Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pakistan Army Employs Lessons of Taliban Conflict

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan is implementing a wide-ranging modernization program in the wake of lessons learned fighting the Taliban.
The program seeks substantial training changes down to the unit level and improvements in personal protection, weaponry, surveillance capabilities, communication equipment, night vision and thermal image sensors, nonlethal weaponry, and vehicle protection.
Drawing on his experience in the British Army when it was initially deployed on counterinsurgency (COIN) duties in Northern Ireland, analyst Brian Cloughley said retraining and re-equipping soldiers schooled in conventional warfare for such duties took a year.
"This is exactly the same for the Pakistan Army's units on the eastern border," Cloughley said.
The areas he stressed the most were "fitness and, above all, training."
"The training program must include all the obvious things, which of course have not been practiced by units on the eastern border: vehicle anti-ambush drills, long-distance foot patrolling, resupply by helicopter, requiring quick pad construction," he said. "It's a long list, and of course all these things are known. They are, however, dormant. And it takes months for units to learn them." Other aspects of British COIN operations were also relevant to Pakistan efforts, Cloughley said.
For the British, an important consideration was "acquisition of radios capable of working in built-up areas, as well as the wide-open spaces," he said. This appears to have been an early lesson for the Pakistan Army.
A military spokesman said some aspects of the program, specifically communication and surveillance capabilities, have been implemented already, and were tested in last year's Azm-e-Nau/New Resolve military exercise.
Analysts were intrigued by mention of new vehicles, however, and Cloughley said there had to be "analysis of the type of enemy and what tactics are likely to be encountered."
He added, "the emphasis on [improvised explosive devices] is most important, but this has to be balanced besides mobility."
Cloughley did stress that "a balance between expense, perception of the threat and effectiveness" also had to be struck. "There isn't much point in buying multimillion-dollar mine-protected vehicles when they aren't going to see much use," he said.
Talk of new vehicles also led to some confusion. According to the military spokesman, the vehicle in question was actually the indigenous Burraq mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle manufactured by state-owned military vehicles producer Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT).
He stated the Burraq had been evaluated by potential overseas customers and that foreign vehicles had not been evaluated by Pakistan, as had been speculated. Burraq fills a long-standing operational requirement, as IEDs have taken a considerable toll. HIT refused to comment on Burraq's service status or foreign evaluation.
Another long-awaited change that predates operations against the Taliban has been the switch to a 5.56mm-caliber rifle. The current 7.62mm Heckler & Koch G3A3 battle rifle was found to be too heavy and cumbersome for the swift, mobile style of operations required.
The G3A3 also was impossible to control in full automatic fire, and there was a requirement for an under-barrel grenade launcher, the use of new holographic sights, plus affixed torches or pointing devices.
State-owned Pakistan Ordnance Factories responded with the G3S, which appears to be a carbine version of its PK8 design, itself a G3 chambered for the NATO 5.56mm round. The company exhibited a mock-up of the G3S at February's IDEX defense exhibition in Dubai but were not able to furnish additional information regarding the carbine when contacted.
More infantry support weapons have been called for, such as automatic grenade launchers. The origin or status of these is not clear and was not clarified by the military. More than one system appears to be in service.
The Detonics division of the Al-Technique Corp. of Pakistan (ATCOP) has in the past exhibited a 40mm automatic grenade launcher at Pakistani defense exhibitions, and this is thought to be in at least limited service.
However, analyst Haris Khan of the Pakistan Military Consortium think tank said foreign automatic grenade launchers have been tested, and of two designs short-listed in 2007, one was South African. This is not the only grenade launcher in service; Khan said the Chinese-built version of the Russian AGS30 was rushed into service and that the launchers have been installed or at least tested on the M113 armored personnel carrier.
These, in addition to additional helicopter-mounted 7.62mm MG3 machine guns and mini-guns, have increased fire support for ground troops, he said.
Though the military spokesman could not expand on the issue, an unusual requirement has been for modern flamethrowers. Khan compared this to the allied experience against the Japanese in World War II.
"Most of the insurgents took clever advantage of the area's terrain. They used caves and dug extensive tunnels to hide in and operate from. The Army lacked any type weapon that could effectively flush out and destroy the insurgents from their hideouts," he said.

S. Korea: North Readying for New Nuclear Test

SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea is ready to conduct another nuclear test if its current approaches for dialogue fail, although there are no current signs of preparations, South Korea's spy chief said April 19.
"Another atomic test is always possible as [North Korea] has various nuclear test sites and construction of [new] sites is underway," National Intelligence Service chief Won Sei-Hoon was quoted as telling a parliamentary intelligence committee.
Won's comments to the closed-door session were quoted by ruling party lawmaker Hwang Jin-Ha.
North Korea conducted its first two nuclear tests in October 2006 and May 2009.
The South's Yonhap news agency reported in February that the North was digging at least two new tunnels at its nuclear test site in apparent preparation for a third atomic detonation.
"I believe North Korea will use military action such as nuclear and missile [tests] to turn the tables if its current tack of dialogue fails," Won said.
Multinational talks on ending the North's nuclear programs in return for diplomatic and economic benefits have been stalled since December 2008.
Pyongyang has expressed interest in restarting them. But Seoul and Washington say it should first show it is serious about disarmament and mend cross-border ties.
The North fueled regional security fears in November by disclosing an apparently functional uranium enrichment plant, which could give it a second way to make atomic bombs in addition to its plutonium stockpile.
Lawmaker Hwang said Won expressed concern over the safety of the North's ageing nuclear facilities at Yongbyon.
"They appear to be inferior, but we cannot say exactly which part is weak. So we're paying attention to this problem," the spy chief was quoted as saying.
Regarding the uranium enrichment plant, South Korean officials have questioned whether Pyongyang can build a facility that meets international safety standards.
Yongbyon for decades has been at the heart of the North's drive for nuclear weapons, with a gas graphite reactor there having produced enough plutonium for possibly six to eight bombs.

France, U.S. Impressed by Brimstone Performance, RAF Official Says

LONDON - French and U.S. air forces are both looking at acquiring the dual-mode Brimstone missile used by the Royal Air Force, according to Britain's Assistant Chief of the Air Staff.
The Brimstone missile was developed by The Boeing Co. and MBDA. (The Boeing Co.)
Speaking April 19 at an Air Power Association dinner, Air Vice Marshall Baz North said the Boeing/MBDA-developed weapon used on RAF Tornado aircraft in Afghanistan and now Libya has caught the attention of both of Britain's premier allies.
The "dual-mode Brimstone is now being sought by the U.S. and France," North said.
The weapon was developed as an anti-armor missile, but upgrades allow it to hit fleeting targets like terrorists on motorbikes or pickup trucks.