Archive for the ‘rockets’ Category
Did the UK and France get around the Missile Technology Control Regime in order to sell Saudi Arabia the Stormshadow air-launched cruise missile just by draining off some of the fuel to get the range under a key number? This should probably get more publicity than it has.
Adam Elkus has a piece out entitled The Hezbollah Myth and Asymmetric Warfare, in which he criticises what he sees as a tendency to over-rate the power of guerrillas in the light of the 2006 war. Having read it, I think the real question here is about expectations and goals. Hezbollah didn’t defeat the Israelis and hold a victory parade in Tel Aviv, but then nobody least of all them expected or aimed for that. The outcome of 2006 can only be understood in the light of a realistic assessment of the conflict parties’ capabilities, interests, and priorities. A score draw is a much better result for Stoke City against Manchester United than it is for Manchester United against Barcelona.
For Hezbollah, the first and overriding goal was surely survival – as it is for everyone, it’s even the title of the IISS Journal – followed closely by survival as a force in Lebanese politics, survival of their capability to maintain their self-declared insecurity zone in northern Israel, and finally, inflicting casualties and costs on the Israelis in order to create a deterrent effect. In that light, the result of 2006 was surely just as good from their point of view as they made out – they came away still in the field, still firing rockets, and with their status in Lebanese politics enhanced.
For Israel, well, perhaps one day they’ll work out what their strategic aims were.
Elkus argues that the tactical situation at the point when the UN ceasefire went into effect was favourable for Israel, and that had the war gone on they might have done better. This is possible. However, it’s also very common for wars to end like this. The Israelis’ campaign in 1967 was designed, once they got the upper hand, to get to the Canal and onto the Golan before the UN blew the whistle – one of Ariel Sharon’s frequent blind-eye manoeuvres in 1973 was also intended to complete the encirclement of the Egyptian 3rd Army before the UN ceasefire went into effect. The Indian plan for the 1971 war was explicitly intended to take Dhaka before a ceasefire was imposed. More recently, the Russian operation in Georgia was subject to a similar deadline. International intervention is part of the environment, and only fools wouldn’t take it into account as a planning assumption.
An interesting sidelight on this, also from Elkus, came up in a parallel blog debate about “network-centric warfare” – he pointed to this gung-ho but good piece about the action in northern Iraq in which John Simpson was blown up. What struck me about it, however, was more that it was an example of this kind of thing – which should certainly make you think about 2006, especially in the light of this.
Tangentially, Sean Lawson’s essay on the history of “network centric warfare” is well worth reading, especially for the way so many US officials in 2001-2006 seem to have been competing to see who could validate all the most extreme stereotypes of themselves the fastest, and more broadly on the way a basically sensible idea can become a sort of gateway drug to really insane strategic fantasies.
Cebrowski talked of a “booming export market for…security” and warned those who would resist, “If you are fighting globalization, if you reject the rules, if you reject connectivity, you are probably going to be of interest to the United States Department of Defense” (Cebrowski, 2003c).
Measured against the sort of capabilities the NCW thinkers knew they had, and the kind of goals they dreamed on the basis of them, what possible results wouldn’t look like failure? Compared with the enormous arrogance of this vision – they really did want everyone who thinks the CIA wants them dead, dead – what resistance wouldn’t look like success?
Via Airminded, find your local V2 rocket strike. London, Antwerp, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Riyadh, and Tehran have what in common? That’s right, it’s the list of cities that have been subjected to attack from space.
Then, why not go here and look up how big a hole it made? Someone’s photographed and flickr’d a whole set of London County Council damage assessment maps.
My local strike is now a small, never-used park on one side of the street and a pretty grim council estate on the other. But damage in this corner of London was limited compared to further down the Holloway Road. Oddly, there seems to be a correlation between the degree of damage and the London Profiler crime rate; the area south of Torrington Way, which has a sky-high crime rate, was pretty much flattened. (Sadly, the LCC maps aren’t geotagged, so making up a KML overlay would be annoyingly difficult.)
Question – is it that these areas were rebuilt as council housing and filled with the poor, or that the architecture caused the crime? After all, they were hardly peachy suburbia before being destroyed. Strange, though, to think that Wernher von Braun partly decided where tonight’s post-pub kebab stabbing is likely to happen.
This BBC Radio 4 documentary about the British nuclear deterrent and the people who operate it is absolutely cracking. Not surprisingly, the man behind it is none other than Professor Peter Hennessy (can we call him Henn-dawg yet?).
One of the things that stands out is the amount of desperate psychological coping going on. The forms vary; the RAF V-Force crews of the 1960s, who were not only expected to carry in the warheads themselves but also very likely to ditch the aircraft somewhere beyond, also had to taxy the Vulcans out for every mission past the school playground. Their wives were more than familiar with the desperate QRA launch scenarios; it seems remarkable that anyone could put up with that.
One day at RAF Cottesmore, the public-address speakers, which were wired directly to the Bomber Controller telebrief feed from High Wycombe, went click just as a group of families visited, and everyone ran like hell to the flight line without even waiting for the voice from headquarters, still less saying a word. We’re talking about 1950s telecoms and electronics here – it must have gone click ten times a day.
A different style from this barely contained hysteria was reserved, indeed still is, for the top civil service and since 1969, the Royal Navy submariners; here, they deal with a much slower and more considered form of killing and dying. It’s a neurotic rather than a hysterical scenario: what can I tell them? what will they think? am I doing the right thing?
Was, for example, Denis Healey doing the right thing, in the High Wycombe bunker during 1960s transition to war exercises as one of the Prime Minister’s deputies for retaliation, when he repeatedly pretended to give the authorisation to scramble the V-force – although in fact, he had decided that should it come to that he wasn’t going to launch? (Keighley Man Saves The World.)
Interestingly, James Callaghan, despite the conventional wisdom, was very clear that he would certainly have pressed the button – or rather, his half of the button. One thing that seems to be clearer in the memory of the top officers Hennessy interviews than has been in the past is the duality of civilian and military control – as no civilian can give a military order, the PM or the deputy can only authorise, not order, the launch. (You thought our constitution was weird? Wait ’til you see our nuclear command authority.)
There is a logical AND gate – rather as NATO shared weapons are subject to the dual-key arrangement between NATO and the host-nation, and Soviet ones were to split control between the military (for the aircraft or missile) and the Communist Party/secret police (for the warhead fusing), UK nukes are subject to a dual-key arrangement between the civilian and military authorities. Another of Hennessy’s interviewees, Lord Guthrie, the Chief of Defence Staff who read Tony Blair in on the nuclear files, made clear that he thought this was very much a real constraint on both parties.
An odd feature of the whole thing was the repeated suggestion that, had the UK been devastated by Soviet missiles and the deterrent not been used, the remaining subs or aircraft might have been turned over to Australia. This would have been a challenging redeployment for the V-Force, to say the least, although they did exercise Far Eastern deployments. Of course, the submarines would have had no such difficulty. In this weird way, the last remnants of imperial feeling were to be saved from the ashes, and the deterrent’s true role – to maintain credible independence from the United States – would be maintained under a slightly different flag.
Ah, the Americans. They have a sort of shadow presence in the whole thing. One thing that the broadcast makes clear is that yes, there is a UK national firing chain as well as the NATO SACLANT one. They visit the cell in the Navy’s bunker at Northwood which handles the link between the Government and the extremely-low frequency transmitters – two crypto officers independently authenticate the message from the Cabinet Office and retransmit it via multiple redundant routes. They each need codebooks from two safes, neither of which can be opened at once, and which are permanently monitored by armed Marine Commandos. We hear a simulated authentication; interestingly, the crosstalk suggests that there is a specific distinction between a NATO and a UK national signal.
But each submarine, as she collects her load-out of rockets from King’s Bay, Georgia, also picks up an American shakedown crew for the test launch down the Eastern rocket range from a spot off Cape Canaveral, and the actual handle the submarine Weapons Engineering Officer pulls is the butt end of a Colt .45.
In all, however, it was a story of people in an insane situation working hard at staying sane.
After the show, I looked up some news and saw this. Jamie Kenny deals with it here, but the facts are worth repeating. Some random just rang up Mr 10% and claimed to be the Indian foreign ministry, and threatened war. Pakistan responded by increasing air force readiness; fighters were placed on combat air patrols. We don’t know what happened with the Pakistani nuclear weapons, which are delivered by aircraft; did the F-16s load up and move to the runway’s end?
Pakistan apparently believes it really was the Indians; the Indians claim it was some maniac with a telephone. The Pakistanis also say it came from a phone number at the Indian foreign ministry. This is fairly meaningless – not many bulk SIP carriers, and not that many old fashioned telcos, check or filter the Caller Line Identification strings, and software like the Asterisk free IP-PBX will let you send whatever CLI you like. After all, the head of the Islamic Students’ Movement of India is supposedly a geek.
The answer to this is of course the one the MI6 station chief in Moscow in 1962 used when the secret signal he gave Oleg Penkovsky for use in the event he learned of a nuclear attack came down the phone: do nothing. The crisis was on its way down; Penkovsky had been missing for days, and was presumably in the hands of the MVD. Therefore Frank Roberts decided to ignore the signal. Few feedback loops of such criticality can’t do with some more damping.
First: the Ethiopian army claims to have killed a Canadian colonel fighting with Somali insurgents. I assume they mean a Canadian who claims to be a colonel in the insurgency, rather than a Canadian colonel who joined, but who can tell these days?
Secondly, here’s a special one – Jewish settler caught firing improvised rockets into his Palestinian neighbours’ land. If you’ve got a grievance these days, improvised rocket artillery is the way to go, clearly. Maybe I should dust off that article I wrote back in the autumn of 2006, widely rejected by a cross-section of the national and international press?
I’m especially amused by the Danish design collective that published details of a rocket “intended to help the citizen express his or her protest at events such as the G8”; sometimes, 2001 seems as far away as the 1960s. I suspect anyone doing so now would be shot, which among other things is why I am mostly encrypting my stuff today.
(BTW, Jim Henley is wrong about this. Improvised multiple-launch rigs with RPGs on the back of a Toyota are a tactic that served the Afghan mujahedin very well, as a quick way to bring down a volley of explosions an shrapnel an stuff on targets some distance off. Further, don’t forget the rocketing of the Palestine Hotel in 2003, which nicely capsized the CPA’s decision loops and scared the living shits out of Paul Wolfowitz. Further, the Viet Cong were past masters at arranging for a barrage of mortars or rockets to happen, and then vanishing. Steve Gilliard did a very good post on this stuff years ago.)
So we had the world’s first military coup motivated by a 3G network licence, in Thailand; we had the shootout between the Chalabi Boys and Orascom security men in Baghdad. Now, there’s the Hezbollah/Amal coup de force (or de folie as Robert Fisk preferred), motivated in part by the Lebanese government’s desire to control their secret telecoms network, including a CCTV system they installed at the airport to monitor the comings and goings.
Curiously, I’ve yet to hear any actual details of the system, except that it provides 99,000 “lines” (an increasingly meaningless metric, but one that implies it has a softswitch architecture rather than straight IP) and uses buried fibre. But there are also tales of WiMAX and other things radio. Apparently, the leader of Hezbollah has claimed that their signals were their most important weapon back in 2006. Perhaps – you’ve got to know when to move your ATGW team back over the reverse slope, I suppose. Some doubt this on the grounds that a fixed net doesn’t seem that useful, but then, all mobile networks are fixed at some point, and if the fibre is dual SONET it needs a minimum of four independent cuts to partition the system. The Lebanese Army has now said that
it would handle the issue of the communications network in a way “that would not harm public interest and the security of the resistance”. It also said it was reinstating the head of airport security [CCTV Guy].
Which, I think, means they’re going to let it slide, if they don’t actually hook it up to their own signals network. This is of course one of the least obvious features of the whole crisis; all the territory Hezbollah and Amal took was immediately handed over to the official Lebanese military, an increasingly powerful force in politics.
Arguably, this suggests that some of the ideas floated in 2006 about incorporating Hezbollah in the Lebanese military as some sort of reserve/militia/national guard/territorial army/jagers/greenjackets/cossacks/whatever else you call those crazy bastards on the border, as long as they don’t bother you and keep the roads open, are being put in effect de facto. Perhaps the military have a deal, under which the Shia will support their commander in chief for president (and they do), and in return they will have a free hand to create their not-state in the south? It’s a solution to the problem of a bunch of dangerous and independent-minded borderers that has a long pedigree indeed.
You could call it the Haganah-isation of Hezbollah; it’s changing not just from a guerrilla force to an army, but also from a political party to an unstate with a shadow administration, an economy, and its own infrastructure, just as the Israeli founding generation built a mixed economy, a trade union movement, a shadow civil service, and a highly capable semiguerrilla army/intelligence service long before the state became a formal reality. I’m only surprised they didn’t start a commercial GSM network as cover for their own command-and-control system; perhaps they will.
Meanwhile, again, this is an example of the democratisation of technology. You don’t have to invoke a secret Dr Evil to explain how they built this; annoyingly, I see some people are yelling about Huawei and how it’s all teh secret Chinese-Iranian plot. Perhaps. But they’ll sell to anyone. And if there is WiMAX gear in there, it’s cheap; the base stations are already under $10,000, and the biggest expense in a fibre build is always at Layer Zero, that is to say the business of going and digging the holes and renting the transmitter sites. I suspect right-of-way is less expensive in southern Lebanon than it is in Surrey, armies are rarely short of people if they need to dig a hole, and Hezbollah presumably doesn’t have much trouble with NIMBYs. (See also.)
Was this a civil war? Perhaps the idea is wrong; it seems to me more like one of Gwyn Prins’ “diplomatic-military operations” in one country, perhaps something an unstate like Hezbollah – or the Sadr movement – is uniquely suited to, as this superb article of Spencer Ackerman’s argues.
I’m beginning to think that it’s possible to discern so many similarities between really stupid opinions on terrorism that we can call it a theory. Specifically, if you’re talking about state sponsorship, you’re probably wrong, unless overwhelming evidence contradicts this. As far as I can tell, the modern version of this theory originated in the late 1970s or early 1980s. It had been about – Shakespeare has Bolingbroke in Richard II allege that “all the treasons for these eighteen years/complotted and contrived in this land/have in false Mowbray their first head and spring” – but the strong form seems to have originated then.
Key features are that 1) terrorist or guerrilla activity is never the work of the people who appear to carry it out, 2) instead it is the work of a Sponsor, 3) that only action against the Sponsor will be effective, 4) even if there is no obvious sign of the Sponsor’s hand, this only demonstrates their malign skill, and 5) there is evidence, but it is too secret to produce. In the strong form, it is argued that all nonconventional military activity is the work of the same Sponsor.
Reasons for its popularity: 1) it suits existing 2nd/3rd generation military-bureaucratic structures, intelligence collection and analysis processes, and presents targets to traditional weapons systems, 2) it removes agency from the terrorists, 3) because of 2, efforts to engage with the population from which the terrorists come are delegitimised, 4) it postulates a centralised enemy and hence enhances the power of the central government.
Intellectual archaeology: US response to 1979 Iranian revolution/South African military’s “total onslaught concept” of same period/Israeli (specifically Likud) efforts not to engage with the PLO/USSR’s belief in global capitalist conspiracy/1950s McCarthyism/Rollback doctrines.
Warning signs: States that espouse this theory are often in a position where they have to deal with guerrillas/terrorists in day-to-day practice, whilst political considerations incline official discourse towards Dr Evil theories. This entails a divide between the military/intelligence professionals and the government, or else a horizontal division between those lower on the rank scale who actually deal with the problem and the senior panjandrums. The end effect, and screaming red-flasher warning sign, is a deprofessionalisation of analysis.
Consider Dick Cheney, trying to talk Schwartzkopf into dropping the 82nd Airborne in the desert of western Iraq and then march to Baghdad, on the basis of the US Civil War documentaries he’d been watching. (At least Churchill got his crazy military ideas from books.) Consider Dick again, dragging the Iraq Survey Group inspectors out of bed with suggested WMD locations in the Beka’a Valley. The cultural role of the Beka’a in all this is nontrivial. It’s the state sponsorship fiend’s happy hunting ground, a zone onto which any kind of political fantasy can be projected. This began when it was hard to reach during the Lebanese civil war, but those days are 15 years gone now, and press men regularly drive over from Beirut to find…nothing.
A key point is fictionalised difficulty. Consider this tale, via Gilliard’s. JSOC was so convinced that Lebanon was so wildly dangerous to deliver a radio there, a night-time HALO jump from outside Lebanese airspace, sideslipping in towards the beach, and swimming in with wetsuits would be necessary. And they were desperately pissed off when it was suggested that it just be put in the diplomatic bag and driven over the border (through the Beka’a – did they realise that?) Michael Ledeen continues his career as an “Iran expert” despite the handicap of never having visited the place, as if it was North Korea or Cambodia under Pol Pot. Mike, the cellphones work and you can catch a flight via Heathrow.
Now, as an exercise, let’s have a read of this. Apparently the new RPG-29 rocket has reached Iraq. Not good news. But look at this:
“The first time we saw it was not in Iraq. We saw it in Lebanon. So to me it indicates, number one, an Iranian connection,” he told defense reporters here. “It’s hard to say in our part of the world that we operate in as to whether or not people have given us a hint about things to come,” he said.
He said only a single RPG-29 has turned up in Iraq so far, and it was unclear how it was smuggled into the country. But he said it was the latest in a number of new and more sophisticated weapons that appear to be moving onto the region’s battlefields from Iran.
He said longer-range Chinese rockets that looked new also have been found in Iraq. Abizaid said he believed the Chinese rockets came from Iran although they may have been taken from the arms inventories of the former Iraqi regime and cleaned up.
So, because they were used in Lebanon first, the one in Iraq must come from Iran. Does he realise that the shortest route between Iran and Lebanon is through Iraq? Surely he does. Later, he mentions other possibilities – but dismisses them. You can almost hear the cognitive dissonance jarring away.
Update: Readers may wish to apply the principles of this post to this.
Update again: Ouch. Terrible mis-Shakespeare corrected.
Now it’s all over, what was all the shooting about?
To answer that question, we’d first need to know something of each side’s aims. Hezbollah’s were reasonably clear, at least as far as the decision to take the two soldiers prisoner went: put pressure on the Israelis to release their remaining Lebanese prisoners, and not incidentally demonstrate they were still Gangster Number One. After all, Hamas had managed to pull off the capture of Gideon Shalit and the destruction of a tank only days before, so something needed doing to maintain respect.
What they didn’t reckon with, basing their perceptual framework on Ariel Sharon’s 2004 decision to exchange prisoners, was the Israeli freakout that followed. Once that began, Hezbollah’s aims were to hold on to as much as possible whilst keeping their army in being, and score prestige triumphs like rocketing Haifa harbour and flying drones into Israel. Simple enough.
What were the Israeli aims, though? Just get the soldiers back? Negotiation would have done that. And, in the end, it doesn’t seem to have worried them very much. The Israelis seem remarkably unconcerned that two of their soldiers are left in Hezbollah hands – still! Demolish Hezbollah? Well, they seem to have liked the idea. But, if you look at the situation maps, their actions do not correspond to such grandiose goals. Quite simply, they did not go very far into Lebanon, ever – despite the talk of going to the Litani, they only went there as a token presence. Secure the north from rockets? This would have meant going well beyond the Litani, perhaps to the Awali river line, which would have put the great bulk of the rockets out of range for as long as they stayed. But they spent so much time talking of a two mile deep security zone – which would help not a jot.
There are a couple of explanations. One is that they would have marched to the Litani but Hezbollah (and the Shia Amal, and the Communists) beat them. I’m not sure. They certainly put up an impressive defence, but whether they could have prevented Tsahal from breaking through if it had been bent on doing so is another matter. In all, four Israeli divisions were employed, and at no time was a manoeuvre bigger than brigade strength launched except perhaps at the very end. Another is that the Israelis were trying to avoid the 1978 scenario, where Hezbollah just retires behind the Litani in an affair of outposts, by trying to draw them on to their positions in the south. Another is that they were conflicted and unsure of aims, and that there was effectively no overall strategy. If 1982 was a war for psychotics, with its obsessive blitz ever further north and climatic massacre, this was one for neurotics.
The drawing-on tactic is possible, I suppose, but for an army as tank-oriented as the Israelis against an enemy made up of small mobile ATGW teams, very unfavourable. It would have amounted to parking a lot of tanks in southern Lebanon as targets. It might have had some appeal to a command torn between the will to wound and the fear to strike, though, unwilling to plunge north but under pressure to confront the enemy. It might also have appealed to the airpower theorist, Halutz, as a way of flushing Hezbollah fighters so his aircraft could attack them – but three-man rocket teams are not good targets, and the decision not to charge north meant that they wouldn’t collect at the bridges like good little sheep. (This may be the result of learning the wrong lesson from Kosovo.)
That the IDF simply didn’t have a strategy is perhaps supported by the fact a key commander, the head of the northern command, was sacked. Everyone will now draw whatever conclusions they want from the war – the 4th Generation Warfare crowd will point to the rocketing of the Haifa port and the village reserve groups with their rockets as more evidence for their side, the neo-cons will cry Iran, the Quai d’Orsay will positively purr, and the Lebanese will in all probability conclude that the more tank-hunters between them and the Israelis, the better.
I prefer the Colonel’s analysis, which is that Hezbollah is just at the turning point from a guerrilla force to an army in Maoist revolutionary war theory. They are known to have studied Vietnam extensively, after all. For the laughs, meanwhile, Col. Lang described the Hezbollah first line of defence as the Tabouleh Line, with the next being the Shawarma Line. I disagree. I think the talk of bunkers and tunnel complexes is overrated – every front-line account I’ve seen speaks of small groups of tank hunters shooting and moving, hiding out in the open, and practically all the Israeli losses came from them. It’s more accurate to say that Hezbollah drew the Israelis into a hoummus.
Jamie K thinks the UNTSO post was bombed to prevent them observing a possible Israeli flank movement from the northern tip of the country, around Kiryat Shmona, down the Litani valley to the sea, with hopes of cutting off the retreat, which means going further into Lebanon. He quotes me, in comments, suggesting that this area was going to be significant.
Why did I say that? Well, have a read of this Jerusalem Post report. Especially this:
The Nahal Brigade, IDF sources confirmed, was gearing up along the eastern border with Lebanon in preparation for a ground incursion to take over additional Hizbullah-run villages.
In fighting that was described as heroic by Brig.-Gen. Gal Hirsh, commander of Division 91, soldiers from the Golani and Paratrooper Brigades took up positions around the town of Bint Jbail clashing with Hizbullah and killed close to 50 gunmen…
The eastern border – i.e. the extreme right (in both senses of the word) flank. The Israelis are using three brigades at the moment, the Golani infantry brigade, the airborne brigade and the 7th armoured brigade, under the command of two division headquarters, the 91st and one other as yet unidentified. That both the HQs are required although so far only one division equivalent is engaged suggests that more forces are standing by – specifically, the Nahal infantry brigade mentioned above. If it makes an incursion into Lebanon from its current location, it must needs go westwards into the Litani valley.
W. Patrick Lang has details on the location of the UNTSO post. And as everyone no doubt now knows, the Israeli cabinet has announced the call-out of three divisions of reservists. They say they will not expand the war into Syria, and I don’t think they will, but they only say they will not expand the operation further into Lebanon yet. In the same report, there’s also something very significant about rockets. Especially for fans of the Iranian Dr. Evil view of terrorism.
“It’s not simple fighting the war while at the same time taking care of all the logistics,” said Maj. Avi, deputy commander of Battalion 51, which operates the new Merkava 4 tanks, “but we’re dealing with it.”
The biggest problem the tank crews have come up against in this conflict is the large number of anti-tank missiles in Hizbullah’s hands, which have hit a significant number of IDF tanks, though Avi insisted they were not surprised by this. The missiles come in a wide variety, not only the Russian-made RPGs and Saggers that the IDF has dealt with before, but also French-made Milan missiles. “You can buy anything with money” smiles Avi
French-made, well, they are also British-made. The point is that state sponsorship is irrelevant because black markets are global. Also, this from the Washington Post:Most of the resistance to Israeli incursions into Lebanon over the past two weeks has involved the use of assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and antitank missiles, including what Israeli officials say are versions or copies of powerful and accurate Russian- and U.S.-made weapons. Versions? Copies? For bonus points, which large sandy country with a civil war on not a million miles away owned a stockpile of Chinese CSS-2 Seersucker (vulgarly known as Silkworms) anti-ship cruise missiles?
Forgot to include this: Ha’aretz has details of the cabinet discussions. Note this: Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, a former defense minister, also
expressed reservations about expanding the ground operation. “Let us assume that you get to the Litani [River], and they continue to fire against Haifa [from] north of the Litani. What have you achieved?” he asked.