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Taiwan radar

The Pentagon is close to announcing final approval of long-range
radar sales to Taiwan, a move likely to upset Beijing, which opposes all
U.S. military transfers.

The Pentagon broached the sale last spring as part of the annual arms
package to Taiwan. It did so under intense political pressure from Rep.
Benjamin Gilman, R-N.Y., chairman of the House International Relations
Committee.

Mr. Gilman demanded the Taiwanese be provided the defensive radar to
defend against the growing number of Chinese short-range missiles being
deployed opposite the island. A Taiwanese government report said earlier
this month that as many 400 M-9 and M-11 missiles are now in place –
enough to attack major military bases in Taiwan with little or no
warning.

Knowledgeable government officials say the Pentagon recently worked
out arrangements with the Taiwanese on the radar known as Pave Paws.

“Taiwan had to meet a couple of conditions and they were things they
planned to do anyway,” one official said. The conditions include
upgrading and networking existing radar that will help the Taiwanese
monitor Chinese aircraft or missile activities.

The weapons Taiwan really needs — four Aegis-equipped warships, P-3
submarine surveillance aircraft and diesel submarines — are still being
debated within the administration. A team of Pentagon officials recently
visited Taiwan to deliberate on requests for ships, submarines and
aircraft.

White House and State Department officials are opposing these weapons
sales to avoid angering Beijing. Many Pentagon officials favor the sale
as important for righting the military balance now moving in Beijing’s
direction.

Range finder

Fort Gordon, Ga., has issued a base-wide safety alert after a
soldier practicing land navigation skills got lost. To make matters
worse, he mistakenly wandered where he shouldn’t — an in-action rifle
range. An Army spokeswoman said the private, a communications student at
the signal corps base, was verbally counseled.

“This past weekend we had an incident where a soldier practicing his
land navigation skills on his own, found himself on a range during live
M-16 firing,” said the Aug. 11 safety alert. “The soldier wanted to
practice his land navigation skills, so he stopped by the unit … to
pick up a map of Ft. Gordon. The map the soldier picked up did not have
the ranges marked on it. The soldier told a couple of barracks buddies
that he was going out to practice land navigation.”

We obtained a copy of the alert from the group Soldiers for the
Truth, which promotes military readiness.

The message added, “His land navigation route took him north of range
14. Machine gun firing had been scheduled for Saturday at range 14, but
luckily, the unit canceled at the last minute. As the soldier was
walking, he started to feel faint from dehydration and he vomited
several times. The soldier walked west towards range 6, where M-16
firing was occurring. He stayed down behind a berm while firing was
occurring. He yelled ‘cease fire’ during a stop in the firing. The range
personnel noticed him and instructed him to walk forward.”

The alert ended with this warning, “It is imperative that all
activities and individuals coordinate with range control before
utilizing any range or training areas.”

Marla Jones, a Fort Gordon spokeswoman, said the message stemmed from
“a real fear that somebody is going to get hurt. Commanders are always
concerned about their soldiers getting hurt. He was in violation of
policy and procedures. Everybody’s glad he wasn’t hurt. He wandered out
there on a Saturday and he got lost.”

Battalion to Nigeria?

The Pentagon announced last week that a “survey team” of about 30
U.S. Army Special Forces commandos and regulars from the U.S. European
Command are in Nigeria as part of a program to train peacekeepers for
possible deployment to war-torn Sierra Leone.

What wasn’t said is that as many as 500 Special Forces commandos may
take part in the operation, the largest of its kind for the U.S.
military in Africa.

Retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Brown, editor of Soldier of Fortune
magazine, tells us that a battalion of commandos based at Fort Bragg,
N.C., has been put on notice to be ready to go to Africa, as early as
the end of the month. A Fort Bragg spokesman referred us to the U.S.
European Command, where Command spokesman Maj. Ed Loomis did not rule
out the battalion-size deployment. Sending up to 500 Fort Bragg soldiers
is “speculative” because “we’re not that far along” in the survey
process, he said.

“This is very unusual,” Col. Brown, a Special Forces A-Team leader
during Vietnam, said in an interview. “The significant thing is that
rather than peacekeeping this is for peace enforcement. The concern is
that the Nigerians, the most corrupt (army) on the African continent,
are seeking to get at the diamond fields in Sierra Leone.”

Spy travel

CIA Director George Tenet is finishing a not-so-secret visit to
Eastern Europe this week. His first stop on Monday was in Sofia,
Bulgaria, where he met with top intelligence, military and political
officials. He then traveled to Bucharest, Romania, for additional
discussions.

We are told the topic of his discussions focused on the military
situation in the Balkans, especially growing trouble in the southern
Balkan state of Montenegro where Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic has
been stirring up trouble. Mr. Tenet will be seeking to share
intelligence on the situation there, as well as in Kosovo, where U.S.
peacekeepers are currently keeping an uneasy peace.

Clairvoyant

Don Walsh’s “Ocean” column in this month’s Proceedings magazine
just happened to be about a timely subject: “Submarine Rescue: Ready for
a Worst-Case Scenario.”

Mr. Walsh writes in Proceedings, an authoritative voice for Navy
policy, “Navies throughout the world are continuing to upgrade submarine
rescue capabilities, all hoping that another worst-case scenario never
will happen.”

Well, the equipment the Russians used this week to try to rescue the
crew of the submarine Kursk apparently missed the upgrade. The navy made
at least four attempts with diving bells and a minisub, but came up
empty in the Barents Sea’s strong currents.

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