Return to

April 11, 2008
Notes from the Pentagon

New Iranian missile
Iran is developing a new long-range missile that was test launched in February and has more in common with current Iranian missiles than Tehran claims it has for a satellite-launch program, according to Jane's Intelligence Review.

The authoritative British magazine provided an analysis of the launch, based on commercial satellite photographs and Iranian TV footage. The analysis reveals that, contrary to Iranian government claims, the new missile is a single-stage version of the Shahab-3 medium-range missile.

"Tehran has said the February 4th test was the first step toward launching a satellite," the Jane's analysis stated in the April edition. "However, the test appears to be part of the ongoing Shahab program, with no significant improvement in Iran's ballistic missile, and therefore space, program."

"Nonetheless, the Kavoshgar launch site or space center suggests that Iran is seeking to significantly develop its satellite, and hence ballistic missile, program by following a similar path to North Korea's Taepodong-1 missile program."

A defense official told The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity that the missile identified by Jane's apparently resembles the Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile.

Iran appears to be following the example of North Korea in cobbling together a long-range missile. The North Korean Taepodong-2 uses a first stage that is similar to Iran's liquid-fueled Shahab-3, a second-state similar to the Scud and a solid-fueled third stage.

The missile report will be good news for the Bush administration which has been trying to convince Russia that the growing threat from Iran's missiles highlights the need to set up a third U.S. missile defense interceptor site in central Europe.

Feith speaks
Former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith has written one of the first insider accounts of the Pentagon and Bush administration decision-making process related to the Iraq war.

The book takes aim at the State Department, as well as some Pentagon officials, for mistakes on Iraq.

For example, Mr. Feith criticizes former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage for the failure of diplomacy in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion.

Mr. Feith said Mr. Powell did not make any speeches in France or Germany as part of efforts to win support from those countries, and failed to win Turkey's backing for a northern invasion route into Iraq, which seriously hampered the war effort. Mr. Powell "blew an uncertain trumpet" as the top U.S. diplomat and "U.S. diplomacy on Iraq lacked consistency, conviction, energy, or creativity," he stated.

Mr. Armitage was described by Mr. Feith as a gruff "foghorn" voiced former military officer unsuited for policy work who came to interagency meetings with "positions," not policies, that largely reflected the State Department bureaucracy, a bastion of defeatism.

The former policy-maker also blamed former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Torie Clark for scuttling a much needed Pentagon office called the Office of Strategic Influence (OSI). The office was shuttered after press reports stated, falsely, that it would use disinformation, Mr. Feith said.

As a result of losing OSI, the ideological component of the war on terrorism was left to Pentagon public affairs and the State Department's public diplomacy office. "Neither office was equipped to promote initiatives to fight jihadist ideology ..., " Mr. Feith wrote. The failure to conduct post-Saddam planning was the fault of Gen. Tommy Franks, the U.S. Central Command commander and the thousands of war planners at the command, not the Pentagon's policy shop, Mr. Feith said.

One interesting anecdote related to the April 9, 2003, toppling of the Saddam statue in Baghdad by U.S. troops. Mr. Feith said that upon seeing a U.S. soldier place an American flag over the statue's head, he called the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to say it was a "problem" because it highlighted U.S. occupation and not Iraqi liberation.

"Can you get word to that soldier, fast?," Mr. Feith asked Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman. "A few seconds later the U.S. soldier pocketed the U.S. flag. Someone had given him an Iraqi flag and he put it over the statue's head."

DIA on missiles
The Defense Intelligence Agency is disputing a report that China deployed far more missiles opposite Taiwan than reported in the Pentagon's annual report on China's military power.

Hawaii-based Asian affairs writer Richard Halloran wrote recently that China had deployed some 1,400 missiles opposite Taiwan, 40 percent more than estimated by the Pentagon in its report.

A DIA official said that by November China's military had deployed between 990 and 1,070 short-range CSS-6 and CSS-8 short missiles to garrisons near the island in southeast China.

"We stand by this information," the DIA official said.

The Pentagon report said Chinese missiles are being added at a rate of more than 100 missiles per year "including variants of these missiles with improved ranges, accuracies, and payloads."

The missile buildup has prompted concerns in the Pentagon that Taiwan needs to purchase additional F-16 jets, something the White House is blocking to avoid offending Beijing.

Navy slang
Civilians now can learn the U.S. military's unique language and slang and get a taste for Navy life aboard warships, carriers and submarines through a Navy slang Web site at the Wiktionary free dictionary

Who knew that an aircraft carrier is a "birdfarm" and a failed carrier landing, a "bolter"? A bolter is when an approaching aircraft misses the arresting wire with its tailhook and has to go around. A "ramp strike" is when an aircraft comes in drastically low for a carrier landing and strikes the "round down," or stern of the ship, often with devastating results.

A "missile sponge" or "torpedo sponge" is a ship, usually a frigate or destroyer, stationed on the outer ring of a battle group that is most likely to be hit first when a convoy comes under attack.

Naval slang employs many service-related terms such as "Canoe Club" for the Navy, "Fish" for the submarine service, and "Canoe U.," for the U.S. Naval Academy, along with the term for Annapolis Crabtown. Marines are known as "bullet sponges" and a Marine shower is changing clothes without bathing and applying deodorant. The Coast Guard is Uncle Sam's Confused Group.

"Lawn Darts" are sharp-nosed F/A-18 Hornets, so named because of their sleek shape and what deck hands say was a problem in early models that caused the jets on the ground to pitch forward suddenly and fall nose-first into the deck or tarmac. They also are called Rhinos.

A "Kloosh" is trash or anything thrown over the side of the ship that makes a similar sound hitting the water, as in "that broken chair is kloosh."

A "chicken suit" is a yellow cloth head-to-toe suit worn by Navy "nukes" or nuclear sailors charged with the not-so-fun job cleaning up radioactive spills or material. And "zoomies," likewise are particle radiation originating from naval nuclear power centers or weapons, as well as a term for Air Force aviators.

Many of the more colorful terms refer to onboard sex and women and are too salty for a family newspaper.

  • Bill Gertz covers national security affairs. He can be reached at 202-636-3274, or at

  • Inside the Ring Archives
    1999 Columns
    2000 Columns
    2001 Columns

    2002 Columns
    2003 Columns
    2004 Columns
    2005 Columns
    2006 Columns
    2007 Columns
    2008 Columns
    Return to