More Surveilance

While Latham makes up his mind about missiles, illegal migrants, how much he is going to hate Bush and the US this week so he can change his opinion next week, the Government quietly get on with border security. From Defence Media.
The Minister for Defence, Robert Hill, and the Minister for Justice and Customs, Chris Ellison, signed two land use agreements today with Torres Strait Islanders that will lead the way to improved border protection for northern Australia.
The Government are setting up a high frequency surface wave radar on two Torres Strait Islands that will help customs intercept immigration, quarantine and fisheries offenders; assist with search and rescue operations; and provide early storm warnings. Clearly their are pure defence considerations as well. Spin offs include jobs and infrastructure that will help the locals. While Labour go on about setting up a US style Coast Guard, the Government proves it is not necessary. Technology will help our RAN patrol boats to target specific incidences rather than have a multi billion dollar ‘single roll’ Coast guard. I’ve blogged previously on Labour’s policy of Coast Guard vs the current Coast Watch and am still of the opinion that we should reinforce success by building up our Coast Watch rather than start a new service.
The radar’s two-to-three year trial begins in August. During this time it will provide 24-hour, wide-area surveillance of aircraft, ships and boats travelling in the Torres Strait. The $19 million initiative is jointly funded by Customs and Defence and demonstrates yet again the close working relationship of these agencies in the protection of Australia’s borders.
Another good move.

Abrams it is

According to todays Australian (no link)the ADF have chosen the Abrams battle tank over the Brit Chieftan and the Kraut Tiger III. abrams.jpg The Abrams, at 68 tonnes, has been criticised for being more tank than the ADF needs and difficult to transport aboard our existing navy ships. Lt Gen Leah earns my praise for this line.
I would like to thank those critics who took the time and effort to point out that the new tanks might be heavy, difficult to deploy and use fuel. I hope you won’t find it strange to hear we had actually thought about that, and they’re not a problem or we have….strategies in place
I have to tell you, us infantrymen don’t care too much about how expensive it is to run or how dificult it is too move. We just say ‘Request Tango (armoured) support’ (in a high pitched nervous voice)and leave those problems to the beancounters and logisticians. When the tank arrives, we never discuss the cost of his trip to our position, we just say things like ‘could you go over there and wiggle your tracks on top of that bunker’, or ‘could you fire your main armourment at that group of bad guys?’ Never once have I heard an infantryman say’ Wow, $3,500 just to drive out here. And whats that you say – $850 per 120mm round. I’m sorry – you stay there and I’ll try and fix the problem with my $1.20 per 5.56mm Steyr rounds To us, Bigger is better. Overkill, the main game. 68 tonnes is better for crushing slow enemy and pushing down his defences than 50 tonnes and the last time I looked 120mm smooth bore does more damage than a 105mm. In addition, something weighing 68 tonnes is better to hide behind that a 50 tonne something. Haven’t heard any infantrymen complain yet.

Blackhawk Down

Eight survive chopper crash in Queensland. choppercrash.gif
PILOT error is suspected as the cause of a Black Hawk helicopter crash which left six soldiers injured and the $25 million aircraft destroyed near Amberley RAAF base southwest of Brisbane yesterday. The army helicopter with eight on board was on a training exercise when it reportedly clipped trees and ploughed into a cow paddock at Mt Walker, 12km southwest of Amberley about 10.30am.
The press release condemns the Trainee Pilot who after recovering from the crash will most probably be a trainee landrover driver.
A trainee pilot, 23, and his instructor, 33, were at the controls with four other trainees and two loadmasters in the cabin. It is not clear whether the instructor or his co-pilot had control of the helicopter at the time of the crash.
Update: From Defence Media
Of the eight persons on board, six members suffered injuries. The current status of the injuries as of this morning is: – One member suffered a spinal fracture and will undergo surgery over the weekend. – One member suffered breaks to his wrist and knee and is recovering from surgery. – Two members received minor injuries and are being held for observation at Amberley Base medical facilities. – One member sustained minor injuries and is being held at Royal Brisbane Hospital for observation. – One member sustained neck trauma similar to whiplash and is being held at Princess Alexandra Hospital. – The other two members are being held for observation at Enoggera Army Base Hospital

Defence Expenditure

‘Projects axed to fund spy planes’ is the spin at The Australian. Not hard to find a negative spin if you want but defence expenditure is a difficult game and like a battle plan must remain felxible when it comes in contact with the enemy (or reality).
“The ground-based air defence system for the army was a missile system that was going to replace the Rapier surface-to-air missiles and that’s dropped out,” Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst Aldo Borgu said yesterday. “So there’s a question mark over whether there’s adequate air defence cover of our troops when they are deployed.”
Could someone remind me of the last time Aussie troops were attacked by air. World War Two, I think. I’m not saying our troops don’t need air defence cover but if we have to opt for Global Hawks, new tanks and ships over air defence missiles then I’d go for the former group every time.
The cuts have been made to pay for the $1 billion purchase of up to 12 US-made Global Hawk unmanned spy planes, up to 100 new main battle tanks for $600 million and extra ships worth up to $3.5 billion to transport troops to areas of conflict.
The Global hawks will replace the Orions operating out of South Australia and will do an exponentially better job. The Orions have been around for nearly as long as I have and like me, can only be described as ‘tired’ old technology. global.jpg Read all about the Global Hawk here. Likewise the tanks need replacing and I’ve argued for decades that we need efficient, modern ships to take our troops and all their support to conflict areas. It may have escaped some commentators notice but defence has had huge changes in it’s expected role of late. While we still must be prepared to fight a conventional war we have been increasingly involved in conflict that is anything but conventional. Rapier missiles would not have helped at the WTC, Bali or Iraq, but Global Hawks were very useful in Iraq and new ships to transport troops to conflict areas with their guns and modern tanks will always be needed in any type of conflict. I tried to get info from but it’s not loading. Must be the RAAF’s turn to run it and they’re all busy celebrating not having to fly long, lonely, boring recon patrols . Good idea, I reckon. Go for it.

Clear Sailing

0,1658,316261,00.jpg I’ve been to sea in yachts and ships of the ‘Grey Funnel Line’ (RAN) but I’ve never seen seas like this. Just goes to show it aint all beer and skittles. Photo courtesy of the Australian

Indonesia’s confused

Under the banner ‘Downer grilled on missile plan’ Brisbanes Courier Mail reports INDONESIA’S top security minister has asked Australia to explain in writing its reasons for supporting US plans to build a long-range ballistic missile defence shield. Coordinating security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono met Foreign Minister Alexander Downer in Jakarta on Monday night. Mr Yudhoyono asked why the Australian Government wanted to sign up to help Washington in the development of the controversial missile umbrella. “We asked for a complete explanation in writing so that we can study it,” Mr Yudhoyono told Indonesian journalists Who does Yudhoyono think Australia is, Ache? One of the reasons for Australian defence procurement could be that we have flakey countries like Indonesia to our north. Alan Dupont, of the Australian National University’s Asia Pacific Security Program agrees we should have Indonesia vet all our defence procurements. “If the decision is to buy tanks or some other kind of military equipment, we need to learn how to sell the message to the region that this is not directed at regional countries.” The problem kept surfacing with not only the missile shield, but the proposed purchase of new tanks, anti-aircraft destroyers and possibly stand-off cruise missiles for the air force. Maybe we need to sell the message to the region that this is not primarily aimed at them but they might like to keep out of Papua New Guniea just the same. That’s why we buy military hardware, isn’t it?

Walter Mittys under seige

People fraudulently claiming to be a returned soldier, sailor or airman could face six months imprisonment under proposed laws passed through the House of Representatives today. Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence Mal Brough said anyone falsely claiming to be a returned service man or woman should face the force of the law. “It’s a disgraceful act that warrants a strong penalty,” Mr Brough said. “Many Australians have served our country proudly and wrongly claiming to be a veteran is an insult to those men and women.” Along with a maximum prison term of six months, the fine will increase from $200 to a maximum $3,300. The Defence Legislation Amendment Bill also increases the penalty for the wearing of medals to which an individual is not entitled. There are a lot of Walter Mitty’s in the world and I’ve met quiet a few myself. Some years back, post Army, I had a framing business that specialized in framing medals and memorabilia for veterans. One day, after returning from picking up stock, my son Stuart told me of an order for replica medals that included the Vietnam War group with a Military Medal. Whereas I couldn’t claim to know the name of every Military Medal winner from the Vienam War the name on the order definitely didn’t ring a bell so I sent a letter requesting details of his actions that earnt the bravery award. The reply came with supporting letters attached, supposedly written by an Officer at Victoria Barracks, Brisbane. It was all wrong. The paper was wrong and the language, the staff writing, was wrong. I read his own statement where he claimed to have been in an attack in 1971 where he single handedly assaulted a bunker system killing several occupants with a bayonet. His platoon Commander had been wounded and this man had definitely saved the day. Admittedly, he didn’t know who I was or who I knew – He lucked out. In his statement he named the Platoon Commander as Gary McKay. As it happened the day I received his answer was the scheduled day for a Regimental Happy Hour at Enoggera Barracks. I phoned Gary McKay, and old aquaintance and friend and confirmed he was going to attend. I also asked him what he was doing in 1971 on the date mentioned in the reply. “In hospital in Australia recovering from wounds.” He said That night I had a beer with Gary, the Platoon Commander of this supposed hero, the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) of the Battalion at that time and the Chief Clerk, all of whom denied any knowledge of my Walter Mitty. The following week he called demanding to know where his medals were as ANZAC Day was approaching. As a result of this conversation, somewhere on the Gold Coast lives a man in fear of his life. A different form of PTSD We veterans have a lot of problems with these people and have a network and website that records posers. Often referred to as Wannabees we are onto them. I wonder if we could get the anti-Veteran Left and wannabee veterans together in one paddock – maybe next Vietnam Veterans Day. We could have a chat. Hat tip to Gary of Gravett fame and Defence Media Centre

The Soldier of the Future

This from Defence Media Defence Minister Robert Hill today unveiled two innovative Defence industry proposals for equipment that will enhance the safety and fighting capability of the soldier of the future. The first is a miniature personal power generation system that can be used to power the combat systems used by soldiers on a modern battlefield, such as night vision goggles, mobile computers, communications equipment and thermal imaging weapon sights. The Personal Generation System is the concept of Melbourne-based technology firm, Tectonica Australia Pty Ltd. “The ‘Generette’ will have enough power for three days at a time, will recharge in minutes and weigh only one kilogram,” Senator Hill said. “Less weight to carry and an assured power supply will mean the soldier can be deployed more effectively for extended periods.” The second proposal involves the development of small helmet-mounted sensors that will help the soldier to detect the source of enemy weapons fire and respond more effectively. The Acoustic Threat Localisation System is the concept of Canberra-based Pacific Noise & Vibration Pty Ltd. “The initial concept is a miniature acoustic system that will detect sniper, mortar and artillery fire allowing the soldier to respond and counter these threats,” Senator Hill said. “The system will be developed further to detect larger weapons fire, vehicles and aircraft through helmet-mounted displays.” I’m pleased this technology is being sourced in Australia but it kinda makes me think my soldiering days were in the last century….hang on, they were.

Armistice Day

Today we remember the sacrifice of diggers from the Boxer Rebellion through to Afghanistan. We remember those who gave their lives for freedom and particularly the boys from Gallipoli, France and the Western Front. Michael Evans has a piece on Australian diggers, the new memorial in London to 100,000 plus Aussies who have died in wars as allies of Brittain. Wallace Craig an American friend quotes a great article from 1993 by columnist Mike Ryoko………. I just phoned six friends and asked them what they will be doing on Veterans Day. They all said the same thing: working. Me, too. There is something else we share. We are all military veterans. And there is a third thing we have in common. We are not employees of the federal government, state government, county government, municipal government, the Postal Service, the courts, banks, or S & Ls, and we don’t teach school. If we did, we would be among the many millions of people who will spend Veterans Day goofing off. Which is why it is about time Congress revised the ridiculous term of Veterans Day as a national holiday. The purpose of Veterans Day is to honor all veterans. So how does this country honor them? By letting the veterans, the majority of whom work in the private sector, spend the day at their jobs so they can pay taxes that permit millions of non-veterans to get paid for doing nothing. As my friend Harry put it: “First I went through basic training. Then infantry school. Then I got on a crowded, stinking troop ship that took 23 days to get from San Francisco to Japan. We went through a storm that had 90 percent of the guys on the ship throwing up for a week. Then I rode a beat-up transport plane from Japan to Korea, and it almost went down in the drink. I think the pilot was drunk”. “When I got to Korea, I was lucky. The war ended seven months after I got there, and I didn’t kill anybody and nobody killed me. But it was still a miserable experience. Then when my tour was over, I got on another troop ship and it took 21 stinking days to cross the Pacific”. When I got home on leave, one of the older guys at the neighborhood bar he was a World War II vet told me I was a —-head because we didn’t win, we only got a tie”. “So now on Veterans Day I get up in the morning and go down to the office and work. You know what my nephew does? He sleeps in. That’s because he works for the state. And do you know what he did during the Vietnam War? He ducked the draft by getting a job teaching at an inner-city school. Now, is that a raw deal or what?” Of course that’s a raw deal. So I propose that the members of Congress revise Veterans Day to provide the following: – All veterans, and only veterans, should have the day off from work. It doesn,t matter if they were combat heroes or stateside clerk-typists. Anybody who went through basic training and was awakened before dawn by a red-neck drill sergeant who bellowed: “Drop your whatsis and grab your socks and fall out on the road,” is entitled. – Those veterans who wish to march in parades, make speeches or listen to speeches can do so. But for those who don’t, all local gambling laws should be suspended for the day to permit vets to gather in taverns, pull a couple of tables together and spend the day playing poker, blackjack, craps, drinking and telling lewd lies about lewd experiences with lewd women. All bar prices should be rolled back to enlisted men’s club prices, Officers can pay the going rate, the stiffs. – All anti-smoking laws will be suspended for Veterans Day. The same hold for all misdemeanor laws pertaining to disorderly conduct, non-felonious brawling, leering, gawking and any other gross and disgusting public behavior that does not harm another individual. – It will be a treasonable offense for any spouse or live-in girlfriend (or boyfriend, if it applies) to utter the dreaded words: “What time will you be home tonight?” – Anyone caught posing as a veteran will be required to eat a triple portion of chipped beef on toast, with Spam on the side, and spend the day watching a chaplain present a color-slide presentation on the horrors of VD. – Regardless of how high his office, no politician who had the opportunity to serve in the military, but didn’t, will be allowed to make a patriotic speech, appear on TV, or poke his nose out of his office for the entire day. Any politician who defies this ban will be required to spend 12 hours wearing headphones and listening to tapes of President Clinton explaining his deferments. Now, deal the cards and pass the tequila. Although in Australia we don’t have a holiday on Armistice Day we do on ANZAC Day and for too many Australians, ANZAC Day is a just a public holiday. Remember the sacrifice of these men and women, without fear or favour, whatever your political beliefs. Here dead we lie, because we chose not to shame the land from where we came. Life, to be sure, is nothing much to loose but young men think it is. And we were young. Lest We Forget

Leader of NT Opposition Denis

Leader of NT Opposition Denis Burke gets offside with Gen Cosgrove by appearing to condone marijuana use in the military. Mr Burke had said recreational marijuana use by civilians had never bothered him. He had noticed while he was the leader of Second Cavalry Regiment that “there are many people that will not drink alcohol, but will have the occasional smoke”. “Now, you know, that’s for them to decide,” he said. Wrong! Drug use on duty is a command responsibility. One thing Burke should have learnt while he ‘commanded’ the 2nd Cavalry Regiment was that any sort of drug use is incompatible with maneuvering 14 tonne APCs. I have no axe to grind about smoking marijuana unless it’s in the military. Commanders have a chance of controlling grog as it’s hard to smuggle a carton of XXXX Lager into the field but not so with a small cache of marijuana. What a soldier does on leave is generally his problem so long as he stays within the law but the thought of marijuana in the field is terrifying. The guy smoking a joint is a danger to his mates if he then fires a machine gun or rocket or drives a vehicle, particularly a tank. Logistics stops the hard core drinker but not so the mary jane user. Tank drivers are always of concern to infantrymen. The later, who tend to sleep on the ground and like to lie very close to it while in action have always had to be very aware of tank drivers. If there is action Infantrymen have the dual survival role of dodging enemy bullets and friendly tank tracks as when tanks are under fire they tend to make alarming direction changes. Denis Burke is being irresponsible by playing down marijuana use in the Army and should take a hard line on any drug use while on duty. The commander of Robertson Barracks has a problem on his hand that has now been exacerbated by the local Leader of the Opposition. Trying to secure the votes of local users by appearing to be ‘with it’ should attract adverse comments from military leaders who are continually fighting a battle against a society and media that says it’s OK to use drugs. Before some readers start thinking drugs are a huge problem based on the statistics of the Robertson Barracks raid, keep in mind the subjects of the raid were targeted – the MPs knew from other sources who the problem children were. The nearly 50% strike rate reflect the quality of intelligence rather than indicating half of the military are on drugs. UPDATE: Cosgrove denies ‘goose’ comment. In todays Australian Gen Cosgrove denies calling Burke a Goose. Goose, not a Goose, It doesn’t change my thoughts on drugs in the Military.
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