Sunday, May 31, 2009

USAF 94FS deploys oversea first time with Raptor

It was a history-making week for the 94th Fighter Squadron at Langley Air Force Base.For the first time, the squadron deployed overseas with the sleek, stealthy F-22 Raptor.In all, a dozen of the aircraft left the Hampton base this week for a four-month deployment in Kadena Air Base in Japan. The final six left Thursday, accompanied by two escort F-22s that will turn back over Louisville, Ky.Once in Japan, the F-22 pilots will train with and against F-15 Eagles based at Kadena, as well as the Japan Air Self Defense Force and the Navy's F/A-18 Super Hornets.This way, the squadron will be able to practice as it would fight — as part of a coalition or joint team, Langley officials said."We've been working for a long time toward this deployment," said Lt. Col. Pete Fesler, squadron director of operations.

Japanese aircraft on antipiracy mission arrive in Djibouti

Two Maritime Self-Defense Force P-3C aircraft on an antipiracy mission landed Sunday at an airport in Djibouti, where they will be based during their first overseas mission. Following some training, the aircraft will start patrolling from mid-June in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia and convey relevant information to the MSDF destroyers that have been patrolling there since March as well as Japanese-related vessels and other navy vessels in the area. The dispatch of the P-3Cs will complete Japan’s antipiracy scheme to patrol from both sea and air, according to the Self-Defense Forces. The air patrol operations involve about 100 MSDF personnel, including the P-3C’s crew and engineers and about 50 Ground Self-Defense Force members who guard the aircraft at the airport.

Post 26/11, Pak moved 75 p.c. of air force to LoC'

Pakistan had mobilised 75 percent of its air force resources to the Line of Control (LoC) against India after the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, a top Indian Air Force commander said here Sunday. "Pakistan had mobilised 75 percent of its air force against us after 26/11. Maybe because they were afraid of us," Western Air Command (WAC) chief Air Marshal P.K. Barbora told reporters at the WAC headquarters here. The outgoing commander of the WAC also said that after the Mumbai attacks, India also beefed up its operations in the Jammu and Kashmir region. "As our response we had started night operations of transport aircraft from Udhampur (air base in Jammu and Kashmir) and the main thrust was on night operations," Barbora added. Barbora Sunday handed over charge as the chief of the Western Air Command, the largest operational command of the IAF. He will be taking over as IAF's vice chief Monday. "During my stint as the WAC commander we focused on improving the infrastructure in the command. We opened the DBO (Daulat Beg Oldie) air field and Fukche advance landing ground (in Jammu and Kashmir near the Indo-China border). "Our friends may be scared due to our rising prowess... our growing power in the sector," he added. During his tenure, the IAF for the first time operated its frontline combat jets Sukhoi Su-30MKI from Leh. The move was seen as IAF's strategy to counterbalance Chinese infrastructure advancement in the region. In a bid to increase the synergy with the Indian Army, joint exercises with the army's north, western and south western command were also conducted, along with sustained efforts to provide air support to the army units in the Siachen Glacier region. Another achievement during his tenure is the zero flying accident rate in the WAC for the year 2008-2009. The command contributes 35 percent of the flying operations in the IAF.

Indonesia aims to buy planes, submarines

Indonesia is in talks with the United States to buy Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules transport planes and might be in a position to buy fighter jets and submarines in 2-3 years, its defence minister said. Juwono Sudarsono told Reuters on Saturday after talks with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates that no final agreement had yet been reached on the transport planes, a possible first step in upgrading its military."With Gates we discussed the possibility of Hercules ... but because the market of that particular plane is quite tight we have to wait our turn," Sudarsono said in an interview. "He promised for a discounted price but we don't know how much the discount will be. Because it is in their interest for Indonesia to remain stable," he said.The country aims to raise its defence spending to 1.2 percent of gross domestic product within five years, from 0.68 percent or 33.6 trillion rupiah ($3.3 billion) now, Sudarsono said. "It all depends on how quick the economy will recover," he said. He said the defense spending of the world's fourth-most populous nation, home to 226 million people, was far below neighbouring countries such as Singapore, Australia and Malaysia. China is building up its military and Australia said this month it plans a $72 billion defense upgrade over the next 20 years, including new submarines, leading to fears among some experts of an arms race in Asia as countries look to maintain control over trade routes and borders. "Currently, we are focusing on the maintenance of existing equipment so we can minimise the risk to our troops. But maybe in 2-3 years time, other defence equipment, striking equipment like submarines and fighter jets can be added," Sudarsono said. He said the country is aiming to maintain the same technological level of military equipment as neighbouring countries, although the numbers might be smaller. Since Singapore is buying F-15 fighter jets, Indonesia was matching that move by buying Russian Sukhoi fighters, he said. "Although it is a costly exercise, we have to do it to maintain the parity in the technology of our equipment with neighbouring countries."

Friday, May 29, 2009

US arms in use against Pakistani forces: ISPR

The military on Friday said US weapons stolen from Afghanistan were being used against security forces in Swat and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).Briefing newsmen, military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said the terrorists in FATA and Swat were getting material and financial support across the Afghan border and said that some hostile foreign agencies were abetting them. Answering a question about the assertions over the security of strategic assets of Pakistan, he said the United States should stop worrying about the nukes and start thinking about the weapons lost in Afghanistan. ‘We are not surprised if these weapons slip out from Afghanistan and many of them are found in Swat and are being used against our troops’, he remarked.Gen Athar said the packing of the food items also shows that they were part of relief goods meant to reach the people stranded in the areas where the military operation against militants was taking place.The security forces continued with cordon and search operation and successfully cleared the stronghold of miscreants at Peochar village, he elaborated. The security forces have killed 28 more terrorists including six of their area commanders and seven others including two of their area commanders were apprehended in various parts of Swat, ISPR said in an update about the Operation Rah-e-Rast issued on Friday. Security forces are making advance towards Kalaam afoot. Five security personnel and two civilians were also injured, in clashes with terrorists. The terrorists commanders killed were identified as Khush Mir Khan known as Abu Huzaifa of Bahrain, Kadir of Kumbar, Noor Hameed of Kokoi Banda, Aftab and Yousaf of Dubana, Iftikhar of Sharlara and Bakht Buland of Shagai. The security forces continued cordon and search operations and successfully cleared the strongholds of miscreants at Peochar village. During the search and siege operation, the security forces also destroyed miscreants’ hideouts including a Madrasa and recovered 12 UN registered vehicles, earlier taken away by the terrorists. The security forces also discovered four tunnels dumped with ration items, snatched from NGOs, besides huge cache of arms including 12.7 mm guns. A soldier was wounded during clashes with miscreants. Cordon and search operation is also continuing in Mingora where the security forces have successfully got cleared Aman Kot and Technical Institute College on Mingora-Kokarai road. During the operation five miscreant-terrorists were apprehended. In Bahrain, where the security forces had entered on Thursday, various incidents of clashes took place with the miscreants as a result of which, nine miscreant-terrorists were killed including commander of Bahrain identified as Khush Mir Khan, known as Abu Huzaifa. During fire exchanges with miscreants, two soldiers and two civilians were injured. The security forces successfully defused five IEDs during search operation around Daggar where incidents of exchange of fire also took place between miscreants hiding in a compound, resultantly killing 13 miscreants. As far as the relief activities for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) is concerned 50 tons ration by Army for 70,000 people was despatched for the distribution among the stranded people of Khawzakhela. A five-member Defence and Security Analysis team visited Buner for feasibility to establish relief camps in the area. The security forces despatched five trucks load of rations for the people of Bahrain while eight truck load of ration was distributed among a group of people from Kalam.

Egypt may order new batch of F-16s

Lockheed Martin Corp., the world’s largest defense company, may sell Egypt 24 F-16 jets to replace aging aircraft, Chief Executive Officer Robert Stevens said. “The case in Egypt is unfolding,” Stevens said today at the Sanford C. Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference in New York, without disclosing the potential contract value in the Webcast presentation. “As you fly these airplanes in operations, there is ordinary attrition that occurs.” Egypt began flying the F-16 in 1982, after years of using military equipment supplied by the former Soviet Union, and received a total of 220 of the aircraft called Fighting Falcons through 2002. An order for 24 of the jets would be worth about $1 billion, excluding any support contract, said Peter Arment, an analyst with Broadpoint AmTech in Greenwich, Connecticut. “The number of F-16s acquired on the international market remains very healthy and will keep production running into the middle of the next decade,” Arment said. “The F-16 is a very mature production program. They have healthy margin performance on this program so any additional orders allow Lockheed to continue to build momentum for higher earnings growth.” Stevens made the announcement ahead of a scheduled four-day overseas trip by U.S. President Barack Obama next month that will include a stop in Egypt, as well as Saudi Arabia, France, and Germany. The F-16 is flown by 25 nations and more than 4,400 of the aircraft have been delivered over the life of the program through March 19. Lockheed posted total sales of $42.7 billion last year. Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed gained $1.78, or 2.2 percent, to $82.99 at 4:01 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The stock lost 23 percent in the past 12 months.

RMAF To Receive Final Consignment Of Six Sukhoi Aircraft By Year End

The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) are expected to take delivery of final consignment of six Sukhoi SU-30MKM fighter aircrafts from Russia by year end.Chief of Air Force Jen Datuk Seri Azizan Ariffin said the final consignment of six Sukhoi SU-30MKM fighters will complete Malaysia's purchase of the 18 sophisticated aircraft and further bolster RMAF's inventory in defending Malaysia's air space.He added that the consignment was also in tandem with RMAF's development plans to remain relevant and competitive and increase the country's defence capability with state-of-the-art air defence."We have already received 12 such aircrafts and the remaining six are expected to arrive by year end. The 12 aircrafts already in our inventory are used in training from time to time," said Azizan at a special interview at the Ministry of Defence here Friday, in conjunction with RMAF's 51st Anniversary celebrations on June 1.All the aircrafts will be equipped with state-of-the-art radar systems for superior combat agility and maneuverability in the air.Malaysia and the Russian government agency, Rosoboronexport, signed a US$900 million (RM3.4 billion) contract for 18 Sukhoi Su-30MKM (Modernizirovannyi Kommercheskiy Malaysia or Modernised Commercial Malaysia) aircraft.In return for the purchase, Russia agreed to train and send a Malaysian astronaut to the International Space Station (ISS) and also buy palm oil from Malaysia.Azizan said RMAF would also take delivery of four Airbus A400M aircrafts, two in 2013 and another two in 2014.He added that RMAF also has plans to add to its current inventory but it would depend on the budget and government's capability.Meanwhile, Azizan added that the RMAF base in Sungai Besi should be retained as a national heritage and not be demolished or commercialized since the base had served as an rescue operation centre for air traffic, especially RMAF, police and Fire services department.

RAAF to redeploy AP-3 from Middle East to Africa


Minister for Defence, the Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP, today announced that the Australian Defence Force would contribute to international efforts to combat piracy off the Horn of Africa.

“The contribution will help to curb piracy in the region, protect Australian and international maritime trade and underline our commitment to targeted increased engagement with Africa,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

Australia will flexibly task our frigate and AP-3C maritime patrol aircraft that are currently based in the Middle East between anti-piracy operations and their current counter-terrorism and maritime security patrol duties under OP SLIPPER. This will enable Australia to provide a robust and effective contribution to anti-piracy efforts while ensuring we remain able to respond to the most pressing tasking across the region at any time.

Australia will also play a significant role in broader maritime security efforts in the region by providing on a rotational basis a Commander and Fleet Battle staff to command counter-terrorism activities under international Task Force 150 from Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) Headquarters in Bahrain. Additionally, Defence will provide a small number of Navy planning staff to CMF Headquarters for multinational anti-piracy and maritime security planning and co-ordination.

“Piracy is a threat to global maritime security, including to Australia’s merchant trade and to Australian tourists passing through the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal. In 2008 there were 111 pirate attacks in the region, with 42 successful hijackings. There have been around 100 registered attacks, including over 25 successful hijackings, so far this year,” said the Minister.

This commitment reflects Australia’s support for United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1846 and 1851, which call on states to take an active role in the fight against piracy off the coast of Somalia.

“Our contribution helps demonstrate Australia’s commitment to global security and our ongoing support to the United Nations,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

PAF fighter jet crashes, pilots safe

A Chinese-built Pak Air Force FT-7 fighter jet crashed in central Pakistan on Friday during a training run but the pilots ejected safely, officials said. "The jet came down near Mianwali town in central Punjab province during a routine operational training mission," an air force spokesman said. He said both pilots ejected safely and that an inquiry had been ordered to investigate the cause of the crash. Pakistan's air force has a fleet of Chinese aircraft, including F-7P,F-7PGs and A-5s, US-built F-16s and French Mirages.

Republic of Korea – F-16 Block 32 Aircraft Upgrades

On May 22, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of the Republic of Korea to support the upgrade of 35 F-16 Block 32 Aircraft. The estimated cost is $250 Million. The Republic of Korea has requested a possible sale to support the upgrade of 35 F-16 Block 32 aircraft to allow employment of Joint Direct Attack Munitions, Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles, Improved Data Modem, and Secure Voice capabilities, test and support equipment, spare and repair parts, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical data, U.S. Government and contractor technical assistance and other related logistics support. The estimated cost is $250 million.

Facing A New Missile Threat From China

Authoritative Chinese military documents suggest that Beijing has taken a serious interest in anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs). U.S. government sources state consistently that Beijing is pursuing an ASBM based on a variant of the DF-21/CSS-5 medium-range solid propellant ballistic missile (MRBM). The DF-21’s 1,500 km+ range could hold ships at risk in a large maritime area, far beyond Taiwan into the Western Pacific. If fielded, the ASBM would be just one of a dizzying array of new platforms and weapons systems China has been buying and building since the late 1990s-systems which, taken as a whole, will allow China to assert unprecedented control of its contested maritime periphery. The ASBM, however, differs markedly from the quiet submarines, lethal anti-ship cruise missiles, and copious sea mines which China has been adding to its inventory. It would draw on over half a century of Chinese experience with ballistic missiles, would be fired from mobile, highly concealable platforms, and would have the range to strike targets hundreds of miles from China’s shores. While probably intended with U.S. carrier strike groups (CSGs) specifically in mind, Chinese ASBM development could have deeply destabilizing consequences that would reverberate far beyond U.S.-China strategic relations. The first damage from a demonstrated Chinese ASBM might be to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) between Washington and Moscow, which has prevented both nations from possessing conventional (and nuclear) ground-launched ballistic (and cruise) missiles with ranges of 500 and 5,500 km. Various Russian civilian and military leaders have recently questioned the treaty’s relevance to Moscow’s national interests, particularly in light of U.S. ballistic missile defense development and Chinese nuclear MRBM capabilities (e.g., the DF-21). Chinese demonstration of the strategic value of missiles with precisely the parameters banned by the treaty might generate considerable pressure in Moscow and even Washington for its revision or outright abandonment. Additionally, other nations in the region, particularly Japan, which feels increasingly vulnerable strategically yet remains reluctant to develop nuclear weapons, might feel pressured to develop similar capacity of their own. At the very least, the resulting strategic tension would generate additional military procurement and energize long-term investment to counter or balance against Chinese ASBM capabilities in some fashion, a phenomenon that would leave all parties worse off than before. At the political level, then, Washington must emphasize to Beijing that ASBM development on its part would have implications inimical to both U.S. and Chinese interests. Responding to the unprecedented strategic challenge presented by an ASBM capability would require the U.S. military and civilian leadership to face hard truths. The most perilous approach would be to insist that the U.S. maintained its ability to keep the peace, when in fact the military capabilities that underpinned that ability were diminishing, at least in a relative sense.

Such a discrepancy between rhetoric and reality would erode America’s regional credibility and fuel Chinese overconfidence. The prospect of documenting that discrepancy publicly might motivate China to conduct a demonstration of an ASBM; a successful test could create the impression that U.S. power projection capabilities-and the regional credibility that depends on them-had been dramatically diminished. To prevent these negative outcomes, the U.S. must redouble its efforts to promote peace and cooperation, while ensuring that its own capabilities remain strong. Land-based air power will not solve the problem, because China’s strategic rocket forces already hold all useful air bases at risk with surface-to-surface missiles simpler and more reliable than an ASBM. Defensive measures to increase the stealth of the CSG, such as decoys, obscurants, and electronic countermeasures, may buy some time, but would the U.S. bet a CSG on their effectiveness? More importantly, it would be difficult to credibly demonstrate defensive measures without compromising their effectiveness; China and the region may perceive an erosion of U.S. strength and credibility, even if the CSG can defend itself against the ASBM. Ultimately, it may prove necessary to shift U.S. combat power from massive, vulnerable platforms that present very lucrative targets, to platforms which are more concealable, survivable, dispersed, or disposable. Investment in submarines, stealthier ships, long-range aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles may present options for maintaining credibility even in an environment where the aircraft carrier is perceived as vulnerable. This would require a fundamental cultural shift away from a carrier-centric navy. These challenges underscore the importance of maintaining positive cross-Strait relations, which have improved markedly since Ma Ying-jeou assumed Taiwan’s presidency last year. Meanwhile, Washington and Beijing are increasingly pursuing tremendous shared interests, from deterring Somali pirates to averting a financial tsunami. They could do more to ensure that bilateral military relations are similarly productive.

This column was written by Andrew Erickson, Associate Professor, China Maritime Studies Institute, Naval War College. These are his personal views.

Taiwan President phones American lawmakers, asks for F-16s

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday he hoped to see Washington sell F-16C/D fighter jets to Taiwan, emphasizing that improved cross-strait relations did not clash with Taipei’s relationship with the international community.
The president’s remark came after he stressed the need for Taiwan to continue acquiring weapons from the US in a videoconference call with China experts in Washington on April 23.Ma, who is on a 10-day state visit to Central America, mentioned the need to purchase the advanced fighter planes in telephone conversations with US lawmakers from his hotel in Los Angeles before leaving for Belize.Ma talked to Republican Senator John McCain and eight congressmen on the phone and was visited by Republican Representative David Dreier at the hotel.In addition to urging Washington to sign an extradition agreement with Taiwan and extend visa-free privileges to Taiwanese visitors, Ma brought up the procurement of the F-16C/D jets.Dreier told reporters after their meeting that Ma has made efforts to ease tensions in the Taiwan Strait and was an outstanding democratic leader.Washington and Taipei should continue to strengthen ­business ties as well as cooperation in other areas, he said.At a dinner with overseas compatriots in Belize later yesterday, Ma said that he had told American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond Burghardt during their meeting in Los Angeles that the development of cross-strait ties and Taiwan’s relationship with the international community were not mutually exclusive.Ma said that during the 1990s, for example, Taiwan purchased F-16s from the US and Mirage 2000-5 fighters from France, while at the same time reaching the “1992 consensus” with China, which paved the way for effectively handling the “one China” issue.Following Washington’s approval of further arms sales to Taiwan in October last year, Ma said, China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) visited Taipei in November and former vice president Lien Chan (連戰) attended the APEC summit on Ma’s behalf the same month.The country’s participation in the World Health Assembly as an observer this year was another example, Ma said.Although his administration has yet to negotiate with Beijing about his “diplomatic truce” proposal, both sides have extended goodwill gestures and made significant progress, Ma said.He added that improving cross-strait relations was the right way to go, which was why he approved of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members visiting China.Ma said he hoped these visits would continue despite criticism from pan-green camp supporters.Improving cross-strait ties and developing a healthier and more normal relationship with China were not the sole responsibility of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), Ma said.It is essential that all parties reach out to one another for the sake of Taiwan’s survival, Ma said, adding that the time was ripe to rethink cross-strait and international relations because both sides now had more opportunities for exchanges and to build peace and prosperity on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.“Improving cross-strait relations is beneficial to Taiwan,” he said. “All our policy decisions are guided by the principle that Taiwan is always the focus and that the public’s interests come first. We will never sell out Taiwan. On the contrary, we will protect its sovereignty and its people’s dignity because this is my presidential duty.”Ma is leading a 159-member delegation to attend the inauguration of Salvadoran president-elect Mauricio Funes on Monday. He made a one-night stopover in Los Angeles on his way there and will also visit Guatemala before stopping in Seattle on his way back. As this year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties with Belize, Ma has been invited to speak at the parliament today and receive the key to the capital city of Belmopan.The delegation is scheduled to leave for Guatemala today.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sukhoi's flight data recorder sent to London for analysis

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has sent the flight data recorder of a frontline Sukhoi Su—30 MKI combat jet to Britain and its ejection chip to the original equipment manufacturer in Russia to analyse the cause of the April 30 accident that broke the 12—year accident—free record of the fighter aircraft. A senior IAF official said the initial probe indicated that the digital flying control system failed leading to the crash and the failure of the ejection of the rear seat of the aircraft. "The court of inquiry is still on. But the reason of the accident appears to narrow down to two systems — flight control and ejection — of the rear cockpit. The flight data recorder and the ejection chip has to be analysed," IAF Chief designate P.V. Naik told reporters here. A senior IAF official said the recorder and the ejection chip have been sent to Britain and Russia for analysis. "The flight data recorder has been sent to the UK and the ejection chip, which records the time, height and speed at the time of ejection, has been sent to the original equipment manufacturer (in Russia) for examination," the senior official said on condition of anonymity. In a blot on its otherwise unblemished record, a Su—30 MKI crashed in Jaisalmer April 30, killing the co—pilot. The pilot, Wing Commander S.V. Munje, and the co—pilot, Wing Commander P.S. Narah, had managed to bail out in time but the latter was killed after he was apparently hit by the falling debris of the aircraft. Narah belonged to the IAF's Directorate General of Inspections and Safety and was putting the aircraft through its annual safety checks. The aircraft had taken off from the Lohegaon air base in Pune on a routine sortie and crashed while returning to base. The IAF later grounded its fleet of approximately 55 Russian—origin Su—30s. There have been recurring complaints by pilots about problems with the jet. The Su—30 MKI combat jets resumed flying last week even as a 20—member team of Russian experts has been conducting checkups on them.

First Iraqi ISR aircrew members graduate

The first class of Iraqi Air Force Squadron 87 King Air intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircrew members completed their yearlong training May 17. The Iraqi King Air program, headed by Air Force and Navy aircrew instructors, trained four Iraqi pilots, seven co-pilots and five mission sensor operators. "We are about at the half way point where we can call (the Iraqis) independent and autonomous," said Col. John Rutkowski, 321st Air Expeditionary Advisory Group commander, when speaking about Iraq's ISR capabilities. "They have five ISR platforms that (the Iraqis) have already used for pilgrimages, border patrols and to secure the voting stations during the Jan. 31 Iraqi elections." Colonel Rutkowski said he expects Squadron 87 to be fully operational in their ISR mission with another year of instruction from their U.S. counterparts. "Hopefully in about a year they will have 10 crews that can fly ISR missions, which (will) give them the foundation to meet the needs of Iraq," said the colonel. One Coalition Air Force Training Team mission sensor operator instructor said the task of teaching the Iraqis this new ISR capability has been a challenge but has also been very gratifying. "(The Iraqis) came in with great enthusiasm and an eagerness to learn to help defend their country," said Tech. Sgt. Darnell Gordon, a Coalition Air Force Training Team mission sensor operator instructor. "This has been the most challenging thing I have ever done in my Air Force career and by far the most rewarding because we are helping build up a new air force from the ground up." One graduate said that the graduation ceremony was a nice gesture, but his real pride comes from his duty to his country. "You have to know that when I work, I don't expect to be thanked for what I am doing because, I feel that it is my duty to serve my country, but it is a nice thing to be thanked and to know that someone appreciates what you are doing," said Iraqi air force 2nd Lt. Hassanien, a mission sensor operator on the King Air platform.

Beijing's missile stockpile growing

CHINA has begun expanding its nuclear warhead and strategic missile capacity at a pace not seen for 20 years. The build-up has begun as North Korea joins the ranks of nuclear-armed powers and Japan's Government is under pressure to respond with more aggressive missile deployment. Jane's Intelligence Review, the most authoritative publication of global strategic analysis, said that new DigitalGlobal imagery revealed Beijing was developing up to five intercontinental nuclear-armed ballistic missiles. The growth of China's space launch centre at Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi province, 400km southwest of Beijing, "appears to be a key factor in China's long-range ballistic missile force modernisation". Taiyuan has a new liquid-fuelled rocket launch facility to shoot vehicles into space, but Jane's Intelligence Review says the centre also hosts solid-fuelled rocket facilities containing assembly buildings similar to those used at a People's Liberation Army rocket force base in Luoyang, Henan province. The editor of Jane's Intelligence Review, Christian Le Miere, said: "Within 10 years, China may have a much larger total missile force, although not as large as Russia or the US, and it will utilise a range of modern technologies to ensure the effective retaliatory purpose of China's long-range nuclear missile forces." This expansion, he said, "stands in contrast to the current nuclear reduction talks being pursued by the US and Russia, but Beijing is unlikely to enter into any such negotiations". "For China, its nuclear forces remain small enough to justify the continued rejection of appeals to join nuclear arms reduction talks that it considers binding and verifiable on nuclear missile reduction pacts." Beijing's consistent opening position on disarmament has been that it is up to the US and Russia to begin eliminating their nuclear weapons first. The Federation of American Scientists estimates that China, which conducted its first nuclear test in 1964, holds about 240 nuclear warheads, the US 9400 and Russia 13,000. China is aiming to develop an anti-ballistic missile system by 2025, and Jane's said it would soon deploy its new submarine launched ballistic missiles to offer greater flexibility. Documents mistakenly tabled in the Australian parliament on May 14 by Foreign Minister Stephen Smith showed that Australia planned to increase its uranium sales to China - provided it was not used in Beijing's expanding nuclear weapons program. The US Defence Department has said that China is the only major nuclear power now expanding its force. Japan's Prime Minister, Taro Aso, warned at a Berlin university earlier this month: "Unfortunately, the security environment in northeast Asia is becoming increasingly tough. "North Korea is pushing ahead with development of nuclear weapons and missiles ... and China's defence expenditure has logged two-digit growth for the 20th consecutive year, and its contents lack transparency. The country is also proceeding with modernisation of (its) nuclear arsenal."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

10 Mark V (90’ MKV) patrol boats for the Kuwaiti Navy

United States Marine in Gulfport, MS received a $61.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for detail design and construction of 10 Mark V (90’ MKV) patrol boats for the Kuwaiti Navy under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Program. The vessels are designed for coastal patrol and interdiction, and other special operations at sea. USMI manufactures both 82-foot Mark V Special Operations craft and a Mark V Patrol Boat. The Mark V Special Operations operations craft has a maximum speed of 47 knots and provides accommodations for 5 crew and 16 passengers. The Mark V Patrol Boat has a maximum speed of 45 knots, provides accommodations for 12 (10 crew and 2 officers), and has berthing accommodations, a galley, and mess.USMI will perform the work in Gulfport, MS and expects to complete it by June 2013. The Naval Sea Systems Command at the Washington Navy Yard, DC manages the contract (N00024-09-C-2252).

France Inaugurates Joint Military Base in Persian Gulf

“With this permanent military presence, France resolutely commits itself to the security of her Emirati friends,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy stated on May 26, in Abu Dhabi, during the inauguration of the first French permanent military base in the region. The French commander-in-chief was accompanied by the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Bernard Kouchner, the Minister for Defense, Herve Morin, and General Jean-Louis Georgelin, chief of the defence staff. “This joint base is the direct consequence of the defense agreement which binds us to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) since January 1995”, defense minister Herve Morin recalled in January 2008 [when the basing agreement was concluded—Ed.] In July 2007, the French Head of State, following a request by the UAE, had committed to develop a permanent military presence in the country, before publicly announcing it in January 2008. A few months later, in June 2008, the White Paper on defense and the national security spelled out the strategic importance of this region for France. The “rationalization of the military assets stationed outside of the national territory” must indeed lead France to include in its posture “one or two spring-boards in the Arabic-Persian Gulf”. The UAE, the world’s third-largest oil exporter, are located on southern bank of the Persian Gulf. They constitute, together with the Sultanate of Oman, the southern point of the Strait of Hormuz, through which passes nearly 40% of the planet’s oil production. To the North, on the other side of the Gulf, lies Iran. Bilateral operational co-operation, and a military presence within the framework of the defense agreements, are among the priority missions of this French military establishment. Its role will also include supporting French military assets deployed in the Gulf and the north of the Indian Ocean, and specifically the home port of the flagship of ALINDIEN, the French naval task force in the Indian Ocean. The Admiral commanding the French naval zone of the Indian Ocean will also, under the direct command of the chief of the defence staff, command all French joint forces deployed on the UAE base. The base itself will comprise three main components: a naval and support base, an air base and an Army battle group. About 100 French personnel are currently stationed at the base, rising to 250 in September, including 110 permanent staff. (In his speech, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said “over 500” French soldiers would be stationed in the UAE—Ed.) A detachment of three Mirage 2000 or Rafale fighters have been permanently stationed on the air base since October 1, 2008. A training center for desert operations, operated by the army contingent, will receive its first trainees at the end of 2009. The base’s inauguration was marked by (the hoisting) of French and Emirati flags in the presence of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Department of the Emirates, Sheik Seïf Ben Zayed Al-Nahyane, who stated that “because it contributes to the stability of the Gulf region, we see this co-operation as an important pillar of our foreign policy.” The President President’s visit also comprised an economic aspect, with prospects for the sale of French nuclear plants and of Rafale combat aircraft. This new French military establishment in the UAE will provide, said President Sarkozy, “an opportunity for the UAE forces to familiarize themselves with French equipment, and to appreciate their performance.” Although the above statement is short on specifics, sources say that the procurement of 60 Rafale fighters by the UAE is practically a foregone conclusion, and that contractors have already begun preparatory work for their production. However, the official contract will not be signed until final arrangements are concluded for the buy-back and disposal of the UAE’s present fleet of Mirage 2000-9 fighters, and the financing of certain Rafale improvements including the fitting of an AESA radar, uprated M-88 engines and certification of additional weapons, the sources say. The contract is worth 6 to 8 billion euros. UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan said on Tuesday the purchase of the Rafale fighters “was discussed," adding that "I can say there has been positive progress on this issue." In his own speech, however, Sarkozy made no mention of the Rafale sale. Although described as a single base, the French facility (known as Implantation Militaire Française aux Emirats Arabes Unis, or IMFEAU) will in fact comprise three different installations, including a French facility at Al Dhafra air base, berthing facilities at the port of Mina Zayed, and an army camp at Zayed. It will also include an intelligence-gathering installation. Left unsaid is the fact that, added to the permanent base it maintains in Djibouti, at the mouth of the Red Sea, the Abu Dhabi base will allow France to monitor and control of two of the world’s most strategic maritime passages, the Straits of Hormuz and of Bab el Mandel.

Boeing KC-767J Aerial Refueling Tankers Join Active Air Wing in Japan

The Boeing Company today announced that three KC-767J aerial refueling tankers recently achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC) and have been placed in an active air wing in the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF).“This is a historic achievement for the nation of Japan and a significant accomplishment for Boeing’s tanker program,” said Dave Bowman, vice president and general manager of Boeing Tanker Programs. “These wide-body KC-767Js are now providing the JASDF with its own aerial refueling capability for the first time in history, while improving its ability to deliver passengers or cargo.”Officials with the Japan Ministry of Defense and JASDF officially designated the KC-767J tankers "operational" during an April ceremony at Komaki Air Base, Japan, after the aircraft successfully completed a yearlong technical evaluation.The third of four KC-767J tankers ordered by Japan was ferried from Boeing’s Wichita, Kan., modification facility and delivered on time and within budget to the JASDF in March. The first two tankers were delivered to Japan in February and March 2008.Boeing is scheduled to transfer the fourth Japan tanker to the company's partner Itochu in December for delivery to the Ministry of Defense in the first quarter of 2010. Final work on that tanker is taking place at the Wichita modification center.The KC-767 tanker, a military derivative of the proven Boeing 767-200 commercial airplane, features the company's advanced aerial refueling boom and Remote Aerial Refueling Operator II system. Japan's tankers are convertible tanker/freighter KC-767Js, which provide flexibility in carrying cargo or passengers while maintaining their primary role as aerial refueling tankers.“Delivery of the first KC-767J aerial refueling tankers, and their achievement of IOC status just a few weeks after the arrival of Japan 3, are great milestones,” Bowman said. “Boeing has KC-767 international tankers that have been built, flown, tested, certified, delivered and in operational service today.”Boeing also has two KC-767 tankers in comprehensive flight test for the Italian Air Force (ITAF) and is performing modification work on two additional ITAF tankers. The first tanker for Italy is scheduled for delivery this year.

IAF Mig-21 crashes near Jodhpur

In the third IAF fighter aircraft mishap in less than a month, a Mig-21 'Bison' plane on Wednesday crashed near Jodhpur but the pilot ejected safely. The war plane, which had taken off for a routine sortie from the Jodhpur airbase, crashed on a barren stretch of land in Luni village in Mordijoshyan, near here, Superintendent of Police (Rural) Kaviraj said. There was no damage on the ground, he said. This is the third IAF fighter aircraft accident in less than a month, the previous mishaps being that of a Mig-27 fighter aircraft, which also crashed near here on May 15, and another involving Sukhoi-30MKI air superiority fighter which crashed near Jaisalmer on April 30. With this Mig-21 crash, the IAF has lost five aircraft this year, the first being a Kiran-MKII of the Surya Kiran aerobatics team in Bidar on January 21 followed by an unmanned aerial vehicle mishap the same day in Hashimara.

India invite bids for attack and heavy-lift helicopters

India has invited initial bids, estimated to be worth up to $2 billion, from global helicopter companies to supply its air force with 22 combat helicopters and another 15 for heavy-lift duties, a senior official said Tuesday."The two (separate) requests for proposals have been issued," the senior air force official, who didn't wish to be named, told late Tuesday. The official declined to elaborate or name the companies that had been invited to bid.Attack helicopter makers such as Russia's Kamov and Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant, Italy's AgustaWestland, a unit of Finmeccanica SpA (FNC.MI), and Textron Inc.'s (TXT) Bell Helicopter unit had earlier expressed interest in the deal.Eurocopter, the helicopter manufacturing unit of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. (EADSY), too, has pitched its Tiger attack helicopter for the tender while Boeing Co. (BA) is offering its Apache AH-64D Longbow model.Boeing's India unit confirmed that it has been invited for both the tenders.Officials at the other companies weren't immediately available for comment."We have received both requests for proposals and our rotorcraft division is reviewing them," Vivek Lall, who heads Indian operations at Boeing's Integrated Defense Systems division, told Dow Jones Newswires via telephone.This is the second time India has issued a tender for the attack helicopters. The first tender - issued in May 2008 - was scrapped in March by the government.Both Boeing and Bell helicopter had pulled out of the original tender, as the Indian Air Force wanted to buy directly from the manufacturer, but the U.S. wanted it to be a government-to-government deal, defense ministry officials had said earlier.Boeing also is pitching its heavy-lift, twin-rotor Chinook helicopter. Analysts value the potential deal as ranging from $600 million to $1 billion.Sikorsky Aircraft, a unit of United Technologies Corp. (UTX), also plans to bid to sell heavy-lift helicopters, its India and South Asia managing director, A.J.S. Walia, said in February.

Israel fears Hezbollah could deploy SHORADS in Lebanon

The defense establishment is concerned that Hezbollah will try to smuggle advanced anti-aircraft missiles into Lebanon in the near future - yet another reason for the rising tension on the Israel-Lebanon border. Israel has made it clear in past statements that it will consider such a development as crossing a red line, which might necessitate preventative measures. It is believed that Hezbollah would like to deploy SA-8 batteries in Lebanon. Such weapons could pose a threat to Israel Air Force jets flying over the country. In recent years, the IAF has conducted regular flights over Lebanon, part of reconnaissance and intelligence missions linked to assessing Hezbollah's military capabilities. In threatening the IAF, the Shi'ite group is hoping to alter Lebanon's military balance of power vis-a-vis Israel. In the past year, the Arab press has reported several times that Hezbollah would like to deploy anti-aircraft missiles on Lebanon's mountaintops, thereby checking the IAF's freedom of operations. The Soviet-made missiles are part of Syria's military arsenal, and Hezbollah fighters have received training on their use, inside Syrian territory. To date Syria and Hezbollah have refrained from deploying such weapons in Lebanon. Syria remains the main channel through which arms are transferred to Hezbollah - a process that has been expedited since the end of the 2006 Second Lebanon War. A year ago, tensions flared when Israel suspected that Hezbollah was planning to move the missiles into Lebanon and deploy them on the mountains. Israel relayed messages to both Syria and Hezbollah, through several channels, warning that it would consider launching air strikes against the convoys delivering the weapons, if they were brought into Lebanon. Then-prime minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak hinted publicly that these weapons would "upset the [existing] balance" and that Israel would not tolerate such a development. It seemed that Hezbollah got the message. However, in recent weeks concerns have resurfaced about the missiles being moved to Lebanon. Israel has once again issued a warning through various channels. The intelligence community believes that in the wake of the June 7 elections to the Lebanese parliament, Hezbollah will once again try to move and deploy the missiles. In so doing, the group would be attempting a show of force. Hezbollah has consistently been trying to increase its hold on Lebanon, which it believes will only become stronger after the elections. The intelligence assessments regarding the missiles follow a long series of unusual developments in Lebanon that are contributing to rising tensions, including the discovery of an alleged Israeli spy ring; a leak on Hezbollah's alleged responsibility for the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri; and the unsettled score for the assassination of Hezbollah terrorist mastermind Imad Mughniyeh, allegedly killed by Israel more than a year ago.

China to celebrate PLA Air Force's founding anniversary, aeronautic centennial

China's largest state-owned aircraft maker said on Tuesday that it has started to extend the China Aviation Museum for a series of celebrations to mark the nation's rarely-known aeronautic centennial and the 60th founding anniversary of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force. The extension will increase the exhibition area to more than 10,000 square meters for a military air show and an aviation exhibition around Nov. 11, said Lin Zuoming, general manager of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC). The project will be jointly conducted by the AVIC and the Air Force and finished in September, according to the company. The China Aviation Museum, owned by the Air Force, is the largest of its kind in China. Based in Changping District of Beijing's northern outskirt, it was opened to public on Nov. 11, 1989 and displays about 300 historic aircraft including a prototype made by China's first aviator Feng Ru. Feng (1884-1912) made his first successful flight in Oakland, California by piloting the first airplane designed and made by Chinese on Sept. 21, 1909. According to the AVIC, the aviation exhibition will display all the historical achievements in the 100-year development of China's aeronautic industry. The air show will demonstrate various aircraft used by the PLA Air Force in different periods of time, surface-to-air missiles, radars and other equipment. The PLA Air Force was founded on Nov. 11, 1949 when it was soon engaged in the war to resist U.S. and aid Korea, or the Korean Warin 1950s. This year marks many celebrations for the military and civilians in China, in which a grand military parade will be held on Oct. 1 for the 60th founding anniversary of the People's Republic of China. In April, the PLA Navy held an unprecedented maritime parade and an international fleet review attended by 21 foreign warships in the Yellow Sea to celebrate its 60th founding anniversary.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Japan wants "first strikes" against enemies

A Japanese ruling party panel is to propose that pre-emptive strikes against enemy bases be allowed despite the country's pacifist constitution, Kyodo news agency said on Monday, weeks after a North Korean missile launch. North Korea fired a ballistic missile in April that flew over northern Japan after warning that it planned to launch a satellite, prompting the government to deploy missile interceptors to the area ."Japan should have the ability to strike enemy bases within the scope of its defense-oriented policy, in order not to sit and wait for death," Kyodo quoted the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) committee as saying in its proposal.The committee also plans to call for Japan to develop early-warning satellites to detect the launch of missiles toward the country, Kyodo said. Japan currently depends on information from a U.S. early-warning satellite, the agency said.While some lawmakers have called for strike capability, Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada is among those are cautious about the prospect, though the government's stance is that such strikes should be allowed if an attack were certain to take place. The panel's plans are set to be submitted for consideration ahead of the compilation of a five-year government Defense program by the end of the year, Kyodo said.
(Reporting by Isabel Reynolds; Editing by David Fox)

Israel's Barak to US next week for Iran talks, F-35 sale on the cards

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak will fly to Washington next week for talks with his counterpart Robert Gates and senior officials set to focus on Iran's nuclear ambitions, an official said. The defence minister was also planning to meet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama's National Security Adviser James Jones and special Middle East envoy George Mitchell, the official told on condition of anonymity. Barak's visit comes on the heels of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's White House meeting with President Barack Obama last week, which revealed discord between the two close allies on the stagnant Middle East peace process. However, Obama eased Israeli concerns over his efforts to persuade Iran to halt its nuclear programme in direct negotiations, with the president saying the success of the dialogue would be assessed by the year's end."This dialogue ought to be short and should have milestones to check whether it is serious or not," Barak told army radio. "I believe the chances that talks will halt Iran's nuclear programme are very low."The former chief of staff reiterated that the Jewish state would not rule out military action against nuclear sites in the Islamic republic."Israel believes that no option should be removed from the table," he said.Israel, widely considered to be the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear armed power, suspects Iran is using its nuclear programme to develop atomic weapons, a charge Tehran has long denied. Barak was also expected to discuss US arms sales to Israel, including a request to buy up to 75 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in a deal worth as much as 15.2 billion dollars and other advanced weapon systems, the official said.

IAF drops Russia from $1 bn Multi-Role Tanker Transport deal

Russia is set to lose a billion dollar (Rs 48,000 crore) defence deal for midair refuellers, signalling a break in its over 50-year-old monopoly as India’s preferred military supplier. The former communist giant has clearly lost favour with the Indian military, as the air force has decided not to field any more Russian Ilyushin-78 refuellers to keep fighter jets airborne for considerably longer periods by tanking them up during flight. After operating Il-78 tankers for almost six years, the Indian Air Force has said the Russian platform does not meet its requirements and it wants to deploy the Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) offered by European aerospace corporation EADS. The Il-78 and Airbus 330 MRTT were competing for the $1 billion global tender floated three years ago by the defence ministry for six midair refuellers to extend the operating radiuses of Indian fighter jets. In an exclusive interview to HT, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major said, “We have finished all evaluations and selected the A330 MRTT. The deal will come up for final approval by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) very soon. The Russian platform did not meet certain requirements.” The A330 MRTT is a military derivative of the Airbus A330 airliner. Cracks in the India-Russia defence relationship have existed for some time now. Some of the irritants include Russia seeking mid-course price revisions in contracts for Sukhoi-30 fighters and aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, a problem of steady supply of spares, poor vendor support after the disintegration of the Soviet Union and transfer of technology issues. The air chief, who retires on May 31 on turning 62, said, “After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia has changed the whole pattern of doing defence business. Now we are faced with issues concerning spares, vendor support and built-in delays in the structure of their centralised military corporations.” Two years ago, Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta had publicly said that India needed to take a relook at its military relationship with Russia, much to the government’s discomfort. The armed forces maintain that Russian equipment comes cheap but entails huge maintenance costs. The A330 MRTT has won several tanker competitions with contracts signed by the governments of United Kingdom, Australia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The first A330 MRTT would be delivered to the IAF within three years of signing of the deal while the remaining five would be inducted 15 months after that.

Syria says MiG-31 deal with Russia still on

Syria denied on Sunday a Russian media report that Moscow no longer wants to sell it eight advanced MiG-31 planes because of pressure from Israel. "This is part of attempts to undermine the friendly relations and cooperation between Syria and Russia," an official Syrian statement said. The statement was issued as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited the Syrian capital and met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Kommersant newspaper quoted an unidentified person close to Russia's state arms exporter as saying that the $500-million deal, agreed to in 2007, was halted after Israel protested. The paper quoted another source in an unidentified Russian ministry as saying the contract had been halted because Syria could not come up with the money to pay for the fighters. Syria, which has adhered to a ceasefire with Israel on the Golan Heights since 1974, has been trying to upgrade its military in the last several years.

(Editing by Jon Hemming)

Monday, May 25, 2009

First of IAF AWACS Arrives in India

The first of the three Indian Air Force AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) platform arrived in India from Israel today. The giant IL-76 configured in its new avatar was escorted by three Mig-29 and Jaguar aircraft each that took off from an advance fighter airbase of South Western Air Command (SWAC). The fighter formations caught up with the AWACS mid-air and escorted it as it entered the Indian FIR (Flight Information Region), till safe touchdown at the Jamnagar airbase, close to midday, today. Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, SWAC, Air Marshal KD Singh, Air Defence Commander Air Vice Marshal P Singh and the AOC Jamnagar, Air Commodore C Hari Kumar and air warriors of the airbase welcomed the crew of the AWACS aircraft that included the Commanding Officer of the first AWACS squadron, Group Captain B Saju. Their maiden touchdown on Indian soil also marks the first landing of the AWACS in an IAF airbase. “It was a great feeling to be escorted by our fighters and it feels really good to be back”, said Group Captain B Saju upon arrival. Flown by a full complement of IAF pilots belonging to the newly formed squadron from Ovda International airport, located in southern Israel, the aircraft undertook an eight-and-a-half hour’s flight skirting around several countries taking the aerial route over the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea before landing at Jamnagar. The aircraft is slated to arrive at Palam airport tomorrow where an induction ceremony is scheduled on May 28. The AWACS are slated to operate from the Agra airbase under Central Air Command and frenetic preparations ahead of its first arrival to join the extended fleet of the IL-76 family are complete.

Earthquake Signals Second North Korean Nuclear Test

It has been confirmed by the Chosun Central News Agency (KCNA) that North Korea has carried out its threat to conduct a second nuclear test this morning, May 25th. Lee Dong Gwan, a Blue House spokesperson stated in a press briefing that an “artificial earthquake” measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale was felt in South Korea at 9:54am, strongly suggesting the presence of a test at Poongkye-ri in Kilju, North Hamkyung Province, where the first test was also carried out.CNN reported that the U.S. Geological Survey has announced the existence of a “4.7-magnitude earthquake” in North Korea, but did not initially comment on the source of it.Eventually, around midday, the KCNA confirmed the reports, calling the test part of "measures to strengthen its nuclear power in self-defense."North Korea has repeatedly threatened to conduct a second test in recent weeks, mostly in protest at the censure it received after the missile test of April 5th, which Pyongyang maintains was the launch of a satellite for peaceful purposes.The spokesperson also announced that South Korean President Lee Myung Bak has called an emergency meeting of the National Security Council.
Russia's Defence Ministry on Monday confirmed that North Korea had conducted a subterranean nuclear test. The nuclear explosion had a strength of between 10 and 20 kilotons, Defence Ministry spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky said, according to the Interfax news agency. The detonation was registered in an area some 80 kilometres north- west of the city of Kilchu. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was in Lebanon on Monday expressed concern over the developments.
The following is the full text of the report released by Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency the country's second nuclear weapons test:
"The Democratic People's Republic of Korea successfully conducted one more underground nuclear test on May 25 as part of the measures to bolster up its nuclear deterrent for self-defence in every way as requested by its scientists and technicians. "The current nuclear test was safely conducted on a new higher level in terms of its explosive power and technology of its control and the results of the test helped satisfactorily settle the scientific and technological problems arising in further increasing the power of nuclear weapons and steadily developing nuclear technology. "The successful nuclear test is greatly inspiring the army and people of the DPRK all out in the 150-day campaign, intensifying the drive for effecting a new revolutionary surge to open the gate to a thriving nation. "The test will contribute to defending the sovereignty of the country and the nation and socialism and ensuring peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and the region around it with the might of Songun." US President Barack Obama has said that North Korea's nuclear and missile tests were a "matter of grave concern to all nations" and warranted action by the international community. Mr Obama released a statement after Pyongyang conducted a nuclear test and reportedly fired a short-range missile."North Korea is directly and recklessly challenging the international community. North Korea's behavior increases tensions and undermines stability in northeast Asia," he said.
Russia confirms North Korea nuclear test: Russia's defence ministry on Monday confirmed that North Korea had carried out an underground nuclear test, news agencies reported. "Monitoring facilities confirmed an underground nuclear explosion, which took place on North Korean territory. This information is being studied and analysed," a ministry official was quoted as saying by Interfax. The ITAR-TASS news agency also quoted a defence ministry official as saying that the North Korean test had been confirmed.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mullen: Iran is close to nuclear weapons capability

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me move on to the issue of Iran. You said that Iran is on a path to building nuclear weapons. But the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate concluded with a high degree of confidence that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons programs. So do you believe that intelligence estimate is outdated? Is it no longer accurate?

MULLEN: Well, I believe then and I still believe that Iran's strategic objective is to achieve nuclear weapons, and that that path continues. Their leadership is committed to it. They conducted a missile test this last week that was successful, which continues to improve their missile delivery system and capability. Their intent seems very clear to me, and I'm one who believes if they achieve that objective, that it is incredibly destabilizing for the region. And I think eventually for the world.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You said it's their intent. But do you believe they've restarted their actual nuclear weapons program?

MULLEN: I haven't seen -- or I wouldn't speak to any details about what they are doing with respect to that. Although, I remain concerned that while intelligence estimates focus on what we know, I'm concerned about what Iran might be doing that we don't know.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me also press the question of their strategic intent. "Newsweek" has a cover story out. Let me show you. It says that everything you think you know about Iran is wrong. And one of the points that Fareed Zakaria makes in "Newsweek" is he points out on several occasions over the last several years, Iran's leaders have said they're not interested in having nuclear weapons. They have said that nuclear weapons are immoral. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei actually issued a fatwah saying that these weapons are, indeed, immoral. And I guess, it's possible they could just be lying. But it does seem odd that a country that the Islamic Republic that bases its legitimacy on being a guardian of Islam that would develop weapons that it considers immoral. That would seem to undercut their own legitimacy.

MULLEN: Well, I think that speaks to the importance of the dialogue that President Obama has stated he wants to initiate and to really wring out, whether that's how the Supreme Leader feels. Certainly from what I've seen, Iran on a path to developing nuclear weapons.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you don't believe it? That they don't want nuclear weapons.

MULLEN: At this point no.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And the chief of staff to Israel's defense minister, General Michael Herzog, has said that Iran could actually have its first nuclear weapon by the end of 2010 or the beginning of 2011. Do you agree with that?

MULLEN: Well, I think you make certain assumptions about what they can do. Most of us believe that it's one to three years, depending on assumptions about where they are right now. But they are moving closer, clearly, and they continue to do that. And if you believe their strategic intent, as I do, and as certainly my Israeli counterpart does, that's the principle concern.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you just said that you believe that a nuclear Iran would be calamitous for the region. But last year, Sy Hersh in the "New Yorker" reported that you pushed back very hard against any notion of a military strike during President Bush's administration. And you've spoken publicly about the unintended consequences of a military strike by Israel. So what worries you more? A nuclear Iran or war with Iran?

MULLEN: Well, they both worry me a lot. And I think the unintended consequences of a strike against Iran right now would be incredibly serious. As well as the unintended consequences of their achieving a nuclear weapon. And so that's why this engagement in dialogue is so important. I think we should do that with all options on the table. As we approach them. And so that leaves a pretty narrow space in which to achieve a successful dialogue and a successful outcome, which from my perspective means they don't end up with nuclear weapons.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They don't end up with nuclear weapons, but could they have as Japan does a full nuclear fuel cycle program that's fully inspected?

MULLEN: I think that's certainly a possibility and this isn't, at least, from my perspective, from the military perspective, this isn't about them having the ability to produce nuclear power. It's about their desire and their goal to have a nuclear weapon.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, if it comes to this, do you believe it's possible to take out Iran's program, militarily at an acceptable cost?

MULLEN: I won't speculate on what we can and can't do. Again, I put that in the category of my very strong preference is to not be put in a position where we -- where someone -- where Iran is struck in terms of taking out its nuclear capability.

Dassault in talks with Emirates over Rafale jets

Dassault Aviation is in talks with the United Arab Emirates over a possible order for its Rafale fighter jets, the company said on Saturday, in what would be the first sale of the aircraft to a foreign buyer.Newspaper Le Parisien reported earlier on Saturday that France was finalising the sale of 60 Rafale jets in a deal worth 6-8 billion euros ($8-11 billion).The paper said President Nicolas Sarkozy would personally push the issue in a visit on Monday and Tuesday to Abu Dhabi.Dassault declined to confirm the figures and said an agreement may be reached this year."There are negotiations with the Emirates but it will still take a while. We aren't close to finalising a contract in the next few days," a spokesman for Dassault said, adding that the talks were extremely complex. Le Parisien said the contract under negotiation would cover several years. Citing a source close to the negotiations, it said the Rafale, which was developed years ago, would have to be upgraded to convince the buyers. Sarkozy's office said ties between the governments, the manufacturers of the Rafale and the UAE air force had deepened since the Gulf Arab state publicly announced its interest in the Rafale last year."Things are progressing in a normal fashion," the president's office said.France has so far failed to find a foreign buyer for the Rafale jet. It is France's most sophisticated combat aircraft, combining both fighter and bomber roles, but it has lost out to rivals offering cheaper, less high-tech models.
(Reporting by Laure Bretton)
The UAE and France are continuing negotiations on UAE’s potential purchase of French Rafale fighter planes, the UAE’s foreign minister said on Monday. “It will take a bit more time” to complete the talks, Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahayan told AFP ahead of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to the UAE for talks on bilateral military ties.

Iran Successfully Test-Fires Two stage Sejjil 2 Missile

FARS NEWS AGENCY: Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced on Wednesday that the country has successfully test-fired a new missile called Sejjil 2, underlining that the advancement would highly increase the country's deterrent power. Addressing a large and fervent congregation of people in Iran's eastern province of Semnan, Ahmadinejad said when he and his cabinet ministers were on the flight to Semnan, the defense minister told him on the phone that "we have launched a Sejjil-2 missile, which enjoys a very advanced technology, from Semnan and it has struck the intended target"."The Sejjil missiles are among multi-stage missiles which move fast and are able to go into space then come back and hit the target. It works on solid fuel," Ahmadinejad added to cheers from the crowd.He did not specify the missile's range.The Defense Minister Mohammad Mostafa Najjar said on November 12 that Iran had test-fired a new generation of ground-to-ground missiles.Iran successfully test fired a new generation of ground-to-ground missile called "Sejjil" on November 12. Sejjil is a two-stage missile that carries two engines and burns combined solid fuel.Prior to the test, Iran's missile capability was measured by its medium-range ballistic missile known as the Shahab-3, which means "shooting star" in Farsi, with a range of at least 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) which was improved and promoted to 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) in 2005.Iran's Shahab-3 missile has been known to use liquid fuel. Missiles using liquid fuel are less accurate than those using solid fuel.

16 Arjun Tanks to be handed over to Army on May 25

The third set of 16 Arjun Tanks, India&aposs Main Battle Tank (MBT), will be handed over to the Army on May 25, DRDO sources said today.K Sridhar, DRDO scientist and spokesperson for the Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE), which is building a total of 124 such tanks, said here that chief controller R&D, DRDO, A Sivathanu Pillai would flag off the consignment at CVRDE&aposs Avadi unit on Monday. The CVRDE, a laboratory of DRDO, had already delivered 29 MBTs in two instalments till March this year. The forthcoming delivery would mark the successful completion of the distribution of First Arjun Regiment, he said. "A Regiment consists of 45 MBT Arjun Tanks and with this we will be completing the distribution of first set of Arjun Regiment,"he said. The next Regiment would be delivered in another six to nine months, he added. The CVRDE had bagged orders for the production of 124 Arjun Tanks worth of Rs 1,760 crore in March 2000, he said. Explaining the salient features of Arjun MBT, Sridhar said the tanks can fire at a range of 3-4 km and have great mobility and are equipped with high protection facility.

MEA shoots down defence ministry's helicopter export

The prospects for India’s most promising defence export — the Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) — have just been dealt an unexpected blow. India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has turned down a Bolivian request for a line of credit to buy seven Dhruvs from Bangalore-based manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).Senior officials in India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) are livid. India’s defence exports languish at about Rs 300-400 crore per year, barely 1 per cent of the Rs 30,000 crore spent annually on importing weaponry. The export of seven Dhruvs, each worth Rs 44 crore, would have effectively doubled defence exports.MoD sources said the MEA turned down Bolivia’s request for a line of credit on the grounds that it was for military equipment. The MEA has not responded to an emailed questionnaire from Business Standard on the subject.Dhruv ALHs, in fact, have civilian as well as military uses. Of five Dhruvs delivered to Ecuador this year, one was kitted out as a VIP transport for the Ecuadorian president. India has also supplied Dhruvs to Nepal and to Mauritius on easy credit, even as gifts.Says a senior MoD official, “Frankly speaking, I was surprised by the MEA’s decision. I can only surmise that this decision was taken by someone at the lower level, without realising the implications on India’s defence exports.”Bolivia barely registers on the MEA’s radar. That country does not have an embassy in New Delhi; an Honorary Consul represents India in La Paz, Bolivia’s capital.But for the MoD, the sale of Dhruvs to Bolivia would be a vital step in cracking America’s domination of the South American helicopter market, which HAL was targeting aggressively. As more Dhruv ALHs flew in South American skies, HAL planned to set up major support infrastructure to pull in even more customers.Five years ago, with the Chilean Air Force poised to buy the cheap and rugged Dhruv, Washington’s pressure allegedly forced Santiago to opt for US-made Bell helicopters. HAL bounced back by selling Ecuador five Dhruvs in 2008; Ecuador is reportedly considering a follow-up order. Chile, too, continues to watch with interest.HAL’s Chairman and Managing Director, Ashok Nayak, refuses to talk about the MEA’s decision, but points out that HAL’s growing presence in South America will inevitably bring in more customers from that region.Nayak explains, “We have already delivered the five Dhruv helicopters ordered by Ecuador. Our pilots are training the Ecuadorian Air Force; we have posted 15 HAL maintenance personnel in Ecuador for backup support, along with a substantial inventory of spares. We are steadily gaining experience in supporting the operations of Dhruv ALHs in South America. That is bound to pay off soon.Helicopters are a vital part of the Bolivian Air Force, since anti-drug operations are its main focus. Without a single fixed-wing fighter aircraft, the Bolivian Air Force currently relies on the venerable American UH-1H Huey helicopter, which is approaching the end of its service life. With the Dhruv providing a state-of-the-art alternative at a price 25 per cent cheaper than its alternatives, Bolivia remains a potential buyer.

Squadron Leader Hillard is to be deployed in Afghanistan

Squadron Leader Elle Hillard is a woman in a man’s world as she flies her Tornado bomber into combat.She is a female Top Gun. Squadron Leader Elle Hillard, who will deploy to Afghanistan this year, dispels the macho image of fighter pilot. The 32-year-old, who can fly quicker than the speed of sound in her Tornado jet, is one of only 12 female fast-jet pilots in the Royal Air Force among 708 men. The female quota has been rising since the RAF first gave women the green light to try out as pilots two decades ago, and is set to increase further. “Once you’ve learnt how to fly yourself it’s addictive,” said Squadron Leader Hillard. “I love it. It’s a rollercoaster you are in control of.” Partly inspired by the Tom Cruise movie Top Gun, she knew from a young age that she wanted to be a fast-jet pilot. Squadron Leader Hillard joined a university air squadron at the University of Edinburgh before signing up to the RAF. After a gruelling four years of training, she emerged as one of Britain’s elite fast-jet pilots, qualified to fly the Tornado bomber in combat. Squadron Leader Hillard, who is married to another fast-jet pilot, has since embarked on multiple tours to Iraq, where she has supported ground troops from the air, looking for enemy targets. Disaster nearly struck within the first few weeks of the Iraq invasion. She was cruising at an altitude of 10,000 feet, doing about 400 miles per hour when a monitor on board flashed up that there was an engine fire. “That was quite an interesting moment,” she said. Instinctively, her training kicked in and, with help from a navigator who flies with her, she was able to land the aircraft safely at Baghdad airport. Once on the ground, the young pilot established that the fire alert had been a false alarm. A woman in a man’s world, Squadron Leader Hillard, of 31 Squadron, based at RAF Marham in Norfolk, said people often take a step back when they see a female pilot at the controls. “You can always see just a little bit of: Oh it’s a female pilot, rather than the male pilot they are expecting,” she said. “Also when you talk on the radio and they hear a female voice they are not always expecting that. They don’t tend to make a big deal of it but you can tell just a slight: Oh, I wasn’t expecting a female voice.” Gender no longer plays a part in RAF selection. The qualities recruiters want are skill, ability and fitness. Fast-jet pilots – regarded as the best of the best – must have lightning-quick reactions, perfect eyesight and a strong stomach. The RAF only changed the rules to enable women to train as pilots in 1989. Rising to the challenge, Flight Lieutenant Julie Ann Gibson became the first female pilot two years later, flying Andovers, a form of transport aircraft. The first female fast-jet pilot emerged in 1994 in the form of Flight Lieutenant Jo Salter, who flew Tornado GR1 fast jets. In the latest milestone, Flight Lieutenant Kirsty Moore, 31 has become the first woman selected to join the Red Arrows, arguably the most skilled team of pilots in the world. Further demonstrating the heights women can reach, an announcement is expected in the near future of the first female Eurofighter Typhoon pilot. At the moment only men fly the RAF’s premier fighter jet. The next challenge for Squadron Leader Hillard, who has been a fast-jet pilot for seven years, is Afghanistan, where she is due to deploy in the autumn. With hostilities mounting, there is a strong chance she will have to drop a bomb for the first time in combat. “It is part of the job you sign up to,” she said.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

India's new government to speed fighter jet deal

India will soon hold field trials for the purchase of 126 fighter planes in a $10.4 billion contract that is one of the world's biggest current arms deals. Boeing's (BA.N) F/A-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin Corp's (LMT.N) F-16, Russia's MiG-35, Sweden's Saab (SAABb.ST) KAS-39 Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon, a consortium of British, German, Italian and Spanish companies, are in the race for the lucrative contract. France's Dassault Aviation was knocked out last month on technical grounds, but could be back after answering queries related to its aircraft, a defence official said. "All the paperwork is over and a technical evaluation report on the fighters has been placed with the ministry," defence ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar said. "Security concerns are a top priority of the government and things should start rolling once the new defence minister takes charge," he added. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was due to be sworn in for a second term on Friday and name the new defence minister in his cabinet. With a stronger mandate, Singh is expected to push through key decisions including greater military cooperation with the United States which had been stymied because of opposition from his former communist allies. "Much of the Congress-led government's last term was spent on the civilian nuclear deal with the U.S. while its communist allies objected to strategic defence ties," said Uday Bhaskar, a New Delhi-based strategic analyst. India increased its defence spending by nearly a quarter in 2009/10 to $28.9 billion as the government was keen to focus on security following last November's Mumbai attacks. It is looking to spend more than $30 billion over the next five years to modernise its largely Soviet-era weapons systems. With elections over, the defence ministry will push for clearing pending projects, including the induction of the Phalcon Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) aircraft from Israel to track incoming missiles or enemy aircraft. A defence team from India will visit Russia next month to speed up delivery of the aircraft carrier Gorshkov for induction into the Indian Navy by 2012. (Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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