Archive | September, 2011

Dwight D. Eisenhower on the Military Industrial Complex

30 Sep

Arguably the last truly great American president, Eisenhower was a military man through and through. But he understood what was happening and witnessed the militarization of the US in the years after WW2. He knew what kind of influence such large industries could have on the American people and its government and cautioned against it but was fought every step of the way by politicians who had an overriding fear of the Red Menace, some of whom became very rich by putting forth the weapons manufacturers interests in Congress. What Eisenhower said decades ago still rings true in the new millennium and it’s an important message to share. Here’s the excerpt from his farewell address in 1961:

“A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.

Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peace time, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United State corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence-economic, political, even spiritual-is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been over shadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system-ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.”

View the whole speech here. There’s a fantastic documentary out called “Why We Fight” and you can find the trailer for it and a little more information on the MIC here.

General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper

29 Sep

The Reaper  is an American built, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that was developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for the US Air Force, Navy, CIA, US Customs and Border Protection, Royal Air Force, and Italian Air force. Where as the Reaper’s predecessor, the Predator, was mostly built for surveillance with some combat capabilities, the Reaper is widely recognized as the first true hunter-killer UAV and is superbly designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance. The Reaper has a much more powerful engine than the Predator, 950 horse power, allowing the Reaper to carry up to 15 times more ordinance and cruise at three times the speed of the older model. While the MQ-9 is able to fly pre-programmed routes autonomously, it is constantly monitored by an aircrew in a ground control station and the use of weapons is always controlled by human crew members. The New York Air National Guard 174th Fighter Wing was the first military unit in the world to begin converting it’s entire combat fleet from F-16 fighters to UAVs, picking the heavy-hitting Reaper as their replacement aircraft.

Capable of carrying up to 14 Hellfire missiles and remaining airborne for up to 14 hours fully loaded, the Reaper has been indispensable in putting pressure on insurgents in it’s main theater of combat operations, Afghanistan. Weapon load-out can be switched up to arm the Reaper with laser and precision guided bombs. Since UAV aircraft’s primary functions are still surveillance and ground attack, air-to-air capabilities are negligible and the assortment of weapons currently available for their use is limited.

The average MQ-9 system is composed of elements from several of the best aircraft, ground-control stations, satellites, and flight and maintenance crews currently available. The aircraft has a 66 foot wingspan and a maximum payload weight of 3,800 lbs. The Reaper is equipped with the best sensor technology its designers could cram into the airframe which includes the AN/APY-8 Lnyx II Radar, a state-of-the-art advanced high-resolution imaging system, and efforts are currently underway to develop the ability to control several UAVs from one ground control station, increasing combat effectiveness and Reaper fleet cohesion over the battlefield. The aircraft has little to no armor and relies on it’s maximum altitude of 50,000 feet to stay out of range of most anti-aircraft missiles.

Reapers have been flying over Iraq since July 2008 and have likely launched several thousand strikes in Afghanistan. Concrete numbers are difficult to come by for it’s service record since the hundreds of drone attacks against targets in Pakistan have not been officially acknowledged. However, it is known that there were 33,000 close air support missions in 2010 involving Reapers and Predators. The Reaper is also seeing service with NASA to test new equipment and assists in numerous missions like when they were used to map California wildfires in 2007. The US Department of Homeland Security acquired some Reapers for use in border patrol and drug interdiction. As of now, several countries are trying to acquire their own MQ-9s including the UK, Australia, Germany and Italy.

Number Built: 57 as of September 2011

Unit Cost: $154,400,000 for 4 aircraft

General Characteristics
  • Crew: None onboard (controlled remotely by pilot and sensor operator)
  • Landing Type: runway
  • Launch Type: runway
  • Length: 36 ft (11 m)
  • Wingspan: 66 ft (20 m)
  • Height: 12.5 ft (3.6 m)
  • Empty weight: 4,900 lb (2,223 kg)
  • Fuel Capacity: 4,000 lb (1,800 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 10,500 lb (4,760 kg)
  • Power Plant: Honeywell TPE331-10 turboprop engine, 900 shp (671 kW), with Digital Electronic Engine Control (DEEC)
Performance
  • Maximum speed: 260 knots (482 km/h, 300 mph)
  • Cruise speed: 150–170 knots (276–313 km/h, 172–195 mph)
  • Range: 3,200 nmi (5,926 km, 3,682 mi)
  • Endurance: 14–28 hours (14 hours fully loaded)
  • Payload: 3,800 lb (1,700 kg)
    • Internal: 800 lb (360 kg)
    • External: 3,000 lb (1,400 kg)
  • Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15 km)
  • Operational altitude: 25,000 ft (7.5 km)

History of US Arms Sales to Taiwan

26 Sep

The US has had close ties with the Republic of China (Taiwan) since their fight against Japan in World War 2. And American support continued despite the ROC’s defeat by the communist forces of the People’s Republic of China in 1950. Taiwan was an important part in the plan to contain the spread of communism in Asia during the Cold War and offered behind the scenes assistance to anti-communist forces in Korea and Vietnam. After the Taiwan Relations Act was passed in 1979, it became US law to supply Taiwan with military hardware and to defend them against outside aggression, specifically China. The US has made good on this promise on 3 separate occasions known as the Taiwan Strait Crises in 1954-55, 1958, and 1995-96 when American naval forces in the region were mobilized to deter Chinese military posturing.

As of now, there have been at least 53 separate arms deals reaching an estimated $60 billion worth, not including inflation which could very well raise the deals to over $100 billion. Most sales are for advanced technology such as surface-to-air missiles, fighter jets and other hi-tech equipment not easily produced indigenously. I’ve tried to compile all available data I could find so let me know if you notice something that I left out.

1979, July- 48 F-5E, $240 million

1979, November- 500 AGM-65 Maverick, $25 million

1980, January- BGM-71 TOW, MIM-23 Hawk, MIM-72 Chaparral, $280 million

1980, July- M110A2, $3.7 million

1982, April- Aircraft parts, $640 thousand

1982, June- Armored personnel carriers, mortar vehicle, command vehicle, $97 million

1982, August- $620 million

1982, November- Vehicles, spare parts and ancillary equipment, $97 million

1983, February- 66 F-104G, no data on dollar value

1984, June- 12 C-130, $325 million

1985, February- 12 F-5, F-100, T-33, T-28 radar and spare parts, $325 million

1985, June- 262 MIM-72 Chaparral, $94 million

1986, August- S-2T, AN/TPQ-37, S-2E/G, Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate, $260 million

1989- 88 Standard Missile, $44 million

1990, August- F-5, F-104, C-130 radar, $108 million

1991, September- 110 M60A3, $119 million

1992- 8 C-130, $220 million

1992, July- Rental of 3 Knox class frigates, $230 million

1992, August- 207 Standard Missiles, $126 million

1992, September- 150 F-16s, $6 billion

1993, January- 200 Patriot missiles and related equipment, $10 billion

1993, March- 4 E-2T, $900 million

1993, June- Aircraft parts, radar and navigation equipment, $156 million

1993, November- 150 Mk46  Mod5RC torpedoes and related components, $54 million

1994, February- Rental of 3 Knox class frigates, $230 million

1994, September- 4 MSO ocean minesweepers, no data on dollar value

1994, October- Rental of 2 Newport class tank landing ships, $2.6 million

1995, May- 160 M60A3, $223 million

1996, August- 1299 FIM-92 Stingers and related equipment, $420 million

1996, September- 110 Mk46 Mod5 torpedoes, $69 million

1997, March- AGM-84A, AH-1W, S-70C, $232 million

1997, May- 700+ DMS systems, $58 million

1997, May- 2 Knox class frigates, no data on dollar value

1998- 4 S-70C, $70 million

1998, March- OH-58, AH-1W and related equipment, $452 million

1998, August- unknown material, $350 million

1998, October- unknown material, $440 million

1999, April- Early warning radar defense system, $800 million

1999, May- Hellfire II, ANVRC-92E, SINC-GARS-based radio systems, intelligence electronic warfare systems, high-mobility multipurpose wheeled and additional equipment, $87 million

1997, July- E-2T and F-16s, $550 million

2000, March- Improved Hawk system and related equipment, $202 million

2000, June- F-16s on-board navigation and targeting pods, AN/ALQ-184 electronic countermeasure pods, $356 million

2000, September- AIM-120C medium-range air to air missiles, Harpoon ship-to-ship missiles, 155 mm self proelled artillery and communications eqipment, $1.4 billion

2001, April- incomplete order, $18 billion

2003, November- 200 AIM-120C-5, no data on dollar value

2004, April- 2 Ultra-high frequency early warning radar and remote equipment, $17.8 million

2007, March- 453 AIM-120C-5 missiles, air-to-air missiles, $421 million

2007, 66 F-16 C/D, $3.7 billion

2007, September- P-3C, Standard Missiles-2, $2.23 billion

2007, November- Patriot missile system upgrades, $939 million

2008, October- Patriot anti-missile system, E-2T, Apache helicopters and other weaponry, $6.46 billion

2011, September- Upgrades for F-16s, $5.85 billion

There’s a PDF file on this site with the original details.

The US is required by law to aid Taiwan in developing its military but is loath to sacrifice its increasingly vital relationship with China and the decision to upgrade Taiwan’s older F-16s instead of selling them new ones has shaken the Taiwanese government. They have a few options on the table if they wish to close the ever widening gap between them and the mainland. First, they could see about simply buying the production license for the F-16 if that’s what they really wanted. It’s less diplomatically sensitive and would allow Taiwan to build as many as it needs. Second, they could develop their own fighter program. Such an endeavor is expensive but Taiwan is one of the most developed countries in the region and already has a high technological base from which to work from. How Taiwan handles the situation could very well decide by what terms it eventually rejoins the mainland, of its own free will with special conditions for reunification or by Chinese conquest.

Guest Posts Wanted

23 Sep

Hello readers! I’m currently looking to expand the scope and content of this site. If there is anyone out there who knows about something military related and is willing to share with me then I can let you do a guest post. I’ll load your article along with your name,website and photo if you’d like. Leave a comment if you’re interested and we can work something out. Serious and a competent writers are always welcome. Stay cool!

The Military Industrial Complex

21 Sep

Defense industries are gaining an alarming amount of sway in determining policies in the US and in other major arms producing countries. From pushing for “interventions” to determining what and where items will be produced and even effectively bribing officials. A notable example of this is Lockheed Martin having parts of the vaunted F-22 produced in nearly every US state so that efforts by the military to reduce the number of aircraft on order will hurt local economies and by extension endanger the political offices of officials trying to cut the program. There are numerous documentaries on the subject, my favorite of which is the 2006 film “Why We Fight.

 

Pakistan: Asia’s Wild Card

20 Sep

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or just now becoming socially conscious then chances are you’re aware of the precarious situation Pakistan finds itself in. Attacked from outside by Afghan insurgents and besieged from within by terrorists and rebels, it has somehow endured since 1947, albeit with several coup d’états. It has quickly gone from being America’s closest ally in the War on Terror to one of its most hated enemies and has nearly become a global pariah due to internal struggles and an unwillingness by its leaders to crackdown on religious extremism.

Diplomacy

Once called America’s “most allied ally in Asia”, relations have been rocky between both countries since the 1965 Indo-Pakistani War in which the US refused to offer military support. This generated anti-American sentiments in the country which have never abated, despite the billions of dollars that the US has pumped into the country since it’s formation. Relations hit a further snag in 1977 when the majority of aid was cut off following the beginning of Pakistan’s nuclear program. Relations peaked during the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan when Pakistan was used as a CIA staging area for operations against communist forces.

Throughout the War on Terror, American officials and officers have typically been very loose with lavishing praise on Pakistan for it’s efforts. However, behind closed doors, and more recently in public, it’s a different story. Reports that the ISI, Pakistan’s spy agency, has been protecting and warning insurgents of impending operations against them are surfacing weekly and American officials have constantly pressed Pakistan to do more in the war but most pleas fall on deaf ears. The situation came to a head with the awesome unilateral assassination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, just down the road from a major military academy in an upscale neighborhood in a big city. Publicly shamed and internationally embarrassed, Pakistan officials tried to deflect blame from themselves by complaining that their sovereignty had been violated and that they had no prior knowledge of bin Laden’s location. Right.

Since then, US-Pakistani relations have been in a downward spiral and despite what officials on both sides are saying, the partnership between the two countries likely won’t survive much longer. Pakistan has distanced itself from America and has made repeated overtures for a possible alliance with China, one of its largest military suppliers. At first China relished the thought of grabbing up a former American ally. However, after several terrorist attacks in China’s far west province of Xinjiang, perpetrated by members of the East Turkestan Liberation Organization that were linked to training grounds in Pakistan by the Chinese government, they took a forceful stance. Now China views Pakistan as a troublesome ally, possibly more trouble than they’re worth. It’s been a disastrous year for Pakistani diplomacy which has only hurt the government’s reputation among the people. Pakistan’s arch-rival is India and the two have fought numerous wars and border skirmishes usually resulting in a stalemate since they have only begun upgrading their outdated militaries in recent decades.

Military

The military senior officers are the ones who truly run Pakistan. In fact, the president’s speeches are even written for him by military officials. Their armed forces are the seventh largest in the world in terms of active troops with 617,000 currently in service and at least 513,000 reservists. Despite being armed with some of the best equipment in the region throughout most of the last half of the 20th century, Pakistan has lost every conventional war it’s fought. Main foreign suppliers are China, the US, France, Russia and Italy. Despite the country’s poverty and constant state of war against insurgent groups not aligned with the military or ISI, Pakistan is making a considerable effort to modernize its military, forming partnerships with other countries, most notably China and Russia, in order to speedily and affordably develop new weapon systems, specifically tanks and fighter jets. Pakistan watches India’s rising economic and military power with a wary eye and seeks to develop a regional alliance to counter their growing strength and influence. While originally seeking closer ties with China, recent events have caused Pakistan to look elsewhere. Perhaps to Russia or Iran in the future.

Pakistan is a declared nuclear power. After losing the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, Pakistan lost 150,000 square kilometers of land and millions of citizens to the creation of Bangladesh, a humiliating defeat that left a psychological scar on the leadership. In response to India’s nuclear program, Pakistan began one of it’s own and has since built an estimated 90-110 nuclear warheads. Here’s a look inside the mind of the Pakistani leadership.

If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass and leaves for a thousand years, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own. The Christians have the bomb, the Jews have the bomb and now the Hindus have the bomb. Why not the Muslims too have the bomb? ~ Zulfikar Ali Bhutto 1965

Smart and empathetic guy, huh? Just think, if they had invested those billions of dollars required for their nuclear program into infrastructure and education where they would be today. Despite it’s nuclear power status, Pakistan has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has not ruled out a first strike.

Threats

Pakistan faces numerous challenges that, if not addressed and handled carefully, could endanger the stability of south Asia and perhaps the world at large. The civilian government holds no power. The spy agency and the military dominate the country with an iron hand with President Zardari mainly acting as a figure head and mouthpiece for the military. Pakistani Taliban, terrorist networks, and other insurgent groups operate freely in lawless regions outside of the main cities and make regular incursions into Afghanistan to do hit-and-run attacks against ISAF soldiers before retreating into Pakistan where they can’t be followed (usually) and poor education along with little government oversight has led to a sharp increase in the number of radicalized young people who join the rebel groups, creating an endless cycle with little chance of ending anytime soon. The revelation that the Pakistani government was using millions of dollars to lobby American government officials was yet another serious blow to US-Pakistani relations, one that swiftly turned American public opinion against them and in turn, increased the likelihood of a suspension in aid money.

Safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is also a key concern. Several months ago, a handful of terrorists successfully captured a naval base in Karachi from dozens of heavily armed soldiers and held the base for several hours. Boldness on the part of the insurgents and total ineptitude by the Pakistani forces can only lead to a disastrous outcome should a nuclear facility ever be targeted. Support for terrorist organizations like the ones who committed the horrendous Mumbai Massacre have alienated Pakistan even further and may very well lead to the next Indo-Pakistani War in the near future. Damning evidence has also surfaced in recent weeks that Pakistani scientists sold nuclear secrets to the highest bidder. Customers include North Korea, Libya and Iran.

Pakistan is one of the greatest threats to the stability of the world today, right behind North Korea in my opinion. But the sad fact is that although they provide little help in the war in Afghanistan, their support is vital and so they will probably go unpunished. One thing is for sure though. The next time Pakistan needs something from the United States, we won’t be there to help when half the country is under water, the military throws another coup, or they get demolished by India. Regardless, the vast majority of the world will watch their destruction and feel nothing.

Depleted Uranium in Modern Warfare- Unethical or Indispensable?

17 Sep

Depleted uranium (DU) is the uranium remaining after the enriched fractions are removed and is most commonly obtained as the byproduct of a nuclear reactor or the manufacture of nuclear weapons. DU is typically about 40% less radioactive than purified natural uranium, however that is still considered to be highly toxic.

According to the most recent statistics available, the countries with the 5 largest stockpiles in the world in order are the US (480,000 t), Russia (460,000 t), France (190,000 t), UK (30,000 t), and Germany and the Netherlands tied for 5th place (16,000 t). DU is about twice as dense as lead and harder than steel. It has numerous civilian uses like being used in the construction of counterweights for aircraft, radiation shields in medical radiation therapy machines, dental porcelain for false teeth(really?), containers for the transport of radioactive materials and most recently in high energy particle experiments. In the military it is highly prized in armor plating and is used in penetrating ordinance because of it’s high density and also due to the fact that it ignites on impact if the temperature exceeds 600°C. It’s now being used widely in both light, medium and heavy machine gun ammunition.

DU munitions are a key aspect of what makes modern, advanced militaries so effective. Most notably, the American M1 Abrams tank is protected by steel encased DU armor and fires DU anti-tank round penetrators which were brutally effective in the massacre of Iraqi tanks and armored targets during both Persian Gulf Wars.  The M1’s armor has proven to be miraculously effective and since it first entered service with the US military, only a handful of tanks have been heavily damaged. And of those few that were damaged, it was often at the hands of an opponent armed with a DU tipped weapon system. The A-10 Thunderbolt is armed with a heavy assault cannon which fires 30mm DU rounds and was used in the First Iraq War, numerous theaters in the War on Terror and NATO peacekeeping missions.

The most common way people suffer health complications from DU is by being in areas where munitions have been used for extended periods. There is a startling lack of knowledge on the effects of exposure to uranium but here are some known facts.

  • There is debilitating damage done to the kidneys, more specifically to the proximal tubules which act as the main filtering component for the kidneys.
  • The inhalation of DU dust particles like one would encounter in plane crashes or munitions impact craters are known to carry a high risk of lung cancer, and if a person has preexisting lung damage then cancer is almost a certainty.
  •  There is also some evidence that DU can accumulate in the central nervous system and impede its functions.
  • In addition to being radioactive, DU is also classified as a toxic metal and since similar substances are known to adversely affect the kidney, brain, liver and heart it is very likely that DU has similar negative properties.
  • It has been suggested that DU may be responsible for Gulf War Syndrome and veterans of the Gulf Wars and Balkan peacekeeping missions have been found to have up to 14 times the normal level of chromosome abnormalities in the genes.
  • People exposed to DU have a significant chance of having children with birth defects.
  • In the aftermath of the large tank battles in the 2nd Iraq War, numerous “cancer fields” have formed where locals salvage scrap metal for a living and hospitals in the area have recorded an dramatic uptick in child leukemia and genetic malformation among children born after the 2003 invasion.

As of yet, there is little other data on the adverse effects of DU on humans since most cases of exposure occur in poor or isolated areas and are not reported or diagnosed by medical professionals.

Results of DU exposure. WARNING: Not for the squeamish. Baby 1. Baby 2. Kid with no arms. Kid. Mushroom head baby. What is this I don’t even. Malformation.

As we’ve seen, DU is a potent tool of modern warfare. Described by some as a “silver bullet”, DU munitions are capable of piercing through almost any armor or obstruction as well as being able to provide the best protection money can buy. When used properly, DU equipped weapons system are capable of sweeping aside lesser equipped armed forces with ease. If you had the stomach to click on all of those links to the photos then I’d really like to hear your opinion on this. Do the consequences of using depleted uranium in weapons outweigh the benefits?

Check out this great article for further reading if you’re interested. Here’s another.