- The Washington Times - Friday, August 18, 2000

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 A. Gilman, New York Republican and 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 — still are 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 basewide safety alert after a soldier practicing land navigation skills got lost. To make matters worse, he mistakenly wandered where he shouldn't — onto 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 was 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 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.

Bill Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at gertz@twtmail.com. Rowan Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at scarbo@twtmail.com.

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