New details have emerged over the last week regarding the North Korean artillery attack on Yeonpyeong island, as well as the South Korean government’s response. According to reports, last Tuesday’s North Korean artillery attack consisted of an initial barrage of 15 artillery rounds on the island and then a 40-minute lull, after which the remainder of the estimated 160-170 rounds was fired. An estimated 70 of the artillery rounds fell into the sea. Artillery involved is thought to have been 130-millimeter coastal guns and 122-millimeter BM-21 rockets.The accuracy of the artillery fire has led to the South Korean government to consider the possibility that espionage was involved.
Archive of Nov 2010
In April, the Air Force launched into orbit its brand-new X-37B robotic space-plane, a maneuverable vehicle capable of spying on earth — and on other spacecraft — for nine months at a time. Now America’s private space companies want their own speedy, reusable space-plane in the vein of the X-37. To get it, late last year they motivated a NASA engineer to drag two long-defunct prototypes out of open-air desert storage. We’ve reported on the resurrection of the X-34 space-planes twice before in recent weeks, but only now are we beginning to appreciate the implications of the prototypes’ revival for the increasingly privatized U.S. space strategy.
At first glance, the Marine Corps’ hottest new weapon looks just like a standard cargo plane. For the “Harvest Hawk” gunship, the external differences are subtle. A sensor pod jutting from one of the under-wing fuel tanks of the KC-130J aircraft. A rack under the left wing for four Hellfire missiles. A clutch of 10 smaller Griffin missiles fixed to the ramp. With these $10-million add-ons, plus extra training for the crew, any similar plane in the Marine Corps inventory becomes a cheaper version of the Air Force’s powerful, custom-made AC-130 gunship.
In September, the navies of 13 nations gathered at the port of Turku in Finland for Exercise Northern Coasts 2010, a two-week training event meant to “improve the interoperability between participating units and countries with main emphasis on maritime operations in confined and shallow waters,” according to the Finnish military. The event was tailored for “smaller naval units, such as fast patrol boats, corvettes, small frigates and Mine Counter-Measure Vessels,” Warships International Fleet Review reported.
Peter’s Atlantic Round-Up
Wikileaks – Britain
The dump of U.S. State Department diplomatic cables has yielded an apparent treasure trove of embarrassing details for both the current Conservative government and the previous Labor administration. First and foremost, Britain’s record in Afghanistan is due to come in for a complete and utter shellacking by American military and State Department sources citing vague policy and an inability to secure Helmand. There are the comments about David Cameron, the State Department’s dossier on the suspected homosexual adventures of Foreign Secretary William Hague and Minister Alan Duncan, but it is America’s concerns that Britain is simply not performing in Afghanistan and Iraq which will lead to a severe rocking of trans-Atlantic relations.
The U.K.’s October Strategic Defense and Security Review deeply cut the Royal Navy, removing two of three current, small carriers, several amphibious ships and four of 23 escorts. In the wake of the review, we asked readers to imagine their own future Royal Navy, within existing financial restraints. We had done the same for the U.S. Navy some years ago.
Somali piracy has its roots in the 1990s, when the collapse of the Somali government threw open the doors to major foreign fishing companies to illegally enter Somali waters and fish out all the tuna, which once comprised one of Somalia’s major commodities. The first Somali pirates were fishermen who decided to render a “fine” on any boats they found illegally fishing Somali waters. These pirates often called themselves “coast guards.”
The aviation and space press buzzed last week with the news that NASA had quietly moved its two long-grounded X-34 space planes from open storage at the space agency’s Dryden center — located on Edwards Air Force Base in California — to a test pilot school in the Mojave Desert. At the desert facility, the mid-’90s-vintage, robotic X-34s would be inspected to determine if they were capable of flying again. It seemed that NASA was eying a dramatic return to the business of fast, cheap space access using a reusable, airplane-style vehicle — something the Air Force has enthusiastically embraced with its mysterious X-37B spacecraft.
Sam’s Southeast Asia Round-Up
Democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest on November 13, six days after the national elections from which she was barred. In an interview with Reuters, she was skeptical that economic sanctions would induce reforms — and suggested that she would cooperate with the ruling junta. The United States is looking to hold talks with Burmese leaders following Suu Kyi’s release.
Robert’s Latin America Round-Up
A disaster-relief cooperation agreement finding support among the hemisphere’s defense ministers is based on “honest assessments of what worked and what didn’t in Haiti,” U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Monday. The ministers have gathered for the ninth Conference of the Defense Ministers of the Americas, which meets in Bolivia this week. The agreement proposes a number of planning groups, which will prepare for natural disasters, as well as a streamlined definition of the relationship between military and civilian authorities — and their respective roles — during relief missions. Also on the agenda is an arms transparency initiative requiring signatories to annually report all imports and exports of heavy weapons platforms. But for the time being, “what little media is covering the event is unfortunately focused on the drama of off-topic remarks by a few participants rather than the actual agenda,” wrote “boz,” a Nicaragua-based foreign policy blogger. “The truth of the event is that it appears some real work is being done.”