Rising tensions in the Persian Gulf, coupling increasingly bellicose actions by Iran with pointed American warnings, have left international navies thinking hard about how to keep the Strait of Hormuz open for oil traffic. Naval mines, which can be laid by submarines or boats, remain one of the most difficult and inconvenient threats to counter. That was true during the last set of armed clashes between the USA and Iran in the 1980s. It remains true, and the USA has weakened its position by retiring its modern Osprey Class minehunter ships. Some are available for reactivation in an emergency, but their place was supposed to be taken by the MH-60S helicopter’s Airborne Mine Counter-Measures (AMCM) system.
The USA is looking to bolster its defenses in the Straits, but AMCM isn’t quite ready yet. That leaves them looking elsewhere for urgent operational buys. While countries like China counter mines using unmanned ships, the US Navy is turning toward a widely-bought German UUV…
In early 2009, Aria International, Inc. announced a contract from the Royal Thai Army to provide in-country surveillance and communications solutions and services, for an aggregate purchase price of $9.7 million. The RTA surveillance system consists of a manned airship with military-grade imaging and communications systems, an armored Command and Control vehicle, and upgrades to existing communications and facilities to receive real-time surveillance data.
Thailand has the questionable distinction of being saddled with the bloodiest Islamist insurgency most people have never heard of. The American export system that has hindered their order is well known around the world… but it looks like everything has been ironed out. Unfortunately, Thailand hasn’t been able to get much value out of its new asset.
In the aftermath of the 2006 war between Iran/Syria proxies Hezbollah and Israel, after action reviews and assessments began to trickle in. While war is inseparable in practice from political strategy, and the Olmert government’s interference in military planning & operations was significant and negative, DID has searched for analyses that offer more of a techno-tactical assessment. A picture has begun to emerge, as independent evaluations were made of the 2 forces’ effectiveness.
Hezbollah can safely be characterized as a state within a state and was aided by Iranian forces. Accordingly, this conflict featured most of the accoutrements of full state conflicts: Armed UAVs (apparently used by both sides), air and missile strikes with corresponding air defense activity, anti-ship cruise missiles, tanks vs. advanced anti-armor missiles (incl. AT-13s and Milans), etc. As such the performance of the two forces and their equipment is of serious interest to defense observers around the world. The fact that public assessments are still being published in 2012 is solid evidence of that interest.
NATO and Pakistan have not found an agreement on reopening transport routes out of Afghanistan. The fact Pakistan tried to increase the price per truck by a factor of 20 might have something to do with it. If allied combat troops are to withdraw by mid-2013 and don’t want to leave most of their equipment behind or ship it back at an outrageous cost, this will need to be resolved.
Mexico’s military needs have escalated, as the country faces what counter-terrorist analyst John Robb has called a growing “open source insurgency” composed primarily of narco-traffickers, with some leftist groups and political forces jockeying for position in the uncoordinated mix. By 2010, the violence associated with “The Cartel War” had reportedly claimed around 28,000 lives since 2006 – a figure that continues to rise steadily.
One of its most important acquisition programs is EADS-CASA’s popular CN-235 MPA maritime patrol aircraft, which currently serves with Spain, Colombia, Ireland, Turkey, and the US Coast Guard. Indonesia’s Dirgantara has built them for Indonesia, Brunei and the UAE, and recently added South Korea’s Coast Guard as a customer. A May 1/08 Economist article may help to explain the importance of these aircraft to Mexico’s current Cartel War…
On July 25/06 Al-Anbar commander and U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer submitted an MNF-W priority 1 request. It pointed to the hazards inherent in American supply lines, and noted that many of the supply convoys on Iraq’s roads (up to 70%, by some reports) were carrying fuel. Much of that fuel wasn’t even for vehicles, but for diesel generators used to generate power at US bases. That is still true, and Afghanistan has even more daunting logistics. By some estimates, shipping each gallon of fuel to Afghanistan requires 7 gallons of fuel for transport.
In December 2011, Ensign-Bickford Aerospace & Defense in Simsbury, CT received a $10.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for 3,000 Man Portable Line Charge Systems that can fire rope-shaped plastic explosives for remote detonation, and 206 Inert Training Systems. Work will be performed in Graham, KY; Simsbury, CT; and Sterling, CT, with an estimated completion date of April 8/12. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by US Army Contracting Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD (W91CRB-12-C-0012).
In August 2011, an FBO.gov RFI explained the rationale behind the MPLC: US forces needed a system for quickly clearing paths through land mines, which was lighter and easier to carry than existing gear. To be specific…
In October 2011, Data Solutions & Technology in Lanham, MD received a $9.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for Anti-Armor Analysis Program (AAAP) Services Support from the US Army. AAAP’s goal is to analyze current and historical data on enemy attacks against US vehicles, in order to draw conclusions about protection. DSTI personnel will deploy in mobile teams of at least 2, equipped with specialized tools to survey armor vehicles as well as the surrounding scene, photograph damaged vehicles, inspect and document findings, and review and conduct analysis of maintenance/supply documentation.
The firm has done this work before; indeed, Betty Tingle was promoted to VP Business Development in February 2011, after playing what was described as “a key role in the company’s contract regarding the National Ground Intelligence Center’s Anti-Armor Analysis Program (AAAP) in the U.S. and abroad.” Work will be performed in Charlottesville, VA; Afghanistan; and other contingency locations overseas as necessary; with an estimated completion date of Sept 29/12. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 1 bid received by the US Army Intelligence and Security Command in Charlottesville, VA (W911W5-11-C-0016). See also FBO.gov.
FN Manufacturing, LLC in Columbia, SC received a $28.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for 3,053 of their M240L 7.62mm general purpose machine guns. Work will be performed in Columbia, SC, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/12. One bid was solicited with one bid accepted by the U.S. Army Contracting Command in Picatinny Arsenal, NJ (W15QKN-09-C-0108).
The M240 is widely used within NATO, and aside from a few carrying annoyances, it’s a good gun: reliable, with good accuracy and rate of fire. It can be mounted on vehicles and helicopters, or carried on foot, and the gun is convertible between these modes. The M240 has moved into a more central role with US forces in Afghanistan, where engagements often take place at 300+ meter ranges. At those ranges, the platoon’s M240 GPMGs and 7.62mm designated marksman rifles may be the only truly effective guns they have. Fortunately, the M240L improves on the M240B by using titanium alloy in key sections, with a chrome carbo-nitride coating to resist galling, and a ceramic-based top coat. The result? Same gun, but at 22.3 pounds/ 10.1 kg, it weighs 5 pounds/ 2.27 kg less. At about $9,200 a pop, they aren’t cheap. Still, when you’re humping your M240L over 5,000+ foot total elevation changes in the course of a day, at medium to high altitudes, it feels like money well spent.
“During Operation Mountain Lion I found myself praying for bad weather, the first time in my military career I was actually begging for a cold front to come through. I knew my soldiers could handle it and the enemy couldn’t. ECWCS allowed my men to outlast the enemy on their own terrain. When the enemy was forced out of the mountains due to the bitter cold to take shelter, that’s when we got them.”
— LTC Christopher Cavoli, US Army 10th Mountain Division, Afghanistan
This third generation of the Extended Cold Weather Clothing System (ECWCS-III) is a radical re-design of the cold weather clothing system for the U.S. Army. So, exactly what’s in the ECWCS-III?