Weekly bulletin WE 10th March 19

Venezuela

There has been an electricity blackout in Venezuela for the past 36 hours. This blackout has impacted 22 out of the 23 Venezuelan provinces. Electricity outages are nothing new in this crumbling Latin American country but this is the first time such an occurrence has lasted this long.

The government blames an attack of some sort on the El Guri dam for the outage, but that probability is low as the dam and all electricity installations in the country are protected by the army. The blackout is more likely due to a lack of maintenance and investment in the country means of production and distribution grid, just as it happened with their oil industry.

To make problems worse, cash money has all but vanished in Venezuela due to hyperinflation. As such, most transactions are conducted electronically… Without power, no transactions are possible. Most businesses, shops and banks have therefore temporarily ceased to trade, paralysing the country and impacting everyone. Worse, there have been some reports of hospital running out of diesel fuel for their back-up power generators, which has already led to some casualties. Some people died because their dialysis machines stopped working. The situation is still ongoing.

As announced last night on our page, civilian flights, seemingly out of the ordinary, have been spotted between Russia and Venezuela. They seem to transit through North Africa and Dubai. Some experts think Moscow is sending advisers/private contractors to assist Maduro. But other experts point to those stops in Dubai… One explanation would be that Russia is helping Venezuela sell its gold production to raise much needed cash/currencies.

Syria

Syria update. Copyright: BBC and Jane’s.

On Friday, Turkmen militias conducted raids on Syrian Army positions on the edge of the idlib de-escalation zone. There have also been some raids reported inside the mountainous region of Latakia. As a result, Syrian artillery has been pounding jihadi positions all day yesterday. The Syrian Air Force has also taken part in this retaliation operation.

Idlib is one of the few remaining de-escalation zone in Syria. It has Turkey as a guarantor and is supposed to be a refuge zone within Syria. The de-escalation zones were first implemented in Syria to protect refugees and families of rebel fighters fighting government troops… The problem is that there are no rebels left in Syria and that the province of Idlib is teaming with foreign jihadis loyal to Al-Qaeda and Turkmen militias (rebranded as FSA) loyal to Ankara… A final showdown between Jihadis and the SAA is not to be completely excluded. Damascus has always stated that it intended to reconquer 100% of the Syrian territory. And Moscow is likely to allow this if Erdogan doesn’t prevent jihadi attacks toward the province of Latakia, where its airbase and naval support base are situated.

Erdogan, certainly, is facing a conundrum… He supported ISIS against Damascus, for a while. When he faced an international backlash regarding his support for that terror organisation, he edged his bets instead on Al-Qaeda, then known as Al-Nusra. The organisation is now known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Nevertheless, this terror organisation only now rules over one province in Syria: idlib. Ergogan, sensing he picked the losing side, offered to become guarantor of the Idlib de-escalation zone. This enabled him to keep some means of pressure over Damascus as well as injecting hundred of Turkmen Militiamen into the area, under the borrowed name FSA (Free Syrian Army, no affiliation with the original and now defunct FSA that was composed of rebels fighting Assad’s troops). That move was also aimed at preventing the two Kurdish enclaves in Syria from joining into one continuous bit of land along the Turkish border.

The problems for Erdogan are multiple… If he takes on the Kurds militarily speaking, he will not only lose the favours of Washington, he will also push the Kurds into Assad’s hands… And while the SAA has been weakened by almost a decade of civil war, the remaining troops are battle hardened and have been progressively re-equipped and trained by Moscow… The subsequent clash could be very bloody indeed and could test Turkish troops. Furthermore, Turkish troops taking on the SAA would anger Moscow and Tehran… In one bold move, Ankara could actually upset both Moscow and Washington, which Ankara has cleverly been trying to play against one another for the past few years…

As for Idlib itself… Ankara does not really know what to do either… Withdrawing would be accepting defeat against Damascus (or at least accepting the defeat of the side Ankara picked to support in that conflict). Remaining would, with time, increase the risk of a clash against the Syrian Army… Withdrawing would also pose the following problem to Erdogan: What to do with those Turkmen militias and foreign jihadis fighting for Al-Qaeda that Ankara allowed to cross into Syria ? Take them back home or abandon them ?

Rand Wargames

Copyright: Rand.

Floating around on various blogs and websites, yesterday was an article where two RAND analysts explained that the US often ended up on the losing side when pitched against Russia and China in simulated wargames.

Now, the article was more precise than this: The US was on the losing side against Russia in case of a Russian aggression on the Baltic States. Basically, the US could not prevent a Russian take over of the region. It would also encounter problems trying to chase the Russians away from that area once Moscow’s troops had taken over it.

Similarly, wargames have shown that the US would have problems preventing China from taking over Taiwan.

The problems are multiple and explained as such: The US would have to move massive amount of troops and hardware to those contested areas. Russian Submarines would contest the Atlantic. Russian stand-off weapons could target assembly points, logistic nodes and US bases in Europe. The article mentions the F-35, saying it would reign supreme once in the air but that in the wargames they simulated, US F-35s are often destroyed on the ground once deployed in Europe…

To compound the problem, Russian Anti Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) bubbles along its border not only cover the Baltic states but the Baltic Sea. US troops on the ground would not only have to fight in a heavily electronically jammed environment, with their communications crumbling, but they would have to initially fight without sufficient air support… Russian coastal batteries would keep US maritime assets at arms length, also.

The situation would be similar against China, over a conflict with Taiwan. US carriers would have to operate beyond 1,000 nautical miles of Chinese forces, to keep them safe from missile attacks, therefore, seriously degrading their utility and the support they could provide to their own troops… The danger posed to US shipping venturing close to Taiwan and therefore close to China would be hard to bear.

The report concludes that the US armed forces have to re-invent their way of war and adapt to the challenges posed by a near peer enemy or peer enemy in some departments.

US Marines Prowlers’ retiring

US Marines EA-6B Prowler

The US Navy is about to retire its last EA-6B Prowlers electronic warfare platforms.
The US Marine Prowlers have flown for over 42 years !

Most of the retired EA-6B will be sent to the Tucson boneyard while a few ones will find a place in museums.

The Prowlers jammed enemy communications and radars in multiple operations such as:
El-Dorado Canyon (Libya, 1986)
Desert Shield and Desert Storm (Iraq, 1990-1991)
Deny Flight (Bosnia, 1993-1995)
Decisive Endeavour (Bosnia, 1995)
Deliberate Guard (Bosnia, 1997)
Allied Force (Yugoslavia, 1999)
Northern and Southern Watch (Iraq, 1992-1997-2003)
Iraqi Freedom (Iraq, 2003-2010)
Enduring Freedom (War on terror, 2001-2015)
Unified Protector (Libya, 2011)
Inherent Resolve (War on ISIS, Iraq and Syria, 2014-ongoing)
Freedom Sentinel (new name for Enduring Freedom from 2015 onward).

In total, US Marine corps Prowlers have flown 260,000 hours collectively over a period of 42 years.

T-14 toilets

T-14

We have kept the best for last: Some Russian sources have indicated that toilets would be installed inside the T-14 Armata tanks so that crew members can keep operating for longer period of times… While crew comfort is essential, the tank’s ability to operate will also rest on fuel consumption and ammo loadout… So breaks to replenish both will have to be undertaken regularly anyway…

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