Friday, July 31, 2009

Burma’s nuclear secrets?

Is the military junta preparing to build a nuclear arsenal? Two years of interviews with defectors have persuaded two Australian investigators there’s more to the claim than global scepticism suggests. The report by Desmond Ball and Phil Thornton was the basis for this article.

by Daniel Flitton
A FEW years back, a paranoid military regime packed up Burma’s capital and shifted it north a few hundred kilometres. Rangoon, it seems, simply wasn’t safe enough any more. The generals’ new home was to be known as the Abode of Kings; more commonly as Naypyidaw. A city rose from the tropical plains with shiny buildings and slick roadways – a strange priority in a country suffering chronic poverty and a health system at the bottom of world rankings.Now, a fresh question hangs over the goals of Burmese rulers. Could this junta’s priorities be so skewed as to embark upon construction of a nuclear arsenal? And might it have reached out for help to another paranoid regime, North Korea?Desmond Ball and Phil Thornton are convinced this is a genuine threat. They have spent two years on the Burmese border, interviewing defectors who claim to know the regime’s plans.The testimony of two Burmese men in particular has caused Ball and Thornton to confront their own deep scepticism about the claims.

Theirs might seem an unlikely collaboration – Ball, a professor of strategic studies at ANU with a deep interest in nuclear technology, and Thornton, a freelance journalist based in Thailand. But their report on the two defectors’ claims adds to mounting – albeit sketchy – evidence that Burma may be chasing the bomb.There have been hints Burma aspires to a nuclear program. What is uncertain is the extent and intent. Rumours have swirled around refugee circles outside Burma about secret military installations, tunnels dug into the mountains to hide nuclear facilities, the establishment of a ‘‘nuclear battalion’’ in the army and work done by foreign scientists. But one defector – known as Moe Jo to protect his identity – gives the claims added weight. He warned of the regime having a handful of bombs ready by 2020.

Moe Jo escaped Burmese army service and fled to Thailand. Ball and Thornton met with him in dingy rooms and safehouses. ‘‘His hands shook and he worried about what price his family would have to pay for his actions,’’ they write. ‘‘Before rejecting his country’s nuclear plans, Moe Jo was an officer with 10 years’ exemplary army service. A former graduate of Burma’s prestigious Defence Services Academy, he specialised in computer science.’’Moe Joe said the regime sent him to Moscow in 2003 to study engineering. He was in a second batch of trainees to be sent to Russia as part of effort to eventually train 1000 personnel to run Burma’s nuclear program.

Before leaving, he was told he would be assigned to a special nuclear battalion.‘‘You don’t need 1000 people in the fuel cycle or to run a nuclear reactor,’’ said Moe Joe. ‘‘It’s obvious there is much more going on.’’We knew Russia agreed in principle to sell Burma a small nuclear plant – a light water reactor – and to train about 300 Burmese scientists to run the site. The stated reason is for research purposes, specifically to produce medical isotopes.

In dispute is whether the Russian reactor would be large enough to be diverted to produce enriched uranium or plutonium for a nuclear weapon. Usually a heavy water reactor is needed to achieve this, but perhaps not with North Korean help. Ball and Thornton write: ‘‘As North Korea has shown with their [light water] reactor, it may be slow and more complex, but it is capable.’’Moe Jo alleged a second, secret reactor of about the same size as the Russian plant had been built at complex called Naung Laing. He said that the army planned a plutonium reprocessing system there and that Russian experts were on site to show how it was done. Part of the Burmese army’s nuclear battalion was stationed in a local village to work on a weapon. He said that an operations area was buried in the nearby Setkhaya Mountains, a set-up including engineers, artillery and communications to act as command and control centre for the nuclear weapons program.‘‘In the event that the testimonies of the defectors are proved, the alleged ‘secret’ reactor could be capable of being operational and producing a bomb a year, every year, after 2014,’’ write Ball and Thornton.

Claims of this type have stirred serious official concerns. The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, journeyed to Thailand for a regional security meeting last month and directly raised the issue. ‘‘We know that there are also growing concerns about military co-operation between North Korea and Burma, which we take very seriously,’’ she said.The unease escalated when a North Korean freighter, the Kang Nam I, steamed towards Burma last month carrying undisclosed cargo. A South Korean intelligence expert, quoted anonymously, claimed satellite imagery showed the ship was part of clandestine nuclear transfer and also carried long-range missiles. Shadowed by the US Navy, the vessel eventually turned around and returned home.

Japanese police also recently caught a North Korean and two Japanese nationals allegedly trying to export a magnetic measuring device to Burma that could be used to develop missiles.But it was what Clinton said during a television interview in Bangkok the next day that raised most eyebrows. For the first time, a senior White House official openly speculated on the prospect of nuclear co-operation between Burma and North Korea.

Clinton: ‘‘We worry about the transfer of nuclear technology and other dangerous weapons.’’

Question: ‘‘From North Korea, you mean?’’

Clinton: ‘‘We do, from North Korea, yes.’’

Q: ‘‘To Burma?’’

Clinton: ‘‘To Burma, yes.’’

Q: ‘‘So you’re concerned about the tie – the closer ties between North Korea and Burma?’’

Clinton: ‘‘Yes, yes.’’

But there are many doubts over how far Burma’s military regime has advanced its nuclear aspiration. Ball and Thornton say a regional security officer told them the Naung Laing operation was a decoy to distract people from the true site of the reactor.‘‘Before it was a heavily guarded ‘no go-zone’. Now you can drive right up to the buildings. Villagers are allowed to grow crops again.’’ The security officer said the Russian-supplied reactor was located in the Myaing area.To add to the confusion, there are doubts over the existence of the Russian reactor. ‘‘I’m sure the Russian reactor has not been built already,’’ says Mark Fitzpatrick, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies and a Burma watcher over most of the past decade. He will soon have a book published on nuclear plans across South-East Asia.

He sees ‘‘nothing alarming’’ in the prospective Russian deal – Russia is a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty which governs the export of civilian nuclear technology – and doubts Moscow would hide a reactor. Nor has the International Atomic Energy Agency raised questions about Burma’s nuclear ambitions.But Fitzpatrick is sceptical about the stated reasons offered by Burma’s rulers to explain their interest in nuclear technology, whether for research or power generation.‘‘The most logical explanation for this interest in research is a prestige factor,’’ he says. Burma wants to demonstrate a level of technology expertise and perhaps also deliberately raise doubts over its nuclear capability. Having the bomb, after all, is a power military deterrent against foreign attack.’’

Of the defectors’ claims, he says: ‘‘I’ve heard these reports and I pay attention to them, and they shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.’’ North Korea is willing to sell anything to anyone, he says, and points to recent evidence that Pyongyang secretly sold a nuclear reactor to Syria.Ball and Thornton add to the mystery by reporting the testimony of another defector they call Tin Min. He claimed to have worked as a bookkeeper for a tycoon closely linked to the Burmese military regime, whose company had supposedly organised nuclear contracts with Russia and North Korea. The deal with North Korea on nuclear co-operation supposedly dates back nine years, covering construction and maintenance of nuclear facilities.

‘‘Tin Min spoke excellent English and presented his reports to us with a touch of self-importance,’’ write Ball and Thornton. ‘‘Tin Min had good reason to know what it was like to feel important; before defecting, he had scaled the heights of his country’s high society and had reaped the benefits of that position.’’Tin Min dismissed the regime’s rationale for requiring nuclear technology. ‘‘They say it’s to produce medical isotopes for health purposes in hospitals. How many hospitals in Burma have nuclear science? Burma can barely get electricity up and running. It’s a nonsense.’’

He claimed his boss once told him of the regime’s nuclear dreams. ‘‘They’re aware they cannot compete with Thailand with conventional weapons. They want to play power like North Korea. They hope to combine the nuclear and air defence missiles.’’ He said the nuclear program was known as UF6 Project and was run by the senior general Maung Aye. Ball and Thornton conclude the nuclear co-operation is based on a trade of locally refined uranium from Burma to North Korea in return for technological expertise.

Tin Min claimed his boss controlled much of the shipping in and out of Burma and could organise the transport of equipment to nuclear sites from the port at Rangoon. ‘‘He arranges for army trucks to pick up the containers of equipment from the North Korean boats that arrive in Rangoon and transport them at night by highway to the river or direct to the sites.’’He also claimed to have paid a construction company in about 2004 to build a tunnel in a mountain at Naung Laing wide enough for two large trucks to pass each other.

But his story cannot be further tested. Tin Min died late last year.There are obvious dangers of relying on the testimony of ‘‘defectors’’. The people giving evidence may have ulterior motives, as Ball and Thornton recognise, and the regime is not shy at disseminating false information.

Andrew Selth from Griffith University, a former senior intelligence analyst and an experienced Burma watcher, remains suspicious. ‘‘Understandably,’’ he recently wrote for the Lowy Institute, ‘‘foreign officials looking at these matters are being very cautious. No one wants a repetition of the mistakes which preceded the last Iraq war, either in underestimating a country’s capabilities, or by giving too much credibility to a few untested intelligence sources.‘‘There has always been a lot of smoke surrounding Burma’s nuclear ambitions. Over the past year or so, the amount of smoke has increased, but still no one seems to know whether or not it hides a real fire.’’Concern is not going away, however. The most recent edition of US Foreign Policy magazine compared claims surrounding Burma’s nuclear program to 1950s leaks about Israel having a secret nuclear site in the desert. Similar doubts held for claims about India and Pakistan. All three countries have since tested the bomb.Ball and Thornton are convinced the world must face up to some uncomfortable possibilities. ‘‘According to all the milestones identified by the defectors, Burma’s nuclear program is on schedule. It is feasible and achievable. Unfortunately, it is not as bizarre or ridiculous as many people would like to think. Burma’s regional neighbours need to watch carefully.’’

Why Pakistan went to Paris for submarine deal?

PML-Q Senator Sardar Mohammad Jamal Khan Leghari in a surprising revelation shocked the members of the Senate on July 30 by a claim that President Zardari had refused to approve the deal for purchase of German submarines and the file submitted to the Presidency recently had been rejected. He added that a team of Pakistani Naval officials had been receiving training on manning of sophisticated submarine in Germany for one and a half year.The Senator also claimed that the rejection of German submarine was aimed at paving the way for the purchase of French submarines and the one billion dollars were behind the latest defence deal with France.He elaborated that Pakistan already possessed the French submarine technology and needed diversified technology. He demanded that Pakistan Naval Chief should give an in-camera briefing to the legislators to clarify the position.The Senator’s criticism followed a report that Islamabad was tilting towards France rather than Germany which with much struggle had recently cleared the way for export of three submarines to Pakistan.According to defence experts, for Germany it was an economically promising but politically risky deal but despite backdoor work by Indian lobby the Germans had agreed to sell three U-214 submarines built by German ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems to Pakistan for an estimated $2 billion.Defence experts told Pakistan Observer that Germany was ready and was awaiting a formal order from the Ministry of Defence.
A German team of Naval experts had visited Karachi to discuss technicalities and a Pakistan Naval team also visited Germany to make final inspection. According to reports the German government had even agreed to grant federal export credit guarantees worth nearly $1.4 billion.Sources confirm that as the deal was proceeding and 95% ready, President Asif Ali Zardari overruled his military’s preference for the German subs to take up a “better offer” from France. The change of heart was noted when President Zardari visited Paris in May and has long meeting with French President.To the surprise of many Pakistanis on the eve of President Zardari’s visit a French judge accused some “powerful Pakistanis” of having something to do with the murder of 11 French engineers in Karachi in May 2002 as a retaliation for the decision of France’s new government to cease bribe payments from the 1995 deal.Coincidentally, in 1995 too, the Pakistan People’s Party was in power when the government bought three French Agosta 90-B submarines. President Zardari was then Minister for Investment in the PPP Government while now French President Nicolas Sarkozy was a key aide to then French President Edouard Balladur. The two developed a close relationship since then.President Zardari’s decision to turn to Paris for the deal also coincided with reports that PPP Government had decided to appoint a civil servant from the District Management Group as the Ambassador of Pakistan to France. The most unusual appointment was resented by the veteran and serving diplomats at home abroad and Prime Minister had to intervene and cancel the appointment of Mohammed Jehanzeb Khan.
Opposition members here claim that the delay in the issuing of the order for the German submarines that were almost finalized in December 2008 had “something to do with President Zardari’s meeting with President Sarkozy of France in May 2009? “ They also claim that the appointment of a junior civil servant as the envoy to Paris may also be related to this decision.Defence observers say that the Government managed to silence opposition to French deal by claiming that Paris had agreed to sign a peaceful nuclear cooperation deal while Germans were reluctant to deliver such an accord. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had claimed during President Zardari’s visit to Paris that France had agreed to extend cooperation in nuclear technology but French officials clarified that the cooperation would be limited to the safety and security of the nuclear plants.On July 2nd when French Admiral Edouard Guillaud, Advisor to President Sarkozy visited Pakistan he met with President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.Admiral Guillaud’s visit to Pakistan was considered as part of efforts aimed at further boosting the Pak-French relations in the wake of Zardari-Sarkozy meetings in May this year.PM proposed that the governments of Pakistan and France should chalk out a roadmap for pragmatic cooperation in the field of civil nuclear energy but there was no firm response from French side.
Admiral Guillaud however, assured the prime minister that France would provide military equipment including Tiger Helicopters to Pakistan.Again on July 23 on the occasion of a visist by French Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, Anne Marie Idrac, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani hoped that Pakistan would sign framework agreements with France on defence, security and energy this year and said that Pakistan wanted a long-term strategic partnership with France.Ms Idrac promised her country’s continued support to Pakistan in its efforts to overcome economic difficulties and win the war against terror. She said she would hold detailed discussions on economic and energy agreements. Ms Idrac made it clear that a proposed partnership between Pakistan and France on civilian nuclear energy would be limited to nuclear safety and security.What we propose is something very important, which is the possibility for technical people to discuss very precisely what can be done in terms of safety and security for the existing civil nuclear plants,’ she had clarified.

4 Mi-17 for Afghan National Army Air Corps

Defense Technology, Inc., Huntsville, Ala., is being awarded a $43,460,000 firm-fixed-price contract for the procurement of four Mi-17 variant helicopters and related tool kits for the Afghan National Army Air Corps. Work will be performed in Kabul, Afghanistan, and is expected to be completed in September 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via an electronic request for proposals; four offers were received.

IAF trainer plane crashes in AP, two pilots killed

An Indian Air Force (IAF) plane crashed in Medak, Andhra Pradesh on Friday morning.The plane was a HPT-32 trainer aircraft and had two IAF pilots on board.Nitin Jain and Chaturvedi (full name not yet known) were the training instructors at the Air Force Academy.The two pilots were on a trainee flight.Defence Minister A K Antony said on Wednesday that thirty-two MiG series aircraft of the Indian Air Force crashed in the last five years killing eight pilots.The plane was two kilometers from landing. The plane crashed on a barren stretch of land. There were no casualties reported on the ground."32 MiG aircraft have met with accidents during the last five years and a total of eight pilots have lost their lives in these accidents," he said while replying to a query in Rajya Sabha.

Japan hangs on to F-22 fighter hopes

Japan will continue to collect information on the U.S. F-22 fighter jet as a candidate to succeed its aging F-4EJ fighter fleet, a Defense Ministry spokesman said Friday, despite the U.S. House of Representatives’ decision to ditch funding for the aircraft. Katashi Toyota, press secretary for the ministry, said at a press conference that Tokyo ‘‘does not necessarily give up’’ on its plan to study acquisition of the F-22 fighter as one of six candidate models. The U.S. chamber passed a defense spending bill Thursday that scuttled the F-22 program.Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said earlier in the day that Tokyo should consider ‘‘an alternative plan,’’ but Toyota said his remarks do not indicate that Japan will stop exploring the option of purchasing the F-22. ‘‘We recognize the F-22 as one of the world’s most advanced aircraft and will continue to gather information on it as well as on other candidate models,’’ Toyota said.
Tokyo has been eager to purchase the F-22, among other models, as its next-generation mainstay fighter aircraft in light of the stealth jet’s ability to evade radar detection.But export of the F-22 is currently prohibited under U.S. law, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates in April proposed halting production of the fighter jet.Under Gates’ proposal, production of the F-22 would be halted at 187 planes. The Pentagon instead wants to produce 500 of the more modern F-35 aircraft over the next five years and 2,400 over time.The five other models being studied by Japan are the F/A-18 and F-15FX of the United States, the F-35, now being developed by the United States, Britain and others, the Eurofighter, made by a consortium of European manufacturers, and the Rafale of France. Only the F-22 and F-35 are stealth fighters.Japan requested information on the six models from their manufacturers and others in March 2006 and has since obtained some information on all but the F-22. It has delayed selecting a model as the U.S. ban on F-22 exports continues.

MMRCA trials to begin in Bangalore

India's quest to buy 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) will shift gear when the flight trials of the six global contenders will begin in Bangalore next week with US major Boeing's warplane F/A-18 being the first contender. "F/A-18 will be the first contender to arrive in India for the trails that will begin in Bangalore next week," top IAF officers said here today.The US' Lockheed Martin F-16s, French D'Assault's Rafale, Swedish SAAB's Gripen, European consortium EADS' Eurofighter Typhoon and Russian MiG-35, the other five competitors for the USD 10-billion deal, will follow F/A-18, not necessarily in that order, for the first phase of the flight trials in India, they said.After Bangalore, all contending aircraft will move to Leh for high altitude trials and to Jaisalmer for summer trials.
"We are optimistic that the trails on Indian soil and conditions of all the six aircraft competing for the deal will be completed before April end next year," the officers added.The IAF would field a team of two test pilots each, who would carry out the flight trials in the three locations that the Air Force has chosen, they said."As per the trial schedule, the first phase involved training of Indian pilots on these competing aircraft in the country of origin. The second phase is the flight trials on Indian soil and airspace. The third phase would be test of specialist weapons that the manufacturers would provide on the aircraft in the country of their choice," they said.A two-pilot team would test each of the aircraft, as there is a likelihood of overlap of the flight trial schedule of the six aircraft, the IAF officers said."The idea is to complete the trials as soon as possible and hence we got four pilots trained on these competing aircraft," they said.India had floated the tenders for the MMRCA in August 2007 and the exhaustive technical evaluation of the six global manufacturer' bids were completed early this year.
The 126 MMRCAs will replace the aging MiG-21 fleet of the IAF and help in curbing the recent trend of depleting IAF squadron strength.IAF's number of squadrons had gone down to an alarming 31.5 squadrons in 2006 following which the then IAF chief S P Tyagi had written to the government pointing out that there was an urgent need to procure fighters aircraft to maintain the force levels.After the induction of British major BAE System's 'Hawk' Advanced Jet Trainers (AJTs) in 2008, the fleet strength of the IAF has increased to about 33.5 squadrons compared to the sanctioned squadron strength of 39.5 squadrons.Defence Minister A K Antony had recently told Parliament that the IAF squadron strength would continue to increase till 2015 when the MMRCA induction is likely to start, but face a down fall for a couple of years, before going north wards again to reach a maximum of 42.5 squadrons by 2022.

South Korea unveiled its first homegrown helicopter

South Korea on Friday unveiled its first homegrown helicopter, hoping it will propel the nation's budding aerospace industry and step in for an aging military fleet. Able to push 260km per hour and hover high above the nation's craggy terrain, the first prototype of the Korean Utility Helicopter (KUH), also called the "Surion," was displayed at a ceremony in this southwestern city attended by senior government officials, including President Lee Myung-bak. "We should use the successful development of the indigenous helicopter as a spring board to move forward and join the ranks of advanced industrialized countries in the 21st century," Lee said at the ceremony.

Helped by Europe's leading helicopter manufacturer, Eurocopter, Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. and other local companies designed the Surion, with 60 percent of all parts and components being made in the country. Officials have stressed Surion's ability to serve in both defense and civilian roles is significant in terms of future growth potential. "Even though it is primarily a military helicopter, the KUH already satisfies 96 percent or 2,363 of the 2,460 international operational standards for civilian helicopters," said Lee Jae-hong, head of the machinery, aerospace and defense industry division at the Ministry of Knowledge Economy. The project's managers said that while initial aircraft will be supplied exclusively to the military, civilian orders will be sought beginning in 2011 at the latest to ensure a better return on investment. The government and private firms have poured a combined 1.3 trillion won (US$1 billion) into the aircraft's development since it began in 2006.
South Korea has produced propeller-driven supersonic jets in the past, but the Surion makes it one of only 11 countries in the world to turn out an indigenous helicopter. The ministry, which contributed heavily to the project, said the aircraft will help South Korea make inroads into the fiercely competitive global aerospace market. In addition to the prototype, three other aircraft will be built to conduct various flight safety tests. Full-scale production is to begin in June 2012. South Korea's aging fleet of UH-1Hs and 500MD choppers, many of which have been in service for over 30 years, are set to be phased out. Independent sources speculate the South Korean military may require as many as 250 Surion choppers. Seoul also aims to win 300 overseas military orders for the KUH in the next 25 years, a government official said on condition of anonymity. That is roughly 30 percent of the projected global demand for Surion-type choppers, which are larger than the UH-1 Iroquois but smaller than the UH-60 Black Hawks.

The Surion is designed to fly a fully equipped squad of troops or an equal amount of equipment for two hours. It can climb 152m per minute and maintain a stable hover at 3,000m. Special emphasis was placed in the design on meeting variable combat conditions needed to ensure the survival of the crew. Related to the KUH development, the Defense Ministry said earlier in the week it may scrap a plan to buy used Apache helicopters from the United States because of feasibility issues. With the move, South Korea is expected to build an indigenous fleet of attack helicopters to replace its AH-1 Cobra fleet in the coming years.

Indian Navy chief defends Gorshkov purchase

Defending the Gorshkov aircraft carrier deal with Russia that had come under severe criticism by the CAG, Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said on Thursday that it would be impossible to get an aircraft carrier at cheaper rates.

Responding to questions on the sidelines of a defence function organised by CII here, Mehta said, “Can you get me an aircraft carrier for less than $2 billion? If you can, I am going to sign a cheque right now.” Mehta’s remarks come after the CAG report criticised the ‘unprecedented’ price hike of the carrier, and following protests by several members of Parliament against the government’s alleged bowing to Russian pressure.

While the original deal was to pay just under $1 billion for the refitting of the carrier, Moscow had shocked India in 2007 by demanding an exponential price hike. While negotiations are still on, Russia is looking for close to $3 billion. Military experts, however, concede that even after the hike, India would be paying much less than it would for a brand new carrier. Also, when the deal was signed, the Gorshkov was the only aircraft carrier available for sale anywhere in the world.

India to get 12 EH/AW-101 helicopters

The multi-million dollar deal to procure the 12 EH/AW-101 helicopters, manufactured by Italian aviation major AgustaWestland, is in the concluding stages now, say defence ministry sources. "The Cabinet Committee on Security will have to give the final nod before the contract is inked," said a source. This will be the third major deal in recent years to ensure Indian netas and other VVIPs can travel in fully-secure comfort in and around the country. First, the Rs 727-crore deal for five mid-size Embraer 135BJ Legacy jets was inked in September 2003. Then, the 937-crore contract for three Boeing Business Jets (BBJs), with advanced self-protection suites to guard against missiles and other threats, was signed in October 2005. With the Legacy jets and BBJs already inducted, the VVIPs will also get the 12 helicopters to travel around in style. This, incidentally, comes at a time when the upgrade of the US presidential helicopter fleet is embroiled in a funding controversy.
Though not as high-tech as Barack Obama's "Marine One", the call sign of the US Marine Corps helicopter which ferries the US President, the Indian EH-101 helicopters will have self-defence systems like missile-approach warners, chaff and flare dispensers and directed infra-red electronic counter-measures to protect the VVIPs on board. The new helicopters will replace ageing Russian-origin Mi-8s and Mi-17s being operated by IAF's elite Communication Squadron, which ferries around the President and PM, just like the Legacy jets have replaced the old HS-748 Avros and the BBJs the two 737-200 aircraft bought in 1983. The AW-101 helicopters were pitted against the American Sikorsky's S-92 Superhawks during field trials held last year, overseen by both IAF and SPG.
The AW-101, which can carry around 40 combat troops but will ferry 10 passengers in the VVIP configuration, and has three engines for better power and safety, was found more suitable. One particular SPG requirement was that the helicopters have "a high tail boom'' since it would allow the VVIP cars to come right next to the rear exit staircase and not "expose'' the protected persons to a threat from anyone in the vicinity. Moreover, the AW-101 was found to be a rugged helicopter, with crashworthy and damage-tolerant features, capable of hovering even in winds over 80 kmph. "We also wanted a helicopter with a service-ceiling of over 4.5 km and capable of operating at night,'' said an official.

South Korea may scrap plan to buy used U.S. Apache helicopters

South Korea is considering scrapping its plan to buy second-hand Apache attack helicopters from the United States due to feasibility issues, an official said Wednesday. The South Korean Army has hundreds of helicopters that will be decommissioned over the next decade. The country began considering purchasing replacements from the U.S. last year when its longstanding ally offered to sell dozens of used Apaches at discount prices.
But a South Korean defense official privy to the matter said his government would have to purchase 30 years worth of replacement parts along with the Apaches, creating feasibility issues. "Tens of thousands of parts are involved in a single Apache helicopter," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Buying 30 years worth of them is financially difficult." "There is also a problem with the compatibility between Apaches and the tactical data link systems we operate here," the official added. South Korea seeks to develop its own attack helicopters in a project estimated to cost between 5 trillion to 10 trillion won (US$4 billion to $8 billion), while it seeks to develop an indigenous utility helicopter. "We expect to reach a final conclusion as early as early next year on how we're going to replace our aging helicopters," the official said. The Defense Acquisition Program Administration in Seoul released a statement concerning the plan, saying, "no ultimate decision has been made."

Indian forces riddled with expensive 'duds'

India's pride -- its defence forces have a reputation that precedes them. But it’s unfortunate that they have been given the tedious task of guarding our borders, unarmed & saddled with 'dud' weapons. As a normal citizen of the country, one would think that our defence forces are armed with weapons which have unbeatable fire power, which mercilessly swoop down on their targets and bomb the enemies. However, TIMES NOW reveals a shocker. TIMES NOW's Senior Editor Srinjoy Chowdhury, who has exclusive access to the 'Dud report' says, "The Indian Air Force's armory is full of duds with missiles that don't work and bombs that don't explore." Specifically, the Harpy missile procured from Israel for a whopping Rs 750 crores lies useless after it developed direction trouble.
The Popeye II missile that costs Rs 350 crores, which is an air to surface missile, that never even passed the initial tests since the wings were faulty. The Sea Eagle -- a subsonic anti-ship missile which cost close to a Rs 120 crores is no longer usable as the components are not available. Meanwhile, anti-radiation missiles, some of which were procured from Russia have malfunctional seekers -- parts that used to seek out the target. Srinjoy adds, "Many foreign weapon systems tested in very pristine conditions just don't seem to be effective in India. Yet there are indigenous weapon systems that have failed as well." Sitaphal -- the cluster bomb, is not in use since key components have become unavailable and finally the 450 kg high speed low drag bomb too had not been put to use due to the mismatch in components. Pallam Raju, Minister of State for Defence said, "With weapon systems of with ammunitions, whether it is for the Navy or the Army, if it goes beyond the shelf life then there could be inaccuracy." With an armory of junk and a nation to defend, one wonders if anyone is listening to our brave soldiers.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Jordan accepts six more secondhand F-16s

Jordan has accepted six ex-Royal Netherlands Air Force Lockheed Martin F-16BMs, with the aircraft having left Leeuwarden air base on 28 July for a delivery flight via Aviano in Italy and Souda Bay in Crete. The two-seat aircraft will join the Royal Jordanian Air Force's 1 Sqn at Muwaffaq Salti air base. The delivery forms part of a contract signed between Jordan, Belgium and the Netherlands in 2007 covering the sale of 22 surplus F-16s. An initial four A/B-model fighters were delivered from Belgium's Kleine-Brogel air base last September under the deal.

Pakistan Injects Precision Into Air War on Taliban

Pakistan’s Air Force is improving its ability to pinpoint and attack militant targets with precision weapons, adding a new dimension to the country’s fight against violent extremism, according to Pakistani military officials and independent analysts. The Pakistani military has moved away from the scorched-earth artillery and air tactics used last year against insurgents in the Bajaur tribal agency. In recent months, the air force has shifted from using Google Earth to sophisticated images from spy planes and other surveillance aircraft, and has increased its use of laser-guided bombs.

The changes reflect an effort by the Pakistani military to conduct its operations in a way that will not further alienate the population by increasing civilian casualties and destroying property. But they are also dictated by necessity as the military takes its campaign into areas where it is reluctant to commit ground troops, particularly in the rugged terrain of Waziristan, where it had suffered heavy losses. Military analysts say the airstrikes alone cannot ultimately substitute for ground forces or for better counterinsurgency training. But they say the airstrikes have become a valuable tool for Pakistan in fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda in sometimes inaccessible terrain.

Since May, F-16 multirole fighter jets have flown more than 300 combat missions against militants in the Swat Valley and more than 100 missions in South Waziristan, attacking mountain hide-outs, training centers and ammunition depots, Pakistani military officials said. In conjunction with infantry fire, artillery barrages and helicopter gunship attacks, military officials say, the air combat missions reinvigorated the military campaign in Swat and have put increasing pressure on the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, in South Waziristan. Interviews with Pakistani fighter pilots and senior commanders offered a rare window into this other air war — a much larger but less heralded campaign that runs parallel to the three dozen secret missile strikes carried out this year by Central Intelligence Agency drones in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas.

The air force’s new tools and tactics have several sources. The air force has without fanfare accepted some American assistance, like sophisticated surveillance equipment and high-grade images. But sensitive to anti-American fervor in the country, Pakistani officials have refused most outside aid, developing a small corps of ground spotters largely on their own, and occasionally tapping the Internet for online assistance. Pakistani officials are urging the Obama administration to lease Pakistan upgraded F-16s, until its own new fighters are delivered in the next year or two. This would allow Pakistani pilots to fly night missions, impossible with their current aircraft.Pakistan has argued that it needs the more advanced versions of the F-16 to more effectively battle the Taliban insurgency.

In the past, American officials raised concerns that Pakistan’s arms purchases and troop deployments were geared mainly to bolstering its ability to fight its traditional enemy to the east, India. “Of course, there is a real threat from India,” Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman, Pakistan’s air force chief of staff, said in an interview at his headquarters here. “But right now we have to tackle the threat from the militants.” Nearly every day in the past few months, Pakistani warplanes have pummeled militant targets in the contested Swat Valley and South Waziristan. The campaigns are a big change from operations in Bajaur last fall. “The biggest handicap we had in Bajaur was that we didn’t have good imagery,” Air Chief Marshal Qamar said. “We didn’t have good target descriptions. We did not know the area. We were forced to use Google Earth. “I didn’t want to face a similar situation in Swat,” he said.

In advance of the Swat campaign, the air force equipped about 10 F-16s with high-resolution, infrared sensors, provided by the United States, to conduct detailed reconnaissance of the entire valley. The United States has also resumed secret drone flights performing military surveillance in the tribal areas, to provide Pakistani commanders with a wide array of videos and other information on militants, according to American officials. In most cases, officials said, the Pakistani Army provides target information to the air force, which confirms the locations on newly detailed maps. Identifying high-value targets through the use of army spotters or, in some cases, a new, small group of specially trained air force spotters, the air force was able to increase its use of laser-guided bombs to 80 percent of munitions used in Swat, from about 40 percent in Bajaur, Air Chief Marshal Qamar said. Another change was the mass evacuation of civilians.

About two million people were displaced, sometimes with only a few hours’ notice, as part of an effort to get civilians out of conflict areas to reduce their casualties. Some American officials voice skepticism about Pakistani claims of success. “We don’t have access to battle-damage assessment or the information on the actual strike execution, so we cannot make a qualitative comparison of what the intended effect was versus the actual effect,” said an American adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity, to avoid jeopardizing his job.Officials of human rights organizations say the military has not been able to eliminate all civilian casualties from airstrikes and ground fire, but they agree that the numbers are down. “Certainly, the level of civilian casualties in this phase of the conflict has been lower than in previous operations in the tribal areas,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch, based in Lahore, Pakistan.

The air force still operates under limitations. Because the F-16s are equipped to fly only by day, the militants move and conduct operations at night. Indeed, not one of the 21 main militant leaders in Swat has been killed or captured, Pakistani officials acknowledge. In addition, the Pakistani jets cannot be refueled in midair, as American fighters can, limiting how long they can remain over a target area.In South Waziristan, as the army mulls a ground war, the air force continues to attack militants’ hide-outs and training camps as well as storage caves and tunnels with 500-pound and 2,000-pound bombs. “We’re still developing our plans for South Waziristan,” Air Chief Marshal Qamar said. “We are preparing to ramp up. I think Baitullah Mehsud is getting the message, and the message is, if he keeps doing these things, we’ll hit him.”

First F-22P Frigate delivered to Pakistan

Under Sino-Pak joint project, first F-22P Frigate constructed for Pakistan Navy at Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai, China was delivered to Pakistan Navy on Thursday.The delivery ceremony was followed by Commissioning of the ship, in which Pakistani flag was hoisted on the ship with band playing Pakistani National Anthem. The ceremonies were attended by distinguished guests from Chinese Navy, Chinese Govt Authorities and senior officers of Pakistan Navy.Chief guest for the ceremony, Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Noman Bashir NI(M) while addressing the guests said that the successful and timely delivery of the First F-22P Frigate has been made possible by superb cooperation of the leadership of PLA(Navy), SASTIND, CSSC, Hudong Shipyard and CSTC.He said that with passage of time the relationship between Pakistan and China has grown deeper and fonder in all spheres of defence and economic cooperation. Pakistan is indeed proud of close association with China and this unique relationship does not draw any parallel elsewhere in the world.

He said that F-22P Frigate project is the manifestation of everlasting strategic partnership between Pakistan and China.Earlier, while welcoming the guests at Commissioning ceremony, Head of Pakistan Mission and the Chief Naval Overseer, Commodore Mahmood ur Rehman SI(M) said that the successful culmination of the first F-22P Frigate is the result of ardent efforts and exceptional professional competence of all personnel involved in this project, right out its inception.Work on design and construction of F-22 P ships started in year 2005 after signing of a contract between MoDP and CSTC of China for construction of three ships in China and one at Karachi Shipyard. While first F-22P ship is now heading to Pakistan, all other three ships are at different stages of construction.Talking to Chinese media, Admiral Noman said that one of the important aspects of his visit was the interactions and discussions on how to further they can make progress and strengthen the relationship at all levels.

To a question, he said Pakistan, China relations were multidimensional and both countries had understanding on many issues. Both countries were co-operating in various civil as well as defence projects, he added.About India Nuke submarine, Admiral Noman said although it was launched two days back, we knew it for a long time. Indian, he said had their own security perspective, but Pakistan believed that the presence of Indian nuclear submarine changes the security calculus of Indian Ocean. Pakistan, Admiral Noman said, did not want to follow arms' race as "we have our own priorities".He said, "we are fully alive to our security and taking all necessary measures to safeguard it. In this regard he referred to acquisition of P-22 frigates for Pakistan Navy.

Admiral Noman Bashir pointed out that Chinese military production industry maintained very high quality and standard and Pakistan wanted to benefit from their achievements.To a question on security of Indian Ocean, Admiral Noman said it was very important for many reasons. The Ocean is main artery for oil supplies and it connected the East with the West as a result a large number of cargo ships passed through it every day."The Ocean is very important not only for Pakistan and China but for the entire world therefore Pakistan don't want to see it monopolise by any country. So, this is important for all the countries in the world including Pakistan which is located on the mouth of Gulf to make sure that the India Ocean remains peaceful", he added.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

India contributing more than 8,000 troops to UN

India has contributed 8,607 troops, police and military observers to nine UN Peacekeeping operations this year and has suffered 131 casualties, government today said. Giving the information in the Lok Sabha in response to a written question, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said India is the third largest such contributor. He said upto 30 June 2009, India suffered 131 casualties in the UN Peacekeeping operations. The minister said in accordance with UN General Assembly resolution 52/177 dated 20 January, 1998, the United Nations pays compensation in case of death and disability during peacekeeping operations.

Indian Army needs new air defence guns

Gorshkov deal not yet finalised: India

Several controversies and five years after India announced that a Russian sea-based aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshkov, will be added to the Naval fleet, Defence Minister AK Antony today said: “We have not signed any contract (with the Russians) only negotiations are going on.” A final decision on the contract will be taken after we verify everything including the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India. Nothing has been decided the minister said as he attempted to put a lid on the controversy which started last week when the CAG “ripped through” the ministry of defence for paying some Rs 10,000 crore more than what was due for the aircraft carrier.Antony’s statement was made to a supplementary question raised by T Shiva of Tamil Nadu in which he also admitted, “I agree Russia has asked for a substantially huge amount.” The CAG report had said that "second-hand" carrier will be 60 per cent costlier than a new one and there is the risk of further delay in its delivery.

In his reply Antony put forward something which may have missed the audit books of the CAG: “Very few countries manufacture such carriers and as per the international relations prevailing in 2004, no country other than Russia was ready to give us a warship of this kind.” Russia agreed to gift the carrier to us. (India had to pay for the re-fit and the fighter jets that would be on the deck of the warship) Russia failed to calculate the cost of the re-fit.In a way Antony may be right the NATO countries have the capability to make such warships and they were not keen to arm India

India aware of China buildup on border

Bell Helicopters pulls out of Indian RFP for Gunship helicopter

Three vendors had submitted their proposals in response to the Request for Proposal (RFP) relating to procurement of Attack Helicopters for the Indian Air Force that had been issued on May 23, 2008. During technical evaluation, it was found that all the three proposals did not comply with all the requirements stipulated in the RFP. Hence, the RFP was withdrawn on March 09, 2009. A fresh RFP has already been issued on May 25, 2009.

The American company Bell Helicopters has decided not to participate in the Request for Proposal (RFP) process for acquisition of 22 attack helicopters for the Indian Air Force, sources have confirmed. The RFP, issued in May 2009, was the first RFP to be issued by the new UPA government in its second term in office.

"The AH-1Z helicopter model that Bell was hoping to field for the RFP process is currently undergoing operational evaluation for the US Marine corps. It will not be possible to field it and therefore Bell has decided to opt out of the RFP process. The AH-1Z helicopter model is a new upgraded helicopter and the operational evaluation process in the US is not yet over. So therefore, Bell will not be participating this time," sources said. Sources added that United States embassy in New Delhi would be informing the Indian ministry of defence about the exit of Bell from the RFP process.A fresh RFP was issued in May 2009 after the earlier RFP — issued in 2008 to various vendors — was "withdrawn" by the MoD earlier in 2009 on the grounds that qualitative requirements had not been met.

Interestingly, Bell Helicopters had opted out of the previous RFP process as well since the Indian government had (earlier) insisted on direct sale of the equipment from it. Bell was in a position to supply the helicopters only through the foreign military sales (FMS) programme of the US government since the Bell attack helicopters are being used by the US Navy. Ironically, the government, in the new RFP, is learnt to have permitted acquisition through the foreign military sales (FMS) programme of the US government in case an American vendor is selected after the bidding process. The amendment would have now made it possible for Bell to sell its copters but this time the concerned Bell helicopter model is undergoing operational evaluation with the US armed forces and is hence unavailable.

The fresh RFP in May is believed to have been issued to five vendors, Italian-owned Agusta Westland, American companies Bell Helicopters and Boeing, the European Eurocopter and the Russian Kamov. The other American company Boeing is still in the RFP race.

Paramilitary short of manpower:India

32 MiGs crashed in last five years

South Korea and the United States will conduct joint military exercise

South Korea and the United States will kick off their annual computerized joint military exercise aimed at improving interoperability next month, the Combine Forces Command (CFC) here said July 24. The Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG), formerly known as Ulchi Focus Lens, will be held from Aug. 17-27, the command said in a news release.

About 56,000 South Korean troops and 10,000 American troops will take part in the command and control, war-fighting exercise, a CFC spokesman said. The forthcoming exercise will be the second one in which South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff will serve in a leading role with the U.S. Forces Korea serving in a supporting role, in rehearsal training for the planned transition of wartime operational control from the U.S. military to Korean commanders.

Under a 2007 agreement on command rearrangements, the U.S.-led CFC will be deactivated in April 17, 2012. The militaries will then launch separate theater commands. "UFG 09, as with all other CFC exercises, is a defense oriented exercise designed to improve the alliance's ability to defend the ROK against external aggression," the release said. "United Nations Command has informed the Korean People's Army in North Korea about UFG 09 and assured them that this is a defensive military readiness exercise, and that is not meant to be provocative in any way."North Korea regularly denounces joint military drills by South Korea and the United States, calling them as a rehearsal for invasion.

South Korea to develop a cutting-edge digital command-and-control

South Korea will begin developing a cutting-edge digital command-and-control and sensor-to-shooter battlefield system fit for a network-centric environment next year, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) here announced July 28.The plan was approved by an arms procurement decision-making committee presided over by Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee, the agency said in a news release. The development of the Tactical Information Communication Network (TICN) will be completed by 2012, following two years of exploratory development from 2007 to 2008, with the investment of about 181 billion won ($146 million), said Yoon Chang-oak, chief of the agency's tactical communication and control business department. About 4.8 trillion won ($3.8 billion) will be spent over the following eight years to produce and deploy the TICN, replacing the South Korean Army's SPIDER communications system, Yoon said.

TICN is a future tactical military communication information system that will enable precise command and control and decision-making by unifying the diversified military communication network and conveying a broad array of battlefield information in real time. It is designed to advance into a high-speed, large-capacity, long-distance wireless relay transmission system."For the TICN development, we'll make the most of the made-in-Korea WiBro technology and other indigenous state-of-the-art information technologies with the help of local communications systems developers," Yoon said.The SPIDER system can only transmit still images and voice data, but TICN will allow for the integrated transmission of video, image and voice data at more than 10 times the current speed, he added.

The agency will open a bid for the TICN development project in August and sign contracts with final bidders by the end of December, Yoon noted. According to DAPA sources, companies that participated in the exploratory development phase, such as Samsung Thales, LIG Nex1 and Huneed Technologies, will likely be selected as preferred bidders for the full-scale development phase again. The TICN exploratory development was overseen by the state-funded Agency for Defense Development. The network system consists of five subsystems, including High Capacity Trunk Radio (HCTR), Tactical Multi-band and Multi-role Radio (TMMR) and Network Management System (NMS).Samsung Thales was a main developer of TICN, taking charge of the development of NMS and two other subsystems. LIG Nex1 was in charge of TMMR, while Huneed was a main contractor for HCTR.

France Sends 3 Tiger Combat Helos to Afghanistan

France has sent three Tiger attack helicopters to Afghanistan, marking the first operational deployment of the aircraft, the ministry of defense said."On July 26, three Tiger combat helicopters arrived at Kabul airport by Antonov 124," the ministry said in a posting on its Web site.

A deployment of the Tiger aircraft has been long awaited after a deadly ambush by insurgents last August, which brought criticism on the French government for what was seen as inadequate resources for French troops despatched to Afghanistan.The Tiger aircraft, in the hélicoptère d'appui et de protection (HAP) version, will be used for armed reconnaissance and fire support for ground troops, the ministry said. The aircraft are expected to be operational in a few weeks, said a video clip produced by the ministry and ECPAD, the ministry's audiovisual production arm.

The three Tiger helicopters, equipped with a chin mounted 30 mm gun, will boost the coalition air assets, to which France contributes three Caracal EC725 combat search and rescue aircraft and three Gazelle "Viviane" light reconnaissance helicopters, based in Kabul.The 5th regiment of combat helicopters, based in Pau, southern France, will operate the Tigers. France has ordered a first batch of 40 Tigers out of a planned 80 units from EADS Eurocopter. In the Aug. 18 ambush in the Uzbeen valley last year, the French forces relied on air support from U.S. AC-130 and F-16 aircraft, with surveillance from a Predator UAV.

France Sends 3 Tiger Combat Helos to Afghanistan

France has sent three Tiger attack helicopters to Afghanistan, marking the first operational deployment of the aircraft, the ministry of defense said."On July 26, three Tiger combat helicopters arrived at Kabul airport by Antonov 124," the ministry said in a posting on its Web site.A deployment of the Tiger aircraft has been long awaited after a deadly ambush by insurgents last August, which brought criticism on the French government for what was seen as inadequate resources for French troops despatched to Afghanistan.

The Tiger aircraft, in the hélicoptère d'appui et de protection (HAP) version, will be used for armed reconnaissance and fire support for ground troops, the ministry said. The aircraft are expected to be operational in a few weeks, said a video clip produced by the ministry and ECPAD, the ministry's audiovisual production arm.The three Tiger helicopters, equipped with a chin mounted 30 mm gun, will boost the coalition air assets, to which France contributes three Caracal EC725 combat search and rescue aircraft and three Gazelle "Viviane" light reconnaissance helicopters, based in Kabul.The 5th regiment of combat helicopters, based in Pau, southern France, will operate the Tigers. France has ordered a first batch of 40 Tigers out of a planned 80 units from EADS Eurocopter. In the Aug. 18 ambush in the Uzbeen valley last year, the French forces relied on air support from U.S. AC-130 and F-16 aircraft, with surveillance from a Predator UAV.

Bahrain – AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM Missiles

Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible foreign military sale to the Government of Bahrain of 25 AIM-120C-7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) and associated equipment, parts and services at an estimated cost of $74 million. The Government of Bahrain has requested a possible sale of 25 AIM-120C-7 AMRAAMs, missile containers, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistical and program support. The estimated cost is $74 million

India tightens controls on arms buys

When the deputy chief of the Indian army recently promised the Indian public and private sectors a "level playing field" in purchases of military hardware he wasn't talking about electric golf carts to take elderly golfers around hilly golf courses.The carts, which cost about $243,000, were allegedly bought with money designated for electric wheelchairs in military hospitals and on track alignment reconnaissance vehicles.Meanwhile, the India government announced major reforms to the country's military procurement program designed to speed up and tighten quality controls over the purchase of defense equipment. Decisions on modern combat and related materiel for the Indian armed forces are being delegated to a new committee under the Master General of Ordnance.Defense Minister A K Antony told the Indian parliament: "There is no question of delays now. After considering security aspect, the committee can take decisions and can give money also. Now the committee under MGO can give all clearances."Responding to critical questions about delays and the issue of sub-standard equipment, the minister said the government will speed up the process of Indianisation in military purchasing to bring more transparency and give "more space" for both Indian industry in both the private and public sectors. The Indian military procures some 70 percent of its purchases from outside the country, a figure that Antony described as "shameful and dangerous."

The "military" golf carts are just the tip of an iceberg of recent criticisms of India's military procurement program highlighted in reports by India's Comptroller and Audit General. Purchases from Russia have come in for particular criticism.The CAG said 2,000 laser-guided 155mm Krasnopol-M rounds, which the army acquired from Russia in 2002, had proved unsuccessful. Bought for some $77 million, the comptroller's report said they had been acquired "without necessary evaluation." The critique was embarrassing because an earlier $31 million purchase of 1,000 similar rounds made in 1999 was also found to have been flawed. India's purchase of a second-hand Russian-built aircraft carrier has also come under attack. The Admiral Gorshkov is due for delivery by 2012, though the CAG believes it could well be delayed, at a total cost of $1.8 billion.

The final bill doubled, say Indian media reports, when the Russian shipyard escalated the price of its refitting in 2007. The Admiral Gorshkov will turn out to be 60 percent dearer than a new warship, says CAG, adding, "The objective of inducting an aircraft carrier in time to fill the gap in Indian navy has not been achieved."India is building its own 858-foot carrier to be armed with surface-to-air missiles, latest radar and an array of other combat systems from Israel, France and Russia. 'With this project, India joins the select club of 40,000-ton aircraft carrier designers and builders," the navy said in a statement.The CAG report has also criticized the induction into the Army Aviation Corps of 40 advanced light helicopters -- designed and developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited -- at a cost of $360 million. It says they are underpowered, limiting their range to 5,000 instead of the required 6,500 miles, which will delay the phasing out of the AAC's obsolete Chetak (SA 316B Alouette III) and Cheetah (SA 315B Lama) helicopters, reducing the army's operational efficiency in the mountainous Kashmir region. Meanwhile, the Indian ministry of defense has ingeniously defended its golf carts. It says they "facilitate noiseless reconnaissance in close proximity to the enemy." Jane's Defense Weekly, however, notes that more than half of India's 180 golf course are owned or managed the military -- most of them by the army.

Pak looks beyond F-22P frigates: Admiral Noman

Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Noman Bashir has said that the induction of F-22P frigate in Pakistan Navy was a very big leap forward not only in respect of Pak-China bilateral co-operation but it also help enhance country’s defence capability, adding “we are looking beyond F-22P frigates”. The Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) currently on official visit to China, said here he had very useful discussions at leadership level and looking forward for commissioning of the first F-22P frigate named ‘PNS Zulfiqar’ on July 30 which was constructed in Shanghai. “Because of extremely cordial relations between the two countries as well as among the two navies, it was very important for me to meet our most trusted friends and as soon as I got the first opportunity I embarked on visit to China”, he added. Talking to Chinese media, Admiral Noman said that one of the important aspects of his visit was the interactions and discussions on how to further they can make progress and strengthen the relationship at all levels. To a question, he said Pakistan, China relations are multidimensional and both countries have understanding on many issues. Both countries are cooperating in various civil as well as defence projects.

About India Nuke submarine, Admiral Noman said that although it was launched two days back, we knew it for a long time. Indian, he said has their own security perspective, but Pakistan believs that the presence of Indian nuclear submarine changes the security calculus of Indian ocean. Pakistan, Admiral Noman said do not want to follow arms race as “we have our own priorities”. He said that we are fully alive to our security and taking all necessary measures to safeguard it. In this regard he referred to acquisition of F-22P frigates for Pakistan Navy. Admiral Noman Bashir pointed out that Chinese military production industry maintains very high quality and standard and Pakistan wants to benefit from their achievements. To a question on security of Indian Ocean, Admiral Noman said that it is very important for many reasons. The Ocean is main arty for oil supplies and it connect East with the West as a result a large number of cargo ships passed through it every day.

“The Ocean is very important not only for Pakistan and China but for the entire world therefore Pakistan don’t want to see it monopolize by any country. So, this is important for all the countries in the world including Pakistan which is located on the mouth of Gulf to make sure that the India Ocean remains peaceful”, he added. Pakistan Navy, Admiral Noman Bashir said was contributing its role with the international community in fight against illegal activities including drug and human trafficking through sea. Welcoming the presence of Chinese Task-force in Indian Ocean, the CNS said we look forward for opportunities to work together for the common objective of maintaining peace and security. Meanwhile Admiral Noman Bashir said that Pakistan Navy is still actively participating along with Navies of various countries including China in curbing piracy in sea of Aden. “Our performance was highly acclaimed by major countries”, he added. Pakistan’s Ambassador to China Masood Khan was also present on the occasion.

Deal for SU-30s deprives industry of Rs 2,711 crore

The mighty SU-30s are the pride of the IAF, but their procurement has generated some turbulence. A deal to procure 40 such aircraft has apparently deprived the Indian industry of Rs 2,711 crore in offset benefits. This has happened because the Ministry of Defence and the IAF failed to go in for an offset clause as stipulated in the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP). In order to arrest declining force levels, the IAF concluded a contract worth Rs 9,000 crore with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in March, 2007, for the supply of 40 aircraft. These were to be delivered in phases between 2008-11.While revealing this in its latest report, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has also pointed out that the IAF did not have any funds allocated for this acquisition and funds were diverted from other programmes. Further, the delivery schedules have been pushed from 2011 to 2012. Against eight aircraft to be delivered in 2008-09, only two were delivered till February, 2009.The DPP classifies acquisitions as Buy-Indian, Buy and make with Transfer of Technology (ToT) or Buy-Global. Offset clause is applicable in the latter two cases. The MoD and IAF categorised the procurement as Buy-Indian on the grounds that the procurement was a repeat order for equipment developed through ToT.

The CAG termed this categorisation as incorrect. Buy-Indian implied that the indigenous content is a minimum of 30 per cent when an Indian vendor integrates the systems. In the said contract, however, the indigenous content was just five per cent, with 95 per cent of the material being imported. The MoD maintained that categorisation of the procurement was discussed by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) and it was decided to procure the aircraft in the Buy-Indian category taking into account the urgency of procurement, indigenous content and price link and insistence of the offset clause would have delayed negotiations and negated price advantages.The CAG termed the ministry’s contentions as unacceptable as adherence to the DPP was mandatory. It pointed out that the advice of the Defence Offset Facilitation Agency was not obtained in the matter. Moreover, the DAC was not empowered to supersede provisions of the DPP.

T-72 tanks moved to remote Sikkim area after China tests Indian defences

China casts wary eye on India's N-Submarine

India's very own Nautilus

IAF presses HAL for more Sukhois

Keen to deploy its most potent fighter jets at strategic airbases on both the eastern and western fronts, IAF has asked Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) to step up the production rate of the Russian-origin Sukhoi-30MKIs. IAF till now has inducted 98 of the 230 twin-engine Sukhois contracted from Russia, with HAL tasked to manufacture 140 of them under transfer of technology, under three deals worth a total of around $8.5 billion. IAF wants HAL to step up the production rate from the current 14 to at least 18 Sukhois per year, as also "not bunch them towards the end of the year", said a senior officer. Apart from the initial figure of 140 Sukhois, HAL will also be assembling 40 more of these "air dominance" fighters, the procurement of which was fast-tracked through the last $1.6-billion contract. "The first lot of these 40 Sukhois should begin to roll out from 2011 onwards," said the officer. Defence minister A K Antony, on his part, contends India will have a fleet of 230 Sukhois by 2015. IAF, however, may be forced to go in for another deal for the ‘heavy’ category Sukhois if the gigantic $10.4-billion project to acquire 126 new ‘medium’ multi-role fighter aircraft and the proposed induction of seven squadrons (18 jets each) of the indigenous ‘‘light-weight’’ Tejas Light Combat Aircraft are ‘‘delayed beyond a reasonable timeframe’’. The slow pace of deliveries from HAL has meant that the first of the two Sukhoi squadrons earmarked for Tezpur (Assam) in the eastern sector will only be fully operational by early-2010. Four Sukhois were based in Tezpur in mid-June as part of the overall strategy to bolster military capabilities along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control to counter China’s build-up of military infrastructure in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and south China. Incidentally, IAF has identified Chabua (Assam), Halwara (Punjab) and Jodhpur (Rajasthan) as the new airbases to house the Sukhois as they come in. It already has Sukhoi bases in Pune and Bareilly, with the former also housing a dedicated training squadron for rookie pilots. ‘‘But with Sukhois not available in required numbers, training and flying operations are obviously being adversely impacted,’’ said the officer. Fresh inductions are also crucial because IAF is grappling with a sharp dip in the number of its fighter squadrons, down to just 32 from its ‘‘sanctioned strength’’ of 39.5. IAF, of course, having already inked a Rs 3,840-crore deal with Russia to upgrade its 69 MiG-29s by 2011, is looking to sign a Rs 10,000-crore contract with France for a similar package for its 51 Mirage-2000s to enhance its combat potential. "While a Sukhoi-30MKI, capable of simultaneously operating as a bomber and an interceptor, can be loosely said to be equal to three MiG-21s, numbers do matter at the end of the day,’’ said another officer. "We will only start feeling good as a force around 2015 and achieve 39.5 squadrons by 2017 or so. We would like 42 squadrons by 2022," he added.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Israel trains SAM battalion for Iron Dome

Iron Dome, still under fast-track development by state-run Israel Aerospace Industries, is designed to counter rockets, and 155mm shells, from ranges of 3 miles to 43 miles.

The Israeli air force is training a new battalion of air-defense troops to man the first batteries of the Iron Dome system designed to shoot down short-range rockets, which is scheduled for deployment in the southern Negev Desert in May 2010. The first units will be arrayed to counter Qassam and Grad rockets fired from the Gaza Strip by Hamas, which controls the coastal territory between Israel and Egypt, and by its Palestinian allies. The deployment of Iron Dome, specifically designed to counter this growing threat, is becoming a matter of some urgency. The Palestinian militants have been extending the range of their missiles of late from the thinly populated desert area in Israel abutting the Gaza Strip that has been their target for almost a decade. The Grads, versions of the 122mm Soviet-era battlefield rocket, can now reach as far north as the Negev town of Beersheba, near the Dimona nuclear reactor, and the outer fringes of the major urban conurbation around Tel Aviv. Most of the strategic targets in Israel lie within the country's narrow central zone between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Iron Dome, still under fast-track development by state-run Israel Aerospace Industries, is designed to counter rockets, and 155mm shells, from ranges of 3 miles to 43 miles.

At present, the Israelis have no defense system capable of countering the Iranian-supplied Grads and the Qassams, which are manufactured by Hamas in makeshift factories in the labyrinthine Gaza Strip. This is a political hot potato because until now every Israeli government of the last decade failed to produce a defensive system capable of countering the increasingly dangerous threat of short-range rockets. Iron Dome successfully intercepted three Grads during live-fire tests on July 15-16, the first full interception trials for the system and the end of its initial development phase. Eventually, Iron Dome battalions will be deployed along Israel's northern border with Lebanon to defend against rockets fired by Hezbollah. These include Grad-type rockets known by the generic name Katyusha, and longer-range Iranian-made Zelzal and Fajr rockets with a range of up to 150 miles and capable of hitting central Israel.

Hezbollah, armed by Iran and Syria, unleashed a non-stop barrage of some 4,000 rockets against Israel during its 34-day war with Israel in July-August 2006. Israel says Hezbollah currently has re-armed with some 40,000 rockets of various calibers. By comparison, Hamas fired 800 Qassams and Grads during the 22-day Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip in December-January. Other systems capable of combating short-range rockets, which many in Israel believe have become a serious military threat, are in the works. Iron Dome will be supplemented by the David's Sling system currently being developed by Israel's Rafael armaments company and Raytheon of the United States. It successfully intercepted a simulated 122mm Grad on March 23. Israel's military planners hope to deploy a more advanced system, Rafael's Magic Wand, in 2012-13. This will probably supplant the Iron Dome system.

Magic Wand will employ the Rafael-Raytheon Stunner interceptor, which will be able to intercept incoming missiles, such as the Iranian-produced Zelzals and Fajrs that threaten central Israel, in the medium-range envelope of 25 miles to 160 miles. Israel has also announced that it wants to buy the land-based derivative of the U.S. Phalanx naval close-in weapon system as a counter to the short-range rockets and mortar shells used by Hamas. This system, made by Raytheon, combines a six-barreled, 20mm Vulcan Gatling gun capable of firing 3,000 to 4,500 rounds per minute, a digital search radar, a tracking radar and a forward-looking-infrared imaging system with automatic target acquisition and tracking capability.

Pakistan stretched thin for Mehsud battle

Consolidating military gains in Swat and worries about Taliban spillover from south Afghanistan are clouding Pakistan's offensive against the country's most wanted warlord, analysts say. In mid-June, the military said it had received orders and was preparing to launch an offensive against Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud and his network in the South Waziristan tribal district bordering Afghanistan. Troops have sealed off much of the eastern border between South Waziristan and areas under government control, and carried out air raids in what the military calls softening up for a full-scale ground operation.

Pakistan says it has eliminated the Taliban in a military offensive launched last April in northwestern districts Buner, Dir and Swat, which rendered nearly two million people displaced.
But deadly skirmishes continue, raising fears that the Taliban escaped into the mountains and might return, as after previous offensives. Signs of battle were visible on the road winding up to Swat at the weekend. South of the valley at Batkhela, two bodies were dumped by the road. Residents said they were Taliban killed by the army. Another body lay in the Swat town of Marghazar. Residents identified him as a local Taliban commander who was captured and killed as a warning. "The army has to consolidate Swat and help maintain security so that IDPs (internally displaced persons) return without any fear that the Taliban would come back," former interior minister Hamid Nawaz told .

"My assessment is that the army will remain in Swat until the civilian set-up is also consolidated and an intelligence network is in place," added Nawaz, who is also a retired lieutenant general. Last week US regional envoy Richard Holbrooke heard concerns in Pakistan that 4,000 US Marines operating further south in Afghanistan will push Taliban across the border and inflame in insurgency in Baluchistan. When the US airborne assault began, Pakistan said it redeployed troops along the Afghan border to stop Taliban fighters fleeing into its southwest, ripped apart by Islamist, sectarian and regional violence. "There can be a spillover of the Helmand operation into Pakistan and the military has to guard the border as well," said Nawaz. "But in South Waziristan, firefights continue and strikes are being carried out against militants with a view to cause maximum damage." Mehsud has two prices on his head -- five million dollars from the United States, which considers him a key Al-Qaeda facilitator, and 615,000 dollars from the Pakistani government. Suspected US missiles and Pakistani air strikes target his strongholds but so far he has escaped harm.

"Baitullah Mehsud is one of the most dangerous and odious people in the entire region," said Holbrooke, but added he thought a Waziristan offensive had been delayed because of operations in Swat. "The highest priority right now has to be to secure the areas in Swat and Buner as the refugees return... So maybe they're delaying their offensive. The Taliban denies claims that Maulana Fazlullah, architect of the Swat uprising, was wounded and threatened renewed holy war. "Northern Swat is still insecure and the leadership, Fazlullah, is not captured, so there's a long way to go there," recognised Holbrooke. He said Pakistan was busy coordinating its military activities with NATO troops in Afghanistan, where the United States was determined not to repeat mistakes of the past when Taliban escaped.

Defence analyst Talat Masood said "this could be the consideration," but argued the army would continue targeted air strikes against Mehsud's network, concentrated on perfect guerrilla terrain. "They have always been hesitant to launch a full-scale operation in South Waziristan, because the conditions there are very different than Swat," Masood said. "They would continue with limited targeted action." Military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas ruled out any question that Waziristan was on the back burner. "Military operations are of different forms... The areas around South Waziristan are sealed and aerial targeting is being done," Abbas said. "We will decide upon the ground offensive at an appropriate time. We do not start operations because someone or media reports say so," he said.

Pentagon rules slow defense sales to Iraq

A DCSA spokesman said further contracts are being processed for a further 140 Abrams tanks and 400 Strykers -- eight-wheeled all-wheel-drive armored combat vehicles produced by General Dynamics Land Systems.

European and Asian manufacturers could be the beneficiaries in Iraq of rigid Pentagon rules governing the credit rating of governments seeking to buy military equipment. The Soviet Union -- traditionally the largest arms sellers to the Saddam Hussein regime -- as well as France and Korea have been named as likely suppliers if the U.S. government fails to loosen up regulations governing the financing of armaments contracts. says sales of U.S. military equipment to Iraq worth billions of dollars are at stake. The option of paying for cash, rather than financing purchases through credit, is barred to the Iraqi government largely because down payments it has already made are tied up in an escrow account with the New York Federal Reserve Bank. The defense newsletter says these are payments in respect of a $2.1 billion deal for 140 U.S. Abrams tanks and smaller numbers of Tank Recovery Vehicles, Shelter Carriers, Humvees and armored ambulances. These purchases were approved last December by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees such sales to Iraq.

A DCSA spokesman said further contracts are being processed for a further 140 Abrams tanks and 400 Strykers -- eight-wheeled all-wheel-drive armored combat vehicles produced by General Dynamics Land Systems. But industry sources quoted by Defense News say Iraq's lack of ready cash and its low credit rating are holding up the deal and could mean Iraq turning to other suppliers. Alternatives mentioned by Defense Department officials include refurbished Russian T-72 tanks, Soviet-era BMD infantry fighting vehicles, and French and South Korean vehicles. And one army official quoted by says the Iraqis, who have the rights of a sovereign country, "are looking at stuff from many other countries as well. U.S. army officials says Iraq is paying $200 million for 8,500 refurbished U.S. Humvees, but the defense newsletter names other deals done in the past nine months that could be held up by a lack of finance and Iraq's inadequate credit history:

Last fall DSCA approved a request to buy Humvees, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, 400 M1126 infantry carrier vehicles and 400 M2 .50-caliber machine guns. In December it approved a request to buy 26 Bell helicopters, 26 Rolls Royce engines, 26 .50-cal machine guns and 26 Hellfire guided-missile launchers in a deal worth $366 million. In January Congress approved the sale of 80 Armored Security Vehicles and 400 Stryker vehicles. Under Pentagon Foreign Military Sales regulations, Iraq's inability to borrow commercially to finance large arms purchases disqualifies the country from "dependable undertaking" status that would allow it to pay off such purchases over time. The U.S. army is reportedly moving to reform other procedures that slow down for sales in Iraq.

Daniel Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute, a Virginia-based think tank, said, "If at the same time we leave Iraq we are heading toward a confrontation with Iran, clearly an Iraq that is capable of self-defense against Iran would be an extremely important ally to have in the Gulf region." Goure said the Iraqis may be eyeing some older foreign vehicles as interim solutions until more U.S. stuff is approved. But given the U.S. commitment to training the new Iraqi army, large-scale purchases of non-U.S. equipment could be difficult. "Training them on our gear is easy. Are we going to train them on someone else's equipment with their radios, weapons, and their command and control?" Goure asked.

Arrow 2 ABM test failure a 'serious setback'

The failure of an upgraded Arrow 2 missile interceptor in a test off the Californian coast was seen as a serious setback for Israel's main defense system at a time when Iran is accelerating its long-range ballistic missile program. The Arrow test scheduled for July 22 was aborted on three occasions because of technical malfunctions, including communications glitches between the missile and its Israel-developed Green Pine radar, according to Israel and U.S. accounts.

The failure was seen as a morale booster for Iran. Three days after the test failure, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander of Iran's Islamic revolutionary Guard Corps, declared that Tehran was capable of hitting Israel's nuclear facilities and would do so if attacked. "Our rockets have the precision capabilities to target all the Israeli nuclear sites," he said on July 25. The Arrow 2 system is the long-range element in a multilayered Israeli defense shield to protect the country from missile bombardment. It is designed to shoot down ballistic missiles up to 700 miles from the Jewish state. The failure of the California tests thus leaves the entire Arrow system unproven.

Both the United States and Israel hope that the upgraded Arrow system would serve as a deterrent to any attack on Israel. At the same time, the Americans hope that having a proven defensive system would also persuade Israel not to launch any pre-emptive strikes against Iran.
Israel currently has two batteries of Arrow 1 missiles operational and is reported to have 100 missiles available. It is upgrading this variant, but is also in the preliminary stages of developing a more advanced version, Arrow-3, with U.S. help. Israeli officials played down the problems that plagued the California test, saying that these were to be expected in such a complex project. But the failure of the Arrow system over several days, with at least three delays, was a critical setback.

It was to have been the first test of Arrow's ability to intercept missiles at extreme range over the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. The Israelis cannot conduct such tests at home because the geography of the Middle East limits the range of such operations. According to U.S. officials, six months are required to prepare the complex system for testing, but neither the Israeli Defense Ministry nor the Pentagon has indicated a date for a new test. In the test at the U.S. Navy's Naval Air Warfare Center/Weapons Division Sea Range at Point Mugu in central California, a Block4 M5 Arrow, co-produced with the Boeing Co. of Chicago, was intended to intercept a dummy Iranian Shehab-3 missile dropped from a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster 700 miles out over the Pacific.

The Shehab-3 has a range of 1,250 miles, capable of hitting Israel. Iran is believed to have as many as 100 Shehab-3s operational. Iran says it has also recently test-fired a more advanced weapon, the Sejjil-2. This carries solid fuel, which means it can be launched swiftly and without any telltale pre-launch activity. The Shehab, by comparison, uses liquid fuel and takes up to an hour to prepare for launch, which makes it vulnerable to pre-emptive strikes. Thus, the Sejjil could, in theory, get much closer to Israel before Arrow interceptors could be launched than the Shehab.

For the Israelis, Iran's missiles and its nuclear program, with the potential to produce nuclear warheads, are its biggest security threat. Israel has made it clear it is prepared to mount military strikes against Iran to neutralize that threat. Israel's concerns were compounded by the disclosure by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the United States would extend a "defense umbrella" over its Arab allies in the Gulf to prevent Iran from dominating the strategic, oil-rich region "once they have a nuclear weapon." The Israelis saw that as an indication that the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama was resigned to living with a nuclear Iran, something the Israelis are not prepared to do.

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