Monday, July 7, 2014

The Homemade War of the Ukrainians

As if facing the aggressive pro-Russian secessionists were not enough, the Ukrainian armed forces have to deal also with the inefficiency of their government, which is failing them, even at the most basic level. To cope with the failures of the state institutions that are supposed to back them, the soldiers have to rely on civilian organizations that citizens have set up to gather and distribute what the troops need. 
But is it really just ineptitude, on the part of the Ukrainian state, or is this state of affairs intentional?

Di Valentina Cominetti
(Translated and edited by Leonardo Pavese)

From the outside the Donbas looks like hell. From Donetsk it is less frightening. One walks on eggshells, that’s for sure. The city is in the hands of the pro-Russian separatists, even though they took over just four buildings: two seats of the SBU (the Ukrainian Security Forces), the regional government building and the television headquarter.
To the north, south, and west are the points that secure the control of of the city because to the east it is not necessary.
The wisdom of this approach is not attributable to the pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists, who have often been even guilty of looting. For that reason, many supermarkets have closed, as well as all the automobile dealerships, which have very wisely stored their show cars in safer places.
The true strategists of the “separation” are the Russian, Ossetian but most of all Chechen fighters, who control the key points and very often have to restrain the pro-Russian Ukrainians.
We were present on June 2nd when the Vostok battalion had to clear a building occupied by the secessionists, taking away, to who knows where, in armored vehicles without markings, the Ukrainian militias that had taken over the Regional government seat.
According to father Vasily, of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic cathedral of Donetsk, a change of leadership is taking place in the separatist forces, because dozens of Chechens keep coming to the occupied SBU seat, just fifty yards from the church. Many Chechens are also being buried in the Muslim cemetery behind the cathedral: on June 4, father Vasily counted twenty-six caskets.
The fighting takes place far from the inhabited areas, around the perimeter of the city. The pro-government forces surround the pro-Russians, but, to avoid civilian casualties, they do not attack them. This is the case in almost the entire war zone, with the exception of the tormented cities of Slavyansk and Luhansk, against which on June 16 an offensive was launched from many directions. But the problem remains, because the separatists concentrate in the residential areas.
The anti-terrorism operation (ATO), launched on April 13 by the Kiev government, to preserve the territorial integrity of the Ukraine, proceeds by fits and starts. On June 16, the Secretary of the National Security and Defense of the Ukraine, Andrij Parubiy, finally announced the creation of units of snipers within the DPSU (the equivalent of the U.S. Border Patrol), to enforce the control of the frontier with Russia: a measure that had been approved a long time ago.

The offensive operations of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the National Guard are sporadic and badly coordinated. The soldiers complain that the orders are not precise, when they’re not totally lacking.This is confirmed to us by a Captain from Crimea, who refused to join the Russian army and now lives in a refugee center in Kozubinski, near Kiev. The soldiers that returned home also confirm it, but especially many of the wounded we met at the military hospital in the capital: “We knew it wasn’t the right thing to do, but those were the orders,” they say, or “We had no idea about what we were supposed to do.”

They were not just lacking orders. The Ukrainian army is also being sent to fight without the proper equipment: the troops have guns, but they lack flak-jackets and even helmets. The kids who patrol the border zones have no logistical support. They are forced to spend weeks in the woods with no rotation, without sleeping bags or even a tent. Sometimes even food is scarce, which is the reason why many soldiers (but even the battalion commanders) have begun to ask their families and their friends for help.
Some, in the Ukrainian civil society, have organized to respond to the emergency. Many associations have been created to gather, purchase, and deliver supplies to the war zone. Armiya SOS is one of the largest ones, and they cooperate directly with the Ukrainian Department of Defense, whose bureaucratic procedures are too convoluted and rigid to face an emergency. The founder, Kostyantyn Ostrovskyy, has set up a Facebook page on which he posts a list of what is needed at the front-line and on which he collects the offers of assistance. The association’s contact in the combat zone is Yuri Kasyanov of the 1st Battalion, National Guard, who collects the requests of the various commanders and then delivers personally the material. Every day Kasyanov eludes the enemy check-points to take the packages to their destination, departing from the base in Izyum; which is a good sorting point, since it is situated right in the center of the combat zone, between Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk and Slavyansk.

Even as far as taking care of casualties is concerned, the civil associations, more than the state, play a center stage role. Volonterska Sotnya (the Century of Volunteer Women) is an association that has taken under its supervision twenty hospitals in seven cities of the Ukraine, demanding adequate care for the wounded, sending eighty of the most serious cases to foreign hospitals, organizing legal and psychological assistance for the men, and finding and providing medications.
More than 1000 of the wounded have received assistance from this organization, which has also provided help to the troops at the front-line, where it sent more than 660 pounds of drugs, 400 first aid kits and 1500 flak jackets. “Because if we didn’t take care of it, many of the kids would die,” says the founder of the group, Natalia Sokolova.
The Ukrainian government does not even take care of the Reserve: the Defense Department can count on a small number of reservists, but it does not have the money to train them, let alone to train new members.
Therefore, the Ukrainian civil society is also getting more militarized, because the citizens are convinced that the national army is too weak, and they are afraid that, in the case of an invasion of other areas of the country, they would have to take up arms themselves. There are many newly created non-governmental courses that promise to instill military discipline in a short time; a few charge tuition, others do not.
We have spent two days at the Ukrainian Reserve Army, which is an association based in the countryside near Kiev. Regular people like white collar workers, students and small business owners, spend a weekend here to learn the fundamentals of military art, and they are charged only the price of ammunition (200 Hryvnias, about $ 12).

“Our goal is not to create a paramilitary militia, to be mobilized in case of a large scale invasion” explains Yura Gulei, one of the three founders. “We want communities that can react independently in case of attack. The Department of Defense authorized us but, unfortunately, that does not mean that they recognize the importance of having a well trained reserve.
We asked them for their help in designing a training program, but no one gave us any feedback, so we have to proceed on our own, imitating what they do in Switzerland, in America or in Israel. We do what we can, but we really feel let down by the government.”
The lack of confidence in the Government and Parliament is a very widespread feeling in the Ukraine, to the point of turning into distrust or even into suspicion. Many people, for example, think that a prolonged instability in the east of the country might even benefit the Ukrainian government. That is because, after the Maidan revolution, all the energy was focused on the renewal of the institutions. For example, many civil committees for the “Lustrazia” had been created, which were only waiting for a political legitimization through legislation introduced last March and never discussed in Parliament.
(The Lustrazia is a process of gradual rectification of the inefficiencies of the political system which create corruption. The promoters of Lustrazia also envision the expulsion from the administration of the people involved with the procedures that permitted the shooting in the crowd of protesters). But nothing has really changed, because the state and the society are bogged down, dealing with the contingency of warfare and counting their dead (135, on June 18). 
From this point of view, this “homemade” (in every sense) Ukrainian war has taken on the character of a diversion; at least according to many members of society that suspect that someone is trying to divert their attention from change, but at the same time cannot believe it, or, more simply, do not have time to even entertain the idea.

Valentina Cominetti is a young Italian reporter, who graduated from the Luiss Guido Carli University in Political Science and Communications and writes mainly about foreign affairs and geopolitical issues. The article was first published on the Italian on-line magazine Analisi Difesa, and was translated and posted here with their permission. 
I'd like to thank J.J.P. for reviewing the English text. 
You comments will be greatly appreciated. Thank you,
L. Pavese  

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Green Monster to the Rescue

The Environmentalist Crusade recruits Godzilla.
by Stefano Magni
(Translated by L. Pavese)

Imagine an early summer afternoon, you go to see Godzilla, with the obvious intention to have fun, to see nice special effects and, most of all, to admire, on the big screen, a story about the great struggle of Man against Nature gone mad. But instead, what do you find? A movie that overflows with environmentalist rhetoric from beginning to end.
Now, that Godzilla was a green monster (and as tall as a mountain, in this latest American version) was already known for the last sixty years; but his recruiting by the Environmentalist Crusade is just the last piece of news from an increasingly ideologized Hollywood.
A hint to ecology, a criticism of destructive and not always creative science was already present in the original 1954 Gojira (anglicized in Godzilla), directed by Ishiro Honda. The first Godzilla was, in fact, the monstrous incarnation of the atomic bomb, nine years after the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was a new kind of monster; an unintentional product of the American nuclear tests in the Pacific, that had arisen to wipe out every human trace with its size, his radioactive breath and the fallout that trailed him like a deadly contrail.
It was a monstrous emblem of a science gone mad, into the hands of sorcerer’s apprentices that could no longer control it. Nevertheless, at the end Godzilla was killed by scientists; and precisely by a scientist who had managed to invent a new and equally destructive weapon, with which he killed the dragon and also himself: a Japanese sacrifice to take to the grave the secrets of the new weapon of mass destruction, and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.             
Therefore, the original Godzilla was a bitter analysis of the relation between science and ethics: the 20th century was the first century in which the unethical use of science could have caused the extinction of mankind; still, it was a struggle within humankind, between a good and a bad idea of progress. And to make a great movie they could have just replicated the original Godzilla along the same storyline, with 2014 special effects.

After twenty-eight Japanese sequels, ranging from horrible to unbelievable, the first remake from Hollywood, in 1998, stood out for its superficiality: a “science-fiction” movie, not very well thought-out, with a sorry monster that gets killed by a couple of missiles launched by F-22’s fighters. Pretty disappointing stuff, in other words. But this totally ideological remake directed by Gareth Edwards, still in theaters, is even worse.
First of all, the viewers are distracted by a host of monsters. There are in fact two huge cockroaches, as tall as skyscrapers, that feed on radioactive material and emit electromagnetic impulses (capable of deactivating electric circuits over very large areas) which de facto play the role of the first and only true Godzilla. The characters in the movie, and the U.S. armed forces, prove totally inept against these monsters (called MUTO’s, the English acronym of unidentified land organisms).
Especially because the screenwriter, who obviously does not shine for his strategic abilities, makes them do one stupid thing after another. Who is going to save us from these new radioactive monsters, against which men are totally helpless? (Or too stupid to be able to compete with them?): Godzilla, who is depicted here as a primitive force of Nature, our true Savior.
And so, all these useless little men, with their useless tanks, their aircraft carriers and their nuclear bombs can’t do anything but watching the monsters fight, letting three places be destroyed (Oahu, Las Vegas and San Francisco) and listen to a lecture after another from a Japanese scientist, who is the true narrator of the picture: Man is arrogant and must let Nature follow her course; he must realize that he should just obey her, etcetera etcetera. Reminders of recent natural catastrophes abound.
At the beginning of the movie, we watch the destruction of a Japanese nuclear power plant (Fukushima), and in the middle of the picture, the Hawaii tsunami (the great tsunami of 2004). They are not casual references: in fact, for environmentalists those were catastrophes in which people played a part, and caused by “global warming,” that is, according to them, a product of human industrial activity and the source of every new anomaly. In the not-too-subtle metaphor of Godzilla, the cause of both disasters are the monsters generated by human arrogance, that only Nature can counterbalance. And at what price: three cities wiped out, but then they all lived happily everafter.
The disappointment of Godzilla was foreseeable: the 21st century is the Green era. Even the Bible was re-written in a vegan key: in Noah, by Darren Aronofsky, God punishes mankind through the flood because...Man ate meat; and because he was “industrious.”
But the new environmental manifesto was launched with a great feeling for new trends by James Cameron in 2009, with his Avatar: a planetary hit, that is already a classic. In  Avatar, Man is the greedy, ugly yankee colonizer of a planet inhabited by primitive aliens who, of course, live in harmony with the “eco-system”, and their Gaia, like Gianroberto Casaleggio would like.

The humans (in Avatar) wanted to extract a precious mineral, but they were pushed back by the extraterrestrials, even though they fought with spears and arrows, like the Indios of old; and the hero is the only human being that becomes like an alien, changing sides. Avatar was the compendium of the environmental way of thinking: anti-growth, collectivist and fundamentally anti-human.
Even in a movie that was apparently foreign to the environmentalist theme, like Gravity (that was also reviewed by Roberto Dal Bosco in these columns), green fear is more than evident: space ceases to  be the new frontier, and becomes a dark, empty and dangerous place. Better to remain with one’s feet on the ground (as in the last frames of the film), and live in harmony with Gaia. It is now a rule set in stone: between Man and Nature, Nature must prevail.
If today they were to shoot a remake of Armageddon (the movie in Bruce Willis saves the earth from the impact with a comet), the director and the screenwriter would let the comet win; just to extinguish this hateful human race.

The article was originally published on the Italian on-line daily La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana and was translated and published here by permission from the author.
Your comments will be very appreciated. Thank you,
L. Pavese

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Question of Dung

Central Park drive, New York, circa 1870

What if, one hundred years from now, our descendants laughed about our environmental problems?
By Giacomo Lev Mannheimer
(Translated by L. Pavese)

Back in 1898, politicians, local administrators, architects, geographers and engineers from around the world met in New York City for the first international urban planning convention. What prompted people from all over the world to gather around a table to discuss the planning of cities? Surely it was not to discuss land allocation, housing policies, economic development and not even infrastructure upgrading. The basic reason for the meeting, as explained in an interesting paper by Eric Morris (UCLA), was the problems created by the increase in the number of horses in the cities.
The use of horses in urban areas was not certainly a novelty, but, at the end of the 1800’s, it had already had consequences that were unimaginable before: the growth in the number of horses in the cities was even higher than the increase in the number of people; and the American cities struggled under their dung, their urine, their carcasses and the flies. In 1894, The Times of London estimated that the British capital was going to be buried under twenty-five feet of horse dung; and similar forecasts were reported by the newspapers of New York City and all the other great western cities.
In the U.S., the migration from the rural areas to the cities between 1800 and 1900 involved something like thirty million people. Furthermore, during that period, urbanization not only meant an enlargement of the size of the cities, but also a sharp increase in their population density.

New York City went from about 39,000 inhabitants per square mile in 1800 to more than 90,000, in an equivalent area, one hundred years later. More human beings meant, inevitably, more horses; and the problems more  easily tolerated in the countryside became intolerable in the cramped spaces of the cities.
The problems generated by the increase of the number of horses in the western cities were not only health related. In New York City, 200 people died in 1900 in accidents related to horses or vehicles pulled by them; in 2003, cars directly or indirectly killed 344 people. Accounting for the increase in population that occurred in the last century, the per capita probability of death in similar accidents was 75% higher in 1900.
Nor should the congestion generated by coaches be underestimated: a coach occupied the same space as a modern midsize truck; and, as far as width and pavement, the roads were not certainly like today’s. The slowness and the problems with dealing with crossroads made the problem more serious, as well as the need to remove the dead animals from the streets.

New York 1900

Nevertheless, between 1900 and 1920, all these problems gradually disappeared: technological innovation and competition contributed to decrease substantially the production costs of motorcars, which in a few years replaced horse-driven coaches, aided by the invention of traffic lights, smooth road paving, one-way streets, pedestrian crossing stripes and roundabouts.
But, why hadn’t anybody among the eminent participants to the 1898 New York convention thought about any of these innovations? Simply because human ingenuity surpasses, by far, any planning: automobiles were created by a few visionary geniuses, certainly not by government institutions. Not only that: as hard as it is to believe it today, cars were acclaimed as a panacea for all the environmental ills. In the space of two decades, technology put an end to a gigantic nightmare that had driven society to the edge of desperation. Nevertheless, considering the problems that the car has brought with it, we should ask ourselves if it  wasn’t really the result of a deal with the devil.  According to Morris, the answer is no. It is possible that the whole of the "negative externalities" (a negative externality, in economics, occurs when someone, or a company, do not have to bear the cost of their decisions) caused by cars is larger than the damage caused by the use of horses in the cities; but this is due mainly to the vertiginous increase in the number of vehicles and the mobility of people.

Comparing a single automobile with one coach, the environmental problems created by horses are decisively more serious; especially as far as global warming is concerned: dung releases methane, a greenhouse gas eight times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
Today, many people believe that only a drastic reduction of people’s mobility and/or the transition to slower and less convenient means of transportation could mitigate the negative externalities produced by the indiscriminate use of automobiles. But it was not draconian regulation, nor disincentive of travel, that solved the horse related pollution problems of one hundred years ago. Obviously new things introduce new problems, and the solutions undoubtedly generate different issues; but it would be misleading to say that today a Chinese or an Indian farmer should not own and drive automobile, when and wherever they  please. 
Maybe, one day, the pollution generated by cars will be just another anecdote; as the feared nineteenth century dung disaster is for us.

The original article was published, in Italian, on the Leoni Blog of the ibl (the Bruno Leoni Institute), and it was translated and published here with their permission. (Many thanks to J.J.P for reviewing the English text).
Your comments, as usual, will be greatly appreciated. Thanks,
Leonardo Pavese

Friday, May 30, 2014

MIDWAY To Freedom

di Al Adcock (Traduzione di Leonardo Pavese).

Sull’isola di Con Son, al largo della costa del Viet Nam del Sud, il Maggiore Boung, dell’Aeronautica Sud-Vietnamita, sua moglie e i suoi cinque figli, attesero l’alba e il momento in cui sarebbero saliti sul piccolo Cessna O-1A che li avrebbe condotti verso la libertà.
La caduta di Saigon era imminente, e il maggiore Boung sapeva che lui e la sua famiglia non avrebbero potuto sopravvivere sotto un regime comunista. Per fuggire, egli aveva elaborato un piano in verità un po’ disperato: pompare la massima quantità possibile di carburante nei serbatoi del suo Cessna, e involarsi dall’isola sul Mar Cinese Meridionale alla ricerca di una portaerei americana.

Cessna O-1 

Il 30 aprile 1975 (il giorno della resa ) Boung mise in atto il suo piano. Quando la situazione in Vietnam era diventata ormai disperata la Marina americana aveva posizionato tre portaerei, USS MIDWAY, USS CORAL SEA e USS ENTERPRISE al largo delle coste del Vietnam del Sud. Le navi prendevano parte all'Operazione Frequent Wind, cioè l’evacuazione per via aerea di tutto il personale americano dal Vietnam del Sud.
In volo sopra il Mar Cinese Meridionale, il Maggiore Boung sapeva di avere benzina a sufficienza solo per un’ora di ricerche. Se non avesse scorto una portaerei, sarebbe dovuto ammarare. Ma la fortuna volava con loro, e presto Boung avvistò la portaerei MIDWAY.

USS MIDWAY (CV-41). Il ponte misurava circa 295 metri

Sorvolando in circolo la nave, Boung scrisse un messaggio su una carta di navigazione aerea e lo lanciò sul ponte di volo della portaerei. Nel messaggio Boung spiegava la sua situazione relativa al carburante e pregava l’equipaggio della nave di spostare gli elicotteri ammassati sul ponte, cosicché lui vi potesse atterrare.
L’equipaggio della MIDWAY liberò velocemente il ponte; il Cessna O-1A, col carburante quasi esaurito, eseguì un perfetto avvicinamento alla portaerei, rimbalzò sul ponte un paio di volte  e s’arrestò in totale sicurezza. Era il primo O-1A che fosse mai atterrato su una portaerei.
Il Maggiore Boung chiese asilo politico negli Stati Uniti, che gli fu concesso, per sé e la sua famiglia. Lo O-1 fu portato negli Stati Uniti e dato in consegna al Museo dell'Aviazione Navale di Pensacola in Florida.

Sopra: la carta che il Maggiore Boung gettò sul ponte della USS MIDWAY. Il messaggio diceva: "Potreste spostare gli elicotteri sull'altro lato. Posso atterrare sulla vostra pista. Posso volare ancora per un'ora, c'è abbastanza tempo per spostarli; per favore soccorreteci.
Maggiore Boung moglie e 5 figli".

Il maggiore Boung appontò sulla MIDWAY toccando prima col ruotino di coda (il che è perfettamente corretto e sicuro). Quando l'aereo si fermò fu avvicinato da un Marine che s'assicurò che trasportasse solo persone.

Sopra: il Maggiore Boung, sua moglie e i suoi cinque figli attorniati, fra gli applausi, dai marines e dai membri dell'equipaggio della USS MIDWAY.

L'articolo, liberamente tradotto, costituiva un capitoletto della monografia (Numero 87) dedicata al Cessna O-1, "O-1 Bird Dog in action", pubblicata dalla Squadron/Signal Publications Inc. nel 1988.
I vostri commenti, come sempre, saranno molto graditi. Grazie,
Leonardo Pavese

Friday, March 14, 2014

Fine della "Guerra dei Droni"?

La carenza di basi adatte potrebbe obbligare gli Stati Uniti d'America a rivedere la loro strategia (fallita?) di lotta al terrorismo in Asia meridionale.
Di Philip Giraldi . (Traduzione di L. Pavese)
Il governo Obama potrebbe trovarsi di fronte al crollo della sua strategia anti-terrorismo nell’Asia meridionale, visto l’insuccesso della ratifica di un nuovo trattato concernente le forze in campo con l’Afghanistan. Nonostante ciò, molti, nell'ambito dei servizi d’informazione, considerano il suddetto fallimento una cosa positiva.
Il governo americano ha sbagliato nel fondare esclusivamente la sua capacità di combattere la minaccia terroristica sull’uso dei cosiddetti  “droni” (aerodìne senza pilota); i quali sono politicamente attraenti, perché non costringono  a mettere in pericolo il personale navigante, e sono relativamente poco costosi. Però, per poter essere efficaci, i “droni” devono essere basati vicino alla zona d’interesse, così da poter pattugliare l’area più a lungo, e sono interamente dipendenti dalla loro base; cosa che crea problemi logistici e politici. Il mantenimento delle basi dipende dal consenso dei paesi ospiti, e la sicurezza dev’essere garantita dalla presenza di migliaia di militari; truppe che potrebbero non essere più disponibili alla fine di  quest’anno. Inoltre bisogna considerare una certa riluttanza del Pentagono a mantenere migliaia di soldati all’estero, per proteggere le infrastrutture di altre agenzie governative statunitensi.

Gli Stati Uniti lasceranno il Kirghizistan a luglio, e hanno già chiuso la loro base aerea dei velivoli senza pilota di Shamsi,  in Pakistan, nel tardo 2011; benché continuino ad avere un accesso limitato ad altre installazioni pachistane, compreso l’ex base dei droni vicino a Jacobabad. Ma ad Islamabad  il vento politico è girato a sfavore di Washington, ed è improbabile che agli Stati Uniti sarà permesso di ritenere una presenza operativa, in Pakistan, dopo che avranno lasciato l’Afghanistan. Ciò vuol dire che la base alleata più vicina, dalla quale lanciare un velivolo senza pilota, sarà negli Emirati Arabi Uniti; e un “drone” dovrà sorvolare una gran bella fetta di spazio aereo ostile,  e potrà rimanere in zona d’operazioni solo per poco tempo.
In Afghanistan, al momento, ci sono sei basi militari di aerei senza equipaggio, le quali lanciano principalmente aerei da sorveglianza, e una base della C.I.A. (Central Intelligence Agency), a Khost, dalla quale s’involano i Predator d’attacco. La C.I.A. a volte lancia anche “droni” dagli aeroporti militari di Jalalabad e Bagram. Ma i “droni” stanno diventando sempre più un problema politico, perché hanno già causato numerose vittime fra i civili; il che è una delle ragioni per cui il governo pachistano ha ridotto il livello di cooperazione con Washington, e persino l’Afghanistan s’è dimostrato riluttante a continuare a concedere agli Stati Uniti carta bianca, per quanto riguarda l’impiego di aerei senza pilota.
La dottrina americana d'impiego dei “droni” era basata su una sopravvalutazione esagerata della presenza di al-Qaeda in Asia meridionale; nella convinzione che il movimento rappresentasse ancora una grave minaccia nella regione, e fosse in grado di riorganizzarsi. Oggi, dopo l’analisi delle informazioni, si pensa che le suddette conclusioni fossero basate su erronee confusioni di rivolte indigene con moti insurrezionali di natura internazionale. Gli analisti ora considerano minimo il pericolo di una recrudescenza del fenomeno al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, e si stanno concentrando sulle ben più serie metàstasi in Iraq e in Siria. Infatti, sin dallo scorso Natale a questa parte in Pakistan non ci sono stati gravi attentati; e siccome risulta sempre più difficile identificare bersagli realmente legati al terrorismo, nelle aree “tribali” del Pakistan, una percentuale sempre maggiore di incursioni a mezzo Predator sono state in realtà nient'altro che colpi “dimostrativi”, messi a segno contro bersagli dal profilo indefinito, le quali hanno causato un alto numero di perdite fra i civili. Per questa ragione gli analisti dei servizi d’informazione hanno avanzato l’ipotesi che una sospensione dell’uso dei “droni” d’attacco in fondo sarebbe anche auspicabile.

Philip Giraldi è il direttore del Council for the National Interest, un'organizzazione statunitense che si propone di promuovere politiche medio-orientali più strettamente favorevoli all'interesse nazionale degli Stati Uniti d'America. Philip Giraldi è un ex-agente e specialista di anti-terrorismo della C.I.A. che appare di frequente alla televisione americana e scrive su varie pubblicazioni, fra le quali The American Conservative, da cui questo articolo è stato tratto tradotto e qui pubblicato qui. La foto di testa è di Trevor Paglen. Il quadro del Predator è di Mahwish Chishty.
I vostri commenti saranno molto graditi.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

...Where the wind's like a whetted knife

Allan O'Mill

But is speed still important in naval warfare? 
By Admiral Pier Paolo Ramoino 
(Translated by L. Pavese)

In the 1920’s, several admirals were firmly convinced that speed was very important for a warship and could be considered a weapon in itself. Therefore, very expensive cruisers and very elegant torpedo-boats were built that, thanks to the most powerful available steam turbine engines, were actually able to cross the forty knots threshold. 
 In the course of the years, and with the experience acquired in battle, this mania for high speeds, which were achieved at the expense of reduced protection for the vessels, waned, and the job to represent the speedsters of the navies was left to the various types of motor gun boats (MGB).

 At the end 1960’s, the use of aviation-derived gas turbines made it possible to install on the new naval vessels engines that were very powerful, but not too big; and the old hunger for speed resurfaced in the naval high commands. But, why was this characteristic so valued? The opinion was, rightfully, that a very fast ship was able to engage in combat and disengage at will; it could appear suddenly on the battle field; it would make the job of aiming much harder, for enemy gunners, and would be able to defend much better from air-attacks.
But, in actuality, because of the continuous technological progress, all the supposed tactical advantages of a very fast vessel turned out to be, once again, too expensive to obtain. Perhaps, the most significant evidence of this fact was provided in the 1970’s by the hydrofoil-boats which, while they were able to reach the remarkable speed of fifty knots, did not represent a great improvement over conventional MGB’s in terms of operational practices or achieved results.

Italian Nibbio Class missile hydrofoil-boat

 The rather limited range of the hydrofoil-boats, and the complexity of the systems to control the lift of the wings, caused these fascinating vessels to be stricken from the inventories of the major navies of the world after about twenty years. Nevertheless, today, high speeds beyond thirty-five knots seem to have become a requirement again for certain classes of military vessels.
Of course, for the reasons we have already pointed out, the people tasked with the development of “thin vessels,” (vessels with a length to beam ratio of more than 10 to 1) never really discounted speed, eliminating very often the propellers with their bothersome problems of cavitation and noise in favor of simpler hydro-jets.
            Two modern examples of fast missile gun boats in service are the Type 022 Houbei, of the Navy of the People’s Republic of China and the Egyptian Navy’s Ambassador Mk. III (Ezzat). The former, of which more than eighty have been built so far, are capable of at least thirty-six knots, a speed reached thanks to four hydro-jets driven by diesel engines. The Ezzats, of which about half a dozen are planned, should be able to reach forty-one knots with conventional propeller propulsion. The armament of these ships is standard for fast patrol boats: anti-ship missiles and small caliber guns.

Fast Missile Craft Ezzat

 The United States Navy, instead, has revived the quest for speed for different reasons and for much larger ships. The first example of this is the much-discussed Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), fifteen of which are by now in service in two basic versions: one with a semi-planing hull, the other a trimaran. They displace about 3000 metric tons and their armament is modifiable, thanks to a modular arrangement.
 These are relatively large vessels, with a range of about 3500 to 4000 nautical miles, which have proved to be able to reach speeds of more than forty-five knots, propelled by hydro-jets driven by a CODAG (combined diesel and gas turbine) engine system. (CODAG power-plants combine diesel engines for cruising, and gas turbines which are turned on for high speed dashes). But the cost is very high, and to this day it has not been confirmed if the U.S. Navy will really buy the more than fifty originally-envisioned units.
 The operational reasoning behind the LCS concept is to have high-speed platforms that could reach quickly the enemy coastal waters and exercise a high level of sea-control, while being able to defend effectively, thanks to their modular convertible armament, against the variable threats of the so-called “restricted waters,” such as anti-ship missiles, mines, coastal artillery, etc.

USS Independence: one of the LCS

 But the U.S. Navy has also expressed the need to have a very fast means of transporting men and matériel to the various theaters of operation. Therefore, in conjunction with the U.S. Army, the Navy is about to introduce in service the Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV), which are unconventional platforms of about 1500 metric tons that can transport up to 312 men, or an equivalent load, at a speed of about forty-three knots. So far, ten units of JHSV have been planned, propelled by diesel engines. The JHSV have a range of about 1200 nautical miles, which confers them a certain strategic value and could transform them in a power-multiplier factor of the intra-theater transport capability.

Spearhead Class: the face of JHSV

            This is a different idea of speed.  It has nothing to do with maneuvering in combat, but rather has to do with the equally important logistical support of overseas forces. In conclusion, it seems that the speed of naval vessels could very well turn out to be an important requirement in the 21st century too, even though, as always, it will demand a high price: one JHSV will cost about 214 million dollars.

Admiral Pier Paolo Ramoino is the Vice-president of the CSSI (Center for International and Strategic Studies) of the University of Florence, Italy, where he teaches. Admiral Ramoino graduated from the Italian Naval Academy in Leghorn in 1963. He served for more than fifteen years on surface vessels of the Italian Navy, and commanded several of them, including the missile hydrofoil-boat Sparviero and the destroyer Ardito. He was the Commander in Chief of the 1st Italian naval division, and he is a member of the U.S. Naval Institute.
The article was published originally on the Italian on-line magazine Analisi Difesa and was translated and published here with their permission. Your comments will be greatly appreciated. Thank you,
Leonardo Pavese