Monday, 31 December 2012

Army’s Kiowa Warrior helos undergoing sensor upgrades

The Army’s OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter is getting a multimillion-dollar makeover that includes moving its distinctive top-mounted “beach ball” sensor to the aircraft’s nose — all the better for peering down at enemy forces in urban environments.
Lt. Col. Mathew Hannah, the Army’s Kiowa project manager, said the upgrades, which cost $4 million each, are under way, with the first modified Kiowa scheduled to fly in April.
Hannah did not comment on a recent Reuters report that suggested the Pentagon may spend $6 billion to $8 billion on a replacement for the Kiowa, but he said the upgrades will significantly extend the life of an aircraft that’s been neglected in recent years because it was, until recently, marked for retirement.
Kiowa Warriors, armed with rockets, missiles and machine guns, are the oldest scout helicopters in the Army, with an average age of 41 years, said Hannah, who’s been flying them for 20 years.
Their top-mounted sensors were designed for Cold War missions where the aircraft hid behind trees and searched for enemy tanks by flying just high enough to raise the sensor above the branches, Hannah said.
“The mission for the OH-58 hasn’t changed over time, but the enemy has changed,” he said last week. “We are still an armed reconnaissance platform, and our mission is to conduct surveillance and assist the ground commander with troops in contact.”
Kiowas have accounted for 47 percent of the attack helicopters deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan but they’ve flown 52 percent of missions because ground commanders and troops in contact prefer them to alternatives such as the AH-64 Apache, Hannah said.

“They can get down close to friendly forces,” he said of the Kiowas.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dan Carbone, who spent a decade as a Kiowa mechanic before becoming a pilot, said it’s clear the Kiowas are popular with ground troops.
“When you are deployed and standing in line at the chow hall, infantry guys will come up and ask: ‘Do you fly the Kiowas? Thanks for getting us out of trouble last night.’ ”
Typical missions for the Kiowas in recent years have involved hovering over urban environments and trying to spot insurgents hiding on streets and in buildings. In those situations, a top-mounted sensor isn’t ideal because the aircraft’s fuselage blocks much of what its cameras are trying to focus on directly below, Hannah said.
Moving the sensor to the aircraft’s nose, which is where police helicopters typically carry cameras, makes sense, although it requires longer landing gear, he said.
The Army is also upgrading the 30-year-old sensor on the Kiowa to a state-of-the-art package that can transmit high-quality color images, he said.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Mark Herman, who has been flying Kiowas for 20 years, is giving the Army feedback on the upgrades. He was impressed by the new sensor.
“It will allow us to track targets and identify them from a much greater distance,” he said.
That will allow the Kiowa to hover further from the enemy, making it harder to spot and safer for the crew, he said.
Another officer involved in Kiowa upgrades, Maj. Raaen Stewart, said the new gear will give crews the ability to see video transmitted by unmanned aircraft and to transmit images from their own cameras to other manned aircraft or ground troops.
An infrared pointer will allow the crew to highlight targets for other aircraft and ground forces, he added.
The upgraded Kiowas — known as OH-58Fs — will carry three kinds of lasers for painting targets, including eye-safe lasers for training, Hannah said.
The cockpits will also be upgraded with digital controls, more powerful computers, and the ability to communicate with “smart weapons.” Such weapons, which can be controlled after they have been fired, have yet to be fielded by the Army, but they could be used in future, he said.
The Army is also taking action to replace Kiowas lost in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years.
Combat losses mean that the Army, which is authorized 368 OH-58Ds, has only 329 flying. Technicians are adding weapons to unarmed versions of the helicopter — OH-58ACs — at a cost of $11 million each, Hannah said.
Bell Helicopter and Corpus Christi Army Depot have delivered one upgraded helicopter per month since June and continue until the fleet is back up to strength, Hannah said.

Al Qaeda Announced Its Dissolution Today, Citing The Success Of The U.S. Congress In Destroying The U.S. Economy As It's Main Reason

Al Qaeda Disbands; Says Job of Destroying U.S. Economy Now in Congress’s Hands

The international terror group known as Al Qaeda announced its dissolution today, saying that “our mission of destroying the American economy is now in the capable hands of the U.S. Congress.” In an official statement published on the group’s website, the current leader of Al Qaeda said that Congress’s conduct during the so-called “fiscal-cliff” showdown convinced the terrorists that they had been outdone.
“We’ve been working overtime trying to come up with ways to terrorize the American people and wreck their economy,” said the statement from Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. “But even we couldn’t come up with something like this.”
Mr. al-Zawhiri said that the idea of holding the entire nation hostage with a clock ticking down to the end of the year “is completely insane and worthy of a Bond villain.”
“As terrorists, every now and then you have to step back and admire when someone else has beaten you at your own game,” he said. “This is one of those times.”

The Al Qaeda leader was fulsome in his praise for congressional leaders, saying, “We have made many scary videos in our time but none of them were as terrifying as Mitch McConnell.”
As for the future of Al Qaeda, the statement said that it would no longer be a terror network but would become “more of a social network,” offering reviews of new music, movies and video games.
In its first movie review, Al Qaeda gave the film “Zero Dark Thirty” two thumbs down.

Failure Threatens Afghan Police Training Mission

Failure Threatens Afghan Police Training Mission
German officials have been training police in Afghanistan for a decade, but a visit to their training center in Mazar-e-Sharif creates major doubts about the effectiveness of the mission. Afghan police remain poorly prepared to tackle the mighty challenges they will face as Western forces withdraw.
The Afghan national sport is called buzkashi. It's a game in which horsemen battle over a goat carcass. There are no established teams.
During a match, the competitors forge brief, continuously shifting alliances. They only work together until they have gained a short-term advantage. The game can last for hours, even days. The winner is the rider who manages to carry the carcass to the goal. Buzkashi is a mirror of Afghan society.
By contrast, the German police officers who train local recruits in Afghanistan have brought soccer balls and nets to their base in Mazar-e-Sharif. Football is all about teamwork and team spirit. The goal is to form a team and achieve an objective together.
In a corner of the training center, on a patch of parched earth, there is now a soccer field where the next generation of Afghan police officers is learning the game.
"What we want to achieve with the recruits is a change in mentality," says a German instructor. More team spirit, a better sense of community, more loyalty. More soccer, less buzkashi.
Over the past 10 years, Germany has instructed some 56,000 Afghan police officers at four training centers in the region. The training is part of Germany's responsibility as a member of NATO, and so far the project has cost some €380 million ($503 million). As many as 200 German police officers are regularly stationed in Afghanistan, most of them in Mazar-e-Sharif.
But anyone who accompanies the German security aid workers for a few days is bound to doubt the mission's effectiveness after observing the mood among the officers and reading between the lines of official statements. Even now, when Western security forces have entered their 11th year of training, the police in Afghanistan don't stand for public order and security -- but rather for helplessness, arbitrariness and corruption.

A Prime Target
"The mission is neither effective nor sustainable," says Josef Scheuring, chairman of the Germany's largest police union, the GdP, adding that it endangers the lives of the German police officers. "We should withdraw from Afghanistan as quickly as possible," urges Scheuring. Nevertheless, police officers continue to work in the region, usually for a year. They are attracted by overseas bonuses of up to €200 per day.
Alex, 32, a mid-level police officer from the northeastern German town of Ueckermünde, is one of them. He is due to meet with Ayatullah at the Regional Police Training Center (RPTC) in Mazar-e-Sharif late in the afternoon. The next day, the 22-year-old low-ranking officer in the Afghan national police force will show class 6.2 how a road checkpoint works.
"Checkpoints are crucial," says Alex, adding that "they have a high death rate." This makes it important to teach "survival skills," as he puts it. Of all the uniformed officials in Afghanistan, police officers are at the highest risk.
Secluded from the outside world, many of them spend weeks at such checkpoints and are charged with representing the state. They are a symbol of the new Afghanistan, which is massively supported by the West -- and thus a prime target for insurgents. There are currently some 150,000 police officers in Afghanistan. Since 2002, when various Western nations launched training programs, it's estimated that nearly 10,000 police officers have been killed -- and some 15 percent desert the force every year.
Alex plans the next day with Ayatullah. "We'll meet at 7:50 a.m. in front of the armory, and by 8:20 a.m. the checkpoint will be set up. Is that enough time?" asks Alex.
"No problem," says Ayatullah.
"We need a patrol car and a civilian car, plus three boxes as barriers. Ideally, by this evening already. Is that okay?"
Ayatullah nods.
"Okay, I'll see you tomorrow," says Alex.
A Critical Phase
The ambitious project of developing an Afghan police force, which was to operate at least according to the basic principles of its German counterpart, began 10 years ago and involved three phases.
Phase 1, training recruits, was completed long ago.
Phase 2, instructing the police officers in practical operations on location, was abandoned last year. German police officers -- at the time still under the protection of German soldiers -- drove through the country for hours to call on various police stations. Since they had to be back before sundown due to security concerns, there often remained very little time for training.
Phase 3 is currently underway: Afghan police officers train Afghan recruits while the Germans monitor them. They correct mistakes and give suggestions. Based on the methodology and didactics of the German police school, it is hoped that the Afghans can train uneducated men to become good officers in just eight weeks.
Like all German police officers in Mazar-e-Sharif, Alex is living at Camp Marmal, the headquarters of the coalition troops in northern Afghanistan. The ISAF military base is one of the safest places in the country -- a well-equipped artificial world with shops, cafeterias, gyms and pool tables. Private security guards stand at the gates, while soldiers patrol outside the compound. A zeppelin floats in the sky, jam-packed with cameras and surveillance electronics.
The German police officers are not allowed to leave the camp. They used to accept invitations to eat meals with locals, were allowed to move about freely and had opportunities to get to know the country. Today, that would be unthinkable. The upcoming ISAF withdrawal has made the security situation extremely precarious.
Lieutenant General Rainer Glatz, the commander of all German military operations abroad, says that the mission in Afghanistan has reached a "critical phase." Glatz says the Afghan army and police will soon undergo a litmus test to see whether and how they can ensure security without outside help.
Part 2: A Certain Kind of Order
Alex from Ueckermünde begins his workday at 6:15 a.m. with breakfast in the air-conditioned canteen. At 7 a.m., he goes to the barracks where the German police have their offices. Some two dozen men and women have gathered there. They are wearing khaki-colored uniforms made of breathable fabrics with "vector protection," a special treatment that is designed to prevent bites from blood-sucking arthropods like ticks and flying insects.
A security briefing is part of the daily routine for the Germans at Camp Marmal. A colleague brings them up to speed: In Helmand Province, 15 men and 2 women were decapitated, allegedly because they had celebrated and danced; in Laghman Province in the east, two US soldiers were killed by Afghan military personnel. And in the north, where Camp Marmal is located, there were "no incidents."
That is no coincidence, because the north is under the control of Governor Atta Mohammed Noor. The former warlord is one of the richest men in the country. Every day, hundreds of supplicants wait for an opportunity to enter his office, which is decorated with chandeliers, paintings and silk upholstered chairs.
In the governor's realm, the opium smuggling trade is booming, as are alcohol sales and business with prostitutes from Tajikistan. The Western forces simply look the other way. Otherwise "the fragile economic system would collapse," said a US major during a confidential discussion behind the ISAF barracks.
Governor Noor stands for a certain amount of order. It is not the order that comes from the rule of law -- but it is enough for the German government to thank him with the construction of a new airport in Mazar-e-Sharif. A consulate general is due to be opened next year.
A Proud People
The RPTC training center is located roughly 800 meters (2,600 feet) from Camp Marmal. Before the Germans drive there, they each put on bulletproof vests, grab a G-36 assault rifle and climb into an armored SUV.
The Germans also carry their weapons on the secured military base. Their Afghan colleagues, however, must surrender their arms at the gate. An Afghan, a uniform and a loaded weapon can be a deadly combination in this part of the world. Some 50 ISAF soldiers have been shot by Afghans in uniform this year alone. The Taliban proudly boasts that it has managed to infiltrate the local police force. As a precautionary measure, the Kalashnikovs distributed to class 6.2 shortly before 8 a.m. are missing their firing pins. That way means any cartridges smuggled into the training center couldn't hurt anyone.
Ayatullah, the Afghan police instructor, has the checkpoint set up. "Where is the patrol car?" asks Alex, the German instructor.
Ayatullah hesitates. His superiors didn't want to hand over the car, he admits. He says they use it to drive home in the evening. They told him to tell the Germans that they would only make the vehicle available if they were given more gasoline.
His superiors are playing buzkashi with squad cars. As a result, class 6.2 practices without a vehicle.
Ayatullah assigns positions at the checkpoint. Four recruits secure the area, one stops an oncoming civilian car, and two others stand behind him. Stop, hands up, search the vehicle, make arrests.
Alex is not satisfied.
"Ayatullah should have explained the process once again to the entire class before the exercise, ideally at each individual stage," he says. Many of the recruits were not paying attention or didn't even understand which task had been assigned to them, he criticizes. Although Ayatullah has professional knowledge, he can't teach it to others, says the German.
At 10:15 a.m., the Afghan trainer and his German supervisor meet to review the session. "How did it go?" asks Alex.
"Really well," says Ayatullah, who is beaming.
Alex was expecting that answer. "Nevertheless, we have to talk about a few points," he says. The trick is to package the criticism so it sounds like praise. The Afghans are a proud people.
Running Out of Time
Eight weeks is not much time to make a police officer of a man who has perhaps never attended a school. The country's illiteracy rate is currently at roughly 70 percent, and sometimes the recruits don't understand a word, for instance, if an instructor tries to teach a group of Pashtuns in Dari. Only the most basic knowledge is taught: roadblocks, house searches, self-defense and making arrests, weaponry and a few legal principles, including human rights.
But is that enough?
Interior Minister for the northern German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Lorenz Caffier, who also currently heads the German Interior Ministers' Conference, has his doubts. The problem is "that in Afghanistan we primarily train recruits for basic police service," says Caffier, "and we don't know how many of them will remain with the police force and how many will go to work for the warlords." The conservative politician, who is a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), says it would be preferable to train more senior officers who are less embedded in the country's old clan structures.
Not much time is left, though. By the end of February 2014, the number of German soldiers stationed in Afghanistan will have been reduced from the Bundeswehr's current force of nearly 4,500 to 3,300 -- and German combat troops will have been completely withdrawn by the end of 2014. German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to the CDU, says that he intends "to consolidate what has been accomplished, even after 2014," adding that a "certain presence" by German police officers will be required in the region to achieve this.
But Alex and his colleagues on the ground in Afghanistan are asking themselves how long the camp will remain intact after the withdrawal. There is a great deal of concern that the training center will fall into disrepair, the air conditioning units will no longer be maintained, and that many items that can be used privately will quickly go missing. The establishment plan for the Afghan police does not include positions for maintenance workers.
Army Influence
After the lunch break, Alex turns his attention to another Afghan instructor: Tarek. This time the focus is on arrest and search techniques. Tarek stands confidently in front of the group, speaking loudly and gesticulating frequently. He also provides explanations, allows the recruits to practice individual steps and intervenes when necessary.
Then a recruit appears, wrapped in a large cloak with fuses visible from underneath. It's time to practice handling suicide bombers.
"Shout loudly to warn everyone around you, run backwards as quickly as possible and look for cover," explains Tarek.
"Only open fire if the insurgent attempts to detonate the bomb," Alex reminds them. Then he admits that only a bullet aimed at the head will help. "And quickly," he adds.
The day is over. Tarek collects empty water bottles and the recruits return to their living quarters. The Afghan head of the medical center at Camp Marmal climbs behind the wheel of his Ford Ranger. The colonel passes the checkpoints and takes the paved road toward the center of Mazar-e-Sharif. He drives for nearly 10 kilometers -- first through a desert-like landscape, then past garages, filling stations and shops. Shortly after entering the town, he turns left.
The car rumbles over a path through one of the city's better neighborhoods, where multi-story buildings are hidden from view behind high walls. Shortly before the medical officer reaches his own house, he passes by a corner property. Two men clad in Afghan army uniforms are trimming a hedge in the front garden. "A general lives here," the colonel explains.
The colonel is a member of the police force. He has to trim his own hedges -- at least as long as the Germans are still in Afghanistan.

A New Chinese Threat Against U.S. Aircraft Carriers?

China Buys Tu-22 Production Line From Russia. A Major Threat To The U.S. Aircraft Carriers In The Region 

For the third time in 7 years (first one being in 2005, second earlier in 2012) several websites in China (link in Chinese) are reporting that China and Russia have agreed for Beijing to buy the production line for the Tupolev Tu-22M3 bomber at a cost of 1.5 billion USD.
Once in service with the Chinese Naval Air Forces the Tu-22M3 will be known as the “H-10″.
The deal struck with Russia comes with 36 aircraft (and engines): an initial batch of 12 followed by a second batch of 24 aircraft are thought to be on order.
The Tu-22 will be employed in the maritime attack role and will be used to attack targets from low level (to avoid radar detection).
The Tu-22 is a Soviet supersonic, swing-wing, long-range strategic and maritime strike bomber. It was developed during the Cold War and it is among the farthest things to a moder stealth bomber. However, it was upgraded, it will get updated with (indigenous?) systems and, with a range of about 6,800 kilometers and a payload of 24,000 kg, it is still considered a significant threat to many latest generations weapon systems.

Especially if the deal with Russia includes the Raduga Kh-22 (AS-4 ‘Kitchen’) long-range anti-ship missile.
The deal could represent a significant change in the strategic balance in the region.
The Tu-22 bombers will give China another tool to pursue the area denial strategy in the South China Sea and the Pacific theatre; a fast platform to launch cruise missiles, conventional or nuclear weapons in various regional war scenarios.
In other words, a brand new threat to the U.S. Navy in the region.

Now even top officials in the Kabul government vow to kill Americans

The fate of the Americans in Afghanistan will be worse than that of the Russians,” Mohammed Ismail Khan warned in 2009. The same Afghan is now vowing to drive all “foreigners” out of Afghanistan.
More bluster from a Taliban leader? Hardly. Khan serves as Afghanistan’s energy minister, and is a key member of American ally Hamid Karzai’s cabinet.
In a videotaped meeting last month with jihadists in Herat Province, Khan slammed the US for bringing “American girls, white-skinned Western soldiers and black-skinned American soldiers” into Afghanistan. He called on the “mujahideen” to take up arms and attack them like they did the Soviet “invaders” in the 1980s.
Though his threatening remarks were quickly dismissed by the Afghan government, they should not be taken lightly — especially with American soldiers increasingly vulnerable to insider attacks by Afghans.                                              
Khan has lethal experience launching such attacks. In March 1979, Khan, then a captain in the Afghan army, orchestrated the murder of 50 Soviet military advisers and 300 of their family members in Herat Province. He decapitated many of them and had their heads paraded on spikes through the city.
The atrocity marked the opening salvo of the rebellion which led to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979.
The US Army recently cited Khan’s treachery as an example of “green-on-blue attacks” that “were common and costly to the Soviet army” during its occupation of Afghanistan. It warned that Khan is “now the Afghan government’s minister of energy.”
The Army published the account in February 2012 and distributed it to soldiers serving in Afghanistan as part of an “Official Use Only” handbook, titled, “Inside the Wire Threats — Afghanistan.” The 35-page handbook also notes that Soviet attempts to train and stand up an Afghan army to fight insurgents failed miserably. “The Afghan army was an unreliable ally,” it said. “It faced constant defections from the start, as not only individuals and units but also whole divisions went over to the mujahideen, taking their personal kit and rifles as well as tanks and armored vehicles.”
Added the report: “The original Soviet plan to push the Afghan army into the field to combat the mujahideen fell by the wayside. The Afghan army’s limited numbers, lack of training, and questionable loyalties made this project too risky to implement.”

A 2011 Army survey found that “on average, US soldiers perceived that 50% of (the) ANA (Afghan National Army) were Islamic radicals” vulnerable to Taliban recruitment. The results were reported in an unclassified study titled, “A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility.” It quotes one American soldier as saying, “A reporter attached to my platoon said that during a conversation with ANA soliders, they said that if the Taliban began to win the war, they would switch sides and join the Taliban.”
The crux of the Obama administration’s exit strategy has been training Afghan security forces to fight the Taliban and al Qaeda. Much of that training has been suspended due to rogue attacks and defections not unlike what the Soviets faced.
Afghan government troops and police — our allies — have turned their guns on US-led coalition troops at least 47 times this year, killing at least 63, most of them Americans. That’s more than double 2011’s total of 21 attacks, in which 35 were killed.
One recent attack involved for the first time an Afghan policewoman, who early last week drew her US-issued pistol and fatally shot a US military adviser in the chest at the police headquarters in Kabul. The police sergeant, a mother of four with a clean record, had earlier been a refugee in Iran.
Until 2005, Khan was governor of Herat Province, which borders Iran. He controlled border crossings and trade there. He also influenced local recruitment for Afghan security forces. Kabul recently accused Khan of illegally distributing weapons to his jihadi supporters in Herat. Although Khan says he would fight the Taliban if it returned to power, his own son-in-law recently joined the Taliban insurgency.
The US military seems to be in denial about the breadth and scope of theinternal threats it faces in Afghanistan. While on the one hand it warns that the “major problem confronting the Soviets was the unreliability of the Afghan army,” it nonetheless appears Polyannish about its own prospects for partnering with the Afghan army. “U.S. forces can gain keen insights and lessons from the Soviet 10-year occupation of Afghanistan,” the Army handbook asserts. The same document goes on to claim that “in contrast” to the Soviet experience, “the United States and CF (coalition forces) have achieved great success in training and partnering with our ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) counterparts.”

1056 Afghan soldiers killed in 2012: Defense officials

The security transition from NATO troops to Afghan security forces which started last year is due to complete in five phases following a pre-planned organized program.
Despite Afghan security forces are in charge of over 75% of the Afghan soil security, Afghan officials are continuously expressing concerns regarding the lack of proper military equipments which creates challenges for the Afghan security forces.
In the meantime increased Afghan army troops casualties is another challenge being faced by Afghan national army where over 1000 service members have been killed during the year.
Afghan defense ministry spokesman Gen. Zahir Azimi on Sunday told reporters, “At least 906 Afghan national army soldiers have been killed during the past 9 months, and a total of 1056 Afghans troops have been killed during the year 2012 which shows an increase as compared to 2011.”
An Afghan military analyst Faqir Mohammad Faqir said increased attacks by militants is one of the main reason behind Afghan army casualties.
He said, “Whenever the other party involved in war increases activities then it will naturally increase the casualties but I think the Afghan troops should trained well, must be disciplined and equipped with modern weapons in a bid to reduce the growing casualties.”
Mr. Faqir also insisted that further works should be done in order to prevent Afghan army troops to lose their morale.

In the meantime NATO is looking to increase Afghan police and army numbers to 350,000 as the coalition troops are getting prepared to leave the country in 2014.
However Afghan and NATO officials are concerned regarding low morale of the Afghan security forces and troops escaping from their duties and growing insider attacks by Afghan troops on their international counterparts and comrades which creates barriers for the training of Afgahn security forces.
At least 60 NATO troops were killed by their Afghan counterparts during the year 2012.

Navy issues hurry-up order to equip MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned helicopter with maritime surveillance radar

Asian Defence NewsU.S. Navy officials have issued an urgent order to equip the service's MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter with the Telephonics Corp. RDR-1700 maritime-surveillance radar system.
The Northrop Grumman Corp. MQ-8 Fire Scout is a rotorcraft unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) deployed on Navy frigates, littoral combat ships, and other surface combatants for reconnaissance, situational awareness, and precision targeting.
Officials of the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md., awarded the Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems segment in San Diego a $33.3 million contract earlier this month to install the Telephonics RDR-1700 maritime-surveillance radar on nine Fire Scout UAVs.
Navy officials say they want the quick-turnaround contract completed within one year. The hurry-up order comes from the chief of naval operations under terms of an urgent operational needs statement (UONS), as part of a rapid-deployment capability (RDC) radar program for the MQ-8B Fire Scout.
The radar system for the Fire Scout consists of the Telephonics RDR-1700 radar system, modified MQ-8B radome, and interfaces into the helicopter UAV and its control station.
Northrop Grumman is the original manufacturer of the Fire Scout, and is the only source able to integrate a complex radar payload into the existing Fire Scout unmanned helicopter within the required time, Navy officials say.
Northrop Grumman designed the key interfaces to integrate the radar on the Fire Scout, which will require modifications to the Fire Scout payload interface unit software. Northrop Grumman owns the data rights to the Fire Scout's data link control processor software, which must be modified as part of this project, officials say.

The Fire Scout is a version of the Schweizer 333 turbine-powered manned helicopter from Schweizer Aircraft Corp. in Horseheads, N.Y., which is a Sikorsky Aircraft company.
The Telephonics RDR-1700 search, surveillance, and weather-avoidance radar system is for airborne search and surveillance while secondary roles include terrain mapping, weather avoidance, and beacon navigation. Telephonics Corp. is based in Farmingdale, N.Y.
The RDR-1700 is a lightweight, X-band digital color radar system that functions as a 360-degree belly-mount or 120-degree nose-mount scanning sensor. The system has three line-replaceable units -- the antenna/pedestal, receiver-transmitter, and interface unit.The RDR-1700 offers standard display modes including aircraft heading reference, north-oriented and ground reference, and has target-marker capability that enables the operator to determine range and bearing of a target from the UAV and between targets.
System capabilities include: long-range navigation position update, and target position transmission. The 20 target track-while-scan processor provides location latitude and longitude, target heading, and velocity.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Venezuela Is Now More Dangerous Than Afghanistan

venezuela, the most violent country in South America, recorded a new high of 21,692 murders this year along with a surge in kidnappings, prison riots and random shootings.


The number of victims was up by 12 per cent from last year when there were 19,336 deaths, the Venezuelan Violence Observatory said in its annual report.
High profile killings included that of a three year-old child, Edgar Torres, who was fired on 10 times while he was asleep in bed, after a gunman had come in to kill a teenage relative.
In August more than 20 people were killed in a battle between two heavily armed groups inside the Yare I prison. More than 300 prisoners died in Venezuelan jails in the first half of the year.
The Mexican ambassador Carlos Pujalte and his wife were seized from their car in a wealthy area of Caracas and held for several hours before being released alive in a slum in January.
Unlike other Latin American countries Venezuela is not involved in a drug war or on-going battle with guerrillas.

But according to the Observatory, a think tank set up by public and private universities, it now has a murder rate of 73 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to 67 in 2011.
The rate is well above neighbouring Colombia, and Mexico which has been engaged in a bloody drug war, and is closing in on Honduras, the country with the highest murder rate.
There are more murders in Venezuela than in the United States and the 27 countries of the European Union combined. In Caracas the murder rate is more than 200 per 100,000 inhabitants.
The Observatory said: "Killings have become a way of executing property crimes, a mechanism to resolve personal conflicts and a way to apply private justice."
President Hugo Chavez, who is recovering from cancer surgery in Cuba, rarely talks about violent crime.
In 2010 when the newspaper El Nacional published a picture of a dozen murder victims at a morgue, a court ordered the newspaper to stop publishing images of violence.
Venezuela's murder rate has soared since Chavez took office in 1999, growing from 4,450 murders in 1998 Criminologists expected the rate to fall with decreasing poverty, but income inequality has fallen dramatically and murders are going up.
In a report earlier this year The Brookings Institution said: "No one would guess Venezuela's crime crisis from looking at these (poverty) figures.
Above all, it offers a cautionary tale about the limits of easy explanations, prescriptions and predictions when it comes to crime."
Estimates put the number of legal and illegal firearms in circulation at between nine and 15 million, in a country of 29 million people.
In June this year the government banned private gun ownership, meaning only the army police and security groups could buy them. It also offered an amnesty allowing people to give up illegal firearms.
Meanwhile Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, announced the number of murders there fell 19 per cent this year to the lowest level since records began in 1963.
There were a total of 414 homicides in 2012, compared to 515 last year. In 1990, the city saw more than 2,260 murders.


Iran to test indigenous, high-power missiles, torpedoes in naval drill’

A senior Iranian commander says indigenous missiles and torpedoes with great precision and high destructive power will be tested during the ongoing Velayat 91 naval drills.

“Domestic missiles and torpedoes with greater range, precision and destructive power compared to materiel used in last year’s drill wills be tested during the Velayat 91 naval exercises,” Rear Admiral Amir Rastegari, spokesman for the drills, said on Friday.

Iran’s Navy launched the six-day naval maneuvers on Friday in order to display the country’s capabilities to defend its maritime borders and maintain durable peace in the region.

The exercises cover a vast area including the Strait of Hormuz, the Sea of Oman, north of the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden and Bab-el-Mandeb Strait.

The commander described using overhauled super-heavy Tareq 901 submarine as the turning point of the exercises.

Rastegari added that domestically produced drones with longer ranges would be tested during the drill, saying, “Drones which will be flown in the exercises are equipped with strengthened sensor systems.”

“Two Ghadir-class submarines which joined the Army’s submarine fleet on November 27, will also be employed during the drill,” the Iranian commander noted.

Over the past few years, Iran has held several military drills to enhance the defensive capabilities of its armed forces and to test modern military tactics and equipment.

The Islamic Republic has repeatedly assured other nations, especially neighbors, that its military might poses no threat to other countries, insisting that its defense doctrine is based on deterrence.

Raytheon Awarded $169 Million for Zumwalt Work

the U.S. Department of Defense announced it has awarded Raytheon a contract modification to its previously awarded fixed-price incentive, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to install mission systems equipment on the ultramodern Zumwalt-class destroyers DDG 1000 and DDG 1001 (the USS Zumwalt  and the USS Michael Monsoor, respectively), as well as "non-hatchable mission systems equipment" on a planned DDG 1002 -- the USS Lyndon B. Johnson.
At present, only three destroyers are anticipated to be built in the Zumwalt line, ultimately costing taxpayers some $3.3 billion apiece. The current Raytheon contract, however, is "not to exceed" $169 million in value. The ships themselves are being built by defense contractors General Dynamics and Huntington Ingalls .

Raytheon shares closed down 1% Friday, ahead of the announcement, at $56.70.

Military Trucks from KIA

The Philippine’s defense chief says the government has signed separate contracts worth 163 billion pesos (about $39 million) with Italian and South Korean companies to supply helicopters and trucks as part of efforts to modernize its poorly equipped military.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Thursday the Philippines will purchase three multi-purpose AW 109 helicopters for its navy from AugustaWestland SPA of Italy amounting to 1.33 billion pesos ($32 million).

He says Kia Motors Corp. will supply 60 field ambulances and 12 trucks all worth 300.78 million ($7.33 million) pesos.

Gazmin says the purchases show the country’s “louder and clearer” intent to modernize its military.

The Philippine military is fighting a decades-long communist insurgency and battling Islamic militants while facing increasing tension over territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea.


Saturday, 29 December 2012

Lockheed Wins DoD Contracts Worth as Much $5.6 Billion

Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT) today received Defense Department contracts worth as much as $5.6 billion for 31 additional F-35 jets and the last two of six advanced military communications satellites, the Pentagon said.
The contracts will be immune from the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration taking effect in 2013 if Congress and the White House can’t negotiate an agreement to prevent more than $600 billion in tax increases and the spending reductions. Pentagon officials have said that most contracts awarded before the start of 2013 wouldn’t be reduced.
Lockheed’s Fort Worth, Texas-based Aeronautics unit’s contract for a sixth installment of F-35s can’t exceed $3.67 billion when its final details are hammered out next year. The Pentagon said it also awarded the company’s Sunnyvale, California, Space Systems unit a $1.93 billion contract for the final two Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites in a constellation of six.
Today’s so-called “undefinitized contract action” for the F-35 doesn’t trigger a $3.67 billion payment to the nation’s largest defense contractor. Instead, it sets a threshold target and obligates an unspecified amount to begin assembly of 18 conventional U.S. Air Force models, seven U.S. Navy variants designed to land on aircraft carriers and six U.S. Marine Corps short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) versions.
Details such as the contract’s target costs, profit, cost ceiling and overrun share line will be completed next year when a final contract price is settled, much as those were for the recently completed, $3.8 billion fifth production contract for 32 jets.

Initial Contract

Today’s initial contract doesn’t include as many as five conventional F-35s for Italy and Australia, or engines from the Pratt & Whitney unit of Hartford, Connecticut-based United Technologies Corp. (UTX)
The satellite contract is a fixed-price incentive type that requires Lockheed Martin to share the cost of overruns or material failures. Contracts for the previous four AEHF satellites were cost-plus types that required the Air Force to foot the entire bill.
Lockheed Martin already has received about $489 million in advance payments to start buying and making hard-to-get satellite parts, according to Air Force figures. Those payments bring the total value of the satellite contract to $2.4 billion, according to the service figures.

US Soldier Suicides Outnumber Combat Deaths In 2012

American soldier suicides continue to outnumber combat-related deaths in 2012, and the trajectory for soldier suicides continues to get worse.
Statistics released by the Department of the Army show that through November potentially 303 active-duty, Reserve and National Guard soldiers committed suicide. As of Dec. 7, Stars and Stripes reports that 212 soldiers have died in combat-related deaths in Afghanistan.
The Army set a grim new record of 177 potential active-duty cases with 2012 coming to a close on Tuesday – 64 of these cases remain under investigation, 113 have been confirmed.
In June of this year, The Pentagon reported there had been at least 154 suicides among active-duty troops – a rate of nearly one each day. The number of suicides continues to increase despite numerous new training and awareness programs put into effect in the past few years.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated on Nov. 12 that the Obama administration will cease combat operations by the end of 2014, but it is still refining its timeline for withdrawing the remaining 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
“So we’re dealing with broader societal issues,” Panetta said in a June speech. “Substance abuse, financial distress and relationship problems — the risk factors for suicide — also reflect problems … that will endure beyond war.”
A bipartisan group of lawmakers from both the House and the Senate are pushing for new rules that would allow military commanders and mental health specialists to ask unstable troops if they own personal firearms, reports Stars and Stripes.
About 53 percent of those who died by suicide in the military in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, had no history of deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan, according to the Defense Department. And nearly 85 percent of military members who took their lives had no direct combat history, meaning they may have been deployed but not seen action.
“As part of the Army’s team-based and holistic approach to suicide prevention and stigma reduction, Army chaplains remain committed to fostering a resilient and ready force by enhancing strength, reducing stigma and encouraging help-seeking behaviors,” the Army’s Maj. Gen. Donald L. Rutherford, Chief of Chaplains, said in the Department of Defense press release “Our soldiers, families and civilians are our most precious resource, and the chaplaincy embodies the best of our Army values when it proclaims hope, embraces community, and stands with those who feel they stand alone.”

Iran Starts Six-Day Hormuz Strait Drill to Show ‘Readiness’

Iran’s naval forces started a six- day military exercise around the Strait of Hormuz, a chokepoint for 20 percent of the world’s traded oil, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
The drill, which covers a large area extending to the Sea of Oman and the north of the Indian Ocean, is aimed at “displaying the readiness of armed and naval forces to defend Iran’s waterway and national interests,” Iranian Navy Commander Habibollah Sayari said today according to IRNA. The exercise will involve testing defensive and missile systems, combat vessels and submarines, Sayari said on Dec. 25.
Iran is entangled in a conflict with world powers over its nuclear program, which they say may be intended to develop atomic weapons, a charge the Persian Gulf country rejects. Israel has said that “all options are on the table” to stop Iran from building a weapon, including a military offensive.
Iran regularly announces progress in its domestically built military equipment and routinely holds military exercises to display its readiness in the face of perceived threats by the U.S. and Israel. Iranian military
officials announced in September plans to hold a military exercise in the country’s southern waters before the end of the Iranian calendar year on March 20, 2013.

Middle East And North Africa Are Teetering On The Brink

Apocalypse Not Quite Yet

Notwithstanding sundry doomsday predictions—from the Mayans to Nostradamus and the ever-impending threat of Armageddon—we can now say with some assurance that the world did not end in 2012. The Middle East, however, continues to fl irt with the apocalypse. The revolutions, conflagrations, and confrontations now underway from the Sahara to the Hindu Kush are weakening national governments and calling into question borders that have lingered since European powers carved up the region after World War I. What is holding the map together now has more to do with fear than it does with hope, and if the old order fails, many in the Middle East suspect there may be no order left at all.The region has had a very strange respect for territorial lines and borders,” says Aaron David Miller at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. But those lines signified a “perverse stability,” Miller says. What kept people in line was tyranny. Some dictators may have been “acquiescent” in the eyes of the West, like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, or “adversarial” like the Assads. But they “are going the way of the dodo,” says Miller. “I am not saying the region is headed for a catastrophic meltdown, but we are at one of those hinges of history when profound changes are taking place that we are singularly ill-equipped to understand.”

The epicenter of the most urgent crisis is Damascus. Former U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice recently warned that “the civil war in Syria may well be the last act in the story of the disintegration of the Middle East as we know it.” But the greater concern is that it will be the first. The mosaic of faiths and peoples inside Syria already has been shattered by the fighting. Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq are being sucked into the conflict as refugees flood across their borders and combatants exploit their territories.
The regional powers and the great powers, meanwhile, are treating the fight as a proxy war, scoring points against each other over the corpses of Syrian children. On the side of the rebels are the Turks, the Saudis, and the Qataris, who are uncomfortable allies at best, along with the United States, Britain, France, and other Europeans. The Assad regime gets its outside support from Iran, from its Hizbullah allies in Lebanon, and from Russia. Israel is doing its best to sit out this confl ict, but its northern outposts already have found themselves in the line of fire.
The wild card in the midst of the fighting is the role of foreign jihadists sympathetic to al Qaeda. They support the loosely organized rebels in combat, but undermine the revolutionaries’ credibility abroad and make it harder for them to get the weapons they badly need. When a convention of exiles cobbled together a new Syrian opposition coalition in Qatar in November, one of its architects declared the creation of the new group “a miracle.” But unless the coalition becomes a reliable conduit for weaponry, it will get little respect and have no authority among those who’ve stayed in Syria to fight the regime.
Looming like an enormous cloud—perhaps a mushroom cloud—in the background of the Syrian civil war is the danger that Israel will launch a preemptive strike against Iran to stop the mullahs from acquiring nuclear weapons. The United States has worked hard to find other means to stop the Iranians. Covert action and cyberattacks may have slowed Tehran’s progress, and a concerted diplomatic effort has led to sanctions, which have hit the Iranian economy hard.
But the atomic clock just keeps ticking, and politicians on all sides just keep on politicking. The Obama administration has taken a tough public stand, saying it will not let Iran acquire nuclear weapons  under any circumstances. Facing reelection, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has had to balance the kind of bellicose rhetoric he loves against the possibility that defying Washington and pressing ahead with war could forever damage Israel’s strategic partnership with the U.S. Meanwhile, Tehran’s fractious internal politics are more treacherous than ever. This is an election year in Iran, too, and the widening divide between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei could affect the regime’s judgments, or misjudgments, about how far the Islamic Republic can push its confrontation with the West.
In A Peace to End All Peace, the classic account of the way Europe carved up the Middle East in the early 20th century, historian David Fromkin wrote that “the characteristic feature of the region’s politics” is that “there is no sense of legitimacy—no agreement on rules of the game—and no belief universally shared in the region that, within whatever boundaries, the entities that call themselves countries or the men who claim to be rulers are entitled to recognition as such.”

The Fiscal Cliff Will End The Era Of The U.S. As A Superpower

As our 2013 forecast series continues, American Enterprise Institute scholar and frequent AOL contributor MacKenzie Eaglen takes a grim look at the strategic consequences of the fiscal cliff. The nation is heading over the fiscal cliff, an economic triple threat -- tax hikes, spending cuts, and, soon thereafter, the debt limit -- that has been forecasted by government agencies to throw us back into recession. Fix that, and government funding may still run out in March when the current continuing resolution expires, since Congress never got around to passing the 2013 appropriations bills. Tasked with solving these successive crises is the same President and, with modest changes, the same status quo Congress that failed to fix them last year. It's exhausting, living constantly on the edge.

While the prospect of large additional military spending cuts seemed to make more headlines before November's elections, the specter of sequestration has taken a back seat to the larger fight about taxes (both reform and rates). But it was always designed to turn out this way. President Obama held all the cards in crafting the BCA (as evidenced by his proposal, creation and inclusion of the sequester in the debt ceiling deal), and he has the most leverage to now unwind it. Or not.

Sequestration was always wrapped around the tax axle; an issue subordinate to the larger debate on spending, debt, and revenues. Still, reality bites, and it is slowly setting in across the river.

The big questions for Pentagon planners as Washington looks ahead to 2013 are: (1) When will the next budget for 2014 be revised downward to meet a post-sequester target? and, (2) Is the next QDR strategy going to simply be a rubber stamp for the pivot to Asia, or will it become a new one-war strategy that is the inevitable outcome of a sequestered military per the Joint Chiefs?

A budget-driven transformation

While all federal agencies, including the Pentagon, are now formally planning for sequestration, the Defense Department has yet to adjust on the fiscal year 2014 topline to account for this possibility. Sooner or later, however, defense leaders will have to build an alternate budget for 2014 and then gin up a similarly revised downward strategy to match.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said as much earlier this year. "It is a strategy that has to have this budget to support it. Anything beyond this, we have to go back to the drawing board on the strategy," Gen. Martin Dempsey told Congress. "We've got it balanced right now. But any change in the future means we have to go back and redo our strategy."

Secretary Panetta piled on, highlighting the obvious that "If additional efforts are made to go after the defense budget, I think it could have a serious impact in terms of our ability to implement the strategy."

Still, some brass are clinging to the hope that they may not have to revise the January document in light of sequestration -- if it occurs. But even casual observers know that the guidance issued before the 2013 budget simply did not add up. The long-standing strategy-resource mismatch was never before so rawly exposed as with the latest guidance and subsequent budget.

The pivot was so powerless that senior Navy officials were repeatedly called over to the White House throughout the Presidential election season to explain, re-explain, and then explain again how and why the Administration was pivoting to Asia yet shrinking and aging both the Navy and Air Force.

Regardless of whatever window dressing is used to pitch any new strategy if needed, the bottom line is that it will force the U.S. military to abandon for good its long-standing two-war construct to one that looks more like the defense posture of the rest of the world.

The two-war construct, as imprecise a measurement as it was, provided a basis of comparison against which to assess American hard power. The ability to fight and win in two major engagements at once proved to be a reasonable approximation of the forces necessary to maintain a military with global reach and responsibilities. The official death of this standard means that America will not be able to do as much around the world because of increased strain on shrinking forces.

It would seem the newest report by the intelligence community predicting the U.S. will lose its superpower status will turn out to be quite accurate, unfortunately.

New year but same old tune

Fingers are crossed in the five-sided building that even if January 2nd comes with no grand bargain, punt, or patchy fix for the larger cliff that maybe, just maybe, Congress and the White House will belatedly agree to a deal in the spring and try to reverse or undo the implementation of the sequester.

This is an understandable if not sympathetic position for officials to take. Secretary Panetta said clearly to Congress in February that the Budget Control Act's defense cuts--before sequestration -- produced an outcome with absolutely "no margin for error."

He's right.

But it increasingly seems clear that the nation is going over the fiscal cliff. The longer federal agencies, small businesses, and taxpayers live on the other side of the cliff, the less urgency will exist to address the only-simmering crisis and the easier it will be to stay there permanently.

The only question is in what order and by how much key defense priorities will take a hit in the 2014 budget. The favored pot of money raided since 2010 has been modernization. That trend will surely continue and accelerate in a post-sequester budget.

This trend will be exacerbated by a continued decline in research and development (R&D) spending. As a new report by the American Enterprise Institute notes, R&D spending has already fallen by 17 percent in real terms since the start of the Obama administration, and is currently projected to decline by another 12 percent by 2017. As R&D money declines, the Pentagon will be left without funding for many key next-generation and potentially game changing technologies.

Nothing will ultimately be spared from feeling the pain, not even servicemembers or their families, under sequester. Yes, military pay is exempt, but not so military benefits; morale, welfare and recreation programs; base infrastructure and support programs; or necessities like health care.

This generally tracks with the defense community's growing consensus on how to implement the defense drawdown. Reports have been flying out of research groups and think tanks emphasizing similar capabilities to retain and what to toss overboard.

As Gordon Adams points out, there are several common themes across of all these reports that speak to the conventional wisdom regarding where the Pentagon might invest, and where the military should cut. Among the points of emphasis include special operations forces, increased attention on cyber warfare, and, despite current negative trends in future research and investment, defense R&D spending. Areas for additional reductions identified by defense analysts across town and the ideological spectrum include ground forces, the nuclear arsenal, and modernization programs, especially in areas like tactical aircraft.

The reports, authored by think tanks like CSIS, RAND, the Center for American Progress, the Project on Defense Alternatives, and the Stimson Center, demonstrate just how strong the establishment consensus has become on the acceptability of defense cuts. Although the Stimson report did include a scenario for increased defense resourcing, by and large, the analysts presuppose further defense budget reductions based on many of the same assumptions such as a focus on counterterrorism and a rebalance to the Asia-Pacific.

The spending cuts outlined in these reports represent the most likely scenarios come FY 2014, regardless of whether sequestration is officially triggered on January 2. Even without a full and immediate sequester, expect further defense cuts totaling amounts that approach sequestration.

As the Pentagon's senior leadership has warned, cuts of the magnitude of sequestration -- even if accomplished by a less brute-force mechanism -- will put virtually all current plans at risk and surely necessitate redrawing the already insufficient, but much-touted, January 2012 strategic defense guidance.

Unfortunately, much of the writing for 2014 is already on the wall. With further budget cuts coming down the pipe and the Pentagon's "winners" and "losers" already largely identified, there is little left to guess about at this point.

All Of Afghanistan's Cargo Planes Are To be Scrapped

US scraps entire fleet of Afghan cargo planes

 The U.S. military is scrapping the Afghan air force’s entire fleet of Italian-made cargo planes, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

U.S. and Afghan officials told the paper that the Afghan military isn’t expected to have an independent and fully functioning air force until around 2017, well after the withdrawal of most U.S. and international troops.
On the west end of Kabul International Airport, twin-engine C-27As sit side by side, sunlight reflecting off their gray wings and the green, black, and red of the Afghan flag emblazoned on their tails. For more than a year, though, most of the planes had been little more than expensive aviation exhibitions, unable to fly due to lack of spare parts and maintenance.
Now, despite spending nearly $600 million on the program, the U.S. is canceling the contract for the aircraft and disposing of all 16 planes delivered to the Afghan Air Force, the Journal reported.

Alenia Aermacchi North America, a unit of Italian defense conglomerate Finmeccanica SpA, failed to meet the requirements of their contract to maintain the fleet, according to an email from U.S. Air Force spokesman Ed Gulick, who was quoted in the Journal.
“This decision comes after failed attempts by the contractor to generate a sufficient number of fully mission-capable aircraft that would provide an effective airlift capability for the AAF,” Gulick said in the email.
An Alenia representative was quoted in the Journal as saying the company had not received word of the decision and that the program had recently shown improvement.
“It’s all a bit surprising that this decision is being made now when the [remediation] plan is being fully implemented,” the representative said.
The entire fleet of C-27As was grounded in December 2011 and even recently only four to six planes have been able to operate at any one time, Afghan Air Force spokesman Col. Mohammad Bahadur said in an interview with Stars and Stripes.
“The basic problem is that these airplanes were purchased without spare parts,” Bahadur said. “For a small part, you need to wait for weeks or months.”
For the Afghan military, still struggling to operate independently, the lack of cargo aircraft has been a blow to an already shaky logistics system. The Afghan security forces have leaned heavily on their fleet of Russian helicopters and Cessna 208 planes. But those aircraft struggle to keep up with demand, especially on longer routes, such as the roughly 300-mile haul between the capital and Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second city and still a major center for fighting.
Shortages of fuel and parts are epidemic for Afghan troops, whose Humvees and pickups often lie dormant for days; many units complain of a shortage of ammunition.
The U.S. is set to deliver four C-130s, four-engine cargo planes that are the workhorses of the U.S. Air Force, to the Afghan Air Force in 2013, said Ministry of Defense spokesman Gen. Zahir Azimi said in an interview with Stars and Stripes.
“A military that doesn’t have a plane is like a man without legs,” Azimi said.
Stars and Stripes’ Heath Druzin and Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.


Friday, 28 December 2012

Iran's navy to continue presence in international waters - commander

Islamic Republic of Iran's Navy (IRIN) would continue its presence in international waters, Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said here on Thursday.

He made the remarks in an interview with IRNA in Bandar Abbas on Thursday. .

'Several countries are present in the international waters and IRIN's presence there which aims to provide security of trade ships and oil tankers proves its capabilities; the world has accepted the power of IRIN and its scientific progress in construction of new marine equipments.'

The Iranian Navy has been conducting anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden since November 2008, when Somali raiders hijacked the Iranian-chartered cargo ship, MV Delight, off the coast of Yemen.

According to UN Security Council resolutions, different countries can send their warships to the Gulf of Aden and coastal waters of Somalia against the pirates and even with prior notice to Somali government enter the territorial waters of that country in pursuit of Somali sea pirates.

The Gulf of Aden - which links the Indian Ocean with the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea - is an important energy corridor, particularly because Persian Gulf oil is shipped to the West through the Suez Canal.

In November, Iran boosted its naval power in the Persian Gulf waters after a new missile launching vessel and two light submarines joined its Navy fleet.

The Sina-7 missile-launching frigate was launched in a ceremony in Iran's Southern port city of Bandar Abbas on the occasion of the National Day of Navy.

During the ceremony attended by Sayyari, two Qadir-class light submarines also joined the Iranian naval fleet.

All parts of the Qadir-class submarines, including the hull, radar equipment and advanced defense systems, have been made domestically.

The submarines are appropriate vessels for different naval missions, including reconnaissance and combat in territorial waters, especially in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz which are not wide enough for the maneuvering of large warships and submarines.

PH protests Chinese patrol vessel

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) called on China to respect the territorial sovereignty of the Philippines after Beijing sent its first patrol vessel to areas claimed by Manila.
"The Philippines strongly objects to Chinese patrols of Philippine maritime domain in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea)," DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez said in a statement on Friday, December 28.
Hernandez added that the presence of patrol vessels in disputed areas "will not validate the 9-Dash line [map] and is contrary to China's obligations under international law," including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
State-of-the-art patrol vessel
Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday that a state-of-the-art patrol boat equipped with helipad, the first of its kind in the region, had been dispatched to the South China Sea.
This was ahead of the new Sansha City administration-enforced rules to take effect on January 1.
In late November, China said it had granted its border patrol police the right to board and turn away foreign ships entering the disputed waters, raising fears of a confrontation.
Sansha's jurisdiction covers part of the Philippines' 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone.

New airport
Local media in China also claimed this week that China plans to invest over US$1 billion to build an airport and other infrastructure on and around Sansha, the city which enforces Beijing's policy over the South China Sea.
"This action of China will not gain validity for China," Hernandez said on Wednesday.
China established Sansha City in June to govern all the areas it claims in the South China Sea under the controversial 9-Dash line map, not recognized by the Philippines and other claimant countries.
Bilateral tensions
Both countries have overlapping claims over parts of the region, a major shipping route that is also believed to hold vast mineral resources, as well as oil and gas deposits.
Tensions between China and the Philippines have risen in the area since April after ships from both countries had a standoff over a rock outcropping known as the Scarborough Shoal.
While the Philippines has withdrawn its ships, it says China reneged on an agreement to pull out its own vessels.
China claims the shoal as well as nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the coasts of neighboring countries like Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.

PCG Not Expecting New Ships in 2013

Ten 40-meter MRRVs to be used by the Philippine Coast Guard expected to arrive in 2014.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said yesterday it is not expecting to receive additional ships in 2013, but the Aquino administration is purchasing at least 10 new vessels that are scheduled to arrive at least by 2014.
“Since all of the ships to be purchased by the Coast Guard are brand new, it would take some months to construct. So hopefully, by 2014 they would start arriving,” PCG commandant Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena said.
When he took over as PCG chief last Dec. 14, Isorena said one of his priorities is to improve the agency’s capabilities.
He said Malacañang has given its approval to procure 10 40-meter search and rescue vessels from Japan that will be delivered within three years, from 2014 until 2017.
There are also plans to procure an 82-meter ship and four 24-meter vessels from France, but Isorena said these are not yet final.

Contract for Acquisition of Naval Helicopters Signed

DND Office for Public Affairs | 27 December 2012 - The contract of agreement for the acquisition of three naval helicopters was signed at the Department of National Defense last December 20, 2012.
With a contract price of PhP 1, 337,176,584.00 and signed between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and supplier AugustaWestland S.P.A, the acquisition project was done under negotiated procurement through Section 53.2 (Emergency Procurement) of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of R.A. 9184.
“The acquisition of these naval helicopters is one concrete step towards the fulfillment of our goal to modernize the Philippine Navy, and our Armed Forces in general,” Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin said.
On November 28, 2012, AugustaWestland was declared by the Naval Helicopter Acquisition Project (NHAP) Negotiating Committee as the single calculated and responsive proponent after going through the process of a negotiated procurement.
The Italian Ministerio Della Difesa conducted a review of AugustaWestland’s proposal for the procurement of AW 109 Power Helicopter, including related logistic support and found out that the price per helicopter “seems to have been progressively reduced”, meaning they were sold cheaper.
Upon the recommendation of the DND Bids and Awards Committee, the Secretary of National Defense issued a notice of award last December 4, 2012.
“With the other projects in the pipeline and our planned acquisition, we are now louder and clearer in our intent to upgrade the capability of our AFP to address its constitutional duty to “secure the sovereignty of the state and the integrity of the national territory’,” Gazmin said. ***

Y-20 Transport Emerges

It was hardly on the level of the J-20's appearance two years ago, but the advent of the Xian J-20 transport over the Christmas holidays was nonetheless important. If nothing else, it's the third all-new Chinese military aircraft to emerge in two years, a pace of innovation unknown since the Cold War. It is also by far the largest indigenously developed Chinese aircraft.
A lot of people are pointing out that the Y-20 looks a lot like most other military jet cargo aircraft, as indeed it does, because few people so far have successfully diverted from the formula that Lockheed-Georgia used with the C-141.
The aircraft is roughly the size of the Il-76 and uses the same engines for now (Saturn D-30KPs, also imported for the H-6K bomber). It is widely predicted that the production version will have a Chinese-produced high-bypass-ratio engine. Other significant details are yet to be revealed, including the design of the landing gear and the high-lift system, which determine the aircraft's ability to use short and soft runways.
Some see the Y-20 as the start of a family of special-purpose variants, including an all-domestic airborne early warning and control aircraft, but a large military transport - relatively heavy and draggy - is not really an optimized platform for AEW. The Soviets used the Il-76 because it was the best they had. 

So what is the strategic mission for the Y-20? The US developed large airlifters primarily for the reinforcement of Europe, secondly for long-range strategic interventions. Russia developed them (along with a family of air-droppable vehicles)  because of a strong belief in the power of airborne combined-armed forces. Some nations, more recently, have acquired them for a mix of missions, ranging from armed intervention to operations other than war - non-combatant evacuations and humanitarian/disaster relief. Exactly what mission mix the PLA has in mind is yet to be revealed.

K-15 all set to join Arihant

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) ends 2012 on an upbeat note, successfully launching the underwater missile K-15 off the Visakhapatnam coast on Wednesday. The missile darted 20 km into the air, after a gas generator ejected it from the pontoon that lay submerged a few scores of metres in the Bay of Bengal, and sped 650 km before splashing into the sea in its 11th flight trial.
After one more flight, the two-stage missile will be integrated with Arihant, India’s nuclear-powered submarine, and test-fired from the ship. “It is a fantastic system. It is a very powerful and accurate system,” said A.K. Chakrabarti, Programme Director, K-15, and Director of the Hyderabad-based Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), which designed and developed the missile.
“India is the fifth country to have an underwater launch system. The other countries are the U.S., Russia, France and China,” he said.
Avinash Chander, Chief Controller (Missiles and Strategic Systems), DRDO, termed it “a good flight” and said the test “formed part of the pre-production clearance.” Twelve K-15 missiles, each 10 metres long and weighing six tonnes and capable of carrying nuclear warheads, will form part of the deadly arsenal of Arihant, which is powered by an 80-MWt reactor that uses enriched uranium as fuel and light water as coolant and moderator.

Informed sources said the reactor had already been integrated with the Arihant at Visakhapatnam. “The commissioning process is on,” they said. The reactor would reach criticality within the first few months of 2013. The harbour trials of the ship have been completed, and it is ready for sea trials.
India has been developing the K-4 missile, to be launched from submarines. It will be more powerful than K-15, with a range of 3,000 km.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

US considers granting missile ships to Turkey

A recent bill has been submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives that would authorize President Barack Obama to grant the provision of guided missile-firing naval vessels to Turkey, along with several other countries, including Thailand and Mexico.
Under the motion, Turkey may receive the USS Halyburton (FFG–40) and the USS Thach (FFG–43) ships.
The move comes at a time when Turkey is bidding to develop its national corvettes and frigates along with missiles.
SOM, the stand-off cruise against both land and sea targets, is one example.
The bill has angered the Washington-based Hellenic-American Leadership Council (HALC), which has
begun pursuing action to halt the transaction, its official website has said.

We're learning from Astute submarine flaws, admiral promises

The head of the Royal Navy's submarine programme has told the Guardian that his team discovered design faults, technical problems and flaws in the construction of the multibillion-pound Astute class boats, but said he was still confident it would enter service on time next year.
In a frank interview in which he spoke in detail for the first time about the challenges of launching the submarines, Admiral Simon Lister also admitted the military should not have boasted about the boats' top speed.
It was not unusual, he said, for the first of a class to be "a difficult birth", but he added that the Astute was now the most tested boat in the navy. Lister insisted that lessons were being learned and that changes were already being made to Astute's sister boats, which are due to come into service over the next decade.
He said he was feeding these modifications into the blueprints now on the drawing board for the submarines, dubbed Successor, to carry the Trident replacement.
Lister said he wished none of the problems on the Astute had occurred, but they were being dealt with and safety had not been compromised. "I wish none of them had happened. I wish I could buy a submarine as if it was a Mercedes-Benz coming off the production line after 10 years of product development. It isn't that.
"What I would say is that the speed and the quality of the activity to put things right is second to none. The ambition to bring Astute into service in perfect order so that she is able to enter service within three months of exiting the shipyard, if anyone thinks that's possible, they would be mistaken. A nuclear submarine is a
complex beast. It has many different disciplines. It is one of the most complex things man produces."
Lister said it would be wrong for the military to claim the difficulties were just "stuff and nonsense and teething troubles", but he said it would also be wrong for critics to write off what is the navy's most technically advanced boat.
The Ministry of Defence has ordered seven Astute hunter-killer submarines that will cost up to £10bn and expects them to become the backbone of the fleet.
The programme has been hindered by delays and overspends since it was commissioned 15 years ago, and suffered embarrassment in 2010 when Astute was grounded off Scotland – a calamity that led to the commander being removed.
Last month, the Guardian revealed that Astute, which is coming to the end of three years of sea trials, was forced into an emergency surfacing when it sprang a leak, suffered from internal corrosion, and been fitted with equipment and materials of the wrong quality.
Since then the Guardian has discovered new issues. The MoD has admitted to problems with the trays that carry important cables controlling Astute's sonar, which has led some of them to fray badly. During a recent test, Ambush – the second of the class and also built at BAE Systems in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria – flew its "Not Under Command" flag – which denotes that due to exceptional circumstances it is unable to manoeuvre properly.
Both boats are having to be equipped with an electronic chart system, after a report into the grounding of the Astute in 2010 ordered the upgrade.
Significantly, both have also suffered propulsion problems that have prevented them from reaching or exceeding the speed published by the MoD – 30 knots.
The Guardian has been told that the design is likely to restrict the top speed of all the boats, but the navy will not be drawn on the issue, saying it is a confidential matter. However, Lister insisted the Astute did not have to be a fast boat, and admitted the MoD should have been more cautious about discussing speed when the fleet was first commissioned.
"Is Astute a high-speed submarine? No sir. We have emphasised stealth over outright speed. That is an operational decision we have made, a trade-off, to achieve other capabilities. We haven't designed this submarine to be quick, we have designed it to be quick enough. Whoever [in the MoD] put 'this submarine goes at 30 knots' didn't understand that the top speed of a submarine is a classified matter and missed out 'up to' which is traditionally the formula.
"Because you have poked us, we want to say it [will go] more than 20 knots, which we can say with certainty without giving too much away to the enemy. We don't reveal the top speed because it would give a potential enemy an advantage. It is a classified number."
Lister said he had identified three sorts of problems with the Astute: flaws in design that only became apparent when testing started; equipment that broke down too easily; and some problems relating to poor construction at the shipyard.
"In the programme of testing over three years we have identified issues in all of those categories. And got on and fixed them. Is this normal? Where is this on the spectrum of scandalous waste of taxpayers' money? Is this what we could expect, is this the normal endeavour of dragging any ship out of the dockyard? You will have to make your own mind up. [But] the programme of testing is on track and the submarine will enter service this coming year.
"Every aspect of that submarine has been tested to the limit. It is the most thoroughly tested submarine in the navy today. Point me to any submarine building yard that produces a first of class and I will show you a process that is extraordinarily challenging. The level of challenge in Astute I don't think has been any more than in the level of challenge in the first of class in other submarines."
He said he had not and would not compromise on safety, even if that meant further delays to the programme. "I buy these things, I set the pace, I place the demand on the company, I judge whether the product is right enough and good enough.
"My rule is the thing that gives is not safety, the thing that gives is time. Where the shipyard needs to learn to do something it is the schedule that is relaxed to enable that learning to take place. What gives? It is the schedule, which is why Ambush emerged from the dockyard later than planned."
He added: "The first child has been a difficult birth. We have learned those lessons and every engineering development that we put into Astute has gone into or is going into Ambush. Astute as she emerged from the dockyard will be very different from the seventh one because we learn from Astute."
Lister said he had 800 people on his Astute team and 1,000 working on the replacement for the Trident-carrying Vanguard class submarines. He said the navy was using the lessons from Astute to refine plans for Successor.
"My policy is to take every lesson I can from every quarter I can find it into the design of Successor and its manufacturing plan. I am having meetings about Successor and attempting to learn the lessons from other areas of the programme – including Astute. You would expect me to. That is what we do.
"I am not sitting down saying 'Astute has been a failure we are not doing that again'. I am saying what must we learn from our experience on a daily basis in how we put Successor together. Astute is a superb submarine and is going to be the backbone of the fleet, the submarine flotilla, when she enters into service."
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...