Saturday, October 31, 2009

RAAF to consolidate AP-3C and C-130 at single base in Middle East

By the end of the year, Australia's four bases in the Middle East will have become one under a rationalisation program designed to cut costs and improve efficiencies for fighting the conflict in Afghanistan.The new facility will host RAAF AP-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft and C-130 Hercules transport aircraft as well as support troops serving in Afghanistan.

It will also house around 500 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel with capacity to accommodate another 500 as troops transit to and from Afghanistan.Australia is spending $87 million on new accommodation, hangars and maintenance facilities at the base.But under diplomatic agreements, the Australian government and defence force undertake not to publicly identify the Persian Gulf nation hosting the new facility, shared with New Zealand, Canadian, Dutch, British and US forces.

Neither will Australia identify the other Persian Gulf nations in which troops have been based, although all are well known.The first big step in the base rationalisations occurred late last year as Australia withdrew troops from Iraq, with the headquarters of Australian operations in the Middle East relocating to the new facility.

The next big step occurs on Monday with the arrival of three C-130 aircraft and their support crew from their facility in another Persian Gulf nation.The relocation of the C-130s all but concludes a defence association launched in 2003 when the country hosted the Australian military headquarters, the C-130s plus a squadron of F/A-18 Hornets for the war in Iraq.

That leaves what's called the Force Level Logistics Asset (FLLA) in yet another Gulf nation, created initially to prepare troops deploying into Iraq and support them while there. It now does that for troops in Afghanistan.The plan is to transfer its functions to the new base by December 31.Wing Commander Peter Davis, the facility commanding officer, said Australia's multiple bases in the Persian Gulf grew up at the time of the Iraq conflict in 2003.

"With the change in government the focus shifted to Afghanistan. The big problem we have had is we have still had our support network set up as if we were in Iraq," he said.Because Iran bans overflights by coalition aircraft, Australian C-130 aircrew devoted around a third of their flying hours - some four hours a day - to flying up and down the Gulf between bases.

From the new facility, it's a much shorter flight across to Pakistan and then up to Afghanistan.Moving everything to this location makes a lot of sense from a time and personnel perspective and from an aircrew and an aircraft maintenance perspective, Wing Commander Davis said.Commander of Australian troops in the Middle East, Major general Mark Kelly, said this would produce significant efficiencies from having a single point of entry to the Middle East.

"We will save quite a significant number of air hours in terms of air transport movement up and down the Arabian Gulf," he said."All that provides us with a greater capacity to support ongoing operations both here in the Middle East and Afghanistan and in our own region closer to home."

Major General Kelly said the various host nations had provided gracious hospitality to Australian forces but were protective of that support and requested Australia to leave them unnamed."We have respected that throughout. We have been consistent in abiding by their wishes," he said.

K-8s arriving in Venezuela by end of the year

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced the arrival of Chinese K-8 planes for training and combat by the end of 2009, as part of their fleet modernization with defensive purposes.According to the president the 18 aircrafts, together with Russian Sukhoi fighters will replaced the Mirage fighter jets, six of which were donated to Ecuador.

Referring to the donation to Quito, Chavez also asserted that they are in good technical conditions, rejecting staments by his political rivals.They are in perfect condition and we are satisfied that the Ecuadorian people can use them, said Chavez.

The president also announced that in addition to the Sukhoi (Su-30) and the new K-8 Venezuela would continue using its US manufactured F-16.During his speech, the president insisted on the defensive nature of Venezuela's weapon purchases.We donâ?Öt intend to attack anyone, he said

Malaysia to consider fighter options once economy recovers

By Siva Govindasamy

Malaysia plans to consider a variety of options for its medium multi-role fighter requirement once the direction of its economic fortunes becomes clearer."We are assessing whether to get the new jets from the United States, France, Sweden or Britain. The purchase will also depend on the country's economic recovery," says defence minister Zahid Hamidi.

Industry sources say the Royal Malaysian Air Force could assess the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon and Saab Gripen if it decides to launch a competition. The selected type would replace some of its RSK MiG-29s and F/A-18Ds.

Kuala Lumpur wants to phase out its MiG-29s by the end of 2010, with Zahid saying the type's high maintenance costs - estimated at 17 million ringgit ($5 million) per aircraft annually - is the main reason for the decision. The air force's Sukhoi Su-30MKMs will take over the roles currently performed by the MiG-29.

"The government will save 260 million ringgit per year in maintenance costs, and these savings will be used to maintain other types of aircraft in the air force inventory," says Zahid. "Malaysia bought the MiG-29s at a relatively low price, but later on had to contend with higher expenses in spare parts replacement and maintenance work."

Separately, Malaysia's government has increased the air force's budget for the coming fiscal year, despite a 10% drop in its overall defence budget. The service will get 1.61 billion ringgit, up from 1.48 billion ringgit. Most of this sum will go towards paying for its 18 Su-30MKMs, and to finance the purchase of 12 utility helicopters.

British bullets too small to fell 'high' Taliban

The bullets used by British forces to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan has been dubbed too small, because soldiers claim that it requires at least five direct hits to bring down the militants who are high on opium.

According to a report, British soldiers in Afghanistan use small 5.56mm calibre rounds also tail off after 300 metres and can easily be blown off the target. Half of all fire fights in Helmand are fought between 300 and 900 metres.

Meanwhile, Taliban marksmen use powerful 7.62mm ammunition for their AK47 machine guns, the Sun reports.The report calls for guns that take larger ammunition to replace all standard-issue SA80 rifles — which many believe were exposed as inadequate in Iraq in 2003.

Report co-author Nicholas Drummond, a strategy consultant and ex-Welsh Guards officer, secretly questioned more than 50 soldiers who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“A British soldier’s rifle is not much more useful than a peashooter. He can’t attack with any certainty that if he hits the enemy he will kill or incapacitate him,” he said.

One soldier in 2nd Battalion, the Rifles in Helmand, shot a Taliban fighter five times and he still got up to dive for cover, researchers were told.

The study claims car doors easily stop the ammunition. It added that Javelin anti-tank missiles — at £100,000 apiece are often fired at lone gunmen. Just one in four British, US and German troops has been issued with guns using 7.62mm ammo.

Chinese parts in IAF encryption devices prompt security probe

The National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) has ordered a high-level inquiry into the supply of encryption devices last year to the Indian Air Force and the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) by state-owned, Bangalore-based Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).

The inquiry was ordered after it came to light that the encryption devices were of Chinese origin, thereby leading to concerns that Chinese agencies could penetrate the systems to access data stored in the devices.

The IAF, it is learnt, as well as the NTRO, were using the devices to encrypt inter-office and intra-office communication, most of it related to national security.

The decision was taken at a meeting held on October 28 here, which was chaired by Deputy National Security Adviser Leela Ponappa, who retires today.

The Scientific Analysis Group (SAG) of the NSCS has been ordered to conduct a detailed inquiry into whether any device has been breached, as well as the possibility of such an eventuality in the future.

Representatives of some other public sector enterprises that supply communication as well as encryption devices to the defence establishment, such as the Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) and the Indian Telephone Industries (ITI), as well as the three services and the Defence Ministry, are to conduct internal inquiries to rule out any possibility of technical Chinese-manufactured equipment being accessed by the Chinese manufacturers or the Chinese agencies.

Sources in the NSCS told The Sunday Express that the inquiry was ordered by a miffed Deputy NSA despite strong protests by the IAF, the Defence Ministry as well BEL.

The SAG has been asked to conclude its inquiry within two months and submit its report to the NSCS.

Sources in the NSCS said the government is wary of "too much" high tech hardware and software manufactured by Chinese companies, most of them state-owned, being used by the Indian defence establishment and intelligence agencies.

Incidentally, in April this year, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Defence Ministry had asked public sector telecom major BSNL not to award equipment contracts to Chinese equipment majors Huawei and ZTE in the interest of national security.

Huawei, incidentally, is linked to the Chinese Army and was black-listed by the US Government a few years ago.

Following the BSNL decision, the government had also constituted a high-level committee to examine the issue of participation of foreign companies, especially these from China, in tenders by telecom companies such as the BSNL where security concerns prevailed.

A senior NSCS officer confirmed that the government has come across instances of Chinese companies indulging in industrial espionage and accessing top secret data, including those of Indian companies, by hacking into the servers.

Singapore and Indian Armies conduct Bilateral Artillery Exercise

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Indian Army are conducting a bilateral artillery exercise in Devlali, India. Code-named Agni Warrior, this year's exercise involves soldiers from the 23rd and 24th Battalion, Singapore Artillery, as well as the Indian Army's 283 Field Regiment.

As part of the exercise, the two armies carried out a combined live-firing with the SAF's FH-88 Howitzer guns and 155mm Battery guns from the Indian Army on 26 October 2009. Chief of Army Major-General (MG) Neo Kian Hong, who was on an official visit to India from 25 to 27 October 2009, witnessed the live-firing with Director-General Artillery Lieutenant-General K R Rao. MG Neo also met the SAF and Indian Army troops during the exercise. The exercise, which is the fifth in the Agni Warrior series, began on 9 October 2009 and will conclude tomorrow.

This series of annual exercises underscores the warm defence ties between Singapore and India. Apart from joint exercises, the SAF and the Indian Armed Forces interact regularly through visits, courses, seminars and other professional exchanges.

Viraat to be back in action in a week

The ‘mother’ will be back in action soon. With power projection being the name of the game, India is
finally ready to once again deploy its solitary aircraft carrier INS Viraat on the high seas after an almost two-year gap.

INS Viraat is now on the verge of completing its ‘sea-acceptance trials’ and ‘work-up phase’ off Mumbai after an 18-month-long comprehensive refit in Mumbai and Kochi to increase its longevity as well as upgrade its weapon and sensor packages.

Coincidentally enough, the 28,000-tonne old warhorse will also be completing its 50th year as an operational warship this November. Originally commissioned in the British Royal Navy as HMS Hermes in November 1959, it was inducted into the Indian Navy in May 1987.

‘‘Even British officers, who have served on her, are stunned we have managed to prolong its operational life so much. After this refit, it will serve us for at least five years more. It should be ‘full-ops’ in a week or so,’’ said a senior officer.

While Navy is justifiably proud of getting INS Viraat back in action, it’s a telling comment on the Indian defence establishment’s utter lack of long-term strategic planning to build military capabilities in tune with the country’s geopolitical objectives. An aircraft carrier prowling on the high seas, with its accompanying fighter jets tearing into the skies from the mobile airstrip, after all, projects power like nothing else.

US, on its part, has 11 carrier strike groups deployed across the globe to rule the seas. China, in turn, is actively scrambling to get carriers of its own in keeping with its big superpower aspirations. Successive Indian governments, however, been quite apathetic to Navy’s quest to have three aircraft carriers — one each for the eastern and western seaboards, while the third undergoes repairs — to protect the country’s ‘primary area of geopolitical interest’ stretching from Hormuz Strait to Malacca Strait.

The long-delayed 40,000-tonne indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) being built at Cochin Shipyard, for one, will be ready only by 2015. For another, India will get the refurbished 44,570-tonne Admiral Gorshkov, undergoing a refit at the Sevmash Shipyard in North Russia, only by early-2013 now. India and Russia, of course, are still bitterly negotiating Gorshkov’s final refit cost, with the price likely to settle upwards of $ 2.5-billion. There is another big worry for Navy. INS Viraat may be all set to resume duties but it’s left with only 11 Sea Harrier jump-jets to operate from its deck.

From 1983 onwards, Navy had inducted 30 of the British-origin Sea Harriers, which take off from the angled ski-jump on INS Viraat and land vertically on its deck, but has l

Four feared killed in IAF chopper crash

An Indian Air Force (IAF) chopper crashed and plunged into the Chenab at Trungal in Doda district today. The rotors of the ill-fated chopper got entangled in the cable of a ropeway hung by the locals to cross the river.

Although the authorities have yet not confirmed the total causalities in the tragic incident, all four crew members on board were feared killed, as the chopper was drowned into the reservoir of the Baglihar hydroelectric project. Only one body has been recovered so far and the rescue operation is going on.

MI 17 IV chopper is a Russian made helicopter with a good flying record. It is considered the life line for the residents of inaccessible areas of the region. A court of inquiry has been ordered into the incident.

Deepak Kumar, DIG, Doda-Ramban range, told The Tribune that the IAF chopper, which was on a regular sortie, was flying over the reservoir of the Baglihar hydroelectric project on the Chenab when it got entangled in the cable of a ropeway at Trungal village.
It crashed and plunged into the Chenab.

Quoting the IAF authorities, the DIG further informed that four crew members were on board and only one body had been recovered. He said a team of divers from the Civil Defence had been pressed into service.

Rajdeep Singh, an eyewitness, said over the phone that he along with some locals was standing on the opposite side of Trungal village when the incident took place. "The chopper was coming from the Batote side when it crashed and plunged into the river with a big bang," said Rajdeep, who ferries passengers on the Chenab from Trungal to Zangli. He said he along with five other villagers were the first to reach the spot. "A badly mutilated body was lying on the bank of the river," he added. Although the authorities had not disclosed the identity of those who were on board, sources said the body of Wing Commander Garh had been recovered.

Although senior officers are tight-lipped over the incident, the sources said the ill-fated chopper was returning from the Nawapachi area of Kishtwar district. The IAF carries regular sorties to the mountain-locked Nawapachi area to transport ration, arms and ammunition for the troops stationed there. The IAF also provides assistance to the civil administration in supplying ration and other essential commodities in times of crisis.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Taiwan says U.S. stalling on F-16 sale because of China

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou said on Thursday the U.S. government was stalling in replying to Taiwan's request for F-16 jet fighters because of displeasure from China, which claims sovereignty over the self-ruled island.

Taiwan is seeking a $4.9 billion deal for 66 advanced F-16s to modernise its military as China's armed forces grow. The U.S. government has said it is reviewing Taiwan's defence needs and has made no commitment to a sale.

"We still hope to acquire F-16 jet fighters to replace the ageing fighters we have, but so far we haven't received a positive answer from the United States, partly because of the opposition from the Chinese," Ma told reporters.

China has claimed self-ruled Taiwan as its own since 1949, when Mao Zedong's forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists (KMT) fled to the island. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.

The United States switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China 30 years ago, recognising "one China", though it remains Taiwan's biggest ally and arms supplier and is obliged by the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act to help with its defence.

Since his election in 2008, Ma has sought to ease tension with China through trade and transit talks. But he has denounced the 1,000 to 1,500 short-range and medium-range missiles China is believed to have aimed at the island.

Taiwan first asked to buy new F-16s in 2007 after approving substantial funding for the aircraft.

China opposes all U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, a position Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu reaffirmed on Thursday, though without saying if Beijing had formally taken up the F-16s case with Washington.

"We adamantly oppose the United States, or any other country, selling weapons to Taiwan," Ma told a regular news briefing.

The commanding officer of the U.S. aircraft carrier, USS George Washington, said in Hong Kong the United States wanted improved communications with the Chinese navy in the Pacific following minor skirmishes in the South China Sea.

Five times this year, Chinese vessels have confronted U.S. surveillance ships in Asian waters, the U.S. Defense Department said in May. China said the U.S. vessels had intruded into its territory and in August called on the United States to halt all air and sea surveillance.

"Some of the skirmishes might be a slight misunderstanding of 'I don't know what each other's doing'," said Captain David Lausman, who heads the 100,000-tonne flagship of the Seventh Fleet.

Lausman said improved bilateral naval ties could be brought about in "small steps" like co-operating on anti-piracy and rescue missions, rather than through big exercises alone.

(Reporting by Kevin Plumberg; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing and James Pomfret in Hong Kong; Editing by Nick Macfie)

NATO clears German colonel for calling in F-15E strike in Afghanistan

German troops acted appropriately when they called in a deadly airstrike on two fuel trucks in Afghanistan according to a NATO investigation, a top German general said on Thursday.

The September 4 strike was the most deadly operation involving German troops since World War Two, killing 69 Taliban fighters and 30 civilians, the Afghan government has said.

The attack, carried out by a U.S. F-15 fighter jet, was condemned by several European foreign ministers. But Germany has said it was necessary to protect its troops from a possible suicide attack by Taliban fighters who had hijacked the trucks.

"In light of the results of the investigation, I have no reason to doubt that German soldiers acted appropriately in military terms given the difficult situation and on the basis of the United Nations mandate," Wolfgang Schneiderhan, general inspector of the German army, told reporters.

Schneiderhan said the report did not specify the total number of victims and declined to give further details from the NATO report, which is confidential.

Germans remain highly skeptical of military operations more than 60 years after the defeat of the Nazis. It was only a decade ago that German troops participated in their first foreign combat mission since the war.

A majority of Germans want Germany's 4,200 troops operating in Afghanistan as part of a six-year old NATO mission to come home and with violence there on the rise, support for the deployment is also waning in other Western nations.

India's new defence policy to open $100 bn market

Indian defence companies will gain access to a potential $100 billion market over the next 10 years, following a new policy that allows domestic firms to bid for large defence contracts, officials said on Friday. India, one of the world's biggest arms importers, wants to increase the role of its private sector, which holds around 20 percent of the defence industry market but has the potential to grow significantly.

Under the new policy, the government will allow domestic companies to bid for key projects on their own. Indian companies until the policy change were not invited by the government to bid for big government defence projects and were left to supplying locally made non-combative equipment for the defence forces.

With foreign countries reluctant to share advanced technology with India, the government wants to encourage private defence companies to enter the arms market, officials say. "The field is now open for them to come and bid for any project along with the world's best. The government is giving them an opportunity to expand their capabilities," Sitanshu Kar, the defence ministry spokesman said.

Local companies are free to bid for projects involving tanks, artillery and aircrafts, Kar said. "This move can also save costs and help us turn India into a major production hub in the near future," Kar said. The new policy will provide more opportunities to Indian companies such as Tata Motors, Mahindra and Mahindra, Ashok Leyland and Larsen and Toubro, defence experts and officials said.

"The current review is primarily focused on two essential areas of promoting and facilitating wide participation of defence industry and enabling transparency and integrity in all acquisitions," defence minister AK Antony said at a conference. "Over the next five to six years, the total budgetary provision for capital acquisition is likely to reach $50 billion," Antony said. Defence and company officials say it will touch the $100 billion mark in 10 years.

India wants to upgrade its largely Soviet-era arsenal to counter potential threats from Pakistan and China. The government plans to spend more than $30 billion over the next five years to upgrade its defences.Foreign defence companies have welcomed the government move. "The government is very forward leaning and the steps we view as a sign of the government's confidence in the maturity of the Indian industry," Vivek Lall, India country head for Boeing Integrated Defense Systems said on Friday.

Insatiable dragon

Prez to become first Indian woman to fly in Sukhoi

For once, President Pratibha Patil will don a G-suit instead of her trademark sari as she flies in a Sukhoi-30 MKI - a frontline fighter jet of the Indian Air Force (IAF) - next month.

Patil, 74, is expected to board one of the Sukhois based in Lohegaon, Pune, and will make history of sorts by becoming the first woman to fly in an IAF war plane. The President is the supreme commander of the Indian armed forces. "The president will be flying in a Sukhoi soon. It should happen by November end," a senior IAF official told IANS without divulging further details.

Patil, who will be following in the footsteps of her predecessor APJ Abdul Kalam, will be undergoing mandatory health tests before the sortie. The first woman President of the country, Patil would also become the first woman to fly in an IAF war plane. The air force currently has 784 women officers working in different branches, barring the fighter stream. Earlier, Kalam, the father of the Indian missile programme, had taken a ride in a submarine in 2006 and followed it up with a sortie in a Sukhoi the same year.

North Korea's latest missile tests failed

North Korea's short-range missile tests earlier this month were a failure with none of the five projectiles reaching its target, a report said Thursday. The North test-fired five KN-02 missiles with a range of 120 kilometres (75 miles) from mobile launchers off its east coast on October 12.

Radio Free Asia, quoting an intelligence source, said four of the five missed the mark and one did not even launch properly."Two fell into the sea right after launch, another two missed the targets and the last one failed to launch," the source said, according to a Korean-language report on the US-funded radio's website.

South Korea's military and National Intelligence Service would not comment. Yonhap news agency earlier this month quoted a source as saying three of the five missiles "may have fizzled".The launches were the first reported since early July, and came amid international efforts to bring the hardline communist state back to six-nation nuclear disarmament talks.

South Korea and the United State denounced the launches as violating UN Security Council resolutions banning ballistic missile activities by the North.In addition to launching long-range and medium-range missiles, the North has often launched short-range projectiles off its coasts in recent years.Seoul officials have said the short-range tests are largely aimed at improving accuracy and performance, although the launches are also sometimes timed to make a politic

Obama inks military budget bill; Pakistan to get $2.3bn

US President Barack Obama today signed a $680 billion defence budget bill that provides $2.3 billion military assistance to Pakistan with tough condition to make sure that the funds are not squandered or diverted to affect the "balance of power in the region".

Obama said the Defence Authorisation Bill for 2010 eliminates some of the waste and inefficiency in the defence process that will better protect the nation, troops and save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.

"The bill includes a commitment to the stability of Afghanistan and Pakistan, expanded programmes to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of rogue states and terrorists, and a reformed system of defence acquisition to save taxpayer money," said House Majority Leader Steny H Hoyer.

The military aid money to Pakistan for the fiscal 2010 as mentioned in the bill has two major components -- $1.6 billion for the Coalition Support Fund and $700 million for the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund.

For the $1.6 billion Coalition Support Fund, the bill would require that, before any more such money is spent, the Obama administration must certify that doing so is in the US national interest and will not adversely affect the region's balance of power.

Maritime exercise Seaspark 2009

By Amar Guriro

Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Noman Bashir said Thursday Pakistan Navy has tightened, as well as reinforced, the maritime security in its naval territories, following the Mumbai attacks.

Talking to the media on PNS Nasr on the last day of the tactical (war at sea) phase, which is a part of ongoing six-week-long maritime exercise, Seaspark 2009, in North Arabian Sea, he suggested a joint maritime security agency comprising maritime security agency, ports and shipping and other agencies, while Pakistan Navy heads it.

The exercise, which started on October 21, included the employment of operational units of Pakistan Navy including ships, aircraft, submarines, Special Services Group and Pakistan Marines. A group of media persons were taken to PNS Nasr, which is located in North Arabian Sea, via Sea King helicopters so that they could witness Seaspark 2009.

According to ISPR officials, the main object of the exercise was to assess the operational readiness of Pakistan Navy and provide an opportunity to the officers and men to operate under multi-threat environment and exercise responses.

The Seaspark 2009 maritime exercise was held in four phases, including the planning or standby phase, opening brief or mobilisation, the war that was divided into two parts, the precautionary (harbour) phase and tactical (war at sea) phase and the analysis, which would start on November 2. During the exercise on Thursday, the personnel demonstrated their expertise by landing from helicopters into ships to search them, while they also demonstrated how to search submarines.

“The North Arabian Sea is the most important waterway, which does not only hold importance for being Pakistan’s pathway of 97’s trade, but also for the world as most of trade is done via this channel,” said Bashir, adding that besides having commercial importance, it is also important because it leads to the Arab countries, which have almost 97 percent of the world’s total oil reserves.

He said that Pakistan is the only non-NATO country that is a part of the Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150), which is a multinational coalition naval task force with logistics facilities established to monitor, inspect, board, and stop suspected shipping to pursue the War on Terrorism. Pakistan is also a part of the Horn of Africa region (HOA), including operations in the North Arabian Sea and also the part of Combined Task Force 151 (CTF-151), the international naval task force against piracy on ships, off the coast of Somalia.

Answering a question, Bashir said that the Gwadar port must constructed as a commercial port where Pakistan Navy is a building base for naval operation. Talking about a ferry service, he said that until there is no demand for such a service, it would not be considered.

Raytheon to offer AESA radar for Seoul's F/A-50 fighter

By Siva Govindasamy

Raytheon is offering an active electronically scanned array radar to South Korea for installation on the proposed Korea Aerospace Industries F/A-50 light fighter.

The Raytheon advanced combat radar (RACR) primarily targets the Lockheed Martin F-16 retrofit market. But company officials say that the F/A-50, which is based on the KAI/Lockheed T-50 advanced jet trainer derived from the US company's F-16, could also use the AESA radar to meet South Korean requirements.

"Given the commonalities between the T-50 and the F-16, we do not think that it would be a major problem to fit the RACR into the F/A-50. South Korea is keen to have an AESA radar for the F/A-50 and we could offer them a solution," a Raytheon official said during the Seoul air show in late October.

Northrop Grumman has also previously said that the F/A-50 could use a variant of its scaleable agile beam radar (SABR), which it is developing to compete with the RACR in the F-16 retrofit market.

Either option would suit KAI. The radar has been a bone of contention with Lockheed, which had wanted to sell its own APG-67(V)4. Seoul had preferred Selex Sensors and Airborne Systems' Vixen 500E, but is barred from sharing the T-50's source codes with non-US companies.

As a result, the first four F/A-50 test aircraft that will be produced under a development contract will use an EL/M-2032 radar supplied by Israel's Elta Systems, with the sensor to be installed by a US company to meet conditions set by Lockheed and Washington. Selecting the RACR or SABR systems would avert this problem for an expected follow-on production phase.

KAI says the first flight of an F/A-50 will be conducted by late August 2011, and the primary test sortie will be in September the same year. "These are the key target dates for the F/A-50. The preliminary design phase is under way and Lockheed is supporting us in the development work," says Kim Hyong Jun, KAI vice-president and general manager of the strategy and management planning department.

He adds that there will be an overlap between the development and production phases, and that there is likely to be a contract for between 12 and 20 aircraft before the F/A-50 achieves initial operational capability.

KAI expects the South Korean air force to place an order for 60 production examples, and to eventually buy up to 150 F/A-50s as replacements for its Northrop F-5s.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Russian missile cruiser to depart on visit to Singapore

The missile cruiser Varyag, the flagship of Russia's Pacific Fleet, will sail on Tuesday on a month-long tour-of-duty, which will include a visit to Singapore, a fleet spokesman said."The group of ships departing today from Vladivostok comprises the Varyag missile cruiser, the Fotiy Krylov salvage tug and the Pechenga tanker," the official said.

"There is a naval infantry unit, an air support group and a number of naval cadets on board the cruiser," he added.According to the spokesman, the main goal of the visit to Singapore is "to further develop and strengthen friendly contacts between the two countries."Varyag is a Slava-class missile cruiser, which entered service with the Pacific Fleet in 1990.

In 2007, the warship visited the South Korean port of Pusan, while in April this year it led a fleet of 21 foreign naval vessels participating in a parade to mark the 60th anniversary of China's Navy off the coast of the eastern city of Qingdao.The Fotiy Krylov and the Pechenga were part of a naval task force from the Pacific Fleet, led by the Admiral Vinogradov destroyer, which participated in international anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden in January-March this year.

U.S. Speeds Aid to Pakistan to Fight Taliban


Even as the Pakistani government plays down the American role in its military operations in Taliban-controlled areas along the border with Afghanistan, the United States has quietly rushed hundreds of millions of dollars in arms, equipment and sophisticated sensors to Pakistani forces in recent months, said senior American and Pakistani officials.

During preparations this spring for the Pakistani campaigns in Swat and South Waziristan, President Obama personally intervened at the request of Pakistan’s top army general to speed the delivery of 10 Mi-17 troop transport helicopters. Senior Pentagon officials have also hurried spare parts for Cobra helicopter gunships, night vision goggles, body armor and eavesdropping equipment to the fight.

American military surveillance drones are feeding video images and target information to Pakistani ground commanders, and the Pentagon has quietly provided the Pakistani Air Force with high-resolution, infrared sensors for F-16 warplanes, which Pakistan is using to guide bomb attacks on militants’ strongholds in South Waziristan.

In addition, the number of American Special Forces soldiers and support personnel who are training and advising Pakistani Army and paramilitary troops has doubled in the past eight months, to as many as 150, an American adviser said. The Americans do not conduct combat operations.

The increasing American role in shoring up the Pakistani military’s counterinsurgency abilities comes as the Obama administration debates how much of a troop commitment to make in neighboring Afghanistan. It also takes place as Taliban attacks are spreading into Pakistani cities. It is unclear whether Pakistani authorities are using any of the sophisticated surveillance equipment to combat the urban terrorism.

Underscoring the complexity of the relationship between the allies, Pakistani officials are loath to publicize the aid because of the deep-seated anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. And they privately express frustration about the pace and types of aid, which totals about $1.5 billion this year.

At a military briefing on Saturday, the Pakistani Army spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, said the fight in South Waziristan was a purely Pakistani enterprise, unaided by the United States or anyone else. “Let us finish the job on our own,” he told reporters.

Hasan Askari Rizvi, a military analyst in Lahore, said that publicly acknowledging the military aid — an open secret in Pakistan — could hand militants fresh ammunition for propaganda attacks. “The Pakistan military would not like to talk about the U.S. assistance,” he said, “so that the Islamists, most of whom are opposed to military operations, do not get additional reason to criticize the military and the government.”

American officials in Pakistan — whom the Pakistani government directed earlier this year not to discuss the United States role in providing humanitarian aid to hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their homes by the fighting in Swat — said the same edict applied to war assistance.

“The Pakistanis insist on ‘no American face’ on their war. Period,” said one senior American military officer in Southwest Asia, who would speak only anonymously because he did not want to jeopardize his relationship with his Pakistani counterparts.

Given the reluctance of Pakistani and American officials to speak openly about the assistance, it is difficult to assess how effective the American aid has been in the current combat operations.

Beneath their official silence, many senior Pakistani military officials seethe at the months, or even years, of delay by the Pentagon in delivering promised hardware and troop reimbursements. They also gripe that the United States is denying them the best technology, like Predator drones or Apache helicopter gunships.

“We are grateful for the generosity but believe that we have now learned to fight with what all we possess and not what has been promised,” said one senior Pakistani officer, who was granted anonymity to provide a candid assessment.

Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council, a nonprofit policy and research group, sharply criticized the Obama administration in an essay on the organization’s Web site last week. “Pakistan still does not have all the weapons or assistance that it needs to do the job right,” he wrote.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton acknowledged the frustrations in an interview this week with Dawn, a Pakistani daily newspaper, before arriving on a trip to Pakistan.

“We both have bureaucracies,” Mrs. Clinton said. “We know how it is sometimes that things get delayed or they’re slower than we want, but we’re really trying to accelerate everything we can to help the Pakistani military.” Mrs. Clinton did not provide any details.

An American adviser in Pakistan, who was granted anonymity to discuss internal United States policy, said, “U.S. current military assistance either demonstrates U.S. resolve and offsets anti-Americanism, or is deliberately underplayed to boost Pakistani military and political credibility, and the latter meets our policy objectives more closely.”

The United States has provided Pakistan with about $12 billion in military assistance and payments since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The Pentagon reimburses Pakistan about $1 billion a year to cover its costs of fielding more than 100,000 troops along the Afghan border in counterinsurgency operations.

But in the past year, the Defense Department has significantly increased the shipment of military equipment to Pakistan to combat the increasingly violent insurgency.

Most significant was Mr. Obama’s involvement in speeding the delivery of the 10 Russian-built Mi-17s, at the request of the Pakistani army chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Four of the transport helicopters were leased to Pakistan in June, and the rest were provided under different authorities to move Pakistani Army soldiers in the border region near Afghanistan.

“The president was engaged on this issue in the spring,” said a White House official, who spoke anonymously because he was discussing Mr. Obama’s involvement.

Also involved was Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who repeatedly pressed his staff to find the Mi-17s in American inventories and to figure out a way to provide them to Pakistan.

This year alone, the Pentagon is sending more than $500 million in arms, equipment and training assistance to Pakistan, to help train and equip the Pakistani military for counterinsurgency operations.

Included in that package is nearly $13 million in electronic eavesdropping equipment to intercept militants’ cellphone calls. In July, the Pentagon supplied Pakistan with 200 night vision goggles, 100 day/night scopes, more than 600 radios and 9,475 sets of body armor.

The Pentagon has also sharply increased programs to bring Pakistani officers to the United States for training, particularly in counterterrorism.

“We’ve put military assistance to Pakistan on a wartime footing, as up to now it has been in a peacetime process,” said Lt. Col. Mark Wright, a Pentagon spokesman. “We are doing everything within our power to assist Pakistan in improving its counterinsurgency capabilities.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

German Armed Forces in Afghanistan will get ISR data from Heron UAV

Rheinmetall Defence and the German Federal Office of Defense Technology and Procurement (Bundesamt für Wehrtechnik und Beschaffung – BWB) signed a service provider contract today to provide the German Bundeswehr with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities through the deployment of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) system. This bridges the gap prior to the "SAATEG (System zur Abbildenden Aufklärung in der Tiefe des Einsatzgebietes)" acquisition programme. Under the current multimillion-euro contract, the Bundeswehr will lease the UAV system for one year with an option for a two year-extension.

This SAATEG Interim Solution programme will significantly contribute to comprehensive situational awareness within the scope of networked command and control in Northern Afghanistan, a region for which Germany is responsible, by providing wide area real-time reconnaissance and surveillance data for German ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) troops. Flight operations will commence by mid March 2010. Compared to UAV systems currently in service with the Bundeswehr, the UAV system to be deployed is capable of covering a substantially larger footprint, while its high-performance sensors can provide reconnaissance data at even severe weather conditions.

Rheinmetall Defence and its partner Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will provide IAI's Heron MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) UAV system, including full in-theatre logistical and maintenance services performed by Rheinmetall Defence. Missions of the UAV-System will be performed and controlled by Bundeswehr personnel.

"Following the deployment of Rheinmetall's KZO tactical UAV system by the German Army in Afghanistan earlier this year, SAATEG is set to make another important contribution to protecting our soldiers and their allies as they carry out their vital mission", declares Heinz Dresia, Member of the Executive Board of Rheinmetall Defence, adding that "Rheinmetall's responsibility for performing the complete package of service, repairs and maintenance for the SAATEG system positions us as a competent full-service supplier of logistic services in the field of aerial reconnaissance systems."

Itzhak Nissan, President and CEO of IAI, said: "We are proud to provide along with Rheinmetall our operationally proven UAV systems to the German Armed Forces. Our fruitful cooperation with Rheinmetall allows for the integration of the two companies' capabilities to the benefit of both of our customers, and presents new marketing opportunities of UAVs and other airborne systems."

The Heron UAV can carry a wide variety of sensors and information systems for gathering data for intelligence analysis to protect the friendly forces during operations in theatre. Depending on its mission configuration, the sensor package provided to the German Armed Forces includes a day/night electro-optical and SAR payload. By utilizing satellite communications the system covers the whole area of operations of the German ISAF contingent. With a wingspan of 16.6 meters and a takeoff weight of 1,200 kg, the Heron can reach an altitude of 30,000 feet and can loiter for over 24 hours.

The Canadian, Australian and French Armed Forces are already relying on the Heron as one of their main ISR sources in Afghanistan.

All logistical and maintenance services for the German Heron system will be performed by Rheinmetall Defence, which will operate a 24/7 maintenance and support centre in the theatre.

About IAI / MALAT:
MALAT division of IAI's Military Aircraft Group spearheads the design and manufacture of unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAVs) systems. MALAT offers a family of systems that vary in size, endurance, mission profile and onboard sensors, covering the full spectrum of operational requirements by providing micro and mini systems as well as tactical and Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) systems.

MALAT's systems are in operational service with more than 40 worldwide customers deployed on four continents and have accumulated over 500.000 flight hours.

Indian supplied Dhruv Helicopter crashes in Eucador air show

Two helicopter pilots have been hospitalised after a crash during a military parade in Eucador. The recently purchased Dhruv helicopter was flying in formation with two other choppers over an air force base near Quito when it suddenly veered off course and slammed into the ground.

"The two crew members managed to get out by their own means and were taken to hospital," air force general Leonardo Barreiro told local media. "Their condition is apparently good."

Ecuadorian Vice President Lenin Moreno was among those attending the air show, to mark the 89th anniversary of Eucador's air force, when the sudden crash plunged the carefully choreographed event into chaos. Local authorities have grounded another six Dhruv choppers, recently purchased from India for $50 million, as they probe the exact cause of the crash. The helicopters include one used by President Rafael Correa.

Israel hopes to obtain two German corvettes

Israel intends to order in Germany, two warships and possibly avoid payment. Newspaper Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung wrote that hope is being placed on funding by the German government.

Government of Israel intends shortly to order in Germany, the construction of several warships - two MEKO corvettes and submarines Dolphin. Reporting this on Friday, October 23, the newspaper Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung refers to the German government circles.

According to the newspaper, senior representatives of the naval forces of Israel and the Hamburg shipyard Blohm + Voss, a few days ago sold to Arab investors from Abu Dhabi have already submitted a draft to the Defense Ministry in Berlin with the request for financial support. The total cost of the order of hundreds of millions of euros.

"Influential policy support project

It is reported that "influential politicians in northern Germany, supported this project, since the economic crisis and the shortage of orders German shipyards face further job cuts. How to react to this proposal the federal government, it remains unclear, the newspaper said.

In the reign of the shipyards owned by the concern Thyssen-Krupp, confirmed the interest of Israel to build in Germany warships, which are expected to install a missile defense system. This system will be commissioned in the U.S. and is designed to protect Israel from missiles from Iran.

Agency dpa recalled that the Israeli Navy has repeatedly purchased warships in Germany. At the same time the German government had in 2005 agreed to pay one third of the cost (333 million euros) of the two submarines being built at present in Kiel.

Japanese navy destroyer collides with South Korean container ship off

A Japanese navy destroyer has collided with a commercial vessel off southern Japan, starting fires on both ships and injuring one crew member, defense officials said Tuesday.The destroyer JS Kurama collided with the South Korean container ship Carina Star on Tuesday night in the Kanmon Strait near the southern main island of Kyushu and both were engulfed in flames, a defense ministry spokesman said on condition of anonymity, citing protocol.

One Kurama crew member was slightly injured, the official said.Public broadcaster NHK said none of the South Korean ship's crew members were injured. It also said the Japanese ship's bow was damaged.

TV footage showed orange flames rising up from the vessels in the dark. The collision site is about 530 miles (850 kilometers) southwest of Tokyo, between Kyusu and the western end of the Honshu main island.The Kurama was on its way to its home port of Sasebo on Kyushu after serving as the flagship for the country's triennial fleet review Sunday at the port of Yokosuka.

Last year, a collision between a destroyer and a tuna trawler off the coast of Chiba, near Tokyo, left two fishermen dead. That accident triggered an uproar in Japan, where many people harbor pacifist sentiments and remain sensitive to anything related to the military.

Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa quickly held a news conference and apologized for the accident."We deeply apologize to the people for causing concerns," he said. "We will quickly find out what caused the accident."Kitazawa said the government has set up a taskforce to investigate the collision.

Indian Army is all set to induct 124 Arjun tanks

After repeated trials and a huge budget overrun, a total of 124 Arjun Main Battle Tanks (MBT) are all set to be inducted into the armoury of the Indian Army by April next year, said Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) scientist and chief controller (R&D) Dr W Selvamurthy.

He was speaking at the valedictory ceremony of the 13th Post Induction Training School (POINTS-13) programme held at the Defence Institute of Advanced Technology (DIAT) here on Monday.

Outlining the contribution of the DRDO in shaping various aspects of the weaponry of the Indian armed forces, he said, “The Arjun MBT is a state-of-the-art battle tank designed and developed by the Combat Vehicles Research & Development Establishment (CVRDE), Avadi in Tamil Nadu. Besides, the ordered tanks are in various stages of production at the moment and would be inducted in a phased manner.”

Urging new scientists to undertake path breaking research in the defence sector, Dr Selvemurthy said, “You need to go for out-of-the-box thinking to scale new heights in defence research and innovation. As the vision of the DRDO is to empower India with superior technology in the field of strategic defence, which the nation has seen from time to time.”

Delivering the valedictory address, chief guest and director, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Professor Samir K Brahmachari said that defence scientists should develop technologies that can be used for civilian purpose.

He further said, “Scientists in India are categorised as strategic scientists and those for civilian applications. Hence, how to utilise strategic technology for civilian purpose would be a challenge for the budding DRDO scientists.” He said that DRDO has risen on several occasions by providing vital expertise in the field of ballistic missiles and propellant technology, which speaks volumes about the contribution it made in the cause of nation building.

Defence acquisitions to be made more transparent

The government will roll out a new defence procurement policy (DPP) Nov 1 in a bid to promote the Indian defence industry and bring transparency in acquisitions, Defence Minister A K Antony said Tuesday.The reviewed DPP would also aim to promote joint ventures between foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Indian companies.

"We are ready to promulgate DPP-2009 with effect from Nov 1," Antony said at a seminar on defence acquisition.
Under the DPP 2009:

* Broad contours of the 15-year armed forces acquisition plan will be made public

* Requests for Information (RFIs) on all acquisitions will be displayed on the Defence Ministry's website

* The role of independent monitors will be increaded to ensure probity in defence deals

South Korea to retrofit F-16 with AESA radar upgrade soon

By Bradley Perrett in Seoul and Douglas Barrie in London

South Korea is planning to retrofit an active, electronically scanned array radar to its fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16s, sparking a competition liable to be repeated for a swath of Fighting Falcon operators.

The South Korean air force will likely issue a request for proposals in 2010 or early 2011 for an active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar for its F‑16C/D aircraft. The air force has around 40 Block 32 aircraft and 140 Block 52-standard aircraft.

South Korea is believed to be looking to upgrade 135 aircraft, most likely all at the Block 52 standard. Under present plans, upgraded aircraft will enter service in 2014-15.

Seoul’s pending competition could also pose some challenges for the U.S. administration in terms of technology release. Raytheon has already been cleared to offer its RACR (Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar) AESA, while Northrop Grumman is still awaiting U.S. approval for its Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR). The South Korean air force has already had a classified briefing on Raytheon’s RACR.

South Korean technology access aspirations may also go unfulfilled, at least initially, if either the Raytheon or Northrop Grumman radar is selected.

Replacing the F-16’s mechanically scanned array radar with an AESA will provide not only performance but reliability and maintenance improvements. Radar performance is at least doubled, while reliability is improved by an order of magnitude. The latter has significant through-life cost implications when compared with the maintenance bill for supporting conventional radar.

Seoul’s program is running on about the same time scale as a similar U.S. Air Force requirement for retrofitting its F-16s with an AESA. South Korea, however, is expected to keep pushing ahead independently, since grafting the local program on to the U.S. effort could delay deployment by up to two years.

Either country could make the first selection between Northrop Grumman’s SABR, which is a derivative of the APG‑80 in the F-16E/F, and the Raytheon RACR, which has been developed from the APG-79 fitted to the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

The total F-16 market for AESA technology may exceed 1,000 units. Along with South Korea, Greece has also had a classified briefing on the RACR as it considers a similar upgrade for its F-16 fleet, and many other air forces will likely follow as the aircraft’s life is extended. Industry executives suggest an overall contract value in the billions of dollars.

One non-U.S. manufacturer doubts that anyone but Raytheon and Northrop Grumman has much chance of getting the South Korean contract.

Washington is likely to try to keep foreign competitors out by using its diplomatic clout and its contract rights to control the F-16 configuration, says an official from that company, who adds that they will bid anyway.

U.S. government restrictions on technology transfer may also frustrate South Korean ambitions to advance its own know-how from the F-16 upgrade, which also includes cockpit improvements.

“For an AESA radar, the technology transfer will be very limited,” says Arlene Camp, Northrop Grumman’s director of F-16 radar programs. But experience from earlier projects suggests that the U.S. will become progressively less restrictive, she adds.

“As time evolves, I am sure there would be more [technology] available for transfer at the end of the program than at the beginning.”

South Korean defense electronics supplier LIG Nex 1 hopes to participate in the program. The company has designed an AESA concept radar but its executives acknowledge that it does not have the technical experience to develop that concept into a system that could be installed in the F-16 in any reasonable time scale.

Northrop Grumman is targeting the F-16 market in South Korea but thinks it might also have a chance to fit the radar to Korean Aerospace Industries’ TA-50 and FA-50, even though the Elta EL/M-2032 has already been chosen for that aircraft. “There is a desire for commonality in the South Korean air force,” says Camp.

The antenna and back end of the SABR can be scaled to fit aircraft smaller and larger than the F-16. Northrop Grumman says it has developed the SABR with an eye on both the U.S. and export markets.

Designed specifically for retrofitting, it can be installed with less space, power and cooling than the APG-80 needs, says the manufacturer.

Like the RACR, it has been installed in a Block 50 F-16 to confirm physical compatibility. Flight tests should be complete by the end of the year, Northrop Grumman says.

The Block 50 was chosen for the testing because that model is the most challenging: The extra equipment added to successive versions of the F-16 have left the Block 50 with the least resources remaining for a retrofitted radar.

Raytheon will begin flight testing a production standard RACR on an F-16 in the first half of 2010.

Australia Army's 1st Aviation Regiment bids farewell to Kiowa

THE Army's Kiowa helicopters took to Top End skies for the last time yesterday.A formation of seven of the old choppers left their base at Robertson Barracks and roared across Darwin city to mark their farewell from frontline military duties.The choppers have served Defence for more than three decades.

They have been replaced by the futuristic Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters.1st Aviation Regiment soldiers stood on the tarmac and saluted the Kiowas as they flew over the army barracks near Palmerston under the escort of the Tigers.Regiment executive officer Major Brett Whitcombe said the departure of the Kiowas - known as the "workhorse" of the army - was a significant milestone.

"It changes the unit from a battlefield support role to a true combat role," he said.He said the Kiowa had no weaponry systems and was used for reconnaissance, whereas the Tiger was a world-class fighting machine.
1st Brigade commanding officer Brigadier Michael Krause, who enjoyed one last ride in the choppers, said their departure only meant the end of their front line and operational duties.Their service will continue at military facilities for training purposes.

China looking for U.S. bomber missing for 59 years

China has begun looking for the remains of a U.S. Air Force bomber and its crew that crashed over the southern part of the country some six decades ago during the Korean War, state media reported.The B-29 "Superfortress" caught fire and came down in Raoping county, Guangdong province, on November 5, 1950, Xinhua news agency said in a report late Monday. Villagers found 15 bodies, four of which were buried on the site of the crash.

The reported crash site is hundreds of miles from the combat zone in Korea, but en route to the U.S. bases in Japan from which the bombers operated during the war.Chinese military archivists are now looking through old documents and "could very likely discover the remains of personnel on the U.S. B-29 bomber," Xinhua said.

"Primary research of the archives has found more than 100 documents relating to missing U.S. servicemen," Xinhua added.The U.S. Department of Defense says more than 8,100 U.S. personnel are still officially listed as missing from the Korean War, in which U.S.-led forces faced off against the North Koreans and their Chinese allies.

China agreed with the United States last year that it would search though its archives to look for clues of the whereabouts of missing U.S. personnel, many of whom went missing during the 1950-53 Korean war.Military relations between China and the United States have been strained of late, due to several naval confrontations.Beijing has repeatedly called on the United States to reduce and eventually stop air and sea surveillance close to its shores.But Monday, a top Chinese general said in Washington that he backed better military-to-military relations with the United States.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ken Wills)

Japanese warship will try for missile shootdown off Kauai

A Japanese navy ship with a state-of-the-art, American-built, missile-defense system will attempt to shoot a target missile out of the sky this afternoon.

Dubbed JFTM-3 (for Japanese Flight Test Mission 3) Stellar Raicho, with "raicho" being the name of a mythical Japanese thunderbird, the test was originally scheduled for tomorrow in air and sea off the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands near Kekaha. The test was moved up to today due to weather concerns, said Ralph H. Scott III, a public affairs officer with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Myoko (DDG 175) will attempt to detect and track a target missile fired from PMRF sometime this afternoon or early evening, and launch a missile to destroy the target in the hit-to-kill technology, according to Scott and an MDA press release.

The JS Myoko is the fourth ship in the Japanese navy to be equipped with the Aegis missile-defense system, and this is the first "no-notice," real-time firing test of that ship's system and crew, Scott said.An earlier test was to check the ship's ability to detect, track and kill a simulated anti-air warfare target also launched from PMRF, according to the press release.

Another earlier test, JFTM-2, also at PMRF involving another Japanese destroyer, was unsuccessful, though the cause of failure has not yet been determined, according to an MDA fact sheet.A fourth test is tentatively scheduled for next year.During today's test, the U.S. Navy ships USS Paul Hamilton and USS Lake Erie, both out of Pearl Harbor, will detect and track the target as a training exercise.
Before returning to Japan, the JS Myoko will be loaded with additional SM-3 (standard missile 3) Block IA missiles, ensuring the ship's arrival in Japan ready to provide additional ballistic missile defense capability against the increasing ballistic missile threat present in that region, according to the press release.Overall, the Ballistic Missile Defense System has had success in 40 of 51 hit-to-kill intercepts since 2001, and 16 of 19 since 2007.

The expansive open-ocean range at PMRF, with sensors from the bottom of the ocean into outer space, not only provides a secure test facility, but also offers a "realistic, excellent location" for the cooperative tests with the Japanese navy, Scott said.

Nine NATO countries want to upgrade Russian helicopters

Slovakia, the Czech Republic and another seven NATO countries want to cooperate in the upgrading of the Russian Mi transport helicopters, according to the declaration their representatives signed in Bratislava Friday.

They pledged in the document to upgrade their helicopters to enable their use in NATO operations, including the ISAF mission in Afghanistan.

The Czech Republic has assumed the leading role in the cooperation.

"The goal of the cooperation is to achieve the most effective use of the Mi-8, Mi-17 and Mi-171 helicopters and to improve the training of their crews," Czech Defence Minister Martin Bartak told journalists.

In ensues from the declaration that NATO has had a shortage of helicopters suitable for use in difficult conditions for a long time.

Czech Defence Ministry spokesman Andrej Cirtek said that although many new NATO member states had enough helicopters, their deck handling systems required upgrading.

"The initiative is designed to resolve the problem of the shortage of helicopters in NATO and coordinate their upgrading on the NATO level," Cirtek said, adding that the initiative was preceded by the establishment of a financial fund.

The Czech Republic is the leading partner in the initiative. According to Bartak, the Czech Republic has experience with helicopter upgrading thanks to the state-controlled LOM Praha military repair company.

The company owned by the Defence Ministry specialises on overhaul of transport and combat helicopters.

"We have something to offer and it is not only LOM company," Bartak said.

LOM has recently completed the upgrading of five Mi-17 helicopters. Three of them are to be sent to the ISAF operation in Afghanistan at the turn of the year.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

At old British base, US and India train for new wars

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