Friday, April 6, 2018

Fake News to support RNZAF arms deal has begun


In the paid adnews links on Stuff.co.nz a link to Kiwireport.com with an article about "Chinese superweapons that the world needs to know about" by Ethan Gorstein. The amazing image of a catamarran aircraft carrier is typical of those clickbait stories designed to get people to follow links in that it is clearly the work of an illustrator than any naval architect. It features an RNZAF roundel as the firm's mini icon.

Naturally Responsible Defence was immediately drawn to the story which was basically a breathless parade of Chinese military developments which were largely misleading if not untrue. The interesting thing about Kiwireport.com is that it is a two year old domain held via "Registration Private Domains By Proxy, LLC", and previously "Gil Bar Tur Pesto Media Shemesh LTD" an Israeli firm. It is about as Kiwi as an Indian made tiki.

So how is it this firm has the money to place an ad on Stuff? And more to the point why would it bother? Well, the answer to that is pretty easy to guess. Right now the RNZAF is in the market for replacements for the P3-K Orion anti submarine warfare aircraft. As this blog has noted many times there is no justification for ASW aircraft in New Zealand at all but military forces do not give up capability easily and defend their budgets ruthlessly. There have been numerous speculative news reports about possible replacement aircraft but especially the US made P8 Poesidon which would cost about $1.5 billion.

However the sudden interest of Israel in New Zealanders' perceptions of a Chinese military threat might suggest that the Israeli military industrial complex has an interest in pursuing the contract as well. Israel Aerospace Industries has developed a suite of ASW technology which can be retrofitted into any long range business jet. [http://www.iai.co.il/2013/32981-46349-en/MediaRoom_News.aspx]. Israel is also known to operate a sizeable and sophisticated cyber warfare system [ https://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/208126 ] and troll armies [ https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/nov/06/troll-armies-social-media-trump-russian].

Israel is not the only nation in the world to offer this technology. SAAB of Sweden also offers this kind of integration using the Bombadier Global 500 platform and the Leonardo radar https://quwa.org/2017/03/05/profile-saab-swordfish-maritime-patrol-aircraft-mpa.

While I initially favoured a business jet platform for maritime patrol (not ASW) over time my view has changed significantly. I now believe it would be better to combine the transport airlift capability of the RNZAF with the maritime patrol capability effectively reducing two squadrons down to one. Transport aircraft such as the Hercules C-130J or the KC-390 are used as maritime patrol aircraft (by adding additional radars, and imaging stations) and can there is no reasons taxpayers should pay for two squadrons when one would do.

While the RNZAF can probably claim 'plausible deniability' relating to the paid story on Stuff it is probably only too happy to see Israeli agents doing its propaganda work for it. After all, few New Zealanders are particularly interested in or aware of the capabilities of Chinese submarines. The prospect of Kiwis supporting an investment of billions in ASW aircraft while their hospitals are full of mould is rather unlikely so the RNZAF certainly won't want to own any of this obvious "Yellow Peril" nonsense.

However the Israelis would surely be incredibly naive to think that New Zealanders will be
keen on an arms deal with their country which they are currently engaged in gunning down unarmed Palestinian protesters who simply want the same 'right of return' that Israel offers any Jew in the world. The simple fact is Israel's racist and apartheid policies stink to high heaven, leading even the National party to side against Israel in the UN.As one of the many who stood against a simple Rugby game with an apartheid state in a protest movement that split the country nearly in 1981 I rather doubt the Labour party would be at all keen to put its fragile coalition to the test by spending several hundred million on Israeli arms - especially when there is a Swedish alternative.

Even more to the point I cannot see any strategic reason why New Zealand would want its maritime security to depend on Israeli technology. For as we have seen time and time again in the aerospace sector those that sell technology can stop supporting technology for any reason they care to think of.

But the Israelis are not naive, and they probably realise this. This makes me think that an Israeli Aerospace connection is probably a ruse by a somewhat naive organisation that thinks it can get away with this kind of stunt: The New Zealand Defence Force.

Why do I think this? It's as simple as the detective work in most murders. In most murders it is the spouse or partner that did it. Why? Because nobody else cares enough. This is exactly the same rationale.

Nobody else cares enough about New Zealanders perceptions of a "yellow peril" threat from China as those whose jobs depend on it. Israel can find other, much easier customers, but the NZDF is stuck with the public it has. And as it has repeatedly demonstrated a profound contempt for the economic welfare of the taxpayers that sustain it, combined with a tendency to place very fast and lose with the truth, it would seem the NZDF would be the obvious suspect in this fake news attempt.

I certainly urge my friends and colleagues still in mainstream journalism to investigate.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Kiwi taxpayers spend $6 million saving 7 Kiribatis from drowning, $0.3m on 1,796 Kiwis.

Last year 88 kiwis drowned. There are a number of agencies which try to prevent this loss of life, including the Royal NZ Coastguard, Life Savers NZ, the New Zealand Water Safety Council all of which have to raise money from the public or businesses to maintain their operations. The news has, naturally been topical lately because 2017/18 has been a fairly not summer.

But at the same time there was another story happening. A RNZAF P-3K2 Orion was flying around Kiribati looking for survivors of a ferry which had gone missing with 57 people aboard. Eventually it found one boat with seven aboard [https://www.reuters.com/article/us-kiribati-ferry-rescue/search-resumes-after-eight-survivors-of-kiribati-ferry-rescued-idUSKBN1FH0D9]

Now Kiribati is 5,500km from New Zealand [https://www.distancefromto.net/distance-from-kiribati-to-new-zealand] which is just within the one-way range of an Orion [ http://www.airforce.mil.nz/about-us/what-we-do/aircraft/orion.htm]. So this anti submarine warfare aircraft wasn't just making a minor detour while patrolling our EEZ it is carrying out a full on Search and Rescue mission.

As you can see, technically Kiribati isn't strictly inside the the NZ SSR but obviously we do our best to help out. But at what cost? The NZDF Budget statements under National over the years became more and more opaque making it very difficult to work out how much it cost taxpayers to operate the NZ Defence Force. However the last time such values were available (2015) it was clear that for each operational hour the RNZAF spent flying the P-3K2 Orion Taxpayers paid $85,000. So ten hours flight there and back plus five days of ten hour operational patrols comes to 70 hours or just shy of $6 million.

The Surf Life Saving New Zealand Annual Report [ https://issuu.com/slsnz/docs/annual_report_2017_full_version/1?ff=true] shows that the annual expenditure of that organisation is just shy of $9.5 million. So the RNZAF mission to Kiribati costs taxpayers $6.5 million but running 5,000 New Zealand life saver volunteers quarter of a million patrol hours and 1,796 rescues has to come from lotto tickets and cake stalls.

What is this shit?

The only way this makes sense is if you operate on the basis that you need to find something useful for a large but completely useless military asset to do, because you need to have a completely useless military asset regardless.
Why do you need a completely useless military asset?

  1. To keep the US (who sells them) sweet.
  2. In case a submarine attacks us.

As this page points out [ https://sites.google.com/site/nzdef2030/flaws-in-nz-military/na ] there is an almost zero chance of our being attacked by a hostile submarine. In two world wars we never were. There is no particular reason for New Zealand to get involved in blowing up other people's submarines either. Anyone who feels threatened by submarines (e.g South Korea) already has (16 of) its own P-3 Orions for that purpose.

So how about this crazy idea. How about not having an anti submarine warfare squadron at all and just replace the C-130H Hercules transport with an aircraft also capable of maritime patrol. That might save us a $1.5 billion (I am not kidding).

You do not need sonar buoys, or magnetic resonance to detect an overloaded lifeboat floating in the Pacific. That's for detecting a stealth war machine. The nice thing about SAR victims is they really want to be seen. What you mostly need is standard ocean surface scanning radar, FLIR (forward looking infrared), binoculars, and eyeballs. This is all you need to find 6,000T fishing boats too! Hell, a satellite can spot them. Fishing boats are very hard to hide compared to a submarine. 

It would be perfectly feasible to half the number of large multi engined aircraft in our Air Force by doubling up on transport and EEZ patrol functions. That would save us both capital and operational costs. And if we really need extra capacity for civilian missions like SAR and Disaster Response a private contractor like Air Chathams could provide it at a fraction of the cost. Yes, some in the RNZAF will scream and have tantys, (just imagine the fuss if you look their indulgent $150m aerobatic trainers away) but a government which is interested in results needs to look hard at the numbers.

The Labour-NZ First coalition has made a great deal of noise about impoverished kids. But so far the answer seems to be more cake stalls. If it seriously wants to make a difference it has to look very differently at the gargantuan waste of money that is the NZDF.

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Life Saving NZ income includes $2.2m from Lotto, $0.2m from NZSAR,$0.1m from Sport New Zealand. The rest of the $9.5m is fundraising. [ 2017 Annual Report, page 34]