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The desperate search for the ARA San Juan

This undated photo provided by the Argentina Navy shows an ARA San Juan, a German-built diesel-electric submarine, near Buenos Aires, Argentina. Argentina’s Navy said Nov. 17, 2017, it has lost contact with its ARA San Juan submarine off the country’s southern coast. (Argentina Navy)

The Argentine Navy submarine ARA San Juan (S-21) is currently missing inside a 482,507 sq.km area to the east of Argentina, north of the Falklands, while on a scheduled trip from the naval base at Ushuaia in Argentina’s extreme south to Mar del Plata. Her closest point to land is estimated to be about 200 miles offshore in 500-700m of the coldest and most inhospitable waters on earth.

The search area is being scoured by ships and aircraft from her home country (to include vintage but still effective S-2 Trackers), as well as Chile, Peru, South Africa, Brazil, the Royal Navy (a C-130 out of Port Stanley and the ice patrol ship HMS Protector), and the U.S.– the later of which has provided at least two Navy P-8A Poseidon multi-mission maritime aircraft, a number of UUVs, and a NASA P-3B research aircraft which still has its MAD sensor equipment.

The RN’s Submarine Parachute Assistance Group, NATO’s submarine rescue unit as well as two assets from the U.S. are staging to effect an emergency rescue is needed:

Three U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III and one U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy aircraft will transport the first rescue system, the Submarine Rescue Chamber (SRC) and underwater intervention Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) from Miramar to Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina. The four aircraft are scheduled to depart Miramar Nov. 18 and arrive in Argentina Nov. 19.

The second rescue system, the Pressurized Rescue Module (PRM) and supporting equipment will be transported via additional flights and is scheduled to arrive in Argentina early next week.

The SRC is a McCann rescue chamber designed during World War II and still used today. SRC can rescue up to six persons at a time and reach a bottomed submarine at depths of 850 feet. The PRM can submerge up to 2,000 feet for docking and mating, with a submarine settled on the ocean floor up to 45-degree angle in both pitch and roll. The PRM can rescue up to 16 personnel at a time. Both assets are operated by two crewmembers and mate with the submarine by sealing over the submarine’s hatch allowing Sailors to safely transfer to the rescue chamber.

Waves 4,5 meters in height and winds of 90 km are hampering the search.

While some attempted satellite communications attempts may have been made by the San Juan on Saturday, there has been no contact with the vessel since Thursday.

The San Juan, a West German-built Thyssen Nordseewerke TR-1700 type diesel-electric sub (a design used only by Argentina) was commissioned in 1985 and was most recently refit in 2014. The two completed TR-1700s were basically stretched Type 209 SSKs designed in the 1970s and, while four were to be constructed– half in Germany/ half in Argentina– just the pair of European subs were completed.

As the San Juan was built to NATO-specs, the dive rescue chambers being rushed to the area should prove compatible if she is located in time and the pressure hull is intact.

ARA San Juan (Argentine Navy)

Organized first with students who were trained in the U.S. in 1917, the Escuela de Submarinos received their first three submarines– Italian Tosi-built boats– in the 1930s. Since then the force has operated four Balao-class fleet boats and two Type 209 submarines, with one of each of the latter types, saw service in the Falklands conflict.

At least 44 servicemen on board the missing submarine. Among the crew is South America’s first female submarine officer, Eliana María Krawczyk, who joined the Armada in 2009 and was accepted into the Escuela de Submarinos in 2012.

Please keep them all in your thoughts and prayers.

Bad news for FFG7 fans out there

150417-N-SV210-036 SAN DIEGO (April 17, 2015) The guided-missile frigate USS Gary (FFG 51) arrives at Naval Base San Diego after completing its final deployment before decommissioning. During the seven-month deployment, Gary operated in the U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet and U.S. 3rd Fleet areas of operations and played an integral role in Operation Martillo. (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Donnie W. Ryan/Released)

It looks like the CNO looked at it and decided the “Ghetto Navy” is best left out to pasture.

It’s a common theme in bringing back high-mileage warships like the neutered FFG-7 class from mothballs. They were typically rode hard and put up wet. For example, when SECNAV John “600-ship Navy” Lehman went to look at the old carrier USS Oriskany in 1981 with an eye to putting her back into use after a four-year layup, she had grass and even small trees growing on her decks and was too far gone for Congress to okay the millions needed to get her back into the fold.

From Defense News:

The Navy estimates that bringing back 10 of the Perry-class frigates would cost in excess of $4.32 billion over 10 years, and take away from money needed to modernize the Navy’s existing cruisers and destroyers. In return, the Navy would get a relatively toothless ship only suitable for very low-end missions such as counter-drug operations.

“With obsolete combat systems and aging hulls, these vessels would require significant upgrades to remain warfighting relevant for another decade,” the document reads. “Any potential return on investment would be offset by high reactivation and life-cycle costs, a small ship inventory, limited service life, and substantial capability gaps.

“Furthermore, absent any external source of funding, these costs would likely come at the expense of other readiness, modernization or shipbuilding programs.”

The rest here.

That’s a whole lot of mobile real estate

WESTERN PACIFIC (Nov. 12, 2017) The aircraft carriers USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and their strike groups are underway, conducting operations, in international waters as part of a three-carrier strike force exercise. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia Pacific region routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional security, stability, and prosperity. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. James Griffin/Released)

Currently, the Navy has 11 commissioned nuclear aircraft carriers in service (as well as two under construction and two conventional carriers laid up pending disposal). Well, for the first time in a long time, 7 of those 11 are underway with three– USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71)— fully armed and conducting operations forward deployed in the Western Pacific. Those three flattops are currently off the Korean Peninsula with vessels of the Republic of Korean Navy and the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force.

WESTERN PACIFIC (Nov. 12, 2017) Three F/A-18E Super Hornets, assigned to the Eagles of Strike Fighter Attack Squadron (VFA) 115, fly in formation over the aircraft carriers USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and their strike groups along with ships from the Republic of Korea Navy as they transit the Western Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Aaron B. Hicks/Released)

There haven’t been seven carriers underway since 2004 and it’s been a decade since three carrier strike groups operated together in the big blue of the Pacific during exercise Valiant Shield 2007.

“It is a rare opportunity to train with two aircraft carriers together, and even rarer to be able to train with three,” said U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander, Adm. Scott Swift in the Navy’s presser on the ops in the West Pac. “Multiple carrier strike force operations are very complex, and this exercise in the Western Pacific is a strong testament to the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s unique ability and ironclad commitment to the continued security and stability of the region.”

Let’s roll that beautiful bean footage:

The Gambia op in the rear-view

Back in 2014, a group of four American citizens with ties to the West African country of The Gambia decided to overthrow President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia, whose official state website at the time listed him as “His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Azziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh,” among other titles.

The would-be revolutionaries had military backgrounds to one degree or another to include one, Papa Faal, 47, of Minnesota, who was a long-time veteran of the U.S. Army and Air Force that included recent combat service in Afghanistan.

The plot involved shipping semi-auto AR-15s, NVGs and assorted sundry banana republic gear to Africa secreted in 55-gal drums.

Once on the ground, Faal led ground assault team of a two other Americans and dozen ethnic Gambians from the UK and Germany in an attack on the Presidential Palace that was supposed to be supported by a sympathetic company of Gambian troops.

One of two cars used in a 2014 attack on the Gambian State House during a coup attempt in The Gambia. Several naturalized Americans from the West African nation helped plan and carry out the failed coup, violating U.S. federal law. (Photos: FBI)

Well, the turncoats never turned and Faal and the boys were left assed-out, only barely managing to break off the attack and beat feet out of the country, leaving most of their comrades and two shot up rental cars behind.

Back in the U.S., Faal and three men were quickly charged in 2015 with Conspiracy to violate the Neutrality Act and Conspiracy to possess a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. In the end, they plead guilty and in exchange picked up paperweight sentences of between six months and 366 days in federal prison–except for Papa Faal who got off with time served.

Anyway, I covered the coup details extensively in my column at Guns.com here, here and here.

But the FBI just released more information on the story here, including some great images.

I can’t believe these guys went to gun shows and stocked up on this thin receiver stuff when they could have bought true Type 56 Spikers and FALs all over Africa for a song…You can tell this was not a CIA op…

In their investigation, agents identified more than 20 weapons purchased by Americans. They also examined the cars used in the attack as well as the safe houses, and they took DNA samples from the two dead Americans.

But the whole thing started off like a page from a Mack Bolan book:

Two Americans were killed in the failed coup on December 30, 2014. The next day, distraught Gambian-American Papa Faal entered the U.S. Embassy in neighboring Senegal.

“He said, ‘I need to get back to the United States. The Gambians are looking for me,’” said Special Agent Jeffrey Van Nest from the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office. “When embassy staff asked why Faal said he was part of the attempted coup. That’s when we got involved.”

 

Getting it done with the Junipers

You don’t typically think of a 225-foot Juniper-class Coast Guard buoy tender as a national defense (MARDEZ) and homeland security asset, but Coast Guard Cutter Aspen just returned to her homeport last week after sailing nearly 7,000 nautical miles during a 30-day patrol, which included a cocaine interdiction off Mexico as part of Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) South.

Aspen‘s efforts resulted in the interdiction of a suspected smuggling vessel carrying more than 224 pounds of cocaine worth approximately $3.3 million and the apprehension of six suspected smugglers.

The interdiction occurred Oct. 10, after the Aspen deployed two 23-foot interceptor boats which made a three-hour pursuit to intercept a suspected smuggling vessel approximately 400 miles off the coast of Mexico.

Coast Guard members aboard two interceptor boats from the Coast Guard Cutter Aspen, a 225-foot sea-going buoy tender, maneuver in the Eastern Pacific Ocean off the coast of Mexico during a counter-smuggling patrol, Oct. 13, 2017.

Also during the deployment, the Aspen conducted exercises with the Mexican and Canadian navies aimed to help strengthen international partnerships while degrading and disrupting transnational criminal organization networks. Not bad for a ship whose primary mission is aids to navigation.

From left to right are Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Nanaimo (MM702), a Kingston-class Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel, Aspen and what looks to be a Holzinger-class patrol vessel of the Armada de México.

“This was a very successful deployment and I could not be more proud of the crew,” said Lt. Cmdr. Justin Vanden Heuvel, Aspen‘s commanding officer. “Utilizing a buoy tender as a platform to execute counter-narcotics missions shows the versatility and adaptability of the Coast Guard and the Aspen crew. Day in and day out the crew expertly conducts a wide variety of missions including search and rescue, aids to navigation, fisheries enforcement and in this case, the interdiction of illegal contraband destined for the United States.”

While built for tending navigational aids, 225’s have also proved useful in everything from salvage to sovereignty and fishery patrols, to ice operations (sistership USCGC Maple covered the Northwest Passage in 47 days this summer) and even carrying special operations detachments on training missions in the littoral.

On Clausewitz

Dr. T. Echevarria, Army War College faculty, Aug. 29, 2017. Carlisle Barracks Wil Washcoe Hall:

Followed up with Prof. V.E. Bellinger, Professor of Clausewitz Studies, Army War College, Bliss Hall, 30 Aug. 2017

I think this is needed…

One thing the international shooting sports organizations are looking at in recent years is expanding into more “fit” activities.

One of the exhibition sports seen overseas in this concept is Target Sprint. The event makes competitors run a 400m track, then take their rifle from a storage rack and shoot at five falling targets from a 10m standing position with a time penalty for each missed shot. The athlete then repeats the lap and shoots again, followed by another lap to the finish line.

A very groovy and more modern sporting rifle style version was last week in Texas, the annual Waco Tactical Fitness Biathlon. The event takes place over a five-mile course with several shooting stages. Each competitor has to show up with a centerfire rifle and pistol, eye and ear pro, enough ammo to complete the stages, and a stopwatch. While running between stations, rifles have to be unloaded and pistols have to be holstered.

The course is no joke, with photos showing competitors clamoring over plywood walls, taking a 60-pound sand dummy for a drag, monkeying around on horizontal ladders, firing from treetop cuckoo nests and simulated rooftops, and, oh yeah, running.

“If you can’t do a few pull-ups, scramble up and down rough/rocky hills and push through wooded areas, some of the obstacles will be difficult to overcome,” says the site. (Photos: WTF)

More in my column at Guns.com.

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