Wednesday, December 2, 2009
By JOHN REED
U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) took a concrete step toward fulfilling its mission of operating two-thirds of the Pentagon's nuclear triad when it took command Dec. 1 of 20th Air Force and its 450 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The new major command was stood up in August at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and will "serve as a single voice to maintain the high standards necessary for stewardship of our nation's most powerful weapons," said Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz, AFGSC commander, in a statement released by the service Dec. 1.
Global Strike Command was established after numerous mistakes involving the Air Force's handling of nuclear weapons led many to believe the service had allowed the once-prestigious nuclear mission to atrophy since the end of the Cold War.
In February, the command is set to take over 8th Air Force, which operates the nation's nuclear-capable B-2 and B-52 heavy bombers.
(CNN) -- Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged shooter in the Fort Hood massacre, will face an additional 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder, Army officials said Wednesday.
Hasan, a U.S. Army psychiatrist, already has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder for the 13 people who were fatally shot at the Army post on November 5.
The 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder are related to 30 soldiers and two civilians injured in the shooting, according to a Fort Hood news release.
Additional charges are possible, the statement said.
Hasan, who was wounded by two civilian officers, is being treated at a hospital. His lawyer says he is paralyzed from the waist down.
The incident prompted military brass at Fort Hood to tighten security procedures and expand mental health services.
A key congressional committee also opened an investigation into the Fort Hood shootings with a pledge to find out if authorities failed to "connect the dots" and could have prevented the attack.
Among other things, a memo reportedly written two years ago by Hasan's supervisor at Walter Reed Army Medical Center says Hasan demonstrated "a pattern of poor judgment and a lack of professionalism" during his residency at the hospital.
CNN could not corroborate the authenticity of the memo, which was obtained by National Public Radio.
By Sayed Salahuddin
KABUL (Reuters) - Thirty thousand more U.S. troops for Afghanistan? Esmatullah only shrugged.
"Even if they bring the whole of America, they won't be able to stabilize Afghanistan," said the young construction worker out on a Kabul street corner on Wednesday morning. "Only Afghans understand our traditions, geography and way of life."
U.S. President Barack Obama's announcement of a massive new escalation of the eight-year-old war seemed to have impressed nobody in the Afghan capital, where few watched the speech on TV before dawn and fewer seemed to think new troops would help.
Obama said his goal was to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat" al Qaeda in Afghanistan and "reverse the Taliban's momentum."
The extra U.S. forces, and at least 5,000 expected from other NATO allies, would join 110,000 Western troops already in the country in an effort to reverse gains made by the Islamist militants, at their strongest since being ousted in 2001.
Shopkeeper Ahmad Fawad, 25, said it would not help.
"The troops will be stationed in populated areas where the Taliban will somehow infiltrate and then may attack the troops," he said. "Instead of pouring in more soldiers, they need to focus on equipping and raising Afghan forces, which is cheap and easy."
For many, the prospect of more troops meant one thing: more civilian deaths.
"More troops will mean more targets for the Taliban and the troops are bound to fight, and fighting certainly will cause civilian casualties," Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai, a former Afghan prime minister, told Reuters.
"The civilian casualties will be further a blow to the U.S. image and cause more indignation among Afghans."
"NOTHING REALLY NEW"
By late morning, the Afghan government had yet to issue an official response to Obama's statement. President Hamid Karzai has in the past said he favors additional Western troops, although he wants Afghan forces to take over security for the country within five years.
Although Obama pointedly addressed Afghans, telling them the United States was not interested in occupying their country, parliamentarian Shukriya Barakzai said she was disappointed because the speech contained little talk of civilian aid.
"It was a very wonderful speech for America ... but when it comes to strategy in Afghanistan there was nothing really new which was disappointing," she told Reuters from her home.
"It seems to me that President Obama is very far away from the reality and truth in Afghanistan. His strategy was to pay lip-service, and did not focus on civilians, nation-building, democracy and human rights."
READ MORE HERE
NORAD gears up to track Santa on Christmas Eve: "PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The Santa watch has begun at NORAD, the military command responsible for scanning the skies for airborne threats as well as for St. Nicholas.The North American Aerospace Defense Command’s Santa Web site, noradsanta.org, was activated Tuesday.Updates on Santa’s flight will be posted on Christmas Eve. Santa can also be tracked on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and TroopTube.mil.New this year, OnStar subscribers can get updates in their cars, and noradsanta.org will show Santa’s preflight preparations early Christmas Eve.It’s the 54th year NORAD and its predecessor have tracked Santa. The tradition started in 1955 when a newspaper ad mistakenly listed the command’s phone number instead of Santa’s.NORAD is headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo."
(Via Air Force Times - News.)
Vets groups back Afghanistan troop increase: "Major veterans groups generally support President Barack Obama’s Tuesday night announcement that he intends to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. But they are not completely satisfied with some of the details.The nation’s largest veterans group, the American Legion, supports the troop increase but opposes setting a July 2011 termination date for the mission. ‘The American Legion is opposed to any exit strategy that takes place before the mission in Afghanistan is accomplished,’ said Clarence Hill, the Legion’s national commander. ‘To do otherwise would more correctly be called a ‘surrender strategy.’ ’While expressing support for adding 30,000 troops to the mission,
Hill also said the Legion would back an even bigger troop increase, such as the figure of 40,000 discussed earlier this year. He also called for an overall increase in the size of the U.S. military so there are more people to bear the burden of deployments.‘The best way to address the extremely high demands that we are placing on our military heroes is to increase our overall military troop levels,’ Hill said, noting the Legion advocated a bigger military long before the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, which has taken no position specifically on the trop increase, is concerned about something that wasn’t mentioned at all in Obama’s Tuesday night address: taking care of veterans.‘The true cost of the war in Afghanistan, like all wars, must include a lifetime of support for veterans and their families,’ IAVA said in a statement. ‘As important as the number of planes, trucks and weapons allocated to Afghanistan are the number of surgeons, psychiatrists and case workers resourced at home.
The men and women who serve in Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of whom have already served multiple tours, cannot afford another Walter Reed-type situation.’AmVets, another major veterans group, was ambivalent in its assessment of the speech. ‘We cannot speculate on whether or not the president’s plan will succeed; we can only hope that his words are sincere, that our nation’s top military advisors have prudently considered the options for success, and that, as a nation, we will consider the needs of these additional 30,000 troops now called to serve long after they have returned from duty,’ said Ryan Gallucci, an AmVets spokesman.Gallucci said one thing is clear: As the risks of the Afghanistan mission increase, Congress needs to do better for troops, such as passing budgets on time.‘The need for additional troops only reinforces the need for timely VA and defense funding,’ he said. ‘Both the VA and defense budgets are now more than two months late, and our leaders in Congress must act quickly to ensure that we meet the needs of those brave enough to fight our nation’s wars.’RELATED READING:* Obama: 30,000 to Afghanistan by summer* Troops, families unsure about Afghan plan* Europe hails speech, but few pledge troops* Congress scrutinizes Obamas Afghanistan plan"
(Via Air Force Times - News.)
Second Russian Stealth Frigate In Works: " Maxim Pyadushkin writes: Kasatonov laid down on November 26 (UIC) The Gorshkov class will be the first fully stealthy Russian frigates, with their superstructures shaped to reduce radar cross-section. The 130 m-long frigates will have a displacement of 4500 tons and a range of more than 4000 miles. Kasatonov side view (UIC) According to unofficial information, the Gorshkov class will be fitted with modular vertical missile launchers capable of firing two types of antiship missiles: the P-800 (SSN-N-26) Oniks, a supersonic weapon related to the Russian-Indian BrahMos, and the diverse Club family. The Navy says that the frigates are designed for both littoral and blue-water operations. United Industrial Corporation, the shipyard’s parent company, says that the Gorskhov will enter service in 2011. (Earlier this year, Russian Navy commander Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky promised that the new ship would be at the 2011 Maritime Defense Show in St Petersburg.) The Kasatonov is to follow in 2012. The Navy has discussed plans to acquire 20 Gorshkov frigates, but the production rate will depend on funding. All of the ships are to be built at Severnaya Verf, which is also building the Navy’s Project 20380 stealth corvettes.
The Severnaya Verf shipyard in St Petersburg officially laid down the second Project 22350 frigate for the Russian Navy on November 26. The ship was named Admiral Flota Kasatonov. The first frigate of the class - Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Gorshkov – has been under construction at Severnaya Verf since 2006.
Kasatonov laid down on November 26 (UIC)
The Gorshkov class will be the first fully stealthy Russian frigates, with their superstructures shaped to reduce radar cross-section. The 130 m-long frigates will have a displacement of 4500 tons and a range of more than 4000 miles.
Kasatonov side view (UIC)
According to unofficial information, the Gorshkov class will be fitted with modular vertical missile launchers capable of firing two types of antiship missiles: the P-800 (SSN-N-26) Oniks, a supersonic weapon related to the Russian-Indian BrahMos, and the diverse Club family. The Navy says that the frigates are designed for both littoral and blue-water operations.
United Industrial Corporation, the shipyard’s parent company, says that the Gorskhov will enter service in 2011. (Earlier this year, Russian Navy commander Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky promised that the new ship would be at the 2011 Maritime Defense Show in St Petersburg.) The Kasatonov is to follow in 2012.
The Navy has discussed plans to acquire 20 Gorshkov frigates, but the production rate will depend on funding. All of the ships are to be built at Severnaya Verf, which is also building the Navy’s Project 20380 stealth corvettes."
The celebration of boots on the ground may seem a rather odd choice for a speech at a UK Air Power Association dinner, but the comparative impunity with which coalition air forces roam the third dimension over Afghanistan belies the effort required to secure such freedom.
While neither the Taliban nor Al Qaeda are obviously in a position to contest directly the traditional notions of air superiority and air supremacy, the conflict’s asymmetric nature does offer the insurgents other paths to achieving this, potentially.
Air Commodore Steve Abbott, the Royal Air Force Regiment’s commandant general, addressing the Air Power Association annual dinner last week, contended that in Afghanistan freedom of movement in the air is only made possible fully by the support of military force on the ground.
In the case of the British this is the RAF Regiment – an integral element of the air force – rather than an army infantry unit tasked with guarding a strip of concrete or a sand-washed helicopter landing site at a forward operating base.
For Abbott a nightmare scenario is of a large military transport aircraft – and the personnel carried – strewn across the land following an attack by insurgents. While a tactical success only for the insurgents in military terms, the impact on the domestic front could in effect be a strategic shock – fundamentally shifting the public’s view of British participation in the war.
Ensuring the security of airfields and the surrounding areas is important in providing air and land commanders with the freedom to plan operations and movements unfettered - in the main - by enemy activity.
While force has secured a permissive air environment in Afghanistan, it still does not provide complete freedom of action. Small arms, rocket propelled grenades, and the threat of man-portable surface to air missiles remain a threat at low-altitude, while on the ground rocket and mortar attacks on infrastructure, and the use of improvised explosive devices remains extant.
It would also seem unlikely that the insurgents have forgotten the impact of man-portable air defense systems during the Soviet occupation, and the high attrition rate, particularly with regard to helicopters.
Keeping this threat at bay requires a continuous high tempo of operations – and with a UK Strategic Defense Review slated to begin in the second half of 2010, it also does no harm to underscore the value of the regiment.
Picture credit SAC Andrew Morris/Crown Copyright