Friday, January 27, 2006

Small Diameter Bomb Video

On eDefense Online I've posted our first video feature on the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) program for the US Air Force. The Boeing GBU-39 is now undergoing operational trials at Eglin AFB, FL, and is scheduled to enter service on the F-15E Strike Eagle in late 2006. To use a tired phrase, the SDB is truly a transformational weapon, particularly for existing aircraft. Because it is GPS/INS guided, the SDB can be used to hit targets identified through passive geolocation means, which is a major advance. The glide bomb's 60-70 nautical mile range means the aircraft can make standoff attacks outside the range of short-range and some medium-range air defense systems. Up to four can SDBs can be carried in place of a single 1,000-lb bomb. The B-2 can carry up to 160 SDBs, all of which can be independently targeted to hit different aim points. Also, the relative accuracy and small warhead size of the weapon enables it to be used in a close support role in fairly close proximity to friendly forces and civilians.

Defense Industry Daily has been covering the SDB program as well.

The video is an extension of a post I made here a while back. We are going to make "Programs to Watch" a regular feature on eDefense Online. If you have any suggestions for candidate programs to profile, I'd be happy to read them.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Interesting Iraq Footage in "BattleGround"

A documentary called "BattleGround," now playing on the Showtime cable network, shows some interesting footage of streets and people in Baghdad, Samarra, and elsewhere in post-invasion Iraq.

Scenes include patrols by US forces along roads that could be sown with bombs, tumultuous meetings between US commanders and Iraqi town councils, the aftermath of suicide bombings, and family reunions with an Iraqi-American who lives in New York and who had fled Iraq after fighting against the Saddam Hussein regime in 1991.

Produced by a group called "Guerilla News Network," the 83-minute movie seems to be pretty balanced in its interviews of various people in Iraq and how they view life there today, and whether they think the US-led operation is or was worth it. While the opinions of any of the interviewees are debatable, they at least help convey a more complex picture of Iraq than the image of continual bombing and mayhem some people may have.

US soldiers are trying to do good, but under trying circumstances. In one scene, commanders are shown planning a raid on a person believed to be training insurgents how to use mortar systems. But how solid is the intelligence? they ask each other. It could be based on a personal vendetta. Another soldier on patrol compares Iraq to the Vietnam War, when US soldiers fought against an enemy that easily blended in with the civilian population.

Clearly, the terrain in Iraq, both physical and psychological, is difficult to manuever across.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Did France Change its Nuclear Policy?

On 19 January French president Jacques Chirac said that France could retaliate with nuclear weapons against states that launch terrorist attacks against it. Mr. Chirac's threat is considered a departure in terms of French defense policy.
Actually it was just a confirmation of that what I have already wrote in JED, on the occasion of Rafale and its ASMP weapon. The French nuclear policy changed considerably since the end of the Cold War, however one point remained unchanged. Contrary to USA, France always claimed that anybody who would threaten the France most vital interests – the country existence above all or who would use weapons of mass destruction against France, would have to consider the French nuclear retaliation. This claim was without pointing out any potential country, and thought Soviet Union was the most probable enemy, it could be also the United States, should the USA seriously endanger the France’s independence. Now not the Soviet Union but rouge states could do the same – bring sever losses to French citizens by using weapons of mass destruction, either delivered by ballistic missiles or by terrorists. On the both cases France could retaliate against the country of the attack’s origin. So since the end of Cold War France deactivated her land based ICBMs, maintained her submarine based SLBM and Mirage 2000N armed with ASMP capability, and added ASMP capability to the carrier based Super Etendard attack fighters. In the future the mission of the both land based Mirage 2000N and carrier based Super Etendard will be taken over by Rafale fighters, both land based (and fully deployable) and carrier based naval Rafales. The armament will be ASMPA improved nuclear missile, with the range of 600 km, which gives quite stand off capabilities. The ASMPA and Rafale will be the main tool for nuclear retaliation, giving the France of near global strike capability, through deployment of the aircraft carrier anywhere in the world. All the rouge countries’ territories are within the reach of Rafale-ASMPA tandem, thought China or Russia might stay beyond, as they are not countries likely to attack France. However the French SLBM are the main type of “Cold War type” deterrence tools against big but stable (“non-rouge”) powers.
Citing the press release, “the French president said nuclear dissuasion remained the fundamental guarantee of national security. The president said France is in the position to inflict all kinds of damage to a major power. Confronted with a regional power, he said, the choice is not inaction, but rather flexibility and reactivity. And French forces are capable of responding directly to such a power.
Mr. Chirac said that leaders of any state that uses terrorist means against France must understand they risk what he called a firm and appropriate response for his country. That could come via conventional weapons, he said, but also by what he described as [those of] another nature, that is nuclear weapons.”
And what about the other nuclear capable countries? Do they consider a nuclear attack against – let’s say – Iran, when they are attacked by chemical bombs delivered by terrorists of Iranian origin?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Sneak Previews for Quadrennial Defense Review

A draft of the US Quadrennial Defense Review, due to Congress on Feb. 6, has emerged in public and the results are ... predictable, apparently. Reports from various news outlets say the product that the US Defense Department has come up with does not contain very many surprises, though that in itself should not necessarily be a surprise, given that the Defense Department and its various service chiefs have been basically singing in harmony the past few years about "jointness," "net-centric warfare," training forces for urban operations, and so on (see "Expecting the Unexpected" and "Guessing Game: Quadrennial Defense Review 2005").

Lexington Institute analyst Loren Thompson gives an overview of the various early reports coming on the QDR, and says "the 2005 QDR ends up being a status-quo document -- a fact that will be readily apparent to anyone who scrutinizes the 2007 defense spending request that accompanies the QDR report to Capitol Hill." Reporting specifically on the DOD plans to add more Special Operations-type forces, Ann Scott Tyson of the Washington writes in her story on "Plan Seeks More Elite Forces to Fortify Military" that the Special Operations Command in Tampas, FL, is expected to get billions of dollars added to its budget. It currently has 52,000 forces, but will receive thousands more under the QDR plan.

TheDoD clearly sees smaller scale operations targeting individuals as opposed to conventional military units as a primary task of the military in the future, as it is largely today. For more on this kind of warfare, see also "'Small Wars' the Norm for USMC" and "Urban Puzzle."