress potential recruits and divide our resources. A startling new means of attack that produced even greater and more horrible casualties would serve the same purposes — and at a much more dramatic level.

Another reason for concern stems from the fact that the group operates with fewer restraints than any other terrorists we’ve encountered since 9/11. Al-Qaida leadership in the middle of the last decade scolded the IS predecessor, al-Qaida in Iraq, for killing too many Muslims. The IS seems to have no qualms about killing Muslims. And when it comes to unconventional weapons, even terrorist groups that have sought them may have hesitated because of the certainty that using such weapons would draw sharper retaliation from the U.S. and others. But the IS seems to want nothing more than to pull us into direct confrontation, on the theory that it could draw coalition blood and hasten the violent final confrontation with “infidels” that its bizarre theology predicts and seeks.  
 
  How hard would it be for the IS to obtain what it needs for unconventional weapons? More difficult than its other weaponry but by no means impossible.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Coming Palestine Civil War


Oh, Nahbah! Is there anything you can't do?

American and Israeli officials shrugged off Abbas’s warnings last fall that he’d dissolve the Palestinian Authority, of which he’s president. The rais (boss) had so often made similar threats in the past that no one took him seriously.

Now, cats in the hood are getting ready for the Palestine Civil War

No one, that is, except some in Ramallah who started thinking that maybe, well into Abbas’ tenth year of a four-year term, the 80-year-old chain-smoker is finally thinking of mortality, retirement — or just a bit of rest.

Mohammed Dahlan, a Dubai-based former Gaza strongman who pulls West Bank strings from afar, raised his Abbas criticism a notch. Even top loyalists like long-time negotiator Saeb Erekat and intelligence chief Majid Faraj sounded like they were contemplating a leadership fight.

When Palestinian security forces arrested a top manager in Erekat’s office earlier this month, accusing him of spying for Israel, West Bankers speculated that it was orchestrated by Erekat’s rivals seeking to make him look bad.

But as whispers of a succession battle intensified, Abbas realized he risked losing his grip. In the last couple of weeks he gathered loyalists to assure them he’s going nowhere. He then started a campaign to rein in the terrorist wave he had unleashed in September but of which he’s clearly lost control.

Faraj, the intel chief, gave a rare interview to the New York-based Defense News this week, boasting he’d prevented 200 terrorist attacks and arrested 100 Palestinians. It signaled to outsiders that the PA is fighting terror, but at home the message was, hey, watch out. (Faraj didn’t say how many of the men he’d arrested were mere critics or political rivals.)

At the same time, officials in Ramallah leaked to reporters that they’re about to launch a UN campaign to fight Israel diplomatically.

These are staples of Abbas’ longtime tactics, which suggests he’s got full control of the reins again.

But, like it or not, he won’t live or rule forever.

Abbas has long avoided anointing a successor or naming a deputy. So who decides who’s next?

According to Palestinian law, the speaker of parliament would take over pending new elections. But the parliament hasn’t convened in years. And the current speaker is a member of Hamas, Abbas’ Islamist rivals.

In other words, no one in the West Bank knows how the next leader will emerge — and Israeli intelligence officials, whose entire job is to predict such things, have no idea either

When the time comes, the Fatah men who in the last few weeks started jockeying for position will duke it out for real. Such chaotic political fighting often leads to violence.

Once that violence ebbs, a new strongman will emerge.

But not a peaceful, democratic state of Palestine.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

WoW!!

WoW - the Watchers Council- it's the oldest, longest running cyber comte d'guere ensembe in existence - started online in 1912 by Sirs Jacky Fisher and Winston Churchill themselves - an eclective collective of cats both cruel and benign with their ability to put steel on target (figuratively - natch) on a wide variety of topictry across American, Allied, Frenemy and Enemy concerns, memes, delights and discourse.

Every week these cats hook up each other with hot hits and big phazed cookies to peruse and then vote on their individual fancy catchers.

Thusly sans further adieu (or a don"t)

Council Winners



Non-Council Winners



See you next week!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Rising Axis

There's a new sheriff in town in the Middle East -- and it's not the United States of America, who just spent trillions of dollars and lost thousands of soldiers in two different wars in the region. The new hegemon in the Levant and the Fertile Crescent is a rising axis of Russian, Iranian, and Syrian power.

Russia and Iran is a natural marriage -- each needs the other in different ways. For one, Russia needs money, badly. Iran is about to come into a lot of it, as the Iran nuclear deal is implemented, an agreement that, by the way, Russia helped put in place. Western sanctions over Russia's actions in Ukraine, and the collapse in the price of crude oil, are devastating the Russian federal budget. Iran can help alleviate this lack of cash flow by buying a whole lot of Russian weapons.

Already Moscow is shipping Iran the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system, and there is talk of Iran buying tanks from Russia to modernize its armor, which is antiquated and sorely lacking in capability. Analysts predict that if the price of oil stays in the $30 range, Russian foreign currency reserves could be depleted within two years, along with a significant devaluation of the ruble. Russia has also announced it will be assisting Iran with the development of nuclear power facilities in the near future. It is also likely that the Iranians are not driving as hard of a bargain as the Chinese when negotiating pricing with the Kremlin. Iran owes Russia for the coming sanctions relief, and is therefore negotiating from a position of weakness with Russia.

Hezbollah, Iran's proxy terrorist army in Lebanon, is now being armed by Russia as well. Russia has built large weapons depots in Syria and given Hezbollah free access in exchange for intelligence and targeting information for Russian airstrikes originating out of Latakia and other forward operating bases Moscow has constructed near rebel-held areas. For now, Hezbollah is training these weapons on the Syrian opposition; however, at some point, they will look south toward Israel.

Russia and Syria just this month announced that they signed an agreement allowing Russia to enjoy an open-ended military presence in Syria. Also announced were joint air missions where Syrian MIG-29s escorted Russian bombers as they attacked Islamic State positions. The Russian air assault on anti-Assad forces has saved the Assad regime, and therefore Moscow's footprint in the Middle East, for now. This result obviously saves Iran's influence in Syria and Lebanon, therefore allowing Iran to maintain pressure on Israel. After all, Iran's call for the destruction of the Jewish State has never really been repudiated.

Combined with Iranian influence in Baghdad, the axis of Iran, Russia, and Syria controls territory from Persia all the way to the Levant. It truly is a remarkable turn of events. The speed in which the power vacuum was filled after the withdrawal of most American troops from the region is simply stunning.

In a period of years, the Middle East may see a nuclear-armed Iran using this regional hegemony to force its will on the world. Israel could be isolated. America and NATO might have a much tougher time shaping events in this volatile area of the globe without the ability to gain a foothold, being squeezed out by possible territorial control of this new axis.