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?


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.

18 Firefighters Dead In Yarnell Hill Fire

Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones of the 18 firefighters lost today from the Prescott, AZ Granite Mountain Hot Shots.

Prescott Fire Department confirmed 18 firefighters have died while battling the Yarnell Hill fire on Sunday night. They’re part of the Prescott Granite Mountain Hot Shots.
The wildfire was likely caused by a lightning strike Saturday night.
The Yarnell Hill fire, about 35 miles southwest of Prescott, has burned about 1,300 acres and forced the evacuation of 50 homes.
The fire started Friday and has not yet burned down any structures, but Sunday night firefighters pushed the blaze back away from communities, hoping to keep the blaze from overtaking any homes.

Fighting wildfires can be incredibly dangerous.  My platoon and I were called out once to fight a small, rather routine grass fire on post at Ft. Carson, CO, once.  A slight change of wind, and standing in a copse of woods came dangerously close to killing me an another soldier. Until you’ve actually seen the speed and ferocity with which a fire can spread, you cannot really grasp how dangerous, deadly, such a fire is.

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.


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.


Slow day.  I’m loathe to step outside and enjoy life.

Record Temp

But I did come across some spectacular restored pictures from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century.


The A-12 Avenger was a failed attempt to produce a stealthy successor the the A-6 Intruder. The failure of the program is widely seen as the cause of today’s “All Bug”* air wing aboard carriers.

Only a mockup was ever built, and a museum at Ft. Worth is finally going to restore it for display.


*The F/A-18 family is sometimes referred to as “The Bug”


You want some sexy girls with guns?

Of course you do!

Britain’s First Astronaut After More Than Two Decades | The Space Store News

Apache helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake is the first British astronaut after more than 20 years.

Major Tim Peake is a 41-year-old astronaut and one of the six that was chosen among the more than 8,000 European hopefuls. Peake will start his 6-month mission on November 2015.

via Britain’s First Astronaut After More Than Two Decades | The Space Store News.

I thought Think Defence would appreciate this. Peake is also the first British astronaut officially funded by the United Kingdom government.

The list of British astronauts on Wikipedia is kind of confusing. The “more than 20 years” seems to point to Helen Sharman, who flew on a Soyuz flight in 1991 or NASA astronaut Michael Foale, who has dual citizenship in the UK and US. Space tourist Mark Shuttleworth holds dual citizenship in South Africa and the UK. NASA astronauts Piers Sellers and Nicholas Patrick were born in the UK but became US citizens. NASA astronaut Gregory Johnson and space tourist Richard Garriott were born in the UK to US parents.

Anyway, congratulations to Major Peake! I’m looking forward to your flight.

Operation End Sweep (part 2)

3-1-2010 11-51-59 PM
A map of North Vietnam with the shaded areas representing mined areas.

Part 1.

It was never the intention of the Nixon Administration to make sweeping mines in the South China Sea a political issue. Nevertheless, on 16 May 1972, the Washington Evening Star quoted Nixon as saying “the mines will go when the POWs (Prisoners of War) are free.” SECSTATE Kissinger saw that eventually minesweeping could be used to help bring our POWs home because the DRV (Democratic Republic of Vietnam) were the one that initially raised the mine sweeping issue in connection with handing over the POWs. By 15 December, 1972 the White House told SECDEF (Secretary of Defense) that the JCS (Joint Chiefs of Staff) should review it’s minesweeping plans for North Vietnam. On 20 December, the JCS responded to the Whitehouse and SECDEF by saying clearing the mines posed an “undue risk to Naval personnel.” However, by that time the peace processes was faltering and Operation Linebacker II commenced, resulting in an increased mining of the waters off North Vietnam. Eventually the DRV did return to the peace table and on 27 January DRV signed a “Mine Clearing Protocol” as part of the so-called Paris Peace Deal.

The most important issues directly related to OES (Operation End Sweep) in the protocol were:

Article 3: consult immediately on relevant factors and agree upon the earliest possible target date for the completion of work.

Article 4: set a meeting between Naval representative from the US and DRV “At a later date. (these meeting actually began before the protocol was signed).” During this time the US Navy gave some rudimentary technical details on how the Destructor mines worked.

Article 5: Specified that DRV should actively participate in clearing/sweeping inland waterways using equipment and training that was given to them by the US.

By 5 February a “Haiphong Clearing Committee” had met to discuss the technical details of minesweeping the Haiphong area. These meetings took place on TF-78 Task Force 78) ships.

On February 6th, MSOs entered and swept the anchorage where the larger ships of TF-78 would stay. USS Impervious swept the area and marked with the path with buoys. Sweeping in the vicinity of the anchorage continued south of Grand Norway Island on the 7th.

Sweeping the northern ports over the southern ports and inland waterways but the problem was the large between in the minefields the DRV had charted and the minefields that the US Navy charted. The sweep plan stated only areas where known mines were and/or had self-destructed or sterilized would be swept. By 7 February the LPH and LPDs arrived at the anchorage while other airborne units continued training at Subic Bay. Another DRV point of contention was the insistence on the Navy giving the DRV towing gear and earth moving equipment to dig-up and move buried mines. However, at the time, the US was unwilling to allow this.

The first merchant ship departed Haiphong around the 7th, before sweeping of area had even begun. These shallow draft ships were empty (having already unloaded military equipment before the mining began) and used US supplied minefield charts to make the run into the South China Sea at high tide. Even before US Navy sweeping operations began, the NVN (North Vietnamese Navy) used Soviet supplied “closed loop” mine sweeping gear to sweep portions of the port of Haiphong.

On 21 February, airborne mine seeping assets arrived on-scene. The first airborne sweep by an HM-12 CH-53D (with a UH-1E in the lead) occurred on  27 February. Meanwhile on 23-25 February, Raydist equipment was installed ashore at Do SonCat Bai and Dinh Vu. These were transported ashore by CH-46s from HMM-165. A fourth Raydist was installed on board the fleet tug, USS Tawasa (ATF-92).

Early in the morning on the 28th, sweeping operations stopped because the POWs were not being returned per agreement. OES was being used as the “carrot” to get the DRV to return the POWs but the DRV wanted mine sweeping equipment for sweeping the inland waterways on their own. Agreement to this was reached on 5th March and operations resumed on the 6th.

Magnetic Orange Pipe 1
Magnetic Orange Pipe

3-1-2010 11-51-38 PMNorthern ports and villages were swept for the next 6 weeks. Airborne unit Alfa swept the Haiphong area using the MK-105 sweeping gear. Unit Bravo, using the MOP swept the Cua Cam area. On a side note, airborne units, Charlie and Delta never trained with the MK-105 gear.

3-1-2010 11-53-25 PMOn 9 March at 1240 local, the first and only mine swept, a MK-52, detonated behind in the vicinity of a MK-105 being towed behind a CH-53D.  Most of the deployed mines by the time of OES had already self-sterilized.

MK-52 mine.

On the 13th, the Soviet merchantman, Zayson transited the Haiphong channel inbound.

On the 17th, the USS Enhance, had an engine room fire. Enhance was anchored in the outer approach to Passe HenrietteUSS Safeguard assisted and brought the Enhance under tow. That same day an HM-12 CH-53D lost it’s tail rotor and crashed. All the crew were recovered.  After this all CH-53s (throughout the US Navy and USMC) were grounded and inspected. On March 25 a MK-105 undertow collided with a “civilian” 12ft wooden skiff. There were no injures but there was some minor damage to the –105.

An HM-12 CH-53D Super Stallion.

Another CH-53S was lost on 2 April due to a tail rotor failure. It splashed down in Haiphong harbor and the crew was recovered. As a result, a more extensive inspection of all OES CH-53s occurred. Pitch change rod end assemblies were replaced and gearbox inspections were increased to every 10 flight hours. Flights resumed on 6 April.

The USS Washtenaw County seen transiting the main channel in Haiphong harbor.

By 14 April the USS Washentaw County transited Haiphong’s main shipping channel to demonstrate is navigability but by the 17, this was cut short again because the DRV failed to meet the agreed to cease-fire in Laos and Cambodia. On the 24th, elements of TF-78 departed the area for Subic Bay.

On 24, April the USS Force had and engine fire and sunk about 770 miles east of Guam, on it’s way to OES. The crew was recovered by a Norwegian merchant ship.

Taking TF-78 off the line allowed for TF-78 to undertake a reassessment of OES.  The Navy estimated that most of the mines had self sterilized by the first week of May. As of the 16 April, in the Haiphong area 3 days each of sweeping at Cua Cam and Lach Tray channels and 2 additional transits by Washtenaw County in the main shipping channel were all that remained to be done. In the Hon Gai and Cam Pha, 6 and 2 days, respectively, of airborne screening remained. Remaining operations would be conducted as a check sweep because all mines completed their self-sterilization period of 6 months. There was also an assessment of equipment that the Navy had given to the DRV.

Operations resumed on 20 June and an agreement was also in place to give the DRV more equipment for sweeping the inland waterways, which, by now, they were going to do on their own. Most of the check sweeping was done around Lach Huyen and on the  26 mine sweeping in the north by Haiphong was finished. On 28 June operations shifted to Vinh. Alfa swept near Hon La and Bravo swept Quang Khe.

On 4 July the fatality of OES occurred when a flight deck crewman on the USS Ogden caught in the closing stern door of a CH-53 that was taking off.

Finally, Operation End Sweep, wound down by 20 July 1973. The closing dispute between the Navy and the DRV was over bulldozers. The DRV wouldn’t accept the condition of the TD-6 bulldozers. The TD-6s were thought, by the DRV, to be in poor material condition. There was a final meeting on 18 July 1973 to resolve this issue but nothing ever came of it.

Elements of TF-78 left the DRV for Subic Bay and on 27 July 1973 TF-78 was dissolved 6 months to the day it was formed.

In total, the Haiphong area accounted for 70% of the tow hours. The 3 northern port areas required 87% of the tow hours. Generally the sweeping was carried out to a 95% certainty that no live mines remained.

Here’s a summary of End Sweep units:

CH-53Ds: 37 aircraft

13 USN HM-12

24 USMC HMM-463 and HMM-165

Ocean Minesweepers (MSOs): 10

Mine Flotilla 1 Western Pacific

  Engage (MSO-433)

  Force (MSO-445

  Fortify (MSO-446)

  Impervious (MSO-449)

  Inflict (MSO-456)

West Coast

  Enhance (MSO-437)

  Leader (MSO-490)

  Illusive (MSO-448)

Naval Reserve Training Force ships, based in Hawaii

  Conquest (MSO-480)

  Esteem (MSO-438)

  Washtenaw County (MSS-2)


I was trying to find out exactly who the only fatality was. I was unable to find out. If anyone does know, please let me know.  I’d like to dedicate these posts to his sacrifice.

For more information on the different elements of OES see the following:

The Naval Historical Society’s page on OES.

Wikipedia’s page.

Navsource.org has a few more pics of the vessel involved.

102 Minesweepers has some good stuff.

Eagle One has some good info on the history of airborne minesweeping.

Finally, some more history of airborne mine countermeasures here.

2 books provide context and further information:

Hartman’s “Weapons That Wait: Mine Warfare in the US Navy” and the Naval Historical Society’s “Operation End Sweep: A History of Minesweeping Operations in North Vietnam.”

The Real Question About NSA Surveillance

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies in Washington

It is posed by a bipartisan group of Senators to James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence.

Furthermore, we are troubled by the possibility of this bulk collection authority being applied to other categories of records.   The PATRIOT Act’s business records authority is very broad in its scope.  It can be used to collect information on credit card purchases, pharmacy records, library records, firearms sales records, financial information, and a range of other sensitive subjects.   And the bulk collection authority could potentially be used to supersede bans on maintaining gun owner databases, or laws protecting privacy of medical records, financial records, and records of book and movie purchases.  These other types of bulk collection could clearly have a significant impact on Americans’ privacy and liberties, as well.

“…It can be used to collect information on… library records, firearms sales records, financial information, and a range of other sensitive subjects.  And… could potentially be used to supersede bans on maintaining gun owner databases…”

I cannot WAIT to hear the answer.  Given the anti-gun bent of Obama and his minions, I do believe I know the real answer already.  For those who would shriek “you have no PROOF!” and would call such suspicions paranoia, please shut off NPR and pay attention to the real world….

Perhaps, just maybe, Clapper will break with this Administration’s tradition and actually tell the truth.   I am skeptical, however.    But then, I am one of those voices warning of tyranny around every corner.  It is there, right next to the listening devices, the surveillance cameras, and the wiretaps.   And behind the closed doors at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.