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June 21, 2004

Some things that make ya go, hmmmm.

IRAQ: Baghdad is Safer than Washington, DC

June 21, 2004: The anti-government violence in Iraq is causing a annualized death rate of 15 per 100,000 population for terrorist activities alone. That compares to a murder rate in the United States of 5.6 per 100,000. European nations have an average rate of about four per 100,000, while Russia is 20 per 100,000. Some nations are particularly violent. South Africa has a murder rate of 59, and neighboring Namibia is 45. Colombia, in South America, was over 50 a few years ago, but is now down to the 30s because a crackdown on armed militias. The Middle East tends of have low murder rates, with Turkey having a rate of 2.3. Israel also had a rate of 2.3, until the Palestinians began their terrorism campaign in late 2000. The deaths from suicide bombings and other
attacks doubled Israel's murder rate to about 4 per 100,000, although that has
been coming down in the past year.

But Iraq has become accustomed to a high murder rate. Saddam's police forces were the cause of many murders, and as far back as the 1970s, the official murder rate was 12 per 100,000. The coalition forces and Iraqi security forces have gotten the non-terrorist murder rate down to about five per 100,000. This, combined with the deaths caused by terrorists, produces a rate of about 20 per year. The murder rate in Washington, DC, is over 60 per 100,000.

One thing that jumps out there... "easy availability" of firearms does not seem to be a consistent factor, does it? Criminal and political violence seems to be a better, if not fully consistent, index. Yet, the middle east abounds with criminal activity, just not as vicious (though the political violence more than compensates). Hmmmm.

INFANTRY: New Helmet for Australian Infantry

June 21, 2004: Australia, after studying four different helmet designs, accepted one from an Israeli firm and is introducing it as the Enhanced Combat Helmet (ECH). Some ten ounces lighter than the current helmet, the ECH also offers better protection and is much more comfortable. The Israeli proposal is a modified (to meet Australian specifications) version of the RBH 303 helmet (itself a modification of the RBH 103 helmet currently used by the Israeli armed forces.) The main modifications were improved ballistics protection, changes to the padding system, the elimination of the front brim and a reduction in ear coverage to enable troops to use “Active Noise Reduction” equipment. The ECH comes in four sizes (small, medium, large and extra large), with the heaviest one weighing 2.6 pounds. The RBH 303 only had three sizes, but it was found
that many Australian troops, well, had big heads.

The current Australian helmet, the PASGT, is similar to the Kevlar model adopted by the United States in the early 1980s, and by many nations after that. The Kevlar design was a third generation combat helmet, and nicknamed the “Fritz” after its resemblance to the German helmets used in both World Wars. The German World War I design, which was based on an analysis of where troops were being hit by fragments and bullets in combat, was the most successful combat helmet in that war. This basic design was little changed during World War II, and finally adopted by many other nations after the American Kevlar helmet appeared in the 1980s.

Most of the second generation helmets, which appeared largely during World War II, were similar to the old American “steel pot” design. The fourth generation helmets, currently appearing, use better synthetic materials and more comfortable design.

The Aussies have big heads? Say it ain't so, Vern! Trivia note on the 'fritz' helmet design. Deliberate decision made in the 50's when the steel pot got relooked to *not* go with the 'fritz' helmet shape. That shape was just too identified with german militarism and Nazi excess to even think about adopting it. A splinter argument, if you will, of the discussions about whether or not to use the Nazi concentration-camp-derived medical data, which was a mixed bag of yes and no, regarding it's use.

SURFACE WARSHIPS: Naval Gunfire Support Questions

June 21, 2004: The debate over naval gunfire support has raged since the retirement of the Iowa-class battleships in 1991. While the revolution in precision-guided munitions has made air support much more reliable and effective, there are still people who raise questions about adequate fire-support for Marine operations.

With the retirement of the Iowa-class battleships and their 16-inch (406mm) guns, despite superb performance in Operation Desert Storm, the largest guns for fire-support has been the 5-inch (127mm) guns on the Ticonderoga-class cruisers, and the Spruance and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. The Spruances are headed for retirement, though. This leaves the Navy arguably short on bombardment capability, particularly due to the troubled development of the Extended-Range Guided Munition, which was to have a range of 100 kilometers. The 155mm shells for the Advanced Gun System on the Zumwalt-class destroyers will have a range of 180 kilometers. However, these are relatively small shells, weighing about 260 pounds (118 kilograms) for the 155mm and 110 pounds (50 kilograms) for the 5-inch shells.

While better than nothing, the United States Marine Corps is not convinced there is enough fire support to do the job, even with the shift of carrier air wings to an all-Hornet strike wing (consisting of F/A-18E/F and F/A-18C Hornets) . While aircraft with smart bombs can deliver ordinance (sic) cheaply ($18,000 for a GBU-31 based off of the Mk84), and on target (currently within 40 feet, but in reality it is much closer – a new version promises hits within ten feet), there is a lengthy turnaround time to fuel and re-arm the aircraft. Tomahawks or other land-attack missiles (like the suspended Land-Attack Standard Missile, which has a speed of Mach 3.5, and a range of 280 kilometers) are expensive ($500,000 per Tomahawk, roughly $420,000 for the Standard missile). Naval gunfire support (and artillery) doesn’t have the drawback of a lengthy period of time for a follow-up attack or high cost.

These perceived shortfalls in fire support are the reason that there has been a lobbying effort to reactivate at least two of the Iowa-class battleships, led by the United States Naval Fire Support Association (USNFSA). The two ships that would return to service should the USNFSA get its way are the Iowa (the #2 turret has been nearly repaired, and the parts to complete the repairs are stored in that turret) and the Wisconsin. These ships would be equipped with shells developed from the HE-ER Mk 148 program (cancelled after the 1991 decommissioning of the battleships). The Ex-148 was slated to have a range of 91 kilometers using a 13.5-inch (343mm) shell in a sabot. An 11-inch (280mm) version would have had a range of 180 kilometers (equivalent to the 155mm AGS). These shells, at 1,400 pounds/635 kilograms and 694 pounds/315 kilograms respectively, are much larger than the shells from the 127mm and 155mm guns. For targets close to shore (within 15 miles/25 kilometers or so), the Iowas could use their regular shells, either the 2,700-pound (1,225-kilogram) armor-piercing shell or the 1,900-pound (862-kilogram) high-capacity shell. This is possible due to the fact that the Iowa-class battleships carry much more armor than the Burke and Zumwalt-class destroyers, and are thus much more resistant to damage.

The controversy will not go away, even after the last Iowa becomes a museum. If anything, a new era of the big gun could be dawning as the United States Navy seeks to address the concerns of the Marines – or at least to quiet the complaints before Congress takes note of them and makes the Navy do something. – Harold C. Hutchison (hchutch@ix.netcom.com)

USNFSA website: (a number of links on that site are broken)

The Iowas were retired because they were expensive to crew and operate, and the cost to try to refit them with more automation was consdered prohibitive. And, just like the Army, when we retired the 8inch cannon for similar reasons (and the impact the ammo has on the logistics system - artillery ammo is very heavy in log terms, and takes up a lot of carry capacity for its volume) the guys on the ground still wish for something that gives as satisfactory a bang at the delivery end, in all weather, all the time, in ways that aircraft just can't. We tried going without artillery in Afghanistan... and found out we still need it.

This and other good stuff is available from Strategy Page.