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September 15, 2006

A nominal military
Posted by Teresa at 06:27 AM *

An odd story from Iraq:

Iraq Takes Military Reins From Coalition
U.S.-Led Coalition Transfers Control of Iraq’s Armed Forces to Iraq Gov’t; Seen As a Milestone

BAGHDAD, Iraq Sep 7, 2006 (AP)� Coalition forces handed over control of Iraq’s armed forces command to the government Thursday, a move that U.S. officials have hailed as a crucial milestone on the country’s difficult road to independence.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signed a document taking control of Iraq’s small naval and air forces and the 8th Iraqi Army Division, based in the south.

“From today forward, the Iraqi military responsibilities will be increasingly conceived and led by Iraqis,” said Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, at a ceremony.

Handing over control of the country’s security to Iraqi forces is vital to any eventual drawdown of U.S. forces here. After disbanding the remaining Iraqi army following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, coalition forces have been training the new Iraqi military.

However, it is unclear exactly how quickly Iraqi forces will be prepared to take over their own security.

Iraq still has an air force? I asked myself. Iraq still has a navy? As far as I knew, most of their good planes got flown to Iran by their pilots during the Gulf War, and whatever replacement planes they’d managed to acquire in the interim years got smashed when we invaded?

Wikipedia was helpful. I know I’m going out on a limb, but I’ll trust them this time:

The Iraqi Air Force, like all Iraqi forces after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, is being rebuilt as part of the overall program to build a new Iraqi defense force.

ORDER OF BATTLE
2nd Squadron � A helicopter airlift squadron operating two UH-1H Huey helicopters donated by Jordan. The squadron is scheduled to have 8 UH-1H helicopters in service by the end of 2006.
3rd Squadron � A helicopter airlift squadron operating two Bell 206 helicopters donated by the UAE Air Force in a light utility role.
4th Squadron � A helicopter airlift squadron scheduled to receive 8 UH-1H helicopters in 2006.
23rd Squadron � An airlift squadron operating 3 ex-USAF C-130E Hercules transport aircraft.
70th Squadron � A reconnaissance squadron operating 6 CH-2000 & 2 SB7L-360A light reconnaissance aircraft.

INVENTORY
Transport
3 x C-130E Hercules
16 x UH-1H Iroquois (14 more scheduled for delivery by 2006)
Reconnaissance
6 x CH-2000
2 x SB7L-360A
Utility
5 x Bell 206

Translation: the C-130 Hercules is a big fat propeller-driven cargo plane. Iroquois helicopters are better known as Hueys, the workhorses of the Vietnam War. CH-2000s and SB7L-360As are both bitty lightweight fixed-wing planes that are mostly useful for going up and looking down. The Bell 206 JetRanger is your basic traffic watch helicopter. To state the obvious, none of these aircraft are designed to fight. You can mount a door gun in a Huey, but that’s mostly useful for laying down covering fire when you’re taking off or landing.

This is not an air force. It’s just the list of aircraft belonging to the Iraqi government.

Onward, then, to the Iraqi navy. To start with, it doesn’t exist any more. It got renamed the Iraqi Coastal Defense Force last year. Here’s its fleet:

Five Predator Class patrol boats
five Chinese-built 27-meter gunboats
24 Fast Aluminium Boats
6 Al-Uboor class patrol boats
600 sailors and officers, including 200 in the Iraqi Naval Battalion (marines) who guard the platforms.

Look at the links. Iraq’s Coastal Defense Force is fully capable of seeing to it that their coasts aren’t plundered by cruise ships, tramp freighters, and large yachts. (Note: the link for those 27-meter Chinese-built gunboats is a different vessel. It’s Jim Macdonald’s best guess about the nearest equivalent model.)

Land forces: The 8th Iraqi Army Division was trained by Poland, and has been stationed in the south, away from the worst of the fighting. I don’t know much more about the 8th Division specifically. The Iraqi Army strikes me as lacking cohesion, or conviction, or some kind of basic faith in the whole enterprise. This may have something to do with our disbanding the previous army. A couple of straws in the wind: first, footage of a graduating class of Iraqi soldiers who are tearing off their uniforms and insignia, reportedly because they’ve just heard that they’re going to be deployed away from their home area. Second, a story from August 25th of this year:

Base looted after British turn it over to Iraqis

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN)—Hours after British troops handed over a military base to Iraqi forces, hundreds of Iraqis—some with their faces covered and wielding guns—looted it, police and army officials told CNN Friday.

The base, Abu Camp Naji, is in the southern city of Amara in Maysan province.

The looters took materials such as doors, window frames, corrugated roofing and metal pipes and loaded them onto trucks.

Some news reports said the base was looted again Friday, but CNN could not confirm that.

More than 1,000 British troops had been based at the camp.

I have trouble believing that that Iraqi military unit simply buggered off elsewhere for the occasion and let random civilians strip their base to the walls.

I don’t know. Maybe the 8th Iraqi Army Division was chosen because it’s particularly reliable. But taken all together, I can’t really see how this fragile little airforce and navy, plus whatever’s on the ground, is going to let the Iraqis start taking over their own security when we’re still around in force and they’re in the middle of a civil war.

So what’s the point of the exercise? The only one I can see is that it let us make that encouraging-sounding announcement:

Coalition forces handed over control of Iraq’s armed forces command to the government Thursday, a move that U.S. officials have hailed as a crucial milestone on the country’s difficult road to independence.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signed a document taking control of Iraq’s small naval and air forces and the 8th Iraqi Army Division, based in the south.

“From today forward, the Iraqi military responsibilities will be increasingly conceived and led by Iraqis,” said Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, at a ceremony.

Handing over control of the country’s security to Iraqi forces is vital to any eventual drawdown of U.S. forces here.

You could almost get the impression that it’s a well-conducted war that’s going according to plan.
Comments on A nominal military:
#1 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 07:48 AM:

Draw a line in the sand, claim it's the finish line, step over, declare victory, get out before the bill arrives.

#2 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 08:11 AM:

Don't knock it. It worked for dad, didn't it. Mr Goebbels had a term for it.

#3 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 08:33 AM:

So the local news ran about a one-sentence comment about the US military pulling out of the Al-Anbar province, a couple of days ago--has anyone heard confirmation of that?

#4 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 08:55 AM:

Al Anbar is roughly 1/3 of the land area of Iraq. I haven't heard anything about the Coalition pulling out of Al Anbar, but this report recently hit the news:

Situation Called Dire in West Iraq: Anbar Is Lost Politically, Marine Analyst Says

The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents.

And that's the good news.

Devlin reports that there are no functioning Iraqi government institutions in Anbar, leaving a vacuum that has been filled by the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has become the province's most significant political force, said the Army officer, who has read the report. Another person familiar with the report said it describes Anbar as beyond repair; a third said it concludes that the United States has lost in Anbar.

That's the part of Iraq that borders Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. The so-called Sunni Triangle. Fallujah is in al Anbar.

Devlin offers a series of reasons for the situation, including a lack of U.S. and Iraqi troops, a problem that has dogged commanders since the fall of Baghdad more than three years ago, said people who have read it. These people said he reported that not only are military operations facing a stalemate, unable to extend and sustain security beyond the perimeters of their bases, but also local governments in the province have collapsed and the weak central government has almost no presence.

Hey, remember Rummie cutting troop levels? Remember GEN Eric Shinseki getting fired for saying that we'd need a lot more troops than were being sent back when this mess was in the planning stage? Welcome to reality, Republicans. No matter what you think, you aren't going to create your own reality. Genuine reality comes up and laughs at you when you try.

Things aren't getting better. Free advice for Georgie-Porgie: Cut and run. It's your only hope. Declare victory and get out. The odds that the next two years won't best be describe as "shambles" are getting longer by the minute.

Devlin, as part of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) headquarters in Iraq, has been stationed there since February, so his report isn't being dismissed as the stunned assessment of a newly arrived officer. In addition, he has the reputation of being one of the Marine Corps' best intelligence officers, with a tendency to be careful and straightforward, said another Marine intelligence officer. Hence, the report is being taken seriously as it is examined inside the military establishment and also by some CIA officials.
#5 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 10:36 AM:

Michael Mann titled his book on the Shrub administrations imperial ambitions Incoherent Empire, he might have done better to call it Incompetent Empire.

#6 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 10:53 AM:

Actually, I don't see much need for fighter aircraft or bombers. The war they'll be fighting is a civil war, and unless the other side gets fighters/bombers from someone, it isn't an issue. Transport choppers is probably going to be very useful. Except, they'll need about two orders of magnatude more helicopters than they have now.

Before any sort of real transfer of military power takes place, the new Iraqi army will need probably something of the order of tens of thousands of ground troops, APC's to move them around, and maybe some tanks for cover. We're fighting a ground war.

This is paltry. Anyone who tried to pass this as any sort of real tranfer of power should be embarrassed. or fired. or both.

What's probably more likely to happen is the Iraqis will never get their military big enough, and when we pull out the propaganda machine will spin the exact same violence as "full civil war", even though it's been like that all this time.

#7 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 11:09 AM:

Both fighter aircraft (in a ground-attack mode) and bombers are in use on a daily basis in Iraq right now.

Currently the US has on the order of 5,000 helicopters in Iraq. So yes, multiply the Iraqi air force OB by two, then boost it by two orders of magnitude, and they'll be in a position to hold what they have -- which is rather less than the whole country. Out in al Anbar the US forces can hold the perimeters on their own bases, or up in Iraqi Kurdistan the locals are refusing to fly the Iraqi national flag.

What would be interesting would be seeing how the Iraqi 8th Infantry Division does a stand-up fight against the Madhi Army.

Heckuva job, Rummie.

#8 ::: Tom S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 11:18 AM:

OK, the state of the Iraqi Army is well known and rather pathetic.

I'm not sure what your point is regarding the Air Force and Navy, however. The Iraqi Navy (which is the correct term, as of January 2005; Wikipedia has it backwards) is actually pretty well designed for its mission, which is to provide port security in Umm Qasr and around Iraq's two oil terminals right at the mouth of the Shatt al Arab waterway. You don't want or need big (expensive) warships for this sort of work--even the USN is using lots of small patrol boats in that area.

As to the Air Force, well, transport and pipeline surveillance are the two main tasks. It's not like the Iraqis really need the sort fo masive aerial fireower the USAF brings into play. It certainly doen't seem to helping the US accompish its objectives now.

#9 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 11:27 AM:

Both fighter aircraft (in a ground-attack mode) and bombers are in use on a daily basis in Iraq right now.

I think that if the Iraqi military starts bombing Iraqi's on a daily basis, the probability of Iraq tearing into multiple countries approaches 1. Maybe the probability has already hit 1 and it's just a matter of time, I don't know.

#10 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 11:29 AM:

But hey, they've got nearly 100 tanks.

60 to 30 year old design, Soviet era tanks. T-55s and T-72s.

#11 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 11:31 AM:

#7 James D. Macdonald -

How many members of the Iraqi 8th Infantry Division are *in* the Madhi army, I wonder?

#12 ::: Gag Halfrunt ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 12:29 PM:

Re Wikipedia, I've corrected the Iraqi Navy page to get the name change the right way round, and I've added merge suggestions to that page and the Iraqi Coastal Defense Force page.

The Iraqi army was given 77 T-72 tanks by Hungary in 2005. IIRC it also has some old tanks and APCs that have literally been taken out of scrapyards where they were gathered after the invasion.

#13 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 12:40 PM:

Wikipedia's "inventory" and "order of battle" (cited above) don't match up. The reality seems to be even more pathetic.

It's not "16 Hueys (with 14 more scheduled for 2006)"; it seems to be TWO Hueys , with 14 promised.

Similarly, the inventory says "5" Bell 206s, but the order of battle lists homes for only "2". Presumably, the other three are also vaporware.

That's a grand total of 15 aircraft.

#14 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 12:46 PM:

That's a grand total of 15 aircraft.

The Iraqi People's Flying Club is off to a good start...

#15 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 12:47 PM:

Actually, I don't see much need for fighter aircraft or bombers. The war they'll be fighting is a civil war,

Yes?

and unless the other side gets fighters/bombers from someone

Like the US or UK [or Russia or China]?

it isn't an issue.

ObRef, 1937.

#16 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 12:50 PM:

Jane's Fighting Rubber Duckies.

#17 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 01:06 PM:

bellatrys, like I said before, if it gets to the point where civil war has escalated to teh point where squadrons of aircraft are fighting each other, a single Iraq is not in the outcome, and it won't matter, now, will it. Because the f-ing point given for having an Iraq military is they can take over trying to hold the country together. If Iraqis bombers are bombing Iraqis and Iraqi fighters are trying to shoot down those Iraqi bombers, well, call the united nations and tell them they'll need to add a couple more chairs to the table, since there ain't anyway you'll have a unity government after that.

And that really is the only important thing, right? Keep the peace, keep the country from shattering? If it gets to the point of actually needing Iraqi fighters to shoot down Iraqi bombers, the jig is up, and none of this will matter. THere won't be enough fighters and bombers in the world to force the different factions to work together and remain a single country.

Which points to another fallacy, that if you just have enough firepower, you can enforce a peace. And it don't work that way. The Iraqi military will need to act as a police force and a swat team and a disarmament unit finding weapon caches and destroying them. If it gets to the point of a real toe-to-toe fight Iraqi-against-Iraqi, I think the idea of a unified Iraq is done.

US estimates for an occupying force was something like 500,000 troops. Iraq will never be able to muster that level of military. Hell, we can't get that many people. So, it's either a policing force, a disarmament force, a swat force, and a lot of diplomacy, or you're going to have to get new world maps in another year or two.

#18 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 01:08 PM:

Like the US or UK [or Russia or China]?

Or Iran, or Saudi Arabia, or Turkey ....

This isn't supposed to be a state police force; it's supposed to be a national defense force. The Navy needs to be able to keep sea lines of communication open. The Air Force needs to be able to project power. The Army needs to be able to take and hold land.

(Oh, and footnote. The photo used for the Chinese 27-meter gunboats is actually a Sea Spectre, which is roughly the same size.)

#19 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 01:11 PM:

I think the plan was to take those CH-2000's, fill them up with handgrenades stuffed in mayonaise jars, and use them as bombers.

That wasn't "A-Team" tactics, that was "Riptide" tactics, for those who were curious. Same idea, different channel.

#20 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 01:33 PM:

If Turkey, Iran, or Syria, (or any other nation for that matter, it's just that these three seem most likely) get involved in supporting one side of an Iraqi civil war to the point of openly providing aircraft or air support, it is all over.

I would assume that as long as American forces are in Iraq, no other country will take any open military action in support of splitting Iraq apart. If we want Iraq to remain one country, we'd have to engage any such effort.

It would seem that what we've created is an Iraq house of cards, and no amount of military force is going to keep it standing. At the rate we're going, we are years and years away from Iraq having a military that could defend the country from an outside invasion from someone like Iran without a major US presence.

I look at all the options available and they all end up very badly.


#21 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 02:05 PM:

It does seem that the Iraqi government is not being given any weapons that could make life difficult for the US military - helicopter gunship or (recent) tanks.

This isn't a military, it's a colonial auxiliary.

#22 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 03:00 PM:

Thanks, Jim--the leaked intelligence report has got to be the Al-Anbar story they were talking about.

News of Iraq, here, is heavily weighted towards whether and how events might effect the Stryker Brigade out of Ft. Lewis--perhaps I heard a tossed-off bit of speculation between anchorpeople.

#23 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 05:08 PM:

Josh Jasper writes: "But hey, they've got nearly 100 tanks.

60 to 30 year old design, Soviet era tanks. T-55s and T-72s."

To be fair, that should be more than adequate since they won't be facing enemy armor - unless the tank corps splits on ethnic lines and fights itself.

The major weapons used against those tanks would likely be RPGs and improvised mines, and the latter have been effective against the best modern tanks.

#24 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 05:14 PM:

The 'navy' probably has the right kind of equipment (if not the quantity), especially if they will be working the rivers as well as the open water.

Much like with the armor question, they aren't likely to face a naval conflict. The only likely rival would be Iran, and they have far more efficient means of influencing Baghdad these days.

#25 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 06:16 PM:

'When' there is a civil war? 'If' there is a civil war? If Iraqis start fighting Iraqis?

It may have escaped your attention, but Iraqis have been killing each other for quite some time now, largely based on two divides - the Sunnis killing Shias (and vice versa) and the insurgents killing anyone who'd rather get on with living rather than getting involved in the glorious jihad (and the seventy odd pillow breasted houris martyrdom is supposed to guarantee - which seems like an odd incentive for a belief system that thinks it is okay to stone a woman to death if she appears in public showing more than her eyes, but with no logic on 'our' side, why should we expect it on 'theirs'?)

There is a civil war in Iraq now. Pretending there isn't doesn't save a single life. The first step in curing any disease is correct diagnosis, and I am afraid the current noises coming out of Washington are the equivalent of the South African Health Minister saying vitamins and soap are a good treatment for HIV.

#26 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 11:55 PM:

Tom S., I'm inclined toward Fungi's viewpoint (21). Their air force is a gnat compared to what we've got. How can they keep order and maintain security when none of their gear is designed to project force, and we're at loose in the countryside? It looks to me like Bush & Co. have made sure that Iraq's supposed air force can't possibly inconvenience us, and ignored the fact that what's left can't do the job.

#27 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 02:04 AM:

#23, John H:

To be fair, that should be more than adequate since they won't be facing enemy armor - unless the tank corps splits on ethnic lines and fights itself.

No, what they will be facing is IEDs made out of tank shells. Lots and lots of them. The less populated areas are chock full fo ammo dumps, or so the news estimates indicate.

And then there's the possibility of stealing shit from America, or buying better explosives from ousside of the country.

Americans should be familiar with what a Ryder truck full of modified fertilizer can do. I'm not even sure one of *our* tanks could deal well with tht much of a blast.

#28 ::: Hal Heydt ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 02:10 AM:

For a bit of historical perspective, those "27-meter gunboats" are very close to the size of a US WW2 PT boat.

#29 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 02:11 AM:

'When' there is a civil war? 'If' there is a civil war? If Iraqis start fighting Iraqis? It may have escaped your attention,

It may have escaped your attention, but you're not actually quoting anything I said. Your not even paraphrasing anything I said. Since I'm the only one on the thread who's used the phrase "civil war", I assume you attempted to paraphrase me, but somehow, you missed. Completely. Out. Of. Context.

What I actually said (quoting, not paraphrasing) was "if it gets to the point where civil war has escalated to teh point where squadrons of aircraft are fighting each other, a single Iraq is not in the outcome," and "when we pull out, the propaganda machine will spin the exact same violence as "full civil war", even though it's been like that all this time." and "if the Iraqi military starts bombing Iraqi's on a daily basis, the probability of Iraq tearing into multiple countries approaches 1."

Emphasis added to point of the consistently missing context. What I never said, though it keeps getting attributed to me, is the idea that there isn't a civil war in Iraq now.

#30 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 02:26 AM:

Base looted after British turn it over to Iraqis

Teresa: I have trouble believing that that Iraqi military unit simply buggered off elsewhere for the occasion and let random civilians strip their base to the walls.

The WashPost version of that (which I would have to pay for now so I'm going with my memory) said that the Iraqi unit just stood by while the other Iraqis looted the base. They said the other Iraqis would have killed them.

#31 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 02:32 AM:

They said the other Iraqis would have killed them.

I seem to recall that they (the Iraqi military personel) were grossly outnumbered by civilian looters. And it would have been suicide to try and stop the looting. I think the Iraqi's claimed that the Brits didn't give them any warning they were pulling out of the base, so there wasn't a large contigient of Iraqi military people ready to assume command of the base.

#32 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 03:29 PM:

Greg #29 - Sorry, I didn't mean to suggest your remarks were anything other than serious. What I meant was that the Iraqi civil war isn't going to follow the Yugoslavian model. That they aren't using what little 20th Century ordnance they've been left doesn't seem to affect the numbers of corpses. After all, you're just as dead if your neighbour beats your skull in with a rock as you are if you get hit by an orbitally guided bomb.

To paraphrase, all you need is hate, and there is no shortage of that.

#33 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 12:33 AM:

Josh Jasper writes: "No, what they will be facing is IEDs made out of tank shells. Lots and lots of them. The less populated areas are chock full fo ammo dumps, or so the news estimates indicate.

And then there's the possibility of stealing shit from America, or buying better explosives from ousside of the country.

Americans should be familiar with what a Ryder truck full of modified fertilizer can do. I'm not even sure one of *our* tanks could deal well with tht much of a blast."

You didn't read my full comment. I addressed IEDs, and even that big IEDs have been used to destroy our own top-of-the-line tanks (as well as Israeli Merkava tanks).

The point being, these tanks will be used in anti-personnel capacities, and for that even an old tank is more than adequate. Newer tanks are also susceptible to IEDs, so there's really no point giving them M1A1s or similar. That'd just be overkill with little additional protection versus IEDs.

It would probably make more sense to save the money on the tanks and spend it on aircraft, armored hummers, and personnel carriers. And a sweet bonus system to encourage people to stay in.

And, perhaps most important of all, a secure military payroll-transfer system so that troops don't have to carry their pay, by hand, to their family in their home province. That's a big loss of service time, and the troops no doubt often decide to go AWOL when they get home.

#34 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 01:54 PM:

Jon H - I don't agree with you; I think you're creating some false generalizations.

It is true that some IED's have been capable of destroying heavy armored vehicles. However, I see no indication that most of them are . Otherwise, up-armoring humvees would be useless, and even body armor wouldn't be a big help. Since I believe both armored humvees and body armor have helped US troops survive IEDs, I have to conclude that most IEDs are not capable of taking out an M1A1.

My understanding is that the Merkavas destroyed in Lebanon were hit by RPGs one generation advanced from what insurgents in Iraq have been using. If those RPGs were to become widespread in Iraq, life would be more difficult for US armored vehicles.

I don't think you have addressed the RPG threat - it might be possible to put Stryker-type cages on a T-72 to make it more able to resist the shaped-charge RPGs currently in use in Iraq, but I don't know how well a T-55 could actually stand up in urban warfare.

There is also the maintenance issue - older tanks are more likely to break down and be out of service.

Finally, there have been serious signs of corruption in Iraqi procurement, including the tank orders.

#35 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 06:14 PM:

"I don't think you have addressed the RPG threat - it might be possible to put Stryker-type cages on a T-72 to make it more able to resist the shaped-charge RPGs currently in use in Iraq, but I don't know how well a T-55 could actually stand up in urban warfare."

RPGs can be handled with reactive applique armor, as long as the Iraqi military doesn't mind putting at risk anyone standing near a tank so equipped.

"There is also the maintenance issue - older tanks are more likely to break down and be out of service."

But they're probably cheaper and easier to fix than M1A1s, which are very high-maintenance machines on their own. The parts are almost certainly more widely available and cheaper.

I agree that most IEDs are not capable of taking out a tank, because most IEDs aren't made that big. It's like the difference between anti-personnel mines and big anti-tank mines. If they want to take out a tank, they just have to add more explosive, more shells, whatever. The point being that typical IEDs are as unlikely to damage a T-72, but if they aim to blow up a tank, they can do so, and if that's their goal an M1A1 probably won't help.

My Merkava reference was to a 2002 incident in Gaza , where a large improvised mine took out a Merkava.

I still don't see the point in pushing for newer tanks. T-72s are probably as safe, or unsafe, as most modern armored vehicles. And T-55s are certainly safer than, say, the tracked amphibious personnel carriers used by the Marines.

I'd be more concerned about up-armoring vehicles that carry more people.

#36 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 06:17 PM:

John H: Sorry about missing that. I agree with you totaly about the budgetary issues, and especially about the air support.

So, how many attack aircraft is Kurdistan, uh, the Kurdish region going to get?

#37 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 11:32 PM:

I recall seeing somewhere a photo of an M1 hit by an IED in Iraq. I believe it killed at least one of the crew. IED's of that size have been used against us in Iraq.

South Africa used to have these APC's that had massively large diameter tires on them. The thing looked almost like the BigFoot truck you see at monster truck shows. One of the biggest threats they were running into were landmines were blowing the crap out of their convoys, and the idea with this APC was to put some distance between the ground and the crew compartment. I thought they worked pretty well at surving a landmine, but I've been googling and can't find any photos.

The Iraq army, hell the US army, could use a fleet of those things, more than they need fighter aircraft.

As for reactive armor, it's only good for one hit. So, you better be surrounded by some ground troops who can suppress a second shot while you swing your turret around. RPG's are cheap. I think that in the incident the movie Black Hawk Down was about, the helicopters were shot down by unguided RPG's. And it worked because hundreds or thousands of these things were fired into the air. Simple counter to reactive armor then becomes volume.

#38 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 12:11 AM:

Translation: the C-130 Hercules is a big fat propeller-driven cargo plane.

They're not that big. They're turboprop planes, not propellor--that's the good news. The bad news is that they're slow, they're NOISY, they're uncomfortable, they are an old design--they'd been flying a while before they were in use in Vietnam for everything from bringing home cargoes of GI corpses in rubber body bags, to the AC-130 "Spectre" gunships, C-130s converted over to be devastastingly effective as airborne platforms shooting up hardened ground targets. AC-130s were used in Afghanistan shelling that no-longer-extant mountain. The AC=130 flies around in an orbit with the guns trained on the target, continuing to fire at it as the plane goes around and around and around.

C-130s have a rugged design, relatively short takeoff and landing distances on imperfect fields, and otherwise are relatively rugged utility-type aircraft. I don't recommend flying on them if you like comfort and quiet and smooth flights. They're good for airdropping things out of, such as equipment and supplies into hot zones and airborne troops into dropzones, and for hauling stuff of out "tactical" zones in a hurry with relatively rough airstrips. If you want to get supplies ASAP somewhere in a hurry, look for something else, they're not fast planes. If you need something that can get shot up and will still get through, they're not unreasonable, and with four engines, they're better choices that two engine planes...

Being in the inventory a long time means that there are lots of them around and there are spare parts and people trained in maintaining them--those are pluses.

#39 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 01:07 AM:

What Paula leaves out is that the AC-130 includes among its weapons a 105mm howitzer.

#40 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 03:50 AM:

Wikipedia's off I think about "Spooky," Spooky was the venerable Gooney Bird, DC-3 (military designation, C-47), converted over to be a gunship in Vietnam. The change to C-130s came because the C-47s were -old-, long out of producton, and the C-130s were in current production, and much larger, with commensurately longer mission duration capabilites, much more capacity for carrying munitions, more space for more and larger guns, etc.

There was even a novel written by someone who'd been in the Pentagon who worked on the program, called IIRC _The Gooney Bird_ or some such, who later wrote what today might be called a thriller/SF novel entitled something like Adam M-1. The author's name was something like Jack Anderson, IIRC.

Oh wow that Wikipedia article has crock a' crap info in places, "The AC-130 gunship series is one of the most expensive aircraft ever made due to its unique nature" what??
$190 million is a lot less than e.g the B-2 costs per unit, http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/usa/bomber/b-2.htm

"Unit cost: Approximately $2.1 billion [average] "

http://www.usu.edu/afrotc/Bravo/bombers.htm

[B-1 cost]

"Unit Cost: $200-plus million per aircraft"

http://www.garobi.ang.af.mil/factsheet.htm

[cost of a JSTARS plane]
"Unit Cost: $244.4 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars)"


http://www.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?fsID=98

[AWACS]

Unit Cost: $270 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars)

And then there are the costs of various types of reconnaissance planes, when fully loaded with their surveillance and data acquisitions and communications systems.... The unit cost of the TR-1 was marked "classified" on on on-line page. There were rumors that the SR-71s got funded by the overruns on the C-5 program....

And there are the fleet of airborne command posts, loaded up with communications equipments from very nearly DC, to literally "daylight", including the E-4 planes, Boeing 747s at the luxury scale full of all sorts of fun comm gear and very expensive long-endurance modifications and fabric and furnishings that most of us can't seriously expect to ever be able to afford to have in our living rooms, for the President to fly around on... long long ago I got to fly Space Available once on a plane furnished with the -leftovers- of the "Presidential Fleet. Talk about fancy....

#41 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 04:18 AM:

Reactive armour is one of several possible counters to shaped charges, such as RPG warheads.

In a situation such as Iraq, a tank covered with high explosive makes life complicated when an IED breaks a track. You have so much more stuff to keep out of the hands of the enemy.

You can tow a tank if the tracks and wheels are OK. But they're just the things which anti-tank mines will break.

And you have to put reactive armour on a tank: something with heavy armour to start with.

So if you're picking an AFV for Iraq, something with spaced armour is a much better bet. It also helps a little to keep the interior cool.

#42 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 04:39 AM:

The [AC-130] heat signature reduction components alone are a cause of consternation to aircraft mechanics and have become almost legendary among maintenance personnel for their inability to properly diffuse engine exhaust temperatures without warping or cracking. [from Wiki]

"Consternation." So it's the mechanics' fault that the add-on system doesn't work right and breaks the airplane?

#43 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 05:00 AM:

And typically, of course, all the hardware on an AC-130 is under the control of a badly-trained air force NCO. Foreign armies in Iraq won't let AC-130 anywhere near them without one of their own liaison people on board, because the USAF doesn't train its troops to recognise allied vehicles - it's US or Them.

#44 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 06:05 AM:

Mike Ford: I read that as somewhat understated; the mechanics' reaction being something along the lines of "what were they thinking?" (if slightly less genteel).

#45 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 08:29 AM:

IIRC the M1 Abrams doesn't have reactive armor, only a thick sandwich of multilayers of depleted uranium and a Kevlar-like material. Shaped charge warheads are dissipated in the less dense layers, while AP rounds are deflected by the depleted uranium. Several have still been knocked out, of course; nothing is impenetrable, and state of the art warheads (thanks Russia) using follow-through penetrators (which have two charges to make a hole, then another one behind the first) are effective against anything.

The APC M-2 does have reactive armor on it because it doesn't have the same thickness of armor the M-1 does, and I've heard infantry aren't that enamored of them being around when the RPG's start flying. Big blocks of HE on the outside of the hull that blow up when hit do not make the unarmored infantry very happy.

#46 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 11:09 AM:

What Paula leaves out is that the AC-130 includes among its weapons a 105mm howitzer.

Bah, it can't carry a seven ton gun.

#47 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 11:32 AM:

The SA APC I was thinking of looked something like this, but with bigger/fatter tires. The crew cabin is high off the ground and the bottom is angled to deflect a mine blast away from the hull, rather than taking the full blast with a flat bellypan close to the ground. Seems like a good idea. might not fit in a cargo plane easily though. Drape some standoff-chainlink fence around it to help thwart RPG's and you ought to have a pretty decent vehicle.

#48 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 03:43 AM:

Greg, you're looking at the wrong gun. The M102 weighs 1.6 tons. I will admit, when I saw the loadout, I thought, "They must mean it can transport one," (which of course it can), but in fact it's mounted as a cannon, presumably forward-firing. It carries about a hundred rounds, and seems to be meant for blowing up large things on the ground, though if I saw a big aircraft coming at me with an unpleasant look on its face, I might well shoot and write "target was in an advanced taxi condition" if there was some kind of dumb question afterward.

It is apparently supposed to be replaced by a breechloading 120mm mortar, though I'm not sure if we have one of those on the shelf (we have lots of the more usual sort).

A side note about Rumsfeld's Roughnecks: he promised us a Lean and Mean army. We don't feed them, we make them torture people, and look the other way when they kill unarmed civilians.

Mission . . . well, you know.

#49 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 03:57 AM:

The 105 on an AC-130, like the rest of the weapons, is mounted to fire out the port side.

#50 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 05:39 AM:

Jim: Of course, that would make sense. Thank you. And I'll bet the recoil system is cause for "consternation," too. (I'm old enough to remember the Popular Science article when "Spooky" first appeared (I do not use the other nickname, for obvious reasons), which, like all weapons described in PS of that era, was going to Win The War Before the Next Issue.

If they'd give up the rights, which I kind of doubt, it would be interesting to do a book of Future Weapons of the Past, reprinting the art and key paragraphs from PS, PM, MI, Modern Mechanix (I think the X made it futuristic). It's hard to say what the best (for specific values of that word) idea was, though it might well be the submersible fighter jet (which reappeared for decades; one could do a side-by-side gallery of the cutaway views).* Though my favorite art was a double-page, two-color spread (the style was like Gray Morrow's, and it might even have been him) of Our Boys hanging above an unspecified city on their Bell rocket belts, bazookaing the behinds off the Bolshies.

They were probably using Nucular Bazookies . . . no, wait, we really issued those.

But I digress, as usual.

*Though if the clearances could be had, an article on "Whatever Happened to the Submarine Fighter?" seems like just the sort of thing Smithsonian Air & Space would run, and probably draw a letter saying "It is not dead, but sleepeth. --Name withheld by request."

#51 ::: Gag Halfrunt ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 06:29 AM:
The SA APC I was thinking of looked something like this, but with bigger/fatter tires. The crew cabin is high off the ground and the bottom is angled to deflect a mine blast away from the hull, rather than taking the full blast with a flat bellypan close to the ground. Seems like a good idea. might not fit in a cargo plane easily though. Drape some standoff-chainlink fence around it to help thwart RPG's and you ought to have a pretty decent vehicle.
Sounds as if you're thinking of the Casspir. Apparently the Force Protection Buffalo used by the US Army in Iraq is based on the Casspir.
#52 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 01:32 PM:

Gag: Yikes! I want a buffalo. High ground clearance, V shaped belly, high visibility for the troops, and a fricken claw for dealing with suspectd IED's remotely. The US ordered ten, for fikes sake? They should order five hundred.

#48: John, yeah, I know, it don't. I just like the way "seven ton gun" rolls of the lips. As Jim points out, all the weapons face out the left side, the side the pilot sits on. He can then roll in and do a slow orbit around a target and unload ordinance until the ammo cans are empty. I believe the weapons are pointed downward a bit to help that. I think I read that the 105 will push the 130 sideways, off it's orbit, when fired.

#53 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 01:36 PM:

ooop, US didn't order ten, they ordered 36 for 10 million.... hm, that's, $280k per vehicle. I better start saving now.

#54 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 01:46 PM:

Subs sneaking armed and dangerous people into places haven't gone away, they merely went into Black Programs. Subs armed with long-range missiles--Tomahawk cruise missiles. They're around and get used.

#55 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 02:03 PM:

According to company specs, the Buffalo's younger brother, the Cheetah, is rated to survive 30 pounds of TNT exploding under a tire, or 15 pounds exploding anywhere under the vehicle, or 50 pounds with a 2 meter standoff. Don't know how that compares with the IED's being used in Iraq.

#56 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 02:14 PM:

The general solution to better armor is a bigger bang. There's a heck of a lot of HBX missing in Iraq.

For those with the stomach for it, go to YouTube and search on Iraq (or Irak) + IED.

#57 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 03:13 PM:

hm, if the armor upped the ante so that you needed 50 pounds of explosives to do damage, then at least 50 pounds might be easier to notice, or even automatically detect somehow. Overall, I think thick armor is better than no armor. And the Buffalo are a whole lot cheaper than an M1. $280K versus $2-4Million.

Completely tangental thought: I'm not an explosives expert, but if you could generate a massive amount of electricity, like a scaled down lightning bolt, and arc it into the ground in front of you, could that detonate any explosives near the surface? I just pictured this Buffalo vehicle running point on the convoy with an electrode attached to its arm, and the arm is way out in front of the vehicle, with a continuous arc. Probably need a Mr. Fusion in the truck to make that sort of electrical power, I suppose...

#58 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 03:34 PM:

Greg: You need about 24Kv to jump a one-inch gap. Dry air is a surprisingly good insulator, and in the desert, well.

#59 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 03:39 PM:

Ot the other rule of thumb: 10KV/cm. (Why you don't want point-contacts with static electricity.) Plus, I seem to recall, ground is, well, a ground.

#60 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 03:50 PM:

Some almost facts here for the reality based:

The AC-130 30mm cannon has 160 rounds available, before needing a reload. That means the gunner has 25-50 seconds worth of ammo, depending on rate of fire used. Each 30mm round weighs about 25 ounces (depending on type.) The anti-armor shell weighs about half a pound. The armor piercing round will go through 25mm of steel at 2,000 meters range. This will get through the top armor of most vehicles, and spray the inside with fragments. At that range, time of flight is about 1.7 seconds. Explosive anti-personnel rounds are the most common round used in the Mk44. From higher altitudes (up to 20,000 feet), the AC-130 fire control system and night vision sensors, enable the 30mm gunners to accurately hit targets with high explosive shells.

The existing 25mm and 40mm guns are being phased out of military service, and the new 30mm gun is easier to operate. All 25 of the AC-130s are being converted to use the 30mm guns.


The most popular armored vehicles in Iraq are 200 or so Cougar and Buffalo armored trucks. The Cougar, which comprise some 70 percent of these vehicles, was first used in the 1990s, in the Balkans, by U.S. troops, and comes in two versions. The four wheel one can carry ten passengers, the six wheel one can carry 16. The vehicle uses a capsule design to protect the passengers and key vehicle components from mines and roadside bombs. Cougars cost about $730,000 each, fully equipped. Over half the casualties in Iraq are caused by roadside bombs.
The 38 ton Buffalo is actually a heavily modified Peterbuilt Mac-10 truck. Costing $740,000 each, the added armor protection keeps out machine-gun bullets, and enables the vehicle to survive mines (or bombs) up to 45 pounds of explosives. The Buffalo clears mines using a roller that it pushes in front of it, detonating the mines without taking any damage. The Buffalo design is based on concepts first developed in South Africa. This includes a well protected capsule for the crew. Thus if the vehicle does hit a mine, it may loose a wheel, but the crew will be unhurt. This protection system has been proven in combat many times, and it works. The 27 foot long Buffalo can also detect anti-tank mines, for later clearing. It's sensors can do this with a 90 percent accuracy (it will generate as many as 60 false positives per kilometer). While top speed is 105 kilometers an hour, when detecting or clearing mines, it moves at about five kilometers an hour. The Buffalo has a five man crew, and some are equipped with remote control arm that can reach out and move a suspected bomb.

These two vehicles are best designed to deal with roadside bombs, and the engineer troops that use them have become quite expert at using the vehicles, and their specialized equipment, to quickly dispose of real, or suspected, bombs. The popularity of these vehicles is partly due to the fact that they use wheels and have more windows than most other armored vehicles. Little things mean a lot.

Time was the C130 had no means or provision for synchronizing the engines/props and so was a very rough ride indeed especially for people. Lots of funny office politics in making sure that gunships as being tactical rather than strategic didn't qualify as fighter jocks. Later production and the current C130J design are unequaled - proposals to do something perhaps better including Boeing's blown flap design were canceled - and absolutely necessary as Mrs. Thatcher would say TINA. There is currently a good deal of flap about the need for ever smaller (like the Fairchild C123 for those with long memories) transport aircraft in Iraq - when the Air Force says the job is too small to justify one of their lovely airplanes.


#61 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 04:01 PM:

You need about 24Kv to jump a one-inch gap

A diesel generator that could be hauled on the back with some fuel, might be able to generate around 1,500 kW. Since I have no idea what the resistance or current involved is, I don't know how this translates.

#62 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 04:23 PM:

57,#58,#61 - No requirement that it be dry air - salt sprays are easy to arrange - once ionized the resistance values are rather different - striking an arc and maintaining an arc are two different things - see the typical cheesy SF climbing arc aka Jacob's Ladder where the arc follows the warm air up. My knee jerk is given such an arc then bury the mine under a lot of metal screening to ground the arc - and bury a lot of metal screening with no explosives as well. Then let the asphalt run and melt and burn.

And also:
A hot new technology for protecting vehicles from RPG rockets (and their armor piercing, shaped charge, warheads) is electromagnetic panels. These metal panels run lots of electricity through them, which break up the jet of super-hot air and metal formed when a shaped charge warhead explodes. The electromagnetic armor would only add about two tons of weight to vehicles equipped with it, while reactive armor weighs 3-4 tons, and composite armor more than twice that. Old fashioned steel armor weighs twice as much again. Steel armor is the cheapest, at about a dollar a pound. Composite armor costs $20 a pound, and ERA is $40 a pound, while the electromagnetic armor is $500-$1,000 a pound.

All of the above systems have already been in combat, except the electromagnetic armor, which isn't out of the lab yet. It may take a while to make that happen. The problem with electromagnetic armor is that it needs lots of electricity, more than current vehicles can supply. Electromagnetic armor is being developed for future vehicles that are all-electric, and have a power supply, and power storage (capacitors) that can support electromagnetic armor. It may be a decade or more before a practical electromagnetic armor system is put into service.

#63 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 04:44 PM:

My knee jerk is given such an arc then bury the mine under a lot of metal screening to ground the arc - and bury a lot of metal screening with no explosives as well. Then let the asphalt run and melt and burn.

If it's screened by metal, that would make it easier to detect by normal methods. This would be just for setting off explosives just lying in the ground with no metal around it. If you have to use metal for protection, then it should be easier to detect with other methods.

Yeah, you probably wouldn't want to do this if it cut a trench in the road. But if the static electricity, current, or whatever, is enough to set off the explosives, without cutting a trench in teh road, its a win. I just don't know how sensitive explosives normally are. If you zap dynamite with a few thousand volts will it just sit there? or will it go boom?

#64 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 08:35 PM:

Greg, #52, the yellow Hummer is still for sale at the used car dealer.

#65 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 08:54 PM:

Marilee, thanks, I'll pass. I don't feel inclined to subject myself to "hummer hate" again. ;) Anyway, I've done a bit of research, and it looks like a 3/4 ton heavy-duty pickup has way better towing capacity than an H1. Now all I have to do is win the lottery. Oh, and I do have a bunch of left over brownies if anyone wants to help the cause. whee!


#66 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 10:27 PM:

There's a nice driving impression of the Cougar in last week's (10 Sept)
Sunday Times

'If you hit a landmine, the CD player skips'
Tony Allen-Mills test drives the Cougar, a US behemoth just bought by the British Army that makes the Humvee look limp-wristed
Lovely cutaway graphic as well.

#67 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 10:48 PM:

John M. Ford, #50
Though my favorite art was a double-page, two-color spread... of Our Boys hanging above an unspecified city on their Bell rocket belts, bazookaing the behinds off the Bolshies.

Oh, right - thanks for the reminder. I think it was Bill Higgins - Beam Jockey here on ML who first pointed us to this weekend's Rocket Belt Convention in Niagara Falls.

(I'm wondering if I should bring the kids...)

#68 ::: Jan Vaněk jr. ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2008, 08:32 AM:

It's more like "let's occupy ourselves with it"; and the name is "seks" in Cyrillic, and the domain (noting this for when it's deleted) contains "porno", and the site itself links to the most common categories thereof in Russian, though - as far as my protective plugins let me judge it - only as a fake trap with no real content to speak of.

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