at last, a PFI I actually support

There are a few details of the latest of Germany’s synthetic-aperture radar imaging satellites at the German version of ScienceBlogs, on the occasion of the latest one being launched on a Russian Dnepr rocket. Tories should be delighted, it’s a PFI. Specifically, the German government contributes the bulk of the cost through its space agency, and the rest is essentially vendor-financed by Astrium, the manufacturers. In return, Astrium gets to sell imagery for commercial users through one of its subsidiaries. Apparently they reckon that the data will be especially heavily marketed to the “defence and security sector”.

Well, you could say that again. Of course, much of the point of all this fancydan financing is to reduce the upfront cost of having an indigenous satellite capability (Tories – they’re the same the world over…). The real question isn’t that you can buy the imagery later in the day, but rather whether you get to choose what the satellite is looking at within a reasonably short time scale.

This post at Small Wars Journal basically confirms what Ahmed Rashid says about the expansion of ISAF and the deployment of the British army to Helmand, and goes further – the US had essentially withdrawn their intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets from southern Afghanistan and sent them all to Iraq in 2002, there was next to no information available about the situation during the planning leading up to the summer of 2006, and in fact a half-admitted goal of sending the Paras up the Helmand valley was simply to find out what was out there. There are similarities with the Black Watch’s trip to Camp Dogwood in 2004.

There’s a rather good map in Antonio Giustozzi’s Koran, Kalashnikov, and Laptop that shows the main infiltration route from Pakistan, northwestwards through Zabul province, following the Ghilzais’ territory all the way to the area of Musa Qala and then bursting out in several directions towards Kandahar and down the Helmand river. And that’s what they found.

This presentation is good on the development of the British campaign; whereas once John Reid hoped they might not fire a shot in anger, people now refer to the Paras’ tour in 2006 as the break-in battle.

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