Category Archives: modern military conflict

Kingstons Growing Up to Fill the Role(s) After 25 Years

This week in 1996, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Kingston (700) was commissioned to Canada’s Atlantic Fleet.

Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Kingston, while deployed on Operation CARIBBE on November 8, 2016. Photo By: 12 Wing Imaging Services XC03-2016-1002-566

Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Kingston, while deployed on Operation CARIBBE on November 8, 2016. Photo By: 12 Wing Imaging Services XC03-2016-1002-571

With the motto: “Pro Rege et Grege” (For Sovereign and People), HMCS Kingston was the first of 12 Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels (MCDV).

For the maximum price of $750 million (in 1995 Canadian dollars), Ottawa bought 12 ships including design, construction, outfitting, equipment (85 percent of Canadian origin), and 22 sets of remote training equipment for inland reserve centers.

These 181-foot ships were designed to commercial standards and intended “to conduct coastal patrols, minesweeping, law enforcement, pollution surveillance and response as well as search and rescue duties,” able to pinch-hit between these wildly diverse assignments via modular mission payloads in the same way that the littoral combat ships would later try.

That is one chunky monkey. These boats, despite the fact they have deployed from Hawaii to the Baltic and West Africa, are reportedly slow and ride terribly. I mean, look at that hull form

Like the LCS, the modules weren’t very good and are rarely fielded because they never really lived up to the intended design. In all, the RCN has enough minesweeping modules to fully equip just two Kingstons as minehunters and partially equip four or five others. 

When it came to MCM, they were to run mechanical minesweeping (single Oropesa, double Oropesa, or team sweep) at 8 to 10 knots, Full degaussing (DG) capability was only fitted in three ships, although the cables were fitted in all vessels. The route survey system– of which only four modules were ever procured– was to be capable of performing at speeds of up to 10 knots with a resolution as high as 12 centimeters per pixel in any ocean of the world.

It is joked that the bulk of the force could act as a minesweeper– but only do it once.

Armed with surplus manually-trained Canadian Army Bofors 40mm/L60 Boffins (formerly Naval guns leftover from HMCS Bonaventure), which had been used for base air defense in West Germany for CFB Lahr/CFB Baden during the Cold War, they never had a lot of punch. Later removed, these WWII relics were installed ashore as monuments, and the Kingstons were left with just a couple of .50 cal M2s as topside armament.

Manned with hybrid reserve/active crews in a model similar to the U.S. Navy’s NRF frigate program, their availability suffered, much like the Navy’s now-canceled NRF frigate program. This usually consisted of two active rates– one engineering, one electrical– and 30 or so drilling reservists per hull. Designed to operate with a crew of 24 for coastal surveillance missions with accommodation for up to 37 for mine warfare or training, the complement was housed in staterooms with no more than three souls per compartment. 

With 12 ships, six are maintained on each coast in squadrons, with one or two “alert” ships fully manned and/or deployed at a time and one or two in extended maintenance/overhaul.

Canadian Kingston-class coastal defense vessel HMCS Saskatoon (709), note 40mm gun forward, bridge wing .50 cals, and CEU container– the hallmark of “modular” designs. They could accept three 20 foot ISO containers.

Intended to have a 15-year service life, these 970-ton ships have almost doubled that with no signs of stopping anytime soon. They have recently been given a series of two-year (and shorter) refits that included upgrades to their hull, galley, HVAC, and fire fighting systems while the RCN is spitballing better armament to include remote-operated stabilized .50 cal mounts. Notably, they are getting new degaussing systems. 

Canadian Kingston class Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel with remote 50 cal that may replace the old 40mm mounts that were removed.

With all that out there in the sunlight, these shoestring surface combatants have been pushed into spaces and places no one could have foreseen and they have pulled off a lot– often overseas despite their official “type” and original intention.

Besides coastal training and ho-hum sovereignty and fisheries patrols, the ships of the class are tapped to deploy regularly as part of narcotics interdiction missions in Operation Caribbe in the Caribbean and the Central American Pacific coast, with they work hand-in-hand with SOUTHCOM and the U.S. Fourth Fleet.

About half of Caribbe deployments have been by the Kingstons. Note that this chart is from 2016, and at least a dozen more deployments have been chalked up since then

They also regularly deploy to the Arctic as part of the annual Operation Nanook exercises.

HMCS Summerside Kingston-class coastal defense vessel. While not robust ice-going vessels, the ships are nevertheless built to operate safely in 40 centimeters of first-year ice, which puts them capable of summer cruises in the Arctic. 

With a small footprint (just 25~ man typical complement, mostly of naval reservists on temporary active duty) they often deploy in pairs.

Recently, they have been experimenting with UAV operations from their decks, as well as working closely with USN and USCG helicopter detachments for HOISTEXs and HIFR while, especially in Caribbe deployments, with embarked USCG Law Enforcement Detachments.

One could argue that these “coastal defense” vessels have spent more time off the coasts of other countries than their own.

Some highlights:

Kingston, in company with HMCS Anticosti and her sister-ship HMCS Glace Bay (701), in 1999 was deployed to the Baltic Sea to participate in Exercise BLUE GAME, a major minesweeping exercise with other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) units. They were the smallest Canadian warships to cross the Atlantic since the Second World War. In 2003, Kingston spent 144 days at sea, sailing over 19,000 nautical miles in SAR missions, training Maritime Surface Operations Naval cadets, operating with the RCMP, and, with sister-ship HMCS Moncton, plucked two Marine Corps F-18 pilots from the Atlantic after the two Hornets collided in an exercise. In 2014, Kingston was part of the expedition that searched for and found one of the ships that disappeared during Franklin’s lost expedition. In 2018, she and sistership HMCS Summerside sailed for West Africa to take part in Obangame Express 2018 with the U.S. Navy and several African navies, a trip that was repeated in 2019 for Operation Projection.

Glace Bay (701) has also helped after the crash of Swissair Flight 111 off Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia in 1998 and, with MCM gear, was part of a team searching in Lake Ontario in 2004 for some of the last remnants of the legendary CF-105 Avro Arrow. In 2014, she seized $84 million worth of drugs with working as part of Operation Caribbe. In 2018, she pulled down a Baltic minesweeping deployment. In 2020, Glace Bay and sistership HMCS Shawinigan departed Halifax as part of Operation Projection off West Africa.

Northern Lights shimmer above HMCS GLACE BAY during Operation NANOOK 2020 on August 18, 2020. CPL DAVID VELDMAN, CAF PHOTO

HMCS Nanaimo (702) has been part of two RIMPACs and, while deployed on Caribbe in 2017, made two large busts at sea with a USCG LEDET aboard, seizing almost three tons of blow. She doubled down as a narco buster in her 2018 Caribbe deployment.

HMCS Edmonton (703), and participated in RIMPAC 2002. This voyage to Hawaii was the longest non-stop distance traveled by vessels of the Kingston class at that time, and they acted in route clearance roles for the larger task force. She has also had three very successful Caribbe deployments. From August to September 2017, Edmonton and sistership Yellowknife sailed to the Arctic Ocean to perform surveillance of Canada’s northern waters as part of Operation Limpid.

HMCS Shawinigan (704) has operated alongside Canadian submarine assets, been part of NATO international mine warfare exercises, and was the HQ platform for the Route Halifax Saint-Pierre 2006. In 2014, Shawinigan’s Operation Nanook deployment set the record for traveling the furthest north of any ship in the history of the Royal Canadian Navy, reaching a maximum latitude of 80 degrees and 28 minutes north. She went to West Africa in 2020 and down to SOUTHCOM’s neck of the woods twice.

HMCS Whitehorse (705) has survived a hurricane at sea and, in 2006, while conducting route survey operations, rescued a group of local teenagers from the waters in the approaches to Nanoose Harbour B.C. then rescued another group stranded on Maude Island. She has participated in at least two RIMPACs and three Caribbe deployments. One of the latter, with sistership HMCS Brandon in 2015, made seven different seizures from smugglers, totaling 10 tons of cocaine.

HMCS WHITEHORSE conducts weapon maintenance during Operation CARIBBE on February 10, 2020

HMCS Yellowknife (706) earned a Canadian Forces Unit Commendation for saving the F/V Salmon King in 2001. In 2002, she and three of her sister ships deployed to Mexico and for the first time in 25 years, conducting two weeks of operations with the Mexican Navy. The next year, she joined a task force of French and Canadian ships in the Pacific and joined a U.S. task force in 2014. She has taken part in at least three RIMPACs and, during her 2019 Caribbe deployment with sistership Whitehorse, seized three tons of coke.

HMCS Goose Bay (707) in 2001 accompanied by sister ship HMCS Moncton, took part in the NATO naval exercise Blue Game off the coasts of Norway and Denmark. The next summer, along with sister HMCS Summerside, marked the first Arctic visit by RCN naval vessels in 13 years as part of Operation Narwhal Ranger, an area that later became her regular stomping ground in successive Nanook deployments. She has been to warmer waters with Caribbe and deployed with the USCG for their Operations Tradewinds through the Caribbean for training with local forces there.

HMCS Moncton (708) besides multiple Nanook and Caribbe deployments, has been very active in the Baltic as part of Trident Juncture. She has also worked off West Africa in Neptune Trident. In 2017, with sistership HMCS Summerside, conducted missions against pirates and illegal fishing off the African coast, along with making port visits to Sierra Leone, Senegal, Liberia, and Ivory Coast. She has recently been sporting a North Atlantic WWII scheme. 

Kingston-class coastal defense vessel HMCS Moncton (708) with her Atlantic WWII camo, 2019

HMCS Saskatoon (709) in addition to Nanook and Caribbe, she has been in at least one RIMPAC and Pacific Guardian exercise, the latter with the USCG “involving various scenarios focused on drug or immigrant smuggling, pollution detection, marine mammal sightings, shellfish poaching, illegal logging, and criminal activities,” along the Pac Northwest coastline.

HMCS Brandon (710) has been in several Caribbe deployments.

HMCS Summerside (711) the newest Kingston, is still 21 years old. Her credits include a Narwhal Ranger deployment, followed by later Nanook trips, at least four Caribbe deployments, NATO exercise Cutlass Fury (North Atlantic) and Trident Juncture (Baltic), as well as a Neptune Trident cruise to West Africa which notably involved joint training exercises with naval vessels from Morocco and Senegal.

One could spitball that, when you calculate the bang for the buck that penny-pinching Canada has gotten from these humble vessels over the past quarter-century, perhaps the U.S. Navy should have gone with a similar concept for the LCS and put the billions saved into, I don’t know, actual frigates.

Since you came this far, the RCN offers a free paper model for download, should you be interested. 

And they looked from Sim to Real Life and Couldn’t tell the Difference

Check out the bridge of the new Paolo Thaon di Revel-class multipurpose offshore ships (Pattugliatore Polivalente d’Altura, PPA) built by Fincantieri for the Italian Navy, which is currently undergoing trials and qualifications. 

The 16 planned Revels are set to replace four Soldati-class light patrol frigates and eight Minerva-class corvettes. They will clock in at 6,270 tons full load, run 469-feet overall, are designed to make 31.6 knots on a CODAG plant. The crew is 170ish, slightly less than an FFG-7 from back in the day.

It should also be pointed out that, in its heavy version, the PPAs will be pretty heavily armed, at least in comparison to American frigates, with a 5″/64 main Vulcano gun, a 76mm/62 Strales gun, 16 CAMM-ER missiles, 8 Otomat strike missiles, a pair of remote-controlled 25mm stabilized deck guns, ASW torpedo tubes, and two SH90-sized helicopters in a double hangar.

Armored Recce Ridealong

In an unburnished look at what life is like in a Canadian Army reserve armoured recon (cavalry scout) unit, the service released a really well-done 15-minute short featuring a corporal in The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own) talking about a route recce excercise.

The “Dukes” of the BCR use the new Textron TAPV (Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicle), fundamentally a Canadian variant of the M1117 Armoured Security Vehicle, armed with an HK GMG 40mm grenade machine gun (C16 in Canadian parlance) and a C6 (M240) 7.62 mm GPMG coax on a remote weapon station.

“The Dukes” date back to 1883 and, currently part of the 39 Canadian Brigade Group after amalgamation with the Irish Fusiliers of Canada (The Vancouver Regiment), have battle honors for both world wars– including for Ypres, the Somme, Passchendaele, and the Falaise– and Afghanistan.

RAN getting into the SSN Game, apparently

The Royal Australian Navy Submarine Service has been around since 1964 but the Ozzies have been running subs going back to the Great War-era British E class submarines AE1 and AE2, which we have covered here on a Warship Wednesday.

Besides the Es, the Australians operated a half-dozen J-class boats in WWI, two O-class boats in the 1920s, and eight British Oberon-class submarines through the Cold War.

Barbecue on top of HMAS Onslow, a diesel submarine operated by Australia’s Navy from 1968 to 1999.

Today, they have the half dozen controversial (but Australian-built!) Collins-class submarines in service that are aging out.

Collins-class submarines conducting exercises northwest of Rottnest Island 2019

Driven by political pressure against nuclear-powered subs– both Australia and New Zealand have had issues with American “N” prefixes visiting in past years– Canberra signed a contract for a dozen planned Attack-class SSKs from France in a competition that saw both German and Japanese designs come up in a close tie for second place.

However, with the French boats not being able to get operational into some time in the mid-2030s, the Australians are scrapping the stalled French contract and going with a program with the U.S. and Royal Navy to field SSNs.

The AUKUS program is ambitious to say the least. 

RAN’s official statement, with a lot more detail than you get elsewhere: 

The submarines will be built at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in Adelaide, where French company Naval Group was to construct the soon-to-be canceled submarines, which is a heavy lift for sure, but not insurmountable. 

As SUBSCOL in New London is very good at what they do at training Nuclear Program submariners, and the production line for the Virginia-class boats is white-hot, it is likely something that could be done inside the decade with some sort of technology sharing program similar to how Australian acquired their FFG-7 frigates in the 1980s, provided the RAN can cough up enough submariners (they have a problem staffing their boats now as it is) as well as the cash and political will.

If a Virginia-class variant is chosen, perhaps one could be hot-loaned from COMSUBPAC, with a cadre of specialists aboard, to the Australians for a couple years as a training boat while theirs are being constructed. 

Can Canberra buy and man 12 boats? Doubtful, but a 4+1 hull program with one boat in a maintenance period and the four active subs, perhaps with rotating blue/red crews, could provide a lot of snorkel.

Plus, it could see American SSNs based in Western Australia on a running basis, which is something that has never happened. Of course, the precedent is there, as 122 American, 31 British, and 11 Dutch subs conducted patrols from Fremantle and Brisbane between 1942 and 1945 while the Royal Navy’s 4th Submarine Flotilla was based in Sydney from 1949 until 1969.

Of course, the French, who have been chasing this hole in the ocean for five years, are going to raise hell over this. 

The “breakup statement” of French Naval Group with Australia Attack class submarine deal…no mention of them being overpriced, overdue and under delivery.

Meanwhile, off Korea

In related Pacific submarine news, the South Koreans successfully fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile on Wednesday, just hours after North Korea fired two ballistic missiles into the sea.

The ROKN boat, likely the new ROKS Dosan Ahn Changho (SS-083), which just commissioned in August, fired the indigenous Hyunmoo conventional warhead SLBM, of which not much is known. The 3,700-ton Changho-class, of which nine are planned, have six VLS silos for such missiles in addition to their torpedo tubes.

Army to Glock: Give us $15M worth of ‘Perfection’

The Pentagon apparently went looking for some “Glock Perfection” and last week tapped the company with a contract worth up to $15 million. 

Smyrna, Georgia’s Glock, Inc, was awarded a $14,999,980 firm-fixed-price five-year contract “for various firearms, spare magazines, and spare parts.”  The contracting activity was the U.S. Army Contracting Command, Newark, New Jersey. 

The 59-page Solicitation Notice, published by Picatinny Arsenal in July, was specifically to “procure non-standard weapons/commercially available Glock weapon systems” including up to 1,500 G17 model handguns; 5,000 G19s; and 2,200 G26 pistols across several generations (Gen3, Gen4, and Gen5). Modular Optic System (MOS) (G19, Gen 3, 4, 5) and threaded barrel versions (Metric or Standard threads, G19 MOS, Gen 4, 5) were also covered.

“A Green Beret demonstrates how to dismantle an M249 light machine gun to partner force soldiers of the Maghaweir al-Thowra (MaT) during a machine gun familiarization range at al-Tanf Garrison, Syria, March 4, 2020.” Note the holstered Glock, complete with factory night sights, in what could be termed a “field-modified” holster. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. William Howard)

More in my column at Guns.com.

National Security Cutters Get Chance to Flex National Security Muscle

Via the U.S. Coast Guard 17th District Alaska (emphasis mine):

During a routine maritime patrol in the Bering Sea and Arctic region, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL-750), spotted and established radio contact with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) task force in international waters within the U.S. exclusive economic zone, Aug. 30, 2021. All interactions between the U.S. Coast Guard and PLAN were in accordance with international laws and norms. At no point did the PLAN task force enter U.S. territorial waters. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Bridget Boyle.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Bridget Boyle.

The U.S. Coast Guard demonstrated its commitment to the Bering Sea and Arctic region with deployments of national security cutters Bertholf (WMSL-750), and Kimball (WMSL-756), and a U.S. Arctic patrol by icebreaker Healy.

“Security in the Bering Sea and the Arctic is homeland security,” said Vice Adm. Michael McAllister, commander Coast Guard Pacific Area. “The U.S. Coast Guard is continuously present in this important region to uphold American interests and protect U.S. economic prosperity.”

Crews interacted with local, national and international vessels throughout the Arctic. During the deployment, Bertholf and Kimball observed four ships from the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) operating as close as 46 miles off the Aleutian Island coast. While the ships were within the U.S. exclusive economic zone, they followed international laws and norms and at no point entered U.S. territorial waters.

The PLAN task force included a guided missile cruiser, a guided missile destroyer, a general intelligence vessel, and an auxiliary vessel. The Chinese vessels conducted military and surveillance operations during their deployment to the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean.

All interactions between the U.S. Coast Guard and PLAN were in accordance with international standards set forth in the Western Pacific Naval Symposium’s Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea and Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.

While the PLAN doesn’t “officially” have any cruisers, the brand new Type 55 DDGs (NATO designation Renhai-class) are big ships, running to 13,000-tons, and having a 112-vell VLS launcher installed with missiles cued by a phased array radar. In other words, a bigger, newer version of a Tico. They are the largest and most advanced Chinese surface combatant. 

PLAN’s Nanchang (DDG-101) Type 55, from a Japanese MOD intel picture/press release earlier this year. Look at all those VLS cells…

Bertholf. At 4,500-tons and armed with a 57 mm gun, a 20mm Close-In Weapons System, four .50-caliber machine guns, two M240B 7.62mm GPMGs, and space for two helicopters, along with passive EW and SRBOC systems, it is about as heavily armed as current US Coast Guard cutters get. Of course, I’d like to see a few Harpoons/NSSMs, Mk 32 Torpedo tubes, and maybe a RAM missile system on her, but that’s just me.

Facing off against this, the pair of 4,500-ton Legend-class National Security cutters combined had two 57mm Bofors, two CIWS, and some mounted machine guns.

In all seriousness, such interactions, coupled with the use by the Navy of the same class of white hulls to cruise through the contested South China Sea on Freedom of Navigation Patrols, point to the USCG’s larger cutters at a minimum getting an armament upgrade to swap out CIWS for C-RAM and pick up a few Naval Strike Missiles to at least put them on-par with the admittedly under-armed littoral combat ships. 

If you act like a frigate, no matter the color of your hull, you better be able to back it up. 

September 2021, Royal Australian Navy fleet oiler HMAS Sirius (AO-266) conducts a dual replenishment at sea with the amphibious assault dock HMAS Canberra (LHD-2) and USCGC Munro (WMSL-755), during Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2021. (RAN Photo by LSIS Leo Baumgartner)

Cantankerous Canuck Submarines Nearing Sea Again

The 30-year-old Canadian Upholder-class submarine HMCS Victoria (SSK 876) passing the Fisgard Lighthouse, Esquimalt, BC, Sept 2020, on her way to sea trials after extensive refits. (RCN photo)

The Type 2400/Upholder/Victoria-class diesel submarines have been something of an albatross of naval history. The last snorkel boats built in the UK, they were to replace the hard-serving Oberon-class boats for surveillance and coastal special operations but the end of the Cold War found the Admiralty rapidly losing interest in the series. Of the eight planned ships, only four (Upholder, Unseen, Ursula, and Unicorn) reached the Royal Navy between 1990-93. Then these boats, just barely past their shakedowns, were all paid off in 1994.

After a deal fell through to sell them to Pakistan (!) London and Ottawa got to talking and Canada picked up the quartet for a song to replace their own Oberon-class boats in 1998. Then came an extensive refit/rework on these low-mileage boats that only saw them begin to enter Canadian service in 2003.

Canadian submarine HMCS Victoria, ex HMS Upholder

Since then, the four boats, (now the HMCS Chicoutimi, Victoria, Corner Brook, and Windsor) have had a mixed bag of incidents to include a fairly serious fire at sea (Chicoutimi), “catastrophic damage” to the electrical system of another boat (Victoria) and a sea-floor collision (Corner Brook, followed by a dry dock fire), as well as mechanical issues and hundreds of bad welds that have left them tied up for years at a time.

Nonetheless, they have had periods of good luck, including a 105-day training cruise in 2015 for Windsor followed by a 133-day Atlantic/Med patrol in 2018 (the first time a Canadian submarine was operational in the Mediterranean in more than four decades) and a 197-day West Pac deployment by Chicoutimi in 2018 (the first time a Canadian submarine has visited Japan since HMCS Grisle in May 1968). Now, pushing into their third decade of service, they are getting closer to being right with Victoria recently finishing sea trials and crew training following an extensive refit. Corner Brook, which had been laid up since 2014, is supposed to be repaired enough to return to service sometime late this year. Windsor is reportedly doing the same, recently completing a lengthy Transitional Docking Work Period (TDWP).

Tusker 333 (CC-130H) Hercules provides top cover for Tusker 912 (CH-149) while conducting hoist training with HMCS Windsor off the coast of Nova Scotia. Photo by SAR Technician Matthew Sebo, 413 Squadron

Three of the boats so far have ditched their old Type 2040 sonar for a new AN/BQQ-10 A-RCI sonar suite, similar to American submarines. They are also now armed with the Mark 48 MOD 7AT torpedo, an upgrade from the previous Mark 48 MOD 4M that required significant upgrades to the 1990s-vintage weapon handling, weapon discharge, and fire control systems.

The RCN recently released this sizzle reel, planning to keep the quartet around for another decade. 

A New Generation of (Bearded) Gurkha?

A member of 10 Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment challenges on Guard during the drill practice for the Ceremony of the Keys The Queen's Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment Kukri

A member of 10 Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment challenges on Guard during the drill practice for the Ceremony of the Keys (MOD)

Lawmakers in Britain are looking to find a purpose for the diaspora of Afghan National Army commando and special forces currently studying at specialist schools in the UK, to include Sandhurst: form them into a unit of commandos in British uniform.

Of note, the all-volunteer and highly trained ANA Commando Corps – only about 20,000 soldiers out of an army of 160,000 — had a good reputation and served as the primary unit fighting the Taliban, raced from place to place like a fire brigade while the rest of the Afghan troops largely formed garrison units. Cut off from their air support and lift due to the rapid exfil of western contractors that kept the turbines turning, the Taliban was able to roll through the country in days while the Commandos assisted in the extraction from HKIA– many leaving on planes to points west from there during the endgame. 

An Afghan National Army soldier assigned to the Mobile Strike Force Kandak fires an RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade launcher during a live-fire exercise

Now, left countryless in much the same way as the White Russians were in the 1920s, they have a “particular set of skills,” honed over a lifetime of use, as it would seem. 

Members of Parliament from Britain’s Conservative Party have now proposed “the creation of a new regiment of Afghans, similar to the brigade of Gurkhas, which comprises more than 4,000 Nepalese soldiers and was first recruited by the British 200 years ago,” according to the Daily Telegraph. It makes a certain sense as the MoD is short-staffed in just about every unit, even as it extensively relies on new enlistees recruited from impoverished Third World Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean and Africa to help flesh out the ranks. 

As further noted in Forbes:

But can Britain really turn Afghans into New Gurkhas? That’s a tricky question. Craig Lawrence, a former British Army general and Gurkha commander who has written several histories and novels about the Gurkhas, sees the optimum approach as having smaller Afghan-only units serve as part of larger British formations. “This might be as complete units of 400 to 600 personnel, or as sub-units of 80 to 120 personnel within other composite units,” he said. “This would enable them to fight together, as they have done for years, and would seem to be the best way of maximizing their lethality against the Taliban. Dispersing them across British infantry units at this early stage would dilute their capability, and would probably create integration issues.”

Besides the homeless commandos, there are some 465 skilled Western-trained military Afghan pilots and ground crews who escaped to Uzbekistan and are now exiled, with which the Brits could field a curious little airwing used to operating Hips, Hinds, and small fixed-wing COIN aircraft under primitive conditions. Could be a useful skill in places like West Africa or elsewhere in the Middle East. 

Will it happen? Well, if anyone would do it, it would be the British.

There would have to be a waiver for beards, of course. 

ROK Pattons still rocking

The Republic of the Korean army recently posted a series of photos of some of their much-updated M48 Pattons on the range, which look great considering their hulls are pushing 60 years of age.

Note the M48 compared to a Korean K2, a much more modern design

Ironically developed from the M47 Patton using lessons learned in the Korean War facing Chinese T-34-85s, the M48 was the standard main battle tank for the U.S. and NATO as well as adjacent Western Allies from the mid-1950s through the mid-1960s when the M60 supplemented and then later replaced the model by the 1980s.

The South Koreans received some 1,061 M48s of all models and updated the best of these examples, former U.S. Army Forces Korea M48A5s received after 1990 along with some M48A5K1s upgraded from M48A2Cs, with the 105mm KM68A1 (South-Korean made M68, the main gun used by the M60), then added a digital fire control system, laser rangefinder, and improved armor including side skirts, making them still capable of tackling anything shy of a T-72. They also use a diesel plant rather than the old gasoline powerpack and carry M60 7.62 NATO machine guns rather than M1919 30.06 guns as the original. 

As the Norks have some 2,200 Type 59/T-54/55s and some 1,400 Chonma/T-62s as the backbone of their armor branch, these updated M48s are good-to-go against the DPRK, on a one-on-one basis, anyway.

The ROK still has some 400 or so M48A5K2/KW models in service, mainly in reserve tank battalions or assigned to the ROK Marine Corps. At least seven other countries still operate large quantities of M48s including Greece, Iran, Lebanon, Morocco, Taiwan, Thailand, and Turkey, although the Korean variants are perhaps the most advanced.

Now the Taliban faces an insurgency of its own

Although America’s longest war is over, the Taliban isn’t fully victorious in its now-liberated country. There are several groups still holding out against the resurgent regime. After all, it is a civil war there. 

Ahmad Massoud, 32, the well-spoken leader of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, is the son of the famed Soviet Afgha War-era mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was assassinated in 2001 while heading of the Northern Alliance. A graduate of Kings College and the University of London, the younger Massoud last week published an op-ed in the WaPo pleading for help.

I write from the Panjshir Valley today, ready to follow in my father’s footsteps, with mujahideen fighters who are prepared to once again take on the Taliban. We have stores of ammunition and arms that we have patiently collected since my father’s time, because we knew this day might come.

Of course, although he is asking for arms and support from the West, the likelihood of it coming overtly is slim to none.

However, it should be noted that Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which is is funded almost exclusively by the American government, is running short reports highlighting his struggle. 

 

At the same time, Amrullah Saleh, one of the old republic’s vice presidents and former Intelligence chief, is still in the country and, along with former Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi (one of the elder Massoud’s better commanders in the Northern Alliance against the Soviets and a former Chief of Staff of the Afghan National Army), are in the Panjshir with Massoud The Younger, where they are trying to form a larger resistance movement in line with a government in exile concept.
 
At least some are coming to the call. 
 
Massoud is being joined by “Hundreds of Tajiks from the southern town of Kulob” who  “say they’re prepared to join anti-Taliban militias in Afghanistan. The Afghan fighters are based in the Panjshir Valley, a predominantly ethnic-Tajik region that has repelled Taliban incursions in the past.”
 
 
Other reports are not quite as glossy as the Taliban move in to put down the unruly valley, just 100 miles from Kabul. 
 
 
Still, if Massoud and the gang can make it to the end of the fighting season, 2022 could be a big year for them. 
 
Meanwhile, there is an Uzbek angle.
 
Another vice president and warlord-figure, the aging Abdul Rashid Dostum (who was marshal of the Afghan National Army and a senior officer of the Communist-era ANA) along with Atta Muhammad Nur, a well-known Tajik who served as a mujahideen resistance commander for the Jamiat-e Islami militia against the Soviets before joining the Northern Alliance back in the day, fled from their stronghold in Mazar-e-Sharif to Uzbekistan a couple of weeks ago, where they no doubt still have a myriad of contacts across the border. Whether or not they make inroads back into the country remains to be seen but, as they say, you can run the warlord out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the warlord.
 
The more things change…
 
 
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