POSTED 13 OCTOBER 2006 - 2:00pm HST

Superferry & US Military

movie on, manufacturer of Superferry. showing military use. Click image to play.
Visit for more details about Westpac Express use by the military

by Juan Wilson on 13 October 2006

The Director of Hawaiian Department of Transportation wrote an article in The Garden Island News about the Superferry and all the hurdles it has had to go through in order to come on line.

Read it here..

I have written a reply to the article. They may or may not print it, so in case they don't, I have reproduced a copy below.

To the Editor of the Garden Island News,

Rodney Haraga, Director of Hawaii DOT, wrote an opinion piece, on 10/13/06, entitled “Superferry has run the gantlet”. He argues there is no need for an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) or for that matter, an OEIS (Oceanic Environmental Impact Statement) before beginning operation of the Superferry.

What Mr. Haraga failed to mention anywhere in his article were the words “Military”, “Navy”, “Stryker” or “Westpac Express”. When the military dimensions of the Superferry operation comes into focus there is good reason for both an EIS and OEIS.

Some background: This month a Federal court in San Francisco has found the Army violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it did not consider all alternatives in its decision to install the Stryker brigade in the Hawaiian Islands. The court ordered the Army to prepare a supplemental environmental analysis to answer the question, "Why Hawaii?"

The Stryker is a eight wheeled assault platform that can carry a 105mm cannon or the 25mm Bushmaster machine gun. Both can fire Depleted Uranium (DU) rounds. So can the M113 Armored Personnel Carrier, the Apache Attack Helicopter and the Cobra Gunship Helicopter. The Superferry is designed to carry them all.

DU, in a projectile, does two things. It delivers a huge kinetic impact of white hot uranium to a target. This destroys the target. It also conveniently gets rid of a wad of “low level” radioactive waste from an atomic power plant or weapons program; they have no place to put the stuff. As such, DU munitions are an environmental impact that keeps on giving and giving.

Why worry about Depleted Uranium? Just ask any Gulf War Veteran. The contamination of the modern battlefield with radioactive depleted uranium 238 is an intractable problem with a 4.5 billion year half-life. Dating back to 1991, tens of thousands of US veterans claim they have been permanently disabled by widespread use of these toxic munitions in Iraq.

The military denies that it has used DU munitions in Hawaii, but DU weapons debris has been discovered at Schofield Barracks and documented by the Associated Press. Will these weapons ever be fired on other islands?

The Superferry is not just a means for Oahu residents to have a day at the beach on Kauai It is also a cheap way to deliver military attack systems throughout the Pacific Theater. The Superferry is part of the Navy’s Westpac Express program.

The builder of the Hawaiian Superferry is Austal USA. They have constructed other Westpac Express ships that are virtually identical to the Hawaiian Superferry conforming to the same military specs. They are used to ferry US Marines, and their equipment, between Okinawa and other Japanese islands. Is any of that cargo ever contaminated with DU? Will the Superferry be?

Keep in mind that the board of the Superferry corporation is chaired by John Lehman (Reagan Secretary of the Navy 1981-87), a veteran of the neo-con Heritage Foundation and Project for the New American Century. He has been joined on the board by several associates from his investment consulting firm, Lehman Inc. Interestingly, one board member, John Shirley, has been a consultant to Lehman and has 34 years of experience in senior positions at the Navy Division of Nuclear Reactors.

Pacific Business News reported on March 26, 2005, that with Lehman’s expertise, the Superferry plans to operate a Westpac Express, essentially to carry military equipment and ferry vehicles from Oahu to the Big Island on a daily basis. Lehman told PBN that “This logistical plan will make it easier for soldiers to train when the Stryker Brigade comes to Hawaii. The brigade will be stationed on Oahu and conduct training exercises on the Big Island.”

The Superferry is intended to transport vehicles and equipment that could be contaminated with DU dust in the field. After battle simulations on the Big Island, will this cargo be inspected for traces of depleted uranium before it is loaded onto the Superferry? Will the Superferry itself be inspected for DU after carrying military shipments?

It seems prudent to examine the possibility of the spread of DU contamination throughout the Hawaiian islands by battlefield equipment transported on the Superferry.

Moreover, an OEIS should be conducted to see if a Superferry, operated by the Navy, under its protocol for Westpac Express and not civilian ferry operations, will be subject to US and international marine law. From what we have seen of the Navy’s RIMPAC war games off Kauai this summer and in 2004, it is unlikely that Navy plans on complying with such regulations. We worry that a Westpac Express use of the Superferry will not use civilian avoidance procedures and sonar limitations needed to assure the safety of sea mammals.

The cynical view is that the Superferry can become part of the Navy’s Westpac Express fleet on the cheap... at least cheap to the Pentagon. The people of Hawaii will be footing the bill for the harbor improvements. The investors (friends of Lehman Inc.) have federal and state guarantees on their money. Even if the civilian operation goes belly-up, the Navy can still lease the ships for a song and not have to deal with Matson or Young Brothers anymore.

Words do matter. The use of the word “gantlet” in the title of Mr.Haraga’s editorial is interesting. A “gantlet” is a track construction used allowing a train to remain on its own track at all times. Not likely the meaning of the word he had in mind. He probably meant a “gauntlet”. That is a form of punishment, in which the offender is made to run between two rows of men who strike at him as he passes.

We need an EIS and OEIS to assure the people of Hawaii that the Superferry will not be a vector for contaminating our islands with depleted uranium and destroying the lives of sea mammals with Navy operations protocol.

An Iraqi tank destroyed by a DU shell along the highway next to a school on the outskirts of Baghdad



POSTED: 6 OCTOBER 2006 - 3:30pm HST

Stop Military carrying DU Munitions to outer islands!

US Marine core M113 APC's waits for other equipment to load onto West-Pac Express (HSF clone)
The M113A1 Ultra can use Depleted Uranium munitions in 25 mm Bushmaster machine guns.

The military is the Superferry
by Juan Wilson on 6 October 2006

The Hawaii Superferry is designed to military specifications for moving Light Armored Vehicles (LAV) , like the Stryker's and M113s, as well as helicopters and most of the rest of the equipment needed by assault troops like US Army and Marines forces.

The plans are for the Superferry to carry such equipment from Oahu to the outer islands on a regular schedule. The LAV's like the Strykers and M113's as well as attack helicopters are equipped with Depleted Uranium (DU) ammunition.

After being fired in practice, or the battlefield, DU munitions distribute a fine dust of toxic radioactive material around their impact point. This radioactive dust is Uranium-238 with a half-life of 4.5 billion years. This radioactive dust gets in the soil and gets airborn.

Despite denials, the US military has used these munitions in Hawaii and plans to continue using them.

The Superferry board is led by Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Navy, John Lehman, and several of his cronies. They have invested money in the HSF holding company and stand to make a great deal of money with it's operation.

The use of the Hawaiian Superferry by the military is a direct threat to the environment and the health of Hawaiians. It is ironic that the people of Hawaii are footing the bill and covering the risk for much of the infrastructure improvements that are required to bring these dreadful weapons to our islands.

The articles below are more background material supporting the case that the Superferry is a dangerous military program being foisted on Hawaiians "for their own good".

It is time for a ban on the transportation of toxic radioactive materials on civilian ferrys before it is begun. You can help by making your voice heard.


Stryker Teams Train With New Vehicles
by Jason Kaye 8 September 2006 on

A long wait is over for Stryker Mobile Gun System (MGS) crews of the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. The 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry, received its complement of MGS vehicles last month after more than a year of waiting. They are the first vehicles to be fielded in the Army.

"I think its going to give the infantry a whole new dimension of what they can do. Armor and infantry have kept each other at arm's length for years and years," said Sgt. 1st Class David Cooper, an MGS platoon sergeant with B Company, 2-23 Inf. "We've got some growing pains, but once we get out there and they see what we can do, we're going to be everybody's friend."

Each infantry company is slated to receive three vehicles, though crews don't expect to operate together except on rare occasions.

The vehicles carry crews of three, and are equipped with a 105 mm main gun and a state-of-the-art fire control system. The MGS also has an onboard coaxial machine gun that's fire controlled.

"You can literally shoot smiley faces with it at 900 meters," said Cooper. "Even minus the big gun we can give the infantry a lot of support."

[Editor's note: The 105mm cannon and the 25mm Bushmaster machine gun are both standard weapons on Stryker vehicle configurations. Both can be equipped with Depleted Uranium munitions]

The 105 mm is capable of firing four types of rounds: SABOT, a depleted-uranium armor-piercing round; HEAT, high-explosive anti-tank; HEP, high-explosive plastic; and a canister round. The rounds are loaded using a hydraulic auto-loader in the rear of the vehicle.

The HEP and canister rounds give Stryker units new capabilities, especially in urban areas. The HEP can blow holes in reinforced concrete walls, but unlike the rounds from an Abrams, won't continue through the target and into surrounding buildings. The canister provides as effective anti-personnel capability.

"The vehicle's basic role is to support the infantry. It's not there to take on tanks or go toe-to-toe in the wide-open desert like we did with the Abrams," said Sgt. 1st Class William Ozmet, an MGS instructor from Fort Knox, Ky. "Its primary function is blowing a hole in the wall or blowing up bunkers."

Over the past year, the crews have been training with TOW-ITAS Humvees or other Stryker variants. Finally having the vehicles gives the crews a chance to delve into training.

"I can actually start focusing on our training, both on our mission tasks and working with the infantry," said 1st Lt. Christopher Lilley, the MGS platoon leader in B Co.

The MGS also comes equipped with training software that allows Soldiers to train on various engagements in their own vehicles, instead of going to a simulator somewhere else.

Once the 4th Bde. completes training, instructors from General Dynamics Land Systems will move on to equip and train Soldiers in Hawaii and Pennsylvania. Training for those units may change according to lessons learned here, but the vehicle itself is expected to remain mostly unchanged.
"I'm confident that this will turn out to be a successful piece of equipment for us, the infantry and the Army," said Lilley.

Uranium revelation upsets isle activists

By Rosemarie Bernardo on 6 January 2006 in the

Army e-mails detailing the presence of spent metal at Schofield are troubling, critics say. Several environmental and native Hawaiian groups are accusing the Army of misleading the public after the groups discovered that a heavy metal known as depleted uranium was recovered at Schofield Barracks' range complex.
During a news conference yesterday, the groups said the Army has repeatedly assured the public that the heavy metal was never used in Hawaii.

"These recent revelations, then, indicate that the Army is either unaware of its DU (depleted uranium) and chemical weapons use or has intentionally misled the public. Both possibilities are deeply troubling," said Kyle Kajihiro, program director of the American Friends Service Committee and member of DMZ-Hawaii/Aloha Aina.

Some members of the various groups read about the depleted uranium in e-mails detailing documents submitted in federal court in December, showing that heavy metals were found at Schofield Barracks' range complex area during clearing efforts.

The e-mail was submitted as part of an ongoing discovery process. At the end of November, attorneys representing the 25th Infantry Division filed a motion in federal court to amend a 2001 settlement so soldiers can resume live-fire training at Makua Valley. The motion is scheduled to be heard Monday.

fired DU munitions found at Schofield Army facility on Oahu. photo by AP

Depleted uranium tail assemblies have been found in a Schofield Barracks range impact area, prompting some to question the Army's forthrightness.

The clearing was being done to prepare for the expansion of additional training space and the construction of a rifle and pistol range for a new Stryker brigade combat team.

Depleted uranium is a byproduct of radioactive enriched uranium and has been used by the U.S. military in bullets and other weapons designed to pierce armor. Some researchers suspect exposure to depleted uranium might have caused chronic fatigue and other symptoms in veterans of the first Gulf War, but there is no conclusive evidence it has.

In a letter sent yesterday to Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division, Kajihiro wrote that several groups were outraged by the use of the uranium, which they say poses a public health hazard even in small amounts.

During community discussion on the Stryker Brigade environmental impact statement in 2004, Army officials assured the public that depleted uranium was never used in Hawaii, Kajihiro said.

Fifteen tail assemblies from spotting rounds made of D-38 uranium alloy, also called depleted uranium, were recovered in August by Zapata Engineering, a contractor hired by the military to clear the Schofield Barracks' range impact area of unexploded ordnance and scrap metal, according to a news release from the 25th Infantry Division.

In an e-mail dated September 19th, a contractor told an Army official at Schofield:

"We have found much that we did not expect, including recent find of depleted uranium. We are pulling tons of frag and scrap out of the craters in the western area to the point where it has basically turned into a manual sifting operation. Had this not been a CWM site, we would have moved mechanical sifters in about 5 weeks ago but the danger is just too high."

Dr. Fred Dodge, Waianae resident and member of Malama Makua, said, "DU is a heavy metal similar to lead. It can be toxic particularly to the kidneys," and could cause lung cancer if the metal in dust form is inhaled.

But U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii officials said the recovered depleted uranium has low-level radioactivity and does not pose a threat to the public.

The tail assemblies are about 4 inches in length and an inch in diameter. Army officials said they are from subcomponent remnants from training rounds associated with an obsolete weapon system that was on Oahu in the 1960s.

[Editor's note: It is our understanding that research into use of these weapons did not bear fruit until the 1970's]

"The Army has never intentionally misled the public concerning the presence of DU on Army installations in Hawaii. This is an isolated incident and should not be considered as an attempt to misinform the public,"

Col. Howard Killian, commander of the U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii, said in a written statement.

US soldier loading 105mm DU round into Bradley vehicle

APFSDS Ammunition

APFSDS (Armored Piercing Fin-Stabilised Discarding Sabot) ammunition is a type of anti-tank round. It uses kinetic energy to penetrate armored vehicles, and is often referred to as a KE round. A fin stabilized sub-projectile or sub-caliber 'dart' of very dense material such as depleted uranium (APFSDS - DU) or tungsten steel (APFSDS - TS) is fired at very high speed (hyper-velocity). The sub-projectile has a high length to diameter ratio, and is often referred to as a 'long rod penetrator'. By encasing the sub-projectile in a lightweight sabot jacket the sub-projectile is able to be fired from a much larger caliber gun. The sabot in effect 'seals' the space between the barrel lining and the sub-projectile.

The difference in calibers between the gun barrel and the sub-projectile means that a disproportionate high charge/propellant level to projectile weight/drag occurs. This results in massive energy transfer to the low drag sub-projectile, the sabot ensuring all energy is transferred to the 'dart'.

The sabot round rapidly attains hyper-velocity in the gun barrel. As the sabot round leaves the muzzle of the gun, the sabot jacket is shed from the sub-projectile 'dart' by its own drag.The sub-projectile's hyper-velocity ensures that it strikes its target with devastating impact. By using very dense materials in the sub-projectile the stored kinetic energy is magnified greatly. The terminal effect of the sub-projectile striking the target sees huge kinetic energy release. In milliseconds the sub-projectile punches through the target armour, instantaneously generating massive heat and pressure. As the long rod penetrator enters the vehicle friction with the armour plate creates burning incandescent spall which sprays the interior. The burning spall has an explosive effect.

KE rounds where used extensively in the Gulf War with great battlefield success. Combat experience with APFSDS rounds has shown that penetration generally causes a catastrophic interior explosion, devastating the crew compartment and often igniting stored ammunition.

The US Army tank crews nicknamed their depleted uranium M829A1 Armor Piercing, Fin Stabilized, Discarding Sabot-Tracer (APFSDS-T) the 'Silver Bullet'. The hyper-velocity M829A1 round allowed M1A1 Abrams crews engaged targets at very long ranges. The penetration characteristics of tank gun APFSDS darts was so great that enemy tanks could be engaged behind sand berms, the sub-projectile penetrating between ten to thirty meters or sand and still achieving a hard kill. It has been reported that a single M829 round penetrated and destroyed two Iraqi T-72. Apparently they happened to be in line, the 'silver bullet' simply punching through the first tank to hit the second.

During the Gulf War the open desert terrain and extensive use of thermal imaging weapon sights ensured that maximum engagement ranges were possible. Tank gunnery demonstrable reach a new zenith. Modern integrated fire control computers are highly sophisticated and able to link the electro-optical systems/sensors to a gyroscopic stabilized main gun. Laser range finders deliver pin point range calculations whilst other ballistic properties such as windage, barrel wear, air and barrel temperature are also calculated. The fire control systems therefore achieve 'first round' hit probability on a regular basis
Hyper-velocity APFSDS rounds have significantly increased the lethal range of tank fires, and combined with improvements in tank gunnery this has meant that combat engagement ranges have been dramatically increased. During Operation Desert Storm a British Army Challenger tank achieve the longest range confirmed tank-to-tank kill at 5100 meters or 5.1km with an rifled 120mm APFSDS 'Charm' depleted uranium round.


The use of toxic depleted uranium in kinetic energy weapons has become contentious following reports from both the Gulf War and the Balkans. DU rounds released environmental toxins in the form of depleted uranium micro-spall dust particles. The suggestion is that this DU dust may well be the main contributing factor behind 'Gulf War Syndrome' and other health issue related to soldiers who served in these theatres. The military are now faced with a dilemma between the operational needs of combat effectiveness, force integrity and survivability against the very real residual health risks to unprotected personnel operating in theatre. Although some armies have considered returning to the use of tungsten steel, such a degradation in combat performance is deemed unacceptable by many, and the DU APFSDS round are still manufactured and used.

U.S. warned of Depleted Uranium in Kosovo
By Marlise Simons on 9 January 2001 in the New York Times

After the NATO bombing campaign of 1999, the United States urged allied armies to take special precautions on entering Kosovo because American ammunition littering the landscape contained depleted uranium that posed possible health risks.

A document called ''hazard awareness'' issued by the Joint Chiefs of Staff warned soldiers and civilians against touching spent ammunition or other contaminated materials. It said personnel handling the heads of anti-tank shells or entering wrecked vehicles should wear protective masks and cover exposed skin, and people involved in the more hazardous clearing tasks should undergo health assessments afterward.

The document, dated July 1, 1999, was circulated among the militaries of the countries involved in the Kosovo campaign, and Germany, France and other countries passed along the warnings to their soldiers.

The Dutch defense ministry said it gave specific instructions about how troops were to confront the uranium problem before they went to Kosovo. ''Our troops were told to mark or cordon off contaminated areas, avoid any contact and call in special demolition units,'' a spokesman at the foreign ministry said.

A growing number of former peacekeepers from Europe and Canada have contracted cancer or cancer-like diseases. At least 15 have died of leukemia -- 6 in Italy, 5 in Belgium, 2 in the Netherlands and 1 each in Portugal and Spain.
While acknowledging the hazards, both the Pentagon and NATO, pointing to medical experts, have denied that any links could exist between exposure to depleted uranium and the illness and deaths of veterans.

Defense ministries in several countries have acknowledged receiving the American document, which has not been released. It was made available to The New York Times in Europe today by a military official from a NATO country.
While NATO officials said it was normal practice to inform troops about hazardous materials, the warnings about depleted uranium are likely to deepen concern in Europe. Ten countries have ordered investigations into possible links between the illness of soldiers and their exposure to depleted uranium.

Only American planes fired such uranium-tipped weapons during the 11-week Kosovo air campaign, using some 30,000.

Uranium is one of the heaviest metals, which makes it effective in piercing targets like tanks or concrete. A byproduct of enriched uranium, the depleted form is only mildly radioactive, but when it pulverizes in an explosion or fire, its dust is considered potentially hazardous if ingested or inhaled.

The German government said today that while it would not order mandatory screening of those who served in the Balkans, all 50,000 of them could ask for a free checkup at a military hospital.

Portugal dispatched three cabinet ministers to Kosovo today and also sent a team of military inspectors after the recent death of a soldier from leukemia. The Dutch ministry of Defense said it was reopening the investigation into the recent deaths of all soldiers, although only two died of leukemia.

Several governments said they were still poring over health records to establish whether cancer rates among peacekeepers were different from those of the same age group of the population.

The American document said that D.U., as depleted uranium weapons are known, ''is a safe and effective munition.'' But ''residual heavy metal toxicity in armored vehicles struck by D.U. perpetrators could pose possible health risks for those that access those vehicles,'' it said.

The document says soldiers entering armored vehicles hit by depleted uranium weapons should wear masks and cover exposed skin, and should be examined and their potential exposure recorded. The document does not mention radiation, which is said to be weak in the employed form of depleted uranium. It recommended that suspicious debris be reported for clearance. It also said potential risks should ''be passed on to both nongovernmental organizations and returning refugees.''

Despite such warnings, 14 scientists from the United Nations Environment Program said they found remnants of uranium-tipped ammunition still lying around. The team, recently returned from a two-week mission in Kosovo, said it found remnants of depleted uranium ammunition accessible to playing children and animals. The team has urged that contaminated sites be restricted and cleaned as soon as possible.

See also:
Island Breath: Superferry & Military
Island Breath: Superferry Meetings
Island Breath: Superferry Redux
Island Breath: Superferry Problems

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