Wednesday, July 18, 2007

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George's Next War

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Many think President George Bush down and out. Iraq has been a disaster, and even if it may actually be improving, the public image of it is a total screw up. On the domestic front, the next election has basically already started and no one is paying any attention to Bush.

But, quietly, reading details in a few headlines, we see, something is going on. Bush isn't going to leave office without striking back...

Article #1

The balance in the internal White House debate over Iran has shifted back in favour of military action... The shift follows an internal review involving the White House, the Pentagon and the state department over the last month. Although the Bush administration is in deep trouble over Iraq, it remains focused on Iran. A well-placed source in Washington said: "Bush is not going to leave office with Iran still in limbo."

The White House claims that Iran, whose influence in the Middle East has increased significantly over the last six years, is intent on building a nuclear weapon and is arming insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan... At a meeting of the White House, Pentagon and state department last month, Vice President Cheney expressed frustration at the lack of progress and Mr Bush sided with him. "The balance has tilted..."

Bush is reluctant for Israel to carry out any strikes because the US would get the blame in the region anyway. "The red line is not in Iran. The red line is in Israel. If Israel is adamant it will attack, the US will have to take decisive action," Mr Cronin said. "The choices are: tell Israel no, let Israel do the job, or do the job yourself."

Almost half of the US's 277 warships are stationed close to Iran, including two aircraft carrier groups. The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise left Virginia last week for the Gulf. A Pentagon spokesman said it was to replace the USS Nimitz and there would be no overlap that would mean three carriers in Gulf at the same time. (That is 270 strike aircraft alone.)

Article #2 - Air Force Quietly Building Iraq Presence

Away from the headlines and debate over the "surge" in U.S. ground troops, the Air Force has quietly built up its hardware inside Iraq, sharply stepped up bombing and laid a foundation for a sustained air campaign in support of American and Iraqi forces.

Squadrons of attack planes have been added to the in-country fleet. The air reconnaissance arm has almost doubled since last year. The powerful B1-B bomber has been recalled to action over Iraq.

Inside spacious, air-conditioned "Kingpin," a new air traffic control center at this huge Air Force hub 50 miles north of Baghdad, the expanded commitment can be seen on the central display screen: Small points of light represent more than 100 aircraft crisscrossing Iraqi air space at any one time.

Early this year, with little fanfare, the Air Force sent a squadron of A-10 "Warthog" attack planes - a dozen or more aircraft - to be based at Al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq. At the same time it added a squadron of F-16C Fighting Falcons here at Balad. Although some had flown missions over Iraq from elsewhere in the region, the additions doubled to 50 or more the number of workhorse fighter-bomber jets available at bases inside the country, closer to the action.

The reinforcement involved more than numbers. The new F-16Cs were the first of the advanced "Block 50" version to fly in Iraq, an aircraft whose technology includes a cockpit helmet that enables the pilot to aim his weapons at a target simply by turning his head and looking at it.

The Navy has contributed by stationing a second aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, (now its 3 carriers) and the reintroduction of B1-Bs has added a close-at-hand "platform" capable of carrying 24 tons of bombs.

Those big bombers were moved last year from distant Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean to an undisclosed base in the Persian Gulf.

Air Force engineers, meanwhile, are improving this centrally located home base, which supports some 10,000 air operations per week.

The weaker of Balad's two 11,000-foot runways was reinforced - for five to seven years' more hard use. The engineers next will build concrete "overruns" at the runways' ends. Balad's strategic ramp, the concrete parking lot for its biggest planes, was expanded last fall. The air traffic control system is to be upgraded again with the latest technology.

"We'd like to get it to be a field like Langley, if you will," said mission support chief Reynolds, referring to the Air Force showcase base in Virginia.

Aharon Hoffman adds...

Since B1-Bs (known as the B-one or Bones) are long range bombers it raises the issue as to whom the long range is against. Since F-16s and F-15s can service targets well enough in Iraq (or even Iran) then its not range but payload that is the issue.

10,700 kg beyond full fueled weight (23,590 lbs)133,800 lbs
2762 mile range5900 miles range

QED 1 B1B = 6+ F-15s in payload

So, if you were dropping deep penetrators or mountain busters or bunker buster MOABs, you need larger payload aircraft nearby. Iraq is easier to provision heavy payloads than Diego Garcia.

Meaning, this level of build up is far in excess of what's needed to "support the ground troops and surge".

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