Monday, August 31, 2009

Crashes, engine failures ground IAF HPT-32 trainer aircraft

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has grounded its entire fleet of HPT-32 initial trainer aircraft owing to a series of crashes and engine failures. This comes at a time when the force is facing an acute shortage of efficient pilots. Authoritative sources in the IAF said recurrent engine failure of the Hindustan Piston Trainer (HPT)-32 aircraft — stationed at the Air Force Academy (AFA) in Hyderabad — is the reason behind the grounding since last month.

“The entire fleet of the HPT-32 has not been flying," a senior IAF official said, requesting anonymity. The engine failures raised concern as the aircraft are handled by rookies for initial flight training. On July 31, an HPT-32 aircraft crashed at Annaram village in Jinnaram Mandal of Medak district and both the instructors on board were killed in the accident. In May last year, a woman cadet of the AFA died during a crash. In this case, fuel had leaked into the engine, causing it to burst.

The basic propeller-driven trainer, with two side-by-side seats, suffered more than 70 incidents between 1988 and 1995. A group was constituted to study the aircraft, which is manufactured by the defence public sector undertaking Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and which has been in service for three decades. According to the study, the Avco Lycoming AEIO-540-D4B5 engine in the aircraft has registered more than 100 failures in recent months.

Usually around 140-150 cadets of the flying branch are trained on the HPT-32 and then graduate to the intermediate flight and weapons training aircraft Surya Kiran. However, with the initial trainer being grounded, cadets are now directly being trained on the Surya Kirans, affecting the training schedule of the pilots.

"We have got Surya Kiran trainer aircraft from across the country and also from SKAT (the Surya Kiran Aerobatics Team) for training pilots," the official added.Last year, even the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India said the IAF was facing an acute shortage of efficient pilots after failing to impart quality training. It attributed the discontinuity in training to lack of adequate state-of-the-art training aircraft with the IAF.

“HPT-32 aircraft used for Stage-I training is technologically outdated and beset by flight safety hazards. In spite of the loss of 11 pilots and 15 aircraft, it continues to be used today. Further, HPT-32 does not aid in the smooth transition of trainees to the next stage of training,” the CAG had said.

Two Chinese helicopters violates the Indian air space

Two Chinese helicopters have reportedly violated the Indian air space in recent months in the Leh area of north Jammu and Kashmir during which they air-dropped some canned food in barren land at Chumar, northeast of this Himalayan town, along the border. The MI series helicopters were reported to the nearby defence post by residents of this high altitude area living along the Pangong lake, located in the lap of majestic hills, prompting the Army Aviation Corps to rush its Cheetah and Chetak helicopters. However, they could only find tell-tale signs left by Chinese helicopters which hovered in the Indian territory for nearly five minutes dropping the food material on June 21 this year, sources said.

Army spokesperson for Udhampur-based Northern Command said there was a report of a helicopter flying in the area south of Chumar, where India and China have differences in perception on the Line of Actual Control. It was reported by grazers. A confidential defence document accessed by PTI shows that Chinese helicopters entered into Indian air space along the Damchok area and Trig Heights in Ladakh and air dropped canned food containing frozen pork and brinjal, which had passed the expiry date.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army has been crossing over into the Indian side in this region quite frequently with August reporting the maximum number of incursions. Trig Heights also known as Trade junction, which connected Ladakh with Tibet in earlier days, is an area where Chinese patrol have frequented this year in June, July and August. Chinese Army patrols have made 26 sorties in June, including two incursions by helicopters, and 21 in July.

In August this year, Chinese patrols have entered into the Indian Territory 26 times and walked away with petrol and kerosene meant for jawans of the border guarding forces. The Chinese army had made 223 attempts last year and left tell-tale signs. The Army spokesperson, however, tried to downplay these incursions attempts saying "there are a few areas along the border where India and China have different perceptions of the LAC. Both sides patrol up to their respective perceptions of LAC."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

China to launch Indonesia's communications satellite

China will soon send an Indonesian communications satellite into space on the back of Chinese-made Long March 3B rocket, a spokesperson for the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan Province said Saturday. All preparatory work is well underway and both the satellite and the rocket were in good condition, the spokesperson said. The Palapa D satellite, owned by Indosat, an Indonesian satellite communications company, will provide satellite links and broadcasting services for Indonesia and other southeastern Asian nations. Indosat ordered the Palapa D satellite from the French company Thales Alenia Space in 2007.

Chinese air force Female jet fighter pilots in new flight suits

Photo 1 & 2 taken on Aug. 30, 2009 shows female jet fighter pilots dressed in the new flight suits at an airport in north China, Aug. 30, 2009. The Chinese air force held Sunday a ceremony here for the first batch of female jet fighter pilots to be equipped with new flight suits especially designed for the female. (Xinhua/Zha Chunming)

Photo 2: A female jet fighter pilot dressed in the new flight suit prepares to board the plane at an airport in north China, Aug. 30, 2009. The Chinese air force held Sunday a ceremony here for the first batch of female jet fighter pilots to be equipped with new flight suits especially designed for the female. (Xinhua/Zha Chunming)

Photo 4: He Xiaoli, a female jet fighter pilot, gestures in the plane at an airport in north China, Aug. 30, 2009. The Chinese air force held Sunday a ceremony here for the first batch of female jet fighter pilots to be equipped with new flight suits especially designed for the female.(Xinhua/Zha Chunming)

Taiwan will go ahead with its purchase of 60 Black Hawks

The Ministry of Defense (MOD) said despite statements from the president suggesting a redeployment of funds, Taiwan will go ahead with its purchase of 60 Black Hawk helicopters from the United States.

President Ma said on the 18th that Taiwan could cut its purchase of Black Hawk helicopters by 15 in order to free up funds to buy rescue helicopters and other emergency supplies. But in a statement issued Sunday, the MOD said the plan is to purchase the 60 Black Hawk helicopters, and earmark 15 of the helicopters for rescue missions. This way, said the statement, Taiwan can fulfill its emergency relief needs without compromising defense capabilities.

The statement said the Black Hawk helicopter is a multi-functional helicopter. With adequate training and backup, it can effectively perform as a military or a rescue helicopter as the needs arise.

Israel Air Force testing Black Hawks with attack capability

In an effort to upgrade its attack helicopter fleet, the Israel Air Force is conducting flight tests with a new version of the Black Hawk utility helicopter that has been equipped with offensive air-to-surface missile launchers. Israel has several dozen Black Hawk helicopters - called Yanshuf - which it began receiving in the 1990s. Made by Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, the helicopter was designed in the 1970s as a utility tactical transport aircraft for the United States Air Force. The helicopter can carry a squad of a dozen troops with equipment or alternatively carry over one ton of equipment.

The US has a variant of the Black Hawk that is used for special operations and is equipped with Hellfire missiles, an automatic cannon as well as 70mm rockets. The arming of the Black Hawk is being done jointly by the IAF, Sikorsky and several local defense contractors. One of the helicopters has already successfully test-fired an air-to-surface missile. The helicopter has also been equipped with a rapid-fire cannon that sits under the aircraft's belly. The IAF, sources said, does not plan at this stage to equip all of its Black Hawk helicopters with offensive capabilities but is conducting the tests to see if the possibility exists should a decision to do so be made in the future.

At the same time, the IAF is close to finalizing negotiations with Boeing to upgrade at least six additional Apache attack helicopters in an effort to bolster the air support the IAF is able to provide ground forces in future operations in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.The plan is to upgrade several of its old "A" model Apache helicopters to the "D" model Longbow version with the above-rotor advanced radar system, which enables the helicopter to share targeting data with other Longbows.

According to foreign reports, Israel has 37 "A" model Apaches and 11 Longbows.IAF plans are to establish a second squadron of Apache Longbows within the coming decade. Three Apache helicopters - including one Longbow - were lost during the Second Lebanon War. In one incident, two Apaches collided in midair. In the other case, the Longbow crashed due to a malfunction in the rotor.

335th FS deploys personnel to Afghanistan

A North Carolina-based fighter squadron is sending personnel to Afghanistan. The 335th Fighter Squadron, based at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, deployed approximately 300 personnel on Sunday. Base spokesman Lt. Matt Schroff said no aircraft would be sent to Afghanistan.The squadron flies F-15E Strike Eagles, which can provide air cover for ground troops. The 335th deployed to Iraq in 2003 and flew more than 1,500 missions.

British Chinook helicopter deliberately destroyed in Afghanistan

A British Chinook helicopter was deliberately destroyed by ISAF Forces at 1605 local time having sustained damage on landing approximately 10km East of Sangin at 0530 this morning, Sunday 30 August 2009. In addition to four crew members, the helicopter was carrying 15 soldiers from 2 RIFLES Battlegroup who were being inserted into the area as part of an ongoing security operation.

The crew and passengers were unharmed. The aircraft is believed to have suffered a 'hard landing' and sustained damage to the undercarriage, nose and front rotor which subsequently made it unflyable. The troops continued with the operation and the crew were extracted by one of the two other Chinooks also on the operation.

Despite all options being investigated, due to the location and the environment, the decision was taken that the aircraft could not safely be recovered and so it was subsequently destroyed by military personnel using explosives. The cause of the incident is under investigation however there is no evidence to suggest that it was caused by enemy action. Options for replacement of this aircraft are being considered and in the meantime assets from the joint ISAF helicopter force will be made available to ensure there is no loss of operational effectiveness.

Iraq tobring back 19 MiG fighter planes from Serbia

An Iraqi military delegation has gone to Serbia to bring back 19 MiG fighter planes that Saddam Hussein's regime sent for servicing 20 years ago, the defence ministry said. "General Othman al-Fredji, a defence ministry adviser, and Anwar Mohammed Amin, head of the air force, are in Serbia negotiating the return (of the planes) at the earliest possible date," spokesman General Mohammed al-Askari said.

The Soviet-built MiG-21 and 23 aircraft, whose existence has just been discovered, "were sent by Saddam's government in 1989 for maintenance and everything was paid for with Iraqi money," he said. Askari said the planes are important for Iraq as "our air force only possesses helicopters."

The former Yugoslavia was a major exporter of arms to Saddam's dictatorship before breaking up in the 1990s. Askari said the ministry "is searching in the United States, France, Italy, Russia and some Arab countries to locate funds or military equipment that the former government bought for its army."

Iraq has found two navy vessels belonging to it in Egypt and two others moored in Italy as well as "aircraft and equipment in Russia and France," the spokesman said, without giving further details.

India loses contact with first moon craft : ISRO

India has lost contact with its first mooncraft, an unmanned satellite launched amid much fanfare last October, the national space agency said. "The radio contact was lost at 1:30am IST (2000 GMT Friday) by the Deep Space Network (DSN)," the state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said in a statement here.

Scientists at the organisation are reviewing data to analyse the health of the spacecraft's systems, ISRO said. The Chandrayaan-1 satellite was launched on October 22, 2008 and then launched a TV-set-sized probe painted in the green-white-and-orange colours of the Indian flag, which landed on the moon on November 14.

The landing of the probe on the moon's surface vaulted the country into the league of space-faring nations led by the United States and regional neighbours Russia, China and Japan and was seen as a proud moment in the country's development. The first probe was intended as a first step towards landing an unmanned moon rover by 2012 and the ISRO also aims to launch satellites to study Mars and Venus.

Critics at the time underlined that India, which has hundreds of millions of people living in deep poverty, should not have embarked on a space race with starstruck regional powers. This is the first time radio contact has been lost with the spacecraft, which suffered a setback earlier this year when one of its sensors was burnt due to solar radiation. As a result, it had to suspend some scientific experiments and raised its lunar orbit to 200 kilometres (124 miles) instead of the original 100 kilometres.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pakistan rejects US allegations of modifying US-made missiles

The Obama administration has accused Pakistan of illegally modifying U.S.-made missiles to expand its ability to hit land-based targets, a charge promptly rejected by Pakistani Ambassador in Washington. Citing senior administration and Congressional officials, The New York Times made the accusation in a dispatch that also said the altered missiles posed a potential threat to India. The Times said the charge came in late June through an unpublicized diplomatic protest to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and other top Pakistani officials.

"The accusations are incorrect and based on wrong intelligence," Ambassador Husain Haqqani," while commenting on the Times' dispatch. "We will make sure that the US understands the correct picture and we will fight back periodic efforts to falsely blame Pakistan which remains a critical US ally in fighting terrorism," Ambassador Haqqani said, urging the American media to help Pakistan in its vitally important anti-terrorism efforts and desist from making false accusations.

"Instead of false accusations, US media should help Pakistan secure the help it needs to fight our common enemy viz; terrorism," he added. The accusation, made amid growing concerns about Pakistan's increasingly rapid conventional and nuclear weapons development, triggered a new round of U.S.-Pakistani tensions, the report added. "There's a concerted effort to get these guys to slow down," the newspaper quoted a senior administration official as saying.

"Their energies are misdirected," the official added. The accusation comes at a particularly delicate time, when the administration is asking Congress to approve $7.5 billion in aid to Pakistan over the next five years, the dispatch said. Washington, it added, is also pressing Pakistani military to focus its attentions on fighting the Taliban, rather than expanding its nuclear and conventional forces aimed at India.

A senior Pakistani official, who spoke to the Times on the condition of anonymity, also rejected the accusation, saying that the missile tested was developed by Pakistan, just as it had modified North Korean designs to build a range of land-based missiles that could strike India, according to the Times. He said that Pakistan had taken the unusual step of agreeing to allow American officials to inspect the country’s Harpoon inventory to prove that it had not violated the law, a step that administration officials praised. U.S. officials said the disputed weapon is a conventional one based on the Harpoon anti-ship missiles that were sold to Pakistan during the Reagan administration as a defensive weapon, the newspaper reported.

The accusation stems from U.S. intelligence agencies' detection of a "suspicious" missile test on April 23 which was never announced by the Pakistanis and which appeared to give it a new offensive weapon, the Times said. U.S. military and intelligence officials suspect Pakistan of modifying the Harpoon sold to them in the 1980s, which would violate the Arms Control Export Act.

"The focus of our concern is that this is a potential unauthorized modification of a maritime antiship defensive capability to an offensive land-attack missile," another senior administration official told the Times, speaking on condition of anonymity about classified information. "When we have concerns, we act aggressively," the official added. Pakistan denied the charge and said it developed the missile, the Times said. The Times said some experts were also skeptical of the American claims. Robert Hewson, editor of Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons, a yearbook and Web-based data service, said the Harpoon missile did not have the necessary range for a land-attack missile, which would lend credibility to Pakistani claims that they are developing their own new missile.

Moreover, he said, Pakistan already has more modern land-attack missiles that it developed itself or acquired from China. “They’re beyond the need to reverse-engineer old U.S. kit,” Hewson said in a telephone interview. “They’re more sophisticated than that.” Hewson said the ship-to-shore missile that Pakistan was testing was part of a concerted effort to develop an array of conventional missiles that could be fired from the air, land or sea to address India’s much more formidable conventional missile arsenal.

U.S. accuses Pakistan of modifying Harpoon for land-attack

20,000 more troops needed to fight terror in Afghanistan

M A Kaiserimam

The commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan will ask for 20,000 more international troops as part of his new strategic plan for the alliance’s war against a resurgent Taliban. The demand from General Stanley McChrystal will almost certainly lead to more British soldiers being sent to the increasingly treacherous battlegrounds of Helmand, the Taliban heartland, despite growing opposition to the war.

General McChrystal, tasked with turning the tide in the battle against the insurgency on the ground, has given a presentation of his draft report to senior Afghan government figures in which he also proposes raising the size of the Afghan army and police force.

But the request for troop reinforcements will come at a time of intensifying public debate about the role of the Nato mission. Last month saw a record number of troop deaths and injuries in a conflict that has claimed more than 200 British soldiers since the start of the US-led invasion in 2001. British losses rose sharply last month with 22 deaths, making it the bloodiest month for UK forces since the Falklands war. August has been the deadliest month for American troops in the eight-year war. Most of the deaths have come from lethal roadside bombs that Western troops appear unable to combat effectively. For the first time, the American public now views the fight against the Taliban as unwinnable, according to the most recent opinion polls.

The conduct of the Afghan government has not helped the mood on either side of the Atlantic. While US, British and other foreign troops are dying in what is supposedly a mission to rid Afghanistan of al-Qa’ida militants and make the country safe for democracy, the incumbent President stands accused of forging alliances with brutal warlords and overseeing outright fraud in an attempt to “steal” the national elections, the results of which are still being counted.

Last week, General David Petraeus, the head of US Central Command, intervened against a backdrop of heightened debate about the UK’s military role. He stressed that the objective of the war was “to ensure that Afghanistan does not again become a sanctuary for al-Qa’ida and other extremists”.

According to General McChrystal’s draft plan, the number of Afghan troops would rise from 88,000 to 250,000, and the police force from 82,000 to 160,000 by 2012. These increases are higher than expected, with previous suggestions that the totals would be raised to 134,000 and 120,000 for the army and police respectively.

The US commander will, however, ask other Nato countries to send further reinforcements and will travel shortly to European capitals to discuss the issue. It is widely expected that the UK will send up to 1,500 more troops. At the same time, a force of 700 sent to help provide security for the Afghan elections last week on a temporary basis will become a permanent presence.

Following the withdrawal from Iraq, British military commanders, backed by the then Defence Secretary, John Hutton, had recommended that up to 2,500 extra troops could be sent to Afghanistan. However, following lobbying from the Treasury, Gordon Brown agreed to only the temporary deployment of 700. Criticism of the decision by senior officers has led, it is claimed, to Downing Street changing its stance.

General McChrystal, who replaced Gen David McKiernan as Nato chief in Afghanistan earlier this year, was originally due to produce his strategic report this month, but decided to wait until after the Afghan presidential election. According to Western and Afghan sources he is continuing to take soundings from various quarters and the finalised document is due out after it becomes clear whether or not a second round of voting is needed to decide the outcome of the poll.

As part of an initial troop surge overseen by General McChrystal, the US has already committed to boosting its forces from 31,000 to 68,000 this year. However Richard Holbrooke, President Obama’s envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan was told by commanders in Afghanistan last week that those numbers would not be enough for what is being viewed as defining months of fighting to come.

In his meeting with Afghan officials, General McChrystal is reported to have stated that the extra troops would be needed to enforce a new policy of maintaining a presence in the areas captured from insurgents. This will provide security for residents and allow reconstruction and development.

Other Nato nations have the option of focusing on the training of Afghan security forces. However, say American officials, failure by Nato countries to “step up to the plate” would mean the shortfall would be covered by the US.

Diplomatic sources have revealed that plans are being drawn up to sign a “compact” between Afghanistan and the US which will reiterate Washington’s commitment to the security of Afghanistan while the Afghan government will pledge to combat corruption and reinforce governance. Unlike previous international agreements over Afghanistan, the compact will be bilateral, without any other governments being involved. The timing of the agreement is due to coincide with a visit by Mr Karzai to New York, if, as expected, he emerges the election winner.

F-16E/Fs to arrive in India for evaluation on Monday

Bangalore: Three F-16 advanced fighters of US aerospace major Lockheed Martin will soar into the skies Monday for the flight evaluation trials (FET) of the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) the Indian Air Force (IAF) is seeking to replace its ageing Soviet-era MiG-21 fleet.

"We are flying in three F-16s from Dubai to Bangalore Aug 31 for the month-long field trials. The fourth-generation advanced fighters are currently with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Air Force. They will be flown by our test pilots along with US Air Force pilots," a senior Lockheed Martin official told.

In the run-up to the trials, to be conducted in Bangalore, near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan desert and in high-altitude Leh in September, Lockheed Martin has flown-in an advance team, including a logistics group, for ground preparations.

"The F-16s, with fifth generation capabilities, will demonstrate to the IAF their strike power, speed, accuracy and its awesome 360-degree maneouvers, with its sophisticated active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar," Lockheed Martin director Michael R. Griswold said.

If Lockheed Martin bags the lucrative order, estimated to be about $10 billion at current prices for 126 aircraft, it will manufacture an Indian version, christened F-16IN Super Viper that will carry about 8,000kg of conventional weapons or nuclear warheads.

The other five aircraft in the fray for the order are Boeing's F/A-181N Super Hornet, the Dassault Rafale, the Saab Gripen, the Russian MiG-35 and the European consortium EADS Eurofighter Typhoon.

As per the global tender floated last year, the winning bidder will have to deliver 18 aircraft in fly-away condition, while the remaining 108 will be manufactured by the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) under a technology transfer deal.

Though the tender is for 126 aircraft, there is an option for an additional 50 percent, or 63 more aircraft.

The F-16 trials will take place a fortnight after Boeing flew in its two Super Hornets Aug 14 and conducted trials for about 10 days from Aug 17 in Bangalore before taking-off to Jaisalmer and Leh for a series of trials in hot and cold weather conditions.

During the second round of field trials, senior IAF test pilots will join Lockheed Martin test pilots to fly the tandem-seater fighters for a firsthand feel of its capabilities and technologies, especially its electronic warfare abilities.

"Initially, the IAF pilots will co-pilot the aircraft, taking controls mid-air after familiarising themselves with the systems and the advanced navigation aids. In the subsequent trials, the IAF pilots will take command of the aircraft for evaluating its various parameters, including use of weapons," a Lockheed Martin official said but declined to be named.

The IAF has formed two teams of two test pilots each for the flight trials, which will be conducted in three stages: pilot familiarisation, field trials and weapons systems trials. The third stage will be conducted in the country of manufacture.

The technical evaluation was completed early this year after the six manufacturers responded to the IAF's Request for Proposal (RFP) in August 2007. "All the trials are on a no-cost-no-commitment basis. The IAF will buy only the aircraft that meets all the parameters in terms of capabilities and cost," a defence analyst told.

JSTARS needs upgrades for its mission in Afghanistan

By David A. Fulghum and Amy Butler

The return of the U.S. Congress next month will reignite smoldering defense budget battles, and one new target of the budgeter’s ax could be upgrade packages for the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS)

The ground surveillance aircraft is slated to start flying out of Afghanistan next summer in response to an urgent need request for a dynamically-tasked, real-time airborne surveillance system that can track people in rough terrain.

But JSTARS needs airframe, engine and sensor upgrades to make an adequate transition to high-altitude airfields and more difficult intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations in the extremely rugged Hindu Kush, where line-of-sight surveillance is difficult. Also, the objects of greatest importance will be people moving at walking speed, not the vehicles that have been the JSTARS target set until now.

Modernization packages will include trading old PW-TF33-102C engines for new PW-JT8D-219s. In addition to more thrust, the new engines provide extra electrical power for additional sensors.The existing APY-7 phased array radar is to be improved with a software package that will allow it to track small, slow-moving targets like people. New to the aircraft will be the Senior Year Electro/optical Reconnaissance System (SYERS III) sensor — designed for but not installed on the U-2 — which offers multispectral sensing and full-motion video. A JSTARS cannot order weapons release with only a radar image. That requires an optical image of the target. But the combination of radar as a cuing device and a SYERS III in the same aircraft for rapid visual identification makes JSTARS a far more formidable and real-time combatant.

Despite the advantages of the improvement package, as the Air Force continues reconsidering its strategy for collecting ground surveillance, the fate of JSTARS has become uncertain, according to industry and government sources. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has not hesitated to cancel or shelve problematic programs or question others on their purported benefits in light of strict budget conditions and changing military needs.

Development continues on a new engine for the E-8C, but production funding for the purchase of the new propulsion systems appears to be on hold. A decision on when and whether to re-engine the JSTARS fleet will depend largely on the outcome of a forthcoming study on ground moving target indication (GMTI) collection.

“In no way, shape or form is the Air Force walking away from GMTI capability,” says Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford, military deputy for the Air Force’s acquisition office. This review will commence early next year and will address the type and quality of GMTI required — dictating the technical requirements of a future sensor — as well as what platform would be most suitable to carry the system. Shackelford made his comments during an Aug. 27 roundtable with reporters at the Pentagon.

The re-engining proposed for JSTARS is expected to significantly improve the look-angle for the powerful radar by allowing the aircraft to operate at higher altitudes for improved intelligence collection. Also, “a byproduct of re-engining is the additional power to support a sensor upgrade,” Shackelford says.

JSTARS is facing diminishing manufacturing sources on the “back end” of the aircraft, which refers to the computer workstations on which radar data is processed and disseminated, he says. “When you start thinking about investment on the platform and keeping it around for a long, long time, you have to put all of these pieces together to decide what we want to do. That is another thing that is under deliberation.”

The JSTARS fleet was based on preowned 707 aircraft, some of which had bad corrosion problems. As a result, Air Force officials are weighing the value of extending the life of JSTARS against the cost of introducing a new platform. A decision on which model aircraft — likely a Boeing 767 or Airbus A330 — to purchase for a future USAF refueling tanker could provide an alternative vehicle for a next-generation GMTI collector, as well as signals and communications intelligence collection.

U.S. accuses Pakistan of modifying Harpoon for land-attack

The United States has accused Pakistan of illegally modifying American-made missiles to expand its capability to strike land targets, a potential threat to India, according to senior administration and Congressional officials.

The charge, which set off a new outbreak of tensions between the United States and Pakistan, was made in an unpublicized diplomatic protest in late June to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and other top Pakistani officials.

The accusation comes at a particularly delicate time, when the administration is asking Congress to approve $7.5 billion in aid to Pakistan over the next five years, and when Washington is pressing a reluctant Pakistani military to focus its attentions on fighting the Taliban, rather than expanding its nuclear and conventional forces aimed at India.

While American officials say that the weapon in the latest dispute is a conventional one — based on the Harpoon antiship missiles that were sold to Pakistan by the Reagan administration as a defensive weapon in the cold war — the subtext of the argument is growing concern about the speed with which Pakistan is developing new generations of both conventional and nuclear weapons.

“There’s a concerted effort to get these guys to slow down,” one senior administration official said. “Their energies are misdirected.”

At issue is the detection by American intelligence agencies of a suspicious missile test on April 23 — a test never announced by the Pakistanis — that appeared to give the country a new offensive weapon.

American military and intelligence officials say they suspect that Pakistan has modified the Harpoon antiship missiles that the United States sold the country in the 1980s, a move that would be a violation of the Arms Control Export Act. Pakistan has denied the charge, saying it developed the missile itself. The United States has also accused Pakistan of modifying American-made P-3C aircraft for land-attack missions, another violation of United States law that the Obama administration has protested.

Whatever their origin, the missiles would be a significant new entry into Pakistan’s arsenal against India. They would enable Pakistan’s small navy to strike targets on land, complementing the sizable land-based missile arsenal that Pakistan has developed. That, in turn, would be likely to spur another round of an arms race with India that the United States has been trying, unsuccessfully, to halt. “The focus of our concern is that this is a potential unauthorized modification of a maritime antiship defensive capability to an offensive land-attack missile,” said another senior administration official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter involves classified information.

“The potential for proliferation and end-use violations are things we watch very closely,” the official added. “When we have concerns, we act aggressively.”

A senior Pakistani official, also speaking on the condition of anonymity because the interchanges with Washington have been both delicate and highly classified, said the American accusation was “incorrect.” The official said that the missile tested was developed by Pakistan, just as it had modified North Korean designs to build a range of land-based missiles that could strike India. He said that Pakistan had taken the unusual step of agreeing to allow American officials to inspect the country’s Harpoon inventory to prove that it had not violated the law, a step that administration officials praised.

Some experts are also skeptical of the American claims. Robert Hewson, editor of Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons, a yearbook and Web-based data service, said the Harpoon missile did not have the necessary range for a land-attack missile, which would lend credibility to Pakistani claims that they are developing their own new missile. Moreover, he said, Pakistan already has more modern land-attack missiles that it developed itself or acquired from China.

“They’re beyond the need to reverse-engineer old U.S. kit,” Mr. Hewson said in a telephone interview. “They’re more sophisticated than that.” Mr. Hewson said the ship-to-shore missile that Pakistan was testing was part of a concerted effort to develop an array of conventional missiles that could be fired from the air, land or sea to address India’s much more formidable conventional missile arsenal.

The dispute highlights the level of mistrust that remains between the United States and a Pakistani military that American officials like to portray as an increasingly reliable partner in the effort to root out the forces of the Taliban and Al Qaeda on Pakistani territory. A central element of the American effort has been to get the military refocused on the internal threat facing the country, rather than on threat the country believes it still faces from India.

Pakistani officials have insisted that they are making that shift. But the evidence continues to point to heavy investments in both nuclear and conventional weapons that experts say have no utility in the battle against insurgents.

Over the years, the United States has provided a total of 165 Harpoon missiles to Pakistan, including 37 of the older-model weapons that were delivered from 1985 to 1988, said Charles Taylor, a spokesman for the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

The country’s nuclear arsenal is expanding faster than any other nation’s. In May, Pakistan conducted a test firing of its Babur medium-range cruise missile, a weapon that military experts say could potentially be tipped with a nuclear warhead. The test was conducted on May 6, during a visit to Washington by President Asif Ali Zardari, but was not made public by Pakistani officials until three days after the meetings had ended to avoid upsetting the talks. While it may be technically possible to arm the Harpoons with small nuclear weapons, outside experts say it would probably not be necessary.

Before lawmakers departed for their summer recess, administration officials briefed Congress on the protest to Pakistan. The dispute has the potential to delay or possibly even derail the legislation to provide Pakistan with $7.5 billion in civilian aid over five years; lawmakers are expected to vote on the aid package when they return from their recess next month.

The legislation is sponsored by Senators John Kerry of Massachusetts and Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the top Democrat and Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, as well as Representative Howard L. Berman, a California Democrat who leads the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Congressional aides are now reconciling House and Senate versions of the legislation.

Frederick Jones, a spokesman for Mr. Kerry, declined to comment on the details of the dispute citing its classified nature but suggested that the pending multifaceted aid bill would clear Congress “in a few weeks” and would help cooperation between the two countries.

“There have been irritants in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship in the past and there will be in the future,” Mr. Jones said in a statement, noting that the pending legislation would provide President Obama “with new tools to address troubling behavior.”

Pakistan rejects US charge of modifying US-made missiles

No deal for French submarines under way

The Ministry of Defense Production said on Saturday it was not purchasing French submarines in place of those manufactured by Germany.Briefing Senate’s Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production, Defence Production Secretary Israr Ghumman said an evaluation committee formed by the Naval Headquarters had recommended purchase of German submarines.

He told the meeting, presided over by Chairman Lt-Gen (retd) Javed Ashraf Qazi, that the government had not signed any agreement with French authorities as reported in the media. Senator Raja Zafarul Haq told that committee had been informed that several submarine-making companies came up with bids but on the basis of the cost and technology German submarines had been preferred by the Pakistan Navy.

He said the secretary denied the government was negotiating any deal to purchase French submarines. He said the committee was following the purchase of submarines and if anybody was found involved in receiving kickbacks he would be exposed to the media.

The committee sought continuity of safeguards for the Pakistan Ordnance Factories, Heavy Mechanical Industries and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex which were set up through an ordinance and validated through 17th Constitutional Amendment.

The committee observed that funding system of vital defence organisations needed to be reviewed to make them financially strong and administratively more effective. Minister for Defence Production Abdul Qayyum Khan Jatoi, Jan Mohammad Jamali, Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani, Tahir Mashhadi and Hajid Adeel attended the meeting.

Why K Santhanam said Pokharan II was not a success

It was a major embarrassment for the country when a senior scientist of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, K Santhanam, made the revelation that Pokhran II, India's nuclear tests in 1998, was not entirely successful.

His statement that comes almost a decade after the test has landed the scientist in hot water. However, Santhanam says he stands by what he has said and has no intention of changing his stance.

In a telephonic interview with Vicky Nanjappa, Santhanam explains why there was a necessity to make this revelation 11 years later. He also disagrees with former President A P J Abdul Kalam who has said that Pokhran II was a complete success.

Why did you state that Pokharan II was not entirely a success?

As I have said earlier, based on the seismic measurements and also the opinions from experts, there was a much lower yield in the thermonuclear device test. It was lesser than what had been claimed at that time.

Your statement has created a furore in the nation.

I have just stated that facts. I did what I thought was necessary and I don't see why there needs to be an embarrassment due to this.

But you could have said this at that time itself, immediately after the tests were conducted.

I don't agree with you. I thought that the timing was right and hence decided on making this statement now.

There has been a hue and cry since your statement. Is there any chance you want to change your stand?

No. Why should I change my stand? I will always stand by what I have said and there is no question of changing my stand or my statement.

Even the expert opinion from across the world makes it clear that the yield in the thermonuclear device test was much lower than what was claimed.

I have maintained and will always maintain that the test was not more than 60 per cent successful in terms of the yield it generated. I have made this assessment based on the report of the instrumentation data that is available and also the programme coordinator.

Former President A P J Abdul Kalam, who was also involved with the tests, has said that Pokhran II was entirely successful.

I would like to react to that. First of all, Dr Kalam is not a nuclear scientist. He is a missile scientist and he was not present there at that time. He is blissfully ignorant of the facts. Do I need to say more?

All I want to say is that I stand my ground on this issue.

Home Minister P Chidambaram too has shared Kalam's view.

Chidambaram, being part of the establishment, is just repeating what the others are saying, like a parrot.

You have been accused of making this statement after over a decade at the insistence of people against the Bharatiya Janata Party

Let people say what they want. As I maintained I thought that the timing was right and hence this statement was made. I was not provoked or coaxed by anyone to issue such a statement and let me assure you that there is no malice involved in this.

You speak so much about the timing of making your statement. What is this timing exactly?

There is a change in the administration in the United States of America. They are bound to further pressurise India to sign the CTBT. In such an event it was necessary to make such a statement or speak the truth on the issue so that India does not rush into signing the CTBT.

Therefore, I say the timing of my statement was perfectly right.

Russia and Saudi ArabiaTo Finalize $2B Deal Soon?

Saudi Arabia is close to signing a $2 billion (1.4-billion-euro) deal to buy Russian arms, a Russian defense industry source was quoted as saying August 29.

"Work is nearly complete on a set of contracts on the delivery of Russian arms and military technology to Saudi Arabia, with a total value of around $2 billion," the source told Interfax news agency.

"For many of these contracts, all the technical and financial details have practically been agreed, for others work is still ongoing," he added.

Riyadh may purchase up to 150 helicopters - 30 Mi-35 attack helicopters and up to 120 Mi-17 transport helicopters - more than 150 T-90S tanks, around 250 BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles and "several dozen" air defense systems, the source said.

Contracts for the sale of the tanks and the helicopters "could be signed as soon as this year," he told Interfax.

Spokespersons for Rosoboronexport, Russia's state-owned arms export monopoly, and for the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, which oversees the arms trade, could not be reached for comment on Saturday.

Saudi Arabia - a close U.S. ally - has long bought most of its arms from the United States and Western Europe, but in recent years has been in talks on buying military equipment from Russia.

Meanwhile Russia is keen to find new markets for its weapons exports, one of the few sectors of Russian manufacturing that has enjoyed international success.

In 2008 Moscow and Riyadh signed a military cooperation treaty, and this year Saudi King Abdullah received a delegation that included a top Kremlin adviser and an official from Rosoboronexport.

India's light combat aircraft to phase out Russian jets

India will begin deploying its first locally made supersonic combat aircraft next year and gradually phase out its ageing fleet of Russian fighters, defence officials said on Friday.

Five Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) costing about $31 million each have already been manufactured by state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and undergoing trials, while eight more will be ready by mid-2010, defence officials said.

"We can say 2012 is the key for our air force when we will not only have many LCAs, but by then we should also be able to induct more advanced multi-role fighters in the fleet," said air force spokesman Wing Commander T.K. Singha.

India started field trials to buy 126 multi-role fighter jets last week, defence officials said, moving forward on a $10.4 billion deal to modernise the air force.

Boeing's (BA.N) F/A-18 Super Hornet, France's Dassault Rafale, Lockheed Martin Corp's (LMT.N) F-16, Russia's MiG-35, Sweden's Saab (SAABb.ST) JAS-39 Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon, produced by a consortium of European companies, are in the race for the contract, one of the biggest in play.

"So we are looking at a scenario, where we will be able to raise our squadron strength considerably with more power," Singha said.

India wants to increase its air force squadrons from 34 (612 fighters) at present to 42 (756 fighters) by 2020 with modern aircraft.

Twenty LCAs will be deployed by 2012 and the plan is to manufacture 20 more in coordination with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), a DRDO official said in New Delhi.

"The LCA is now on track and the DRDO is very keen to produce more such aircraft indigenously," a DRDO spokesman said.

The induction of the LCAs was delayed by years of technical problems that forced scientists to go back to the drawing boards and rework the single-seat fighter's design and engines.

India's defence ministry began pushing for the LCA after the country lost nearly 200 Russian-made MiG series aircraft in crashes since 1990, blamed by the air force on manufacturing defects.

India, one of the world's biggest arms importers, plans to spend more than $30 billion over the next five years to upgrade its largely Soviet-era arsenal to counter potential threats from Pakistan and China.

"The LCA trials are in full swing and they could replace even the MiG 23 and MiG 27 if everything works to plan," said a defence official, who declined to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

Scorpene project will cost additional Rs 2,000 Crore

India will have to soon shell out well over Rs 2,000 Crore (US $ 409.25 Million)* more to French armament companies if it does not want its ongoing mammoth Rs 18,798 Crore (US $ 3.85 Billion)* project to construct 6 Scorpene submarines at Mazagon Docks Ltd (MDL) in Mumbai to come to a grinding halt.

The Scorpene project, under which the first submarine was to roll out by December 2012, with the others following one per year thereafter, is already running two years behind schedule, as was first reported by ToI.

"Our submarine force-levels need to increase...there is no doubt. We have lost a lot of time (in the Scorpene project),'' says Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta.

Admiral Mehta, who retires after 42 years of service on August 31, has reason to be worried. India's underwater combat arm will left with only 9 out of its present fleet of 16 diesel-electric submarines -- 10 Russian Kilo-class, four German HDW and two virtually obsolete Foxtrot -- by 2012.

The number will further dip to just 5 in 2014. This when Pakistan is now looking to induct three advanced Type 214 German submarines, equipped with AIP (air-independent propulsion) to enhance their operational capabilities, after inducting 3 French Agosta-90B submarines, with the last one PNS Hamza even having AIP.

China, on its part, has a staggering 62 submarines, with around 10 of them being nuclear-propelled, and at least one Xia-class and two Jin-class being SSBNs (nuclear submarines with long-range ballistic missiles).

Sources said the Defence Acquisitions Council, headed by defence minister A K Antony, this month decided to approach the Cabinet Committee on Security to grant approval to the cost escalation of the French `MDL procured material (MPM) packages' from around 400 million Euros to 700 million Euros now.

The negotiations for these MPM packages, which include virtually all major systems connected with sensors, propulsion and the like, apart from the combat systems, have been stuck on the price issue for well over a year now.

"The Scorpene submarine hulls are being fabricated in MDL but there are no systems to put inside them. The French say the earlier price of 400 million Euros for the MPM packages was quoted when the contracts were inked in October 2005 and prices have doubled since then,'' said a source.

The October 2005 contracts with French companies include the Rs 6,135 Crore (US $ 1.26 Billion)* one with M/S Armaris (DCN-Thales joint venture) for transfer of technology, combat systems and construction design, and Rs 1,062 Crore (US $ 217.31 Million)* with M/S MBDA for sea-skimming Exocet missiles.

A Rs 5,888 Crore (US $ 1.205 Billion)* contract was also signed with MDL for indigenous submarine construction, with another Rs 3,553 Crore (US $ 727 Million)* earmarked for taxes and Rs 2,160 Crore (US $ 442 Million)* towards other items to be acquired during the project.

Incidentally, as reported earlier, the Comptroller and Auditor General in its latest report has blasted the government for taking 9 years to finalise the Scorpene deal despite Navy's depleting underwater combat force-levels.

This delay led to increase in the project cost by Rs 2,838 Crore (US $ 580.72 Million)*. "Moreover, the contractual provisions resulted in undue financial advantage to the vendor of a minimum of Rs 349 Crore (US $ 71.41 Million)*, besides other unquantifiable benefits,'' said CAG

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pakistan Says West Must Cut Source of Taliban’s Funding, Arms

By Ed Johnson

Pakistan defended its fight against Islamic extremism and called on Western governments to choke off funding and arms supplies to Taliban insurgents. Sardar Tariq Azizuddin, the country’s ambassador to Turkey, said people should question how the Taliban grew strong enough to take on NATO and U.S. forces. “What is the source of Taliban funding and what is the source of their weapons supply?” Azizuddin said in an interview with Turkish media, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported yesterday. “Nobody either talks about it or wants to talk about it.”

The Obama administration says Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal regions threaten the stability of the nuclear-armed nation and hamper the war effort by the U.S. and NATO in neighboring Afghanistan.

Turkey was hosting a meeting of the so-called Friends of Democratic Pakistan, which includes the U.S., China, Saudi Arabia and the World Bank. The group promotes international support for Pakistan as it aims to overcome security and development challenges. The government in Islamabad says it is winning its fight against extremists and that the Taliban is in disarray after rebel chief Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a missile strike earlier this month. Mehsud led a force of 5,000 fighters in the South Waziristan tribal region, after forming the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan alliance in 2007, according to U.S. military analysts.

Swat Valley

The government also hails its 10-week offensive against insurgents in the northwestern Swat Valley as a sign of success, saying militants have been cleared from towns and villages. “The armed forces secured the main areas and are mopping up some elements on the fringes,” APP cited Azizuddin as saying.

The anti-Taliban offensive by NATO and U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan has pushed militants across the border and “aggravated the situation in our country,” the ambassador said, according to the report. After a U.S.-led alliance toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001, guerrillas fled to bases in Pakistan where they re-armed and trained, according to U.S. intelligence agencies. The insurgency has grown, with militants crossing back and forth across the frontier.

The illicit opium trade, worth as much as $470 million last year, is a major financial pillar for the Taliban, funding training bases and buying weapons and explosives, according to the United Nations. Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN yesterday that Afghanistan’s security is getting worse as the Taliban insurgency grows “more sophisticated.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Ed Johnson in Sydney at

Talks over Gorshkov's price likely to conclude: India

Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta today said negotiations between India and Russia over price of aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov could be concluded within next two days.

"Price negotiations are on with the Russian team which is in India. The negotiations committee is discussing it with them. The time frame (for price fixation) is very short, hopefully day after," Mehta told reporters.

The ongoing negotiations are considered to be the last leg of the talks between the two countries on the cost of Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier - repair, refit and the final price of the warship, which is expected to be somewhere between $2.2 billion and $2.9 billion

India had bought Admiral Gorshkov in 2004 for $964 million and sent it for refit to the Sevmash Shipyard in Russia. That apart, India also bought 16 MiG29Ks to operate on the warship at a cost of $650 million.

Russia has thrice revised the price of the aircraft carrier, first demanding additional $1.5 billion in 2007, then revising it to $2.2 billion in 2008 and finally asking for $2.9 billion this February.

China urges U.S. to reduce surveillance operations

(Xinhua) -- China has called on the United States to reduce, and gradually put an end to air and sea military surveillance and survey operations to avoid naval confrontations.The request was made during a special session on maritime safety between the two countries' militaries on Wednesday and Thursday, said China's Defense Ministry.

"China believes the constant U.S. military air and sea surveillance and survey operations in China's exclusive economic zone had led to military confrontations between the two sides," the Ministry said. "The way to resolve China-U.S. maritime incidents is for the U.S. to change its surveillance and survey operations policies against China, decrease and eventually stop such operations."

The U.S. delegation agreed to continue discussions with their Chinese counterparts on effective methods of ensuring safety of naval vessels and warplanes of the two sides. The chief negotiators attending the session were Guan Youfei, deputy director for China's Defense Ministry's Foreign Affairs Office, and Randolph Alles, director of the Strategy and Policy Bureau of the U.S. Pacific Command.

The two sides shared views on issues relating to China-U.S. maritime military security in a "substantial" and "candid" manner, and discussed ways and channels to settle relevant problems. It was the second special session between the two militaries bound by the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement (MMCA), following a series of incidents in the South China Sea and the Yellow Sea earlier this year.

Since the MMCA came into force in 1998, the two militaries have held seven annual meetings and 13 working group meetings to deal with maritime military matters.

Counter-RAM Systems Target Rockets

David Eshel/Tel Aviv

With the threat from short-range, high-trajectory weapons such as rockets, artillery and mortars (RAM) becoming more lethal in cross-border attacks, the development of counter-RAM technologies has ­accelerated.

The Extended Area Protection and Survivability (EAPS) program is part of an advanced technology objective pursued by the U.S. Army's Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, to protect U.S. forces against RAM attacks. The program anticipates the use of guided-munition technologies to intercept RAM threats. The system, comprising interceptors, sensors and fire-control systems, will provide stationary and mobile forces with a 360-deg. umbrella of coverage, extending area protection from direct and indirect fires.

In February 2008, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman Space & Mission Systems were awarded $8.6 million and $5.9 million, respectively, to design prototype hardware for the EAPS Battle Element. Both companies are expected to present their competing systems to the Army by the end of 2012.

Lockheed Martin is developing a compact, vertically launched missile designed for a hit-to-kill intercept of RAM threats. The system includes an interceptor, fire-control radar, launcher and battle manager. The system will operate autonomously and interface with battlefield surveillance systems. The five-year development program, now in its second year, involves the development and testing of prototype hardware, and demonstrating intercepts of individual and multiple targets.

Other companies engaged in counter-RAM defense include Raytheon, which is offering the Centurion Land-based Phalanx Weapon System, which has proved effective in Iraq. Since its initial deployment, Centurion has intercepted and prevented more than 110 mortar attacks. The radar-guided, rapid-firing Gatling gun is claimed to represent a revolutionary approach to point defense, since it is able to intercept rockets, artillery rounds and mortar bombs in the air. Centurion has recently been upgraded with an improved engagement-control system, which is designed to prevent firing at friendly forces and sensitive areas.

The weapon's M940 HEIT-SD (High-Explosive Incendiary Traced-Self-Destruct) ammunition was modified with detonation delay to eliminate the risk of collateral damage from duds or rounds that do not hit a target. The system incorporates sensors, fire control and the weapon in an integrated unit, providing situational awareness, precision fire, real-time targeting and kill assessment.

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems of Israel is developing Iron Dome, a mobile missile interceptor that targets the trajectories of multiple short-range rockets, 155-mm. artillery rounds and guided munitions to a range of 70 km. (43 mi.), as well as unmanned aerial vehicles. Unlike other point-defense systems, Iron Dome was developed to extend counter-RAM protection to urban areas--a critical concern in Israel, where Hamas and Hezbollah have launched thousands of unguided, but occasionally lethal, missiles at Israeli border cities in recent years. Development began in 2007 by Israel's defense ministry as an urgent operational requirement to defeat short-range rockets, notably the Qassam improvised rocket fired by Palestinians, and 107-mm. Grad and 122-mm. Katyusha rockets deployed by Hezbollah.

The system will use the low-cost Tamir autonomous guided missile to defeat only those rockets projected to cause damage or risk to designated targets. The system has demonstrated this capability in several test firings this year, where multiple Iron Dome sensors detected attacks, tracked targets, calculated launch and impact points, plotted intercept plans and launched interceptors. The Tamir missiles acquired targets, maneuvered accurately and destroyed incoming rockets. Testing continues this summer, and by year-end the first system is to be handed over to the Israeli air force, becoming combat ready in early 2010.

Iron Dome's battle management and weapon control system was developed by mPrest Systems Ltd. of Israel. It processes and tracks individual targets as well as rocket salvos. The Tamir interceptor receives trajectory updates from the battle management system via an uplink. As it approaches the target, the missile employs its seeker to acquire the weapon and homes in for the kill. An intercept is calculated to take place over areas where there will be minimal or no collateral damage.

Rafael is also working on a longer-range interceptor known as David's Sling, which is being developed with Raytheon. David's Sling is designed to counter medium-range ballistic and cruise missiles, and is expected to be the second tier in Israel's multiple-tier system of missile defense.

India scrambles fighter to intercept Air France plane

India on Thursday scrambled a fighter jet to intercept a Bangkok-bound Air France passenger plane after the airliner failed to identify itself correctly, the air force said. A Russian-built MiG-29 took off to intercept Air France flight 164 from Paris after it transmitted incorrect identification codes upon entering Indian airspace, air force spokeswoman Flight Lieutenant Priya Joshi said.

Joshi said the pilot of the Airbus did not identify the airliner as a “friendly” aircraft, which prompted a military airbase in northern India to scramble the fighter. “It was only later that the aircraft started transmitting the correct secondary radar response code and was picked up and identified by air defence radar as a civil airliner of Air France,” Joshi said. The MiG-29 was then given instructions to “break off and return to base,” Joshi said, adding that the air force had filed a report with India’s civil aviation authorities.

Russia’s newest Dozor-600 UAV at MAKS-2009

At the MAKS-2009, Russia has displayed the full-sized mock-up of a new UAV “Dozor-3 “(now renamed “Dozor-600“, in accordance with a maximum takeoff weight). According to the information, Dozor-3 is a medium-altitude UAV long endurance UAV. Information about Dozor-600 / Dozor-3 UAV was first presented in 2008 and UAV is schedule to fly in 2010 for the first time.

Multi-Purpose Unmanned aerial vehicle is designed to search, locate and identify targets, located at a considerable distance from the launch point of the vehicle. Dozor-600 will be able to provide pictures and video of the target in real time. These tasks it can perform day and night, in simple and adverse weather conditions. It will be capable of patrolling the land and maritime boundaries, conducting aerial photography and remote sensing, and remote monitoring of extended infrastructure facilities, ice reconnaissance, and surveillance of protected sites.

Dozor-600 UAV has a-power plant at the rear with a V-Shape Tail. The fuselage consists of three main parts. Sensors, flight control and navigation systems and parachute system in front, fuel tank in the middle and power plant at the end. To ensure easy transportation and storage (in a special container on the trailer) wing and tail surfaces are made removable. It will take Dozor-600 only 60 minutes to re-assemble and prepare for the take-off.

It will carry three types of payload: synthetic aperture radar, optical and thermal imaging for video and high-resolution camera with interchangeable lenses for pictures. It will be capable of sending the information to ground station in real-time and with a backup storage on board. It can be piloted manually by an operator or it can fly autonomously (by programming it to fly in an area through 250 reference points, accuracy of navigation is 15-30m) or combined (autonomous and manual) modes. It is said that it might be equipped for the strike operations. Larger versions Dozor-4 and Dozor-5 will also be produce in future.

Pokhran II not fully successful: Senior DRDO Scientist K Santhanam

The 1998 Pokhran II nuclear tests might have been far from the success they have been claimed to be. The yield of the thermonuclear explosions was actually much below expectations and the tests were perhaps more a fizzle rather than a big bang. ( Watch Video )

The controversy over the yield of the tests, previously questioned by foreign agencies, has been given a fresh lease of life with K Santhanam, senior scientist and DRDO representative at Pokhran II, admitting for the first time that the only thermonuclear device tested was a "fizzle". In nuclear parlance, a test is described as a fizzle when it fails to meet the desired yield.

Santhanam, who was director for 1998 test site preparations, told TOI on Monday that the yield for the thermonuclear test, or hydrogen bomb in popular usage, was much lower than what was claimed. Santhanam, who was DRDO's chief advisor, could well have opened up the debate on whether or not India should sign CTBT as claims that India has all the data required and can manage with simulations is bound to be called into question.

``Based upon the seismic measurements and expert opinion from world over, it is clear that the yield in the thermonuclear device test was much lower than what was claimed. I think it is well documented and that is why I assert that India should not rush into signing the CTBT,'' Santhanam told TOI on Wednesday.

He emphasised the need for India to conduct more tests to improve its nuclear weapon programme. The test was said to have yielded 45 kilotons (KT) but was challenged by western experts who said it was not more than 20 KT.

The exact yield of the thermonuclear explosion is important as during the heated debate on the India- US nuclear deal, it was strenuously argued by the government's top scientists that no more tests were required for the weapons programme. It was said the disincentives the nuclear deal imposed on testing would not really matter as further tests were not required.

According to security expert Bharat Karnad, Santhanam's admission is remarkable because this is the first time a nuclear scientist and one closely associated with the 1998 tests has disavowed the government line. ``He is not just saying that India should not sign the CTBT, which I believe is completely against India's interests, but also that the 1998 thermonuclear device test was inadequate.

His saying this means that the government has to do something. Either you don't have a thermonuclear deterrent or prove that you have it, if you claim to have it,'' said Karnad. Sources said that Santhanam had admitted that the test was a fizzle during a discussion on CTBT organised by IDSA. Karnad also participated in the seminar. He told TOI that no country has succeeded in achieving targets with only its first test of a thermonuclear device.

``Two things are clear; that India should not sign CTBT and that it needs more thermonuclear device tests,'' said Santhanam. The yield of the thermonuclear device test in 1998 has led to much debate and while western experts have stated that it was not as claimed, BARC has maintained that it stands by its assessment. Indian scientists had claimed after the test that the thermonuclear device gave a total yield of 45 KT, 15 KT from the fission trigger and 30 KT from the fusion process and that the theoretical yield of the device (200 KT) was reduced to 45 KT in order to minimise seismic damage to villages near the test range.

British experts, however, later challenged the claims saying that the actual combined yield for the fission device and thermonuclear bomb was not more than 20 KT. Key Pokharan scientist R Chidambaram had described these reports as incorrect. He has also argued that computer simulations would be enough in future design.

Kalam defends Pokhran-II

Tribune News Service

A day after senior DRDO scientist K Santhanam created a stir by stating that India’s nuclear test in May 1998 at Pokhran was “not a total success”, his theory was debunked and discarded by defence experts, including former President APJ Abdul Kalam, who were in the know of the subject today. R Chidambaram, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Union government who had led the team of scientists during the 1998 nuclear tests, today dismissed as "absurd" the suggestion that Pokhran-II explosions did not yield the desired results. “There is no controversy over the yield of Pokhran-II nuclear tests,” he said.

Chidambaram, who was the chairman of the Department of Atomic Energy in 1998, was quoted by PTI news agency as saying: “If he (Santhanam) has any new scientific information which we are not aware of, it will be nice to have that data. He is a scientist and not a politician. Let him tell exactly what made him give that comment.” The results were published in detail in international journals and also took into account studies by several global experts, he added. Santhanam, who was the Defence Research and Development Organisation representative for Pokhran-II, had said “India should not sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) as the country needed to carry out more tests as the thermonuclear tests in 1998 had failed to produce the desired results”. As per him, the yield of the tests could only be classified as a “fizzle” rather than big bang. In nuclear science, a fizzle is used when the outcome fails to meet the desired yield. Today as well, Santhanam, in a TV interview, stood by his comment.

Coming in defence of the test, former President APJ Abdul Kalam said the tests were successful and had generated the desired yield. After the test, he said, there was a detailed review based on two experimental results: seismic measurement close to the site and around; radioactive measurement of the material after post shot drill in the test site.“The tests at Pokhran were completely successful,” Kalam was quoted as saying by a news channel. Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta, while addressing his last press conference before retiring, said today: “India's nuclear deterrence capabilities are proven and capable enough” Official sources, when asked to comment on Santhanam's statement, said India's position on CTBT was well known, clear and consistent. “We will not subscribe to any treaty that is discriminatory in nature,” they said. Former national security adviser Brajesh Mishra, too, dismissed Santhanam’s statement by asserting that India had a “meaningful” number of nuclear weapons and an effective delivery system to go with it. He told a private television channel that the five nuclear tests conducted in May 1998 were successful.

“Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, then the scientific adviser to Defence Ministry, had announced that the 1998 nuclear tests conducted in Pokhran were successful. Dr Kalam’s version was credible enough, as Santhanam was working directly under him. That should set the record straight,” Mishra said Notably, the test, as per Indian scientists, is said to have yielded 45 kilotons (KT), a claim challenged by western experts who said it was not more than 20 KT.

Russia plans to buy 100 Yak-130 jet trainer

While the Russian air force may only have 12 Yakovlev Yak-130s on order, the goal is to acquire 100, says Maj. Gen Oleg Barmin, the head of air force procurement. The aircraft has completed state testing for the trainer role, and should complete the combat trainer requirement in October. The first series production aircraft was on display during MAKS 2009, and the second is expected to be flown this month. The air force is due to take delivery of four aircraft by October, with the first nine of 16 on order by Algeria to be delivered by year-end.

Ministry of Transport signs for 2 additional EC225 helicopters in China

Eurocopter is pleased to announce the contract signature of another 2 EC225 helicopters with the Ministry of Transport (MOT) / China Rescue and Salvage Bureau (CRS) today.

A mere 2 years after the delivery of its first 2 EC225 helicopters in December 2007, this signature took place in the presence of MOT Vice Minister Mr. WENG Mengyong, Captain SONG Jiahui, Director General of the CRS, Mr. FU Shula, President of AVIC International Holding Corporation and Mr. Norbert DUCROT, Senior Vice-President Asia Pacific Sales for Eurocopter.

“This purchase underlines the MOT’s continued vote of confidence in our product range. The EC225 helicopter boasts modern Search and Rescue (SAR) capabilities and we are extremely confident in its strong market potential in China”, says Mr. Norbert DUCROT, Senior Vice-President Asia Pacific Sales for Eurocopter.

Captain SONG Jiahui Director General of the CRS remarks at this occasion, “We have successfully completed several successful operations with the EC225 helicopters over the last 2 years and we are very pleased with their performance. We are convinced that this new acquisition will help us to better meet the demands of a professional maritime rescue team and protect the safety of our people during times of natural catastrophes”.

To be delivered in 2011, these 2 new EC225 helicopters will be operated by the China Rescue and Salvage Bureau for SAR missions. They will strengthen the MOT’s existing fleet of 10 helicopters and 2 fixed wing aircraft, which are currently operated by 4 flight teams stationed throughout China.

The EC225 helicopters are twin-engine heavy helicopters in the 10/11 ton class which have already shown their worth in previous operations with the CRS: they recently rescued 11 seamen in tortuous weather conditions during the Morakot typhoon in August and saved over 100 lives during the Sichuan relief effort last year.

These noteworthy accomplishments serve as incontestable evidence of the EC225 helicopter being the world reference for SAR missions. The 2 EC225s for the CRS will be equipped with state-of-the-art equipment such as search lights, hoists etc.

In the Chinese market for civil helicopters, Eurocopter is the leader with more than 40 percent market share, thanks to its long lasting, loyal and successful partnership with the Chinese industry and authorities. Today, around 400 helicopters from the Eurocopter family, including those manufactured under licensed production, are currently flying in the country.

First Chinese jumbo jet engine to debut in 2016

China's first home-made jet engine will make a debut in 2016, a significant step of the large-jet program, an official said . "China is expected to complete the research of its first jumbo jet engine in 2016 and begin to apply for aviation certificate from the state aviation authority," said Zhang Jian, general manager of the Shanghai-based AVIC Commercial Aircraft Engine Co. Ltd.

"We hope the home-made engine will fly together with the home-made large aircraft," he said. The engine company was established in Shanghai in January. The company will focus on the research and development of home-made jet engines. The government-owned Aviation Industry Corp. of China (AVIC) holds a 40 percent stake in the company, which has registered capital of 6 billion yuan (877 million U.S. dollars).

The firm is another step in the development of the commercial aviation industry after the establishment of the Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China Ltd. in May last year. The plan is to put aircraft with at least 150 seats into the market by 2020. "It would take about 20 years to develop an engine to propel China's first homemade large plane," said Liu Daxiang, an expert with the AVIC, the country's leading aircraft maker.

According to Chinese analysts, developing aircraft engines will break the monopoly of foreign suppliers such as GE, Rolls-Royce and the Pratt & Whitney Group. An engine industry will also stimulate the growth of other domestic sectors such as electronics, digitally-controlled machines and composite materials. China only makes military aircraft engines now.

Fighter Order Rekindles Russian Air Force

By Douglas Barrie and Alexey Komarov

Russian air force ambitions stretch far beyond the $2.65-billion Sukhoi fighter order at the MAKS 2009 show. Aspirations include fielding an unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) alongside its fifth-generation fighter and developing a next-generation strategic bomber.The fighter deal is a fillip to the air force and Sukhoi. The military will acquire 48 Su-35S fighter aircraft from 2010-15, along with 12 Su-27SMs and four Su-30M2s. Delivery of the last two versions of the Flanker should be completed by 2011.

Securing an air force order bolsters Sukhoi’s export aims for the Su-35, while also providing production work for its Komsomolsk-on-Amur site. Maj. Gen. Oleg Barmin, chief of procurement for the Russian air force, says the Su-35S offer was particularly attractive to his service. “We are not bearing any development costs, and it is saving us money,” he told a press briefing here last week. If MiG is able to do the same with its MiG-35 development of the MiG-29 Fulcrum, this would benefit a possible purchase, he noted.

The S-35S will operate with the air force’s fifth-generation fighter, known as PAK-FA, when it enters service. The PAK-FA’s radar design was unveiled at the show, with Russian manufacturer NIIP showing a prototype of the active, electronically scanned array (AESA) device. The radar had initially remained covered on the company stand, since government clearance was needed to show the design.

The 1,500-element array is a slight ellipse, likely reflecting the cross section of the PAK-FA nose. While NIIP officials say they have looked at an AESA design in which the antenna face can be moved, the approach being taken with PAK-FA is for a fixed antenna. Test flights of the radar are due to begin in 2010. The first PAK-FA prototype is still expected to fly before year-end. The aircraft design also could use secondary conformal array antennas to provide additional angular coverage.

NIIP previously developed a variety of passive, phased array radars; however, the shift to an active array poses a leap in technology—not least of all in manufacturing the transmit/receive modules. The air force procurement chief maintains that fielding the Su-35S will provide his service with a near-term counter to the U.S. Air Force’s Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. In addition to the PAK-FA, the air force is looking at its UCAV needs. Barmin suggests it will carry “the same weapons as the fifth-generation fighter.”

MiG and Sukhoi are already working on UCAV developments. Two years ago, MiG unveiled its Skat project and showed a mockup of the design. The company is continuing its UCAV work, although its exact status is unknown. Sukhoi General Designer Mikhail Pogosyan, who also leads MiG, suggests the development of a UCAV could be the first common effort between the two fighter manufacturers. Both are to form the combat aircraft business unit of Russia’s United Aircraft Corp (UAC), with Sukhoi as the dominant element.

MiG is struggling with considerable debt, and this is hindering bringing it within the ambit of UAC. The financial malaise at MiG may be hampering UCAV work. The government has already provided MiG with 15 billion rubles ($470 million). During the show, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said discussions are underway covering an additional 15 billion rubles. Pogosyan says the air force is now drawing up its requirements for a UCAV. This initial work may be concluded during 2010. Alongside looking at unmanned strike platform needs, the air force is considering long-endurance reconnaissance requirements.

While a full-blown UCAV development and program may appear ambitious for an air force that has struggled with chronic underfunding for nearly two decades, this pales beside what would be required for a next-generation strategic bomber program to replace the Tu-160 Blackjack and Tu-95 Bear. The nascent bomber project is known as PAK-DA .Barmin says work is underway on a replacement for the Blackjack and the Bear. But he declines to say whether any funding to support the PAK-DA will be included in the government’s 2011-20 defense acquisition program. Some form of preliminary research and development contract has been concluded with Tupolev, according to a company executive.

Whether Tupolev has the technical resources—even when it becomes part of the UAC—to sustain development of a next-generation strategic bomber remains an open question. Tupolev is involved in implementing staged upgrades for the air force’s small number of Tu-160s and for the larger Tu-95MS fleet. The aim is to improve both types’ strategic and tactical strike capabilities and extend their useful service lives. Having signed the Su-35S deal, Barmin says the air force is now preparing the contract for an associated weapons purchase. This is part of a wider and badly needed effort to refresh the service’s air-launched weapons inventory.

“There are over 20 types [of new weapons] in different stages of development,” says Barmin, and some of them will provide “high precision” and “long range.” Some of the systems to which Barmin is referring were displayed by Russia’s Tactical Missile Corp. during the show.Boris Obnosov, Tactical Missile’s general director, said at a press briefing that the company’s “new systems” on display “were required not only for foreign but also for Russian customers.”

The company unveiled upgraded versions of the R-77 (AA-12 Adder) radar-guided air-to-air missile and R-73 (AA-11 Archer) infrared-guided dogfight missile. Known for export as the RVV-SD and RVV-MD, respectively, these two weapons will likely form part of the package for the Su-35S. Obnosov says he hopes contracts covering the Su-35S package will be “signed very soon.” He adds that while domestic orders are increasing, exports have declined, and this is proving a challenge in the current economic environment.

Along with the likely improvements to the air force’s air-to-air missile inventory, the Su-35S weapons procurement will also include a “new weapon capable of precision strike against ground targets outside of surface-to-air missile engagement zones,” the air force procurement chief asserts. A prototype Su-35 was on static display, and weapons fitted included a mockup of a version of the Kh-38M air-to-surface missile family that is now in development.

No plans for replacing Bulava with Sineva: Russia

Russia has no plans to replace the Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile with the Sineva missile, said Nikolai Makarov, the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces. “This is an absolutely different complex. Submarines are made for Bulava launches. In fact, we have to rebuild a submarine to equip it with the Sineva missile. This is a very expensive project,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“We believe that Bulava will be launched,” he said. Makarov underlined that the submarines will be commissioned in time irrespective of the Bulava missile’s failed tests. “There are no plans to correct the terms of the submarines’ construction,” the general said. Makarov highlighted that “recent unsuccessful tests of Bulava are linked with a technological production cycle and not with its design specifics.” He expressed the hope that “the industry will cope with these problems and will master the production cycle.”

He reiterated that after the missile’s failed tests the chief designer resigned and a new plant would take Bulava’s production. “The date of Bulava’s next launch has not been finalized yet. The reasons of the malfunction are being ascertained,” Makarov said.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Russia plans to purchase French-made Mistral helicopter carrier

Russia plans to purchase a French naval helicopter transport ship this year and is interested in jointly producing more of the vessels, the head of Russia's armed forces said. Mistral Class ship has the payload capacity to carry up to 16 heavy helicopters and one-third of a mechanised regiment, plus two LCAC hovercraft or up to four landing craft.Mistral Class ships can carry sufficient stores for the crew and 450 troops for 45 days between replenishments.

"We are working on agreements that would allow us to produce and purchase this ship," General Nikolai Makarov told reporters, referring to the French-made Mistral heavy helicopter carrier. He declined to specify a price for the purchase. Asked when the deal would be finalized, however, Makarov said: "This year." Makarov said the discussions so far concerned purchase by Russia of one of the French-made vessels, an amphibious force projection and command ship that can carry up to 16 heavy helicopters as well as hovercraft and landing craft.

But he indicated that talks were in progress on possible future joint production of several more of the sophisticated warships. "We also want to establish production of a series of at least four or five ships of this class," he said. Makarov said the Russian navy did not currently possess this kind of ship, which is costly and complicated to build, and would therefore look for a supplier outside Russia. "No country in the world can do everything" on its own, he said. "Something will have to be purchased" abroad.

Russia has long talked up plans to modernize its armed forces. Outright purchase of a warship from a NATO member country, however, would mark a significant change from past practice that has focused on domestic production. The French navy currently has two Mistral amphibious assault vessels in service and this year began construction of a third. Makarov did not specify which of the ships Russia planned to buy.

Middle Eastern countries to spend more than $100 billion on defence

Middle Eastern countries are expected to spend more than $100 billion over the next five years, largely because of growing fears about Iran's nuclear program and its perceived ambition to undermine Sunni-led Arab regimes, according to an assessment by a U.S.-based consultancy.

Most of the procurement will be carried out by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq and Israel, the New York-based Scott & Sullivan consulting firm said in the report released Sunday.

The core of this arms-buying spree will undoubtedly be the $20 billion U.S. package of weapons systems over 10 years for the six states of the Gulf Cooperation Council -- Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain.

Egypt, another key U.S. ally, is to get a $13 billion package. Israel, in exchange for agreeing to Washington providing the Gulf states with state-of-the-art weaponry it had traditionally sought to block, will get an arms package worth an estimated $30 billion over 10 years -- a 25 percent increase over previous levels.

These unprecedented packages were unveiled by President George W. Bush in January 2008 to counter Iran -- even though the Islamic Republic's spending on conventional military forces is substantially less than it was two decades ago.

Critics of the U.S. arms plan say that the provision of advanced weapons systems to the Arab states, including precision-guided munitions that once were taboo for the Arabs, will only encourage Iran to increase its militarization in a region already highly militarized.

"Even by the standards of past arms sales to the Middle East and Persian Gulf, traditionally one of the world's largest arms-buying regions, these are major arms transfers with the potential to significantly affect the regional strategic balance," says U.S. military analyst David Isenberg.

Critics note, too, that the United States is largely to blame for the current situation -- Iran's recent expansionist ambitions were the result of the Bush administration eliminating Tehran's enemies in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan.

And in that regard, another fear prevalent among the Gulf Arabs is that Iraq will collapse into civil war as the Americans withdraw their forces, and that the violence will likely spill over into GCC territory.

According to the Frost & Sullivan report, Saudi Arabia spent around $36 billion on arms in 2008, mostly from the United States, and it's expected to fork up about the same amount this year.

Israel, whose technological edge over its Muslim neighbors successive U.S. administrations have pledged to maintain, will have spent around $13 billion by the end of this year, the report said.

"Israel's spending has been quite consistent as it has built a very effective and modern military with the most cutting-edge technologies," it noted. "It is still expected to keep spending to stay ahead of its regional adversaries in order to protect its interests."

The systems involved in the transfers listed in 2008 span virtually every facet of conventional arms.

In July, Israel submitted an official Letter of Request to the U.S. Department of Defense to buy its first squadron of F-35 stealth fighter aircraft, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, built by Lockheed Martin.

The 25 jets, which will probably be the last manned fighter ever built, will cost an estimated $100 million. Israel wants to purchase another 50, some with vertical takeoff and landing capability, as well as two new missile ships.

Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., whose air force with its mix of 120 U.S. and French combat strike jets and interceptors is considered a powerful arm, are both interested in strengthening their air power, their primary defense against Iran.

Saudi Arabia is also reportedly discussing the purchase of more Eurofighter Typhoons from Britain to double its current fleet of 72, acquired in 2006. Riyadh also wants more F-15S Eagles from Boeing.

Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. also want a wide range of military platforms, with particular interest in missile defense systems such as the U.S. Theater High Altitude Air Defense system.

Approval was recently given for the Pentagon to sell this to the U.A.E., THAAD's first foreign customer.

Iraq, which is building up its military forces as the Americans withdraw, is expected to invest heavily in its armed forces over the next decade or more and could spend up to $11 billion by 2014, the report said.

The Baghdad government has to rebuild its military forces pretty much from scratch following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003.

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