Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Turkey's Tusas says to modernise Pakistan's F-16s

Turkish defence company Tusas said on Monday it would modernise 42 of Pakistan's F-16 jet fleet in a deal it said would be worth around $75 million. The project will begin in Oct 2010 in Tusas facilities and will take 46 months, the company said in a written statement. Tusas has modernised Jordan's F-16 fighters in a deal signed in 2006. NATO member Turkey and Pakistan have close military and strategic ties. Tusas signed a $500 million agreement with Airbus (EAD.PA) to produce parts for A350 planes.

Afghan Air Corps Returns Mi-35 Helicopters to Flight

After an absence of nearly a decade, the Afghan Mi-35 is again flying the skies of Afghanistan, thanks to pilots from the Afghan National Army Air Corps and the Czech Republic, military officials here said. On May 27, Afghan Mi-35 attack helicopters fired 12.7 mm rounds and 57 mm rockets near Bagram Air Base. Each partnered Afghan and Czech Republic crew fired 200 rounds of ball ammunition and 16 rockets while practicing gunnery on the East River Range Complex. The practice session was the culmination of more than a year’s work to rebuild the Mi-35 program, which gives the Afghan National Army dedicated, armed aircraft for the first time in eight years. The seven-hour training was supported by personnel and equipment from the ANAAC, the Czech Republic Operational Mentor and Liaison Team, Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan mentors and personnel from Task Force Thunder at Bagram Air Base. After the completion of the live-fire training, the lead pilot from the Czech team, Major Juracka, commented, “The Afghan shooting was perfect.” The Czech team began ground training and limited flight training for Afghan Mi-35 crewmembers last summer. In January, Afghan Mi-35 training increased greatly with the arrival of six refurbished helicopters. Since then, the Czech team has completed assessments on nine pilots and added a more aggressive training program. To date, the Afghan pilots have received training on pre-mission planning, contact maneuvers, emergency procedures, navigation, and presidential escort operations. After the completion of their gunnery tables, the Afghan pilots will receive training on pre-planned and close air support combat missions. Future Mi-35 initiatives will put even more emphasis on independent Afghan training operations. The Afghan air corps is building its own arming points and is working on an initiative to complete all its Mi-35 live-fire training at Afghan facilities, while the Kabul Military Training Center is developing standardized Mi-35 live-fire training procedures. The air corps also is researching live-fire training locations throughout Afghanistan to better integrate the Mi-35 with the army. All of the efforts are aimed at decreasing the time for an Mi-35 training flight from seven to three hours, effectively doubling the amount of live-fire sorties that can be accomplished in a day. The Mi-35’s combat radius permits it to conduct combat operations anywhere in the country. The aircraft’s unique design allows it to be used in attack, air assault or medical evacuation roles. It can be configured with a 12.7 mm Gatling type machine gun, 57 mm rocket pods, and the AT-6 Spiral Anti-tank guided missile. The helicopters typically fly with 1,470 rounds of ball ammunition, 128 rockets and two anti-tank missiles. “The new capability is good for the Afghan National Army and for the country of Afghanistan,” Afghan Maj. Gen. Dawran, the air corps commander, said.

Thailand to delay retirement of F-5 fleet

Thailand's air force will delay the retirement of its Northrop F-5 fleet after confirming that a plan to buy additional Saab Gripen fighters is off the table indefinitely.Bangkok signed a deal with the Swedish company in 2008 and planned a follow-up order in 2010, with each contract including six Gripen fighters and one Saab 340-based airborne early warning aircraft.However, the second deal is on hold after the Thai government cut its defence budget for the current fiscal year to 151 billion baht ($4.43 billion) from 171 billion baht. The military has taken the biggest hit as the country finds ways to fund an economic stimulus package.As a result, the Royal Thai Air Force's older F-5E/Fs, which have been operational for several decades, will continue to be in service until the middle of the next decade, say industry sources. These will operate together with the first six Gripens until the country goes ahead with a follow-up order, they add.Saab Gripen with with Iris-T, Meteor and GBU10"The air force had wanted to retire the older F-5s in 2013, when it planned to have an operational squadron of 12 Gripens. But now, they will continue to operate the F-5s as there is still no indication on when the budget for the Gripens will be back on the table. There is also no news on whether it needs to upgrade the F-5s, but that may be necessary at some point," says one source.Apart from the older F-5s, which are believed to number around 12, the service also has around 15 F-5T Tigers that were upgraded by Israel's Elbit earlier this decade and 60 upgraded Lockheed Martin F-16A/Bs in its inventory.Saab has begun manufacturing the Thai Gripens and Bangkok hopes to induct its first three aircraft by end-2010 and put them into service by January 2011. The remaining three should be in service by April 2011, says the air force. The service has chosen 10 pilots to train in Sweden, and investing 700 million baht to build new hangars and other facilities for the aircraft.Thailand's armed forces also have requirements for new search and rescue, utility, and attack helicopters. However, these procurements have also been postponed due to the budget cuts. Earlier this year, the air force ordered a third Embraer ERJ-135 regional jet for VIP transport and medical evacuation missions.

Iraq Receives upgraded Mi-17 helicopters

The Iraqi air force has accepted back into service the first upgraded Mi-17 helicopters after the completed an upgrade program to modernize the missile warning and internal communications subsystems.The Mi-17s currently are the backbone of the Iraqi air force’s rotorcraft force.One of the problems with the old internal communications system has been that it could not handle multiple voices, so coordinating among crew members during critical phases of operations, including landing, was effectively not possible. The enhancement aims to cure that shortfall.Also, the Mi-17s are being fitted with the EADS-built AAR-60 missile warning system. Besides the improved sensor, the aircraft’s also getting better ability to deploy countermeasures automatically, thus reducing response time. The countermeasures system dispenses M206 flares.“The new ICS system will improve greatly coordination inside the aircraft between pilots and the rest of the crew, while the improved flare system will protect the aircraft against enemy threats,” Iraqi air force Lt. Col. Jasem Mohammed says in an announcement about the completion of the first helicopter. Mohammed is instructor pilot at the 15th squadron, which supports Iraqi special operations forces. The upgrade is being performed in Jordan at Marka International Airport under a $14 million contract that will last about a year and lead to the upgrade of 10 rotorcraft, says the U.S.-led Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq. Arinc, through which the helicopters were acquired by the Iraqi military, is involved in the program.U.S. Army officials have defended the Arinc sale, which ran a year behind schedule and over-budget, arguing that the urgency of the requirement and the uniqueness of buying Russian equipment necessitated going with Arinc as a sole source. Arinc, despite its lack of experience buying Mi-17s, was selected as the contractor because the company was already in Iraq performing maintenance work on the nascent Iraqi air force’s skeleton fleet, which included older Mi-17s and Bell helicopters, Aviation Week’s Defense Technology International reported in its June edition.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

First Pakistan made JF-17 to fly by end of 2009: PAF Air Chief

Pictures are Courtesy BaburMissile, Saeed Khan & APP

Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman said that first Pakistan made JF-17 Thunder aircraft would fly in the country’s airspace by end of this year. He made this announcement while addressing the Graduation Ceremony of No 38 Combat Commanders’ Course which was held at Pakistan Air Force Base, Mushaf (Sargodha). In his address to the graduating Combat Commanders, he said, The JF-17 Thunder programme is on track. “We will start production of this aircraft from 30th of this month and Inshallah 1st Made in Pakistan JF-17 aircraft will fly in Pakistan's airspace by end of this year.” “PAF has extensively flown against the militants in Swat as well as in FATA. Application of airpower has brought about tangible results. This is a new type of warfare in which PAF has been participating for the first time during the last one year or so in support of Pakistan Army. We will continue our contribution towards our national security effort as long as it is required.” Referring to the challenges confronted the nation, he said ‘the challenges, both internal and external, that confront us today and our responses to these have to be viewed in the broader perspective of the changes that are shaping the geopolitical landscape of the world. Apart from the traditional hostile adversary, new frontiers of conflict have lately emerged for us in the West and from within. These developments pose a great deal of threat to our national security.” The Chief Guest awarded certificates and trophies to the graduating officers who underwent a strenuous and professionally demanding course. The Chief of the Air Staff Trophy for the best Combat Commander was awarded to Squadron Leader Haider Shahbaz Ali while Air Officer Commanding Air Defence Command Trophy for best Combat Controller was awarded to Squadron Leader Saquib Rehman. Earlier on his arrival, the Chief Guest was received by Air Commodore M Ashfaque Arain, Base Commander PAF Base, Mushaf. The ceremony was attended by Principal Staff Officers and field commanders of Pakistan Air Force.


Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman inaugurated the final assembly work in a ceremony at Kamra. Top military and civilian officials of Pakistan and China attended, senior officers of Chinese company CATIC attended the ceremony. "The project was near to end in 1999 due to sanction imposed on Pakistan after the nuclear tests but in 2001 it was reviewed. The agreement in this respect could not be signed in 2007-08 due to unavailability of funds but Government of China arranged loans on soft installment and the role of CATIC Company in this respect is laudable", Qamar said. The project is supported by China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation for the Chinese side. Each individual aircraft is expected to have a fly-away cost of around US$8-15 million. On 22 January 2008, Pakistan started limited serial production of the aircraft at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, Kamra but on Tuesday full-fledged production of JF-17 has been started in PAC after completing testing and avionics evaluation. The JF-17 will replace Pakistan’s MiG-21-derived Chengdu F-7, Nanchang A-5 and Dassault Mirage III/Mirage V aircraft currently in service. JF-17 can be armed with up to 3,629 kg (8,000 lb) of air-to-air and air-to-ground ordnance, as well as other equipment. Pakistan, Rao Qamar said, we have eight JF-17 thunders and soon PAF would complete its squadron of JF-17 jets. The project has two aims one is to ensure national security and second is to strengthen Pakistan Aviation Industry, he said. We would also sell JF-17 thunders to other countries, he said while lauding the role of China in development of PAF. He hoped that the technician of PAF would come out to the expectation of nation by introducing the new technology. No comprise would be made on country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Rao Qamar said. Speaking at the occasion, Vice President CATIC Lei Pay said today is a historic day because dream is going to materialize. At end of this year, assembling and flying testing of 6 JF-17 thunders would be completed, he said. We are facing several challenges but the Chinese Government would continue to collaborate with Pakistan, he said. The project would boost the Sino-Pak friendship, he said. Addressing the ceremony, Chairman PAC Air Marshal Farhat Hussain said total 40 JF-17 thunders would be prepared in Kamra. 12 JF-17 thunders would be prepared by 2010, 15 to 20 by 2011 and after 2010 all the JF-17 would be prepared in Pakistan, he said. 85 percent work with regard to purchase of weapons and parts of JF-17 thunders have been completed and we would be able to complete the project at stimulated time", he said.

Friday, June 26, 2009

IAF taking steps to prevent another SU-30MKI crash

The Indian Air Force is initiating steps aimed at preventing another SU-30MKI crash like the one that occurred near Jaisalmer in April during a routine air exercise, killing the co-pilot and destroying a Rs. 200-crore fighter aircraft. Highly placed sources in the Ministry of Defence told The Hindu that a joint probe by Indian and Russian Defence and flight engineers zeroed-in on the causes for the crash and suggested remedial action. While one step will involve better covering of the aircraft when they are parked on the tarmac under to prevent heat soak, the other calls for design change, including wire-locking the switches in the cockpit that control power supply to the aircraft’s flight control computer. The crash of the long range, high endurance SU-30MKI, the Indian Air Force’s most modern and lethal fighter, sent both the IAF and the aircraft designers, Russia’s Sukhoi Design Bureau, into a tizzy given the fighter’s exceptional and unrivalled flight safety record. The crash also forced the IAF to ground its entire Sukhoi fleet temporarily, compromising the country’s airpower. The Court of Inquiry (CoI) that went into the crash found that the pilot, Wing Commander S. V. Munje, inadvertently switched-off the four switches that control the power supply to the computer. Switching-off the power not only cuts off the power supply to the computer, but is also irreversible. Switching them on does not ‘power on’ the all important unit. The aircraft went into a forward bunt, lost control and crashed, killing Wing Commander P. S. Nara, an officer from the IAF’s Directorate of Air Staff Inspection (DASI). During the flight, the aircraft is said to have experienced a technical glitch after a round of firing practice. The pilot, who was also under routine inspection by the DASI, is said to have then tried to switch-off the armament master switches, which are located just behind the pilot’s seat and in close proximity to the switches that control power to the flight control computer. Though the CoI’s conclusion was that the crash occurred due to pilot error, a number of officials are questioning the placing of critical switches that are not to be used during in flight and only for power on when the aircraft is on theground in the cockpit and also, the inadequate in-built safety mechanisms like a wire lock or even a covering flap. Said a former SU-30MKI pilot: “It is unpardonable and a poor design to have such critical switches, which are not to be used by the pilot in such an accessible manner. The Air Force should insist on design changes.” The probe also revealed that the ejection seat’s harness had broken, leading to the death of Wing Commander Nara. The reason for the breaking is being attributed to material failure of the harness due to exposure to the sun. The IAF has taken steps to have the aircraft more adequately covered.

MIG-29N Jetfighters Will Be Sold Off - Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi

The air force's MiG-29N jetfighters will be sold off and replaced with new aircraft, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said.Several companies abroad had expressed interest to buy the aircraft, he said, adding that the ministry would discuss the matter with the Finance Ministry."There are still matters to be considered such as the price," he told reporters after attending an event here to announce the Defence Services Asia (DSA) 2010 exhibition.Malaysia received the delivery of the Russian-made MiG-29N in April 1995.Malaysia had signed the purchase of 18 units the aircraft in June 1994 at the cost of US$380 million while the package which included training and spare parts cost US$1.6 billion.Ahmad Zahid the MiG-29N would be replaced with interceptors with the latest technologies to strengthen the air force's capabilities.He also said that the government was taking steps to replace the armed forces' ageing assets in stages.On foreign newswire reports that a North Korean vessel, suspected of carrying weapons and banned cargoes, was heading towards the Strait of Melaka, Ahmad Zahid said the Malaysian authorities were gathering intelligence on the matter.Reports said that the cargo ship, Kang Nam, carrying the North Korean flag, was chugging towards the Strait of Melaka.The ship was reported to be heading for Thilawa port in Myanmar and said to be carrying low technology weapons but still dangerous compared to other conventional weapons.

Mast mounted sight/radar for WZ-9 Armed Helicopter?

Reporting by Johnathan Weng

Before the service of trouble-annoying WZ-10, WZ-9 armed helicopter is still playing the key role of “Air anti-tank Strike” and “Close Air Support” in PLA Army. This WZ-9 helicopter has been installed with a electronic/optical sensor pod on the rotor hub. It is unclear that this pod is for Fire Control or battlefield Reconnaissance.

Japan Could Be Offered $290 Million F-22

A letter from Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to Japan's ambassador in Washington lists an estimated average unit cost of $290 million per aircraft for a theoretical export sale of 40 F-22 Raptors.Both Inouye and Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, and other lawmakers in both chambers are pushing both in public and behind the scenes to allow export of the stealthy, fifth-generation fighter.But a White House veto threat and persistent opposition from Pentagon leadership - as well as tenuous congressional support - are ratcheting up budget-making tension in Washington. Moreover, the Senate Armed Services Committee - with its leadership backing the President and defense secretary over the F-22 - marked up a bill this week that will lead to a lawmaking showdown with the House.Inouye's letter to Ichiro Fujisake, Japan's Ambassador to Washington, starts with the assumption of a letter of agreement in early 2010, with major development taking "approximately four years, followed by ground and flight testing." Procurement of long-lead materials would begin in 2011 with production to begin in mid-2014, The first mission capable aircraft could be delivered to Japan in 2017."The estimate for non-recurring development and manufacturing cost is $2.3 billion," the letter continues. "The actual cost to produce forty aircraft is approximately $9.3 billion, bringing the total to $11.6 billion. Spreading that cost over an estimated forty aircraft leads to an average aircraft cost of $290 million."An associated letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the figures were calculated using "information which was provided by the Air Force," Inouye's second letter says. "I believe the government of Japan is likely to be interested in purchasing the aircraft even at the relatively high price which has been estimated."Congressional support for the F-22 is creating a lot of political tension, but aerospace industry analysts say it's all just rhetoric unless someone in the executive branch -- preferably from the White House -- steps up to support extended Raptor production and export.The Pentagon is paying $142.5 million per aircraft as part of a multi-year contract. Aerospace industry analysts say that any break in F-22 production would add extra costs.Meanwhile, the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) was drawing a number of lines in the sand marking disagreements with the House passage of the Fiscal 2010 defense authorization bill.A Statement of Administration Policy issued late June 23 contends that the White House Office of Management and Budget will recommend a veto of the proposed legislation if it includes $369 million in advanced procurement funds for F-22s in FY '11 or the addition of $603 million for an alternative engine program for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter."This is nothing unusual," an industry analyst says. "It happens every time" there is new defense legislation.There were other points of contention without the veto threat attached:* Restrictions on the Missile Defense Agency limiting U.S. engagements with NATO and European allies regarding missile defense.* The need to add proposals to build the capacity of partner nation special and conventional forces in order to improve and increase coalition participation in Afghanistan and Iraq.* Requirements to maintain the strategic airlift fleet at 316 aircraft and restrictions on retiring C-5s.* Restrictions on the Futenma Replacement Facility in Okinawa that would broach agreements reached with Japan and put the international agreement on the facility at risk.* Restrictions on accelerated aircraft retirement by the U.S. Air Force.* A reduction of $163 million in funding for the Army's Extended Range Multi-Purpose unmanned aircraft which would result in a 50 percent cut in systems planned for FY '10.

Countries Big and Small Set Out to Make Their Own Pilotless Aircraft

By Stew Magnuson

A stroll down the aisles of the IDEX defense exhibition here confirmed that the unmanned aerial vehicle market is growing. Turkey, Switzerland, Pakistan, South Africa, Jordan, Italy and Austria were just a handful of the countries that were selling the technology and actively trying to market it to foreign or domestic customers.In a booth outside the main hall, students from Abu Dhabi University displayed a UAV they built as a classroom project.Analysts say the U.S. military’s success using the technology in recent years is driving more countries to either obtain or build their own aerial drones. U.S. and Israeli manufacturers still have the most advanced systems, but there is plenty of emerging competition out there.“Almost everybody and his brother is making UAVs. Whether or not they’re going to sell them to anybody is the question,” said unmanned vehicles analyst Larry Dickerson of Forecast International.The U.S. military’s interest in the technology dates back to at least the 1970s, but hobbyists have been operating radio controlled airplanes long before that. Now, it’s just a matter of attaching a small, lightweight digital video camera to one of these easily obtained toys. Of course, police and militaries want better systems than those invented in hobbyists’ garages.Burt van Staade, business development manager for UAV systems at South Africa’s Denel Dynamics, provided a case study of how the technology is proliferating and steadily improving.The South African military bought an unmanned system from a foreign manufacturer about 25 years ago, he said. He declined to name the country, although analysts told National Defense it came from Israel.The purpose of the purchase was to see how it worked, so the military could embark on its own program. The result was the Seeker UAV Surveillance system. Next came the Seeker II, a digital system with a 250 kilometer range, 10 hours of endurance, plus day and night reconnaissance ability from altitudes of up to 18,000 feet.Denel Dynamics then began marketing the Seeker II to overseas customers. It has sold seven systems to four different nations, although not to the South African military, Van Staade said.Each system has four aircraft, but some have crashed due to operator errors, so Denel has sold some replacement UAVs as well. He declined to reveal the customers or the price tag for the system.Despite the failure to sell the Seeker II to the South African military, the company has continued with development of a third-generation aircraft, the Seeker 400, Van Staade said. It will be able to carry two payloads instead of one, fly for 16 hours and will have a 10-meter wing span — three meters longer than its predecessor.“We are right on top compared to other manufacturers as far as the reliability of the system … On the Seeker 400, we can only do better,” he said. Testing continues this year on the new version.There will be more potential customers for UAV manufacturers such as Denel during the coming decade, according to market analysts.The Teal Group in a February report predicted that the worldwide market for unmanned aircraft will total more than $62 billion during the next 10 years.The U.S military is driving the demand and serving as a catalyst. Despite the myriad international companies vying for this business, the United States will invest 72 percent of the worldwide spending on research, development, training and evaluation for the systems. It will also account for 61 percent of the procurement, the report said.The group’s World Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems, Market Profile and Forecast 2009, said the demand for battlefield intelligence is key to this growth. The emergence of hunt-and-kill drones –- ones that are armed with missiles — may also fuel sales.Philip Finnegan, who authored the manufacturers’ overview of the Teal Group study, said small, tactical UAVs are seen as a relatively easy way for small companies to enter the aviation market.“A lot of countries see the future of aerospace as being UAVs, so the aspiration is to make their own,” he said.These new competitors in the small UAV market have role models in the U.S. industry. AeroVironment, maker of the 4.2–pound Raven, and Insitu Inc., which produces the ScanEagle, are two examples. Now, defense industry giants are buying up these smaller companies. Boeing purchased Insitu and Textron Systems bought AAI Corp., manufacturer of the Army’s Shadow. Rockwell Collins snapped up UAV guidance control and navigation system developer Athena Technologies.------- At the IDEX show, Asad Kamal, head of marketing for Pakistan’s Integrated Defense Systems (IDS), said his nation would like to crack this market as well. He showed two scale models of small UAVs vying to be selected by the Pakistan military as the nation’s primary surveillance and reconnaissance drones.The IDS HUMA-1 model weighs 270 pounds, has a 44-pound payload capacity and a range of 160 miles. It is launched with a rocket booster and lands using a parachute. It features GPS based auto piloting with a automatic “return home” mode in case the satellite link is lost.Pakistani rival Xpert Engineering offers the UQAB-PI tactical UAV that weighs 286 pounds, travels 160 miles and carries a 22-pound payload. It makes runway landings and also has GPS navigation.The Pakistan military will evaluate the two systems this year and select one. Afterwards, the winner will attempt to enter the international market, Kamal said.Pakistani manufacturers will have to compete with European UAV makers such as Switzerland’s Innosuisse Corp., which is marketing the NT 150 tactical UAV made from the same composite material Formula One racecar manufacturers use. The only difference is that the aircraft’s composite airframe is five times stronger, said Hans-Christian Stuber, chairman of Innosuisse Corp.“Even if it crashes, nothing will break,” he said. The lightweight material gives it six to eight hours of endurance while carrying an 88-pound payload. In addition, it features an optional “virtual cockpit” — a helmet mounted view screen in which the pilot can see what the UAV sees.“There is tremendous interest in this because it makes life much easier for the people who have to control the aircraft,” he said.Finnegan said there is hope for these small players because it’s a new technology that is produced in relatively small quantities. “It is a field where smaller manufacturers have a shot.” They can be flexible, innovative and they have lower overhead, he added. -------South Korea, Singapore and China — countries that have strong track records of exporting technology — will be the nations with an edge when it comes to this growing market, he said.A dark horse is Japan. The nation is a robotics powerhouse, but is not an arms exporter due to a pacifist ideology that dates back to the post-World War II years. Japanese-made UAVs have mostly been designed for agricultural use.There is now serious discussion in the country about dropping some of these restrictions. If that were to happen, Japan could emerge as a force in the military UAV market, Finnegan said.While unmanned aerial systems still don’t rival manned aircraft in terms of profits, the big defense contractors recognize that no matter which direction the U.S. military budget goes, there will be an increasing demand for UAVs, Finnegan said.Forecast International predicted the worldwide market for reconnaissance and surveillance UAVs through 2017 will total $17 billion. The United States, Europe and Israel will account for about 80 percent of the market share, Dickerson said.As for the smaller upstarts, about 90 percent of their programs will end up in the hands of domestic customers. Just because it’s relatively easy to build the aircraft, doesn’t mean they can compete with well established manufacturers, Dickerson said.“I can make one in my backyard if I wanted to. I found a small enough camera to fit on one of my son’s remote controlled airplanes. And I can hook it up with a Wi-Fi network and fly it around my neighborhood,” Dickerson said.Such small, rudimentary UAVs may be easy to build, but military or police may want something more sophisticated. Do they need anti-jamming capability? Secure communications? How high of a resolution is needed for the cameras?“The air vehicle is not the hard part. The electronics and integrating them is the hard part.” It’s the sophisticated electronics where they have a hard time competing, Dickerson said.Finnegan said the benefit of flying a UAV is the cameras and sensors on board that give commanders battlefield situational awareness. Payloads small enough to fit on tactical UAVs are extremely hard to develop. The newcomers to the field will still have to purchase these subsystems from sophisticated manufacturers. The Teal Group forecasts a $5 billion per year market in UAV payloads by 2018. It’s currently about $2 billion per year.Dickerson said Singapore is one country that may have the technological ability and the money to build complex aerial drones. The United Arab Emirates has also been pursuing its own systems.The wealthy nation has the funds to build the aircraft, he noted, but it has limited domestic applications for them. Wealthy investors there could throw money at the project and build high-tech aircraft, but will they be able to find overseas customers to support the industry?Manufacturers such as Denel Dynamics, the maker of the South African Seeker series, needed Israeli technology to get off the ground, Dickerson noted. But the Seeker II now has a “pretty good” level of sophistication, he added.“The South Africans have the technological capability to build UAVs, they just don’t have a lot of money. That’s why they are looking for international customers and partners,” Dickerson said. “It makes it tough because they are competing with some really big companies with lots and lots of money.”The market will also depend on the size of the UAV.The upstarts may fare better with small UAVs similar in size to the Army’s Ravens rather than medium-altitude, long-endurance aircraft such as the U.S. Air Force’s Predator.The Sri Lankans built a rudimentary drone based on model airplanes to peer down at the Tamil Tigers. That might be good enough for their purposes, Dickerson said. Irregular forces such as the Tigers or the Taliban in Pakistan probably don’t have electronic warfare capability to jam signals.In addition, medium and large UAVs are normally controlled by satellite links. That’s going to be beyond the means of these smaller programs, Dickerson said.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chinese ASBM Development: Knowns and Unknowns

China wants to achieve the ability, or at minimum the appearance of the ability, to prevent a U.S. carrier strike group (CSG) from intervening in the event of a future Taiwan Strait crisis. China may be closer than ever to achieving this capability with land-based anti-ship homing ballistic missiles. There have been many Western reports that China is developing an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM). Increasingly, technical and operationally-focused discussions are found in a widening array of Chinese sources, some authoritative. These factors suggest that China may be close to fielding, testing, or employing an ASBM—a weapon that no other country possesses. According to U.S. Government sources, Beijing is pursuing an ASBM based on its CSS-5/DF-21D solid propellant medium-range ballistic missile. The CSS-5’s 1,500 km+ range could hold ships at risk in a large maritime area—far beyond the Taiwan theatre into the Western Pacific [1]. Yet there remain considerable unknowns about China's ASBM capability, which could profoundly affect U.S. deterrence, military operations and the balance of power in the Western Pacific.

Taiwan as the Catalyst

For the past several decades, the U.S. Navy has used aircraft carriers to project power around the world, including in and around the Taiwan Strait. The deployment of the USS Nimitz and Independence carrier battle groups in response to China’s 1995-1996 missile tests and military exercises in the Taiwan Strait was a move that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) could not counter. The impetus behind Chinese efforts to develop ASBMs may be to prevent similar U.S. carrier operations in the future.

Keystone of ‘Anti-Access’ Strategy?

If fielded, the ASBM would be just one of the many new platforms and weapons systems that China has been buying and building since the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis. These systems, collectively, will allow China to assert unprecedented control over its contested maritime periphery, in part by attempting to deny U.S. forces ‘access’ to critical areas in times of crisis or conflict. They do so by matching Chinese strengths with U.S. weaknesses, thereby placing U.S. platforms on the ‘wrong end of physics.’ An ASBM, however, stands above the quiet submarines, lethal anti-ship cruise missiles, and copious sea mines that China has been adding to its arsenal in its potential strategic impact on regional allies of the United States and U.S. interests in maintaining regional peace and security. Firstly, the development of an ASBM would draw on over half a century of Chinese experience with ballistic missiles. Secondly, it would be fired from mobile, highly concealable land-based platforms. Thirdly, it would have the range to strike targets hundreds of kilometers from China’s shores. These factors suggest that China is likely to succeed in achieving a capability that is extremely difficult to counter and could impose ‘access denial’ in strategically vital sea areas well beyond its 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

U.S. Technological Influence?

The United States does not have an ASBM. It did have a distantly related capability, in the form of the Pershing II ground-to-ground theater-ballistic missile, but Washington relinquished this capability when it ratified the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Moscow in 1988. Interestingly, some Chinese sources state that previous advances in the now-abandoned Pershing II program inspired Chinese research and development relevant to an ASBM [2]. The Pershing II has adjustable second stage control fins for terminal maneuver. U.S. Government sources, and many Chinese sources, state that a Chinese ASBM would be based on the CSS-5. While positively identified photos of a CSS-5 outside its launch canister are not known to exist, at least one version of China’s related CSS-6/DF-15 missile has a reentry vehicle virtually identical in appearance to the Pershing II’s [3]. Based on this strong visual resemblance, it is possible that the CSS-6 employs terminal maneuvering technology similar to that of the Pershing II, and it is reasonable to assume that the CSS-5 does too. This is because the reentry vehicle that China obviously has could easily be mated with the CSS-5 booster, which might then produce an effective ASBM, assuming that its radar has the ability to track moving targets at sea.

Making an ASBM Work

Chinese schematic diagrams show an ASBM flight trajectory with mid-course and terminal guidance [4]. Second stage control fins would be critical to steering the ASBM through terminal maneuvers to evade countermeasures and home in on a moving target. This makes an ASBM different from most ballistic missiles, which have a fixed trajectory. Yet how do Chinese experts envision the “kill chain”—the sequence of events that must occur for a missile to successfully engage and destroy or disable its target (e.g. an aircraft carrier)—beyond the five steps that they commonly list: 1) detection, 2) tracking, 3) penetration of target defenses, 4) hitting a moving target, and 5) causing sufficient damage? A single broken link would render an attack incomplete, and hence ineffective. What would work based on what is known about China's capabilities today, and in the future?China has also been working on a sophisticated network of ground-and-space-based sensors, including over-the-horizon (OTH) radars and electronic signals detection equipment, which can assist ASBM detection and targeting [5]. While locating an aircraft carrier has been likened to finding a needle in a haystack, this particular needle has a large radar cross section, emits radio waves, and is surrounded by airplanes. Active radar is the most likely ASBM sensor, since its signals can penetrate through clouds. Simply looking for the biggest reflection will tend to locate the largest ship as a target, and the largest ship will usually be an aircraft carrier (if the pre-launch targeting was good).

And Proving that it is Workable

Critical questions remain with respect to missile sensors, however. Does China have multiple sensors that it is currently capable of applying to ASBM detection and targeting? Even in the absence of relevant space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), is there another way to cue the missile accurately enough so that the possible parameters of where the carrier could move in the missile’s brief flight time can be accounted for within the “window” of its seeker? As for the seeker, how would it work? How would it accomplish target discrimination? Is this a challenging issue? Does it hinge on the large size of a carrier? Could smaller ships also be targeted effectively? What do Chinese experts fear could go wrong, and perhaps even render an ASBM unusable? Missile defense? Other things? Considerable Chinese research on irregular (“wavy”) ASBM/ballistic missile trajectories and penetration aids (PENAIDS) to defeat missile defense suggests that this is an area of ongoing concern.With respect to testing, what would be the bare minimum necessary to make the PLA feel that it had some rudimentary operational capability—and hence, perhaps, some deterrence ability? Are there any testing/targeting plans? Demonstration plans? What is the target audience (domestic/foreign public vs. PLA/foreign military’s eyes only)? The U.S./Taiwan/Japanese military, public, or all of the above?

The Service in Charge

The Second Artillery, China’s strategic rocket force, already responsible for China’s land-based nuclear and conventional missiles (the latter since 1993), would likely control any ASBMs that China develops. Relatively small, technologically-focused and extremely secretive, the service is ideally suited to such a mission. It has been studying the ASBM issue for some time, having published what appears to be a conceptual feasibility study in 2003, and a major doctrinal publication the following year [6].This still leaves critical questions of joint operations, and bureaucratic coordination, however. How are sensors prioritized and coordinated? Which organization(s) control which sensors (e.g. OTH radar), and how are they used? Is there a risk of seams between services (e.g. Second Artillery, Navy, etc.)? What about problems with bureaucratic “stovepipes,” particularly during general wartime crisis management? How to overlap areas of “uncertainty” from different sensors, and thereby accomplish data/sensor fusion? How to accomplish bureaucratic “data fusion”—a task beyond even the most competent engineers? Finally, which authorities would need to be in the decision-making loop, and what are the time-to-launch implications?

Doctrinal Guidance

How does the second artillery conceive of using ASBMs in operational scenarios? The service’s authoritative high-level handbook, Science of Second Artillery Campaigns, describes in some detail the use of ASBMs against carriers. It in no way suggests that such an approach is merely aspirational or beset with insurmountable technical difficulties. In fact, in introducing the section describing their potential employment, it states that “conventional missile strike groups” should be used as an “assassin’s mace” (silver bullet), a term commonly used to describe weapons that match Chinese strengths against an enemy’s weaknesses.According to its handbook, the Second Artillery is thinking seriously about at least five ways to use ASBMs against U.S. CSGs, at least at the conceptual level:
  1. “Firepower harassment [strikes]” (huoli xirao) involve hitting carrier strike groups.

  2. “Frontal firepower deterrence” (qianfang huoli shezu) involves firing intimidation salvos in front of a carrier strike group “to serve as a warning.”

  3. “Flank firepower expulsion” (yice huoli qugan) combines interception of a carrier strike group by Chinese naval forces with intimidation salvos designed to direct it away from the areas where China feels most threatened.

  4. “Concentrated fire assault” (jihuo tuji) involves striking the enemy’s core carrier as with a ‘heavy hammer.’• “Information assault” (xinxi gongji) entails attacking the carrier strike group’s command and control system electromagnetically to disable it [7].
All this does not mean that China necessarily has an ASBM capability already, but it strongly suggests that related research and development has high-level approval from China’s military and civilian leadership.

Concept of Operations?

The above document offers general insights into the Second Artillery’s conception of conventional deterrence. It adds that the Second Artillery will work with the PLAN to “execute focused naval blockades” and “achieve command of the seas.” Approaching enemy CSGs are envisioned to be the principal maritime targets, but “large vessels or large ship formations” more broadly are mentioned as well. Coordination and precision are seen as essential for “deterring and blocking enemy carrier strike groups”; such “operational activities need to be coordinated without the slightest difference in time.” Coordination with the PLAN is also emphasized in the location of sea targets, as well as with regard to the notification and demarcation of blockade areas: “the naval intelligence department should 'relay promptly' the information obtained by its reconnaissance about enemy ship activities to the Second Artillery campaign large formation.” In particular, “information regarding carrier battle groups … should be gathered on a real time basis.” Potential sources of “real-time target intelligence” include “military reconnaissance satellites, domestic and foreign remote sensing satellites, and established satellite reconnaissance target image information processing systems.”

Still, this leaves critical questions unanswered concerning how the PLA might envision the basing location, number, employment, and strategic effects of any ASBMs:

• Base of operations. Where would the ASBMs themselves be based? What would be the expected range from the target?

• Nature of arsenal. What would be the relative size of the ASBM inventory? Size might have implications for operational possibilities and willingness to expend ASBMs in conflict.

• Concept of operations. It is one thing to call for ASBM capabilities, but how would they be realized in practice? What would an ASBM firing doctrine look like, and what would be the objective? Target destruction or mission kill (the equivalent of ‘slashing the tires’ on carrier aircraft)? What to shoot at, and when? Would the PLA fire on a carrier if it knew the planes were off of it? Would it rely on a first strike? Would the PLA plan to fire one ASBM, several, or a large salvo? If a salvo, then some combination of saturation (many shots in the same space, to overload missile defense), precision (firing many shots in a pattern to compensate for locating error on the target and to get the CSG in the seeker window of at least one of the missiles), or both? What type of warhead: unitary, EMP, or sub-munitions? How might salvo attacks, or multi-axis attack coordination, be envisioned? Do Chinese planners think that the Second Artillery could handle the mission by itself, or would it be part of a high-low, time-on-target attack with both ASBMs and cruise missiles?

• Concept of deterrence. Deterrence would seem to be a clear purpose of any ASBM development, but what does one have to show to deter? PLA doctrinal publications mention firing ‘warning shots’ in front of carriers—how does the Second Artillery think the United States would respond? How would the United States know it was a warning shot and not just a miss? What if the United States did know and called China’s bluff? Finally, from a technical perspective, how to actually fire a warning shot and miss by an intentional margin (versus having the seeker home in on the actual target)?

From Chinese sources, it can be inferred that Chinese leaders seek not to attack the United States, but to deter it. They want to defend what they perceive to be their state’s core territorial interests and to ensure a stable environment for domestic economic development. If they develop an ASBM, they would likely hope that it could prevent U.S. projection of military power in ways that are inimical to China’s security interests, which appear to be expanding beyond the First Island Chain. Yet the strength of Chinese equities, combined with vital U.S. interests in East Asia, make ASBM development for this purpose a complex and risky proposition. Should Beijing pursue such a course to its logical conclusion—a demonstrated ASBM capability—only robust strategic dialogue could hope to alleviate the substantial tensions that are certain to ensue. Until Beijing is willing to discuss in detail its progress and intentions in this area, however, it will be essential to search for answers to the questions outlined above—not just for a select group of government bureaucrats and the leaders they advise, but also for the publics in Taiwan, Japan, and the United States, who fund military development and who must ultimately live with its consequences. Regional peace and stability, and mutual strategic trust, demand no less.

Notes1. Office of the Secretary of Defense, Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2009, Annual Report to Congress, pp. 21, 48.

2. Qiu Zhenwei, “A Discussion of China’s Development of an Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile,”; “Special Dispatch: ‘Aces’ in ‘Dongfeng’ Family—Miniaturization, Solidification, and Mobility,” Ta Kung Pao, 2 October 1999, p. A11, OSC FTS19991114000862.

3. See This could be a case of covergent evolution; it is possible that the RVs look alike because they solve similar problems.

4. Tan Shoulin and Zhang Daqiao, Second Artillery Engineering College, Diao Guoxiu, PLA Unit 96311, Huaihua; “Determination and Evaluation of Effective Range for Terminal Guidance for a Ballistic Missile Attacking an Aircraft Carrier,” Command Control & Simulation, Vol. 28, No. 4 (August 2006), p. 6.

5. Office of the Secretary of Defense, Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2009, Annual Report to Congress, pp. 21, 48; Sean O’Connor, “OTH Radar and the ASBM Threat,” Information Dissemination,

6. Huang Hongfu, “Conception of Using Conventional Ballistic Missiles to Strike Aircraft Carrier Formation,” Scientific and Technological Research, Scientific and Technological Committee of the Second Artillery Corps, 2003, No. 1, pp. 6-8; Yu Jixun, chief editor, People’s Liberation Army Second Artillery Corps, The Science of Second Artillery Campaigns (Beijing: PLA Press, 2004).7. Yu Jixun, chief editor, People’s Liberation Army Second Artillery Corps, The Science of Second Artillery Campaigns (Beijing: PLA Press, 2004), pp. 401-402.

Iran Air Force wraps up Persian Gulf drill

Iran's Air Force has successfully conducted the final phase of a large aerial maneuver over the Persian Gulf. "At the final stage of the aerial maneuver, dubbed Milad-Noor-Velayat, on Wednesday, fighters of the Iranian Air Force successfully hit predetermined targets to test new domestically-made armaments," Air Force pilot Brigadier Hossein Chit-Foroush, spokesman for the maneuver, told reporters. He added that the maneuver was conducted mainly to convey Iran's message of peace to the region and its readiness to encounter any possible threats and to develop the skill of the Air Force personnel in loading planes. Reconnaissance aircraft were also used to track dummy targets and to signal F-14 to assume an interceptor role, he added. In the second stage of drill on Tuesday, Iran tested homemade fighter jets as well as interceptor aircrafts. “With regard to long-distance flights of around 3,600 km, we successfully conducted aerial refueling from tanker to fighter jet and from fighter jet to fighter jet,” Chit-Foroush said Tuesday. The first day of the aerial maneuver was successfully performed on Monday with jets flying in Iranian airspace over the Persian Gulf and the adjoining Sea of Oman. The aerial maneuver was branded as strictly a "defensive exercise".

Israel, US bridge gaps over fighter jet

A deal is close to completion for the purchase of the F-35 stealth fighter jet after the Defense Ministry and the Pentagon recently reached understandings on a number of IAF demands to integrate Israeli technology into the plane. The apparent breakthrough was made following a series of visits to Washington recently by OC Air Force Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan and IAF Equipment and Procurement head Brig.-Gen. Kobi Bortman. Last week, Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with top officials from Lockheed Martin - the F-35 manufacturer - on the sidelines of the Paris Air Show. Also known as the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the F-35 will be one of the most advanced fighter jets in the world and will enable Israel to phase out some of its older F-15 and F-16 models. According to senior IDF officers, the Defense Ministry and Pentagon have reached understandings on most of the major issues at the core of disagreement between the parties. "There is understanding today on the main basic issues," explained one top officer. As first reported in The Jerusalem Post, the IAF demands focused on three issues - the integration of Israeli electronic warfare systems into the plane, the integration of Israeli communication systems, and the ability to independently maintain the plane in the event of a technical or structural problem. According to top officials involved in the deal, the Americans have given their consent and will grant Israel independent maintenance capabilities. One of the US's main concerns regarding the installation of Israeli systems was that it would require configurations to the jet's internal computer system and expose top-secret technology to Israel. In the recent round of talks, however, the Israeli side presented the Americans with a proposal of how to bypass the computer mainframe when installing the systems. The sides have yet to agree on a final price. Israel has argued that due to operational requirements, it needs to have the ability to repair damaged or broken computer systems in "real time" and cannot wait for a computer system to be sent to Europe for repairs in the middle of a war. Negotiations on the integration of Israeli technology began several years ago after Israel paid $20 million to receive the low-level status of a Security Cooperation Participant in the JSF program. Nine countries - including the US, Britain, Turkey and Australia - are full members of the JSF program. If the sides reach a complete understanding, as expected, the IAF plans to issue an official letter of request for the plane in the coming weeks. The letter will be followed by the signing of a contract in 2010. The first stage of the deal will be the purchase of 25 aircraft, which will comprise the first Israeli F-35 squadron. According to Lockheed Martin, if the letter of request is issued this year, delivery of the planes will begin in 2014.

RoKAF chief visits Singapore to promote T-50

By Jung Sung-kiStaff ReporterAir Force Chief of Staff Gen. Lee Kye-hoon arrived Thursday in Singapore, where he will focus on promoting the sale of South Korea's T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer jet.Lee's three-day visit comes as the Southeast Asian nation is scheduled to choose a foreign bidder to provide advanced trainer aircraft to Singapore's air force in the coming months. Singapore has already shortlisted the two aircraft ― the T-50 jointly built by the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Lockheed Martin of the United States, and the M-346 manufactured by Italy's Aermacchi. During the visit, Lee will meet with Maj. Gen. NG Chee Khern, chief of the Singaporean Air Force to promote the T-50's outstanding performances and related training and logistics support programs, the service said in a news release. He will also ask the Singapore air force chief to attend an international aircraft and weapons fair slated for October in Seoul, it said. Before returning home next Wednesday, Lee will visit Germany for talks on bilateral ties, according to the release. In a meeting with Lt. Gen. Klaus Peter Siteglitz, chief of the German air force, Lee will discuss the European country's logistic support and operational skills regarding the Patriot missile interceptor. As part of an effort to build an independent theater missile defense shield, South Korea is receiving 48 second-hand PAC-2 launch modules, radars and missiles from Germany under a $1-billion deal reached in 2007.

Third Airbus A330-200 arrived in Australia for its conversion into a multi role tanker transport (KC-30 Tanker)

Greg Combet, Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science, today announced that the next commercial Airbus A330-200 aircraft has arrived at Brisbane airport for its conversion into a multi role tanker transport (KC-30 Tanker) for use by the Royal Australian Air Force. This aircraft is being acquired under Project Air 5402. Under this project five air to air refuelling aircraft are being purchased from Spanish company EADS CASA (now known as Airbus Military). This involves the conversion of commercial A330-200 Airbus into military air to air refuellers (KC 30 Tankers). “The aircraft which is known as Manufacturer’s Serial Number 969, is the third A330-200 to be delivered from Airbus for this project and will be the second aircraft to be converted to a KC-30 tanker by Qantas in Australia,” said Mr Combet.“This is good news for Brisbane and Qantas. The project also demonstrates the ability of Australian defence industry to engage in complex military aviation projects.” “The ability to refuel aircraft in the air provides the ADF with a stronger capability by allowing a fixed number of aircraft to remain airborne longer, carry more ordnance or fly further than would otherwise be the case. This will help augment our air combat capability by extending the range and endurance of our fighters,” said Mr Combet. “The KC 30 Tanker will also add to our air-lift capability with the capacity to carry 270 troops and significant quantities of stores over significant distances.” “The first (prototype) aircraft, MSN747, has now successfully completed the second sub-phase of developmental flight testing which is devoted to boom free flight data gathering and validation of the KC-30 receiver and tanker flight control laws.”“MSN747 has successfully performed dry contacts as a receiver with the EADS A310 Boom Demonstrator and a French Air Force C-135 tanker. It has completed its first dry contact using the new-generation Cobham 905E hose and drogue refuelling pods with a Spanish Air Force F/A-18 fighter on 28 May 2009.”“The second aircraft, MSN 951, being the first to be converted to a KC-30 tanker by Qantas in Australia, is progressing well and is expected to return to Madrid, Spain later this year for completion of the extensive certification and qualification flight test program.”MSN 951 is currently expected to be the first aircraft to be accepted from Airbus Military, around mid-2010, for entry into RAAF service, as A39?002.

Ex PAF Air Chief asked to appear as witness

By By Usman Manzoor
The National Assembly’s standing committee on defence has convened former air chief Saadat Kaleem as witness to publicly scrutinise the multi-billion dollar defence deals by the Pakistan Air Force. The committee took up the matter when a news item appeared in this newspaper regarding non-scrutinised deals of the PAF worth billion of dollars having procedural violations and compromise on technology. Syed Haider Ali Shah, a member of the committee, told The News that a meeting of the NA Standing Committee on Defence has been convened for June 27 (Saturday) and the former air chief Saadat Kaleem has been asked to attend the meeting as a witness. The former air chief when contacted said that he would not offer any comment to the media. He neither denied nor confirmed whether he had accepted an invitation from the Standing Committee on Defence to appear as witness.However, a committee member told this correspondent that the former air chief had conveyed to the committee that he would appear before it only after getting permission from the chief of the army staff. Saadat Kaleem had accused General (retd) Pervez Musharraf of ruining the PAF’s $1.2 billion Saab surveillance system deal by adding the Chinese technology to the Swedish for possible kickbacks, producing a mismatch. It was reported that the PAF Air Board had been bypassed in quite a few defence deals during the recent years owing to pressures both from within and outside the force. This newspaper reported that before the last major PAF deal worth $1 billion for the first consignment of JF-17 aircraft, an influential Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) pilot having close association with the holder of a high office in Islamabad was seen visiting the top offices at the Air Headquarters in Islamabad. Following these visits towards the end of January 2009, the $1 billion deal on JF-17 moved on a fast track.The same PIA employee interestingly travelled to China, along with President Asif Ali Zardari, in February this year to obtain a one billion dollar loan. According to the report, besides the latest deal, the PAF Air Board was also ignored in quite a few other deals worth $800 million struck with Brazil, South Africa, Russia and Italy in the last few years for purchase of different technologies for the PAF.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

U.S. Tightens Airstrike Policy in Afghanistan

The new American commander in Afghanistan said he would sharply restrict the use of airstrikes here, in an effort to reduce the civilian deaths that he said were undermining the American-led mission.In interviews over the past few days, the commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, said the use of airstrikes during firefights would in most cases be allowed only to prevent American and other coalition troops from being overrun. Even in the cases of active firefights with Taliban forces, he said, airstrikes will be limited if the combat is taking place in populated areas — the very circumstances in which most Afghan civilian deaths have occurred. The restrictions will be especially tight in attacking houses and compounds where insurgents are believed to have taken cover.“Air power contains the seeds of our own destruction if we do not use it responsibly,” General McChrystal told a group of his senior officers during a video conference last week. “We can lose this fight.”“When we shoot into a compound, that should only be for the protection of our forces,” he said. “I want everyone to understand that.”The statements by General McChrystal signaled the latest tightening of the rules for using airstrikes, which, while considered indispensable for protecting troops, have killed hundreds of civilians.They have also angered the Afghan government, which has repeatedly criticized American and NATO forces for not taking enough care with civilian lives.In December, the American commander at the time, Gen. David D. McKiernan, issued guidelines ordering his soldiers to use force that was proportional to the provocation and that minimized the risk of civilian casualties.General McChrystal’s new guidelines follow a deadly episode last month in the Afghan village of Granai, where American airstrikes killed dozens of civilians. The episode highlighted the difficulties facing American officers under fire, as they are forced to balance using lethal force to protect their troops with rules restricting the use of firepower to prevent civilian deaths.The episode, on May 4, began when a large group of Taliban fighters attacked a group of about 200 Afghan soldiers and police officers and American advisers. During the firefight, which began just after noon and carried on into the night, the Americans on the ground called for air support.American fighter jets, and then bombers, came to the scene, dropping a number of 500- and 2,000-pound bombs. The bombs succeeded in ending the attack, but they did much more damage as well.A Pentagon report estimated that at least 26 civilians had been killed in the airstrikes. It concluded that American personnel had made significant errors, including violating procedures, that led to those deaths. Among those errors, the report said, was a failure by the American personnel to discern whether Afghan civilians were in the compound before they attacked.Other credible estimates of civilian deaths in Granai ranged much higher. An investigation by a Kabul-based group, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, said that at least 86 women and children had been killed, and as many as 97 civilians altogether. The Afghan government said 140 civilians had been killed.The Pentagon report did not dispute the conclusions reached by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, and referred to its “balanced, thorough investigation.”The deaths in Granai make up part of the huge rise in civilian casualties that are characterizing the war in Afghanistan.A United Nations report found that the number of Afghan civilians killed in 2008 was 40 percent higher than in 2007. The Taliban and other insurgents caused the majority of the civilian deaths, primarily through suicide bombers and roadside bombs. The changes highlighted by General McChrystal go to the heart of what went wrong in Granai. In that case, there were at least four airstrikes: the first by F-18 fighters and the other three by a B-1B bomber. The report found that it was the last two airstrikes that probably caused the civilian deaths.In those cases, the report found, the bomber’s crew tracked suspected Taliban fighters as they entered a building, and then attacked without determining whether civilians were inside. The report said there were probably civilians inside those buildings when they were destroyed.Under the rules that General McChrystal outlined, those strikes would almost certainly be prohibited. They would be prohibited, the general said, even if it meant letting some Taliban get away.Referring to airstrikes, General McChrystal said, “If it is just to defeat the enemy, then we are not going to do it, even if it means we are going to step away from that firefight and fight another time.” According to the Pentagon report, the B-1B dropped five 500-pound bombs and two 2,000-pound bombs. The initial airstrikes, carried out by four F-18 fighters-bombers, the report said, killed insurgents but no civilians.Ahmad Nader Nadery, the director of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, said Sunday that the American response in Granai was “disproportionate.” And he said he was pleased by the changes outlined by General McChrystal.“We are looking forward to seeing the new guidelines, and actually seeing how they would be translated into practice,” he said.Last September, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates ordered new rules specifically to defuse tensions over Afghan civilian deaths.During a recent visit to Kabul, Mr. Gates said the American military would quickly apologize and offer compensation to survivors in cases of civilian deaths, even in advance of formal investigations to determine exactly what had happened.“I think the key for us is, on those rare occasions when we do make a mistake, when there is an error, to apologize quickly, to compensate the victims quickly, and then carry out the investigation,” Mr. Gates said after a meeting with President Hamid Karzai.

United Arab Emirates Closing in on Rafale

The Rafale fighter could be one step away from securing its first export order, following submittal last week to the French government of final technical requirements for a 6-10 billion euro ($8.3-13.8 billion) 60-aircraft purchase by the United Arab Emirates late last week.Dassault Aviation officials say the document signifies basic agreement on the specifications, permitting the two sides to proceed to negotiation of pricing and financing terms. The French also will have to help find a buyer for the UAE's fleet of 63 Mirage 2000-9 fighters, which the Rafale will replace. Laurent Collet-Billon, head of French armaments agency DGA, says the objective is to sign a contract by year's end. But Dassault Chairman/CEO Charles Edelstenne, mindful of a last-minute loss to the Lockheed Martin F-16 in Morocco in 2008, cautioned "against crying victory before the last whistle blows."The UAE wants an aircraft reflecting the most advanced current Rafale standard, including active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, Meteor beyond-visual-range air-air missile, Damocles targeting pod, and an enhanced OSF forward infrared search and track system and missile warning receiver. These improvements, including the AESA, are to be introduced into the French armed forces starting in 2012. Meteor integration is slated to begin only in 2013-14 for service entry in 2017-18, but military officials say this date can be moved up if necessary. The UAE envisions replacing its first Mirage 2000-9s in 2013.The UAE is also demanding a higher thrust version of the fighter's Snecma M88 engine to suit the hot-and-high conditions prevalent in the Middle East. A test program for the new powerplant, aimed at raising thrust to 9 metric tons from 7.5 tons currently, was announced in the run-up to last week's Paris Air Show. The main focus of the program is a new high-pressure core design that will begin running in September as part of a package of improvements, known as the Pack CGP-9T, intended to reduce M88 ownership costs for the French armed forces.A demonstrator for the low-pressure part of the engine began testing this spring. The test program would enable the higher-power version to be available within three years of contract signature, Snecma executives say.For the time being, the question of funding the M88 upgrade, estimated to cost 250-300 million euros, remains unresolved. So far, the French government says it has no requirement for the higher-thrust version, which means the UAE would have to pick up the tab - perhaps along with other interested customers like Kuwait, with a similar requirement. But the government had initially dragged its feet at funding the AESA, forcing industry to bear the cost of development through deferral of a six-aircraft Rafale order, only to reinstate the order last year.
Photo credit: Dassault

Cost of an F-22 fighter for Japan soars

The U.S. Air Force estimates Japan would have to spend as much as $2.3 billion for development of its own version of the premier U.S. fighter jet, Lockheed Martin Corp's F-22 Raptor.The estimate -- more than twice that used publicly by U.S. officials in the past -- was contained in a U.S. senator's letter to Japan's ambassador obtained by Reuters on Monday.Lockheed is eyeing possible F-22 sales to Japan as a potential way to to extend a production line that is due to start closing soon, absent new orders.President Barack Obama's fiscal 2010 budget request, now under consideration by Congress, would end F-22 production in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.For years, Japan has sought to buy two squadrons of the supersonic F-22, possibly 40 planes, a request that has become more compelling with growing threats from neighboring North Korea.Foreign sales of the F-22 are banned by a law passed by Congress in 1998 to keep secret the aircraft's radar-evading "stealth" technology.In his May 21 letter to Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki, Sen. Daniel Inouye, a proponent of sales to Japan who heads the Senate Appropriations Committee, said an F-22 deal would benefit both countries. Reuters reported the thrust of Inouye's letter on June 5 but not the exact figures he cited.Assuming a deal with Tokyo was concluded in early 2010, engineering development work could start later the same year, Inouye wrote, citing preliminary information and presuming that Congress would lift the export ban."The estimate for nonrecurring development and manufacturing costs is $2.3 billion," he said, without detailing the Air Force's explanation of the large number.By contrast, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Kohler had publicly estimated such costs in the $1 billion range before he retired as the Pentagon's top arms-sale official in September 2007.A Lockheed spokesman had no immediate comment.Included would be the cost of "anti-tampering" changes to protect cutting-edge U.S. technology.The $2.3 billion figure also may reflect a break in production, assuming Defense Secretary Robert Gates succeeds in ending U.S. Air Force purchases after the 187th F-22 rolls off the line in late 2011 or early 2012.The F-22 counts many fans among lawmakers, with plants or suppliers in 44 states. Lawmakers ultimately decide which programs to fund.Inouye, a Democrat from Hawaii, told the Japanese ambassador that the "actual cost" to produce 40 export aircraft would be about $9.3 billion, boosting the total bill to $11.6 billion.Spreading this over 40 aircraft means an average aircraft cost of $290 million, he said, not including logistics support, spares and training costs.In a separate letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates dated the next day, Inouye said the Air Force had provided these estimates at the request of the appropriations committees."I believe the government of Japan is likely to be interested in purchasing the aircraft even at the relatively high price which has been estimated," Inouye wrote Gates.A Japanese embassy official declined to comment on the matter, other than to say the embassy remained in consultation with the Obama administration and Congress in general.In a related development, the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee moved last week to require an administration report on a possible F-22 export version for Japan.The House panel, in its version of the 2010 defense authorization bill, would require the report within 30 days after any enactment of the provision, including details of the strategic implications. The report also must outline the "benefit or drawback" of any F-22 exports on the U.S. aerospace industry, the bill said.Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air Force's top uniformed officer, earlier this month cited "very substantial" timing and technical obstacles to selling F-22s to Japan, including whether the production line would still be open by the time any exports were approved."The pragmatic obstacles are very substantial," he said on June 11. "The technical, legal and timing aspects of this are very significant." Top F-22 subcontractors include Boeing Co, Northrop Grumman Corp and United Technologies Corp's Pratt & Whitney unit, which supplies the engines.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

No next-generation fighter waiting in the wings

With their livelihoods dependent on receiving lucrative government business, defense contractors are sweating on the selection of a next-generation fighter for the Air Self-Defense Force. A number of obstacles, however, have delayed a decision by the Defense Ministry, which is desperate to replace the ASDF's aging F-4 jets as soon as possible. Defense Ministry officials have long coveted the state-of-the-art F-22 Raptor, but a U.S. congressional ban on the export of the jet was followed by the U.S. government's decision to scrap future production of the jet altogether. Once a replacement for the F-4 is selected, the Defense Ministry plans to eventually purchase about 50 jets. Defense contractors fear a longer delay in picking a new fighter could cripple production capabilities in Japan. Defense Ministry officials have said the F-22 was the most capable fighter jet available today, mainly because of its stealth capabilities that make it difficult to detect by radar. The Raptor also has many sought-after functions, including control of airspace and air-to-ground attack capability. However, because the technology used in building the F-22 is highly classified, Congress in 2007 banned its export, even to allies. In April, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama announced it was cutting off future procurement of the Raptor as part of a review of defense spending. The jet has a high price tag. Each unit sold to the U.S. Air Force costs about 14 billion yen. Even if exports were allowed, the Defense Ministry might end up paying about 30 billion yen for each jet, with additional development costs included. Defense Ministry officials have not completely abandoned hope of obtaining the F-22. Some members of the U.S. Congress are calling for a continuation of production of the F-22 as a way of securing jobs for American workers. Japanese government officials are believed to have lobbied some American legislators about keeping the Raptor in production. When he visited the United States in May, Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada once again told Defense Secretary Robert Gates about Japan's wish to buy the F-22. Gates in turn tried to convince Hamada to think about purchasing the F-35. While the F-35 has the same high capabilities of the F-22, it is still in the development stage. Even if the F-35 was eventually exported to Japan, the earliest the jet would be available would be after about 2015. By that time, the F-4 would be well past its shelf life. Amid the confused situation, other American and European companies are intensifying their sales efforts. Among the most eager has been BAE Systems Plc., which serves as point company for the Eurofighter, made by a consortium of four European nations. BAE Systems has promised to allow licensed production by Japanese companies as well as provision of technology. Officials have also contacted Japanese companies that could serve as candidates for licensed production. One barrier is the fact that the Defense Ministry has never used a fighter jet made in Europe. Some within the ASDF have raised concerns about maintenance of the jets, while others in the government worry about potential negative effects on the security alliance with the United States. Boeing has had close ties with the ASDF for many years and made its own pitch in March by coming out with a new model of its F-15. The model improves upon the high air-to-ground attack capabilities of the F-15E model while also including stealth capabilities. Two other jets produced by Boeing had been included on the list of possible successors to the F-4, but were not appraised highly because their designs were considered outdated and they lacked stealth capability. Now, Boeing officials say they would approve licensed production in Japan of the new F-15SE model as well as provide Japanese companies with the technology used in the jet. For Japanese companies, being allowed to take part in licensed production will be a matter of survival. While Japan could have simply imported fighter jets, for more than 50 years the fighters used by the ASDF have continuously been procured through licensed production. The licensed production system was put in place because the production technology accumulated could provide defense capabilities during emergencies more rapidly than outside procurement. However, the delay in selecting a new fighter jet means there will be a break for the first time in postwar Japan of domestic production of fighter jets after the final F-2 is manufactured in 2011. If the F-22 was selected as the next fighter jet, it would most likely have to be imported because of the classified technology used in its manufacture. The military journalist Shinichi Kiyotani said, "That would mean the domestic aircraft production industry would have to move out of the defense field." There are about 1,200 companies involved in the production of fighter jets in Japan. Those companies have engineers and manufacturing lines with special abilities. An official with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., the largest defense contractor, said, "Manufacturing technology in the defense sector is like a traditional art form-- in that if it is not passed on and is lost, it can never be recovered." The Society of Japanese Aerospace Companies conducted a confidential survey about the next-generation fighter jet. A report was compiled in February, and organization officials have repeatedly lobbied Defense Ministry officials about the dire future facing member companies. According to a copy of the survey results obtained by The Asahi Shimbun, 67 percent of respondents raised concerns about having to shrink fighter jet operations if licensed production was not allowed. Toshikazu Miyabe, a senior vice president with the society, said: "Unless something is done, the foundation by which domestic manufacturers supported operations of the SDF will be discontinued. We are asking the government to join us in thinking about what can be done to rectify the situation."

Colombia receives first Batch of upgraded Israeli Kfir Fighter

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is delivering the first batch of upgraded Kfir fighter jets to the Colombian Air Force in a ceremony held at IAI's facilities in Israel. In attendance at the ceremony was Juan Hurtado Cano, the Colombian Ambassador to Israel, high ranking officers from the Colombian Air Force, and executives from the Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMOD-SIBAT), and IAI. In late 2007 IAI was awarded a multi-year contract worth over $150 million to upgrade the existing Colombian Air Force Kfir jets, and to supply additional jets. Mr. Itzhak Nissan, IAI's President and CEO said: "IAI's new technologies were integrated in the new Kfir jets to better their capabilities and allow longer operational service. The short delivery schedule and high quality of the aircraft were feasible thanks to IAI's integration capability, and the knowledge and experience of Lahav and other IAI divisions". The Kfir fighter jet, manufactured at IAI's Lahav Division of the Military Aircraft Group, is a multi-role, all-weather combat jet with high carrying capabilities of Air-to-Air and Air-to-Ground munitions. The additional Kfir jets, models C10-C12, have been upgraded and improved to include IAI's latest technologies and products.Currently, Kfir jets play an advanced role in the Air Forces of Sri Lanka, Ecuador and Colombia, and they have been used in the US Navy to act as adversary aircraft in dissimilar air combat training. Kfir jets are also used by the Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC), a civilian company that provides fleet tactical aircraft and services to the US military. ATAC provides airborne tactical training, threat simulation, and research & development. Principal Deputy Director of SIBAT, Mr, Meir Shalit said: "IMOD is proud of IAI and their great achievement and cooperation with the Colombian Air Force. IMOD sees IAI as a genuine partner that promotes Israel's quality defense export". Colonel Diego Sepulveda Alzate of the Colombian Air Force said: "We feel immense happiness, satisfaction, and pride for this addition to the Colombian Air Force. We are grateful to the workers at LAHAV and at IAI in general for all their hard work."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Eurofighter guns for £10bn Indian deal

Dominic O'Connell

The fortunes of Eurofighter, the much-criticised European combat aircraft, could improve sharply next month when it stakes a claim for a multi-billion-pound contract in India. India wants to buy more than 130 modern fighters, making the contract one of the largest international arms deals in recent years. Analysts say that with ongoing support deals, it could be worth more than £10 billion. If Eurofighter wins, it would be a boon for BAE Systems, Britain’s largest defence group, which is part of the four-nation consortium that makes the high-tech aircraft. The competition for the contract starts next month, when the six planes selected by India begin a fly-off that will consist of a series of trials throughout the subcontinent. The six taking part are Eurofighter, Boeing’s F/A-18, Lockheed Martin’s F-16, France’s Rafale, Russia’s MiG-35 and Sweden’s Gripen. Defence analysts said the contest would probably come down to a race between the Eurofighter and the F/A-18. “They look like the most likely contenders,” said one source at last week’s Paris air show. The Indian government is unlikely to make a speedy choice, with the trials expected to last for up to a year. BAE has strong contacts in India, having struck a collaboration with Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL), one of the country’s biggest defence groups. HAL now makes BAE’s Hawk trainer jet, used by the Indian air force, in Bangalore. The Eurofighter Typhoon has had a rough ride in Europe, with some defence analysts and politicians calling for the project to be curtailed. Designed as an air-superiori-ty fighter to combat Soviet bombers, the aircraft has been modified to make it more versatile, but this has not stopped calls for its cancellation. Britain has agreed in principle to buy part of the project’s third and final batch of planes. BAE recently completed the first Eurofighter destined for export to Saudi Arabia. The group will make 72 of the aircraft for the Arab kingdom under a government-to-govern-ment deal negotiated as a follow-on to the controversial Al-Yamamah arms deal struck by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. BAE believes it can sell another 72 Eurofighters to Saudi Arabia, but senior sources at the company say that a deal is not likely to be clinched until the aircraft is operational with the Royal Saudi air force. Meanwhile, European defence ministers meet in Seville tomorrow to discuss the fate of the A400M military transport aircraft. The €20 billion (£17 billion) programme is running several years late and over budget. Britain has said it would decide by the end of this month whether to go ahead with its plan to buy 25 of the planes, but France and Germany want a six-month delay to take stock. Supporters of the A400M, which would be a rival and potential replacement for the ubiquitous Hercules transport aircraft, say it will eventually provide much-needed capability to air forces in Europe. Defence ministries are unhappy with the delays, however, and the prospect of having to find other aircraft until the new plane is ready for service. Lockheed Martin, the American group that makes the Hercules, is in talks with a number of European governments, including Britain’s, about possible stop-gap solutions. Lockheed is also understood to be preparing a new, larger and lighter version of the Hercules to tempt would-be buyers of the A400M.

N-tipped Agni III set for fresh test

Hemant Kumar Rout
The Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) is set to test-fire India’s most powerful nuke-capable ballistic missile Agni-III. The China-specific missile would be test-fired from a defence base off the Orissa coast soon. Preparations were on for the crucial test, a source close to the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur-on-sea, 15 km from Balasore, said today. Agni-III test-fire is seen as a deterrent to China’s growing missile power. `The country’s missile programme received a jolt on May 19 when the first training user-trials of the 2,000-km plus range Agni-II missile failed to yield the desired result. The focus now is on Agni-III and its test has become a prestige issue for the scientists involved in the project,’ the source added. Agni-III, which has a velocity of 5 km per second, is a new system, defence sources said. It is a short and stubby, two-stage missile. It weighs 48.3 tonnes and is 16.7 metres tall with an overall diameter of 1.8 metres. It can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads weighing around 1.5 tonnes. It will be propelled by solid fuels, facilitating swift deployment compared to missiles using a mix of solid and liquid fuels. Though the maiden test of the longest range missile in 2006 was a failure, its second trial in 2007 and third test in 2008 were successful. `It is ready for induction but it will require a few more tests before it can go for limited series production (LSP) trials by the armed forces. However, two more years will be required for its operational deployment,’ a scientist said on condition of anonymity. The missile is a deterrent to the Chinese missiles. A successful induction of Agni III will allow India to catch up with China’s nuclear strike capability in the next few years since its range is expected to be long enough to target major Chinese cities like Shanghai and Beijing. India’s ‘Pakistan-specific’ Agni-I and Agni-II missiles have already been inducted in the armed forces. `Our next project is Agni-V missile which is expected to have a strike range of about 5,000 km.

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