Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Russia to send over 1,000 troops to anti-terror drills in Kazakhstan

More than 1,000 Russian troops will take part in a series of anti-terror drills in Kazakhstan on September 9-25, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.

In all, 5,000 troops from Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states will take part in the exercises, codenamed Peace Mission 2010.

Each of the SCO member states (China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) will contribute at least one operational-tactical group.

"Over 1,000 troops, some 130 armored vehicles (tanks, self-propelled artillery systems and infantry fighting vehicles), more than 100 trucks, and over 10 airplanes and helicopters will take part on the Russian side," the ministry said.

The drills will test the interoperability of the SCO armed forces in rendering assistance to a member state involved in an internal armed conflict or subjected to a mass terrorist attack.

Azerbaijan to buy four Ka-32 helicopters from Russia

Russian Helicopters company will supply four Kamov Ka-32 helicopters to Azerbaijan in the near future, the Azerbaijani APA news agency said on Monday.

It is not known which of the country's state departments or institutions ordered the helicopters, the report said.
In May, the Azerbaijan Emergencies Ministry bought two Ka-32 helicopters from Russia.

The Ka-32 is a 12-ton coaxial twin-rotor helicopter that can carry a payload of up to four tons.

It is commonly used in utility cargo work and fire-fighting, has an endurance of about four hours and cruises at 205 kilometers per hour.

Second submarine line for Mazagon Dock

With public sector shipyard Mazagon Dock Ltd (MDL), Mumbai, years behind schedule in building six conventional Scorpene submarines for the Indian Navy, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is handing Mazagon Dock another lucrative order to build three more submarines. Although private sector shipbuilders — especially L&T and Pipavav Shipyard Ltd (PSL) — argue that Mazagon Dock already has more than it can handle, MoD insists the public sector shipyard can execute this order.

The MoD’s Secretary of Defence Production, R K Singh, talking exclusively to Business Standard, has detailed Mazagon Dock’s road map for simultaneously executing the Scorpene order (Project 75, as it is termed) and the three additional submarines that are a part of the six-submarine Project 75I order.

The MoD’s apex Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) had ruled out India’s private sector from Project 75I. The first two submarines of Project 75I will be built abroad in the foreign collaborator’s shipyard. The other four submarines will be built in MoD-owned shipyards: recently acquired Hindustan Shipyard Ltd will build one, while MDL builds three.

R K Singh explains, “First, the Scorpene delay will be trimmed down to less than 18 months. The original plan was for the first Scorpene to be delivered in December 2012; and the other five submarines at one-year intervals till December 2017. While the first Scorpene will only be ready in August 2015, Mazagon Dock will deliver the others faster, at nine-month intervals, and finish the last Scorpene by May 2019.”

MoD sources say Mazagon Dock is being pushed towards an even more ambitious delivery schedule: Of one Scorpene every seven months. On August 11, Defence Minister A K Antony told Parliament that Project 75 would complete work by the second half of 2018.

But Project 75I, argues R K Singh, does not have to wait till then; it can begin as early as 2012. By that year, with all six Scorpene hulls fully built, the specialised hull workers and welders of Mazagon Dock could begin fabricating hulls for Project 75I.

Singh explains, “Two Scorpene hulls are already built and MDL is close to completing the third. By early 2012, all six Scorpene hulls will be ready. MDL’s hull fabrication shop — which cuts steel for the hull, rolls it, fabricates hull segments and then welds them together into a complete hull — will be sitting idle from 2012, and ready to be diverted to Project 75I.”

The Department of Defence Production also points out that Project 75I cannot begin for another five years. At least 12-24 months are needed for a Cabinet sanction for building the first two Project 75I submarines abroad. Selecting a foreign shipyard as collaborator for Project 75I will take another 24-36 months and then one year for price negotiations.

The six Project 75I submarines will be built on a new production line, on which work has already begun. During a visit to MDL in 2009, Business Standard was shown a 16-acre plot, adjoining MDL’s facilities in Mazagon, Mumbai, which the shipyard had acquired in the 1980s from Gujarat state PSU, Alcock Ashdown.

R K Singh confirmed, “We are going to execute Project 75I in a new yard, the Alcock Yard, on which MDL is building a second submarine production line.”

Private sector shipbuilder Larsen & Toubro finds the MoD’s decision to patronise Mazagon Dock inexplicable. L&T sources say the company was given to understand that they would participate in Project 75I as the second submarine line. Now, L&T’s experience and infrastructure would lie idle.

Indian Pilots being made air-ready for INS Vikramaditya

The defence ministry has begun the process of getting Indian fighter pilots ready to operate from aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, which is expected to be inducted into the Indian Navy in the next two years, an official said Monday.

The chairman of the Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL), Vineet Bakshi, said the defence ministry-certified shipyard was in the process of setting up a shore-based testing facility (SBTF) for future pilots in Goa, in partnership with the Bangalore-based Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA).

"This unique test facility is being set up with technology and specialised equipment from Russia. This facility will enable future pilots to be trained ashore before they fly the war planes from aircraft carrier Vikramaditya," Bakshi, a former rear admiral said.

He said pilots flying the MIG-29 fighters would also be trained at the facility being built at the naval base INS Hansa in Goa.

The navy veteran further said that the SBTF would also enable Indian Navy's indigenously developed light combat aircraft (LCA) "to reach its logical operational capabilities".

INS Vikramaditya is the re-christened former Soviet aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, which has been procured by India recently and is a modified Type 1143 Kiev class aircraft carrier built in 1978-1982 in Ukraine.

It is projected to replace India's only currently serving aircraft carrier INS Viraat.

Indian Navy's LCA will replace the ageing fleet of Sea Harriers which are being currently operated by the maritime force.

US end's Combat Mission in Iraq on Aug 31

The United States on Tuesday, August 31 at a formal ceremony in Baghdad will end its combat mission in Iraq and complete the U.S. military's transition to an advisory and training role in support of Iraqi forces. That effort is to continue until the end of next year, but there are significant questions about what happens after that.

U.S. combat units recently rolled out of Iraq, bringing the number of U.S. forces below 50,000. The remaining troops are what the military calls advise and assist brigades. Their primary mission -- to help Iraqi forces become more capable of providing sophisticated security.

The outgoing commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, says the Iraqis are ready, but there will still be plenty of U.S. troops available, not only for training, but also to help with emergencies. "We still have capability on the ground that if we have to and the Iraqis want us to, we can help them," he said.

General Odierno says the Iraqis have to improve their counterterrorism capability by the end of next year, although he concedes they will not be fully prepared even by that time.

Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General James Dubik agrees. General Dubik was in charge of training Iraqi forces in 2007 and 2008. "It's in our U.S. strategic best interest to have an Iraq that's stable," he said, "to have an Iraq that is more and more democratic and representative. And it's in our best interest to have an Iraq that is friendly to the United States and western allies."

Michael O'Hanlon at the Brookings Institution says the Iraqis' needs will extend beyond the end of next year, when the bilateral security agreement says all U.S. troops should leave. "The militaries on both sides, I believe, would favor a continuation of this professional relationship on some level," he stated.

O'Hanlon says in addition to specialty training, the U.S. presence can help prevent ethnic and sectarian violence. "Given the investment on both sides, given the difficult past that we've all been through together, why do we want to run the risk of a rushed departure when, in fact, it's probably not the most prudent thing," he reasoned.

But General Dubik says any request for U.S. troops to stay beyond 2011 must come from Iraqi leaders. And he and other experts note that can't happen until Iraq forms a new government. "The Iraqi government will have to form. They'll have to recognize that our legal standing for being in Iraq ends in 2011, and should they want our help they'll have to ask and the governments will have to negotiate some satisfactory arrangement," he stated.

As U.S. combat troops exit and bomb blasts ring out across the country, Iraqi leaders face even more pressure to form a new government -- some five months after the elections. For those feuding politicians, Tuesday's formal handover will be yet another reminder that their country's future is in their hands.

Lockheed Martin's New Multi-Purpose Hellfire II Missile Destroys Tank in Flight Test

Lockheed Martin's multi-purpose AGM114R Hellfire II missile struck and destroyed a stationary tank target in its third proof-of-principle flight test, a ground-launch test configured to simulate launch from an unmanned aerial system (UAS). The R-model, or "Romeo" missile, features a multi-purpose warhead that enables a single Hellfire missile to cover all of the target sets of the currently fielded laser-guided variants.

A team consisting of personnel from Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Army Joint Attack Munitions Systems program office located in Huntsville, AL, conducted the test at Eglin Air Force Base, FL. The missile, armed with a live warhead, was fired at a stationary M60 tank located 6.4 kilometers downrange. Immediately before launch, test equipment emulating an airborne UAS launch platform sent targeting data and warhead delay selection commands for an armored target to the missile.

The missile was launched in lock-on-after-launch mode with a high trajectory to simulate launch from a UAS. It used its inertial measurement unit and targeting data to fly to the approximate location of the target before beginning its search for the laser signal generated by the ground-based targeting laser. The missile acquired the laser spot and struck the target within inches of the laser aimpoint.

"One of the most noticeable operational enhancements in the AGM-114R missile is that the pilot can now select the type of lethality effects while on the move and without having to have a pre-set mission load prior to departure," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Mike Brown, Hellfire Systems product manager. "This is a big deal in insurgency warfare, as witnessed in Afghanistan where the Taliban are fighting in the open and simultaneously planning their next attacks amongst the local populace using fixed structure facilities to screen their presence. The AGM-114R is currently that 'one missile' that can service all targets."

"The success of this flight test demonstrates that the Hellfire Romeo can defeat Hellfire's toughest target; a heavily armored vehicle," said Ken Musculus, director of Air-to-Ground Missile System programs at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. "It can fly to an area before acquiring a target, which enables a high-altitude platform to strike targets behind it without additional maneuvering, and defeat a tank when it gets there. We've worked closely with our customer to develop a next-generation all-in-one Hellfire, and we're pleased that we're that much closer to getting it into the hands of the Warfighter."

Lockheed Martin performs all work on behalf of the Hellfire Systems Limited Liability Company, and will produce the missiles at its manufacturing facilities in Troy, AL, and Ocala, FL.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security company that employs about 136,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The Corporation's 2009 sales from continuing operations were $44.5 billion.

U.S. Concerned About Taiwan Ex-Generals' China Visits

Closer contacts between retired Taiwanese generals and the Chinese authorities have sparked concerns in Washington, the island's major arms supplier, media and an official said Aug. 30.

The former generals started visiting China years ago, but with Taiwan's mainland ties improving rapidly since 2008, the trips have become so frequent that they have drawn U.S. attention, the Taipei-based China Times said.

"The United States has voiced its concerns to (Taiwan's de facto ambassador) Jason Yuan and voiced the hope that Taiwan can come up with an explanation," the paper said, without naming the source.

It said Washington was especially concerned if such contacts may endanger long-standing military cooperation projects with Taiwan.

Washington is also wondering if the visits mark the beginning of discussion about military exchanges and the establishment of confidence-building measures between the two former cross-Strait rivals, it said.

"It would be understandable if the United States voices such concerns, given the fast improving ties between Taipei and Beijing," said Chen Wen-yi, deputy chief of the foreign ministry's North American Affairs Department.

But he said the concerns were unnecessary as the visits were not authorized by the government.

Beijing still regards Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, although the island has ruled itself since the end of a civil war in 1949.

Despite the underlying tension, relations have improved markedly since 2008 when Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang party became president, pledging to boost trade links and allowing in more Chinese tourists.

Revised U.S. Export Rules May Ease Overseas Sales

U.S. President Barack Obama plans to announce export control reforms Aug. 31 that would make it easier for U.S. companies to sell many military and dual-use technologies abroad.

The White House announced Aug. 30 that Obama would unveil a new export control system to decontrol about a third of the items on the U.S. Munitions List and move many others to the more lenient jurisdiction of the U.S. Commerce Department.

"Our preliminary analysis is that about 74 percent of the 12,000 items we licensed last year in this Munitions List category will either be moved to the Commerce Control List or will be decontrolled altogether," a White House statement said.

"About 32 percent of the total may be decontrolled," the statement said.

The current Munitions List is to be replaced by a three-tiered list. The highest tier would include critical military and intelligence technology that is available almost exclusively from the United States. These items would continue to be tightly controlled and require export licenses.

A second tier would include critical defense and intelligence technologies that can be bought from U.S. companies and U.S. allies. Many of these items could be exported to allies under license exemptions.

The third tier is for technology that is widely available. For these items, licenses may not be needed.

The announced changes won praise from the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Both organizations have lobbied for years for export control reforms.

"The restructured list shows great promise in assigning the appropriate level of protection to technology exports across all levels of risk," said Marion Blakey, AIA president. It also promises "substantial potential savings in time and compliance costs to U.S. exporters," she said.

Myron Brilliant, the Chamber of Commerce senior vice president for international affairs, said "U.S. small and midsized companies will welcome these reforms because overly complex export controls sometimes deter them from even trying to sell their goods abroad."

Monday, August 30, 2010

Thai budget makes provision for second Gripen batch

Thailand's House of Representatives approved a Fiscal Year 2011 (FY11) defence budget of THB170 billion (USD5.4 billion) on 26 August, an expenditure that includes funds allocated to a second batch of six Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter aircraft for the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF).

The allocation is a 10 per cent increase over actual defence spending in FY09 and accounts for 8 per cent of the total national expenditure. It is equal to approximately 1.7 per cent of GDP.

Between 25 and 30 cent of the defence budget is earmarked for capital expenditure, which includes a down payment on six JAS 39 Gripens and funding for the mid-life upgrade of the RTAF's Lockheed Martin F-16A/Bs.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

China to stage 4-day naval drill in September

Chinese Naval Fleet will hold live-ammunition naval exercise in the Yellow Sea in the beginning of September, the Chinese Defense Ministry announced on Sunday in a statement.

The drill will be staged this week from September 1 to September 4 in the sea between China and the Korean peninsula and will come ahead of a parallel U.S.-South Korean joint naval exercise.

"The oncoming scheduled rehearsal will be held in accordance with the annual plan in a region, where exercises of the People's Liberation Army [of China] are traditional," the statement said.

The exercise is aimed at training naval artillery's skills, the ministry's statement said.

The Chinese military exercise will be held off the Chinese coastal city of Qingdao, Beijing said. This way, the drill will be well away from the U.S.-South Korean naval exercise, which will be staged off the west coast of the Korean peninsula.

Indian-Russian Brahmos venture to produce missile engines in India

The Indian-Russian venture BrahMos Aerospace Ltd. plans to produce engines for Brahmos missiles in India, CEO Sivathanu Pillai said on Friday.

The engines will be produced at the Brahmos plant in the state of Kerala in southeastern India, Pillai said. In two years its production volumes will exceed the manufacturing capabilities of the plant in Russia's Orenburg which currently produces the engines.

He said the decision was made due to a mounting demand for Brahmos missiles in the Indian Armed Forces.

The BrahMos missile has a range of 290 km (180 miles) and can carry a conventional warhead of up to 300 kg (660 lbs). It can effectively engage ground targets from an altitude as low as 10 meters (30 feet) and has a top speed of Mach 2.8, which is about three times faster than the U.S.-made subsonic Tomahawk cruise missile.

Established in 1998, BrahMos Aerospace, a joint Indian-Russian venture, produces and markets BrahMos supersonic missiles. The sea- and ground-launched versions have been successfully tested and put into service with the Indian Army and Navy.

N. Korea Vows to Use Nuclear Weapons If Attacked

North Korea's ambassador to Cuba said Aug. 28 that, if attacked, his country would respond with nuclear weapons and engage in a "sacred war," Cuban state media reported.

Kwon Sung Chol, quoted by the Prensa Latina government agency, spoke at an event late Aug. 27 marking 50 years of diplomatic relations between Cuba and North Korea.

If North Korea is attacked by U.S. and South Korean forces, "we will respond with a sacred war based on the strength of our nuclear deterrent forces," Kwon said.

"Our government will make an effort towards the denuclearization of the peninsula and the establishment of a system of lasting peace based on the principle of the reunification of both Koreas," Kwon said, according to Prensa Latina.

North Korea on July 24 threatened a "powerful nuclear deterrence" in response to joint U.S.-South Korean naval exercises then taking place.

North Korea was prepared for a "retaliatory sacred war," North Korea's National Defense Commission (NDC) said in a statement carried then by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

China Denies Halting Defense Exchanges With India

China on Aug. 28 denied reports that defense exchanges with India had been suspended by New Delhi in retaliation for Beijing refusing a visa to a top general from its neighbor.

"China has not halted defense exchanges with India and has received no word that India has stopped military exchanges between the two countries," said a statement by China's defense ministry.

The faxed statement was a response to an AFP request for comment on Indian press reports that New Delhi had cancelled defense exchanges and sent an "angry" letter to Beijing.

The reports said New Delhi's angry reaction came after China refused a visa for an Indian general responsible for the disputed region of Kashmir.

An atmosphere of suspicion surrounds relations between the two giants amid border disputes over Kashmir and the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

The two also fought a short war in 1962, and the presence in India of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, adds to the tension.

The Indian foreign ministry has said the general's planned visit in August had not taken place and called on China to show more "sensitivity." It gave no details about any response by New Delhi.

However, a highly placed Indian military source told AFP on condition of anonymity that no defense exchanges have been cancelled and the matter was being resolved.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Russia denies plans to halt missile sales to Syria

Russia stands by its international obligations and has no plans to stop an arms deal with Syria, a Kremlin aide said on Saturday.

Sergei Prikhodko said recent reports in some Israel media outlets misrepresented Russia's position on cooperation with Syria.

The Haaretz daily reported on Friday that Israel was working to "thwart a Russian arms deal with Syria" and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had asked his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to stop the sale of advanced P-800 Yakhont supersonic cruise missiles.

"Lately, some Israeli media outlets have been actively disseminating information distorting Russia's position on the implementation of its obligations to Syria, including in the sphere of military and technical cooperation," Prikhodko said.

"I would like to stress that the Russian Federation honors all the agreements that were previously signed between Russia and Syria."

He said Russia's military cooperation policy is shaped by the president and is not directed against third countries.

Israel considers this weaponry dangerous to its navy vessels in the Mediterranean Sea, The Haaretz said.

In a conversation with Putin, Netanyahu told the Russian leader that "missiles his country had delivered to Syria were then transferred to Hezbollah and used against IDF troops during the Second Lebanon War," the paper said.

A senior Israeli official was quoted as saying that Israel and Russia have been engaged in discreet dialogue over arms deals to the region. But as these talks have not yielded any results, the decision was made to upgrade the level of discussions with a senior political figure.

The P-800 missiles have a range of 300 kilometers, carry a 200-kilogram warhead and feature a unique ability to cruise several meters above the surface, making it difficult to detected and intercept it.

Friday, August 27, 2010

India nearly ready with air-to-land supersonic cruise missile

An air-to-land supersonic missile was almost ready, A Sivathanu Pillai, CEO and managing director of BrahMos Aerospace, an Indo-Russian joint venture, said today.

"All the modifications have been completed. We are now in the process of readying with the missile," he told reporters here. This air-to-land supersonic missile "very precisely" attacks the target, he added.

But he said the Sukhoi-30 MKI aircraft, in which it is planned to be fitted, needed to be modified and this process is expected to take two years.

Since this BrahMos supersonic cruise missile is "heavier" and "elaborate", the Sukhois, which could carry other weapons, needed to be modified "exclusively" for BrahMos, including in the context of pilot's console and "mission computer should take the (extra) load" and interface issues.

"In the next two years, we are planning to complete these modifications. By 2012 we will be in a position to carry out the flight (with this missile)," Pillai said.

Under the programme, two Sukhoi-30 MKIs would be modified initially. Initial test flights would be conducted in Russia and the "actual" test flights thereafter in India. These missiles would be inducted by the IAF "after 2012".

Meanwhile, Pillai also said the BrahMos missile is capable of launching from underwater and "it can go against ship target and land target".

"We have to prove it from under water. We are planning to conduct tests from under water in the near future. Once it's successful, it will get into submarine," he said.

5,000-km Agni-V missile ready for test firing

India’s indegenous 5,000-km range Agni-V nuclear-capable missile that can hit targets in northernmost China is ready for test-firing, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said here Friday but declined to state when this would happen.

The missile was developed following the denial of technology to India. “The denial has only given us an opportunity to develop a 5,000-km range missile,” Antony said.

The minister was speaking after laying foundation stone for expansion of the Mishra Dhatu Nigam Limited (Midhani) defence public sector company.

He said Indian scientists working in many critical areas have proved that India can overcome sanctions and denials. “When we face denial, we should take it us a God-sent opportunity and a challenge,” he told the scientists present on the occassion.

Later, in a chat with reporters, Antony declined to give any date for the test-firing of the Agni-V, India’s only inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Allaying apprehensions that the defence sector would lose able hands with the retirement of present generation of scientists, the defence Minister assured that new blood would be injected. “More new scientists, officers and workers will come into the defence sector,” he said.

Antony promised all support to develop Midhani as a world-class company. He advised the company to go beyond its goal of achieving a turnover of Rs.1,000 crore. “The sky is the limit. You have a major role to play in meeting the requirements of ISRO, AEC and new areas in defence,” he said.

While talking to reporters, he said there was a need to encourage more private sector participation in defence production.

He said India’s policy on defence production was evolving. “It is a continuous process,” he said.

He pointed out that there was a time when India used to import everything but this had now come down and the country had also permitted 100 percent private sector participation in defence production.

Antony said the country now allowed 26 percent FDI in defence production and also had an offset clause to help Indian industry.

Under the clause, foreign companies that bag an Indian defence contract worth over Rs.300 crore have to plough 30 percent of the value back into the country by way of purchase of local components, services or investments.

Antony also inaugurated an indigenously-built electro-slag refining (ESR) furnace.

He noted that Midhani which started commercial production in 1983 with a modest turnover of Rs.8 crore, had now reached Rs.370 crore.

The expansion, with an investment of Rs.400 crore to Rs.600 crore in three phases is expected to increase the turnover to Rs.1000 crore in five years.

Midhani Chairman and Managing Director Narayana Rao said the company, which was set up for self-reliance in critical defence material, has been supporting programmes in the space, defence, aeronautics and atomic energy sectors.

Former Slovenia PM Took Patria Cash

Slovenian prosecutors have filed charges against former prime minister Janez Jansa over alleged bribery in the biggest defense deal signed by Slovenia yet, media reported Aug. 27.

"The Slovenian prosecution filed charges on Aug. 6 before the Ljubljana regional court against Janez Jansa" as well as four others, the weekly Mladina reported.

The charges accused the defendants of "giving or accepting bribery or bribery promises," it added.

During negotiations that led to a 278 million euro ($352 million) deal with Finnish defense company Patria in 2006, Jansa accepted a promised bribe from the company to his Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), Mladina wrote.

Jansa did not, however, meet any Patria representative and the bribe was agreed through mediators, it said.

Jansa signed a contract with Patria in 2006 for 135 armored vehicles, Slovenia's biggest military contract yet. Weeks before the 2008 elections, a Finnish television report alleged that several high-ranking Slovenian officials, including Jansa, had taken bribes from Patria.

In a statement published Aug. 27 on the SDS website, Jansa rejected the accusations and said that the prosecution had not yet officially notified him of the charges.

"Neither I nor any SDS official has ever requested or received any rewards or payments related to the Patria deal," he said in the statement.

But he added: "if anybody from the SDS did misuse my name without authorization during the negotiations, that is wrongdoing that can be proven."

He argued the accusation was filed, like in 2008, ahead of October elections, in a bid to distract the public from the failings of the current center-left government led by Prime Minister Borut Pahor.

Britain's largest defense industry organization wants Prime Minister to clarify the funding of replacements of British Nuke Subs

Britain's largest defense industry organization wants Prime Minister David Cameron to clarify the government's position on funding the replacements for Britain's Trident nuclear missile submarines.

In an Aug. 25 letter sent to Cameron and released to the media, ADS Chairman Ian Godden said recent official statements appear to call into question the government's commitment to the nuclear deterrent, and to suggest that the cost of the program, dubbed Successor, will fall on the Ministry of Defence and require cuts elsewhere.

It is "vital this confusion is cleared up as soon as possible," Godden wrote. "Uncertainty caused by the statements will be as unsettling for investors as it must surely be for our allies. A decision to move Trident renewals to the defense budget without a commensurate transfer of funding calls into question the integrity of the Strategic Defence and Security Review process and complicates the future funding of our conventional capabilities and our nation's ability to support its allies."

Godden said the issue was of such national significance that the aerospace, defense and security trade body was making the letter public.

Chancellor George Osborne and Defence Secretary Liam Fox are rowing over who should pick up the cost of building a new fleet of nuclear submarines for the Royal Navy. Osborne said the cash would have to be found in the Ministry of Defence budget. Fox argues the government should pick up the tab, as was pledged by the previous Labour Administration who lost power to the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in May.

A government White Paper put the cost of Successor at 15 billion to 20 billion pounds, at 2006 prices. At its height, Trident spending would likely top 2 billion pounds a year.

The MoD's entire annual budget currently stands at 36.7 billion pounds.

The MoD recently completed a review of the Successor program to see where it could reduce costs. One of the options looked at was reducing the planned four-boat fleet to three.

The British government is scheduled to publish its defense review at the end of October along with the defense budget figures for the next four years. The MoD is bracing for a 20 percent cut over those four years, even as it faces an unfunded liability of around 37 billion pounds ($57.1 billion) over a decade, Fox revealed in a recent speech. Having to find the billions of pounds needed to replace the Trident subs would exacerbate the expected wide-scale cuts required by the military over the next few years.

Raytheon Beats ATK to Win Excalibur Job

The U.S. Army has selected Raytheon over ATK to continue development of the next-generation of Excalibur 1B GPS-guided artillery rounds, according to a DOD contract announcement.

On Aug. 25, Raytheon received a $22 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for Excalibur 155mm Increment 1B artillery rounds, the announcement said. The contract was awarded after a 23-month competitive development and prototyping effort between Raytheon and ATK, including a competitive shoot-off this summer.

If successful during this phase, Raytheon could produce as many as 3,430 projectiles for the Army after its weapon passes tests, said Picatinny Arsenal spokesman Peter Rowland.

The Excalibur 1B munition is the next generation of the 1A rounds, produced by Raytheon and in use in Iraq and Afghanistan.

After a review of its precision fires portfolio, the Army decided to buy just 6,000 Excalibur 1B rounds, far fewer than the planned 30,000. That sent the unit cost of the rounds soaring, causing a Nunn-McCurdy breach.

The Army is still going through the required Nunn-McCurdy review, which is scheduled for completion by Jan. 13, 2011, said Lt. Col. Michael Milner, Excalibur product manager for the Army.

Delivery of the Excalibur 1B rounds is projected to occur in 2012, according to a Raytheon statement.

Excalibur 1B is required to hit targets out to 35 kilometers.

Excalibur Increment 1b, when fielded, is expected to provide a more reliable precision munition for less money, according to the Army.

India, China Deny Visas to Each Others' Officers

India suspended defense exchanges with China Aug. 27 after Beijing refused a visa to an Indian army general from the Kashmir region, according to sources in the Indian defense ministry. In retaliation, New Delhi has refused visas to Chinese army officers, according to Indian foreign ministry sources.

But a senior ministry official said the incident has not affected bilateral defense ties.

Lt. Gen. B.S. Jaswal, who commands the Northern Area Command that has responsibility for the state of Jammu and Kashmir, had intended to travel to China in August for a high-level defense exchange.

"While we value our exchanges with China, there must be sensitivity to each others' concerns. Our dialogue with China on these issues is ongoing," an External Affairs Ministry spokesman said in a statement.

The Indian military has recently accelerated plans to buy arms and gear, such as BAE Systems ultralight 155mm guns, for deployment near the Chinese border.

The defense ministry has been concerned over the Chinese military buildup, a senior ministry official said.

India has stationed more multirole nuclear-capable Russian-built Su-30MKi aircraft near the border, and is improving roads and airbases in the region.

India and China fought a brief battle in 1962 over a territorial dispute

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Russian armored vehicles sent to PNA stuck in Jordan

Fifty armored personnel carriers sent by Russia to the Palestinian National Authority are stuck in Jordan because of Israeli red tape, the Palestinian ambassador to Russia said on Thursday.

Russia sent the armored personnel carriers to the PNA in June. The vehicles have to be delivered to the PNA's administrative capital of Ramallah via Jordan.

"This delay is caused by formalities from the Israeli side. They drag out this process in every possible way," Fayed Mustafa said.
"But we hope that our forthcoming direct talks with Israel will help resolve the situation," he said.
He also thanked Russia for the help.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will meet in Washington on September 2 on an invitation by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The meeting is to resume direct peace talks between Israel and the PNA that have been stalled since December 2008 after Israel launched an attack on the Gaza Strip. The conflict left 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.

The Palestinians have so far refused to resume peace talks, citing as a major obstacle the ongoing Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, both occupied by Israel since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

They also demand that Israel agree to the borders that existed prior to the 1967 Middle East war as the basis for a future Palestinian state.
Israel has urged that talks should resume without any preconditions, which has been supported by Clinton.

Experts doubt that Netanyahu and Abbas will agree on the so-called final status issues, including the boundaries of a future Palestinian state, Jewish settlement construction and the status of Jerusalem, during the Washington talks.

However, the meeting itself, a result of months-long diplomatic efforts by U.S. Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell, was welcomed by many as a sign of progress in the Middle East settlement.

Estonia Buys APCs in Largest-Ever Deal

Estonia on Aug. 26 announced its largest-ever military vehicle deal, buying more than 80 armored personnel carriers from fellow NATO member the Netherlands.

"The Estonian defense forces will buy over 80 Sisu XA-188 armored personnel carriers from the Netherlands," defense ministry spokesman Peeter Kuimet told AFP.

"The deal doubles the number of armored vehicles in the Estonian defense forces and is the biggest armored vehicle deal ever made (by Estonia)," he added.

Some of the vehicles will be sent to Afghanistan, where 155 Estonian troops are deployed in NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

The Finnish-made carriers are a decade old. Estonia also bought 60 used models directly from neutral neighbor Finland in 2004.

Estonia regained independence from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1991 and built its military from scratch.

The nation of 1.3 million has a 3,800-member regular military - including 1,500 conscripts - plus 8,000 reservists.

Estonia joined NATO in 2004 and has been upgrading its defense equipment to meet the standards of the 28-nation trans-Atlantic alliance.

Kuimet said the vehicles cost over 300 million kroons (24.3 million dollars), with the total to be paid by 2015.

In March, in its largest-ever defense deal, Estonia took delivery of a short-range surface-to-air missile system from European defense giant MBDA and Sweden's Saab costing one billion kroons.

India Developing Laser-Based Anti-Missile Systems

Indian scientists are developing laser-based anti-ballistic missile systems called Directed Energy Weapons (DEWs).

Developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), DEW weapons can kill incoming ballistic missiles by bombarding them with subatomic particles or electromagnetic waves. The weapons could intercept missiles soon after they were launched toward India.

A DRDO scientist said laser-based weapons have been tested. One of these weapons is the air defense dazzler, which can engage enemy aircraft and helicopters at a range of 10 kilometers. This weapon will be ready for induction in two years.

India's laser weapons can be deployed in the Navy's submarines and destroyers, and Air Force fighters and transport planes.

The DEW laser weapon is capable of producing 25-kilowatt pulses that can destroy a ballistic missile within seven kilometers, the scientist said.

In addition, Indian scientists are testing the Prithvi homemade anti-ballistic missile system, which can kill ballistic missiles at a height of up to 80 kilometers. The first-phase Prithvi is likely to be inducted by 2013, said the DRDO scientist.

Scientists are working on developing second-phase Prithvis capable of killing incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Denmark has turned down a NATO request to send F-16 fighters to Afghanistan

Denmark has turned down a NATO request to send F-16 fighters to Afghanistan as it believes it has done enough for the international military mission there, the foreign minister said Thursday.

"We are one of the countries that contributes the most to Afghanistan," Foreign Minister Lene Espersen told the media after a meeting of parliament's foreign affairs committee.

"This is why we rejected the NATO request" which was also made to other member countries, she said.

Espersen said the committee "has a strong desire to scale down (Denmark's military) engagement" in Afghanistan as the Danish defense budget was "under pressure" and the government "is under no obligation to do more" there.

Denmark "can be proud" of its role in Afghanistan, she said, adding that "it's up to other countries to play a role and meet (NATO's) demands".

The F-16 requested by NATO is a multi-role fighter aircraft that is seen as highly maneuverable.

Denmark has 750 troops in Afghanistan serving in the NATO-led ISAF force, mainly in the violence-torn Helmand province, and proportionally has suffered the heaviest losses of any ISAF nation with 34 combat deaths while two more soldiers died in other circumstances.

It hopes to withdraw all its combat troops from Afghanistan by 2015, Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen has said.

NATO including the United States has 141,000 troops in the country, with numbers set to peak at 150,000 in coming weeks as efforts escalate to quell the Taliban insurgency, which began after U.S.-led forces brought down their government for sheltering Al-Qaeda leaders following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Most of those deployed under a 30,000-strong troop surge ordered by U.S. President Barack Obama are heading to Kandahar and Helmand provinces in the south, though others are going north to reinforce small bases run by NATO allies.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Russian, French warships to hold exercises Sept. 3-6

Russia's Pyotr Veliky nuclear-powered guided-missile cruiser will take part in a joint exercise with French warships on September 3-6, a Russian Navy spokesman said on Wednesday.

The warships will practice joint maneuvers at sea, replenishment of supplies, ship-to-ship transfer of goods, and helicopter landings.

The Pyotr Veliky is on its way to the Northern Fleet's base in Severomorsk after the Vostok 2010 exercises in Russia's Far East.

BrahMos missile maker happy with Russian Glonass receivers

BrahMos Aerospace Ltd., a Russian-Indian joint venture manufacturing supersonic cruise missiles, is successfully using Russian-built Glonass receivers for aiming and target acquisition, CEO Sivathanu Pillai said on Wednesday.

Glonass - the Global Navigation Satellite System - is the Russian equivalent of the U.S. Global Positioning System, or GPS, and is designed for both military and civilian uses. Both systems enable users to determine their positions to within a few meters.

BrahMos missiles equipped with Glonass receivers acquire and effectively engage targets, Pillai told the Bengaluru Space Expo 2010 exhibition.

He said the receivers performed reliably and consistently.

The BrahMos missile has a range of 290 km (180 miles) and can carry a conventional warhead of up to 300 kg (660 lbs). It can effectively engage targets from an altitude as low as 10 meters (30 feet) and has a top speed of Mach 2.8, which is about three times faster than the U.S.-made subsonic Tomahawk cruise missile.

Established in 1998, BrahMos Aerospace manufactures and markets BrahMos supersonic missiles. Sea- and ground-launched versions have been successfully tested and put into service with the Indian Army and Navy.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in early August Russia will complete the formation of a global navigation satellite group by the end of 2010 and that there will be between 24 and 28 satellites in orbit at any given time.

Russia currently has a total of 22 Glonass satellites in orbit, but only 16 of them are functional. The system requires 18 operational satellites for continuous navigation services covering the entire territory of Russia and at least 24 satellites to provide navigation services worldwide.

MBDA rolls out vision of future infantry weapons

Weapons manufacturer MBDA has unveiled the results of its company-wide "concept visions" initiative that asked the firm's 10,000 employees to come up with product ideas for the future.

Targeting urban infantry warfare, the firm received some 250 ideas in the three weeks following the project's launch. These were distilled into two product streams under the CVS101 banner: the Sniper and the Enforcer, which are both shoulder-fired missile systems linked to a sophisticated target acquisition and guidance system.

Steve Wadey, executive group director technology and managing director UK, says: "Concept visions is a completely new process that we have launched in the business at the start of 2010 to shape the marketplace in missile systems for 2030 and beyond. It is the equivalent of the concept car in the automotive industry.

"This is a real example of MBDA driving initiative and inspiring our customers, partners, suppliers and employees to look at the future in a very different way and shape the marketplace."

Wade says the company has been delighted with the results of the "novel and unique process" and will look to repeat the exercise at the beginning of 2011, potentially focusing on longer-range ordinance.

The idea for the Enforcer concept came from UK employee Giles Holtby, who work in sales and business development. Mickael Mew, concept visions manager, says: "We stitched together themes that we thought worked well together so there are elements of most, if not all, of the initial 250 ideas in the final products."

As part of the development process MBDA had what Mew terms "low-level, informal" contact with the fire support section of the Welsh Guards, following their deployment to Afghanistan. This helped MBDA to refine the concept, which Mew says "improves mobility and reduces burden" due to its light weight, as well as enabling accurate fire support which will reduce collateral damage.

The Sniper system fires a 0.9kg (2lb) missile using a 40mm (1.5in) cartridge to soft-launch the missile before its rocket propulsion system kicks in. Recoil will be similar to the existing Javelin missile. The larger Enforcer anti-tank system weighs in at just 4.5kg, firing a 1kg warhead.

Chile May Tie Up With Brazil's KC-390

The Chilean government is talking with Brazil about getting involved in the Embraer KC-390 military jet transport program.

Chile's Air Force could buy six of the tactical airlifters, Embraer officials said in a statement.

The Chilean and Brazilian defense ministers signed a declaration of intent Aug. 24 in Santiago that could see Chile's Empresa Nacional de Aeronautica (ENAER) aerospace company participate in the program.

Orlando Jose Ferreira Neto, Embraer executive vice president, said his company already had an excellent relationship with ENAER and this latest move showed the high regard the Chile government had for the KC-390.

"It also shows our mutual interest in integrating the defense industrial bases of both countries." Neto said.

The Brazilian Air Force recently committed to buy 28 of the twin-jet aircraft whose first flight is scheduled for 2014.

Argentina has also indicated it may join the program. Dassault and Saab, two of the contenders in the Brazilian FX2 fighter competition, have indicated they could participate in the program if they are selected for the combat aircraft deal.

Iran Test Fires Fateh 110 Surface-To-Surface Missile

Iran has test fired its home-built surface-to-surface Fateh 110 missile, state television reported on Aug. 25, less than a week after a similar test was carried out on another missile.

The television showed a sand-colored missile being launched from a vehicle and blasting into the sky from a desert terrain, leaving behind a thick plume of smoke. It did not say when the missile was fired.

Iran's English-language Press TV said the short-range Fateh 110 (Conqueror) missile is nine meters (29 feet) long and weighs 3,500 kilograms (7,700 pounds).

The channel's website quoted Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi as saying that the third generation Fateh 110 was a "single stage solid propellant" missile.

He did not specify the exact range of the missile but Iran has previously paraded a version of Fateh 110 which it said could travel between 150 and 200 kilometers (90 to 125 miles).

"This version works on solid fuel, so compared to previous generations it has an increased range and accuracy. Its preparation as well as launching systems are speedier," Vahidi said.

"This missile, which is in the short-range class, has added new features to the country's missile system."

The launch of Fateh 110 follows an announcement by Vahidi on Aug. 20 that Iran had successfully test fired its Qiam (Rising) short range missile, which was propelled by liquid fuel.

Vahidi further clarified on Wednesday that the test-firing of Fateh 110 was not related to the Pentagon's announcement on Aug. 11 that it planned to sell Patriot missiles to Kuwait, which is looking to bolster its defenses.

"Kuwait is no threat to us; we have friendly relations with this country," Vahidi said.

The test firing of Fateh 110 comes two days after Iran began mass-producing two high-speed variants of missile-launching assault boats, the Seraj and Zolfaqar.

On Aug. 22, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unveiled Iran's home-built bomber drone, which he described as an "ambassador of death" to Iran's enemies.

The series of military announcements come as Iran marks its annual "government week," during which it flaunts its latest achievements in various fields.

Swiss Abort Major Fighter Jet Purchase

Switzerland on Wednesday postponed its search for new air force fighter jets for several years, just weeks before it was expected to announce a decision on the multibillion dollar tender.

Swiss Defence Minister Ueli Maurer said at a news conference that the postponement of the replacement of about half of the Swiss army's ageing fleet of F-5 Tiger aircraft "will last at most until 2015".

The tender launched in January 2008 led to a fierce battle between European aerospace group EADS's Eurofighter, French firm Dassault's Rafale and the Gripen built by Sweden's Saab.

The Swiss government said in a statement that it had decided, "on the proposal of the Defence Ministry, to adjourn the partial replacement of 54 obsolete Tiger F-5 aircraft."

It cited budgetary constraints that emerged during the evaluation of the aircraft as well as a desire to use resources to cover other military shortcomings.

Switzerland also has 33 US-made FA-18 Hornet fighter jets for its frontline defence force.

Maurer, who took office 11 months after the process was launched, was a fierce critic of the tender, estimating that it would have wiped out all other major military purchases for eight years.

A decision on the choice of aircraft was last postponed in the spring, when Swiss media reported that the defence minister had estimated the cost of replacing 22 Tigers at 3.5 billion to 5.0 billion Swiss francs (2.7 billion to 3.8 billion euros; 3.4 billion to 4.8 billion dollars).

When the tender was launched, Switzerland had planned to spend 2.2 to 2.5 billion francs to replace the F-5s, some of which are more than 30 years old.

The Swiss government is now aiming to secure an adequate budget next year with a view to a purchase for the second half of the decade.

U.S. Releases Radar Upgrades for Taiwan Fighters

The U.S. has announced the sale of new radar upgrades for Taiwan's Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF). The announcement came during a two-day tri-service military exercise in southern Taiwan from Aug. 24-25.

During the exercise, a Ministry of National Defense (MND) source said the radar deal was part of phase two of the IDF's F-CK-1C/D Hsiang Sheng upgrade program. Specifics of the deal were not released.

The decision to release was made on Aug. 12, but U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley did not make the announcement official until Aug. 24.

"We have notified Congress as required under the Arms Export Control Act of proposed direct commercial sales between Taiwan and private U.S. companies," he said. Asked about China's potential reaction to the release, Crowley said, "I'll let China react to this as they see fit."

As of publication, China's Foreign Ministry had not released a statement.

The radar sale involves the release of three U.S. congressional notifications on hold since a $6 billion arms release to Taiwan in January. Afterward, the White House reportedly decided to freeze all further notifications in an attempt to better ties with China, but the radar release indicates the White House might be re-evaluating its strategy on dealing with China.

The IDF F-CK-1A/B "Ching-kuo" fighter was developed during the late 1980s to replace aging Lockheed F-104 Starfighters. The state-run Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. built 130 aircraft, which began entering service in 1994.

The U.S. State Department's decision to release the radar upgrades was welcomed by the MND and by Taiwan supporters in Washington, though there was some criticism over policies that have resulted in an on-again off-again freeze on arms sales to Taiwan, said Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president, U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, Washington.

"The recent policy under both the Bush and Obama administrations - freezing Taiwan arms sales notifications and then releasing them as packages - has had the inverse effect of its apparent intent," he said.

"By creating multibillion dollar packages that capture headlines, the policy has increased Chinese ire at such sales rather than reducing it."

He said China has cleverly used the situation as a tool to apply pressure on Washington's policy of arms sales to Taiwan. China unilaterally canceled military exchanges with the U.S. after the January release, and then canceled a planned trip by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to China in June.

"China has rightly deduced that the process is vulnerable to external pressure, and recently applied such pressure by threatening sanctions against American companies and by denying entry to China for U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates," Hammond-Chambers said.

China is employing a carrot-and-stick strategy with Taiwan, offering significant economic incentives with the recently signed Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement while continuing military modernization and expanding the material threat represented by the People's Liberation Army, he said.

The U.S. has held Taiwan's request for 66 new F-16C/D Block 50/52 fighters since 2006, but is expecting to release a midlife upgrade package for its F-16A/B Block 20s in early 2011. Taiwan is anxious to replace aging F-5 fighters and high-maintenance Mirage-2000 fighters now slated for retirement.

"The Chinese believe that Taiwan should be denied access to replacement fighters for their aging F-5s and Mirage-2000s, recognizing the serious detrimental effect such a denial would have on Taiwan's military readiness; on long-term American support for Taiwan military modernization; and on the regional view of America and its willingness to make difficult decisions in the face of Chinese opposition," Hammond-Chambers said.

The U.S. Department of Defense is due to submit to the U.S. Congress a second report by the end of 2010 examining the current balance of airpower in the Taiwan Strait and making recommendations for U.S. action. This will include consideration of the impact of replacement fighters for Taiwan's Air Force.

In a separate deal, on Aug. 13, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced a $393,538 contract award to New Jersey-based ITT Integrated Electronic Warfare Systems for the sale of an upgrade and maintenance package for Taiwan's AN/ALQ-165 Airborne Self Protection Jammer and AN/ALQ-214 Integrated Defensive Electronic Countermeasure systems. The U.S. Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake, Calif., is the contracting agency. Work is expected to be completed in August 2015.

France in Afghanistan 'As Long As Necessary'

President Nicolas Sarkozy declared on Aug. 25 that French forces will remain in Afghanistan for as long as they are needed there and enjoy the support of the Afghan people.

Two French soldiers were killed this week and Sarkozy faces mounting calls for France's 3,750 troops to begin withdrawing from a conflict that has cost 47 of them their lives and shows no sign of coming to an end.

"France will remain engaged in Afghanistan, with its allies, for as long as necessary and for as long as the Afghan people wish," he said, in his annual foreign policy address to France's ambassadors around the world.

"Our actions in the cause of peace can not be subject to artificial calendars and the mood of the media," he insisted.

France's contingent is part of the US-led NATO coalition army battling the Taliban and other rebel groups and training Afghan security forces to eventually take the lead.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said U.S. troop numbers will begin to come down from next year, but his commanders on the ground have cautioned that withdrawal will be slow and subject to conditions on the battlefield.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

International coast guard drills to be held in Sea of Japan

Russian, Chinese and South Korean coast guards will hold joint anti-piracy and anti-terrorism drills in the Sea of Japan on Tuesday, a Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) border guard spokeswoman has said.

The exercises will take place in the Peter the Great Gulf as part of a week-long international border guard forum, which opened in the Russian Far Eastern city of Vladivostok on Monday. The forum brings together border guard delegations from Russia, the United States, Japan, South Korea, and China.

One Russian, one South Korean and two Chinese ships will take part in the exercises, Natalia Rondaleva said.

"During Tuesday's drills, Russian, Chinese and South Korean coast guard ships will carry out dozens of exercises stipulated in the drills' legend," she said.

U.S. and Japanese ships are also expected to take part in the forthcoming exercises, she added.

Largest airborne military exercises since Sov.Union begin in central Russia

The largest airborne military exercises since the collapse of the Soviet Union have kicked off in central Russia, an airborne troops spokesman said on Tuesday.

The exercises, to be held in the Kostroma, Yaroslavl and Ivanovo regions until August 28, will feature over 4,000 servicemen and 300 hardware items, Col. Alexander Cherednik said.

The exercises will include airborne assault landings, assault river-crossings and the use of automated command and control systems.

Jackal Vehicle Keeps Proving Its Worth in Afghanistan

When purchase of the latest batch of Jackal vehicles was announced at Defence Equipment & Support's Defence Vehicle Dynamics event in June 2010 it took the number of Jackal vehicles procured for UK forces to more than 500.

The announcement, by Defence Equipment, Support and Technology Minister Peter Luff, to procure another 140 of the 2A version of the weapons-mounted patrol vehicle at a cost of £45m was another vote of confidence in a vehicle which has enabled British patrols to keep in touch with the enemy, often in the toughest of Afghan terrain. Around 40 of the Jackal 2As are due to be delivered this month.

Jackal is the best known of the high mobility transporter vehicles delivered by Babcock over the last few years. The original contract to produce the vehicles was signed as an Urgent Operational Requirement in 2007. The contract has since delivered with huge success.

Jackal vehicles are produced by Babcock under an alliance with Supacat, the prime contractor and design authority. Supacat is responsible for design, development, prototyping, integration and programme management, while Babcock takes responsibility for detailed production planning, purchasing and manufacture at its Devonport factory.

Perfect partnership has been the key for the project co-ordinators at Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S). Alan Stephen, DE&S' high mobility transport vehicle project manager, said:
"The success of the Jackal programme has been grounded on a combined effort between the project team and industry, who have shown great will to achieve and the ability to take risk to continue delivery.

"My team is thoroughly committed to achieving the best solution for the soldier on the ground, as early as possible, as economically as possible.

"We can't rest on our laurels though, and are continually examining ways of making an excellent vehicle even better. Regular good communications direct with theatre and excellent backbriefs from returning brigades assist in identifying where we should be looking at improvements.

"Of course it does help motivation that it's a very well-liked vehicle which has delivered an important capability to Operation HERRICK."

The vehicles are built by a team of up to 130 Babcock employees working on the Devonport pulse production line, along with a smaller project management team of 25.

The pulse production line involves dividing the total manufacturing activity into a series of 12 equally balanced packages or 'cells', and the vehicle is physically moved, or 'pulsed', from one area assembly to the next on a daily basis.

Application of a 'lean' philosophy has identified and eliminated any non-value-adding activities, and serves to ensure that the demanding delivery schedules and critical quality and reliability requirements are met.

This is coupled with highly effective supply chain management to reduce lead times, ensure quality and reliability, manage obsolescence, and ultimately drive down the cost of construction and ownership. Production runs at a rate of one vehicle a day.
Babcock Land Systems Director, Chris Dunn, said:

"The Jackal vehicle has been a resounding success, having proved its versatility; combining speed and manoeuvrability with unparalleled cross-country performance over Afghanistan's harsh terrain.

"We are delighted to be working in alliance with Supacat to deliver these vehicles reliably and consistently within the shortest possible timescales.

"Further, we have established Babcock as a company that can be relied upon to deliver vehicles of exceptional quality at record pace and, being OEM [Original Equipment Manufacture] independent, we are also talking to other vehicle designers about building their vehicles for upcoming programmes in the UK and abroad."

Qinetiq: Zephyr UAV Set 3 World Records

Qinetiq said its solar-powered Zephyr UAV broke three world records during a recent test flight in the United States that reached an altitude of 70,740 feet.

The British defense research contractor also said the Zephyr broke two endurance records during a July flight from the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.

The company said it has filed claims with the Federation Aeronautique Internationale and is awaiting ratification of the records.

The records in question are the maximum altitude for a UAV of 50 to 500 kilograms (70,740 feet), the absolute duration record for a UAV (336 hours, 22 minutes) and the duration record in the same weight category.

Zephyr, which weighs in at just over 50 kilograms, has a wingspan of 22.5 meters that is covered with paper-thin amorphous silicon solar arrays.

The UAV carried a communications relay package for a trial involving the U.K. Ministry of Defence.

A Qinetiq spokesman said the flight proved the technology and the capability. He said the company was now in conversation with potential customers about deploying the system.

AeroVironment holds the absolute world UAV altitude record with its solar-powered Helios, which reached nearly 97,000 feet in 2001. Helios, which was lost during a 2003 test flight, also holds the record for 500- to 2,500-kilogram UAVs.

On Aug. 4, the U.S. company test-flew its new Global Observer UAV on a one-hour battery-powered flight at altitudes up to 4,000 feet. A test program using a liquid-hydrogen fuel version is aiming at a weeklong flight. It is intended to operate between five and seven days at up to 65,000 feet.

France Completes Tests of Campcopter S-100

The Délégation Générale pour l'Armement (DGA) procurement office has completed tests of the Camcopter S-100 vertical take off and landing (VTOL) unmanned air vehicle for the French Army and Navy, ending with a series of maritime scenarios, Austrian company Schiebel said Aug. 24.

"The aim of the final series of trials on the French Levant island was to demonstrate the suitability and versatility of a VTOL UAV in the maritime domain from a coastal setting," Schiebel said in a statement.

The last set of trials included observation of simulated attacks against ships by pirates in small boats, drug smuggling operations, and surveillance and tracking of shipping at a distance, the company said.

The air vehicle flew over 20 flight hours for four days in the hot and dry weather conditions found on the Levant island on the Mediterranean coast off the south of France.

The marine tests completed a program of trials conducted for the French Army and Navy which began in March under a 1 million euro lease contract signed by the DGA.

DGA personnel operated the S-100 under a lease contract, flying more than 50 missions, day and night, for a total 150 flight hours.

The Army's STAT technical department looked to the S-100 tests to draft requirements for a new tactical UAV. The air vehicle flew at the Army's Sissonne urban warfare facility, east of France, and the Canjuers training site in the south.

The maritime tests were part of the Navy's requirement for a tactical UAV program dubbed Système de Drone Aérien de la Marine (SDAM).

The main payload for the trials consisted of the Thales Agile 2 electro-optical and infrared sensor.

Schiebel has teamed with Thales Optronique and Aerospace divisions and military shipbuilder DCNS to respond to a request for information from the DGA for a planned procurement in 2011 of a VTOL UAV for the French Navy's Lafayette frigate.

Schiebel has a separate teaming deal with Boeing to penetrate the U.S. military market. The Austrian company has sold 40 of the S-100, dubbed as the Al-Saber UAV, to the United Arab Emirates, with options for a further 40.

U.S. Navy Puts Off LCS Decision

The long-awaited decision on which Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) design to buy will take a bit longer, the U.S. Navy said Aug. 23 - and that means the announcement of a choice might wait until just before year's end.

But the Navy, in a statement released Monday afternoon, announced it will request Final Proposal Revisions (FPRs) "soon" from competing firms Lockheed Martin and Austal USA.

"The Navy anticipates that FPRs will be received in September 2010, and will require that these revised offers remain valid for 90 days," the service said in its statement.

Cmdr. Victor Chen, a spokesman for the service's acquisition department, could not give a specific date for the FPRs to be turned in. If the responses are received by Sept. 30, the service would then presumably have until Dec. 30 to announce its decision.

The LCS program has gone through a long and at times torturous process since the decision was announced in 2004 to build competing designs from Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics. For a time, the Navy planned to put both designs into production, but in September 2009, Sean Stackley, the Navy's top weapon buyer, restructured the program and announced only one type would be built.

At stake are at least 51 ships. The service already has bought two ships from each competing team, and the Navy wants a force of 55 LCSs. When complete, the LCS fleet will number about one-sixth of the entire U.S. fleet.

GD and its shipbuilder, Austal USA, split up earlier this year for the purposes of bidding on the current contract, which will involve the design selection and the award of construction contracts for 10 ships. Another award for five ships will come in 2012, when, according to the Navy's rules, the winning shipyard can't be associated with the 2010 contract. GD, which would like to build LCS ships in one of its shipyards, was forced to split from Austal in order to bid on the 2012 contract.

The Navy's announcement of its decision to request more information from the bidders was not entirely unexpected. Democrats in Congress protested mightily after the Aug. 9 announcement by Defense Secretary Robert Gates that he would close the Joint Forces Command near Norfolk, Va., as an efficiency move. That meant that more than 6,000 jobs will be leaving Suffolk County, and Democrats, particularly those in close races, raised a mighty hue and cry in protest. As a result, further announcements that could affect job losses might be expected to be put off.

The full Navy statement reads:
"The Navy is proceeding with the LCS source selection diligently, thoroughly, and consistently with its source-selection plan and applicable law and regulations. The Navy is taking the time necessary to carefully review and analyze the competing proposals.

"To this end, the Navy is currently engaged in discussions with offerors and will request Final Proposal Revisions (FPRs) from them soon. The Navy anticipates that FPRs will be received in September 2010, and will require that these revised offers remain valid for 90 days. The Navy intends to make a contract award as expeditiously as practicable, consistent with its source selection plan, but in any event prior to the expiration of such offers.

"We understand there is keen public interest in this competition, but our duty to protect the integrity of the source-selection process, as well as the confidentiality of the information submitted by the offerors, significantly limits our ability to provide additional details about the ongoing competitive procurement at this time."

Monday, August 23, 2010

Iran Unveils new missile assault boats

Iran has launched production of the Zolfaqar and Seraj 1 class missile boats, Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi said on Monday.

"The Seraj 1 boat is a high-speed rocket-launcher designed for tropical areas," the ISNA news agency quoted Vahidi as saying. "It is fitted with advanced indigenous communication capabilities."

The Zolfaqar missile-carrying boat "is a surveillance boat designed for quick attacks on enemy ships, it is outfitted with rocket launchers and machine guns," he said.

The boats will be deployed along Iran's coastline and on the Strait of Hormuz shipping route, the minister said.

Boeing to Showcase Broad Range of Unmanned Capabilities at AUVSI Convention

The Boeing Company will spotlight its wide array of unmanned systems at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) Unmanned Systems North America 2010 conference and exhibition. This year’s event takes place Aug. 24-27 in Denver.

Boeing will feature key unmanned systems at Booth 2600 and in media briefings, including the A160T Hummingbird unmanned aerial system, the Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System, Phantom Eye, Phantom Ray, and the Echo Ranger underwater unmanned vehicle.

"Boeing offers its customers a diverse set of unmanned systems that have almost unlimited potential for both military and commercial purposes," said Vic Sweberg, director of Boeing Unmanned Airborne Systems. "We are committed to continued innovation and expansion in this growing field."

Boeing subsidiary Insitu also will be exhibiting at the show at Booth 1400 and static display Booth 1038, highlighting the ScanEagle and other unmanned products and services.

A unit of The Boeing Company, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is one of the world's largest defense, space and security businesses specializing in innovative and capabilities-driven customer solutions, and the world’s largest and most versatile manufacturer of military aircraft. Headquartered in St. Louis, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is a $34 billion business with 68,000 employees worldwide.

US Navy Carrier Rescues Iranian Sailors

Units assigned to Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (CSG) rescued eight Iranian mariners in the Arabian Sea Aug. 18.

At approximately 8:45 p.m., while conducting a routine mission over the northern Arabian Sea, an F/A-18 Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 37 spotted a vessel approximately 50 miles from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) that was on fire and in distress.

Two SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters from Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 7 were dispatched to render assistance, arriving on station at approximately 9:30 p.m.

A helicopter search and rescue swimmer was deployed into the water and discovered eight people in the raft.

The first helicopter recovered four mariners and transported them back to Truman. A short time later, the remaining four mariners were recovered by the second helicopter. The mariners told the aircrew that all of their personnel on the vessel were accounted for, and the helicopters conducted a sweep of the area prior to returning to Truman.

During the transit back to Truman, the aircrew distributed blankets and coordinated with the ship to have dry clothes and footwear ready for the stranded mariners upon arrival to the carrier.

Truman's Medical Department set up a medical triage in the hangar bay upon receiving word that the SH-60s were inbound with the eight mariners.

The assessment by Truman's medical staff revealed that the eight were in excellent shape with no significant injuries. The medical department provided them with food, water and a fresh change of clothing.

"It was a great team effort by the Truman Strike Group," said Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll, commander, Carrier Strike Group 10. "It is our duty as a professional Navy and as professional Sailors to help those in need of assistance. We have a longstanding tradition of helping mariners in distress – providing medical assistance, engineering assistance and search and rescue. There was no hesitation on the part of our aircrew and rescue swimmer to help out our fellow seafarers."

The eight mariners will remain on the ship until arrangements can be made for their safe return home.

The Harry S. Truman Strike Group is on a regularly scheduled deployment to the 5th Fleet area of responsibility in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Oshkosh Defense Demonstrates Advanced Vehicles and Technologies at U.S. National Guard Conference

Oshkosh Defense, a division of Oshkosh Corporation, is supporting the U.S. National Guard’s broad mission with a diverse demonstration of technologies and vehicles at the 132nd National Guard Association of the United States’ (NGAUS) 2010 General Conference and Exhibition at the Austin Convention Center, Austin, Texas.

The company will exhibit a U.S. Army Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) dump truck variant, a Pierce Manufacturing Inc. mobile command vehicle and a SandCat Tactical Protector Vehicle.

“It is important that the men and women serving in the National Guard have modern, highly protected dual-use systems to support their combat missions, national security operations, disaster relief and a variety of other deployments,” said Mike Ivy, Oshkosh Defense vice president and general manager, Army Programs. “Our advanced vehicle platforms give the National Guard the tactical capabilities they need, whether they’re serving on the frontlines overseas or conducting missions at home.”

Oshkosh also provides comprehensive, world-class vehicle training to National Guard units through the Oshkosh Product Training Center. Certified Oshkosh instructors train National Guard members in operation, vehicle maintenance and repairs. Training is offered at Oshkosh’s Wisconsin campus or via mobile training teams at unit bases across the U.S. and abroad. “Mobile training has proven very successful as it allows National Guard soldiers to train according to their units’ schedules – in a real-world environment with real-world constraints,” Ivy said.

The FMTV 10-ton dump truck replaces obsolete and maintenance-intensive vehicles currently in the fleet. It can perform local and line haul, unit mobility, unit resupply and other missions in combat, combat-support and combat-service-support units. It is rapidly deployable worldwide and operates on primary and secondary roads, trails and cross-country terrain, in all environmental conditions.

Pierce mobile command vehicles are used for a wide variety of applications, including incident command and consequence management. They are highly customized to meet specific customer requirements. A wide array of features include audio and video equipment such as multi-band radio interoperability, cell and satellite telephone capability, digital and infrared cameras, along with galleys and slideouts to maximize working space within the vehicle. Pierce is a division of Oshkosh Corporation and is North America’s leading fire and rescue apparatus manufacturer.

The protected and highly maneuverable Oshkosh SandCat can be configured to fulfill a variety of roles in a vast array of missions. It is tailored to meet each operational environment to provide the perfect balance of mission performance, protection and payload.

Oshkosh is exhibiting Aug. 21-23 in booth #1513 at the 132nd NGAUS General Conference & Exhibition in Austin, Texas.

Oshkosh Defense, a division of Oshkosh Corporation, is an industry-leading global designer and manufacturer of tactical military trucks and armored wheeled vehicles, delivering a full product line of conventional and hybrid vehicles, advanced armor options, proprietary suspensions and vehicles with payloads that can exceed 70 tons.

International industry unites, calls on India to reform offset policies

Defence industry associations across North America and Europe will send a jointly signed letter to the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) early next month outlining proposals to overcome what they view as excessive bureaucracy that is stifling defence trade.

The letter will focus on defence companies' frustrations with existing offset policies and make a number of recommendations that industry bodies hope the MoD will include in a revision of the offset policy planned for next year.

Cosignatories of the letter include the Aerospace Industries Association in the United States; the Washington, DC-based US-India Business Council; the UK's ADS (AeroSpace Defense Security); the German Aerospace Industries Association (BDLI); France's Groupement des Industries Françaises Aéronautiques et Spatiales; and the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada.

Confirming the development on 19 August, Brinley Salzmann, the director of overseas and exports at ADS, said the letter is a result of international defence industries' desire for a "workable offset policy in India that makes commercial sense for the overseas obligors and also generates value and benefits for Indian industry."

Salzmann said a particular focus of the letter is a request to the MoD that it establish a dedicated body that has authority to make key decisions on how vendors fulfil offset obligations.

Salzmann added that such an agency would address the high level of bureaucracy that has been identified by international defence industries as one of the biggest challenges in doing business in India.

He did not reveal full details of the letter's content, but said: "It will be along the lines of the need for a simplification of the system to try to generate an entity that has the authority to make decisions."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pakistan’s nuclear and defence sites safe after flooding

Pakistan's nuclear sites and military installations remained safe and free from danger during the worst of the flooding to hit the country, the military said Thursday.

"There is no danger to our defence and nuclear installations from flooding," military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said

"All our nuclear and military installations have remained safe and there is no further danger from flooding," Abbas added.
Pakistan has a 325-megawatt Chinese-built nuclear power plant at Chashma, in south of Punjab province, and another being built on the left of the Indus river, which burst its banks.

Weather forecasters signalled that the monsoon systems may ease off after three weeks of torrential rains triggered the devastating floods that have left nearly 1,500 people dead in Pakistan's worst natural disaster.

The floods wiped out villages, farmland and infrastructure, and the UN aid coordination body OCHA said that more than 650,000 homeless families were still without basic shelter.

Pakistan's nuclear sites also remained safe after 7.6 magnitude earthquake in 2005 which killed more than 73,000 people.
Pakistan tested its nuclear device in May 1998, after South Asian rival India conducted its nuclear tests.

There have been concerns in the West about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal from Islamist extremists.

The United States is reported to have set up an elite squad that would attempt to secure its weapons if the government ever disintegrated.

Kongsberg Wins ODIN Contract to supply Artillery System for Norway and Sweden

Norway and Sweden have chosen Kongsberg Defence Systems (KDS) to adapt and supply its ODIN Artillery Fire System for the Archer self-propelled artillery system. The contract carries an initial estimated value of $16 million, and is part of the joint Norwegian-Swedish artillery cooperation program centered on the procurement of 48 Archer systems.

ODIN is designed to manage an artillery system's operations through the chain of command and integrated inspection instruments, communication systems, command posts and guns.

The contract secured by KDS was signed with the Norwegian and Swedish defense material procurement agencies, Forvarets Logistikk Organisajon (FLO) and Forsvarets Materielverk (FMV).

The two-year contract marks the continuation of a deal signed in March by KDS and the Norwegian Armed Forces. The ODIN system is scheduled for delivery in 2012.

ODIN is to be integrated with the Archer 155mm self-propelled guns ordered by Sweden and Norway from BAE Systems Bofors, Karlskoga, Sweden. This project will see each country invest $1.2 billion to acquire an initial 24 units. Archer has been developed as a light, mobile, air-portable, highly automated system.

The Archer system comprises BAE's FH77-B05 155mm/52 caliber cannon mounted on a modified Volvo six-wheel commercial truck. The Archer is capable of hitting targets at ranges of up to 50 kilometers (31 miles) with rocket-boosted ammunition.