Archive for July, 2012

Indian Carriers, and amphibious Australians…

Posted in Libyan Civil War on July 26, 2012 by maccaulay

So…better late than never, right?


The story of the Indian Navy’s aircraft carrier Gorshkov (it has yet to settle on an actual Indian name) would be the stuff of HBO comedies. The aircraft carrier was laid down in 1978 as the as the Baku, and launched in 1982. The ship did not begin regular sea excursions until 1987, however, because of troubles with the software system which were to be worked out for a future regular carrier, the Admiral Kuznetzov. The ship was to be populated with the Yak-38 Forger, a Soviet version of the Harrier that, like all Soviet copies, never seemed to work quite as reliably as it’s Western counterpart. In 1991, following the breakup of the Soviet Union, it was renamed Admiral Gorshkov now that it’s namesake city was in a newly independent country. (bit of a faux pas, that one)

In 1994 while going through trials with the Yak-38M, a supersonic version of the Forger, the ship suffered a boiler explosion and was put into dock for repairs where it stayed due to the increasing financial difficulties of the Russian state. Eventually India approached the Russian government with an offer to purchase the carrier on the agreement that it would be converted into a STOBAR launch configuration, roughly similar to the skijump used on the HMS Hermes during the Falklands War and now operated by the Indians as the HMS Vikrant.

The Russians already had a long history of exploring fixed-wing carrier aviation: the Admiral Kuznetzov was in operation by that point and flying Sukhoi Flanker aircraft modified with arrestor hooks for naval operation. The Indianstook issue with that part of the bargain, though, as they didn’t operate Flankers. They did, however, operate MiG 29 Fulcrums, and the Russians had developed a naval variant of the MiG 29 in the 1980s as a possible choice in case the Flanker didn’t work out. So the Indians, not content to buy a Russian carrier on the condition that the Russians rebuild it, then decided to revive a dead Soviet aircraft program to fly off it.

That was 2004. Now, in 2012, flight tests are beginning to proceed on the carrier itself, hopefully to a satisfactory conclusion.





According to, there’s been some recent movements forward in the Australian military’s wishes to increase it’s expeditionary capability. In mid-2006, after it’s experiences overseeing and calming chaotic situations in East Timor and Indonesia, the Australians expressed alot of interest in a marked increase in their amphibious capacity so as to provide improvements to future peacekeeping missions. One proposal was an LHD, or Landing Helicopter (Dock), which has been used by the United States Marine Corps and the Royal Navy (most famously during the Falklands War) for amphibious operations, and was at that time under construction for the Spanish Navy. Another competing concept, this one put forward by Thales Australia, was for a modification on the French Mistral-class assault ship which was being marketed and sold to the Russian Navy.

The LHD design was the victor, and construction began on the heels of the Spanish ship’s completion. Two ships have been ordered, in their current incarnations will be able to serve as amphibious landing ships, medical facilities, floating HQs, and even carriers for V/STOL aircaft.


More on Hezbollah’s new operational announcements…

Posted in Libyan Civil War on July 26, 2012 by maccaulay

…the Christian Science Monitor’s interview with some Hezbollah members has yielded some information which is worth expanding on since the last blog post. The main one is a possible misinterpretation of the Hezbollah member’s quote used to describe the organization’s new operational bent: “seize and hold.”

There is an urge to perhaps make more out of this statement than there, in fact, is. Hezbollah has had a history of adjusting it’s tactics to suit both the strengths of it’s organization and the weaknesses of it’s enemy. And to believe that such a resilient and long-lived guerilla organization with a long view of the history of warfare in Palestine would suddenly decide to make a switch to out-and-out conventional warefare is dangerously biased at worst.

During the 2006 War, Hezbollah demonstrated it’s ability (largely done by the seat of it’s pants) to counteract Israeli pushes with it’s own defensive stands that were significant departures in operational and tactical doctrine from previous battles in the 1980s and 1990s. At the Battle of Bint Jbeil, the IDF was drawn into an urban area only to be assault by interlocking anti-tank guided missiles and machine guns covering a company-sized Hezbollah force. For over a week, the IDF fought to secure the city.

Another telling event happened on a road just north of the Lebanese/Israeli border, when a convoy of Israeli armour encountered a collapsed house blocking the road they were advancing down. A tank from the force attempted to move around the obstruction to find an alternate route, but slid down a hill on one side of the road and threw a track in the process. As another tank attempted to extricate the stricken vehicle, the force came under attack from long range by a Hezbollah force firing anti-tank guided missiles. One Merkava Mk. III tank had it’s barrel blown off, and another suffered multiple hits. Both had to be evacuated from the warzone for the rest of the conflict.

This in itself highlights an important point of Hezbollah’s changing warfighting capability, and what it seems to be aiming for: an ability to recognize possible battlefield opportunities and react to them as they arise. This is something they have the communications technology for already, as Israeli soldiers found burst radios on the bodies of many dead Hezbollah fighters in the 2006 fighting. The fighters training in Iran may also be getting training in military theory, which will allow them to understand the concept of the battlefield as a fluid whole and to move troops around it in a pattern.

During the war, an Israeli tank force attempted to cross the Listani River. The crossing was carried out as per the book, complete with smoke to cover their ascent. But unlike normal, the smoke was provided completely by artillery. None of the armour’s organic grenade launchers were used, because none of the tank crews had trained on their use in years.

It is this blogger’s opinion that a fair amount of luck prevented the Israeli force on the Litani from encountering a hostile crossing just as the force on the road encountered a hostile obstruction: an ambush force, even one brought in by pickup and consisting of only two or three ATGM launchers, would have been able to slow down the Israeli advance by hours. It was an advance that had already been stalled for a quarter of a day in the first place because of the need to coordinate with Northern Front artillery for smoke.

Things like the meat grinder at Bint Jbeil, the attack on the road, and the traffic jam south of the Litani were not just caused by a systemic breakdown in the Israeli Defense Force, no matter how much that may soothe some nerves. The IDF acquitted itself very well. They were caused by an enemy which was able to play it’s own strengths (high morale, knowledge of terrain, defensive strength) against the Israelis’ weaknesses (incomplete local knowledge, low manpower, brittle public opinion, hubris).

These were things that had worked against Israel before, in 1973, in 1982, and now in 2006. And time will tell if they work against it again.

Hezbollah reports a new training program, F-22s to Japan, and F-16s purchased by Iraq…

Posted in Libyan Civil War on July 25, 2012 by maccaulay

Christian Science Monitor has published a very interesting interview with a midlevel member of Hezbollah who reports just returning from a seven-week training camp in Iran. According to the fighter, he received training from the Iranian Revolutionary Gaurds Corps special forces unit Quds Force in “anti-tank missiles,” ambush tactics, and was sent to “universities, factories, and other facilities.” The article then goes on to cite another source inside the organization which reports further training inside the group focusing on “taking and holding” ground as a change from the regular hit-and-run tactics which have been the guerilla organization’s regular tactics since it’s inception.

It is important to study each of these pieces of information individually so that we may add them up together and attempt to come to a more logical picture. Training in “anti-tank missiles” is not surprising: the use of AT-4 Spandrels, an outgrowth of the AT-2 Sagger of Yom Kippur War fame, was widespread in the 2006 War. has come up with two very interesting bits of aircraft news this week: the deployment of F-22s to Kadena Air Force Base in Japan and the final decision to purchase F-16s by Iraq.

The movement of F-22s to Japan is very important: there were issues with the high-altitude oxygen system stemming from a filter needed to measure the quality of the air moving through to the mask to the pilot. Because of this, the F-22s in USAF and ANG service were under orders to only be deployed within 30 minutes of an airbase while operating under strict altitude limits. The deployment to Japan will be undertaken while still under these altitude limits, though with periods out of these airfield distances.


Also, the final ink is now on the contracts for new-build F-16s to be purchased by the Iraqi Air Force, allowing it to join the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Turkey, and Pakistan as the newest member of the Islamic Falcon Club. The Iraqis will be operating the F-16 Block 52, with dorsal fuel tanks as well as upgraded radar sets. Some of the more historically inclined readers will note with irony that it was F-16s of the Israeli Air Force that hit the Osirak reactor in 1981 and destroyed Saddam Hussein’s best chance at a nuclear weapons program. This purchase, however, is small: only 18. The Iraqis will undoubtedly be purchasing more, but from where is an important question. As I pointed out, many countries in the region operate the aircraft in many different Block numbers and variants. It is possible they could buy used aircraft to build their fleet quickly.