Tapping into renewable energy in the Rift Valley, military news, and trouble for the US Navy's submarines.
The US is one of the lowest scorers among highly industrialised countries on Transparency International’s 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index. Denmark and Sweden and New Zealand share first place while Somalia comes last at 180th. Russia and Ukraine have plummeted but Albania’s score shows improvement.
Attack and defence
Hunting submarines is difficult at the best of times, but two issues are clouding the waters still further for the US Navy. The first rests on its policy to build and deploy a purely nuclear fleet of submarines (SSN) and the second involves a clash with campaigners who claim active sonar harms marine mammals. Without conventional, diesel-electric submarines (SSK) to practise anti-submarine warfare against, the navy cannot train to find them. While SSNs can submerge for unlimited time, they tend to be noisier as their reactors can never be fully switched off. By contrast, SSKs sit on the bottom, running silently on battery power, waiting to attack passing ships.
Luckily, Italy’s brand new Salvatore Todaro arrived in US waters in mid-July to act as an opposing force asset. Todaro is fitted with fuel cell air-independent propulsion, enabling it to stay submerged for weeks rather than days and run the diesels to recharge its batteries.
With a playmate sorted, albeit only until October of this year, perhaps more pressing for the navy is the running battle with green campaigners, mostly led by the National Resources Defense Council. Currently, the navy is allowed to train sonar operators in strict conditions away from marine mammals, but environmentalists are ready to pounce at the next mass stranding of whales.
One of the world’s leading geothermal energy companies believes Djibouti, the tiny African country on the Red Sea coast, could become the second nation in the world to rely solely on renewable energy.
The Icelandic firm Reykjavik Energy Invest plans to spend €100m to harness geothermal energy in four countries located along the Rift Valley. Work has already begun in Djibouti, which project managers have the highest hopes for. The country sits on a rift between the African and Arabian tectonic plates.
Iceland (pictured above) has taken advantage of its own position above a rift in the earth’s crust to become a world leader in geothermal energy. All of the country’s energy is renewable. Reykjavik Energy Invest has similar projects planned in Indonesia and the Philippines.
Lessons from Georgia
Russia is moving swiftly to address two apparent capability gaps highlighted by operations in Georgia. The first kneejerk came in September, when Prime Minister Vladimir Putin approved additional funds to launch six new satellites to bolster the accuracy of the Russian GLONASS rival to GPS. The next took the shape of a major order for Tipchak unmanned aerial vehicles in September, to help enhance the accuracy of Russian artillery. Both speak volumes about Russia’s disappointment in its ability to lock its munitions accurately on to targets.
Lessons from Afghanistan
The US appears to be falling out of love with its fleet of mine resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles, discovering that they are unsuitable for conditions in Afghanistan. General James Conway, head of the US Marine Corps, recently announced, “There’s a lot of mountain trails and switchbacks and those types of things and the vehicle is still too heavy… we’re also seeing more rollovers in Afghanistan.” The Department of Defense has launched a programme to see if it’s possible to get similar levels of protection in a vehicle weighing 10 tons, around half of current MRAPs.
UAE missile defence
The UAE may deploy arguably the most advanced missile defence system in the Middle East, outside Israel, if a request for the US’s Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) is approved by Congress. A subsequent order would be the first export sale of THAAD, which can destroy incoming ballistic missiles in space or as they enter the atmosphere on their terminal dive.
The luxury submarine – complete with panoramic floor – has been billed as the new toy for the very wealthy. But even the world’s super-rich are opting for modesty in these difficult economic times. Portland-based US Submarines, which dominates the market, has failed to sell a single €55m Phoenix. The smallest model, the Triton, is more popular at a mere €1.19m. Dubai-based Exomos, which hoped to sell to Middle Eastern customers, has stopped building submarines and is sticking to boats.