Category Archives: by lex

Fair and Balanced

By lex, on June 22nd, 2011

Last week we learned that our Pakistani allies were rounding up some of the usual suspects on suspicion of having provided the US with information on Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts.

This week we learn that the army’s internal security division has detained a Pakistani brigadier on suspicion of collaborating with the Hizb-ut-Tahrir militant group:

The detention of the officer, Brig. Ali Khan, raises serious concerns about the infiltration of elements sympathetic to Islamic extremists in the higher ranks of the army. While the lower ranks of the army, air force and navy have long been known to have elements sympathetic to the Taliban and extremist organizations, the arrest of Brigadier Khan is the first known arrest of an army official.

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Punishing Certainties

By lex, on June 8th, 2011

Courtesy of occasional reader Trapper, the thoughts of Major General Buster Howes, Royal Marines, OBE, as expressed to the Royal United Services Institute:

‘If you’re constantly trying to make war more precise and predictable, you’ll promote people who thrive in squeezing out the marginal drop of uncertainty. If you recognize war’s essential messiness and the enemy’s adaptability, you’ll reward mavericks, risk-takers, and people who thrive in uncertainty.’

Finally, I’d like to leave you with an image of Corporal Mike Stevenson. He is a 24 year old Royal Marines Commando serving in 40 Commando. It is the 20th of March 2003, a pitch black night and he is a few miles off the coast of Iraq’s Al Faw Peninsular. On the horizon, he can see fires erupting and above, the after burners of salvos of Patriot and Tomahawk missiles. He leads his 7 man section across the deck of HMS ARK ROYAL, towards the clattering helicopter, They are all encumbered with massive rucksacks – the equivalent of their body weight in kit, ammunition, and weapon systems. Their sweat has already begun to smudge their black maquillage.

This is the moment he has rehearsed repeatedly for the past 2 months – since he was first briefed, in outline, on his mission. He knows every building on his target intimately – has drawn them, modeled them, metaphorically inhabited them. He knows the ranges between buildings and the emergency escape plan if it all goes wrong. Just as the Sea King door is about to slid shut, his Company Commander appears. “There’s been a change of plan ‘Stevie’”“ he bellows – “you have to attack a totally different target, about 10 ‘klicks’ from the original location.” Stevenson looks at his Boss, a big toothy smile lighting up his face “No worries, Sir – I knew it was too good to be true!” and pulls out a pen to write down the new Grid Reference.

As Napoleon said of the Royal Marines – ‘What could be done with 100,000 men such as these.’

A good anecdote, and a nice ending. Read the whole thing to learn how punishing are the certainties with which we prepare for the next conflict. And, perhaps not so surprisingly, the benefits to a maritime nation of an adaptable, scalable amphibious force.

 

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Bonus Aircraft

By lex, on June 6th, 2011

A Pakistani Air Force F-16 pilot on exchange with the Turkish Air Force gives some interesting insights into the PAF’s procurement and tactical strategies: *

Q 16: Any memorable experiences that you would like to share?

A: On one occasion – in one of the international Anatolian Eagles – PAF pilots were pitted against RAF Typhoons, a formidable aircraft. There were three set-ups and in all three, we shot down the Typhoons. The RAF pilots were shocked.

Q 17: Any particular reason for your success?

A: NATO pilots are not that proficient in close-in air-to-air combat. They are trained for BVR engagements and their tactics are based on BVR engagements. These were close-in air combat exercises and we had the upper hand because close-in air combat is drilled into every PAF pilot and this is something we are very good at.

An interesting comment indeed.

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RLTW

By lex, on June 2nd, 2011

Meet Army SFC Leroy Arthur Petry, the second living awardee of the Medal of Honor:

Recognizing the threat that the enemy grenade posed to his fellow Rangers, Petry — despite his own wounds and with complete disregard for his personal safety — consciously and deliberately risked his life to move to and secure the live enemy grenade and consciously throw the grenade away from his fellow Rangers, according to battlefield reports.

As Petry released the grenade in the direction of the enemy, preventing the serious injury or death of Higgins and Robinson, it detonated and catastrophically amputated his right hand.

With a clear mind, Petry assessed his wound and placed a tourniquet on his right arm. Once this was complete, he reported that he was still in contact with the enemy and that he had been wounded again…

Higgins later wrote in a statement, “if not for Staff Sergeant Petry’s actions, we would have been seriously wounded or killed…”

Petry currently serves as a liaison officer for the United States Special Operations Command Care Coalition-Northwest Region, and provides oversight to wounded warriors, ill and injured servicemembers and their families…

He has deployed eight times in support of the War on Terror, with two tours to Iraq and six tours to Afghanistan.

Geez.

That’s all I’ve got: “Geez.”

 

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Deep Stall

By lex, on May 31st, 2011

On the weekend gig, I introduce the guest pilots to the notion of aerodynamic stall. Some of them get a gleam of fear in their eyes when they hear the word “stall”, because they invariably think it is ineluctably linked with “spin, crash and die.” Which can be true, but isn’t necessarily so: Learning how to stall and recover an airplane is one of the first things the novice aviator is taught, and it is re-learned in every aircraft transition.

When I brief my civvie passengers on weekend dogfight hops – that’s not a Michael Vick dance variation, by the way – I try to explain to them the relationship between stick position and angle-of-attack: “If you push the stick forward, the houses get bigger. If you pull stick aft, the houses get smaller. If you keep pulling aft on the stick, the houses start getting bigger again.”

Note to Air France: I’m available for consultative work.

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I get that the weather was rough. I understand that the compound emergency and loss of normal displays was confusing. I suspect that in their peril, the pilots were left to wonder whether some strange software gremlin had suddenly rendered their aircraft un-flyable.

But – and this is not to beat a dead horse – I really don’t understand how no one among three very experienced and highly trained airline transport pilots ever figured out that it was worth a try to lower the nose and reduce the angle of attack. Maybe get some airflow over the wings.

Stall warnings coupled with wing rock are classic indications of deep stall, and if what you’re doing isn’t working it’s time to consider something else.

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Memorial Day Messages

By lex, on May 28th, 2011

From the Chairman:

Back at Dover, the pitch-black night begins to yield to dawn, and the ramp lights fade behind a persistent mist. The flag-draped caskets are gone, and those in mourning retreat for a few short hours of rest before continuing their final journey home with their fallen loved one.

Nevertheless, the sun will soon rise. A new day will begin.

And on that day, troops will still be deployed around the world, still defending all of us. Sadly, some will come home to Dover, others to Bethesda and Walter Reed.

On Memorial Day, we pause to honor those who selflessly gave all to their nation. As we do so, we must also keep faith with our Wounded Warriors, forever support our Gold Star Families, and stand alongside those who still wait for the missing.

It is these efforts — not only on Memorial Day but every day — that truly make us a people worthy of their sacrifice.

From CNO:

While our sailors continue to make extraordinary contributions across the globe, it falls to us to ensure their personal sacrifices are not overlooked. This is why our Navy remains committed to support for those who have been wounded and the families of those who have given their lives, with the very best care our Nation can provide. This is why we prioritize family readiness and quality of life through housing, child and youth services, and education. And this is why we must not waiver in our commitment to provide sailors with the tools they need to perform the many missions we will ask of them.

It is my greatest privilege to lead the finest sailors in the history of our Navy – these distinguished Americans, these “fortunate few” answer the call to serve. In tribute today I ask you to join me in remembering, thanking and taking action on behalf of those who sail the oceans, serve on land and patrol the skies in the greatest traditions of the U.S. Navy and in the best interests of America’s future security and prosperity.

From the Commandant:

Our nation places our freedoms and hopes for a more peaceful world on the shoulders of these brave, young men and women who serve without complaint in dangerous places far from home. Our Marines, sailors, soldiers, airmen, coast guardsmen and military families have been tested over this past decade at war, and they have measured up in every regard and been equal to every challenge. They have kept faith with their oath to defend the American people, and it is our duty as a nation to honor their sacrifices and keep faith with these noble warriors and their families — especially those who have been injured or fallen in combat. These young heroes represent the highest qualities of service to our nation and to its people. Let their example remind us all of what it means to be truly selfless and just how much the human spirit can endure, accomplish and overcome.

From a writer:

On Memorial Day, we pause at the graves of lost soldiers and make speeches that sometimes open to view the heartbreak and love that are their last traces. But this is not enough, because they do not hear, and because those who will have followed in the years to come will not hear. Love is not enough, rationalization not enough, commemoration a thin and insufficient offering. The only just memorial to those who went forth and died for us, and who therefore question us eternally, cannot be of stone or steel or time set aside for speeches and picnics.

We should offer instead a memorial, never ending, of probity and preparation, shared sacrifice, continuing resolve, and the clarity the nation once had in regard to how, where, when, and when not to go to war. This is the least we can do both for America and for the troops we dispatch into worlds of sorrow and death.

Amen.

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Roommates

By lex, on May 28th, 2011

Travis Manion and Brendan Looney were roommates at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. Rugged athletes who wanted into the fight, shared private jokes, intermingled their families. They were both killed, separately, fighting the nation’s wars  – Travis as an officer of Marines who died exposing himself to sniper fire while coming to the aid of wounded comrades in Iraq, Navy SEAL Brendan in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. Separated in life, they now lie united again in death, interred side by side at Arlington National Cemetery:

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