Monday, November 23, 2009

First JF-17 Thunder fighter plane handed over to PAF by PAC

Pakistan on Monday formally joined the international community of fighter aircraft manufacturers as JF 17 Thunder, the first ever multi role state of the art rolled out of Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, Kamra and was included to the fleet of Pakistan Air Force. Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani was the chief guest at the ceremony that marked a milestone in the Sino Pak joint venture in air defence system. Senate Chairman Farooq H. Naik, Federal Minister for Information Qamar Zaman Kaira, Defence Minister Ch Ahmed Mukhtar, Chinese ambassador to Pakistan Luo Zhaohui, Pakistan’s ambassador to China Masood Khan and three services chiefs attended the ceremony.

The sophisticated JF 17 Thunder, painted green in the colour scheme of national flag appeared with grandeur as the Prime Minister unveiled the fighter jet before the audience. Manufactured with the cooperation of China, the event has been termed as a beginning of new era of Pak China friendship. Addressing a select gathering of local and foreign dignitaries and PAF officials, the Prime Minister said the goals of progress and prosperity could not be achieved without achieving self reliance in the defence production.

He termed the manufacturing of JF 17 Thunder aircraft as the “achievement of an important milestone” in the government’s ongoing efforts to attain self reliance.The Prime Minister assured full cooperation, support and patronage to the PAF in its projects and congratulated the entire nation, adding the national project would be remembered as a landmark in the country’s history.

Referring to present challenges, the Prime Minister said the fast changing technology intensive battle arena required intense involvement of air power which had emerged as a major player in conflict scenarios. He said the role of air force also becomes vital in tackling the threat posed by the forces of extremism and militancy.
Under these circumstances, he said, a modern air force was a national requirement adding the government was making sincere efforts for a strong and well equipped Pakistan Air Force. He said the PAF had repeatedly proved equal to the task even in most challenging times, measuring up to the expectations of the nation in safeguarding the sacred soil and skies of the country. In the recent drive against militants, PAF side by side with Pak Army was endeavouring to root out terrorism from the country, he added.

The Prime Minister said, “The PAF has been able to achieve, both in the form of meeting its operational requirement by co developing a fighter aircraft and developing Pakistan’s Aviation Industry.” He said following the example of Kamra, there should be more similar centres of excellence in other fields, to attract youth towards a more constructive approach to life that leads to a better and more prosperous future.

He appreciated that the JF 17 programme had provided employment to about 5,000 people.The Prime Minister also reiterated the government’s firm resolve in eradicating ignorance, illiteracy and backwardness to carve a respectable place for the country in the comity of nations.Referring to long and trust worthy relations between Pakistan and China, the Prime Minister said, “It is not trade or economics that we collaborate and cooperate for, but our association and fraternal ties bind us in the everlasting embrace of friendship.” He said, “China has always stood by us in our hour of need its unflinching support and willingness, to go an extra mile for Pakistan, has been a source of great strength for the people of Pakistan.”

The Prime Minister said there has been significant contribution by China towards the socio economic development of the country. Gilani thanked the Chinese friends for providing PAF the required technical assistance for the programme. The Prime Minister said the Chinese calm sagacity, futuristic thinking and willingness to stand by its friends, even in the era of terrorism and extremism promised not only hope and stability but also acted as an example for others.

He also mentioned the Chinese cooperation in many other projects in the country and said it was a pride for the nation. He especially highlighted the projects including Gwadar Deep Sea Port, Korakoram Highway, Heavy Mechanical Complex, Heavy Electrical Complex and Saindak Copper Project where China is helping the country. He lauded the PAF’s initiative for appreciating and putting to use the tremendous potential of Pakistan and jointly developing the industrial infrastructure.

Chief of the Air Staff Rao Qamar Suleman highlighted the efforts of Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Kamra in establishing itself as a hub of aviation industry. He lauded the support of Chinese government and Aviation Industries of China without which, he said the project would not have succeeded. He said that 40 JF 17 Thunder aircraft would be produced by PAC Kamra within next three years and would be inducted in PAF replacing the existing aircraft. He added that the first JF 17 Squadron would be established shortly.

China’s ambassador Luo Zhaohui on behalf on the Chinese government appreciated the technical acumen of PAC Kamra in acquiring complex skills and expertise in fighter aircraft manufacturing. He said the collaboration between the two peace loving countries in air defence was a major step for the region’s peace.
Earlier Air Marshal Farhat Hussain Khan, Chairman PAC Board Kamra in his welcome address gave an overview of the JF 17 project and highlighted the benefits of co production in terms of incorporation of modern technologies of manufacturing and skill enhancement of personnel.

The Prime Minister was presented two souvenirs, including a painting of JF 17 Thunder made by Squadron Leader Adnan Siraj and a handmade carpet weaved with the impression of the same fighter aircraft. In visitor’s remarks, Gilani termed the production of the aircraft as “a testimony of the time tested all weather Pakistan China friendship.”

The JF 17 Thunder, the light weight and low cost multi role fighter aircraft has high maneuverability and BVR capability. It has advanced aerodynamics configuration and high thrust. The JF 17 Thunder will replace the ageing fleets of A 5s, F 7Ps and the Mirages in the PAF inventory thus fulfilling a multi role task.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Night launch for N-capable Agni-II today

India is all set to test its 2,000-km-plus Agni-II missile from the Wheeler Island off Orissa coast again on Monday. Significantly, the nuclear-capable missile will be launched for the first time during night in a major step towards making it fully operational in the Strategic Forces Command (SFC).

Defence officials said Agni-II’s ‘user training trial’ was likely to be conducted around 8pm on Monday to give the necessary confidence to the armed forces that the two-stage, solid-fuelled missile can be fired whenever required.
Incidentally, DRDO is also working on MIRV (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles) technology for the Agni series of ballistic missiles. An ‘MIRVed’ missile can carry a bunch of nuclear warheads in a single payload, each of which can hit different targets along separate trajectories.

Such missiles can conceivably overwhelm even robust ballistic missile defences of an enemy. MIRV technology is considered important for a country like India, which has a clear no first-use nuclear doctrine but warns that nuclear retaliation to an enemy first-strike will be ‘massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage’.

Pakistan, with the active help of China and North Korea, has surged ahead of India in the missile arena. Some US nuclear experts recently estimated that Pakistan has more nuclear warheads than India. As per their estimates, it has 70-90 warheads compared to 60-80 of India.

China is in a different league altogether, brandishing as it does ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) like Dong Feng-31A (11,200-km range) and SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missiles) like JL-2 (7,200-km range).
But coming back to the Agni-II test, it will take place only if all the pre-launch final checks go smoothly as planned on Monday. The missile, which is around 20-metre tall and weighs 17 tonnes, was earlier to be tested on November 6 but it was called off at the last moment due to some glitches.

Even Agni-II’s last test on May 19 was not fully successful. Consequently, the only ballistic missiles which can be said to be “100% operational” at present are the short-range Prithvi missile (150-350 km) and, to a certain extent, the 700-km-range Agni-I. The fourth test of 3,500-km Agni-III, which will give India the strategic capability to hit targets deep inside China once it becomes fully operational by around 2012, will take place early next year.

India’s most ambitious strategic missile Agni-V will be ready for its first test only in end-2010 or early-2011. With a proposed range of 5,000-km, Agni-V will have near ICBM capabilities (strike range in excess of 5,500-km) and give India’s “dissuasive deterrence posture” against China some much-needed muscle.

China test-fired ICBM in October

Adding a new dangerous dimension to its growing arsenal of weapons, China has tested a long-range nuclear missile which will have the mobility to be moved around and fired upon a specially designed truck. All this retaining the ability to fire at targets located across continents. In military parlance, it is known as a mobile inter-continental ballistic missile or a mobile-ICBM.

It can fire at targets up to 11,000 km away, hence making large parts of north-western US and Canada within the Chinese missile reach. Also areas like eastern part of Europe will be within its reach. So far, only the US and Russia possess such equipment and the two countries had started working on it during the peak of cold war during the 1980s.

Indian intelligence agencies have informed the government that China tested its mobile-ICMB in the middle of October at its Wuzhai space centre in Shanghai province.The dangerous and long distance missile code named ‘Dongfeng 31-A’ was launched from specially designed mount on a truck, said sources while detailing about the secret test about which details are filtering in now.

Unlike India, China has only a government-run media and no independent media outfits, hence there have been no reports about the test in the Chinese newspapers or TV. The information about the test has come across through one of the intelligence agencies.So far the Chinese ability to fire a missile from a truck was restricted to smaller range of missiles, this mobile-ICMB is surely a dangerous weapon, said a senior official. Sources said ‘Dongfeng 31’ is the code name for the Chinese ICMB and the ‘A’ is to denote it mobile variant.

With this China can now not only move its warheads to locations it wants, it will be make it much easier for China to hit at enemy targets at distant places. A well-informed China watcher said the Chinese were facing a problem with their ICMB due to the poor quality of sealing between the solid fuel chamber and the booster casing, this seems to have been sorted out.

China, has possessed ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. The ability of firing the same from a truck is seen as achievement among strategic circles. Such a truck is called the transporter-erector-launcher, or TEL.
The TEL not only transports the missile, it erects it and also launches it from one single unit. The entire system is highly mobile.Strategically this means, in a crisis, China can disperse its ballistic missile forces across the country making it sure that some of these missiles would survive a pre-emptive strike by an enemy.

Japan gearing up to acquire F-35 fighters instead of F-22s

The Defense Ministry is making arrangements to select the F-35 as Japan’s next mainstay fighter jet, sources at the ministry and the Self-Defense Forces said Sunday. The ministry will embark on the full acquisition process in December and prepare to make budgetary requests for the stealth plane in the fiscal 2011 budget, the sources said.

The ministry is looking to buy 40 of the next-generation jets, which can evade radar and are estimated to cost about 9 yen billion each. The move apparently means priority has been put on strengthening air-defense capabilities as neighboring China makes efforts to enhance its air force by developing its own next-generation aircraft, analysts said.

The ministry, however, may postpone budget requests for the F-35 until fiscal 2012, due to a view in the government that a contract should not be concluded before the jet’s actual capabilities can be confirmed. The F-35 is set to be deployed in the mid-2010s.

The F-35 is being jointly developed by the United States, Britain, Australia and other countries. Japan is not participating because doing so would conflict with its principle of banning weapons and arms-technology exports.

Japan initially wanted to acquire the U.S. F-22 stealth jet to replace its aging collection of F-4EJ fighters, which are still used alongside F-15s and other planes, but the United States prohibits the export of the F-22, and plans to halt production have already been announced. Japan passed on other models, such as the U.S. F/A-18 and F-15FX and the Eurofighter, which is made by a consortium of European manufacturers.

The plan to acquire the F-35 is likely to be incorporated in new defense policy guidelines and a medium-term defense buildup plan to be adopted in December 2010.The government led by the Democratic Party of Japan decided in October to delay its adoption by a year, partly to reflect the policies of its coalition partners.

Lebanese forces fire at Israeli drone

Lebanese anti-aircraft guns opened fire on Saturday on an Israeli drone that entered Lebanese airspace in the south of the country, the military said in a statement."A surveillance drone of the Israeli enemy" overflew "the area of Bint Jbeil at medium altitude" in the morning, the statement said.

"Army anti-aircraft batteries opened fire on the drone, forcing it to gain altitude before leaving Lebanese airspace."The country's military reports almost daily on airspace violations by Israeli aircraft, but does not normally open fire at them.

The United Nations considers Israeli air incursions into Lebanon to be a violation of Security Council Resolution 1701."To the best of my knowledge, there's probably no other country in the world -- probably, I may be wrong -- which is subject to such an intrusive regime of aerial surveillance," UN special envoy for Lebanon Michael Williams said this month.

Resolution 1701 brought an end to the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah militants based in southern Lebanon, although the accord has failed to seal a permanent ceasefire.It mainly insists on the strict embargo on providing arms to Lebanese militias, while also affirming the Beirut government's sovereignty across the whole country.

Turkey threatens to cancel Heron UAV deal


In a sign of further tensions between Ankara and Jerusalem, Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul issued an ultimatum on Saturday to Israeli industries, demanding they supply 10 long-awaited unmanned aerial vehicles to his country's military within 50 days.

 CNN Turk quoted Gonul as saying that he had sent a letter to Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Elbit Systems to fulfill the $183 million deal - signed in 2005 - within 50 days. If the UAVs were not supplied, Gonul said he would cancel the tender.

The ultimatum comes a month after the Turkish military canceled a scheduled aerial drill with the Israel Air Force days before it was supposed to begin. Ties between Jerusalem and Ankara have grown tenuous following Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, which elicited harsh criticism from Turkish leaders.

"If this letter does not bear fruit either, the tender may be canceled. But there is no cancellation at the moment," Gonul was quoted as saying. Officials involved in the deal said on Saturday that an IAI and Elbit team flew to Ankara last week and held talks with Turkish defense officials. The Israeli defense industries will likely succeed in supplying the 10 UAVs in the coming weeks.

Israeli officials said that the delays were the result of Turkish demands to install additional technology on the aircraft that is too heavy for them to carry. IAI and Elbit usually sell their UAVs with electro-optic sensors, but in this case the Turks wanted to install their own systems that turned out to be weightier than the permitted payload.

On Sunday, National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer will fly to Ankara for talks with Gonul, in an effort to secure the deal and alleviate tensions between the countries. He will be accompanied by 20 leading businessman, including representatives of Israeli defense industries.

"Turkey has a very special place in my heart and special relationship with Israel," Ben-Eliezer said. "As a democratic, Muslim country, Turkey has the ability to bridge the gaps between us and our neighbors and help promote normalization and coexistence in the region."

DSCA notified Congress of a possible FMS to Iraq of 15 helicopters

The Government of Iraq has requested a possible sale of up to 15 AgustaWestland AW109 Light Utility Observation helicopters, or alternatively, 15 Bell Model 429 Medical Evacuation and Aerial Observation helicopters, or 15 EADS North America UH-72A Lakota Light Utility helicopters; and, up to 12 AgustaWestland AW139 Medium Utility helicopters, or alternatively, 12 Bell Model 412 Medium Utility helicopters, or 12 Sikorsky UH-60M BLACK HAWK helicopters equipped with 24 T700-GE-701D engines. Also included: spare and repair parts, publications and technical data, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, ground support, communications equipment, U.S. Government and contractor provided technical and logistics support services, tools and test equipment, and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost is $1.2 billion.


PAF to get JF-17 Thunder today

Tanvir Siddiqi

Islamabad—The first state-of-the-art JF-17 Thunder lightweight multi-role combat aircraft indigenously built in Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Kamra is being handed over to Pakistan Air force (PAF) today (Monday).

A special ceremony in this regard will be held at PAC complex Kamra.Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani will be the chief guest at the rolling out of the bomber-cum-fighter plane. The Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman said here on Sunday that the JF-17 Thunder a new generation, light-weight, all weather, day/night multi-role fighter aircraft is specific to Pakistan’s needs.

The maximum speed of Mach 1.6 and a high thrust-to-weight ratio will enable it to perform well in an air defence role. An ability to carry short - as well as long-range air-to-air missiles, lends the aircraft a first shot capability of conventional as well as non-conventional arsenal.

In the surface attack role, a variety of weapons - conventional as well as precision-guided, a sophisticated avionics suite along with accurate weapon delivery system, will ensure higher mission success rate. An effective ECM suite will greatly enhance survivability of the platform. Its anticipated air-to-air refueling capability will provide the JF-17 with more loiter time to safeguard the frontiers and the ability to deliver the required punch at distance.

It will replace the ageing fleets of A-5s, F-7Ps and the Mirages in the PAF inventory thus fulfilling a multi-role task. In addition to that the PAC would also be able to export its surplus production

UAE hosts first mock dogfights for F-22, Typhoon, Rafale

By Stephen Trimble

The United Arab Emirates not only attracted the Lockheed Martin F-22 to the Dubai air show, but also staged perhaps the first mock dogfights between F-22s, Dassault Rafales and Eurofighter Typhoons.

In parallel with the air show, the advanced tactical leadership course at Al Dhafra air base near Abu Dhabi hosted a five-nation fighter exercise, says the UK Royal Air Force.

France, the UK and the USA each sent six of their top-line fighters to the exercise, and those were joined by jets from the UAE and Pakistan. The Abu Dhabi manoeuvres marked the first publicly known event where the F-22 met Europe's two most advanced fighters.

The Rafale previously flew against USAF Boeing F-15Cs during the Red Flag exercise at Nellis AFB in August 2008. The USAF, however, withheld the F-22 from the Red Flag manoeuvres, which also included South Korean Boeing F-15Ks and Indian air force Sukhoi Su-30MKIs.

Multinational exercises provide air forces the rare opportunity to become exposed to the tactics, capabilities and limitations of countries using rival equipment.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ukraine to start modernization of Indian An-32 in December

Ukraine will start modernization of military cargo planes for the Indian Air Force in December, a Ukrainian defense sector source told Interfax. The first Indian Antonov An-32 will arrive in Kyiv in December for the pilot modernization project, he said.

If India is satisfied with the modernization, the process will become extensive, at the 410th Kyiv Civil Aviation Plant.It is planned to increase the plane's service life to 40 years and the payload from 6.7 tonnes to 7.5 tonnes. Cockpit noise will also be reduced.

The Indian Air Force and Spetstekhnoexport, a subsidiary of Ukrspetsexport state company, signed the contract of some $400 million in June, following the Ukrainian victory in the December 2007 tender. In all, 105 An-32 will be repaired and modernized. Ukraine's Motor Sich will modernize the An-32 engine. Ukraine presents the An-74 patrol jet at the Indian tender for Coast Guard aircraft.


China to supply FC-1/JF-17 fighters to Azerbaijan

China intends to supply FC-1 multipurpose fighters to Azerbaijan, Izvestia daily reads Nov.19 referring to the information that design was made with the assistance of Russian Aircraft Corporation “MiG”.

According to the source, the contract for FC-1 production was signed by Rosoboronexport with the approval of Russian Federal Service of Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC). Zimbabwe is also among the potential buyers, whereas Beijing intends to launch a serial manufacturing of the fighters in Pakistan.

Azeri Military Expert Uzeir Jafarov confirmed the information and added, “As far as I know, negotiations were held and our country intends to buy the hardware from China. Thus, I deem our defense ministry plans to purchase the equipment from the PRC.”

Meanwhile, the expert was puzzled with potential possibility of Chinese equipment purchase – which he considers is not widely used. As per Chinese and Pakistani experts, up to 800 fighters might be sold. FSMTC seems to be comfortable about it, intending to supply China with 100 engines for FC-1, Izvestia says.

Rouslan Pukhov, Russian defense analyst and director of the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, declared that without Russian engines there cannot be any major export of Chinese fighters. “It’s another matter that China might act in its own way. They can sign a contract with us assuring the engines are intended for them, however resell them further, thus causing a direct damage to us,” Pukhov underlined.

Avic is willing to allow foreign production L-15 Falcon supersonic trainer

Avic Defense, adopting an increasingly Western approach to military aircraft sales, says it is willing to allow foreign production of its latest export product, the L-15 Falcon supersonic trainer.The aircraft is likely to retain the key advantage of an aircraft from a developing country, however, since the manufacturer is also suggesting it will be cheaply priced.

The L-15 is joining a crowded market as one of four trainers with the high flight performance needed for direct pilot transition to the most advanced fighters. Other players in the field are the Korea Aerospace T-50, Yakovlev Yak-130 and Alenia M-346.

The M-346 is a derivative of the Yak-130, while the L-15 resembles the Russian aircraft and was developed with help from Yakovlev.Avic Defense’s trainer business, Hongdu Aviation of Nanchang, has already had considerable success in allowing a customer to set up a separate production line. Its JL-8 (or K-8) subsonic jet trainer has been assembled in Egypt as part of an order for 120.

But the willingness of Avic Defense to allow foreign assembly of the L-15 is more surprising, since the company has not yet put the Falcon into large-scale production at home. Moreover, manufacturers in up-and-coming aircraft industries, far more than most Western competitors, are usually highly protective of their home production lines.

“Because the L-15 has been developed and made in China, we are very competitive in price,” says Avic Defense President Wang Yawei, also asserting that the aircraft’s performance is at least comparable with that of its competitors.

Five L-15s have been built so far, Wang told Aviation Week during an interview in the company’s offices in central Beijing. One of the five is slated to be at the Dubai Airshow to perform the type’s first foreign flight demonstration. Despite skepticism in some aerospace companies about the value of air-show flight displays, Avic Defense feels they can bring great success after its experience with the Egyptian order.

Export sales may be particularly crucial for the L-15, since it is not assured of large-scale domestic sales. The Chinese air force could instead buy the JL-9, a massively modified derivative of the MiG-21, as its supersonic trainer.

The JL-9, also called the FTC-2000, is a product of the Guizhou Aircraft subsidiary of Avic General Aircraft.Aerodynamically, the L-15 features prominent leading-edge extensions that help it to emulate the extreme maneuverability of the latest fighters. The flight control system is digitally commanded.

As to the similarity to the Yak-130, “the development of the L-15 was primarily based on the results of domestic technology research,” says Wang.“[But] in seeking to catch up with the mainstream development of such advanced trainers, we proceeded with international cooperation in certain areas, benefiting from our long-term relationships. We cooperated with international partners on aerodynamic design and testing.”

In the development of the latest-generation trainers, such cooperation has inevitably resulted in an interchange of ideas and the partners learning from each other, says Wang. “So the similar characteristics of these similar products simply reflect technological cooperation and the requirements of the market.”

Avic Defense specializes in fighters, trainers, drones and missiles, although it also has considerable nonmilitary and even nonaeronautic activities. Its key factories are the combat aircraft plants at Chengdu and Shenyang, Hongdu Aircraft, the missile facilities at Luoyang and three maintenance businesses.

The J-10 is the latest fighter from Chengdu to enter service, although a successor is close to flight testing. Despite reports of an imminent sale to Pakistan, Wang plays down the immediate potential of the J-10 (or Jian-10) as an export product, because Avic Defense is too busy filling domestic orders.

“The J-10 is one of the major fighter aircraft for the Chinese air force,” he stresses. “The main responsibility of our facilities is to operate at full load to provide this advanced military aviation equipment to the Chinese air force. Whether the J-10 will be offered in the international market will be decided in the future.”

China has agreed to sell 36 J-10s to Pakistan, the Financial Times and Pakistan’s Daily Times quote unnamed Pakistani officials as saying. Wang told Aviation Week he has not heard of such reports.

For the moment, the company is promoting export sales of its FC-1 Xiaolong (or JF-17 Thunder), which it says is of the same technology generation as the J-10. The FC-1 has been jointly developed with Pakistan.

Separately, details of Shenyang’s F-8T, the latest version of another Avic Defense product, have been revealed. The fighter, whose origins date back to the 1960s, now offers 15,400 lb. thrust, up 4% from the previously reported rating, and a multifunction X band pulse-Doppler radar with a detection range of 75 km. (40 nm.) for 3-sq.-meter targets.

A brochure shows the aircraft with Avic Defense’s advanced PL-12 air-to-air missile. Weight is 10.4 metric tons empty, 15.2 tons at normal takeoff and 20 tons maximum.

Pictures are courtesy of CDF

Friday, November 20, 2009

Canadian Heron UAVs to remain unarmed

The Canadian military has decided against putting missiles on the unmanned aerial vehicles it now operates in Afghanistan.Defence Minister Peter MacKay was briefed in March by air force officials on the various options for arming the drones, according to documents obtained by the Ottawa Citizen.Such aircraft, also known as UAVs, are used by various militaries in Afghanistan to conduct surveillance on insurgent activities. In addition, the U.S. uses armed UAVs to conduct attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan on insurgent leaders.

The Canadian Forces is currently leasing Israeli-built Heron UAVs from MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates of Richmond, B.C. That deal, worth $95 million, has a number of Herons operating out of Kandahar Airfield. The UAVs are flown by Canadian Forces personnel but maintained by civilian contractors.

Canadian air force spokesman Maj. Jim Hutcheson said a number of factors were considered before the idea of arming the UAVs was dropped. "After due consideration of all relevant factors, including costs, capabilities and timelines, it was decided that no project would be initiated to arm the Heron UAVs," he said.

The lease on the Herons runs until January 2011. There are options in the contract to extend that. Stephen Priestley, a researcher for the Canadian-American Strategic Review, noted that there are no technical hurdles to arming the Herons. But there would have been additional costs, requiring the existing contract to be amended, he added.

The Canadian military has plans to eventually purchase long-endurance UAVs over the next several years. Dubbed the Joint Unmanned Surveillance and Target Acquisition System (JUSTAS) program, it is not expected that those aircraft would be flying until after 2012.

That project, estimated to cost more than $1.5 billion, calls for the UAVs to eventually be outfitted with weapons. In total, 18 of the aircraft would be bought.

MacDonald Dettwiler is expected to bid on that program. Company official David Hargreaves has said the firm is confident that its experience in Afghanistan with the Heron will show the Canadian Forces the value of that UAV.

In addition, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems of San Diego has teamed with General Dynamics Canada of Ottawa to try to sell the Predator UAV. Originally, the Canadian Forces had wanted to purchase the Predator, now used in Afghanistan by the U.S, but the Harper government decided not to act on that recommendation.

Previously, the Canadian Forces was operating the Sperwer UAV in Kandahar, but that aircraft did not have the range or endurance, according to military officers. The military also flies other smaller drones in Afghanistan

Military Inspection Team to Visit Afghanistan: South Korea

By Jung Sung-ki

The South Korean military will soon dispatch an on-site inspection team to Afghanistan to gauge the number of troops and the equipment required for the planned deployment there, a spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense said Thursday.

The team will visit the Parwan and Charikar provinces, and meet with local officials as well as officials from NATO's International Security Assistant Force (ISAF), he said. The government has made public plans to dispatch more civilian reconstruction workers accompanied by security forces to Afghanistan.

``An exact timeline has yet to be fixed, but the team will leave for Afghanistan soon,'' the spokesman told reporters. Earlier this week a team led by Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Yong-joon returned home having inspected Parwan near the Afghan capital of Kabul, which is considered a suitable area for aid workers to be based.

Against that backdrop, military sources said the troops will number around 300, adding that it may rise to 500. The military is considering deploying unmanned aerial vehicles and helicopters to help in surveillance and reconnaissance operations against improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Key equipment for the Afghan deployment includes Barracuda 4x4 armored wheeled vehicles, K1A/K2 assault rifles and K200 amphibious armored personnel carriers. Coalition forces in the terrorism-ridden Central Asian nation are struggling to introduce better protective equipment from roadside bombs and improvised explosive devices, the weapons most commonly used by Taliban fighters. Britain, Canada, the Netherlands and Germany have recently ordered armored vehicles to replace less-protected military transports in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Pentagon Reorganizing For A New War

The Pentagon is trying hard to reorganize itself for the next several years of combat in Afghanistan, Iraq, Eastern Africa, the Indian Ocean and elsewhere.

Military planners and politicians know that time, money, military manpower and civilian patience are running out. So the question becomes one of making the greatest impact with an alchemy of less funding, fewer personnel and the accelerating growth of advanced technology.

The newest effort is the U.S. Navy decision to combine its N-2 (intelligence) and N-6 (command-and-control) functions into a Directorate of Information, effective Nov. 2. It brings together a corps of 44,000 information professionals. The organization is a tool to bring cyber-war, unmanned vehicles, network architecture and other advanced components together in one organization--with an operator and warfighter perspective--that also offers flexibility and speed of change in technology.

"That [dispersion of capability] is what drove me to reorganize the headquarters of the Navy," Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, told an international military group at the Brookings Institution. "[The directorate] brings together information and moves some programs out of the platform directorates into information." Platforms making the shift include all unmanned systems and the EPX multi-intelligence/multi-sensor aircraft that is to replace the Lockheed Martin EP-3E signals intelligence aircraft. The Navy also stood up the 10th Fleet that will be the forward operator of cyber-attack and defense, and it also will determine how unmanned vehicles will support that effort.

The Navy is focusing on current conflicts, particularly Afghanistan and Iraq.

"What we're seeing is the desire for introducing new technologies into the battlespace that provides faster, more accurate, better information to the warfighter," Roughead says. "We need to fuse information and intelligence in ways we've never seen before."

Roughead also calls for the acceleration of programs, naming Northrop Grumman's Fire Scout helicopter unmanned air vehicle (UAV) as a successful example. Another concept to get a push is the formation of composite squadrons that combine similar type airframes from different services, such as the Navy's Broad Area Maritime Surveillance and the Air Force's Global Hawk long-endurance, high-altitude UAVs, both built by Northrop Grumman.

Senior Air Force officials are repeating the joint service mantra.

"We have to capitalize on each of the service's core competencies and trust one another to develop what is unique to our particular [organization] to provide a joint force commander with the capability to integrate [air assets] and move away from self-sufficiency," says Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula, deputy chief of staff for Air Force ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance).

Fast fielding of functional systems that fill an operational need is key.

"I would like to make that the norm as opposed to the exception," Deptula says. "An example is the MC-12W [intelligence-gathering aircraft]. The first aircraft was delivered in less than seven months. We are in an information age, but we have an industrial-age acquisition system. We have to become much, much more capable because our adversaries are not limited by the same sort of bureaucratic and legislative constraints that we have."

In a separate project, the U.S. is looking at single-engine turboprop aircraft that can be available quickly to provide the Afghan National Army Air Corps with up to 20 advanced flight trainer/light attack/reconnaissance aircraft. Variants of the T-6 Texan may be considered. The requirement is for an initial batch of six aircraft, with options for a further 14. The U.S. Air Force-managed program is looking for an off-the-shelf design. Equipment needs include common multifunction displays with GPS navigation capability and front-seat head-up display with air-to-ground capability as well as cockpit compatibility for eventual night-vision goggle use. The aircraft should already be certified for day/night VFR/IFR operations.

Like Roughead and the Navy, Deptula names information-age warfare as underlying the Air Force transformation of ISR that he initiated three years ago.

"Non-traditional threats [in Afghanistan and Iraq] are much different than what we faced in the past," Deptula says. "Small groups can produce the impacts and effects in ways that only nation-states had in the past. [As a result,] ISR is not just support to operations, it is operations," Deptula says.

Deptula suggests that ISR demand can be addressed in ways other than just adding more assets.

"There needs to be a way to validate demand with respect to resourcing," he says. "Part of that is integrating all the ISR capabilities that are provided by each of the service components to make sure that we treat ISR holistically from a combatant commander's perspective and to optimize what's actually available. We can't afford excessive redundancy."

The solution, Deptula predicts, is a new way of making war.

"We're moving into a different paradigm," he says. "What's forward on the battlefield is like the tip of an iceberg. You've got all these people back here [in the U.S.] that can do tipping, cuing and analysis without the burden of being forward, yet they can conduct actions as if they were."

Other Pentagon officials and law-makers are not as sanguine.

A senior Defense Dept. official who is providing equipment for Southwest Asia says the buildup of manned and unmanned aircraft for operations in Afghanistan is being crippled by a lack of aviation ramp space, personnel and sensors that can deal with terrain that bears almost no resemblance to Iraq. Also jeopardizing the mission are limited infrastructure, housing, specialized facilities and high-altitude runways. The last of those require smaller gross takeoff weights and longer takeoff distances.

SELEX Galileo to Supply Missile Seekers for A Middle East Customer

SELEX Galileo of Finmeccanica has been awarded a 26 million Euro contract for the supply of SM-1S radar seekers for a Middle East customer. The award comes as part of an MBDA contract for the provision of MARTE MK2/N anti ship missiles.

The MARTE was developed as a helicopter launched missile and is currently part of the base-line weapons on AW101 and NH90 fleets. The missile has been adapted for installation on naval vessels and under this contract will be launched from fast patrol vessels in an anti-ship mission.

SELEX Galileo’s SM-1S seekers are the latest generation of the Company’s Active RF anti-ship seeker family. Over 1000 units have been developed and produced, and these have gone on to perform successfully in more than 120 launch campaigns.

The current version of the SM-1S has been renewed using state of the art digital technologies, leveraging on 40 years of SELEX Galileo experience in the design and manufacturing of active Radar Homing seekers. The SM-1S integrates a new digital processor developed to enhance Italian Navy’s Air/Surface and Surface/Surface missile performance. This upgrade makes the SM-1S one of the best performing RF anti-ship seekers currently available.

The SM-1S seeker has been developed and produced at SELEX Galileo’s Campi Bisenzio site near Florence, with the support of the Company’s centre of excellence of Palermo. The Palermo facility manufactures the magnetron tubes used in the transmitter unit.

Intelligence Ops Greatest Chinese Threat to U.S.

By william matthews
With new submarines, destroyers and mine warfare ships, China's Navy is clearly benefiting from modernization financed by the nation's rapidly growing economy, a new report tells U.S. lawmakers.But a more shadowy Chinese force probably poses a greater immediate threat to the United States - that is, China's secretive army of intelligence collectors and cyber warriors, according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

In its annual report to Congress on Nov. 19, the commission said that China has added 38 submarines, 13 destroyers, 16 frigates, support ships and dozens of aircraft to its Navy over the past decade. The Navy also has "vastly increased" its arsenal of advanced weapons, including anti-ship ballistic missiles specially designed to destroy U.S. aircraft carriers, the commission said in a 358-page report.

China's improved naval forces "could impede the U.S. military's access to the region in the event of a crisis," the commission said. Perhaps the most likely crisis that would require U.S. intervention would be a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

China's new naval prowess was on display in March, when Chinese ships harassed two U.S. Navy surveillance ships. The U.S. Defense Department said the ships were operating in international waters off China's Hainan Island. China said they were operating in its exclusive economic zone.

But a better Navy might also mean that China would participate in international humanitarian missions that "benefit the global good," said Larry Wortzel, the commission's vice chairman.

China has taken a step in that direction by providing escorts for ships traveling through the pirate-infested waters off Somalia, Wortzel said.

While the beefed-up Navy is some cause for concern, malicious cyber operations and aggressive intelligence gathering against the United States are a present danger.

China is "heavily involved" in conducting human and cyber espionage against the U.S. military and U.S. companies "as a means of enhancing its military modernization and economic development," the commission warns.

"Chinese intelligence collection efforts are growing in scale, intensity and sophistication," the report says. And malicious cyber activity originating in China "has the potential to destroy critical infrastructure, disrupt commerce and banking, and compromise sensitive defense and military data."

The report portrays an aggressive cadre of Chinese military cyber spies, private sector computer experts and freelance "patriotic hackers" working to steal U.S. technology secrets that are beneficial to Chinese military modernization and economic development.

In one instance, Chinese cyber intruders are believed to have stolen "several terabytes of data related to design and electronics systems" of the Joint Strike Fighter, the commission reported. In another case, hackers "with probable ties to the Chinese government" broke into the computers of a U.S. high technology company and copied and expertly "exfiltrated" sensitive data. The report did not identify the victimized company.

The commission said the number of cyber attacks against the U.S. Defense Department increased from 44,000 in 2007 to 55,000 in 2008, and were on track to top 87,000 this year.

A major portion of those attacks are believed to originate in China, but tracking attacks back to their origin with certainty is problematic, the commission said. But the Chinese military is recruiting skilled cyber operators from technology companies into "numerous information warfare militia units."

The commission cites reports of malicious code being found in the computer systems that control oil and gas pipelines, telecommunications systems and financial services firms. Often, the commission report cites news reports as its source of knowledge about these intrusions.

It also cites court cases that spell out the details of investigations and prosecutions of spies working for China.

Some are former Chinese nationals who lived and worked in the United States. They include academics, business owners and scientists, and are believed to have stolen information as diverse as plans for quiet electric propulsion systems for Navy ships, data on the U.S. military's global information grid and proposed future U.S. military sales to foreign countries.

Other Chinese spies have targeted information on cryogenic fueling systems for rockets and carbon fiber material used in space technology. "China is the most aggressive country conducting espionage against the United States," the commission reported.

The commission urged members of Congress to "assess the adequacy of resources available" for intelligence, counterintelligence, defense intelligence, law enforcement and cyber defenses.

In particular, Congress should help "develop effective and reliable attribution techniques" so that computer exploitation and cyber attacks can be traced back to their source.

The report, which has been issued annually for seven years, is intended to keep Congress up to date on economic and military developments in China. That may be more important than some lawmakers realize.

"China has in only a matter of a few years become our most important relationship in the world. It is also by far the most difficult," said Scott Lilly, a scholar at the Center for American Progress.

"I think we are spending far less than we should be on trying to understand China and how changes in China will bring about changes in the United States," he said.

On the military front, for example, "virtually every decision we make with respect to the U.S. defense posture is predicated on assumptions about the likelihood of whether or not we will or will not have a peer competitor within the next two decades," Lilly said.

And on the matter of cyber espionage and cyberwarfare capability, "I think it is a big problem - potentially a huge problem," he said. In addition to China's military buildup and cyber capabilities, the commission report covers subjects ranging from Chinese industrial subsidies to censorship to currency manipulation.

Turkey to buy U-214 SSK at reduced price

Hürriyet Daily News, Turkey's Navy will buy six modern submarines to be built by Germany's HDW shipyards at a price nearly 20 percent lower than what the Germans had originally offered, procurement officials said.

The Defense Industry Executive Committee, Turkey's top decision-making body on defense procurement, selected HDW over its French and Spanish rivals in the summer of 2008. At the time, the program's expected cost was announced to be nearly 2.5 billion euros.

After yearlong price and work-sharing negotiations between the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, Turkey's procurement agency, and the German company, a final contract was signed in July.

No price was specified in the public announcements for the contract at the time, but Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review found out that the cost of the program was around 1.96 billion euros, which is nearly 500 million euros lower than the original price.

Turkish officials said they were also content with the work-sharing arrangement, which enabled Turkey's local companies’ involvement in the deal, although no details were clear.

The Kiel-based HDW, a subsidiary of the German conglomerate ThyssenKrupp, will now build six modern U-214 type submarines with Turkish partners.

The submarine program will be Turkey’s second-largest defense modernization project following a planned $11 billion deal to buy at least 100 next-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II aircraft for the Air Force. Ankara hopes the new, non-nuclear U-214 submarines will start operating in 2015.

Situation in Greece

While HDW cleared the way for the Turkish program, its similar efforts for Greece have recently faltered. HDW and its Greek subsidiary, Hellenic Shipyards, in late September canceled their submarine programs with the Greek government, citing Athens’ 524 million euros outstanding debt to the companies.

In 2006, HDW and Hellenic Shipyards delivered the first of four Class 214 submarines to Greece. But, Athens did not accept the vessel, citing technical failures. It is not clear at this point how the dispute can be resolved.

Russia to float out first frigate for Indian Navy Nov. 27

A Russian shipyard will float out the first of three frigates for India's Navy November 27, a company spokesman said. The Yantar shipyard in Russia's Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad is building three Project 11356 modified Krivak III class (also known as Talwar class) guided missile frigates for the Indian Navy under a $1.6 billion contract signed in July, 2006.

"The frigate is due to be floated out on November 27," Sergei Mikhailov said.He previously said sea trials would not start right away because "post-construction work" was still to be carried out. The trials should start in 2010, he said.The shipyard is to deliver the last warship to India in 2011-2012.He did not indicate exactly when the first frigate would be complete and handed over to India.

In an interview with RIA Novosti, Yantar's Director Igor Orlov said the shipyard was currently in talks with Russia's Vnesheconombank on "a $60 million loan to complete the construction of the three frigates for the Indian Navy."

The Talwar-class frigate has deadweight capacity of 4,000 metric tons and a speed of 30 knots, and is capable of accomplishing a wide range of naval missions, primarily hunting down and destroying large surface ships and submarines.

Russia has previously built three Talwar class frigates for India - the INS Talwar (from the Hindi language meaning Sword), the INS Trishul (Trident), and the INS Tabar (Axe).Indian President Pratibha Patil has named the new ships the Teg (Saber), the Tarkash (Quiver), and the Trikand (Bow).

All the new frigates will be armed with eight BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles rather than 3M-54E Klub-N anti-ship missiles that were installed on previous frigates.They will be also equipped with a 100-mm gun, a Shtil surface-to-air missile system, two Kashtan air-defense gun/missile systems, two twin 533-mm torpedo launchers, and an anti-submarine warfare helicopter.

RIA Novosti

Israel, Germany to discuss missile ships

A German defense delegation will arrive in Israel next month for high-level talks to focus on an Israeli request to purchase two Meko-class missile ships.

The delegation will be led by senior officials from the German Defense Ministry and the German Navy. Talks on the Israeli side will be led by Defense Ministry director-general Pinhas Buchris and Navy commander Vice Admiral Eliezer Marom.

While the Navy has yet to finalize its order, it is working on a concept under which the 2,000-ton ship would be designed by the German company Blohm and Voss, which manufactures the Meko family of warships.

The design would be similar to the existing Israeli Sa'ar 5-class ship but would be slightly larger, to enable it to carry the massive IAI-made Adir radar, capable of providing an extensive over-the-horizon radar view.

The ship will be capable of carrying special forces and larger infantry units as well as midsize vehicles, alongside at least one helicopter. The ship will also be installed with the anti-ship Harpoon Missile, as well as the Barak anti-missile defense system.

Each ship is expected to cost over $300 million, and Israel is hoping that the German government will provide part of the funding, as it has in the past for Israeli submarines.

Germany is currently building two Dolphin-class submarines for Israel, expected to become operational in the next few years.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

India, Iran Weigh Troop Training, Sat Launch

NEW DELHI - Officials from Iran and India discussed cooperative training of troops and the possible Indian launch of an Iranian commercial satellite during Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki's visit here Nov. 16-17, sources in the Iranian Embassy here said.

Mottaki called on Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Vice President Hamid Ansari and Foreign Minister Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna during his visit.

Details of the Iranian satellite to be launched from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) vehicle have been under consideration since July, but no decision has been taken, an Indian External Affairs Ministry official said.

India and Iran are also negotiating a joint patrol exercise in the Arabian Gulf. India and Iran have a defense cooperation framework in the Joint Working Group on Defence Cooperation, which has been dormant since 2005.

New Delhi is also pressing Iran to share information with India on the movement of terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba, sources in the Home Ministry here said, but there has been no major breakthrough on this issue.

USA delivers new Mi-17 helicopters to Afghanistan

Photo 1: “One of four new Mi-17 helicopters delivered to the Afghan National Army Air Corps by NAVAIR’s Tactical Airlift, Adversary and Support Programs, PMA-207, in just 65 days from order to delivery. The Mi-17’s were delivered in white but have been repainted into the standard ANAAC camouflage colors.” Photo by Staff Sgt. Tom Dow, USAF.

Photo 2: “Four new Afghan National Army Air Corps Mi-17 helicopters on the ramp in Kabul, Afghanistan delivered by NAVAIR’s Tactical Airlift, Adversary and Support Programs, PMA-207, in just 65 days from order to delivery. The Mi-17’s were delivered in white but have been repainted into the standard ANAAC camouflage colors.” Photo by Staff Sgt. Tom Dow, USAF.

Photo 3: “One of the new Mi-17’s fresh out of the paint shop. Note that most of the masking still needs to be removed.” Photo by Staff Sgt. Tom Dow, USAF.

NAVAIR delivered four new Mi-17 helicopters to the Afghan National Army Air Corps (ANAAC) in Kabul, Afghanistan just sixty-five days after the order was placed.

Four Mi-17 helicopters, the first new helicopters Afghanistan has ever received, were ordered on July 30. The first two were delivered Sept. 3; the second pair of Mi-17’s was delivered Sept. 16.

“The people on our Afghanistan team have consistently stepped up to the plate and delivered vitally needed equipment to the Afghan armed forces as quickly as possible,” said Capt. James “Walleye” Wallace, Program Manager, Tactical Airlift, Adversary and Support Programs, PMA-207. “This delivery is another example of the superb leadership and ingenuity that this team displays on a daily basis.”

The Navy International Programs Office was a key partner in acquiring the Mi-17s for ANAAC.

"The Mi-17 acquisition was an extremely challenging non-traditional acquisition from contract award to helicopter delivery. In this, the NAVAIR Afghan team performed superbly, delivering these non-Western aircraft within a record 35 days from the contract being awarded into Afghanistan,” said Eugene Chan, Country Program Director - Afghanistan / Iraq, Navy International Programs Office.

The four Mi-17’s will provide combat airlift, logistical and medical evacuation support to Afghan forces and government officials.

“I have to thank our Afghanistan aircraft team, the Cherry Point Fleet Support Team (FST), NAVAIR Contracting, Legal, Finance, Logistics, the NAVAIR International Programs Office, and the Navy IPO for their dedicated work. Lt. Cmdr. Sid Lodhi, General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT) and the Cherry Point FST exposed themselves to the real world challenges faced by our troops on a daily basis while they were performing the final acceptance inspections on these Mi-17s,” said Rich Senkel, Deputy Program Manager, Foreign Military Sales, PMA-207. “The four Mi-17’s were bought new from the manufacturers in Russia through a contract with Defense Technology, Inc. The Mi-17 contract was competitively sourced and DTI won the competition.”

The four Mi-17s have less than ten hours of flight time each, said Senkel, just enough to accomplish the Functional Check Flights after delivery to Afghanistan. One of the pilots who flew the FCFs said that these were the smoothest flying helicopters he’d ever flown.

“Although a non-standard platform and a stranger to the Department of Defense acquisition and sustainment community, the Mi-17 is a familiar, robust, and easy to maintain helicopter that is without argument, the most visible and active symbol of emerging Afghan airpower,” said Wallace. “PMA-207 accepted the challenge to deliver the non-Western aircraft and within 17 days we developed the plan, reviewed the proposals and awarded the contract.”

The PMA-207 Afghanistan team is leaning forward to support the mission of the Combined Airpower Transition Force (CAPTF) to build a strong, capable, and sustainable ANAAC that meets the critical security requirements of Afghanistan added Wallace.

NAVAIR's PMA-207 manages the cradle to grave procurement, development, support, fielding and disposal of the Navy's Tactical Airlift, Adversary & Support Program Systems.

(Article supplied by AIR 1.0 Public Affairs)

Allies are urging Canada to deploy CF-18s to Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — The United States and NATO have “expressed a desire” for Canada to deploy CF-18 Hornet fighter jets to Afghanistan, according to the Canadian general who leads the coalition’s air war in Afghanistan.

“I can tell you from the senior Canadian in this headquarters that I have been asked on several occasions by AFCENT (United States Air Forces Central) and CENTCOM (Central Command), ‘How can we get Canadian F-18s into the game over here?’” said Maj.-Gen. Duff Sullivan. “And I’ve told them that that is a political decision back in Canada.”

Sullivan, 52, flew sorties in CF-18s over the Balkans and during the first U.S.-led war against Iraq in 1991.

“What has been highlighted to me as the director of the air element here, the commander of AFCENT has said that it would relieve the pressure on his American squadrons if we could have Canadian F-18s come in. I haven’t commented one way or the other, but passed it back to Canada to the chief of defence and I know that issue is well known in his office.”

But Sunday evening Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s director of communications, Dan Dugas, disputed the notion it was a ‘political decision.’

“The general is somehow mistaken on this issue,” he said. “This is something that has not gone through a chain of command and then to the minister’s office . . . so it can hardly be a political decision if it hasn’t made its way through the chain of command.”

“If the chain of command believes this is worthwhile they would make a recommendation to the minister, as far as I know this has not happened.”

Sullivan has been described by U.S. Gen. David McKiernan, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, as his “air czar.” The Cornwall, Ont., native is a graduate of the U.S. air force’s most prestigious combat school and flew NATO missions in Germany for Canada for seven years.

“Whenever our troops are in trouble and taking casualties, every single time they call for air support — armed overwatch — that is what the Canadian F-18s would do,” Sullivan said, noting that Canada alone among the allies contributes combat ground forces in Afghanistan without also providing close air support.

“This is what I think that other allies are noticing and pointing out to me,” Sullivan said. “Canada is the only nation that has not yet done a tour of duty with its fighter force . . . If we brought our F-18s it would allow us to be fully involved in the air/land operation.”

The questions being asked about Canada’s CF-18s was “interesting in the NATO environment because before officially asking a country to fill a capability they will unofficially ask them to feel them out about where they are,” said Sullivan, who is also deputy director of air/land operations for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.

Lt.-Gen. Michel Gauthier, who commands all Canadian troops overseas, said during a visit to Kandahar last month that the air force was already making a major contribution in Afghanistan and that Canada had no plans to deploy CF-18s to Kandahar.

“You have to recognize that Canada is contributing in a very, very significant manner with the more than 3,000 troops we have on the ground,” Sullivan said, echoing some of Gauthier’s comments. “We have (also) plussed up with our Chinooks and Griffons (helicopters) and Herons (unmanned surveillance drones), so there is no doubt Canada is shouldering quite an impressive contribution.”
The helicopters and the drones with Canadian markings began flying missions at Kandahar Airfield early this year. They joined a small number of Canadian CC-130 Hercules transports that have been flying cargo and soldiers within theatre for NATO for several years. Canada’s four relatively new C-17 cargo planes also provide crucial logistical support to Task Force Afghanistan.

Still, “the fighter capability is perhaps an area that Canada might wish to think about bringing into theatre in the future, as well,” Sullivan said.

Accommodation is at a premium at Kandahar because of a major buildup of U.S. forces this spring. However, the general said that space could be found if Ottawa decided to send CF-18s to Afghanistan.

Canada’s fighter fleet is about to complete a modernization program. The upgrades include a sophisticated new targeting pod that can provide an instant data link to commanders in the field and the ability to carry new precision-guided munitions.

“Everything is now coagulating and coming together in respect to the F-18. It will be full up and ready to go in the August-September time frame,” Sullivan said. “If deployed, they would be stars over here.”

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