Tag Archives: afghanistan

Reduction of the US Military

4 Oct

In March of 2012, the army is beginning a 5 year program in which it plans to cut at least 50,000 soldiers through the use of accession cuts, buyouts, retirements, fewer promotions and voluntary and, as a last resort, involuntary separation. 22,000 short-term positions that were created as part of the troop surge in Afghanistan will be the first on the chopping block, followed by 27,000 positions that were part of the Grow the Army campaign. These cuts will bring the number of active duty members of the army down to 520, 400 by Sept. 30 2016 if everything remains on schedule. However, as the military budget gets squeezed more and more, further manpower reductions will be increasingly necessary. Despite the reductions, army officials have stressed the need to retain as many experienced soldiers as possible to maintain acceptable levels of combat effectiveness.

The Marine Corps’ manpower will also be reduced from 200,000 down to approximately 186,000 and their much anticipated Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, plagued by missed deadlines and cost overruns, is likely to be canceled. Some cuts will likely face tough opposition in Congress. Among them include proposals to increase health-care premiums for military retirees, reduction in the use of contractors, cutting and consolidation of bloated intelligence networks with overlapping responsibilities, freezing of salaries of civilian Defense Department employees and reduction of 100 general officer positions. If cuts are deeper than expected then the number of F-35s on order may also need to be reduced and older Cold War era fighters like the F-15 and F-16 will have to remain in service longer, decreasing the effectiveness of American air power in future conflicts.

After the financial crisis hit, Robert Gates correctly assumed that the time of endless money for defense spending was over and encouraged the military to find cuts before they were imposed by the government. Even though the projected military budget for the 2012 fiscal year is $13 billion less than they anticipated, it’s still a 3% increase from the previous year and growth of the budget is not expected to flatten out until 2015. The 2012 budget is currently estimated to be $553 billion, not counting the hundreds of billions of dollars required for operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The Pentagon has identified nearly $180 billion worth of cuts to be made over the next 5 years but only about $78 billion will go towards paying off the deficit while the rest will be “reinvested” into the services.

In my opinion, despite all its bluster, the military still doesn’t understand how dire the economic situation is. If the US defense budget returns to 2001 or 2002 levels, it will not be a death blow to the military like all these officials say it will. They are addicted to cash, whether they are willing to admit it or not. The government needs to get tough and make honest cuts in spending. Every dollar spent on the military is a dollar not being spent to pay the national debt, which is far more sinister and dangerous for the US than any jihadist.

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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)

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.