ISIS attacks Egyptian Warship

Via EagleSpeak

International Business Times brings us the story.

The Islamic State (Isis)’s offshoot in Egypt – the Sinai Province – claims it launched a rocket and destroyed an Egyptian Navy frigate in the Mediterranean sea.

The IS affiliate released pictures of what it said was a guided anti-tank rocket attack on the vessel off the coast of northern Sinai, in Rafah, an area bordering Israel and the Gaza strip. The Egyptian military said it exchanged fire with militants off the coast and the boat caught fire, but there were no casualties as result of the incident. It did not mention that the boat was destroyed.

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Spill says he think’s the ship is a Chinese built Type 062 gunboat, which the Egyptian Navy does operate. It looks pretty close to me. “Frigate” is a fairly flexible term in overseas navies, and there also might be something lost in translation.

The first picture shows what appears to be an anti-tank guided missile in flight inside the red circle.  The fireball seems awfully big for an ATGM warhead. On the other hand, some missiles like the Russian Koronet have a fairly large warhead.

Other pictures clearly show the vessel remained afloat after the  attack, with firefighting efforts underway.

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Eyad Baba—AP

Whether there were no casualties aboard, well, we’ll see.

As Eagle One notes in his post, the cost of inshore patrolling just went up.

Foreign Aid to Egypt to Shut Down- Should the USN Seize the Corvettes?

News is coming across the wires that US foreign aid to Egypt will be suspended, not because of the Shutdown, but in reaction to the removal of the Islamist Morsi government. Mind you, I find it insane that we’d protest the overthrow of a government completely at odds with our interests, but that’s a story for another time.

But here’s the thing. Over the last 15 years or so, the US has been working with Egypt to design and build (on our dime, and here in the US) a class of four large Fast Attack Craft– or small Corvettes, however you wish to slice that distinction. Known as the Ambassador class, they’re nice looking, modern little ships,  Some open source stuff I’ve seen says the first has been delivered.

Galrahn on his twitter feed suggested the US should seize them and turn them over to the USN.

And there’s ample precedent for this. The four modified Spruance class destroyers built for the Shah of Iran were seized and entered service with the US Navy as the Kidd class, and provided yeoman service for 20 years.

While the Ambassadors weren’t designed for US Navy use, most of their systems share a fair amount of built-in interoperability. Further, they’d be pretty handy forward deployed in restricted waters, say, in the Persian Gulf, especially where they could routinely call on carrier or land based air support.

6 October 1973, The Beginning of the Yom Kippur War

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Tomorrow is the Fortieth Anniversary of the beginning of the “Fourth Arab-Israeli War”, known for its auspicious holiday beginning as the Yom Kippur War, or Ramadan War.

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In the weeks leading up to the war, Egypt’s President Sadat had made overtures of warmer relations with the United States, to include the expulsion of nearly 22,000 Soviet “advisors”.  In addition, Egyptian military commanders carefully hid preparations for the offensive from Israeli observation.   Israel had made a planning assumption that any future conflict with Egypt would give the IDF 24-48 hours of warning, time to mobilize reserves and reposition forces for effective defense and counterattack.   As it happened, Israel would get fewer than 12 hours’ warning, and this through espionage/diplomatic channels, in the early morning hours of 6 October 1973.

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The Egyptian forces began to move against the east bank of the Suez canal at 1400 on the same day.  Breaching the sand wall with fire hoses, the lead elements of the Egyptian forces established bridgeheads within a few hours.  This was Operation Badr, which would last for the first five days of the war.   Operation Badr is worth reading about in detail, as the use of integrated fire support and anti-mechanized capabilities by the Egyptian Army nearly spelled disaster for Israel.

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Initially, the Bar Lev line, the western Israeli defenses of the Suez Canal, was lightly held by fewer than a thousand IDF soldiers and a handful of tanks, supported by a few 105mm, 155mm, and 175mm artillery batteries, and two forward airfields.   The opening preparation fires, a combination of direct fire, massed 152 and 130mm artillery, and ground attack fixed-wing air support, was brilliantly executed.  The Israeli airfields were put out of action, and the artillery batteries neutralized.  In addition, several air search and ground radars were destroyed, blinding the IDF to the movements of Egyptian ground and air units.  The Egyptians had also studied their foe, and had rightly guessed that the IDF would react with powerful air interdiction and armored counterattacks.

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In the preceding years, Egypt had invested heavily in air defense and anti-armor capabilities for the Army, increasing its air defense forces fourfold since 1967.  Now, that investment would pay massive dividends.  With a brilliantly-executed combined arms strike that had neutralized Israeli artillery and air defense systems, the Egyptian Second and Third Armies were able to move the SA-2, SA-3, and SA-6 missile systems forward to establish a layered air defense system over their forward ground units.  It was this integrated air defense which took a frightful toll of the Israeli Air Force, especially in the beginning days of the war.

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On the ground, Egyptian tank killer teams roamed about setting ambushes for Israeli armor, employing AT-3 Sagger man-portable antitank missiles, where those teams destroyed more than 300 Israeli tanks and armored vehicles.   The IAF strikes and IDF armored counterattacks, staples of Israeli doctrine to defeat their Egyptian enemies, could only be executed at considerable risk and with expectations of heavy losses.

By 10 October, with losses far higher than their opponents, Israel was forced entirely to the defensive in the Sinai.  In the Golan Heights, a strike on 7 October by three Syrian armored brigades, supported by an Iraqi brigade, required a diversion of forces to counter the new threat.   In the Golan, Israeli fortunes were better.  Despite being badly outnumbered by the Syrian forces, and the bravery and skill exhibited by the Syrians, Israeli armored and mechanized units held, and in the Valley of Tears, all but destroyed Syrian offensive capability.   A great little book was written about the Golan fighting by the Commander of the 77th Battalion of the 7th Armored Brigade,  LtCol Avigdor Kahalani.   The Heights of Courage should be a read for all company and field grade officers.

A cease-fire was brokered on October 25th, 1973.  In the end, Israeli forces pushed the Egyptians back across most of the Sinai, and inflicted heavy losses.  But the IDF was only able to do so because of a massive influx of US aid, including mothballed F-4 Phantom fighters from Davis-Monthan  AFB, M-48 and M-60 tanks, and great quantities of munitions and logistical support.

Israel lost almost 3,000 killed and 11,000 wounded and captured in the 19 days of the Yom Kippur War.  The IDF had been ill-prepared for the Egyptian attack, both in its dispositions and its warfighting doctrine.  Since 1967, Israel had invested disproportionately in its vaunted Air Force and elite armored units, and had neglected infantry and artillery capabilities.   Israel had also committed the grave mistake of leaving planning assumptions about enemy capabilities and intent unquestioned, a mistake they would never make again.

The aftermath of the Yom Kippur War has been profound.  Egypt, once Israel’s most grave threat, reached a peace treaty in 1978, with Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin signing the Camp David Accords.  Egypt, with a brief pause for a Muslim Brotherhood-led government, has remained on relatively good terms with Israel, and has (with a current brief pause AFTER the overthrow of the MB by the Egyptian Army) maintained a close relationship with the United States.    Operation Badr, significantly, represented the first Arab victory over Israeli forces on any scale since Israel’s founding in 1948.  It represents also the birth of the modern Egyptian Army, which remains a capable and well-equipped force, especially in comparison to its Middle Eastern neighbors.

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Just six years removed from the swift and devastating victories of the 1967 Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War was a profound shock to Israel.   Nobody will ever know for sure how close Israel came to being destroyed, or whether Golda Meir would have been willing to use the nuclear weapons in her possession to prevent that destruction.   We never had to find out, thankfully.   But it all began in earnest forty years ago tomorrow.

Update-XBradTC: URR writes: Israel had also committed the grave mistake of leaving planning assumptions about enemy capabilities and intent unquestioned, a mistake they would never make again.  

I’d argue that is incorrect. Israel badly misunderstood Hezbollah’s capabilities and tactics in the 2006 war. Israel’s incursion into Lebanon was not nearly as successful as hoped, and casualties were far higher than anticipated. The Israeli Army had planned and equipped and trained for a war of maneuver against an armored force, and found itself in an urban fight against a dug in irregular force in urban areas.

As a historical matter, the Yom Kippur War had enormous impact on US Army doctrine. I highly recommend to my readers King of the Killing Zone, the story of the development of the M1 Abrams tank, which also has an outstanding thumbnail sketch of the development of the Army’s AirLand Battle Doctrine. Our Army intensely studied the 1973 war, sifting for lessons learned on how to fight against a larger enemy, especially when strategically surprised. One of the real surprises the operational analysis of this and several other wars was that the smaller army in a war more often than not wins. The question became, “Why?” The answer was agility. Far more than the mere physical agility, the ability to move forces, smaller forces often have the mental agility to operate faster. AirLand Battle doctrine’s focus on operational agility predated, and foreshadowed, Boyd’s OODA Loop theory.

Update Update-URR:

I almost included a blurb about the 2006 Lebanon incursion.   Hezbollah tactics may have surprised the senior Israeli leadership, but did not surprise ground commanders.  I had the privilege of an extended conversation with Israeli BG Shimon Neveh, whose study of the 2006 fighting is absolutely superb.  His take was one that should ring familiar.  This from an interview with Matt Matthews:

Now, the other idea was to really assault by about 90 company-sized columns from all directions. Some elements airborne, some coming from the sea and others infiltrating almost without armor. The idea was to move in small teams and identify, feed the intelligence
circles, exploit our advantage in the air in remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), fixed-wing and helicopters. When we introduced this idea, after certain experiments in CENTCOM in 2003, I remember it was a special meeting of the General Staff, presided by Chief Ya’alon, and I didn’t say much then because the whole idea to develop was presented by the Northern Command (NORTHCOM) commander at that time, Beni Ganz, who was against it then – and of course he was against it now. So when Gal Hirsch tells him to mobilize, let’s review the plans and see what our options are because we’ve been running out of time, he totally brushed this aside. “Halutz, we don’t need that. It’s a waste of time.”

BG Neveh believed strongly that the IDF operational commanders knew what awaited them, and the reasons for the “asymmetry” were political rather than doctrinal.  Including, as he told me with no little disdain, the idea of using military force to prompt a political decision rather than for the destruction of the enemy.

A Thought on Egypt

What’s amazing about the massive protest today in Egypt is that literally millions of Muslims are protesting the rise of an autocratic Islamist government.  The masses  have seen the results of Islamist autocrats such as Morsi and want none of it.

The BBC reports 17 million people have taken to the streets in cities across Egypt in the largest political protest in all of history.

So, which side does the administration support?

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Remember this, while the immediate purpose of the invasion of Iraq was to forestall the rise of an Iraq that could potentially stage an attack on the US (or its allies), the larger strategic goal was a realignment of the Arab world. There was not a single functional democracy in the Arab world. The goal of the realignment was to deny Al Qeda and other extremist Islamic groups the fertile grounds upon which to recruit and to foster resentment and hate.

President Bush’s efforts were stymied by fierce partisan attacks by his domestic political opponents. The ever greater escalation of violence in Iraq also lead to decline in popular support at home for US intervention elsewhere.  But if the US could provide no more than encouragement and diplomatic support to nascent movements for freedom in Arab lands, it at least did that much.

But when the upheaval of the Arab Spring came, the Obama admonition’s choices of who to support and who to shun have been a mishmash.  A cynic might almost conclude that the more radicalized and Islamicist a group was, the more likely they were to receive support from Obama.

I’m pretty cynical, but for now, I’ll guess that the Obama administration’s primary goal after the departure of Mubarak was a stable regime, not necessarily the best regime.  But supporting the Morsi regime has lead to a great many Egyptians being sorely disappointed  in the US. Witness the picture above.

Of course, a lot of the support the US has given to the “Morsi regime” is in fact, support for the Egyptian military, which isn’t quite the same thing. As URR notes in the comment of the previous post, whichever way the military decides to go, that’s where the country is going.

Egyptian Day of Protest

After President Obama backed the ouster of longtime US ally Hosni Mubarak, it was a forgone conclusion that the only political force organized enough to seize the reigns of power in Egypt was the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group that is the intellectual wellspring for much of the Islamic terror throughout the world.

But overthrowing a government is easy compared to being a government. Egypt has long had an extremely precarious economic position. It has to import over half its calories. And it’s primary source of income for that has long been tourism.

But the instability of late, and the outright hostility of the Morsi government to Westerners has lead to plummeting tourism rates, with a concomitant decline in revenues. Not surprisingly, the quality of life has declined in Egypt as well.

And so, vast numbers of Egyptians, who while Muslim, are not ideologically aligned with the MB, have today taken to the streets of cities across Egypt to protest.

American media will likely tell you tens of thousands of protesters came out.

But even the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior will admit it was millions of protesters.

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Protest in Alexandria

I can’t foresee the future, but I can predict that the Morsi government is on the wrong side of History. And the Obama administration is on the side of Morsi.

Sunday Links

Well, this is gonna suck some of the fun out of Ace’s FiaF flamewars.

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Budget cuts are gonna hit all the services, Air Force included

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How’s that Smart Diplomacy working out for ya?

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It’s a deal!

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Stormbringer notes the passing of GEN H. Norman Schwarzkopf, and how timing and circumstance led him to command an army at the perfect intersection of equipment, personnel and doctrine.

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Here’s a kitten.

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Don’t forget the Amazon search tool up on the right side. 

Between Egypt and Israel

I have no idea how the turmoil in Egypt will play out. Obviously, one concern would be that if fundamentalists take over, the peace between Egypt and Israel will break down. For over 30 years, the US Army (and a goodly number of other nations) has stationed a force on the Sinai Peninsula to enforce the provisions of the Egyptian-Israeli peace.

Known as the Multi-National Force and Observers (MNFO), this roughly brigade sized contingent has maintained a vigilant watch to verify that both Egypt and Israel are abiding by the terms of the peace accords, primarily in terms of not staging military forces in areas off limits to them.

The main US contribution to this force has been a support battalion and an infantry battalion. The support battalion provides medical, aviation and Explosive Ordnance Disposal support to then entire multi-national force.

For the first 20 years of the MNFO, the active Army provided the US infantry battalion assigned to the force. Typically, an infantry battalion would be assigned for a six month tour with the MNFO. Since 2002 the mission has been assumed by infantry battalions from the National Guard, and they are generally assigned for a 10-12 month tour. Many of the support missions are still assigned to the active component though.

Forces assigned to the MNFO wear the standard US ACU uniform, but also wear the distinctive MNFO badge and wear “terracotta” (that’s orange to you and me” colored berets or boonie hats.

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Why orange? Well, when the MNFO was being constituted, the UN declined to participate. Any attempt to stand up a UN peacekeeping force would likely have been vetoed by the Soviet Union, at the behest of the Syrians.  Instead, the US, Egypt and Israel worked with other interested nations to establish the force. In addition to the US battalion, Fiji and Columbia  contribute an infantry battalion apiece. As noted above, various other nations contribute smaller contingents to the MNFO, such as aviation detachments and Military Police.

While no US forces have faced combat during service in the MNFO, tragedy did strike our troops. On December 12, 1985, a chartered airliner returning troops from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) crashed on takeoff from a refueling stop at Gander, Newfoundland, Canada.  248 soldiers and the 8 flight crew were aboard. It was the day I graduated from Ft. Benning. As an aside, my very first fire team leader when I got to my unit was supposed to be on that flight. He’d left on a previous flight in order to transfer out of the 101st, and into my unit. To say he bore survivor’s guilt would be an understatement.