TIME: Admiral Mullen Possible Target of Foreign Cyber Intrusion


Something to keep an eye on, reported by the lovely and talented Susan Katz Keating, Military contributor for TIME magazine.

“Admiral Mullen, now a private citizen, has responded to very specific requests and is cooperating with an ongoing cyber investigation he has been informed is focused overseas,” Mullen’s office said in an e-mailed statement. Mullen is a member of two governmental advisory boards, one at the CIA, and is a member of the State Department’s investigation into the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

One cannot be sure that the events of September 11th, 2012 are in any way related to this investigation.  But one cannot be sure they are not.    Bears watching for sure.   H/T B5
SKK is NOT a Soviet Weapon!
(The mug makes the perfect Christmas gift!!!)

Roamy’s roundup

Yesterday morning a Soyuz rocket carrying astronaut Kevin Ford and cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin launched successfully from Baikonur. They will join Sunita Williams, Akihiko Hoshide, and Yuri Malenchenko as part of Expedition 33 when they dock with the International Space Station on Thursday. Ford will become commander of Expedition 34 when Williams, Hoshide, and Malenchenko return to Earth next month.

The Dragon commercial resupply capsule will undock and return to Earth on Sunday October 28.


Hubble, eat your heart out. One of seven mirrors for the Giant Magellan Telescope has been completed – a 27.5-foot diameter monstrosity cast from 20 tons of glass and polished to 19 nanometers precision. They were aiming for 25 nanometers or better, or 1/20th of the wavelength of visible light. The optics I usually deal with are 1/10th wave precise and a lot smaller, so I’m impressed.

The Giant Magellan Telescope is being constructed in northern Chile, high in the Andes and away from light pollution. It will be part of the Las Campanas Observatory in the Atacama Desert. The seven segments form a 82-foot diameter mirror.

University of Arizona hopes to cast the second segment mirror in January and hopes to cast the third segment next year. (corrected)


Mr. RFH says it’s a UH-60M. I just know that’s some serious planking.

The USMC Expeditionary Fire Support System (EFSS)

In February of 2011, the USMC Expeditionary Fire Support System was employed in combat in support of Battalion Landing Team 3/8 (26th MEU) in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.   The combat deployment was more than a decade in the making, the culmination of development which began in the late 1990s.  The requirement EFSS was intended to fill goes back at least another decade, to the final retirement of the venerable M101A1 105mm Light Howitzer from the USMC inventory, a cannon that had first entered service before World War II.

Concept of Employment

EFSS, along with the HIMARS rocket system and the M777A1 155mm Towed Howitzer, is intended to be part of the “triad” of ground fire support systems for the United States Marine Corps.   EFSS is conceived to be a part of the assault echelon of ship-to-shore movement, and provide maneuver forces with close ground fires until tube artillery comes ashore in the on-call waves, perhaps as much as 24-48 hours after H-hour.

The EFSS is being fielded in the Artillery Regiment of the Marine Division, which is a bit of a paradigm shift from more recent previous heavy mortar efforts by the USMC, but not unprecedented, as will be discussed below.

System Components

The EFSS is built around the RT120/M327 rifled 120mm mortar.    The mortar, carriage, and baseplate weigh 1,780 pounds, and has a crew of four.  Range with standard munitions is 8.5km.  GPS-guided Precision Extended Range Munitions (PERM) are capable of ranges of 17km, with a reported circular error probable (CEP) of 20m.  Projectiles vary in weight from approximately 36 to 42 lbs.

The prime mover for the RT120 is the Growler Internally Transportable Vehicle (ITV), based on a modified M151 Jeep concept, but with a sophisticated variable suspension system and dimensions tailored for internal transport, as the name implies, in the V-22 Osprey.  The Growler has a four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine that generates 180 horsepower, is equipped with four-wheel drive (with a selection for rear-wheel drive only), and is capable of towing 2,000 pounds cross country.

The EFSS consists of the above-mentioned mortar, two ITVs, with each respectively towing the mortar tube, and an ammunition trailer which has a bustle rack for 36 ready rounds.  Tactical and vertical mobility have been emphasized, in order to ensure equal mobility to the maneuver force being supported.


The EFSS has not been without controversy.  Much of it surrounds the Growler prime mover, which has been specifically designed to fit into the very restricted internal cargo area of the V-22 Osprey.    The cost per unit is estimated to be over $200,000.   With a narrow wheelbase and limited ground clearance, true cross country capability is in question.   The vehicle is prone to rolling in turns, and may have trouble navigating the rugged terrain in undeveloped areas in which employment is possible.   Additionally, the Growler offers no ballistic protection for its crew.  Open on three sides, it is vulnerable to small arms, fragmentation, and the IED threats that have become so familiar in the last decade.   All valid criticisms, and requiring of the assumption of significant risk in employment.

For my part, the EFSS is at best a hybrid and therefore suboptimal solution.  This is not the first foray for the Marine Corps into the idea that a heavy mortar might replace a light howitzer capability.  In the early 1960s, the M30 4.2-in (107mm) chemical mortar was mounted on a surplus 75mm pack howitzer carriage, and mated with a recoil system to ease emplacement and increase range.

The M98 Howtar*** was the result, and was briefly fielded in Vietnam with Marine Artillery units.  However, with its still limited range when compared to the howitzer, and with similar mobility requirements, the M98 proved significantly less suitable than the 105mm howitzers already in service, and not a substantial upgrade from the standard “four-deuce” in service with Marine Infantry units.

The EFSS has similar limitations.

First, the weapon is a mortar, and incapable of low-angle fire or direct fire.   High angle fire is a significant challenge in fire support coordination with fixed and rotary wing air assets that comprise fully half  of the USMC combined-arms team and will be of critical importance in supporting operations ashore before tube artillery and HIMARS can be landed.

Second, unless the preponderance of ammunition is of the PERM variety, which is a doubtful proposition due to costs, EFSS has limitations in range (8.5km)  that require it to be well inside the range fans of a host of threat weapons systems in order to successfully prosecute targets.

Third, the rate of fire of the RT120/M327 is around 6 to 8 rounds per minute, relatively low for a mortar system, which limits the volume and weight of fire that EFSS can provide.

A more appropriate solution to light and mobile fire support would seem to be that of a lightweight 105mm howitzer, using similar weight-saving materials (titanium) and designs that allowed the M777A1 155mm towed howitzer to weigh slightly over half (8,800 lbs) what the M198 155mm (15,780 lbs) system tipped the scales at.    A 105mm howitzer weighing 3,000-3,500 pounds, capable of firing more lethal and extended range modern munitions, equipped with course-correcting fuses, would be a great enhancement to the Landing Force Commander, providing a much more robust and capable fire support system for minimal additional logistic and mobility requirements.

That said, the EFSS is infinitely better as a fire support system than what existed for that niche previously, which was nothing.   It is a recognition that, despite our recent low-intensity conflict/COIN experience, the modern battlefield will see an increased emphasis on ground fires.  This  is already true of those areas in the littoral where our adversaries are building Anti-Access/Access Denial (A2AD) capabilities with an eye towards thwarting US power projection options.

(***Note, the above photo of the M98 Howtar was taken on the quarterdeck of 10th Marines HQ at Camp Lejeune.   The Notre Dame Leprechaun is undoubtedly the work of Col Chris Mayette USMC, who commanded the regiment at the time the picture was taken.   There is no substantiation to the rumor that the Howtar disappeared when he turned over command, or that a similar one now adorns his living room in his current location…)

What *is* that thing?

Working on an Army base, I’m used to seeing all kinds of airplanes and helicopters and now drones. But seeing this thing flying around made me wish for a pair of binoculars.

The Huntsville Times obliged with a nice article about this Siamese twin of an aircraft. It’s a Eurocopter X3, with the VTOL of a helicopter and a maximum speed of 232 knots so far.

Interesting with the twin rudders as opposed to a tail rotor. The rudders have some funny styling, too, kind of a sawtooth pattern in front of the flap.

There’s a video at the link, too, that I couldn’t successfully copy here. That video is better in my opinion than the ones on Youtube in that you can see and hear it in flight, and it’s not just a pretty ad for EADS.

Kiowa Warriors over A’stan

Kiowa Warriors flight

Kiowa Warriors flight
Two Task Force Saber, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade OH-58D Kiowa Warriors fly toward a training range near Jalalabad, Afghanistan March 2, 2012. Saber’s Kiowas lead the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade in OH-58 hours, helping the brigade set flight-hour records in Afghanistan. The 82nd CAB has flown more than 65,000 hours since taking over in mid-October. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Eric Pahon, Task Force Poseidon Public Affairs)

Call it Bill Gunston’s Law of Airframe Dynamics – the longer an aircraft type is in service, the more “stuff” is hung off it.


Test flight

Test flight
An OH-58D Kiowa Warrior from Task Force Saber, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, fires a 2.75-inch rocket at a mountainside during a test flight in eastern Afghanistan, Mar. 2, 2012. The Kiowa warrior is the Army’s scout and reconnaissance aircraft, which often provides close support for ground troops on the battlefield. Saber’s Kiowas lead the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, which has flown more than 65,000 hours across all airframes since October 2011. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Eric Pahon, Task Force Poseidon Public Affairs.

Daily Dose of Hoo-ah!

The Navy SEALs have been getting a lot of good press lately, between Act of Valor, rescuing hostages in Somalia, killing Bin Laden, and rescuing Americans held by pirates. Good for them.

But let’s not forget Special Forces Operational Detachment Delta, better known to the public as “Delta Force.”



I saw this article on Manned-to-Unmanned Teaming this morning and thought it was worth sharing.

Boeing is taking many of the Army’s AH-64D Longbow Apaches and modifying them so much, packing them full of so many performance upgrades and new features, they are practically new, next-generation aircraft.

Among the new tools the Apache “Block III” gives Army crews is the ability to operate an unmanned aircraft and use its sensors and weapons at the same time they are flying their helicopter. That’s called Manned-to-Unmanned Teaming or MUM-T, and it’s been compared to putting a hunting dog out in front of the hunter – only in this case the dog can roam 10-to-15 kilometers away, has incredible eyes and can carry its own guns.

Nice work by the local university students, too.