Category Archives: verarmd uranium | depleted uranium

Verarmd uranium en het Golfoorlogsyndroom

Henk van der Keur | stichting Laka | 20 december 2015

Dat in oorlogstijd de waarheid als eerste sneuvelt weten we sinds mensenheugenis. Wat telt is de versie van de oorlogsplanners die ons door embedded oorlogscorrespondenten wordt ingeprent. Nieuw bij de Golfoorlog van 1991 was dat voor het eerst een oorlog live in de huiskamer werd gebracht. Ik herinner me de televisiebeelden van de Amerikaanse nieuwszender CNN op de kabel, een hype bij het thuisfront.

We werden permanent bestookt met ‘precisiebombardementen’ die de kijkers moesten overtuigen dat dit een ‘schone oorlog’ was. Alsof er helemaal geen burgers in Irak bestonden en er alleen militaire doelen waren. De kijkers hadden geen flauw benul van de werkelijke situatie in Irak. Toen op 17 januari het luchtoffensief tegen Irak begon, hadden de Irakezen al bijna een half jaar zwaar te lijden onder het zeer strikte VN-embargo dat begin augustus 1990 van kracht werd toen het Iraakse leger Koeweit binnenviel. Officieel waren voedsel en medicijnen uitgesloten van de economische sancties, maar in de praktijk was er vrijwel geen aanvoer meer van deze basale behoeften.

Stervende kinderen

Een jaar na de Golfoorlog kon ik met eigen ogen aanschouwen wat deze oorlog had aangericht en wat de gevolgen waren van de aanhoudende economische boycot. Op een bijeenkomst van vredesorganisaties in De Balie in Amsterdam werd besloten een delegatie naar Irak te sturen in aanwezigheid van een arts en een aantal ingenieurs. Redenen voor dat besluit was het grote zwijgen van de media over het hoge aantal burgerdoden en een rapport van het medisch team van Harvard dat een onthutsend beeld schetste van de situatie in Irak, kort na de oorlog. Een groot deel van de civiele infrastructuur was vernietigd, waaronder levensmiddelenfabrieken en voorzieningen voor drinkwater. Het team trof tienduizenden stervende kinderen aan als gevolg van epidemieën die waren ontstaan door een groot gebrek aan schoon water. Onder normale omstandigheden waren deze infectieziekten eenvoudig te behandelen, maar door gebrek aan elementaire voorzieningen, waaronder medicijnen, konden die niet worden genezen. Een jaar later, vlak voor de lente van 1992, wilde onze fact-finding missie poolshoogte nemen van de toestand in Irak. Mijn opdracht was om te pogen grondmonsters te nemen nabij de restanten van het gebombardeerde kerncomplex Al Tuwaitha, circa 30 kilometer van Bagdad. Daarvoor kreeg ik echter geen toestemming van de Iraakse autoriteiten.

Mijn bezoek aan Irak was een harde confrontatie met de werkelijkheid. De ziekenhuizen waren nog altijd overvol en er was nog steeds een groot gebrek aan basale levensbehoeften. Het sterftecijfer bij kinderen onder de vijf jaar bleef onverminderd hoog. De aanvoer van bijvoorbeeld bouwmaterialen of onderdelen voor reparatie van waterzuiveringsinstallaties lag nog altijd stil, waardoor wederopbouw uitbleef. Feitelijk werd de oorlog tegen de burgerbevolking voortgezet met sancties. Wat ook opviel was dat het aantal gevallen van kanker snel toenam.

Radioactieve munitie

Dat er veel meer aan de hand was in Irak bleek al direct bij aankomst waarbij onze delegatie in de lobby van het hotel de Duitse arts Dr. Siegwart-Horst Günther tegen het lijf liep. Hij had restanten van munitie gevonden die radioactief bleken te zijn. Niet veel later leerde ik dat ze afkomstig zijn van 30 mm antitankgranaten van het A-10 grondaanvalstoestel. Die schieten met een mix van ‘high explosive’ patronen en ‘DU penetrators’. Dat laatste type antitankgranaat bestaat uit een kern van massief uraniummetaal. Het betreft een afvalproduct van de uraniumverrijkingsindustrie, ‘depleted uranium (DU)’ ofwel verarmd uranium. Voor zover bekend werden ze tijdens Operatie Desert Storm voor het eerst gebruikt. Het zware metaal heeft een opmerkelijk lage verbrandingstemperatuur. Na inslag op een hard doel verbrandt en verpulvert de munitiekern tot zeer fijne stofdeeltjes die zich tot ver in de omgeving kunnen verspreiden. Via de longen, slokdarm of open wonden kunnen de stofdeeltjes het lichaam binnendringen. Iraakse artsen leggen een verband tussen de uraniumbesmettingen en de opkomst van doorgaans zeldzame vormen van kanker na de Golfoorlog. Aanvankelijk trof het vooral jonge kinderen. Later – medio jaren negentig – spraken Dr. Jawad Al-Ali, hoofd van het Oncologisch Centrum in Basra, en andere oncologen van een kankerepidemie in Irak. Met daaronder veel gevallen die aan twee of drie soorten kankers tegelijk leden. Een verschijnsel dat onder normale omstandigheden zelden voorkomt. De kankerclusters waren ontstaan in gebieden waar veel gebruik is gemaakt van uraniumhoudende antitankgranaten.

Siegwart-Horst Günther

De arts Dr. Siegwart-Horst Günther overlegt ons foto’s van gevonden restanten DU-munitie en aantekeningen van waargenomen aandoeningen bij kinderen die er mee speelden Bagdad, 26 februari 1991 / foto Henk van der Keur

Gevaren bekend

Juist voor de Iraakse invasie van Koeweit verscheen een rapport van het Amerikaanse leger over het strategische belang van de uraniumhoudende antitankgranaten. In een bijlage wordt door adviseurs gewezen op de potentiële gezondheidsrisico’s van het militair gebruik van verarmd uranium. De auteurs wezen vooral op de gevaren bij de verwijdering van de restanten en besmet legermaterieel in post-conflictgebieden.

Al direct na de Golfoorlog werden ook bij Golfoorlogveteranen ziekten vastgesteld, zowel acuut als chronisch, met zeer uiteenlopende symptomen, die gebundeld werden onder noemer Golfoorlogziekten of het Golfoorlogsyndroom. Het Pentagon weet die ziekten aan vaccinaties, slagveldstress, en aan de gevolgen van bombardementen: sarin en rook van oliebranden. Later voegden de Balkanveteranen zich daarbij met Balkansyndroom (Bosnië ‘94/’95 en Kosovo ’99) met vergelijkbare symptomen. Zij hebben echter niet blootgestaan aan rook, experimentele vaccins en sarin, maar wel aan verarmd uranium en andere chemische stoffen. Ondanks de snel groeiende hoeveelheid wetenschappelijk bewijsmateriaal over de schadelijke effecten van DU, blijven maatregelen uit. Dat komt doordat er nog steeds grote strategische waarde wordt toegekend aan deze wapensystemen. Alle kernmachten beschikken over DU arsenalen. Zelfs in Duitsland – één van de weinige grote landen die ze niet bezitten – gaan binnen het leger stemmen op om ze aan te schaffen. In de Koude Oorlog waren de DU-antitankgranaten bestemd voor een mogelijke tankoorlog tussen de NAVO en het Warschaupact. Nu zouden ze gebruikt kunnen worden als het conflict in Oost-Oekraïne weer oplaait in een tankoorlog tussen de NAVO en Rusland of bij de oorlog in Syrië door de A-10.

Vier jaar na de Golfoorlog verbood de Amerikaanse regering het testen van de uraniumgranaten in de open lucht. De testgebieden zijn zwaar vervuild. Op de Jefferson Proving Ground is een gebied dat bezaaid ligt met restanten van verarmd uranium, maar er liggen ook blindgangers. De Amerikaanse atoomwaakhond NRC is vorig jaar akkoord gegaan met het voorstel van het leger om het terrein niet te saneren omdat het veel te gevaarlijk en heel erg duur is. Omwonenden maken zich ernstig zorgen over uitbreiding van de besmetting via het grondwater.

Dit artikel verscheen in een dossier van VD Amok in het VredesMagazine (december 2015)

 

The A-10 Lives: America’s Lethal ‘Flying Tanks’ Won’t Be Retired Just Yet

[Note: nothing about depleted uranium (DU), HvdK]

An_A-10_from_the_81st_Fighter_Squadron_flies_over_central_Germany

The National Interest | Dave Majumdar | November 11, 2015

The U.S. Air Force delayed its plans to retire the A-10 Warthog in favor of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The service has been trying to scrap the venerable flying tank—a darling of U.S. ground troops—in favor of the stealthy single-engine jet despite resistance on Capitol Hill by 2021.

“We have to retire the airplanes, but I think moving it to the right and starting it a bit later and maybe keeping around the airplane a bit longer is something that’s being considered based on things as they are today and what we see in the future,” Air Combat Command commander Gen. Hawk Carlisle told reporters at the Defense Writers Group breakfast according The Hill reporter Kristina Wong. “I think if you look at what we’d like to do is probably a couple of squadrons maybe early, because we have F-16s coming out of Hill [Air Force Base], and we’d like to transition A-10s to F-16s in a couple of different places, but I think the majority of it we would move it a couple of years, two to three years, to the right.”

Carlisle told reporters that he deployed the jets to Turkey because of their unique capabilities which are particularly useful against enemy ground forces—like ISIS. “I will tell you, I have A-10s and I will use them because they are a fantastic airplane.” Carlisle said. “The guys are incredibly well-trained and they do fantastic work in support of the joint war fight…They’re doing fantastic work and we’re very proud of them.”

Congresswoman Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), a former Air Force A-10 squadron commander, was dismissive of the service’s latest move. McSally has often spoken out about the capabilities gaps the Pentagon would face if the A-10 were retired. “As it has always been, the plan to retire the A-10 ahead of schedule is irresponsible and reckless. No plane in our inventory or under development can match the A-10’s unique capabilities to provide Close Air Support – capabilities that are in increasing demand,” McSally said in a statement. “A-10s are now deployed in the fight against ISIS, in Europe to deter Russian aggression, and along the border with North Korea. We just invested over $1 billion to keep this asset flying until 2028. Until there’s a suitable replacement, we absolutely need to keep this life-saving capability in the air.”

McSally dismissed Carlisle’s move to defer the A-10’s as a political ploy. “This is the Administration’s same ploy only in a different disguise to whittle away at a critical capability, “ she said. “Over the last three years, the Administration has already mothballed the equivalent of four A-10 squadrons, leaving us with only nine to carry out the critical missions for which the A-10 is best suited.”

 

Pakistan’s tool of war: Al-Khalid Main Battle Tank – the armoured fist

Dawn | Ali Osman | Nov 10, 2015

563ce72a315ad

The Armoured Corps is rich in tradition, with storied units still included in its order of battle. AFP/File

If the tanks succeed, then victory follows

-Heinz Guderian

Armoured units are the primary force multipliers utilised by ground forces for offensive actions conducted using the fundamental elements of speed and firepower.

Although tanks were introduced towards the tail-end of the Great War, the fundamentals of armoured warfare came in on their own during the German blitz across Europe and North Africa during World War II, and were later used by the Red Army with the same devastating effect in their march towards Berlin.

Pakistan Army’s Armoured Corps came into being with the creation of Pakistan, and inherited six regiments from the old British Indian Army. The Armoured Corps is rich in tradition, with storied units still included in its order of battle. It is a proud fighting arm of the Pakistani army.

The MBT

The Al-Khalid Main Battle Tank (MBT) forms the backbone of Pakistan Army’s Armoured Corps.

The tank is a result of close collaboration between Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT) of Pakistan and China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO), with the first prototype developed in the early ’90s.

The Al-Khalid is a further development of the Chinese Type 90-II tank. The tank is locally produced at the HIT complex, and an estimated 600 vehicles are in service.

Al-Khalid MBT incorporates Russian and Chinese design philosophy in its manufacture. The tank itself is considerably lighter and smaller, incorporating a lower profile when compared to its Western counterparts.

Race across the desert

The Al-Khalid is powered by a Ukrainian 6TD-2 liquid-cooled diesel engine which delivers 1,200 horsepower, propelling the tank to a maximum speed of 70 kilometres per hour. The engine utilises pistons arranged horizontally in an opposed piston configuration, which reduces the size of the engine and fits well inside the medium-sized hull of the vehicle. The same engine is also mounted on Pakistan’s T-80UD MBTs.

Read: Pakistan’s tool of war: Agosta 90B, our submarine in the deep

During the design phase, special emphasis was laid on high-performance cooling and air filtering systems to counter the high ambient temperatures and the fine sand which would be encountered in operational areas of Pakistan’s Thar and Cholistan deserts, enabling it to race across the desert to engage the enemy.

Ukrainian 6TD-2 liquid-cooled diesel engine propels the tank to a maximum speed of 70 kilometres per hour — Source: armyrecognition.com

The Al-Khalid is able to cross water obstacles 1.4 metres deep without preparation, and can cross water obstacles to a maximum depth of 5 metres with a snorkel attached.

Armoured fist

The primary task assigned to any MBT is to penetrate enemy lines using violence of action and wreak havoc in the enemy’s rear.

The Al-Khalid is equipped with a 125mm smoothbore main gun, capable of firing a variety of rounds and the 9M119M Refleks (Nato reporting name AT-11 Sniper) anti-tank guided missile, a tandem warhead missile with a range of five kilometres, also fired through the main gun.

The main gun is capable of shooting six to eight rounds per minute. The tank is equipped with a laser rangefinder and a computerised fire control system, with the main gun stabilised on a dual-axis, enabling it to shoot accurately on the move.

Al-Khalid tanks commence their advance during a military exercise. — AFP/File

The gunner and commander have dual day/night sights with thermal imaging, in order to lay accurate fire on both stationary and moving targets at any time of the day. The commander also has a panoramic hunter-killer sight at his disposal, which is used to designate targets for the gunner.

The Al-Khalid also comes equipped with an autoloader, reducing the crew to three, another facet of Russian tank design philosophy which was incorporated into the tank. The Al-Khalid has a 12.7mm heavy machine gun placed on the commander’s cupola, with a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun placed next to the main gun.

The tank is capable of firing the Pakistani Naiza 125mm depleted uranium (DU) round, which maintains a one-shot kill capability.

In short, if the Al-Khalid meets the T-90S Bhisma on the plains of Punjab or the deserts of Sindh, it is more than capable of achieving a one shot kill on its adversary.

Steel plated beast

In terms of protection, the Al-Khalid’s hull is made of hardened steel armour plates placed over Rolled Homogenous Armour (RHA), while the sides and the turret incorporates modular armour, allowing the operator to change damage armoured modules with ease.

The tank is also equipped with Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) bricks for added protection. ERA bricks cover the turret front, roof, sides and hull glacis.

Al-Khalid during a military exercise. — Photo courtesy Pakistan Army

In addition to the capable armour protection, the crew is also protected by a collective NBC (nuclear, biological and chemical) system. The tank incorporates internal fire extinguisher and explosion-suppression systems in order to add to crew survivability.

Tanks can be manufactured; it is the crew that needs to be protected, as a trained tank crew takes a significant amount of time and resources to train.

Also read: Pakistan’s tool of war: Why the Mi-35 Hind-E is an excellent choice

Al-Khalid also comes equipped with a laser warning system, which detects incoming ATGMs and provides the crew with better threat perception. The tank is itself coated in IR (infrared) reflective paint to lower the thermal signature, along with launchers which can launch thermal smoke, chaff and fragmentation grenades.

The latest model of the tank is also rumoured to be equipped with an Active Protection System (APS), which can defeat incoming anti-tank missiles and rocket-propelled grenades (RPG).

New challenges

The Al-Khalid is a capable tank, and would be an adequate match for any adversary it faces in a conventional conflict.

The Al-Khalid is a capable tank, and would be an adequate match for any adversary it faces in a conventional conflict. — AFP/File

As is the case with any modern MBT, protection levels need to be kept up to pace with developments in the field of anti-tank weapons. With the modern battlefield constantly evolving, tanks are now more vulnerable than ever to both conventional and unconventional forces.

With the massive proliferation of advanced anti-tank weapons, mostly now in the hands of irregular and militant forces (e.g Syria), protecting the tank and especially the crew has become the need of the hour.

As stated earlier, if the later models of the Al-Khalid are not equipped with an APS, it needs to be sourced and installed, or remain quite vulnerable.

NRC licencing of US Army Installation Command’s possession of M101 spotting rounds

WISE Uranium Project | September 4, 2015

U.S. Army Installation Command requests NRC licence amendment to include 17 sites that possess depleted uranium from the Davy Crockett M101 Spotting Rounds

A request for a hearing or petition for leave to intervene must be filed by November 3, 2015.
> Federal Register Volume 80, Number 172 (Friday, September 4, 2015) p. 53586-53588 (download full text external link)
> Download: license amendment application external link, June 1, 2015
> Download: current Source Materials License No. SUC-1593 external link, Oct. 23, 2013
> Access: Docket ID NRC-2015-0209 external link

 

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has received an application from the U.S. Army Installation Command (Army) to amend NRC Source Materials License No. SUC–1593 to incorporate the 15 sites listed in License Condition No. 12 into its license. The Army proposes to use a programmatic approach to license the 15 sites, which are located on multiple U.S. Army installations in the United States. In addition, the Army’s license amendment application proposes to license sites located on the two U.S. Army installations that are located in Hawaii which are already licensed under Source Materials License No. SUC–1593.

DATES: A request for a hearing or petition for leave to intervene must be filed by November 3, 2015.

ADDRESSES: Please refer to Docket ID NRC–2015–0209 when contacting the NRC about the availability of information regarding this document. You may obtain publicly-available information related to this document using any of the following methods:
• Federal Rulemaking Web site: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC–2015–0209.
Address questions about NRC dockets to Carol Gallagher; telephone: 301–415–3463; email: Carol.Gallagher@nrc.gov.
For technical questions, contact the individual listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section of this document.

full text here (pdf)

 

Army chief General Suhag says India needs to be ready for short wars

The Times of India | Rajat Pandit | Sep 2, 2015

NEW DELHI: Slamming Pakistan for using “new methods” to create unrest in Jammu and Kashmir as well as spread the “arc of violence” to other areas, the Indian Army on Tuesday said it was ready for short wars which could be swiftly unleashed without much warning.

“The border remains alive and active due to the frequency of ceasefire violations and infiltration bids by our western neighbour. Recent incidents of terrorist violence are clear pointers to the attempt to extend the arc of violence to other areas,” Army chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag said on Tuesday.

“In that context, we are acutely aware that the swift, short nature of future wars is likely to offer limited warning time. This calls for maintaining very high levels of operational preparedness at all times. This is something that has now become inherent in our operational strategy,” he added, speaking at the tri-Service seminar organised as part of the 1965 war’s golden jubilee celebrations.

The veiled acknowledgement of the risk of having to face a blitzkrieg comes in the backdrop of the Army conducting a series of major combat exercises over the last several years — including the recent ‘Brahmashira’ exercise by the 2 ‘Kharga’ Strike Corps in Rajasthan — to practice “swift multiple offensives deep into enemy territory” under its “Pro-Active Conventional War Strategy”. This mobilise-fast and hit-hard doctrine, informally called ‘Cold Start’, emerged from the lessons learnt from Operation Parakram in 2002, launched in response to the terrorist attack on Parliament, which exposed the Indian Army’s operational gaps as well as inability to launch swift punishing strikes across the border, as reported by TOI earlier.

India’s slow troop mobilisation also gave the international community, especially the US, enough time to intervene. Since then, the Army has also progressively rejigged its formations along the western front to ensure rapid mobilization of self-contained “battle groups” built around the T-90S main-battle tanks.

“If it took a month for the Army strike formations to mobilize during Operation Parakram, it will now take just four-five days for the battle groups to get going. Fine-tuning the strategy is a constant endeavour,” said an officer.

Pakistan, of course, has for long been perturbed by India’s pro-active war strategy, even complaining to the US about it in the past. Moreover, while India may believe that nuclear weapons are not war-fighting weapons, Pakistan has no such compulsions. It frequently flaunts its tactical ‘Nasr’ nuclear missile as a battlefield weapon to effectively deter any Indian conventional armoured thrust into its territory.

Speakers at the seminar on Tuesday, ranging from Vice-President Hamid Ansari and defence minister Manohar Parrikar to the three Service chiefs, acknowledged that threats and challenges had become much more complex since India thwarted Pakistan’s designs of wresting Kashmir by force in the 1965 war.

“A cursory analysis of the 1965 war highlights the fact that a nation’s entire military establishment must constantly refine its capabilities and processes in order to ensure territorial integrity and counter any hostile actions,” Parrikar said.

“The present day environment also requires a similar approach, with alertness and readiness, so that we can deter any such action, and ensure a peaceful environment… the security environment today is complex and nuanced. We, therefore, need to be vigilant, taking into account all dimensions, so that all emerging challenges are suitably addressed,” he added.

The Lethal A-10 Warthog: A Nuclear Bomber?

The National Interest | Joseph Trevithick | August 29, 2015

A-10s_deploy_to_Romania_for_Operation_Atlantic_Resolve_150401-F-ZL078-980

Despite what the Pentagon and senior Air Force leaders might say, the A-10 Warthog is far from a “single-purpose airplane.” But dropping nuclear bombs might be one of the things the low- and slow-flying attackers actually can’t do.

But the Air Force once briefly considered the idea.

In December 1975, Secretary of Defense Bill Clements wanted to know how much it would cost to modify F-15 and F-16 fighter jets so they could carry atomic weapons. Two months later, the Air Force sent back data on what it would take to upgrade those two types of aircraft—or the A-10—with nukes.

“For your information, we have also provided similar cost data on the A-10 aircraft,” states an unclassified memo War Is Boring obtained from the Air Force Historical Research Agency. “The estimated cost to make 275 A-10s nuclear-capable is $15.9 million.”

The total amount—equivalent to more than $65 million today—would cover developing and testing the required equipment, and installing it on the Warthog fleet.

The flying branch’s calculations included systems needed to support B-43, B-57 and B-61 bombs.

At the time, these three bombs were the standard nuclear weapons for aircraft in the U.S. military. If a shooting war broke out in Europe, America’s NATO allies would have gotten access to these weapons, too. Newer versions of the B-61 remain in service today.

Obviously, the Air Force never ended up arming the A-10s with nukes.

But Clement’s desire for more nuclear-armed aircraft is hardly surprising. During the Cold War, the Pentagon expected to use nuclear bombs, artillery shells and missiles to fend off a Soviet invasion of Europe.

“As new aircraft are coming online in the 1970s, their use as nuclear delivery aircraft would have been discussed,” Air Force historian Brian Laslie says. “Tactical delivery of nuclear weapons was surely to be in planning documents for a European theater conflict.”

For many in Washington, the devastating power of atomic arms was the only way to deter the Kremlin. On paper at least, Moscow and her Warsaw Pact allies had a terrifying advantage in sheer numbers of tanks and other armored vehicles.

“Since 1968 the USSR has built over 65,000 armored vehicles for maneuver—nearly four times as many tanks as the United States, some three times as many armored infantry carriers,” warned a recently declassified Central Intelligence Agency article published in 1980.

But why the Air Force would offer up a nuclear-armed A-10 as a potential solution isn’t entirely clear.

While the Warthogs boast an impressive and unequaled array of ground attack capabilities, the straight-winged strike planes are poorly suited at best—and a death trap at worst—for a nuclear bombing run.

“This is a ‘could versus should’ question,” says a senior Air Force weapons and tactics planner, who spoke to War Is Boring on the condition of anonymity. “Certainly, the A-10 could have been modified for nuke delivery.”

“However, the more to the point question is whether or not it should have,” adds the official, who is also a former Warthog pilot. “In my opinion, I can see practically no reason to do so.”

The problem is that while the aircraft certainly could have delivered the bombs to their intended targets, the pilots probably couldn’t make it back alive. The Warthog’s slow speed, so valuable when supporting troops on the ground, could have easily turned the entire affair into a suicide mission.

While the exact specifics are classified, a B-61 bomb can likely create a fireball almost a mile wide, according to data from nuclear historian Alex Wellerstein’s Nukemap Website.

The approximate radius of the air blast from the weapon going off—where “most residential buildings collapse, injuries are universal [and] fatalities are widespread”—would extend more than three miles from ground zero, Wellerstein’s site adds.

Fast-moving fighter jets would have trouble escaping the aftermath of these massive explosions. On a nuclear mission, the Air Force expected its fighter pilots to fly toward their targets at altitudes greater than 30,000 feet before lobbing bombs at the enemy.

With the bombs flying in an upward arc onto the target, the method would hopefully give the aircraft enough time to fly clear of the blast. But it’d still be a close call. The slower A-10s probably wouldn’t make it.

“The fact that F-15E Strike Eagles and other fighters would have had difficulty egressing [the area] after nuclear delivery indicates that any A-10 using nuclear weapons would not have survived,” Laslie says. “I just don’t think any nuclear delivery profile would have been sufficient for an A-10.”

The A-10 pilots would have had to hope for the best. But weapons fitted with a timed fuze might have bought just enough time for the Warthogs to get away from the impact site.

“Here’s one possibility … a last-ditch mission profile intended to blunt a Warsaw Pact breakthrough along the German border,” the Air Force officer suggests as one reason for sending the Warthogs on a nuclear mission.

Needless to say, the Air Force didn’t recommend strapping atomic weapons to the A-10s. Nor is there any record that the Air Force considered the idea ever again.

“I do not think I ever heard this capability discussed,” the former A-10 pilot says. “My guess is that we would have had a good laugh at the idea had it ever come up.”

The consensus appears to be that lobbing nuclear bombs is one thing the venerable Warthogs can’t—and shouldn’t—do.

This piece first appeared in War Is Boring here. 

Future of the A-10, the largest contributor of DU on battlefields

[More on depleted uranium (DU) and the A-10 Thunderbolt Aircraft here]

The Future of Close Air Support is Not What the Air Force Thinks
War on the Rocks | Benjamin Fernandes | June 18, 2015

Boeing Touts The A-10 Thunderbolt For Sale In Mideast As Ideal Warplane To Fight ISIS
IB Times | Christopher Harress | June 16 2015

=  =

The Future of Close Air Support is Not What the Air Force Thinks

14801945602_3be884e6db_k-470x260

 

Bullets pelt the armored plating of the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle as insurgents surround the small convoy. A rocket-propelled grenade ravages the lead vehicle, forcing the occupants to dive for cover from the flames and shrapnel. The convoy is outgunned and outnumbered by the well-coordinated insurgent attack. The Joint Terminal Attack Controller is unavailable and no one can precisely locate the enemy. Fast moving fighters soar past but cannot identify enemy targets. So the pilots come low into the valley to provide a show of force until a lucky burst from an insurgent machinegun hits a wing and causes the fighter pilot to crash. A more proficient pilot might have coaxed the damaged plane home but reduced flight hours have reduced pilot proficiency overall and especially on Close Air Support (CAS) — a second priority. The bombers fly circles overhead with 40,000 pounds of bombs hoping someone will provide the enemy’s location before they get danger close to the MRAP. Unfortunately, coordinates never arrive and the enemy kills half the convoy and spirits equipment and prisoners into caves, securing a great propaganda victory.

The above vignette is more true to a likely combat scenario than the one that opened a recent War on the Rocks article by Derek O’Malley and Andrew Hill on the future of close air support (CAS). Air Force fighters and bombers provided great support to ground forces in their vignette. Unfortunately, there are many situations where only purpose-built CAS aircraft have the capabilities necessary to meet the needs of ground forces that they accurately describe. More importantly, O’Malley and Hill make erroneous and dangerous assumptions about future warfare, miss the key future procurement issue, and fail to address the substantive arguments for a dedicated CAS plane that can save billions.

Two Dangerous Assumptions about Future War

Most importantly, O’Malley and Hill overestimate the ability of technology to make U.S. forces “nearly impossible to ambush” due to an exceedingly high “degree of situational awareness” from “dozens of land and sea-based unmanned air and ground surveillance assets” with “automated processing and exploitation algorithms.” This idea defies historical precedent and the interactive nature of war. As LTG H.R. McMaster said, in the past we have assumed “advances in … technology, … automated decision-making tools, and so on were going to make war … efficient, and relatively risk free — that technology would lift the fog of war … But that’s not true, of course.”

During my time playing a small role supporting numerous combat missions, I routinely saw the enemy adapt to and evade high-tech intelligence efforts with low-tech solutions — we improved, they improved in a continuous cycle. When we find an adversary who wants to lose, he might allow us the situational awareness described in O’Malley and Hill’s fictional story. However, at that point there will be no need for human soldiers or the staff supporting them. Without the fantastic automation described in the fictional story, a lone F-35 pilot cannot simultaneously fly and direct unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) with any precision. The fog of war will continue no matter how many unmanned surveillance assets flood an area because war is an interactive enterprise and the enemy adapts.

The authors’ second crucial mistake is failing to appreciate future requirements to frequently operate in low air threat environments, preferring to focus solely on a future “that features widespread surface and air threats.” The United States must prepare for the proliferation of air threats and high-end threats. However, the threat from most enemies and near-peer competitors is dramatically different; most U.S. military operations will likely continue occuring on the “low-end” against adversaries with limited, or at least inexpensive, anti-air capabilities for many years to come at a minimum. Surface-to-air missile proliferation is a problem and generally poses a greater threat to slow aircraft lacking stealth. However, more advanced aircraft lack immunity, especially when there are flight ristrictions, as demonstrated by a Serbian anti-aircraft missile battery’s ability to shoot down a stealth F-117 fighter in 1999. Furthermore countries like China are working hard to defeat U.S. stealth technology.

Admittedly, low-end threats should be the Air Force’s second priority despite their greater frequency today, which will likely continue in the future. However, using expensive aircraft for low-end missions will quickly consume Air Force spending, and forces changes to ground operations. I have watched commanders change plans based on aircraft availability and know of others who have canceled dangerous missions because the only available aircraft were not CAS-specific. With the right tactics, fighters and bombers can provide CAS, but they do not do it as well. Similarly, “legacy” attack aircraft, like the A-10, can fight in a high air threat environment but at a higher risk that good tactics (e.g. pairing with fighter cover) can reduce but not eliminate. While legacy Air Force aircraft may sustain casualties, their casualty rates will likely remain lower than the more vulnerable Army and Marine Corps attack helicopters operating in the same environment. While unfortunate, the sacrifices of brave CAS pilots (helicopter and plane) will save lives on the ground and increase the potential for battlefield success.

Procurement

“Single-role” plane procurement offers a potential way to increase funding for Air Force priorities. Sadly, like the Air Force, Hill and O’Mally prioritize generalization over specialization and advocate for “joint development and resourcing of systems.” Unfortunately, joint procurement often fails. RAND’s 2014 study demonstrates that historical joint aircraft acquisitions generally increase program complexity, technical risk, and overall cost. These programs have caused “unwelcome design compromises, contributed to the shrinking of the industrial base, and increased strategic and operational risk.” For example, the Marine Corps requirement to land and take off vertically forced all F-35 Joint Strike Fighter variants to accept a less aerodynamic shape, which potentially gives the Chinese F-35 clone an advantage.

Due to physics, the ideal characteristics making a plane, manned or unmanned, effective at CAS generally detract from its ability to excel in air-to-air combat. Key characteristics ideal for CAS include efficient fuel use (loiter time), low and slow flying (target discrimination and acquisition), and rough landing strip capability (close to the fight). These characteristics generally lead to greater wing area and weight. Response time is also important and more congruent with air superiority requirements but less important than the ability to distinguish friend from foe and precise targeting. The Air Force needs more specialized planes (manned or unmanned) to increase capabilities while reducing costs; mediocre “multi-role” fighters create excessive costs.

Air Force pilots realize the greater capabilities of the A-10 for CAS and F-22 for air superiority missions but incorrectly assume the F-35 saves the Air Force money. Operating a fleet of 881 A-10s and 881 F-22s instead of 1,762 F-35As could save the Air Force $1 to $9 billion annually in operating costs, which would quickly make up for the $4-5 billion saved by the A-10’s retirement. The great variation depends on actual flight hours and how far F-35 operating costs can drop. If the F-35’s operational cost trajectory mirrors the F-22’s the drop may be negative; Congress expected the F-22’s 2008 cost of $44,000 per flight hour to decline dramatically but the cost rose to $53,084 in 2014. Buying a mixed F-22 and A-10 fleet might also cost less than an F-35 fleet. At worst, the A-10/F-22 fleet would be slightly more expensive but possess greater capabilities and lower operating costs.

I am not arguing to end the F-35 to obtain these savings, which cannot be fully realized due to past decisions including but not limited to existing F-35 purchases and purchase committments — cancellations incur substantial penalties. However, the dramatic operating cost differences suggest a broad problem with advanced “multi-role” fighter procurement and show why the Air Force’s cost argument to retire the A-10 without a low-cost (compared to the F-35 and F-22) CAS platform defies logic. CAS aircraft that are relatively cheap to operate would allow the Air Force to spend less money on the more common day-to-day missions in low air threat environments, while spending more on expensive stealth fighters (e.g. F-22/F-35) and other technologies (e.g. drones or 6th generation planes) for the rare but must-win fight in a contested air environment.

The A-10 Retirement

CAS is a mission, not a plane, and the emotions that plague the A-10 retirement debate fail to address substantive arguments against the decision. However, O’Malley and Hill use my article as evidence of criticism that exists “despite fiscal incentives” without ever addressing the fiscal analysis I provided (oriented on comparing A-10 operating costs to other current Air Force platforms). The debate remains emotional because most ground troops, like myself, fail to understand how the Air Force can claim to provide the same level of support with more expensive aircraft lacking similar capabilities. Ground troops generally believe only a purpose-built CAS aircraft with full-time CAS pilots can correct erroneous requests from troops under fire, identify changes to ground maneuver without notification, or carry sufficient ammunition to provide repeated “gun runs” when the enemy “hugs” friendly units in an effort to evade bombing. If Hill and O’Malley want to “weigh the evidence” and elevate the debate, they should evaluate alternative ways to save taxpayers billions by either using A-10s instead of more expensive planes or retiring any of the other four legacy Air Force fighters and bombers with overlapping capabilities. These other legacy aircraft cost more than A-10s and would suffer similar problems against a significant anti-air threat. Admittedly, using A-10s more will reduce taxpayer expenditures, not Air Force budgets, because overseas contingency operations funds combat operations.

If the A-10 decision is about saving money, the Air Force should explain why it is retiring the least expensive and most capable CAS aircraft without a similarly low-cost manned or unmanned replacement. The rationale for zero CAS-specific platforms but two multi-role planes (F-16 and F-35), two air superiority planes (F-15 and F-22), and three to four bombers (B-1, B-2, B-52, B-X) seems specious at best. As a CAS customer, it appears the Air Force should focus on developing cost-effective ways to streamline its aircraft portfolio and procurement process to maximize Air Force capabilities across mission sets instead of duplicating the products it prefers to produce. The Air Force must eliminate a plane due to budget constraints, but eliminating the cheapest plane with the greatest capability for the most common aerial combat mission remains the worst way to choose a plane for retirement.

Elevating the debate requires using evidence, not mistaken assumptions about future warfare in a gripping story. The Air Force appears trapped defending past decisions instead of weighing the evidence and listening to the advice of the Air Force’s CAS experts — Joint Terminal Attack Controllers. All airmen, from the newest graduate from Air Force Basic Training to the Air Force chief of staff, want to win wars and protect ground troops; however, succeeding in this task requires understanding the interactive nature of war and efficiently managing a tight budget by making wise fiscal decisions for operations and procurement. Past procurement decisions represent sunk costs the Air Force should continue ignoring; however, the Air Force should learn from those mistakes and make future operational and procurement decisions with a more realistic view of future threats and costs.

Major Benjamin Fernandes, U.S. Army, is a Council on Foreign Relations Term Member and PhD student at George Mason University. His studies focus on security assistance, principal-agent theory, and grand strategy. He is currently assigned to U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). The conclusions and opinions expressed are his own and do not reflect the official position of the U.S. government, U.S. Army, or TRADOC.

=   =

Boeing Touts The A-10 Thunderbolt For Sale In Mideast As Ideal Warplane To Fight ISIS

10-flying-over-iraq

 

A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft from Bagram Air Base flies a combat mission over Afghanistan, in this handout photograph taken on June 14, 2009, and obtained on May 20, 2014. The aging aircraft is now being readied for a possible sale to overseas air forces. Reuters/Staff Sgt. Jason Robertson/U.S. Air Force/Handout via Reuters

 

The A-10 Thunderbolt, a relic of the Cold War that’s been flying for the U.S. Air Force since the 1970s and has narrowly escaped retirement as the Pentagon cuts its spending growth, could be about to find itself in demand once again, more than three decades after the final aircraft came off the production line.

An unexpected appearance by the brutish-looking aircraft at the glitzy Paris Air Show this week showcased the return to the spotlight of the Warthog, as it’s universally known by its crews. Not only has the A-10 found a new lease on life fighting Islamic State group militants in Iraq and Syria, and being deployed to its old hunting grounds in Eastern Europe to deter Russian hostility — it’s now being touted by Boeing as a great aircraft for customers in the Middle East, who would get modernized airplanes dismissed by the U.S. Air Force, which has about 300 left in service.

Any deal, however, will only happen if the aircraft is retired under proposed plans by the Air Force, according to Paul Cejas, chief engineer for off-Boeing programs in the company’s support division, who said that the idea to sell the A-10 to new customers “is fairly new and not at a point where we can provide more details.” Only the United States has ever operated the plane, a slow and ungainly but heavily armed jet that excels at destroying armored targets on the ground. It was made to hunt Soviet tanks in Europe, a role it never performed in real life, finding instead a new job as a specialized platform for supporting troops on the ground in close combat.

Boeing, which took over from the original manufacturer, Fairchild Republic, which went out of business in the 1980s, is currently fulfilling a contract to provide 173 sets of new wings to the remaining A-10 fleet. So far, it has delivered 105 sets and doesn’t expect the remnant to be canceled even if the Air Force retires the aircraft or reduces the fleet size. According to Aviation Week, the new wings will return many of the A-10s to so-called “zero-time condition,” meaning they are like new.

Cejas also says that fitting the aircraft with a new engine was also on the agenda, as the current one has not changed since the 1970s. Boeing has a number in the same thrust class available. Other upgrades could include a new targeting pod and a helmet-mounted display system.

Talks of an upgrade are a far cry from the debate in Congress around the A-10 that was happening in recent years; the jet was almost retired, and only the political weight of supporters like Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain and fellow Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte managed to save it. The aircraft has so far survived budget cuts due to the so-called sequestration process; the Air Force has proposed several times to cut it, beginning in 2012, to save an expected $4 billion over five years and help pay for the new F-35.

Air Force chiefs contend that the incoming F-35 would be able to perform the same close-air-support role as the A-10, and that they needed to divert maintainers from the A-10 to F-35 sooner than later in order to familiarize them with the new systems. So far Congress has not seen it the same way, and in negotiations for the 2016 defense budget it appears that the current fleet of Warthogs will be kept fully intact.

Plus, recent deployments to Syria and Iraq to fight the Islamic State group have strengthened the case for keeping the aircraft. Its ability to fly at low altitude and pick off very specific targets has been key when hitting militants fighting in semi-urban areas. High-flying fighter jets are not capable of the same response to shifting conditions on the ground or accuracy at close range, according to A-10 supporters. That may be the core of the sales pitch that Boeing could make to potential new clients.

Billed as a “low-cost counterterrorism” system, the modernized A-10 is clearly being aimed at Middle Eastern customers, who are likely to be interested in such an aircraft given the rise of ISIS in the region. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia may be two of the likely buyers, according to industry sources that cite Boeing’s close relationship with both.

In addition, and bringing the aircraft full circle to its Cold War roots, it is has been deployed to Romania and Germany in an attempt to deter Russian hostility in Eastern Europe.