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Sunday, 30 September 2012

US, Egypt to begin joint naval war games

Talks are under way between senior Navy officials and their counterparts in Cairo to begin conducting joint war games for the first time since Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi took power earlier this year.
While bilateral discussions on the naval drills are still being discussed, the exercises would focus on improving Egypt's ability to deal with small boat attacks and general patrol operations of its coastal waters, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert told reporters Thursday.

In the near term, the Pentagon is laying out the conditions with the country's new military leaders to allow American warships to begin docking at Egyptian ports again, Greenert said during a speech at an Association of the U.S. Navy-sponsored event in Washington that same day. The Navy has always maintained a strong relationship with Morsi's predecessor, former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, but those ties had "atrophied" in recent years as Mubarak's government clung to power, according to Greenert.
The renewed port calls and military drills will help reinforce those ties in a region that has been roiled by a wave of power shifts and revolutions during the Arab Spring movement.
Last February, Mubarak was one of the many Arab leaders ousted from power by that wave.
Plans for U.S. naval reengagement began shortly after Morsi, in one of his first official acts as Egyptian president, reshuffled the country's military leadership last month.
At that time, Greenert said he reached out to Egypt's newly installed naval chief to congratulate him on his new position. In response, the Egypt's top naval officer suggested that it was time to start looking at joint training exercises with the United States.

The deal also comes at a critical time for the Morsi administration, who is leading Egypt's difficult transition to democratic rule in the face of growing anti-American sentiment fueled by rising Islamic radicalism in the country.
On Sept. 11, a mob of protestors stormed the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, breaching the building's outer walls and burning the American flag before being repelled by U.S. and local security forces.
The protest coincided with a suspected terrorist attack against the U.S. Consulate in Libya, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
During Tuesday's speech, Greenert was asked if the rise in anti-U.S. attitudes in the Mideast, in the aftermath of the Arab Spring movement, has raised any alarms among Navy leaders.
The Navy's Fifth Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain, which emerged as one of the political hot spots during the movement's peak. U.S. warships also frequently dock at a number of countries touched by the Arab Spring during their operations in the Mideast.
"We're not concerned yet, but we are keeping an eye on it," he replied, adding increased engagements like the ones planned for Egypt will help quell those concerns.
Morsi sacked Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the powerful head of the country's military, and the chiefs of Egypt's armed forces in August.
Tantawi and the country's top military brass had been part of the ruling military council that had run Egypt since Mubarak was removed from power six months earlier.
The move effectively eliminated Morsi's chef political opposition as well as the massive restrictions the military council imposed on Morsi's administration after his election earlier this year.

Soldiers file sexual abuse lawsuit in San Francisco against Leon Panetta, other top military brass


Nineteen former and current U.S. soldiers and airmen filed suit Friday in San Francisco, claiming top military brass deprived them of constitutional rights by failing to go after their sexual predators.
"The pattern is the same in all of them: The victim is blamed, ostracized, retaliated against. Rape kits are lost, evidence is lost, there is no court martial," attorney Susan Burke said in an interview.
Burke, an attorney in Washington, D.C., who is trying to reform how the Pentagon deals with sexual assault, has three other lawsuits pending against Pentagon leaders in various courts across the country. Another is on appeal. She was a key figure in a documentary about the topic, "The InvisibleWar.

Burke filed suit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Friday, alleging that current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, his two predecessors and the current secretaries of the Air Force and Army violated the due process rights of five men and 14 women.
In two cases, male soldiers allege that a superior officer invited them to his home, raped them and infected them with HIV. Several of the women plaintiffs tell of being forced to live near, drill with and even undergo group therapy with the men they had accused of rape.
Burke said she filed the lawsuit in San Francisco because one of the soldiers who did not attend the news conference lives there. Burke was joined at a Friday news conference by advocacy groups and  Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Francisco, who is sponsoring legislation to create an impartial office to review rape and sexual assault allegations in the military.
"We must ask the question, 'Why are victims afraid to report?'" Speier said. "And the answer is quite clear: If you report, within a short period of time, you are more than likely labeled as having a personality disorder; you are discharged involuntarily from the military. For those who want a career in the military, that's the last thing you are going to do."
Burke said it would take Congress to reform the most fundamental problem, which is that any perpetrator's chain of command gets to nip any possible punishment or prosecution in the bud. Although Panetta has begun some reforms, such as pushing the decision on whether to prosecute up the chain of command, it's not enough, she said.
"There is no impartiality," she said. "You cannot have a gatekeeper on the administration of justice."
The Department of Defense said in its annual sexual assault report that it received reports of 3,393 victims of sexual assault in fiscal 2011. But a DOD survey the year before indicated there may be as many as 15,000 more assaults each year that are never reported. Factoring in the unreported assaults, only 6 percent of perpetrators ever spend a day in jail, the DOD report for 2011 said.
Besides Panetta, the defendants in the case are former Defense Secretaries Robert Gates and Donald Rumsfeld as well as Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Army Secretary John McHugh.
Burke praised the men and women who brought the new lawsuit. She was joined at the news conference by plaintiffs Daniele Hoffman, from Indiana, and Kole Welsh, from Washington state.
Hoffman said she was sexually assaulted by man who recruited her into the Army National Guard when she was 17. Harassment led to inappropriate touching. In September 2003, the recruiter tried to rape her.
Though Hoffman, now 27, reported her recruiter, and her testimony resulted in a civilian trial that put him in prison, she says she was victimized by the military, isolated and verbally abused. She says she continued to endure sexual harassment after she was deployed to Iraq.
"The treatment I endured made me hate myself," she said, "so much that I attempted suicide three times."
Hoffman's decision to join Burke's lawsuit resulted from a paper she wrote for her honors rhetoric class entitled, "Silence Me No More."
"My teacher read it and he told me I had something to say," she said. "It changed things ... I'm making it, and I'm graduating nursing school in the honors program. But it's a daily struggle. I don't want anybody to have this experience I'm going through."
After five years in the Army, Welsh earned a scholarship to an ROTC training program at Ft. Lewis, since renamed Joint Base Lewis-McChord. It was there in 2007 that he was sexually assaulted by his staff sergeant supervisor, according to the lawsuit. A couple of weeks later, Welsh learned he had tested positive for HIV. The source of transmission was traced back to his supervisor, the lawsuit states.
"He felt like he had a free pass, and he could do whatever the hell he wanted to," said Welsh, who was discharged shortly after contracting the virus. Welsh said he complained to his superiors about his supervisor but his warnings went unheeded. It wasn't until two years later that the staff sergeant was sent to prison by a civilian court. Welsh blames the federal judiciary for not allowing service members "to sue the military and hold it accountable."
"Other victims I've met are so ashamed and devastated by the fact that they have been given HIV, they remain in the shadows," Welsh said. "The treatment of rape victims in the military is so humiliating, so stigmatizing, many would rather die (than come forward)."



BAE Systems to Cease Military Production at Fairfield Location

BAE Systems yesterday made a major announcement regarding the future of their Fairfield facility. The company will cease military production at the site and transfer the work to their Sealy, Texas facility by the end of the 1st quarter of 2013. All commercial armored vehicle, transparent armor and JLTV engineering work will continue in Fairfield, Ohio.

“The decision to transition the military production work from our Fairfield site to Sealy streamlines our organization, reduces cost and improves our competitive position,” said Frank Pope, President of BAE Systems, Inc.’s Land & Armaments Sector.

Approximately 160 employees that currently support military production will be affected by the change at the Fairfield facility. It is anticipated that most of the affected employees will be released from the company between November and the end of the 1st quarter of 2013.


BAE Systems acquired the military production business through its purchase of Armor Holdings, Inc. in 2007. The military production business produces armored cabs, turrets and armor parts supporting various armored military ground vehicles and construction equipment for the U.S. Armed Forces and original equipment manufacturers of military vehicles.

F-35B Aircraft Test Flight with AIM-9X Sidewinder

U.S. Navy test pilot Lt. Christopher Tabert flew F-35B aircraft BF-3 with inert AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles Sept. 19 over the Atlantic Test Ranges.

The test flight evaluated airplane structural loads and flying qualities during maneuvering flight. The F-35B is the variant of the Joint Strike Fighter designed for use by U.S. Marine Corps, as well as F-35 international partners in the United Kingdom and Italy.

The F-35B is capable of short take-offs and vertical landings to enable air power projection from amphibious ships, ski-jump aircraft carriers and expeditionary airfields.


The F-35B is undergoing test and evaluation at NAS Patuxent River, Md., prior to delivery to the fleet.

Air Force's F-35 recommendation was missing key information

Report did not have important data on competing aircraft

The Royal Canadian Air Force trumpeted the F-35 fighter jet to Canada’s defence minister as the best option for the country even though it was missing key information on competing aircraft, according to a Canadian military insider.
Steve Lucas, former Canadian chief of the air staff, acknowledges in an exclusive fifth estate interview, to air tonight, that the military's recommendation in 2006 to their political masters in Ottawa was based on incomplete data.
“With the stage we were at, at that point in time, not only did we do the glossy brochure examination, but we also went to each of the countries, spoke to each of them,” Lucas told the fifth estate.
But the air force report that backed that recommendation, obtained by the fifth estate, reveals that when the Canadian military visited four other nations that were peddling competing fighter jets they were denied classified information every time.
"Indeed, it does say at the bottom [of the report], more information is needed,” says Lucas. "But I guess I would characterize that as an appropriate level of examination for where we were at, at that point in time … knowing that there would be subsequent examination, more detailed examination as we develop the statement of requirements."
Despite the fact that the air force review was incomplete and the F-35 was still only in development, the brass recommended in a brief to the defence minister in September, 2006, that the F-35: "provides the best available operational capabilities to meet Canadian operational requirements, while providing the longest service life and lowest per aircraft cost of all options considered."

Based on this recommendation the Harper government signed a memorandum of understanding in 2006 expressing its “intention” to purchase the F-35 in the future and to commit a further $500 million to the Joint Strike Fighter program.
The fifth estate investigation also reveals that, four years later, prior to the Harper government’s controversial 2010 announcement to sole-source the Lockheed Martin-built F-35, the subsequent information Canada obtained about competing aircraft came from the U.S. Joint Strike Fighter office — the very people with the most to gain from selling Canada the F-35.

Competition

Canada’s auditor general reported this past spring that the air force’s statement of requirements, laying out what it needed in a new fighter aircraft, was only submitted to the federal Public Works department after the Harper government announced it was committing to purchase 65 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. Public Works is normally the department responsible for procuring hardware for the military after it lays out its requirements.
In his interview with the fifth estate, Lucas also reveals that he was never keen on a competition to choose Canada’s next fighter jet.
“To hold a true competition, you would actually have to step back from being a partner nation,” Lucas says. “You would actually have to get out of the partnership to be part of a Canadian-style competition.”
Lucas was retired before the government made its decision in 2010 to sole-source the F35.

Cost overruns

The fifth estate documentary also investigates why Canada committed to purchase the F-35 in 2010, two years ahead of schedule, when the fighter program was under siege in the U.S. and in other partner nations for mismanagement and massive cost overruns.
“It wasn’t performing so well, it was late, the costs were running up, international investors and potential buyers and governments were getting worried,” Ottawa defence analyst Steven Staples tells the fifth estate. “So who were their two closest allies on this? Canada and Israel. And those were the two really key countries, I think, that could give some good news. And in 2010 Lockheed Martin was desperate for some good news about the F-35. And Canada gave it to them.”
In 2010, the Harper government publicly announced the cost of purchasing 65 F-35 aircraft would be $9 billion. At the time, the government refused to disclose its own further operating and sustainment cost estimates of $16 billion, which pushed the total cost of the F-35 program to $25 billion over 20 years.
The Joint Strike Fighter program is supposed to produce upwards of 3,000 F-35s for the U.S. and eight partner nations. To date, after more than a decade in development, the Joint Strike Fighter program has only produced 33 planes — all test models or training platforms.

 

Colombia is Second in World for Land Mine Victims, Behind Afghanistan

Six children are the latest victims of Colombia’s ongoing land mine crisis, as a 3-year old was killed and five others wounded following an explosion in the central-western department of Tolima.
This recent incident has helped the Andean nation reach what Colombian Vice President Angelino Garzón called the "dishonorable figure" of 10,001 landmine victims, making it the second most affected country in the world in terms of land mine incidents after war-torn Afghanistan.
"Girls, boys, teens, women, indigenous, farmers, workers, soldiers, police and heroes of the country have sacrificed their lives for the freedom and security of the Colombians. We want a Colombia without more victims of anti-personnel mines and free of these artifacts," Garzón said, according to Colombia’s Radio Caracol
The main culprit of the land mines is the leftist rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), whose half-century campaign against the Colombian government has left thousands of mines scattered across the country. As the group became involved in the country’s cocaine trade, the FARC used mines to protect their bases, transit routes and in coca fields to prevent eradication.
But as they moved to different locations, the land mines, which are difficult to detect underground and detonate as they are stepped on, were left behind.
The Colombian government has sent teams to remote regions to eradicate the crops and mines with the help of metal detectors and dogs, but this tactic has caused its fair share of accidents and deaths.
"They send [the eradicators] out with an armed forces escort, which uses metal detectors and bomb-sniffing dogs to try to disarm the mines," said Alvaro Jimenez, director of the Colombian Campaign Against Landmines, a victims advocacy group, according to the Los Angeles Times. "But obviously something is not working as well as it should."

Colombia is one of the 160 countries in the United Nations to have signed the Ottawa Treaty, which aims to eliminate land mines around the world. States who signed the treaty must cease production of mines and destroy its stockpile of anti-personnel mines within four years.
There are still 34 UN nations , including the U.S., China and Cuba, who have not signed the treaty.
Despite Colombia’s efforts to put a stop to land mine violence, Colombia’s Presidential Program for Comprehensive Action against Antipersonnel Mines (PAICMA) revealed that 6,222 military and 3,779 civilians, including 968 who have children and young people, were killed or injured by these devices.
So far this year, 45 minors have been victims of land mines, 11 of whom have died. In 2011, there were a total of 44 incidents involving minors and land mines in Colombia.
The Colombian department of Antioquia is one of the most affected regions when it comes to land mines.
The home of Colombia’s second largest city, Medellín, Antioquia has in recent years seen a time of relative peace as FARC guerrillas have moved out of the region and violence related to drug trafficking has dipped.
Despite this, land mines still pose a problem to residents of the department as Antioquia registered 2,228 victims of the mines, according to the PAICMA data.
The department, which is working to eradicate the mines, has responded with programs to teach people how to avoid land mines and ways to quickly treat victims.
“Land mines are spread out mainly over rural areas," said Julián Rendón Cardona, the department’s secretary of government. "But also in places close to schools.”

US Navy Defends Boomer Submarine Replacement Plans

A top U.S. Navy official is defending the service's plans to replace its Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine fleet, saying the Navy has the right design and boat numbers to execute the mission for decades to come.
"We conducted a detailed analysis of many force structure options," says Rear Adm. Barry Bruner, Navy undersea warfare director, in a recent blog. "A force of 12 Ohio Replacement nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) with 16 missile tubes satisfies national strategic deterrent requirements at the most affordable cost. Twelve Ohio Replacement SSBNs meet at-sea strategic patrol requirements and sustain this requirement while some of the SSBNs are unavailable due to planned maintenance."
Bruner says, "Reduced-force options [that] we considered failed to meet the current at-sea and nuclear employment requirements, increased risk for force survivability, and limited the flexibility in response to an uncertain strategic future. A 12-ship, 16-missile-tube SSBN force has sufficient, not excessive, flexibility and capacity."
He acknowledges that because ship construction of the Ohio Replacement shifted to 2021 from 2019, there will be fewer than 12 SSBNs from 2029 to 2042 as the Ohio-class retires and Ohio replacement ships join the fleet.
Addressing recent critics of the shortfalls, he says, "During this time frame no major SSBN overhauls are planned, and a force of 10 SSBNs will support current at-sea presence requirements."

However, he says, "This provides a low margin to compensate for unforeseen issues that may result in reduced SSBN availability. The reduced SSBN availability during this time frame reinforces the importance of remaining on schedule with the Ohio Replacement program to meet future strategic commitments. As the Ohio Replacement ships begin their mid-life overhauls in 2049, 12 SSBNs will be required to offset ships conducting planned maintenance."
He also says the Navy and Pentagon are keeping a lid on proposed costs. "The Department of Defense set an aggressive cost goal of $4.9 billion per hull (calendar year 2010) as an average cost for hulls 2-12. To date, the Navy has reduced costs by reducing specifications to the minimum necessary to meet national strategic deterrent requirements, implementing modular construction design, reusing the Trident II D5 Strategic Weapons System, and reusing Virginia- and Ohio-class components where feasible. The Virginia-class construction program, through aggressive management and collaboration between government and industry, has developed into a model ship building program, continually coming in under budget and ahead of schedule. Ohio Replacement design and construction will build on this success."

Lib Dem Trident plan is a 'fallacy', Labour MP says

A former Lib Dem defence minister's claim that there is a viable alternative to Trident is a "fallacy", Labour MP John Woodcock has said.
The MP told the BBC that Sir Nick Harvey was peddling a "pretext" for abolishing the nuclear weapons system.
But Sir Nick said that Trident should not be renewed primarily to keep submarine engineers in work.
Mr Woodcock represents Barrow and Furness, where any replacement submarines would be made.
In a debate on BBC Radio 4's The World at One, he argued that "all the options" had been fully scrutinised in previous studies of the UK's submarine-based nuclear arms.
"They found that actually this idea that there is an off-the-shelf, cheaper version is a fallacy," he said.
"It is a fantasy, peddled by people, many of whom are in the Lib Dems, who you suspect ultimately don't want an independent nuclear deterrent at all but realise that it is electorally difficult for them to say that."
Sir Nick had suggested to a fringe event at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton on Wednesday that it would be cheaper to pay the workers to go and live in the Bahamas than to replace the UK's nuclear weapons programme.
In response to Mr Woodcock's comment, Sir Nick said he accepted that keeping highly skilled UK submarine construction workers in employment was an important factor in the decision.
Dire consequences "We're going to continue needing submarines as far into the future as I can see, and we're jolly lucky to have the professional and capable set-up that we have got there at Barrow," Sir Nick said.
But, he continued, the "hierarchy of consideration should be first the military consideration, secondly the financial consideration for the state as a whole, and that those should then give rise to the industrial - and not the other way round".
He added: "Frankly I don't think we should produce weapons of mass destruction, and spend £30bn at the outset and perhaps £100bn over the lifetime, for primarily industrial purposes."
But Mr Woodcock maintained that a decision not to replace Trident could have dire consequences for the UK's national interest.
"We have got to bear in mind as a nation how we continue to have the capacity to build submarines into the long-term," he said.
"The enormous problem that the last Conservative government experienced in in the 1990s was that they left a gap in the order book and it has proven very difficult to get back into the business of building the Astute-class submarines at all.
"If you left a substantial further gap, you may find that the UK could never again produce its own submarines, and that would be a grave risk."
Sir Nick told party activists at the fringe meeting there was a "realistic chance" of securing a different outcome to renewing Trident, but the Lib Dems would need to build a "broad coalition of support" first.
He warned his party against adopting an "intellectually satisfying" policy with which no-one else agreed. The Conservatives are committed to renewal but many Lib Dems oppose it.
A decision on whether to proceed with Trident renewal has effectively been pushed back until after the next election - scheduled for 2015.
Experts say maintaining a continuous at-sea deterrent for the next generation will cost between £25bn and £100bn to build and operate.
Until he lost his job as armed forces minister in the reshuffle earlier this month, Mr Harvey was in charge of a value-for-money study looking at the feasibility of alternatives to Trident.
He said he hoped the report - when it is published next year - would provoke a debate on what future capability the UK needed and what the country could afford.

U.S., Gulf countries seek to advance missile defense plan


The United States and its Gulf partners are looking to deepen cooperation on missile defense as tensions rise with Iran, and announcements could come soon on new purchases, U.S. officials said on Friday.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) officials in New York as Washington seeks to boost regional defenses against perceived Iranian threats.
"Our aim is to help our Gulf partners with their defense needs ... there is a missile threat that they face, we want to help them face that threat as best they can," one senior U.S. official said, previewing the meeting for reporters.
"We've had expressions of interest from our partners in the Gulf in additional missile defense capabilities," the official said. "We hope that we will be having announcements in the near future regarding those expressions of interest."
The official declined to provide specifics on the plans with the GCC, a political and economic alliance linking Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.
But Lockheed Martin Corp, the Pentagon's top supplier by sales, received an initial $1.96 billion contract in December for two of its Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weapon systems for the United Arab Emirates, the first foreign sale of the system.
Lockheed has said other GCC members, including Saudi Arabia, have expressed interest. Other leading missile-defense contractors include Boeing Co, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman Corp.
Friday's talks reflect the increased tempo of U.S. efforts to put pressure on Tehran, which the United States and its allies say is seeking nuclear weapons capability under the cover of a civil program. Iran denies this, but has been hit with a series of international sanctions over its nuclear work.
SECURITY UMBRELLA

The United States has been working with Gulf states on a bilateral basis, not as a group, to boost the range of radar coverage and related capabilities across the Gulf for the earliest possible defense against any missiles fired by Iran.
The Pentagon said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who had planned to attend Friday's meeting along with White House Security Adviser Tom Donilon, was unable to make it due to bad weather in New York.
U.S. officials said the ultimate goal is a regional shield that can be coordinated with U.S. systems - parallel with Washington's drive to expand missile defense to protect NATO's European territory against ballistic missiles that could be fired by Iran.
The officials said expanded security cooperation with the Gulf is already bearing fruit and pointed to recent joint anti-mining exercises by the navies of 12 countries.
Iran has threatened to target U.S. interests in the Gulf, including military bases, and to block vital oil tanker routes in the Strait of Hormuz if it is attacked.
Plans for a joint missile shield in the Gulf have been on the table for some time, but progress has been slow due to unease among some GCC members about sharing data and where such a system would be commanded.
Individual Gulf states have acquired some advanced defense systems, including the latest versions of the Patriot Air and Missile Defense System. The United Arab Emirates has spent billions of dollars in recent years to protect its cities and oil infrastructure from missile attack.

Military heroes’ Social Security numbers posted onlin

The Social Security numbers of some of the nation’s most highly decorated Army war heroes from Iraq and Afghanistan were posted this week by a civilian contractor on a publicly available website.
The Army has launched an investigation to find out how the privacy of its heroes was violated.
Of more than 500 names and profiles on the site, 31 contain Social Security numbers. Six are Medal of Honor recipients, two of whom are alive. There are also Social Security numbers for 25 soldiers who earned the Distinguished Service Cross, 22 of whom are living.
Army spokesman George Wright told The Washington Times on Friday the service has launched an investigation to determine how the Army data was handled. He said the contractor was contacted and told to remove the site.
“We take this matter seriously,” Mr. Wright said.
By Friday evening, The Times could still access the Web address for the list of heroes, their accomplishments in battle, and, in 31 cases, the Social Security numbers.
The site was discovered by a veteran doing research on war heroes.
Former ArmyStaff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta earned the Medal of Honor, presented by President Obama, for saving the lives of comrades in Afghanistan on Oct. 25, 2007. He left the Army last year and is attending college.

The Times provided him a copy of his data on the website.
“My reaction is ‘What a bummer!’” he said in an email. “Our Socials are not public information for a reason. I don’t know why someone would make them public.”
1st Sgt. Leroy Petry is the Army’s lone Medal of Honor recipient on active duty. A Ranger, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism during a firefight in Afghanistan.
Contracted by The Times and shown the data, Sgt. Petry said he immediately contracted Army Special Operations Command.
“It’s disappointing. You always have the fear of fraud,” he said. “The bigger question is how did they get it and is the person who released it being held responsible.”
Doug Sterner, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, has been urging the Pentagon to set up a database of citations for valor in the war on terror. He is the curator of the Hall of Valor website on MilitaryTimes.com.
What struck Mr. Sterner is how complete the database is. “It’s an impressive piece of work,” he told The Times. “This is the single most complete and accurate compilation of Army awards I have found since World War II.”
The Army Times reported the site was created by an employee of Brightline Interactive, which is helping the Army’s public affairs office build a “Gallery of Heroes” to be displayed at conventions.
Before the Army Times story was posted, The Washington Times contacted Brightline. A man who identified himself as the chief operating officer denied any knowledge of the website and suggested it was from another company.

Efforts underway to name new Navy submarine USS Montana

U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and several veterans' groups are lobbying to convince the U.S. Navy to name its newest submarine after Montana.
The sub, currently designated SSN-791, is the last of eight Virginia-class fast attack nuclear submarines scheduled to be delivered in 2019.
In a letter to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, Tester notes that Montana is the only state that has never had a Naval vessel named in its honor.
He says the state's "land-locked status" shouldn't prevent it from having a ship named after it, especially since there have been three ships named after Colorado and three named after South Dakota - fellow land-locked states.
In a press release, Tester says: "Entering the Union in 1889, Montana's citizens have served their country with pride, and thousands have proudly served in the Navy and Marine Corps. Naming this submarine the USS Montana would be an honor for the people of Montana and would pay tribute to the men and women who have served and given their lives."

Efforts to name ships after Montana in the past haven't had much success.
A ship was christened the USS Montana in 1906, only to be renamed later.
During World War II, the keel was laid for the USS Montana, which was to be the first of a massive new class of battleships larger than the Iowa- class ships such as the USS Missouri. But the project was scrapped in favor of more aircraft carriers after the decisive Battle of Midway.
The effort to name the ship is being supported by the Montana VFW, The American Legion of Montana and the Montana Department of the Disabled American Veterans

Royal Australian Air Force has been warned to scale back the use of its ageing fleet of F/A-18 "classic" Hornet fighters to avert structural fatigue concerns

THE Royal Australian Air Force has been warned to scale back the use of its ageing fleet of F/A-18 "classic" Hornet fighters to avert structural fatigue concerns.
The 71 fighter jets, brought into service in the mid-1980s, may need to keep flying beyond 2020 because of delays in acquiring the new Joint Strike Fighter, the Australian National Audit Office said yesterday.
It warned to expect a big increase in annual maintenance costs of the old Hornet fleet from $118 million since 2001 to $170m today, with costs expected to blow out to $214m a year by 2018. The report found all but nine of the Hornet fleet had "experienced structure fatigue above that expected for the airframe hours".
The ANAO's upkeep concerns are directed at the "classic" Hornets and not the newer fleet of 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets delivered to RAAF Amberley between 2010 and last year.
"The key risks to the F/A-18 fleets' fulfilment of their operational requirements until their replacement by the F-35A Lightning (JSF) revolve around Defence's ability to maintain the present levels of Hornet sustainment and structural-integrity management," the report said.
Keeping the old Hornet fleet flying beyond 2020 would incur an extensive increase in sustainment costs, ANAO said.
It "may well require the fleet to undergo an expanded, and hence more costly, safety-by-inspection regime, structural modifications program and capability upgrades".
The government has indicated it will buy 100 new Lockheed Martin-built F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, to replace the Hornet fleet in a deal worth $13.2 billion.

So far, it has committed to buy only two JSFs and in May announced plans to defer for two years the next acquisition of 12 of the stealthy, multi-role strike aircraft.
The audit report noted problems with the JSF program, including that it was progressing "more slowly and at greater cost than first estimated".
"At the time of the audit, almost 80 per cent of the F-35 test and evaluation program was yet to be completed, so significant F-35 key performance parameters had not been fully validated," the report warned.
Latest 2012 price estimates for individual JSF war planes were $US131.4m ($126.2m), projected to fall slightly next year and reach $US83.4m in 2019 when aircraft production is scheduled to increase.
RAAF's first two JSFs are scheduled for delivery in 2014 and will remain in the US for flight tests and evaluation.
Australia is one of nine partner nations involved in the JSF program, which has delivered more than $300m in contracts to Australian aerospace suppliers.
To bridge a looming capability gap following the retirement of the 1970s vintage F-111 fighter-bombers, the Howard government ordered 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets -- themselves due to be replaced by the F-35 (JSF) Lightnings by 2025.
On a plus note, the ANAO said recent initiatives to improve performance of the JSF program "are starting to show results".

China Rejects Russian Blame for Carrier Snags

China has denied Russian claims that Chinese firebricks were to blame for boiler failures in the Russian-refitted Indian Navy aircraft carrier Vikramaditya, which suffered propulsion problems during sea trials in the Barents Sea last month, local daily Beitsin Chenbao reported, quoting Defense Minister Yan Yujun.
"We checked this, and found that Chinese enterprises which make such firebricks for naval propulsion systems have never exported such products to Russia," Yan said.
Earlier this month, Russian media reports, quoting Andrei Dyachkov, President of United Russian Shipbuilding corporation which refitted the carrier, claimed the ship's boilers had been damaged due to failures in the brick insulation separating them from the ship's structure. The shipyard used "sub-standard Chinese firebricks," Dyachkov said.
Another official involved in preparing the Vikramaditya for sea trials, claimed the reason for the boilers’ failure was India refused to use asbestos to protect the structure around the boilers from heat, fearing that the material was dangerous for the crew. He said the boilers’ designer had to use firebrick, which proved not sufficiently heatproof.
The Vikramaditya was to have been handed over to India on December 4 after the sea trials following a much-delayed refit that has gone massively over-budget. The deadline has now been postponed again until October 2013, and the cost of the new repairs to the boilers has not been revealed.
The boiler problem is the latest in a string of hold-ups in the refit of the ship, in a defense deal that has turned into a shipwreck of its own, going way over budget and being repeatedly delayed.
India and Russia signed a $947 million dollar deal in 2005 for the purchase of the carrier, formerly the Russian Navy's Admiral Gorshkov, but delivery has already been delayed twice, pushing up the cost of refurbishing the carrier to $2.3 billion.

Sevmash shipyard director Vladimir Pastukhov was fired in 2007 over his poor management of the project.
The Vikramaditya was originally built as the Soviet Project 1143.4 class aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov. The Project 1143.4 carriers and a class of destroyers with the same engines suffered a history of boiler failures during their lives.
The ship was laid down in 1978 at the Nikolayev South shipyard in Ukraine, launched in 1982, and commissioned with the Soviet Navy in 1987.
It was renamed after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In 1994, the Gorshkov sat in dock for a year for repairs after a boiler room explosion. In 1995, it briefly returned to service but was finally withdrawn and put up for sale in 1996.
The ship has a displacement of 45,000 tons, a maximum speed of 32 knots and an endurance of 13,500 nautical miles (25,000 km) at a cruising speed of 18 knots

Cowpens' Spray

PHILIPPINE SEA - The bow of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63) plows through a wave in rough seas while Underway. Cowpens is share of the George Washington Carrier Strike Group, forward Deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, and is currently a routine patrol Conducting in the western Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Paul Kelly)

Expert: China's aircraft carrier may use upgraded version of J-11 fighters

China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, is over 300 meters long and over 70 meters wide. The distance from the keel to the top of the mainmast is over 60 meters. There are 10 decks below the main deck, and nine levels of island-style superstructures above the main deck, making the aircraft carrier look like a 20-story building. The Liaoning has a normal displacement of more than 50,000 tons.

Aircraft carriers top all other types of large ships in tonnage, size, and operational capability, and are hailed as "floating airports." The island-style superstructures at the starboard side of an aircraft carrier are the command center for flight-deck operations, as well as the ship as a whole.

Modern carrier-based aircraft take off in mainly three ways: catapult assisted takeoff, ski-jump takeoff, and vertical takeoff. The Liaoning can carry fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters as designed.

Although there are no carrier-based aircraft on the flight deck of the Liaoning, the aircraft carrier is fully equipped for aircraft takeoff and landing.

City at sea with restaurants, bars, post office, and supermarket

The modern aircraft carrier is widely referred to as a "city at sea," and living on an aircraft carrier is like living in a small society. There are restaurants, supermarket, post office, laundry room, gym, garbage disposal station, and both noisy and quiet bars on the Liaoning, offering the crew a relatively convenient living environment
Challenge: Landing on an aircraft carrier is like landing on a postage stamp

Military expert Li Li said in an interview with the CCTV that in the short term, the Liaoning will be mainly used for scientific research and the training of aircraft carrier pilots.

Li added that a new generation of carrier pilots and excellent military officers will be trained on the Liaoning aircraft carrier, which will be the cradle of China's naval talent.

Li Jie, a researcher at the Naval Military Art Studies Institute, previously said that there are mainly two ways to train pilots. The first way is conducting most training directly on aircraft carriers using aircraft from primary through advanced training aircraft, which is adopted by the United States. The other way is conducting training on land for some time and then on board, which is adopted by China and many other countries.  

Expert: Carrier-based aircraft is upgraded version of domestic J-11 fighters

There has been a lot of speculation about the aircraft, which will be deployed on the Liaoning. Military expert Yin Zhuo said in an interview with the CCTV that the type of the carrier-based aircraft has already been determined. It will take off from a ski-jump runway. It is a heavy-duty aircraft, and has an operational capability comparable to that of the Jian-11BS and Su-30 fighter aircraft.

Du Wenlong, a researcher at the PLA Academy of Military Sciences, said the aircraft deployed on China's first aircraft carrier must be an upgraded version of domestic J-11 fighters.
 

HII Awarded $296 Million Construction Preparation Contract Modification for John F. Kennedy (CVN 79)

Huntington Ingalls Industries (NYSE:HII) has received a $296 million contract modification, under a previously awarded contract, for continuation of long-lead-time material procurement for and advance construction of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CVN 79). The company's Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) division is the prime contractor.
This award enables NNS to continue preparations for the construction of John F. Kennedy, including engineering and planning efforts along with additional advance material procurement and complex component manufacturing. Long-lead-time materials include advanced weapons elevators, pumps, propellers, steel plate, piping and fittings.
John F. Kennedy is the second ship in the Gerald R. Ford class, the Navy's newest class of nuclear aircraft carriers. The Ford class incorporates many improvements in capability and is designed to reduce total ownership cost over that of the Nimitz class. The ship's first steel was cut in December 2010, and delivery to the Navy is scheduled no later than 2022.
"Advance construction and procurement enables us to transition smoothly from Ford into the bulk of Kennedy's construction starting in 2013, efficiently utilizing our labor and facility resources," said Mike Shawcross, NNS' vice president, John F. Kennedy construction. "We are working hard with the Navy to make the entire class more affordable, and we are taking full advantage of the lessons we are learning while building Ford and applying them to Kennedy. We are always looking at ways to improve carrier construction at the shipyard — from changes in how work flows through the yard to engaging our suppliers for their ideas that could improve efficiency."

Cost reduction measures include maximizing work in earlier stages of construction where it can be done more efficiently, re-sequencing unit construction to build similar units repetitively, decreasing the number of lifts required to erect the ship, increasing overall ship completion levels at major key events, and improvements to processes and tools that increase productivity.
Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) designs, builds and maintains nuclear and non-nuclear ships for the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard and provides after-market services for military ships around the globe. For more than a century, HII has built more ships in more ship classes than any other U.S. naval shipbuilder. Employing more than 37,000 in Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana and California, its primary business divisions are Newport News Shipbuilding and Ingalls Shipbuilding.

Astrium: First Provider of Satellite Communications to the European Defence Agency for EU MoDs

Astrium Services has been awarded the ESCPC framework contract by the EDA for commercial satellite communications for European military needs
  Brussels | Astrium, Europe’s leading space company, has been awarded a three year contract by the European Defence Agency (EDA) to provide commercial satellite communications capacity for European military needs. This contract will be managed by the EDA’s newly established procurement cell, the ESCPC (European Satellite Communications Procurement Cell).

Astrium Services will provide the EDA with satellite communications in commercial bands (C, Ku and Ka) for European military needs, and associated value added services including lease of terminals, anchoring and backhauling, worldwide. The ESCPC will allow the European Union member states to pool their needs, purchase, and even switch satellite communication capacity between themselves, in a coordinated manner, ultimately ensuring the best and most cost effective access to satcom services. To date, five contributing member states (France, Italy, Poland, Romania and the United Kingdom) have decided to join the ESCPC to benefit from cost savings for their commercial satcoms needs. Astrium Services will offer its one-stop-shop 24/7 expertise to manage and execute a complete service catalogue for the delivery of the upcoming orders placed by EDA on behalf of the contributing member states.

Eric Béranger, CEO of Astrium Services, said: “As a commercial company and a pioneer in providing milsatcoms to governments and defence ministries, we are very proud to be the first to provide commercial satellite communications to the European Defence Agency through such an innovative scheme. Being European, Astrium Services is fully engaged in making a significant contribution to European defence.”

Satellite communications are critical operational enablers that link both command and control systems and intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting systems. Demand is growing significantly, particularly with the widespread use of data rate hungry applications such as drones (RPAS, Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems) on the battlefields, which require significant satcoms capacity for control and transmission of data from sensors.

Astrium Services has built up unrivalled experience as an end-to-end satcoms and value added services provider for military users worldwide. Today, Astrium Services is one of the most innovative providers of IP-based satcoms technologies for ground segment solutions and telecommunication services. Astrium Services offers a complete choice of frequency bands covering L, C, Ku, Ka, X and UHF, providing satellite-based military communication services to some of the most demanding armed forces in the world, including those of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, the United States and NATO

U.S. Army Awards General Dynamics $395 Million to Begin Engineering Development for Abrams Modernization

The Army plans to begin production of tanks with ECP1 upgrades in 2017.

STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. – The U.S. Army TACOM Contracting Command has awarded General Dynamics Land Systems, a business unit of General Dynamics (NYSE: GD), an eight-year, $395 million contract for research, development and testing in preparation for the Abrams main battle tank Engineering Change Proposal 1 (ECP1) production. The contract has an initial value of $80 million over 12 months. There is no tank production work associated with this award.

The Abrams ECP1 program is an engineering-development effort focused on integrating a group of system improvements into a single upgrade program for the M1A2SEPv2 baseline tank. The objective of this research-and-development effort is to prepare the Abrams tank to accept additional Army-directed requirements in the future without impacting current vehicle performance. The Army plans to begin low rate initial production of tanks with ECP1 upgrades in 2017.

 “This award shows the Army’s long-term commitment to improving the Abrams tank’s capabilities for the Warfighter, while ensuring that platforms are able to integrate planned and future upgrades,” said Donald Kotchman, vice president for Heavy Brigade Combat Teams at General Dynamics Land Systems. “This effort will maintain Abrams’ position as the leading main battle tank in the world.”

Since its initial fielding in 1980, enhancements to the Abrams main battle tank have consumed much of the available space, weight and power capacity on the vehicle. ECP1 will reengineer internal systems to reduce size, weight and power requirements, creating capacity for additional upgrades in the future. The effort will include miniaturization of electronics; evolving to a Line Replaceable Module (LRM)-based electronics architecture; and increasing electrical capacity through improved power generation, distribution and management.

In addition, when implemented, ECP1 upgrades will improve Abrams’ survivability by enhancing armor and adding the capability to employ current and advanced counter-IED equipment.

Work will be performed by existing employees in Sterling Heights, Mich. The contract will be completed by 2020. The Abrams main battle tank is planned to be an active component of the Army’s fleet through 2050.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Vietnam to Improve Russian Helicopter Equipped with U.S. Rocket


The improvement in order to meet the requirements for helicopters Mi-24 weapons crackdown on the remnants of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia,
Mi-24 attack helicopter developed by the Soviet Union and put into use in the early 1970s. This is the helicopter gunships "one of a kind" has been equipped with heavy duty weapons fire support to the ground, destroy armored tanks, and, military passenger compartment contain up to 8 soldiers.
The late 1970s, Soviet aid a small number of Mi-24 attack helicopters for the Vietnam People's Air Force. In 1980, the Air Vietnam Air Force squadron officially established the first Mi-24 helicopters of the 916th Regiment.
The Mi-24 that you aid to Vietnam under the Mi-24A variant - the first generation of the helicopter. Mi-24A compared to the Mi-24D and the modern variant the main difference is in the type of cabin.
Mi-24A cockpit 3 with control arms in front of officers, pilots and navigators in parallel in the back seat. Variations Mi-24 or later to use style cockpit "double bubble" with the arms in front of officers and pilots behind.
Body thick armored Mi-24A aircraft can withstand the force of impact from the bullets of 12.7 mm. Mi-24A equipped with two turbine engines Isotov axis TV3-117 allows a top speed of 335km / h, range 450km, ceiling 4.500m.
Weapons, Mi-24 mounted 12.7 mm machine guns in the nose and 4 rocket launchers clusters (8-16 tubes) with 4 anti-tank guided missiles, AT-2 on three pylons located in the 2 small wings body.Mi-24A fleet Vietnam People's Air Force during a trip sorties mopping up the remnants of the Khmer Rouge. 
In the years used Mi-24A and assist our troops fire mopping up the remnants of the Khmer Rouge (*). Aeronautical engineer officers in Vietnam, there are small improvements to U.S. rocket bullet style helicopter Russia serves battlefield.
As the number of rocket fire U.S. military aid to South Vietnam so much, we can leverage to bring the means to fight the Soviet Union (Russia).
But, to solve this problem is not simple, because the rockets of the Soviet Union against the United States is not the same size, can not arbitrarily put American rocket bullet cluster Soviet rocket launchers. If used rocket launchers cluster America, bottom to hook into the bracket on the Mi-24 does not fit. Moreover this launch pad clusters can not be used more than once.
Under these circumstances, the young staff weapons Vietnamese airlines have found a special plan to put American rocket to equip helicopter Mi-24.
"We take rocket tubes of reconnaissance aircraft U-17 is used to fire rockets smoke goals. Then, we use two belt bundled into a cluster (8-16 tubes), on a long-term appropriate size hook to hook into bracket helicopters Mi-24, to ensure balance.

With this, secured a U.S. rocket launch on a Russian helicopter, can be reused many times, "Colonel Nguyen Kim Khoi-air weapons officer (Air Defense Air Force) directly involved improvement in the work to American-made rockets to shoot on Mi-24 helicopter of the Soviet Union shared.
The process of testing the use of cluster homemade catapult was a great success and make sure all the technical requirements involved combat.

VN Develops S-75M3 Simulation Software

Practitioners in the Institute of Air Defence-Air Force has developed simulation software works missile complex S-75M3
Meet the needs of visual materials for teaching, training, technical subjects S-75M3, the students of the Institute of Air Defense - Air Force has developed a software model simulation functioning missile combination.
The authors have used Powerpoint software to simulate the operation the radio SNR-75V3 control function; using Macromedia Flash and PowerPoint 2003 to simulate the reduced functional activity of the air defense missile complex S-75M3.
Simulation products can fully control the station's operation as well as a combination of missiles, to ensure highly vivid visual, can be used as a reference and learning for students in the learning process at the school.

An-70 Aircraft Conducts Test Flight After 2-year Delay

An upgraded Antonov An-70 propfan tactical transport aircraft carried out a test flight on Thursday after a two-year delay, the company's president Dmytro Kyva announced.
He said the 32-minute flight at Ukraine's Aviasvit-XXI international airshow had been a success, and called this "the main event of the airshow."
Test flights were suspended for two years as the An-70 underwent vital modernization work following a number of technical malfunctions in previous flights.
The Ukrainian-designed An-70, built jointly with Russia, has had a long-running and troubled gestation period, with one prototype crashing in a collision in the 1990s, and a second crashing in 2001 in an accident during take-off in Omsk. It also had a history of problems related to its propfan engines.
Kyva said that the company had received orders for two planes from Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, and that they would also supply them to Russia.

Russia withdrew from the project in 2006, and Russian Air Force commander Vladimir Mikhailov was quoted as saying that it had no need for the aircraft and would prefer the modernized Il-76, but later rejoined the program.
The Russian military is on record as planning to purchase at least 60 An-70s by 2020.

The Afghan Surge Was A Failure

Why the Afghan Surge Was a Failure in One Chart

 

When the U.S. troop surge wound down in Afghanistan last week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta slapped a positive gloss on the operation, saying it succeeded in "reversing the Taliban momentum." While some anti-war critics questioned that outlook, one of the most damning assessments of the surge's efficacy now comes in the form of a chart by NATO itself.
In the above chart, obtained by Wired's Spencer Ackerman, every incident in which the Taliban or affiliated insurgents attacked NATO forces is recorded. If you compare 2009, when the troubles in Afghanistan pushed President Obama to increase troop numbers, to today, progress has not been great. Per Ackerman:

In August 2009, the peak of the fighting season and the height of the internal Obama administration debate over a troop surge, insurgents attacked U.S. and allied troops — using small-arms fire, homemade bombs, mortars and more — approximately 2700 times. In August 2012, they attacked just shy of 3000 times.
In August 2009, insurgents used just under 600 homemade bombs on U.S.-aligned forces. They used just over 600 homemade bombs on U.S.-aligned forces in August 2012. The same trend holds for every other month in 2009 compared to every month in 2012 for which there is data: the insurgency launched more attacks this year.
Altogether, it's a pretty dispiriting assessment considering the significant number troops sent—30,000 from the U.S.—to suppress the insurgency.


Chinese Defence Minister Defends China's Use of Drones in South China Sea

A Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman said on Thursday that the country's use of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, over Huangyan Island, the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters is "justified and legal," and warned that China opposes any military provocation in the South China Sea.

Yang Yujun made the remarks at a monthly press briefing in response to comments by a Philippine Department of National Defense (DND) spokesman that Chinese drones may be shot at if they enter the above-mentioned airspace.

China has indisputable sovereignty over Huangyan Island, the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters, Yang responded.

"Therefore, Chinese aircraft' flying in the airspace in question is justified and legal," he said.


China's State Oceanic Administration said on Sunday that China will promote the use of drones to strengthen the nation's marine surveillance, and step up efforts to enhance its surveillance of the islands and islets including the Diaoyu and Huangyan.

Why Are The Military Chiefs Keeping Trips To Afghanistan Secret

Why Dempsey kept his Afghanistan visit secret


Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, does not like to take reporters on his overseas travels, but even the Pentagon press corps was surprised when he appeared in Afghanistan unannounced this week.

It had become standard practice in recent years that when the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visits the war zone, he takes a rotation of reporters along with him. After all, he is the senior-most ranking U.S. military officer and senior military advisor to the president.

So in Thursday's Pentagon press briefing, Dempsey was asked to explain why he kept this visit secret.

"I kept it under wraps because I was afraid you all would ask to come with me," he said, jokingly. He also did not take Col. David Lapan, his spokesman.

"No, I kept -- the truth is I originally planned to go to Pakistan to meet with [Pakistan's military chief] Gen. [Parvez] Kayani, and because of some of the issues related to that film, he and I discussed postponing that visit," he said. The two generals did postpone. "And then, with the available time I decided to extend my trip in Afghanistan."

But by Dempsey's own account, there appear to be few secrets that needed keeping on what amounted to a standard battlefield tour in Afghanistan and high-level meetings with President Hamid Karzai's new defense minster, interior minister, and two corps commanders.

Reading from a statement, he said, "I actually returned from Afghanistan just yesterday. While there, I visited our troops in Kandahar and in Helmand province. I walked the ground at Camp Bastion."

"I also met with coalition and Afghan leaders, and I tell you this, the Afghan forces are not only gaining capability, but they also are importantly gaining confidence."

"I'll also tell you that our Afghan partners are working with us to shut down the threat of insider attacks. As one Afghan army commander told me, insider attacks are an affront to their honor, at odds with their culture and their faith."

He later added, "I can tell you, without hesitation, they are taking this as seriously as we are."

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced at the briefing that partnered joint operations had returned to normal, after a pause initiated by war commander Gen. John Allen. But Panetta and Dempsey were unable to give an exact count or percentage of operations that entails. Before the pause, U.S. Officials frequently said that 90 percent of operations in Afghanistan were partnered with Afghan security forces.

Dempsey has proven to be a quieter chairman than many of his predecessors in recent tims. He spoke to the issue in January, telling National Journal he would not be rushing to get on the Daily Show, rather picking and choosing when he wanted to leverage the bully pulpit.

Indeed, it was not the first time Dempsey has left journalists behind, and it likely won't be the last. Reporters also were noticeably kept away during his swing through Southeast Asia this summer. He also did not take reporters on his previous overseas trip to a very public meeting of NATO military chiefs, held in Romania, at which NATO received an update on the Afghanistan war from International Security Assistance Force commander Gen. John Allen.That stop was followed by Dempsey's visit to Turkey, where the chairman talked with his counterparts on NATO's border about the Syrian civil war.

On that trip, Dempsey did give one interview, to the American Forces Press Service, an arm of the Pentagon's massive public relations apparatus. He even made news, calling the insider attacks a "very serious threat."

What's Kabul's Future?

Taking a stroll through the parks and bazaars of Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, after many years covering the war in the south and the east of the country, could have been both terrifying and liberating.I was conscious that there was certainly a very real threat from suicide bombers and the “spectacular” attacks that garner international headlines, but in reality I found that after following US troops patrolling IED (improvised explosive device) infested orchards in Kandahar or climbing mountains swarming with Taliban fighters in Nuristan and Kunar, Kabul actually felt like a different, much safer world. For the moment at least.

Kabul is the beating heart of Afghanistan. It is the centre of politics and commerce and culture, the place to which all roads here lead. This is why the Mujahedeen battled the Soviets so hard here in the 1980's and why the Taliban fought so desperately to capture it during the brutal civil war that followed.
Now, though the Taliban know that while they cannot hope to reoccupy the city while international forces are in the country, keeping up attacks or at least maintaining the threat of attack, accomplishes two objectives. It acts as constant reminder to the politicians and public in the West that their troops should leave - and it reminds Afghans that once the foreigners are gone, the Taliban will be waiting.

It is true that the violence is still much worse in the provinces than in Kabul, but the Taliban, and their allies, the Haqqani network, are regularly able to bring fear and death to the very heart of the capital. This is quite a feat, considering the thousands of Afghan police and soldiers stationed on the streets, and manning the checkpoints that ring the city.


The Mayor of Kabul
 
Yet as the city holds it breath, waiting for the next assault, one man refuses to give up on Kabul.
It is the city's mayor Muhammad Yunus Nawandish, who is dedicated to putting capital back on its feet after so many years of destruction and decay. Ddubbed “the builder of Kabul,” he bluntly explains why his job will not let him relax - even for a minute. “The Kabul city is destroyed. It has to be rebuilt,” he says.
His commitment to that process is astonishing – as is his bravery in the face of considerable danger to his person.
He spends hours every day on the road, inspecting infrastructure construction projects, badgering suppliers and contractors, keeping the pressure up on his officials.
He is renowned for his hands on approach, fond of turning up unannounced at building sites and catching municipal staff unawares.

He is also dedicated to fighting corruption, particularly tackling what he calls “the land mafia,” which makes getting anything done in Kabul so difficult.
With warlords illegally grabbing land for development, often for putting up their own absurdly extravagant houses, the mayor’s determination is admirable, but very dangerous.
“Because the fight against corruption and the land mafia is not so easy, I purchased a piece of land for my grave,” he says, without a trace of fear.

The hard road ahead
But if things are bad now, the potential for even worse is on the horizon. In 2014, two major events will occur that threaten to undermine Kabul's achievements of the last 10 years. President Hamid Karzai will come to the end of his second term in office and is currently barred by the constitution from running for a third term. If (and some believe it is still an ‘if’) he follows the rules, then elections will bring a change of leadership.

But the last poll in 2009 was widely condemned as fraudulent by observers both domestic and foreign, and if the then runner-up, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, is to be believed, things will not be that different this time around.
“My hope was, my wish was, post-elections last time, that we all might have learned lessons. But unfortunately there we haven’t seen any sign of positive change,” he says.

When pressed on why, he is quick to lay the blame on his political adversary: “I don’t see the political will in the current leadership of Afghanistan, with President Karzai. There are areas where people are so fed up with local government, that they prefer Taliban.”
It may seem surprising to hear a senior politician, albeit one in opposition, admit that things have become so bad. But it is no surprise to Abdul Hakim Mujahid, the former Taliban envoy to the United Nations, and currently the grandly named first deputy of the High Peace Council. He says the reason is straightforward.
“From the very beginning the problem is the manipulation of power,” he says. This process, he adds, has been made much  worse because it has excluded the Pashtuns – the ethnic group to which many Taliban belong. 

It is a claim I have often heard in Afghanistan. And there is some truth to it. Since the Taliban were toppled in 2001, and the subsequent Bonn Conference laid out a structure for rebuilding Afghanistan’s political future, the Pashtuns have indeed been sidelined.

Security

The other major event set to affect Kabul in 2014 is the departure of the US troops by the end of that year. Often cited as a definite and final point of US withdrawal, it is actually slightly misleading, as US troops have already been leaving for the past few months following the scaling down of “the surge” as it is known.
But certainly, by the end of 2014 all conventional troops are scheduled to be out of the country. This means that as troops leave, some bases will be handed over to the Afghan army, and others will close.
Considering the Taliban have been able to project such huge control and fear over the population during the height of the US troop deployment, it seems almost certain that this influence will increase, and large swathes of land will fall to the Taliban again during 2013 and 2014. Kabul is particularly at risk as the Americans withdraw from Kunar, Laghman, and Kapisa provinces. Kabulis can read a map and know that this will open up a short and direct path from the insurgent’s camps in Pakistan, and make attacking their city so much easier.
No country for old men
Afghanistan is a country of the young. Three quarters of the country's population is under 30, and the average age is just 16.
Speaking to young people, they initially speak of their hope for the future, but within a few minutes they usually mention leaving the country.

“All the young people, the masters degree, the bachelors degree, who have studied, passed their time in education, one idea they have. They are leaving the country,” says Noorullah Noory, a young man who owns and runs a small internet café in Kabul.
“My friends, best friends, all left Afghanistan, because they are afraid of coming of Taliban.”

Indeed, it is a sad fact that despite 11 years of development projects in Kabul, and billions of dollars poured into the economy, there are still very few places for young people to go and relax.
One of the few is Skateistan, an NGO that uses skateboarding as a hook to hook to bring children and teenagers into their education programme.

According to its founder, Oliver Percovich, “the reason that we do what we’re doing is to build trust.” This means reaching out to the youth of Kabul, regardless of social class, ethnicity or gender. Remarkably over half of Skateistan’s pupils are marginalised street kids and nearly 40 per cent are girls.
“The biggest problem is that there is very little communication between different ethnicities,” Percovich explains, “and everybody is trying to solve problems by throwing financial capital at something that actually requires basic trust.”
Young skateboarder and Skateistan instructor, Madina Saidi, puts it more poetically. “When I skateboard I’m feeling like I am a bird,” she says. But she too fears for the future: “If the Taliban come, I will leave my country.”

Sadly, just a few days after I interviewed her, the children of Skateistan were caught up in a suicide bombing. Madina had just stepped into a building, and escaped the blast. But five of her friends were not so lucky, and died in the explosion.

2014 and beyond

In two years time, the people of Kabul will again watch a superpower’s troops pack up and leave.

As they withdraw, much of the aid money that has kept this country afloat for the last ten years will go with them. That could totally undermine the already fragile confidence of the Afghan business community; several company bosses - and not a few politicians - are known to be quietly planning their departure.

As for Kabul, whether the Taliban could actually retake the capital after 2014 is still open to question. But as we found, most people here expect them to try.

With worsening security and a government losing legitimacy, all-out civil war is a very real threat.

If that happens, the progress the city has made in the last decade could again be thrown into reverse – and this time it might never recover.

http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/peopleandpower/2012/09/2012926183033267117.html
 

Swedish Investments in the Indian Defence Industry: Prospects and Challenges

In end August 2012, the Swedish defence and security company Saab Technology signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Indian private-sector company Pipavav Defence and Offshore Engineering Company Limited. Saab, with total sales of US $3,582 million in 2011, holds a vital role in Sweden’s defence industry. Partly as a result of changing economic conditions, the firm’s strategy is now directed towards international cooperation, with greater focus on investments in Asia in general and India in particular. This commentary will take a closer look at the characteristics of Saab’s recent investments as well as the prospect and challenges for current and future Swedish-Indian collaboration in the defence industrial sector.

SAAB IN INDIA

Swedish defence industry is internationally renowned for its high quality of competence and its top-edge and sophisticated technology. A broad-spectrum, advanced military-industrial base in Sweden developed during World War II without much influence from foreign interests or investments, as part of the country’s ‘neutrality politics’. Saab, being one outcome of this development, is the number one company within its sector in Sweden today.


With the recent MoU, Saab commits to strategic investments in Pipavav to a value of $38 million[1] - investments that will mainly be focused on enhancing Pipavav’s infrastructure capability, maintenance and building of military hardware for the Indian army as well as for export purposes.[2] Additionally, the two companies have signed a technical partnership agreement, securing the continuation of an already ongoing cooperation and an extension of Saab’s engagement in Pipavav.

Saab is involved in partnerships with several large Indian companies, i.e. Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), The Mahindra Group, Wipro, Samtel, FFV Services and S.M Creative Electronics.[3] As of now, Saab’s business base encompasses ground combat systems, coastal surveillance systems, signature management, electronic warfare systems as well as communication equipment and avionics. The company’s recent investments, however, reveal an interest in expanding the product line to other segments of the defence and security industry.

Saab’s commitment to the Indian defence industry is characterised by several incentives to support and develop an indigenous Indian defence industry, to contribute to research and development, facilitate knowledge- and technology transfers, and generate customized solutions to the Indian market. Two examples of such attempts are the Saab India Technology Center in Hyderabad - a research centre and development facility in cooperation with Mahindra Satyam, and a sourcing office in Bangalore with focus on supplier development.

OPPORTUNITIES IN INDIA

Saab’s increased interest in the Indian defence industry can be understood as part of a larger structural change in the international geo-economic context. The Asian region, with sales amounting to SEK (Swedish Krona) 5,176 million for 2011, is Saab’s second largest market. On the other hand, Sweden, and large parts of Europe, are struggling with economic instabilities, distressed markets, and diminished political and public support for retaining a strong defence industry. This can be seen, for instance, in the decrease in Swedish military expenditure by 18 per cent during the past ten years - a fall from 2 to 1.3-percentage points of GDP. In India, however, the trend has proceeded in the opposite direction, with military expenditure increasing by 78 per cent, to $46,086 million, for the same time-period.[4] In addition, India is also the largest arms import nation in the world - making the country a ‘hub’ of potential for foreign investors.[5]

Saab intends to make India its new home market, which is explained by India’s strategic position in Asia, its emerging industrial capacities, democratic political and social foundation, and a comparably lenient regulation on their defence industry in relation to other major Asian nations such as China and South Korea.[6] With its presence in India, Saab will have a prime position in the expanding Indian market for defence and security products as well as earning a more direct access to the rest of the emerging Asian economies.

Saab is still a small player in relation to some of the giant defence and security firms, which makes it even more important for the company to establish a trustful relationship with the Indian industries and be a responsible partner. The company’s strategy to sustain its competitive advantage is to contribute to capacity building and transfer of technological know-how for local partners, commitment to the development of an independent defence base and an enhanced civil security, and social development. India should value such an approach and support smaller scale collaborations with similar actors.

WHAT INDIAN MARKETS PROVIDE AND HOW THE RELATIONSHIP CAN BE STRENGTHENED?

Scholars and expert committees have raised concerns about the deficiencies in India’s defence industrial sector.[7] The defence and security industry is under heavy policy and export constraints, making innovation and structural improvements difficult.

India has thus to reconstruct its policy towards foreign investors if the country is to have a strong defence profile and safeguard its increasingly important role in the region. Despite these impediments, some advances have been made to attract foreign expertise, one of which is giving Indian private firms the chance to participate in the defence sector. The benefit of this initiative for foreign investors, like Saab, is that partnering with private firms is much easier compared to public sector companies. Entering into a Joint Venture (JV) also provides the foreign investor greater chances of winning contracts than by acting independently. Furthermore, as a JV is free to engage in offshore production, the foreign stakeholder will, by locating parts of its operations in its home country, have the opportunity for supporting the domestic industry and labour force. However, the most recent FDI policy allows foreign firms a 26 per cent stake in JVs with Indian companies – a level considered too low to attract relevant and sufficient technologies and expertise from abroad. A raise in the FDI cap to 49 per cent has been suggested, which would provide greater incentives for foreign investments as well as making the JVs more competitive in the domestic and export markets.[8]

In the recent MoU between Saab and Pipavav, the companies stated how they would be targeting global markets, besides meeting Indian and Swedish requirement for specific military segments.[9] Hence, these types of partnership, or JVs, will aid Indian firms in accessing new European markets. As a result, there will be opportunities for increasing procurement from Indian companies, providing India a reversed role in the current arms trade market.

There are, however, still some holdbacks to improved and increased partnerships with foreign companies, which stem from offset policies. If India is to enhance its defence industrial capabilities and attract advanced military technologies through foreign participation from nations such as Sweden, offset policies must continue to meet the interests of foreign investors. The 2008 provision of ‘banking of offset credits’, which allows foreign vendors to accumulate credit for discharging their future obligations, attempts to obtain long-term engagement by the supplying firm and is a sign of an economic policy more open to international economic influences. However, the current two-and-a-half year’s validity period for banking of offsets is not a strong enough enticement for foreign investors. A longer banking period, along with further incentives to enable private participation and foreign partnerships, would be necessary for India to attract the right military technology and competences for its defence industry. Furthermore, the Ministry of Defence must make the requirements for future use of the accumulated credits more explicit, and be pragmatic about the areas in which new investments should be placed to benefit the Indian industry in the best way possible.

CONCLUSION

The Indian defence industry provides great investment opportunities for Swedish firms. Simultaneously, investments by Saab and other companies can speed up the development of an indigenous and modernized Indian defence. These opportunities, however, do not come without challenges. An assessment of the future of the Swedish-Indian industrial collaboration in the defence sector needs to be made by taking into account the prospects for bilateral cooperation in future political, economic, and security issues. Apart from the recommendations put forth here, further collaboration between Swedish and Indian firms necessitates an intensified bilateral political engagement to deal with the offsets and export restrictions on the defence industry.

Chinese Defense Ministry Confirms Naval Patrols Near Diaoyu Islands

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun on Thursday confirmed that Chinese naval ships have carried out patrolling and military training in waters off the Diaoyu Islands recently.

Yang's confirmation was made in response to a media request following reports by Japanese media last week of two Chinese naval frigates navigating waters off the Diaoyu Islands.

Yang said the Diaoyu Islands have been an inseparable part of Chinese territory since ancient times and it is legitimate for Chinese naval ships to carry out patrolling and training for military readiness in waters under Chinese jurisdiction.

The Chinese military shoulders the responsibility of safeguarding national territory and state sovereignty as well as its maritime rights and the safety of its people, according to the spokesman.

"Chinese troops perform a duty of military readiness to quickly react to maritime and airspace emergencies and closely work with the departments of maritime surveillance and fishery administration to provide security for the country's maritime law enforcement, fishery production as well as oil and gas development," he said.


When asked to comment on Japanese right-wingers' clamor for upgrading the Japanese Self-Defense Forces to normal national defence forces, Yang pointed out that the war of aggression by Japanese militarists had brought severe disasters to Asian people.

"Japan should learn from history and strictly keep to a purely defensive policy to build trust with its neighboring countries and the international society," he said
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