Chuck Hagel's motorcade, Ethiopia's dam trouble and Europe's new war games.
An increase in cyber attacks has pushed the issue to the top of Nato’s security agenda. Defence ministers from all 28 Nato nations have agreed to increase their capacity to deal with them by next month.
The Pentagon boasts about developing a green fleet of fighter jets that will use only alternative fuels but when it comes to the motorcade for defence secretary Chuck Hagel, the vehicles are all-American gas guzzlers, hulking Chevrolet Suburbans that are the car of choice for “soccer moms” across the US.
Painted black and beefed up with armour, the Chevy suvs are the standard mode of transport for vips in Washington, complete with police escorts on motorbikes and heavily armed secret service agents. But when Hagel’s motorcade pulls up on the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base, the whale of a plane awaiting him makes the Suburban look like a model of fuel economy.
It’s known as the “Doomsday plane”, a modified 747 that was designed to serve as a command centre in the sky during a nuclear war with the Soviets. The e4-b allows the president, the defence secretary and other heavyweights to issue orders to troops from the air – or even approve a retaliatory nuclear strike in the event of a mushroom cloud over Washington.
Due to all the extra gear, including protection against thermonuclear radiation, the plane is one of the heaviest in the world, weighing in at 1,325 tonnes.
While the secretary sits up front in a small but comfortable cabin, there’s a conference room, a briefing area, bunk beds and a 1970s-version of an open office. The plane’s interior betrays its age, resembling a movie set for a James Bond film starring Roger Moore, with clunky push-button phones installed on the walls and creaky ashtrays from the pre-non-smoking era.
This gigantic cargo plane follows the secretary to every stop as his back-up ride in war zones.
Modified Boeing 747 with a bump on the spine for special antennae.
A modified Boeing 737. The same plane is used by the First Lady.
A hybrid tilt-rotor aircraft that takes off like a helicopter and then flies like a plane.
The defence secretary has a fleet of Chevrolet Suburbans and Tahoes. There are so many lined up outside the Pentagon’s entrance that officers joke about a burgeoning Chevy dealership.
The European Defence Agency (EDA) surprised the global defence establishment in June by staging its first “war game”. With Europe short of cash, the EDA is examining future scenarios to figure out which types of kit EU countries will need to buy in the future – and which types they can buy together to trim costs.
It will be an ideological shift for European militaries. “Member states are recognising that it is better to have excellent shared capabilities than unsustainable national ones,” says EDA spokesman Eric Platteau.
Hundreds of Australian soldiers having been involved in an email group known as the “Jedi Council”, which shared explicit pictures and footage of women, including female cadets. Army chief Lieutenant General David Morrison has delivered a scathing video address to his troops, saying he will be “ruthless in ridding the army of people who cannot live up to its values”.
The Grand Renaissance Dam (pictured) on the Blue Nile is Ethiopia’s flagship infrastructure project. Costing €3.25bn it will be Africa’s biggest hydro-power scheme. But the dam also threatens to spark a conflict. Egypt’s leaders believe it will dramatically reduce the flow of Nile waters into their country and have vowed to stop the Ethiopian project – by force if necessary.
Three other dams that could spark conflict:
- Chinese plans to dam the Brahmaputra have angered India and Bangladesh. Beijing insists the three planned dams for Tibet will not cause the feared floods and droughts.
- Brazil’s schemes to build about 60 dams have angered indigenous people. In April, the Munuruku tribe declared war against the government.
- In January, Laos bowed to pressure from Cambodia and Vietnam to suspend construction of its Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong river over concerns it would destroy fish stocks.