31 July, 2008: LONDON - Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF) is almost ready to field its latest air-to-surface weapon following completion of operational evaluation trials July 22 at the U.S. Navy's China Lake air warfare center in California. The Paveway IV could see action on the Harrier in Afghanistan. The Ministry of Defence expects to get Raytheon System's Paveway 4 precision-guided weapon into service later this year after trials dropping 14 bombs from a RAF Harrier GR9 completed the test program, and demonstrated that the program's fuse problems had been overcome. The weapon could "potentially" be deployed on the Harrier in Afghanistan before the aircraft type is replaced on the front line by Tornado GR4 strike aircraft in spring 2009, according to MoD project leader Capt. Howard Holdsworth. Within the next two months, "several hundred" Paveway 4s will have been delivered to the MoD, Holdsworth said. To date, the Harrier is the only strike aircraft in the RAF inventory cleared to operate with the weapon. Integration is currently under way on the Tornado GR4, Typhoon and Joint Strike Fighter. Paveway 4 should have been in service last year, but the Thales Missile Electronics-developed all-electronic fuse suffered significant performance shortfalls during capability trials at China Lake in April 2007. That led to a major redesign of the fuse along with changes to a large number of components, according to Phil Jones, the managing director of Thales Missile Electronics. The cooperation between the MoD, Raytheon and Thales to overcome the problems in such a short time was a "remarkable achievement," Holdsworth said. Paveway 4 uses a 500-pound Mk82-type warhead with dual-mode laser and GPS guidance. The Aurora fuse is fully programmable with height-of-burst, post-impact and delay arming options. Raytheon System's precision systems director, Tobin Touchstone, said the company is already looking at growth options for the weapon and has started a dialogue with BAE Systems over the possibility of integrating Paveway 4 on its Mantis long-endurance UAV, unveiled at the Farnborough International Airshow earlier this month. Mantis is a technology demonstrator program initially aimed at investigating intelligence, surveillance, target-acquisition and reconnaissance capabilities, but later phases of the project could include arming the platform. Touchstone said Raytheon was already investing in future growth options, including work on potential integration on UAVs. He reckons the smart fuse would make Paveway 4 ideal for launch from a slow-moving platform. None of the officials would comment on whether the weapon could find its way onto RAF Reaper UAVs currently operating over Afghanistan. The weapons load on Reaper includes the enhanced Paveway 2, an earlier and larger member of the Paveway family operated by the British.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
CH-47D/F / MH-47E Chinook Heavy Lift Helicopter, USA
July 31, 2008: The CH-47D Chinook helicopter carries out transportation of troops, artillery, supplies and equipment to the battlefield. "The CH-47D Chinook heavy-lift helicopter is ideal for battlefield transportation." Other roles include medical evacuation, aircraft recovery, parachute drop, search and rescue, disaster relief, fire-fighting and heavy construction. 163 CH-47Ds took part in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Over 1,000 Chinooks are operational worldwide. Boeing has delivered more than 480 CH-47D Chinooks to the US Army and National Guard. Boeing has also exported the helicopter to military and commercial operators in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Japan, Norway, Spain, the UK and three Far East countries. Chinooks are under licensed production by Agusta of Italy and Kawasaki in Japan. Chinooks built by Agusta have been exported to Egypt, Greece, Iran, Libya and Morocco. UPGRADES AND ORDERS 397 of the US Army CH-47D helicopters are being upgraded to CH-47F standard. The LRIP contract for seven systems was signed in January 2003. Deliveries began in July 2004 and will conclude in 2018. In December 2003, the US Army ordered seven new CH-46F helicopters to replace those lost in action and, in January 2005, an additional ten new-build CH-47F helicopters. Deliveries began in June 2006 and are scheduled to complete in 2008. In January 2007, the US Army ordered 16 new and nine remanufactured CH-47F with options on 22 new and 19 remanufactured helicopters. The CH-46F was approved for full-rate production and entered operational service in August 2007. In February 2008, the US Army ordered another 11 new-build helicopters, bringing the number of new CH-47F ordered to 59. US Army Special Operations Forces also operate 36 Special Operations Chinooks, designated as MH-47D and MH-47E. These aircraft are being upgraded to MH-47G standard with a fully integrated digital Common Avionics Architecture System (CAAS). The first was delivered in May 2004. In November 2006, a version of the MH-47G, the HH-47, was selected for the USAF Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR-X) requirement for 141 new helicopters to replace the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters. However, in March 2007, the USAF announced that, following General Accounting Office (GAO) recommendations, it would issue a request for the resubmission of the CSAR-X proposals. In October 2007, the USAF decided to re-open the contest and issued new request for proposals. A contract award is expected in 2008. The CSAR helicopters are primarily to be used for rescuing downed aircrew and isolated troops in combat areas but may also be used for civilian rescue operations such as disaster relief. CSAR-X is scheduled to achieve Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in 2014. Boeing's team includes BAE Systems (digital flight control system), Keystone Helicopter (patient treatment area) and Kaman Aerospace (refueling probe). "The latest international model is theCH-47SD." In September 2006, the Netherlands requested the Foreign Military Sale of up to nine CH-47F helicopters with the common avionics architecture system and the upgrade of 11 CH-47D helicopters to CH-47F configuration, including the CAAS cockpit. An order for six new helicopters was placed in February 2007. Deliveries are planned for 2009–2010. In April 2008, Canada requested the sale of six CH-47D helicopters for short-term deployment to Afghanistan. Also in April 2008, Canada issued a request for proposal to Boeing for the longer term procurement of 16 medium-to-heavy lift (MHLH) Chinook helicopters. CH-47F The CH-47F design features alterations to the airframe structure to reduce the effects of vibration, as well as other structural enhancements the cockpit, cabin, aft section, pylon and ramp. The Rockwell Collins digital cockpit is fitted with the Common Avionics Architecture System (CAAS) with improved electrical, avionics and communication systems. CAAS includes: five multi-function displays, moving map display; digital modem; BAE Systems Digital Advanced Flight Control System (DAFCS); data transfer system storing preflight and mission data. The more powerful Honeywell T55-GA-714A engines are fitted with FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine Control) and have thrust of 3,529kW (4,733shp). The operating range is increased to 609km (329nm) with mission radius of 370.4km (200nm). COCKPIT The cockpit accommodates two pilots and an observer. An advanced digital cockpit has been developed by Boeing and Honeywell. The cockpit is equipped with multifunction liquid crystal displays and electronic flight instruments. The crew is equipped with ANVIS-7 night-vision goggles from Elbit and the cockpit is Night-Vision Goggle (NVG) compatible. The communications suite includes jam resistant HF and UHF radio systems developed and supplied by Rockwell Collins and Raytheon. The helicopter is equipped with an AN/APX-100 Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) interrogator from AlliedSignal. WEAPONS Three machine guns can be mounted on the helicopter: two in the crew door on the starboard side and one window-mounted on the port side. "The engine provides a continuous power of 3,000shp and maximum power of 3,750shp." COUNTERMEASURES The Chinook is equipped with a suite of countermeasures systems selected by the customer country. The Special Forces variant of the Chinook, MH-47E, is fitted with the ATK AN/AAR-47 missile approach warner, Northrop Grumman ALQ-162 Shadowbox jammer, ITT ALQ-136(V) pulse jammer, Raytheon APR-39A radar warner and BAE Systems Integrated Defense Solutions (formerly Tracor) M-130 chaff and flare dispenser. The helicopter is equipped with a Rockwell Collins CP1516-ASQ target hand-off system. Australian Chinooks are being fitted with EADS AN/AAR-60 MILDS missile warning system. SENSORS The MH-47E is equipped with an advanced radar system, the Raytheon AN/APQ-174A, for terrain-following flight, air-to-ground ranging and ground mapping. A Raytheon AN/AAQ-16 Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) is installed in the nose of the helicopter and the cockpit is fitted with a moving map display. CARGO SYSTEMS The Chinook has a triple-hook system, which provides stability to large external loads or the capacity for multiple external loads. Large external loads such as 155mm howitzers can be transported at speeds up to 260kph using the triple-hook load configuration. Multiple external loads can be delivered to three separate destinations in one sortie. The central hook is rated to carry up to 12,000kg and the other two hooks 7,500kg each. Cargo handling systems are provided by AAR Corp, Cargo Systems of Goldsboro, North Carolina. The cabin provides 42m³ of cargo space and 21m² of cargo floor area and can accommodate two HMMWVs (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle) or a HMMWV together with 105mm howitzer and gun crew. "The cabin provides 42m³ of cargo space and can accommodate two HMMWVs." The main cabin can hold from 33 fully equipped troops to 50 troops, according to the seating arrangements and equipment being carried. For medical evacuation, the cabin can accommodate 24 litters (stretchers). Ramp operations can be carried out on water using an optional power-down ramp and water dam configuration. ENGINES The helicopter is equipped with two T55-L-712 turboshaft engines from Honeywell (formerly AlliedSignal), which are pod-mounted on either side of the rear pylon under the rear rotor blades. The engine provides a continuous power of 3,000shp and maximum power of 3,750shp. The Honeywell T55-714 engine, which is being fitted to CH-47D, F and G models, is equipped with FADEC (Full Authority Digital Electronic Control) from Goodrich. The self-sealing fuel tanks are mounted in external fairings on the sides of the fuselage. The fixed tanks hold 3,900l of fuel. Three additional fuel tanks can be carried in the cargo area. The range of the helicopter can be extended by in-flight refuelling.
Boeing Team to Design New Spacecraft Power Generation System for DARPA ST. LOUIS, July 31, 2008 -- A team led by Boeing [NYSE: BA] Advanced Systems has been awarded a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) contract for the first phase of the Fast Access Spacecraft Testbed (FAST) program. DARPA's FAST is a multiphase effort to design and develop a ground test prototype of a new High Power Generation Subsystem (HPGS) for spacecraft. During Phase 1, Boeing will develop a complete plan for a demonstration system. Team members include DR Technologies, Northrop Grumman Astro Aerospace, Texas A&M University, Spectrolab Inc. (a Boeing subsidiary), and key suppliers. "Boeing is honored to work with DARPA in developing this revolutionary system that will enable highly mobile spacecraft and ultra-high-power payloads," said Tom Kessler, FAST program manager for Boeing Advanced Network and Space Systems. "Boeing brings unique experience in high-power spacecraft and electric propulsion to this team as we help DARPA advance this promising technology." The Boeing HPGS is an innovative integration of solar-concentrator, power-conversion, and heat-rejection systems supported with an ultra-lightweight structure and deployment system for pointing toward and tracking the sun. When combined with electric thrusters, the Boeing HPGS will produce a lightweight power and propulsion system capable of providing responsive spacecraft maneuverability for on-orbit servicing, space-based situational awareness, and high-power payloads such as communication and radar systems. Boeing's experience includes more than 70 percent of the spacecraft ever flown with more than 15 kilowatts at beginning of life, and six operational high-power solar concentrator spacecraft, including 13 missions using 9 kilowatts for electric propulsion to help the spacecraft reach geosynchronous orbit. Upon DARPA approval, the Boeing team will perform Phase 2 work to include fabrication, assembly and testing of two HPGS test articles to validate performance characteristics in simulated space environments. An on-orbit demonstration of the system may be conducted following the ground test program.
Canada to lease Russian helicopters for Afghan mission
Thursday July 31st, 2008: OTTAWA - Canada will lease up to eight Russian-built helicopters to ferry supplies around the battlefield in Afghanistan until it gets new U.S. choppers, says Defence Minister Peter MacKay. It is a stopgap measure meant to get Canadian army supply convoys off the bomb-laced roads of Kandahar, where explosives have been taking an increasingly deadly toll. Securing helicopter transport was a principal condition of the Manley commission report last winter and a key caveat of Parliament's extension of the combat mission until 2011. The Conservative government was given until February 2009 to come up with the helicopters and a flight of unmanned surveillance planes. A $375 million deal to acquire six CH-47-D Chinook's from the U.S. Army has been worked out, but those heavy-lift aircraft will not arrive until late this year -- or early next. In the meantime, MacKay said the Defence Department has worked out a lease involving "six to eight" Russian-made Mi-8 choppers. The former Soviet-era helicopters "have similar capacity to a Chinook," MacKay told reporters Wednesday heading into the Conservative caucus summer retreat in Levis, Que. "So they're heavy-lift...They'll be used to transport materials along the same routes, performing much the same purpose (as) the Chinooks would." The Mi-8s are in fact considered a medium-lift helicopter and date back in their original design to the 1960s. They were a familiar sight in the skies of Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation.
Pakistan: 13 killed as mortar shells hit houses in Kabal
Thursday, July 31, 2008 - SWAT: Thirteen people have been killed when mortar shells fell on two houses in tehsil Kabal whereas 10 Taliban have been killed during operation.According to sources, a pesh imam, his wife and five children were killed when a mortar shell hit their house in Dulai area in Kabal tehsil.Also, six of a family was killed in Derai Sakai area of tehsil Kabal when a mortar fell at their house.Meanwhile, unidentified miscreants torched a girls school in Khawazakhel and two schools in Kashora areas.A couple was injured when a mortar shell landed at their house in Nusrat Kalay area.Security forces targeted Taliban hideouts with mortar shells in Sarbanda, Barmaba Khela, Peochar, Numl and Gutshor areas in tehsil Matta.Sources said that 10 Taliban were killed and several injured during the operation. Taliban attacked Kabal police station and Wanai check post. They were managed to flee after joint retaliatory action by police and security forces. Fresh contingents of FC have reached in Matta and Kabal areas.
INS Sindhuvijay to Join Indian Navy after Refit in Russia
31/7/2008: The INS Sindhuvijay diesel-electric submarine will set sail for India on August 5 to rejoin the Indian navy after an extensive overhaul at a shipyard in northern Russia, the company said on Tuesday.The Project 877EKM Kilo-class submarine had been undergoing a refit at the Zvezdochka shipyard in Severodvinsk since 2005. The overhaul was delayed for six months due to the unacceptable performance of its new SS-N-27 Club-S cruise missiles. In six consecutive pre-delivery test firings in September - November 2007, the Club missiles failed to find their targets and India refused to accept the delivery until all the problems had been fixed.The Club-S subsonic cruise missile is designed for launch from a 533 mm torpedo tube, or a vertical launch tube. It has a range of 160 nautical miles (about 220 km). It uses an ARGS-54 active radar seeker and Glonass satellite and inertial guidance. The new trials were completed in mid-July and were successful.Sindhuvijay is the 4th Indian navy submarine to have been refitted at the Zvyozdochka shipyard. The upgrade program also involved a complete overhaul of the submarine, including its hull structure, as well as improved control systems, sonars, electronic warfare systems, and an integrated weapon control system. The upgrades reportedly cost about $80 million.Russia's Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines have gained a reputation as extremely quiet boats, and have been purchased by China, India, Iran, Poland, Romania and Algeria.
U.S. assures Israel of possible attacks on Iran
Jul 31, 2008 - Iranian.ws: The U.S. government officials assured Israel that the option of attacking Iran over its nuclear program remains on the table, despite widespread Israeli concern that Washington has begun softening its position toward Tehran, According to The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. The United States had not abandoned all possibility of a military attack on Iran, though U.S. officials are primarily seeking a diplomatic solution. The message was conveyed by Bush administration officials in meetings Monday and Tuesday with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is on a visit to Washington, the report said. At the same time, U.S. officials acknowledged that there is a rare divergence in the U.S. and Israeli approaches, with Israelis emphasizing the possibility of a military response out of concern that Tehran may soon have the know-how for building a nuclear bomb, according to the report. U.S. and Israeli officials believe Iran is enriching uranium with the aim of building nuclear weapons, but Iran says that its nuclear program was for peaceful and civilian energy purposes. Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said in an interview that U.S. officials have often made it clear to Israeli officials that Washington prefers to try to mitigate the threat from Tehran by applying economic pressure. "The military option, although always available, is not our preferred route," Morrell said. "We have made that point clear to them and the world in our public statements and private meetings," he said. During his Washington visit, Barak was expected to try to talk the Bush administration out of what many Israelis perceive as a more conciliatory policy toward Iran. On Tuesday, the Israeli Defense Ministry released a statement saying that Barak had told U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates that "a policy that consists of keeping all options on the table must be maintained."
Support for Darfur mission urged The international community has been accused of failing to provide basic equipment vital to the peacekeeping mission in Sudan's Darfur region. The accusation was levelled in a report backed by 36 human rights groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). It comes on the first anniversary of the decision to deploy a UN-African Union force in war-torn region. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council is expected to vote on whether to extend the troops' mandate for another year. The UN estimates that five years of conflict in Darfur have left 300,000 people dead and more than 2 million people homeless. Khartoum says the scale of the violence and suffering has been exaggerated by the West for political reasons. It denies charges that it organised the Arab Janjaweed militias, accused of widespread atrocities against Darfur's black African population. It says military powers like the US, Britain and France are tied down in wars and other peacekeeping operations. But it named the Czech Republic, Italy, Romania, Spain, Ukraine and India, saying they have more than 70 suitable aircraft needed for the mission. Salim Ahmed Salim, a former secretary general of the Organisation of African Unity who was involved in putting together the report, told the BBC it was "mind-boggling" that despite international concern over Darfur, not a single helicopter had been provided. "The helicopters are there, what is lacking so far is the political will," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme. "All I can say is that if I were Darfurian I would really not only be distressed but would begin to question the extent of the solidarity." The report says a militia attack three weeks ago on a UN-AU convoy that left seven peacekeepers dead and 19 wounded underscores the critical importance of helicopters. The troops were outmanned and outgunned, and because of the lack of helicopters no rescue or reinforcement operation could be mounted, the report said. It also says the peacekeepers are short of other basic equipment, and that some soldiers are wearing blue plastic bags on their heads because they do not have the standard blue UN helmet. The report says the hybrid force is only part of the solution to the conflict in Darfur and that broad-based negotiations are essential. Only about a third of the intended 26,000 peacekeepers have so far been deployed. The UN Security Council decision on whether to renew the mandate for the peacekeeping force has became embroiled in the fallout over accusations that Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has committed genocide in the troubled west of his country. The chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has asked judges there for an arrest warrant for Sudan's president on charges of war crimes and genocide. The AU asked the UN Security Council to use its power to suspend the court's proceedings for a year, saying that indicting President Bashir would be a setback to peace in Darfur. Libya and South Africa, backed by Russia and China, wanted to include this in the resolution on renewing the mandate. But the UK, France, the US and central American countries objected, saying there should be no link between the peacekeeping force and whatever the court might do. Faced with the prospect that the force might not have its mandate renewed, a compromise has been found, after much wrangling between the 15 Council member states. The resolution takes note of the African Union's request for the Council to suspend the ICC's work, but does no more than that.
Japan raid over 'nuclear exports' 31 July, 2008: Police in Japan have raided the premises of a company suspected of illegally exporting machinery that could be used to make nuclear weapons. Officers targeted the headquarters of Horkos Corp and several related sites in the southern city of Fukuyama. The company is accused of exporting tools that could be used in enriching uranium without government permission. Police say the equipment, which was sent to South Korea, could have been sold to North Korea or the Middle East. The tools are normally used to manufacture automotive components, but they can be modified to produce the centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Export of these items requires approval from the government, but Horkos is accused of falsely labelling items to avoid the need for permission. Police suspect a batch of tools sent to South Korea in 2004 could then have been resold to a country for use in nuclear weapons' development, Kyodo news agency said. Japanese police have carried out similar raids in the past. Last year four former executives of precision equipment maker Mitutoyo were convicted of illegally exporting devices that could be used in nuclear weapons' production - one of which was reportedly found in Libya.
US troops killed three Iraqi civilians Samarra, Iraq (AFP) July 31, 2008: US soldiers killed three unarmed Iraqi civilians, including a woman, near the central city of Samarra, the American military said Wednesday. The incident which is under official investigation occurred early Wednesday as US troops carried out what the military described as operations targeting Al-Qaeda in the central zone of the war-ravaged country. It said that US soldiers moving towards a building had observed four "suspicious" individuals and had perceived "hostile" intent after being fired upon. "The force engaged them, killing two men and a woman, and wounding another woman. A third man who was detained on site admitted to working with explosives," the US statement said. But Nusayf Jassim, a resident on Samarra, 125 kilometres (80 miles) north of Baghdad, told AFP that US soldiers had raided his home in search of insurgents and in the ensuing gunfire his mother and two brothers were killed. "The US forces burst into our home at 2.00 am and opened fire in all directions, Jassim told AFP at his home on the edge of the city. "They killed my 50-year-old-mother and two of my brothers, aged 21 and 26," he said. US troops also wounded two of Jassim's sisters prior to detaining his 23-year-old brother, he said. Jassim added that the raiding US soldiers had told him that "terrorists" were living at his home. The US military said no weapons were found.
India, China: top trade powers, different styles Geneva (AFP) July 31, 2008Top negotiators from India and China displayed sharply different operating styles at just-ended WTO trade talks here: Indian Trade Minister Kamal Nath happily obliged reporters with corridor comment while Chinese counterpart Chen Deming steered well clear of the limelight. But both were blamed in some circles for Tuesday's breakdown in a nine-day marathon effort to forge a deal to free up world commerce. From their handling of the media to their behaviour at the negotiating table, they showed that while they both represent major emerging Asian powerhouses, the similarities stopped there. Nath may not have deliberately courted publicity but he was certainly ready to accomodate a media mob waiting around for a quote or two on his tough stance. Arriving at the WTO, he held a packed news conference and went on to make himself available to reporters throughout the week in the lobby and cafeteria of the World Trade Organization's palatial headquarters beside Lake Geneva. "I came here to negotiate commerce. I did not come here to negotiate the livelihoods and security of my people," was his mantra, as he dug in his heels on special import tariffs to protect poor farmers, which proved to be the deal-breaker. The Chinese delegation cut a completely different style. Chen shied away from all publicity, to a point that many journalists did not recognise him when they passed him in the corridors. He would emerge from meetings and slip right by the waiting cameras. On a rare occasion when he was spotted, he said only: "This is not the right time to do interviews." Diplomats said India's unmovable stance was grounded in Washington's trade deficit with New Delhi -- a miniscule 697 million dollars against a US deficit with China of more than 21 billion. China counts the United States among its major customers. "China had a lot to gain from the round. It was mostly very constructive," said an Asian delegate. "It has been very quiet in the discussions, but don't think they haven't been listening. It's their tactic, they speak up when they need to." That was evident when the United States took delegates attending a 153-member state meeting by surprise on Monday, openly accusing India and China of having jeopardised the talks. "All their invocations of development during the past years ring hollow when these major players threaten the development benefits already on the table that are absolutely vital to the vast majority of the membership," said the US deputy head at the Geneva mission to the WTO, David Shark. Diplomats noted China's sharp rebuttal, in which it criticised Washington for claiming to have offered cuts in its generous subsidies to cotton farmers, when the figures gave a different picture. "They showed that they knew exactly what they were talking about. They used facts to turn the tables on the US," said an African diplomat. Smarting from the public criticism, China also said US actions were "creating disharmony," delegates who attended the meetings told to AFP. At Wednesday's meeting with delegates from all 153 states, China's Li Enheng, the deputy permanent representative of its mission here, delivered a statement reiterating the criticism. "The major developed members need to (engage) in ... genuine leadership in the negotiations, rather than in any unhelpful activities with a view to shifting responsibilities onto others," Li said. related reportChina says collapse of WTO talks a 'tragic failure'China called the collapse of World Trade Organisation talks a "tragic failure" and expressed disappointment Wednesday over the inability of those involved to reach a consensus. "This is a tragic failure," Commerce Minister Chen Deming said in a statement posted on his ministry's website. China, like other countries, was "very disappointed", he said. "Particularly in the face of a world economic downturn, serious inflation and imminent financial risks, the failure will have a major impact on the fragile multilateral trading system," he said. The marathon negotiations for a global trade pact collapsed on Tuesday after ministers quit emotional talks without a deal due to a deadlock between India and the United States over subsidy levels and import tariffs. Ministers had struggled for more than a week to reach consensus for a new deal under the WTO's Doha Round, which has repeatedly foundered since its launch seven years ago. Chen said China had made major compromises during the negotiations. "I also hope that all WTO members could reflect upon the failure and learn a lesson from it so that the quality and efficiency of future negotiations could be improved," he said. Chen said that the talks had broken down because of the "inability of two countries to bridge the gap between their positions" on the crucial issue of the special safeguard mechanism (SSM) to protect poor farmers. He did not specify which countries. But the United States and India were sharply divided over the SSM, which would have imposed a special tariff on certain agricultural goods in the event of an import surge or price fall. With both sides refusing to give way, acrimony peaked on Monday with the United States publicly accusing India and China of holding up progress.
NLOS-LS Team Completes First Phase Of PAM Testing
White Sands Missile Range NM (SPX) Jul 31, 2008: NetFires has successfully launched another Non Line-of-Sight-Launch System Precision Attack Missile (PAM) July 22. "The success of Control Test Vehicle-2, CTV-3 and CTV-4 allows us to conclude the first phase of controlled test flights," said Scott Speet, executive vice president of NetFires LLC and Raytheon's NLOS-LS program director. "NLOS-LS is now ready to begin the guided flight test phase in September." To prove the missile's stability during flight, the test stressed the airframe to its limits using high-gravitational force maneuvers. The PAM joined the network after launch and operated as a node on the net throughout the flight using its onboard radio. "The success of CTV-4 demonstrates the robustness of the PAM, which is designed to meet the warfighter's needs," said Col. Doug Dever, the U.S. Army's NLOS-LS project manager. "This advanced weapon system gives the commander a platform-independent system solution that provides organic, precision indirect fire support to the brigade combat team." NLOS-LS provides the brigade commander immediate, precise and responsive fires on high-payoff targets with real-time target acquisition and battle effects. It is also one of the key littoral combat ship mission modules. Compared to systems with equivalent firepower, the NLOS-LS provides a modular, persistent, responsive, networked and rapidly deployable precision-strike capability against moving and stationary targets.
Javelin Joint Venture Contract For UAE And Oman
Tucson AZ (SPX) Jul 31, 2008: The Raytheon-Lockheed Martin Javelin Joint Venture received a $115 million U.S. government contract to produce the Javelin anti-tank missile and command launch unit for the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Javelin is the world's first man-portable and employable fire-and-forget medium-range missile system. The compact, lightweight missile is ideally suited for one-soldier operations in all environments. The joint venture expects to deliver Javelin to the UAE and Oman in the next 18 months. "The Javelin is a combat-proven weapon system effective against all known armor," said Duane Gooden, Raytheon Missile Systems' Javelin program director and president of the Javelin Joint Venture. "It also serves as an all-weather, day and night surveillance device." The Javelin enhances direct fire capability against armored vehicles, buildings and field fortifications. Its anti-armor defense capabilities are critical to mission success in the open desert. Javelin is currently in service with the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps and 10 allied customers. "Because the Javelin automatically guides itself to the target after launch, the missile system allows the gunner to either take cover and avoid counterfire or engage another threat," said Hady Mourad, Lockheed Martin's vice president of the Javelin Joint Venture Community
386th ELRS Tests New Humvee Modification
Jul 31, 2008: The 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron's vehicle maintenance section is testing two new modifications for the M1116 up-armored high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles' (Humvee) condenser, hoping the improvement will eventually become standard in all M1116 Humvees throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. The recent modifications, which were the original brainchild of Tech. Sgt. Paul Gardner from the 386th ELRS, were created in response to a growing problem with the original manufacturer setup and the primary usage of the vehicle in Southwest Asia. "There hasn't been a day we haven't had at least two Humvees in the shop," said Tech. Sgt. Brandon Bean, vehicle management and analysis NCO. "We've accumulated just more than 100 man hours during the past few weeks on Humvee air-conditioning systems, and spent more than $4,500 in parts." Not all of the maintenance performed in those 100 hours was on the condenser assembly; the problems with the air-conditioning units of the M1116 Humvee range from replacement of compressors and evaporators to recharging Freon into the air-conditioning systems. But the condensers represented a significant portion of the shop's repeat maintenance. For every condenser that was fixed, another one or two would come in broken. Additionally, the prior fixes didn't prevent the condensers from becoming broken again, sometimes as quickly as 48 hours later. "We were getting a new one in every couple of days, with the condensers broken and moving around in the back," said Sergeant Gardner, an Air National Guardsman deployed from the Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss. The main problem with the original manufacturer design is the design itself; it wasn't created to endure the constant and violent vibrations it receives when Security Forces personnel travel over rugged terrain on patrols 24 hours a day. "What we're finding is when security forces go outside the gate, the [terrain] they're driving on is like running over a washboard," Sergeant Gardner said. "All the extra vibration is making a lot of things loosen, and the extra impact on the vehicle causes things to break at their weakest points." The condenser and fan assembly in the M1116 Humvee comes mounted on the rear left side of the vehicle, mounted onto a back fender wall by bolts and a thin piece of sheet metal. Once the assembly begins to vibrate, the sheet metal weakens, leaving the copper lines running alongside susceptible to being punctured or broken. Oftentimes results in removal of the assembly for repair in the local economy. But for major repairs, the assembly has to be ordered from the manufacturer. "You can't purchase them here, so we have to order them and wait for them to come in," Sergeant Gardner said. "That can take up to two weeks." To prevent having to order new condensers because of irreparable damage, Sergeant Gardner's modification involves placing a rubber inner tube between the assembly and sheet metal, in order to help the assembly absorb some of the vibration. Additionally, he constructed a special L-shaped bracket that holds the condenser and fan assembly tighter to the frame. The modifications consist of two brace configurations: one which bolts down on top of the assembly and another which bolts on the side. For the test phase, the vehicle maintenance section also configured one of the copper tubes most likely to break with a piece of flexible tubing, in order to make it less prone to snapping if the assembly shifts. In creating the two different test models, Sergeant Gardner hopes to reduce the damage that occurs to the condenser assembly during security forces patrols, as well as make the modification easy to install for other vehicle maintainers in the AOR having the same sort of problem. "There's not a lot of room to work back there, so I changed the design on the second one so I can just reach in easily and loosen or tighten it," Sergeant Gardner said. "I also wanted to make it as simple as possible, so if it does work I can draw out the measurements and send it to other shops so they can make their own." For security forces, the end users of the design, the modifications are a welcome change. "The Humvees themselves are already hot from having the extra armor on them," said Airman 1st Class Julia Berger, 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron. "Without the air conditioning, it makes the heat unbearable for those driving out on patrols." "We sent two to [vehicle maintenance] last week and they came back with the new modification," Airman Berger said. "They haven't gone down again, so whatever they're doing seems to be working."
Su-34 Fighter-bomber: Russia's New Rearmament Program
MOSCOW: 31 July, 2008 - Russia's rearmament program, approved in 2006 for a period until 2015, provides for supplying modern weapons to its armed forces. One of them is the Su-34 Fullback fighter-bomber, which will replace the Su-24 Fencers. The process has begun, but some say the replacement is taking too long. The new fighter-bomber is said to be very good. An improvement on the Su-27 Flanker, it has cutting-edge equipment, including a modern crew and equipment protection system. The Su-34 is effective against personnel and military hardware on the battlefield and also against targets behind enemy lines. It can also be used for surveillance missions and against naval targets.
The Su-34 will replace the Su-24M aircraft (about 400 planes), the Su-24MR surveillance aircraft (over 100 planes), and the MiG-25RB aircraft (about 70). Russia will have to produce between 550 and 600 Su-34s to replace these obsolete aircraft within 10-15 years. However, the Defense Ministry plans to buy only about 58 such planes by 2015, and a total of 300 by 2022. Many experts say that if the Su-24 and MiG-25RB aircraft are scrapped by 2020, Russia will be left without fighter-bombers and surveillance aircraft. Others argue that this number will be enough for the Air Force's new concept. The concept is focused not so much on the combat characteristics of the Su-34, as on its long range, the ability to refuel in the air (including by other Su-34 aircraft with additional fuel tanks under their wings), and its comfortable cabin allowing the crew to make long-distance flights without becoming overtired. Units armed with such aircraft can be used in the so-called pendulum operations, when an Air Force unit bombs a terrorist base in Central Asia today, delivers a strike at a missile base in Europe the next day, and three days later flies to the Indian Ocean to support a combined group of the Northern, Pacific and Black Sea fleets, with flights from a base in Russia. The Su-34 aircraft has long-range precision weapons, can fly hugging the earth, and has a high level of protection, which should cut losses during lightning operations, while the use of a relatively small number of such aircraft allows training crews to perfection. This is not a new concept. Elite units of top-class aircraft manned by superbly trained crews formed the core of the German air force during World War II, and Japan's Imperial Navy had a similar concept. However, such elite units can be quickly weeded out by swarms of ordinary aircraft in a global war of attrition, such as World War II. From this viewpoint, Russia's new concept looks vulnerable, but then this country has the nuclear triad for a global war. In a war of attrition, it will not matter how many such smart aircraft Russia will have - 200, 600 or 1,500. What will really matter is the yield of a nuclear bomb they will be able to drop on the enemy. But in the event of a small war involving one or two adversaries, or a chain of local conflicts, the existence of such high-speed, highly protected and well-armed aircraft can be the decisive factor. Even 58 Su-34 fighter-bombers, used at the right time in the right place, would be a powerful force. A group of 200-300 such aircraft, divided into several units for use in key areas of the battlefield, will be able to fulfill the most complicated tasks. Apart from the Su-34, the Russian Air Force will also receive other new planes, whose technical characteristics will maintain the force's combat potential at the requisite level. New units, set up for the fulfillment of specific tasks, will consist of fighters, bombers, early warning and command planes, flying tankers, and unmanned aerial vehicles. These will be highly mobile units, which means that its aircraft can be quickly dispatched to the area in question. In fact, Russia's new concept is not unlike the United States' Aerospace Expeditionary Force (AEF), a flexible and powerful instrument of air warfare capable of quickly delivering strikes in any part of the world. As for surveillance aircraft, industrialized countries intend to replace them with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The world is changing, and the new world will wage new kind of wars.
China lashes out at U.S. for 'politicizing Beijing Olympics' BEIJING, July 31, 2008 - China sharply criticized on Thursday "odious attempts" by U.S. lawmakers to politicize the Olympics and to interfere in its internal affairs. The U.S. House of Representatives passed on Wednesday by 419 votes to one a resolution "calling on the Government of the People's Republic of China to immediately end abuses of the human rights of its citizens...to ensure that the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games take place in an atmosphere that honors the Olympic traditions of freedom and openness." Reacting to the resolution, China's foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in a statement that, "Despite China's objections... the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution that reflects their malicious intent to politicize the Olympic games... and sabotage the Olympics in Beijing." "These measures undermine the spirit of the Olympics and do not reflect the real hopes and aspirations of the American people," the statement continued. U.S. President George W. Bush is among over 80 top foreign officials set to attend the opening ceremony of the 29th Summer Olympic Games, to be held from August 8-24 in Beijing. Wednesday's resolution called on Bush "to make a strong public statement on China's human rights situation prior to his departure to Beijing for the Olympic Games, to make a similar statement in Beijing and meet with the families of jailed prisoners of conscience, and to seek to visit Tibet and Xinjiang while in China to attend the Olympic Games."
F-15 crashes in Nevada during training flight, one pilot killed WASHINGTON, July 31, 2008 - An U.S. F-15 fighter has crashed over the Nevada desert during a training flight, killing one pilot and injuring another, a spokesman for the Andrews Air Force base said on Thursday. "A pilot from Nellis Air Force Base was killed after an Air Force F-15D Eagle crashed on the Nevada Test and Training Range, approximately 50 miles east of Goldfield, Nev., at approximately 11:30 a.m. [18.30 GMT] on July 30," the spokesman said. The other pilot was admitted to the base hospital and is in a stable condition, the spokesman added. The F-15D two-seater plane, assigned to the 65th Aggressor Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, was participating in a combat training mission as part of Exercise Red Flag 08-03.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
CIA confronts ISI for alleged links with militants
30 Jul 2008, NEW YORK: The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), US has confronted Pakistan with new evidence about ties between the country's spy service with some militant groups responsible for rising violence in Afghanistan, possibly including suicide bombing at the Indian embassy in Kabul earlier this month. A top official of CIA secretly travelled to Islamabad this month and confronted Pakistan's senior officials with new information about deepening ties between the ISI and the militants operating in tribal areas, the New York Times said quoting American military and intelligence officials. CIA's deputy director Stephen R Kappes’ secret visit to Pakistan on July 12, along with Adm Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, was described by several American military and intelligence officials in interviews to the daily, who made it clear that they welcomed the decision by the CIA to take a harder line toward the ISI's dealings with militant groups. The meetings took place days after a suicide bomber attacked the Indian embassy in Kabul, killing dozens. Afghanistan's government has publicly accused the ISI of having a hand in the attack, an assertion American officials have not corroborated, the paper said. The decision to have Kappes deliver the message about the spy service could be a sign of deteriorating relationship between the CIA and the ISI, which has long been marked by mutual suspicion and dependence, the report said. The CIA has depended heavily on the ISI for information about militants in Pakistan, despite longstanding concerns about divided loyalties within the Pakistani spy service, which had close relations with Taliban in Afghanistan before the September 11 attacks.
AH-1W / AH-1Z Super Cobra Attack Helicopter, USA July 30, 2008: The AH-1W Super Cobra is the US Marines' attack helicopter. It is supplied by Bell Helicopter Textron, and entered service in 1985. As well as the US Marine Corps, the Super Cobra is operational with the Turkish Land Forces and the armed forces of Taiwan. The AH-1W was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003. SUPER COBRA UPGRADE PROGRAMMEA major upgrade of the Bell Super Cobra known as the H-1 Programme is underway. The programme calls for the remanufacture of the US Marine Corps fleet of 180 AH-1W Super Cobra and 100 UH-1N utility helicopters to an advanced four-bladed configuration. "The Super Cobra AH-1W is the US Marines' attack helicopter." The existing two-bladed semi-rigid, teetering rotor system is being replaced with a four-bladed, hingeless, bearingless rotor system. The improvement in flight characteristics provided by the four-bladed configuration has led to increases in flight envelope, maximum speed, vertical rate-of-climb, payload and rotor vibration level. The USMC subsequently decided on new-build rather than remanufactured UH-1Y helicopters and, in February 2008, awarded Bell a contract for the new build of 40 of the proposed 180 AH-1Z helicopters. The new-build AH-1Z will be fitted with the uprated T700-401C engines, also fitted on the UH-1Y. First flight of the AH-1Z took place in December 2000. The AH-1W entered Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) in October 2003. Five AH-1W helicopters were remanufactured to AH-1Z standard and took part in flight testing at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. Sea trials in May 2005 included the first shipboard landing on USS Bataan, Wasp Class amphibious assault ship. Developmental testing was completed in February 2006 and two test aircraft began Operational Evaluation (OPEVAL) with the USMC in May 2006. The first production AH-1Z helicopter was delivered to the USMC in January 2007. Phase II of OPEVAL began in February 2008. A full-rate production decision is expected in August 2008. Initial operating capability is scheduled for 2011. The Turkish Army selected the AH-1Z King Cobra in July 2000 with a request for 50 out of a total requirement for 145 helicopters. In May 2004, it was announced that the acquisition was to be cancelled. The helicopters were to be built in Turkey by Tusas Aerospace Industries (TAI). COCKPIT Northrop Grumman has developed the integrated avionics systems for the AH-1Z. The systems include two mission computers and an automatic flight control system with four-axis stability ontrol augmentation system. Each crew station has two 8in x 6in multifunction displays and one 4.2in x 4.2in dual function display, based on active matrix liquid crystal colour technology. The displays are supplied by L-3 Ruggedised Command and Control Solutions. Smiths Aerospace supplied the weapon stores control and data transfer system. "The AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003." The communications suite combines the new US Navy RT-1824 integrated radio, UHF/VHF, COMSEC and modem in a single unit. The navigation suite includes an Embedded GPS Inertial (EGI), a low-airspeed air data subsystem, which allows weapons delivery when hovering and a digital map. In June 2002, Thales Avionics' TopOwl helmet-mounted display system was chosen for the USMC AH-1Z. The first system was delivered in January 2003. TopOwl, also fitted on Tiger, NH90 and Rooivalk helicopters, has integrated Gen IV image intensifier and FLIR capability and provides transition from day to night use at the push of a button. WEAPONS AND MISSILES The Super Cobra can carry both TOW and Hellfire anti-armour missiles and is being qualified to carry the Maverick missile. The Raytheon BGM-71 TOW missile has a range of more than 3km and semi-automatic command-to-line- of-sight guidance. The AGM-114 Hellfire missile is manufactured by Lockheed Martin. It is equipped with a semi-active laser seeker and has a range of 7km. The Super Cobra has fire-and-forget capability when firing the Hellfire missile in co-operative mode with laser target illumination. The Super Cobra was the first attack helicopter to qualify both the Sidewinder air-to-air missile and the Sidearm anti-radiation missile. Both missiles can use the same LAU-7 rail launcher. Sidearm has a range of more than 15km. AIM-9L Sidewinder is an all-aspect, short-range, air-to-air missile produced by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. The missile has a range of 15km. The Super Cobra can fire the Hydra family of unguided 70 mm rockets or the larger 127 mm Zuni rocket bombs. From 2008, it will be armed with the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS), a guided version of the Hydra. The US Army re-opened the competition for the APKWS in September 2005 and a decision on contractor is expected in March 2006. The Super Cobra carries a three-barrel, 20mm Gatling gun for close range (up to 2km) engagement and 750 rounds of ammunition. With the gun in a fixed forward position, the pilot can aim by manoeuvring the helicopter. Either crew member can slave the turret to the helmet-mounted sight and aim the gun by looking at the target. "The Super Cobra carries a three-barrel, 20mm Gatling gun for close range engagement." The AH-1Z for the USMC will be armed with: 16 Hellfire missiles, six AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, 70mm rocket pods (7- and 19-shot), and a 20mm gun. SENSORS Targeting for the AH-1W is provided by the Night Targeting System (NTS), jointly produced by Tamam Division of Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd and Kollsman. NTS integrates a Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) which provides automatic target tracking with a laser designator / rangefinder and video recorder. Lockheed Martin has developed a longer range AN/AAQ-30 target sight system (TSS) for the AH-1Z to replace the NTS. TSS includes a third-generation four field-of-view FLIR based on a 3-5 micron staring array, CCD colour TV, Kollsman eyesafe laser rangefinder/designator and multi-target autotracker. L-3 Communications Wescam supplies the turret assembly. Lockheed Martin was awarded a contract to supply the first 16 systems to the USMC in March 2008. Longbow International (a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman) is developing the Cobra Radar System for the AH-1Z, based on the Longbow millimetre wave radar on the AH-64D Apache. Cobra is a pod-based radar that can be mounted on a wingtip or in a stores position. Cobra can automatically search, detect, classify and prioritise multiple moving and stationary targets. It has a range of 8km against moving and 4km against stationary targets. COUNTERMEASURES The H1 Super Cobra upgrade includes provision of a new electronic warfare suite. A new radar warner, the AN/APR-39(XE2) from Lockheed Martin, replaces the Lockheed Martin AN/APR-39(V)2 pulse radar warner and the AEL Industries AN/APR-44 continuous-wave radar warner. The ATK AN/AAR-47 missile warning system has been included in the upgrade suite. AN/AAR-47 uses infrared detectors to detect the missile plume. The Goodrich (formerly Raytheon) AN/AVR-2A laser warning receiver has also been added. The infrared countermeasures system is the AN/ALQ-144A developed by BAE Systems IEWS (formerly Sanders, a Lockheed Martin company). "Super Cobra is armed with TOW missiles." The helicopter is also equipped with the AN/ALE-39 chaff and infrared flare dispenser manufactured by BAE Systems Integrated Defense Solutions (formerly Tracor) and Lockheed Martin Tactical Defense Systems. ENGINES Twin General Electric T700-GE-401 turboshaft engines provide a total of 2,410kW or 3,380shp. In standard conditions, with an air-to-air ordnance load, the SuperCobra can take off and climb out at more than 4.1m/s on only one engine. It can hover out of ground effect (OGE) at 914m, with a load of four TOW and four Hellfire missiles, full turret ammunition and rockets.
Bush expresses concerns over ISI’s alleged role: Ahmed Mukhtar
Wednesday, July 30, 2008 - WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s Minister of Defence, Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, Wednesday said that US President George W. Bush had expressed concerns over the role of Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, the ISI.In an exclusive interview with Geo News, Mukhtar said President Bush had expressed reservations on the role of “elements at some level in the ISI.”Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar said a number of significant matters came under discussion during the meeting with President Bush.“President Bush had complained that actionable intelligence shared with Pakistan got leaked much before its due time,” he said adding that President Bush also questioned as to “who is in control of ISI.”
India, Pakistan trade blame on Kashmir clash
Srinagar, India (AFP) July 30, 2008India and Pakistan traded blame Tuesday for a ceasefire violation along the Line of Control in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir that left an Indian soldier dead. Pakistan's military rejected Indian accusations that it had broken the ceasefire, saying Indian troops had crossed the Line of Control (LoC) overnight and opened fire first. India had accused Islamabad of a "serious violation" of the truce, but Pakistan countered that New Delhi had engaged in "unprovoked fire." "No Pakistani soldier had crossed the LoC," a Pakistan military spokesman said in a statement. Pakistan also denied Indian media reports that four of its troops were killed in the fierce gunbattle in the region, which has triggered two of the three wars between the nuclear-armed neighbours. The clash comes amid growing tensions between the South Asian rivals following a suicide bombing outside the Indian embassy in Kabul earlier this month, which Afghanistan and India have both blamed on "elements" in Pakistan. Last week, Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon said the India-Pakistan peace process was "under stress," citing incidents along the LoC and in Kashmir. On Tuesday, Pakistan rejected the Indian army's "claim that Pakistani troops had crossed 200 metres (yards) on the Indian side of the LoC... which resulted in an exchange of fire." "Indian soldiers wanted to establish a forward post in the area on the Pakistani side of the LoC, which was objected to by our soldiers," the Pakistan military statement said. "Indian troops opened indiscriminate and unprovoked fire. The Indian fire was immediately responded to." Pakistan said it had "material evidence" of the Indian incursion in the form of weapons left behind by fleeing Indian soldiers. According to India, the fighting was sparked by an incursion and killing of an Indian soldier by a small unit of Pakistani troops in the mountains north of Srinagar, Indian Kashmir's summer capital. "The fighting lasted for 13 to 14 hours," Indian army spokesman Anil Kumar Mathur told AFP, calling it a "serious violation of the ceasefire." "It is a very serious issue. The Pakistanis have been violating the ceasefire over the past few months, but this is the first time they physically moved in and killed a colleague of ours." Army officers from the two sides on Tuesday held a "flag meeting" -- or formal meeting at which they presented their versions of the incident. In 2002, India and Pakistan came to the brink of war, massing troops along their de facto border, in the wake of an attack on the Indian parliament that New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based rebel groups fighting its rule in Kashmir. They agreed to a ceasefire along the LoC in November 2003 and launched a peace process in January 2004, with Pakistan pledging to prevent militant infiltrations. Since then, the heavy guns have fallen mostly silent, but there have been sporadic small clashes. Still, India has made repeated complaints that Pakistani troops have been helping Islamic militants infiltrate Indian territory. India's Defence Minister A.K. Antony said in a statement that the Pakistanis had violated the LoC ceasefire as many as 19 times. "The increase in ceasefire violations and firings across the LoC is a matter of concern to India," Antony said. There was no immediate response from Pakistan. An insurgency against Indian rule over a part of Muslim-majority Kashmir has raged since 1989, although Islamabad denies it is supporting the Muslim rebels. Pakistan also has regularly complained that talks on Kashmir's future have gone nowhere. Levels of violence had been steadily declining since 2004, but the region has witnessed a sharp upsurge in violence in recent weeks, including a bomb attack on an Indian army bus this month that killed nine soldiers. Indian and Pakistani leaders are slated to meet at an upcoming South Asian summit in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo this weekend.
Japan party boss says tough to continue Iraq mission
Tokyo (AFP) July 30, 2008: A senior Japanese politician said Tuesday it would be tough to continue the country's mission flying personnel and goods into Iraq beyond this year, amid opposition at home. An end to the air mission would bring a close to the last of Japan's military operations in Iraq, which have been a watershed for a country that has been officially pacifist since the end of World War II. Domestic legislation expires in July next year that allows the mission, under which Japanese airplanes based in Kuwait bring supplies and people into Iraq on behalf of the US-led coalition and the United Nations. Bunmei Ibuki, secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, noted UN Security Council resolution 1790 allows foreign troops to operate in Iraq only until the end of this year. "After the existing UN resolution expires, I think it would require a serious effort if you were to take the current rationale and continue the mission," said Ibuki, the party's number two after Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda. Ibuki, who said he was offering his personal view, was reacting to a newspaper report that the ruling party had decided to end the mission by the end of the year. The conservative Sankei Shimbun, which did not identify its sources, said the Liberal Democrats believed it would be difficult to win the support of the opposition, which controls one house of parliament. The opposition has flexed its muscles since its historic win last year, hoping to scuttle the government's agenda in anticipation of general elections. Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba denied a decision has been taken to end the air mission, saying a new UN resolution could extend the mandate of multinational forces. "At this point, it's extremely difficult to say conclusively what will happen in the future," Ishiba told reporters. "For now, we'll simply carry out our mission." Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki this month voiced support for the departure of US combat troops by the end of 2010, a deadline similar to one proposed by US presidential candidate Barack Obama. Japan's opposition was sharply critical in 2003 of then prime minister Junichiro Koizumi's strong backing for the US-led invasion of Iraq that removed Saddam Hussein from power. Koizumi took the landmark decision of sending troops to southern Iraq on a non-combat humanitarian mission. It was the first Japanese military deployment since World War II to a country where fighting was underway. Koizumi brought the troops home on leaving office in 2006 after a two-and-a-half-year mission in which the forces did not suffer any casualties. Japan's opposition last year forced a temporary suspension of a separate military mission that provides fuel and other logistical support in the Indian Ocean to US-led forces engaged in Afghanistan. "We are very appreciative of what Japan has done both in Iraq and Afghanistan," Thomas Schieffer, the US ambassador to Japan, said after meeting with Fukuda on Tuesday. "We are hopeful that they are able to continue making contributions to the realisation of both a peaceful Iraq and peaceful Afghanistan," he said.
Korea Signs $400 Million Contract with Turkey on Transfer of Tank Technology
July 30, 2008: The Defense Acquisition Program Administration said Wednesday (July 30) that Korea has signed a $400 million deal with Turkey to help develop a new tank by 2015, using over 50 percent of Korea's indigenous technology on the armored vehicle. The deal was signed between Korean tank manufacturer Hyundai Rotem and Turkish carmaker Otokar in a ceremony attended by Korean Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara. The contract also includes the transfer of technology owned by Korea's state developer, the Agency for Defense Development (ADD), according to the Korean defense procurement office. The contract is very significant in that Korea is now exporting not only defense goods, but also defense technology, the defense procurement office said in a media release. Korea competed against Germany for the $400 million project to help develop Turkey's new main battle tank, which will be the country's first-ever indigenous tank, according to the defense procurement office. Turkey plans to produce some 200 units of the next generation tank, provisionally named Turkey National Main Battle Tank, upon completion of its development. Turkey is one of the largest purchasers of Korean defense articles and is set to buy some $100 million worth of weapons, including 155mm self-propelled artillery, from Korea this year alone, according to the defense procurement office. Korea developed its first indigenous tank, the K-1, in 1988 and is set to replace the main battle tank with the next generation K-2 tanks starting 2010. Seoul exported some $850 million worth of defense articles last year, with the export expected to grow to over $1 billion this year for the first time in history, the defense procurement office said in the media release.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Korean press reports say that South Korea will transfer key technologies regarding engine, gunnery and snorkeling systems to Turkey, which initially wants to build about 250 advanced main battle tanks, totaling about 60% of the technology required to build the Turkish tanks. Turkey will develop a fire control system on its own. Korea’s $400 million technology transfer fee includes production costs for four prototype tanks and components, and expenses for about 20 Korean engineers seconded to Turkey for the program.)
Stiletto Stealth Ships: Look Different. Ride Different. Buy Different 30-Jul-2008: M-Ship Stiletto The late Vice-Admiral Cebrowski’s legacy at the Pentagon’s Office of Force Transformation. With the formal roll-out of the 88-foot Stiletto stealth ship and its cutting-edge “M-Hull” wave-damping design, that legacy takes another step forward. The Stiletto is part of Project WolfPac, which aims to test new concepts of shallow-water and riverine warfare organized around swarms of smaller, affordable ships linked by communications. The Stiletto can slip into shallow waters, launching inflatable boats and even UAVs while serving as a communications hub via its “electronic keel.” Best of all, the M-Hull significantly reduces the pounding its occupants take from waves – poundings that often result in back injuries that cut careers short, or leave sailors with lingering disabilities in later life. After a long, drawn-out testing period, the ship is finally being given a chance to silence doubts about its ability to stand up to open sea conditions. It has been deployed – with a crew of Army mariners to operate it… The Stiletto Program Contracts and Key Events Appendix A: M-Hull Technology – From Venice to Victory Appendix B: Additional Readings The Stiletto Program Rear w. inflatables well Stiletto program manager US Navy Commander Greg Glaros’ entry in the DefenseTech.org comments section provided the best window into the thinking behind Stiletto, whose technology may migrate to other platforms as well: “Stiletto was constructed in 15 months starting Oct 04. She is made completely out of Carbon fiber. Her purpose is to insert emerging technology at little cost due to her Electronic Keel and to provide a venue for operational experimentation. It is not perfect, nor is she designed to solve everyone’s needs (no she does not submerge – we left that to the Billion $ club). What she is designed to do is expand our technical competence against an elusive adversary and learn operationally in a very short period of time. With regards to its survivability or operational relevancy we will all learn by her mere existence. Easy to kill??? – We seem to easily lose sight that most military systems are all easy to destroy by a willing enemy. Stiletto & ScanEagle launcher Our objectives should be focused on matching our adversaries at scale with an ability to cope and adapt – surely the Stark, Cole, M-1 ABRAMS, and Hummers have taught us how easy it is to kill systems designed to survive everything our engineering imagined – unfortunately what our engineer imagine often do not align with what our enemy intends… During the last two weeks Stiletto out performed our expectations – with advanced speeds in calm waters and not so calm…and out performing in other areas in a time frame and within a cost that seems to be out of the reach of our requirements procss and acquisition system. Time to operational market matters…” The Stiletto will cost about $6 million to build, while the overall costs of the experiment are expected to reach about $12 million. DefenseTech’s main coverage of the Stiletto ship is a good article with a number of valuable links, but the key issue for the ship will be its composite hull’s ability to stand up to the sea’s inevitable pounding. Contracts and Key Events June 30/08: Stiletto makes a refueling stop at the American territory of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The ship has been moved to NAVSOUTH’s area of responsibility, where it will support the Coast Guard’s efforts and participate in anti-drug operations around the Caribbean. The ship is actually operated by a small crew of Army mariners from the 7th Sustainment Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division. They can also deploy a rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) with 7 fully armed Coast Guardsmen from the ship, in order to conduct ground operations. July 2008: A National Defense Magazine article says that Stiletto has been in use as a test bed ship, courtesy of the Pentagon’s rapid reaction technology office. The office inherited the ship when the Office for Force Transformation was disbanded, and needed a maritime test bed for the concepts companies brought to it. Since Stiletto was designed from the outset to accept new technologies quickly and easily, it was a natural fit. May 9/06: M Ship Co. announces that the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research has awarded the firm a $750,000 contract, including options, to validate the potential of the innovative M-hull technology. The Navy Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract calls for tank testing and sea trials for the M-hull technology, and the development of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) tools for quantifying the hull’s performance. This seems arcane, but it’s vital if one wishes to model the hull’s performance in a variety of sea conditions. Existing ship hull designs have undergone extensive modeling, as well as real life use, allowing certification agencies to declare them safe within a certain range of conditions. New hull technologies need this, too, but the cost burden for the inventor can be crushing without funding like this. Jan 31/06: M Ship Co. announces the launch of the M80 Stiletto, designed as an operational experiment for the Pentagon’s Office of Force Transformation (OFT). The vessel combines carbon fiber construction with a networked architecture and a revolutionary M-hull. The release also discusses Cebrowski’s legacy. Appendix A: M-Hull Technology – From Venice to Victory Interestingly, the M-hull evolved from a challenge to help solve the serious problem of wave erosion to the ancient buildings of Venice, Italy. Since the streets of this city are water, the authorities were faced with the unique problem of reducing waves created by motorboats to protect the foundations of the buildings along the canals. Chuck Robinson, who lives in the USA but has an apartment in Venice, decided that he had to do something. The result of this effort was the M-hull. This patented hull form exhibits the shock mitigation features of the deep-V hull with the roll stability of a multihull. In addition, the hull form creates a natural surface effect that not only enhances top speed performance, but actually uses the bow wave energy to reduce the overall wake signature. Current M-Hull products include water taxis, the EcoBarca environmentally sensitive tourism ship, and a sport fishing vessel in addition to the Stiletto. Other proposed variants include cargo, commercial shipping, Coast Guard, and larger military applications like the MS 120 and MS 200 Littoral. Perhaps the most interesting potential for the M-Hull, however, may lie in its promise as a component of seabasing. As this M-Ship Co. press release notes, its co-founder Bill Burns says: “I think there could be some opportunity for seabasing using the M-hull technologies, not only for the connectors but also for the seabase itself,” he said. “And we are developing some conceptual designs where we can actually build square ships that can link together and break apart based on the mission needs.”
U.S. MARINES PARTICIPATE IN AN AMPHIBIOUS ASSAULT VEHICLE LANDING. - July 30, 2008: U.S. Marine and Indonesian Jaguar Company participate in an Amphibious Assault Vehicle landing as a part of their training during Rim of the Pacific 2008 at Pyramid Rock Beach at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, on July 27, 2008.
U.S. Offers Nicaragua Health Aid to Destroy Arms
MANAGUA, Nicaragua: July 30, 2008 - The U.S. has offered Nicaragua health care aid in exchange for the destruction of 657 Soviet-made missiles acquired to fight U.S.-backed rebels in the 1980s, the U.S. ambassador said here. Washington has long pressured Nicaragua to destroy the anti-aircraft missiles as part of a global effort to remove old weapons that could fall into the hands of terrorists. The exchange deal was prepared "by a team from the [U.S.] Department of Defense specialized in the administration of hospitals, medicines, and technical equipment," who recently visited the country, and the Nicaraguan health ministry, said U.S. ambassador Paul Trivelli on a television news program Aug. 27. It was now up to Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, who proposed the medical-missile exchange last year, to sign the deal to hand over 657 of some 1,000 missiles still held, Trivelli said, without detailing the medical aid. Ortega has said he would keep some 400 missiles for national security reasons. The SAM-7 missiles are remnants of the civil war between Ortega's Sandinista National Liberation Front and U.S.-backed Contra rebels in the 1980s. Former Nicaraguan president Enrique Bolanos destroyed 1,000 such missiles in 2004. Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla and Cold War-era foe of the United States, was elected for a second term in 2006.
Israeli Army Chooses Elbit Hand-Held Targeter
TEL AVIV: July 30, 2008 - Israeli infantry are slated to become the first operational users of a new, miniaturized targeting system custom-designed by Elbit Systems for close-in combat and urban battles. The Haifa, Israel-based firm announced July 28 that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had selected its MARS hand-held thermal imager and target acquisition system for use by Israeli land warriors. An initial order is expected in the next several weeks, with deliveries to commence by the end of this year, company executives said. Developed by Electro-Optics Elop Ltd., an Elbit subsidiary, MARS is an ultralight, uncooled infrared sensor weighing less than 2 kilograms, including the system's eight-hour rechargeable battery. The hand-held system allows for single-handed location, targeting and killing of close-in targets up to 1 kilometer away, regardless of cloudy, moonless or other environmentally challenging conditions. It incorporates an eye-safe laser rangefinder, digital magnetic compass and Global Positioning System receiver, and features the same image processing circuitry and software algorithms developed for the firm's larger, longer-range Coral system. "We take great pride in supplying the IDF with our advanced systems," said Haim Rousso, Elop general manager. "The unique imager answers the needs of the individual soldier and was developed according to the IDF's requirements, based on the extensive experience and knowledge accumulated at Elop." Adi Dar, Elop's vice president for business development and marketing, said the firm's MARS was selected following a nearly yearlong competition and operational assessment conducted by the IDF's Land Forces Command. "It's a badge of honor to have won this important competition and to have the IDF as our first operational customer," he said. He noted that the short-range, uncooled system was developed for lower-echelon field commanders and special mission squads who must engage enemies with precision, but not from the longer ranges covered by Coral and other cooled targeting sensors. He added that MARS feeds into existing wireless command, control and communications systems.
Musharraf's nuclear sell-out Part I
By Asif Ezdi Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Since public attention has been focused on the havoc wreaked by eight years of the Musharraf dictatorship on the institutions of state, the dismal record of his foreign policy has largely escaped notice. The India-US nuclear deal, now in the final stages of its completion, is just one of the many foreign policy debacles that the country owes to Musharraf. When President Clinton visited India and Pakistan in March 2000 shortly after Musharraf's military coup, the British weekly Economist wrote: "Their new nuclear credentials apart, the two [countries] have never seemed more unalike." In the eight years since then, we have all but lost the parity of nuclear credentials that we then had with India. When the coup took place, both Pakistan and India were negotiating with the US for a lifting of the sanctions imposed on them following their nuclear tests in 1998. Today, India is about to be given full access to nuclear technology, while the worldwide ban on civil nuclear cooperation with Pakistan remains. Once the deal is finalised, India will also stand admitted to the league of nuclear-weapon states, while Pakistan's nuclear programme will continue to be eyed with suspicion. The safeguards agreement to be concluded by India with the IAEA for its civilian nuclear reactors is expected to be approved by the agency's board of governors in early August. The next step – approval by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) – will take a little longer, but no serious opposition is expected. Major supplier countries like the US, the UK, Russia and France are openly backing the India-US nuclear deal. US officials have indicated that China will also be supportive. In an interview with The Times of India on March 2, 2008, Nick Burns, then Under-secretary of State for Political Affairs and the main architect of the new strategic relationship with India, named China as one of the "champions" of the nuclear deal and expressed the confidence that China would not block it. The nuclear deal has serious implications for Pakistan's security. The supply of imported fuel to India for its civilian nuclear reactors will free up more of its domestic uranium for the production of weapons material and allow for the rapid expansion of its nuclear arsenal. According to Rep. Edward Markey (D) of Massachusetts, the nuclear deal will boost India's bomb-making capacity perhaps sevenfold, to as many as 50 bombs a year. The access to advanced nuclear technology that India will get under the deal will also enable it to make qualitative improvements in its nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. Although some concern was expressed in the US Congress that India might accelerate its nuclear weapons programme once it gets access to foreign nuclear fuel, Nick Burns said on July 27, 2007, that this was not a US concern. "[W]hat India does on the strategic side," Burns said, "is India's business."Although US domestic law (Atomic Energy Act) mandates an end to nuclear trade with a non-nuclear-weapon state that conducts a nuclear test, the bilateral "123 agreement" on cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy concluded by India and the US in July 2007 is silent about consequences of a nuclear test by India. The Indian government maintains that it has not given up the right to conduct nuclear tests and is not bound by US legislation, only by its bilateral agreement with the US. The 123 agreement in fact pledges US help to India in the development of a strategic reserve of nuclear fuel to guard against "any disruption" of supply over the lifetime of India's reactors. This means that if the United States, under its domestic law, were to cut off nuclear supplies to India because it had conducted a nuclear test, Washington would be required to help India in pursuing a resumption of outside fuel supplies by other countries. If despite these arrangements, a disruption of fuel supplies to India occurs, the United States and India would jointly convene a group of friendly supplier countries to include Russia, France and the United Kingdom to pursue such measures as would restore fuel supply to India. In addition to fuel assurances, New Delhi secured a US commitment in the 123 agreement to permit India to reprocess US-origin spent fuel. The US has given this permission so far only to Japan and the European consortium EURATOM.The 123 agreement, as well as the safeguards agreement between India and the IAEA, also state that India may take unspecified "corrective measures" to ensure the uninterrupted operation of its civilian nuclear reactors in the event of disruption of foreign fuel supplies. This means that if there was a cut-off in the supply of nuclear fuel following an Indian nuclear test, India would have the right to withdraw its civilian nuclear facilities from safeguards and convert those sites to the production of fissile material usable in warheads.A safeguards agreement of this kind, which allows India to withdraw its nuclear facilities from IAEA inspection in case of a fuel supply cut-off should it resume nuclear testing – and divert safeguarded nuclear facilities and material to military use – makes it less likely that a cut-off would be imposed in the first place. The safeguards agreement thus virtually guarantees India continued fuel supply even if it carries out a nuclear test. As The New York Times wrote in its editorial on July 5, there is no promise from India to stop producing bomb-making material, no promise not to expand its arsenal and no promise not to resume nuclear testing. The whole world is these days moving ahead into expanding nuclear power because of skyrocketing oil prices and environmental concerns. Well over 100 reactors are either already under construction or in the planning stages. India, which currently has 17 reactors, is planning to dramatically increase that number. After the NSG lifts its restrictions on nuclear trade with India, Pakistan will be the only country in the world to which the supply of civilian nuclear technology is embargoed. That will seriously hamper our economic development, as we do not have sufficient oil and gas reserves of our own and our hydro-electric power resources will soon have been fully harnessed.The India-US nuclear deal, which was announced in July 2005, did not happen overnight. It had been under negotiation for two years. The Musharraf government was either not aware of it or it did not grasp its huge significance. Both are equally inexcusable. While conceding all of India's demands for access to nuclear technology, Bush and other US officials have rejected a similar deal for Pakistan in the most categorical terms. Bush made clear on March 4, 2006, at a joint press conference with Musharraf in Islamabad, that Pakistan should not expect a civilian nuclear agreement like the one with India. He said bluntly that the two countries could not be compared to each other. While Bush spoke so disparagingly about Pakistan, Musharraf simply stood by, looking every bit like the Bush flunkey that he is, and did not utter a word to contradict the US president. Not only that, in a meeting with the Pakistani press two days later, Musharraf faithfully echoed Bush's remarks that Pakistan could not claim the same rights as India. "We are not in competition with India," Musharraf said, as if reading from the same script as Bush. "India has global and regional aspirations. We do not have such aspirations. … [The Indians] are going in a different direction and we are going in a different direction." US officials have sought to justify their refusal to make a deal on civil nuclear cooperation with Pakistan because of proliferation and terrorism concerns. They cite Pakistan's "abysmal" record on export controls while that of India is said to be good. Moreover, India is a democracy and a highly stable country, while Pakistan is not. These arguments have a certain plausibility because of the activities of the A Q Khan network, but American officials conveniently ignore the fact that India is the only country in the world to have diverted nuclear fuel and technology received by it for peaceful purposes. Pakistan's record in this respect is impeccable. In India's case, it was the Indian government that broke solemn international agreements. A Q Khan, on the other hand, was acting as a freelancer and there was no breach of an international agreement or international law. Moreover, even Washington concedes that Pakistan has now instituted an effective export control system.
Russian mini-sub suffers minor damage on Lake Baikal
ULAN-UDE (Buryatia, Siberia) 30 July, 2008 - One of the mini-submarines being used for ongoing exploration in Siberia's Lake Baikal received minor damage while being lowered from a barge on Wednesday, an expedition member said. The accident occurred when the Mir-2 submersible, which along with Mir-1 descended to the depths of the world's deepest lake on Tuesday, was being lowered into the water near Olkhon island at around 12:00 p.m. local time (03:00 GMT), Yevgeny Chernyayev said. "Due to a sudden gust of wind, with a speed of 15 meters per second, Mir-2 struck the side of the barge with a grating sound; the propeller was damaged as a result," he said. The mini-sub is being taken to the Turka port on the lake's shore, where it can be fixed by tomorrow, he said. On Tuesday, Mir-1 and Mir-2 descended to one of the deepest points of what locals call the 'Sacred Sea', which holds around 20% of the planet's freshwater and is home to hundreds of unique species of fauna and flora. The crew initially claimed to have reached a depth of 1,680 meters (5,500 feet), which would have been a record for a freshwater dive, but after clarification said no records had been broken. The ongoing expedition is led by Artur Chilingarov, a Russian lawmaker who headed a symbolic dive beneath the North Pole last August, during which a Russian flag was planted on the seabed. The expedition is set to run for two years, during which the scientists will conduct around 160 dives in various areas of the lake. Research will include tectonic information-gathering and exploration for archeological artifacts.
Powerful explosion 'destroys' Hamas training camp in Gaza
GAZA, July 30, 2008 - An explosion has hit a Hamas training camp in southern Gaza, Palestinian health officials said on Wednesday. According to eyewitnesses, the explosion late on Tuesday completely destroyed the command center of Izz el-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the radical Islamic movement Hamas. The blast was heard all over the southern city of Khan Younis. A second, less powerful explosion followed some 15 minutes later. The exact number of casualties is currently unknown. According to Palestinian health officials, two people have been injured, while local media puts the number of casualties at five or six. The cause of the blast is as yet as unknown, and neither Hamas nor Israeli officials have commented. The training camp, located in a former Israeli settlement, had already seen a deadly explosion earlier this month. On July 8, a blast at the camp's training facility killed two militants and injured three. Izz el-Din al-Qassam Brigades said in a statement that the two victims had been preparing to carry out a "holy mission," but the explosives had detonated prematurely. Israel and Palestinian militants signed a Gaza Strip truce on June 19.
Russia's SS-18 Satan missile to stay in service for up to 8 years
MOSCOW, July 30, 2008 - The RS-20 Voyevoda (SS-18 Satan) intercontinental ballistic missile, adopted exactly 20 years ago, will remain in service until 2014-16, Russia's Strategic Missile Forces said on Wednesday. A spokesman for the forces said the missile remains the most powerful ICBM in the world. As of 1992, 88 SS-18 missile launchers had been deployed in Russia, most of them at the Dombarovsky missile base in the Orenburg Region, in the southern Urals. The missile is armed with a MIRV (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle) warhead with a yield of 550 to 750 kilotons. According to publicly available sources, the missile has a maximum range of 11,000 km (6,800 miles) with a launch mass of over 210 tons and a payload of 8.8 tons.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
"Sun-eating dragon" returns to China
Paris (AFP) July 29, 2008: Earth, the Sun and the Moon will align in a celestial ballet on Friday, rewarding China, where the first record of an eclipse was made more than 4,000 years ago, with a dazzling show. Longingly awaited, the first total solar eclipse since March 2006 kicks off at 0923 GMT, when the lunar shadow touches down on the fringes of Nunavut province in northern Canada. The dark, narrow disc, known as the umbra, then races across the roof of the world before alighting in northern Siberia, where it will skip across central Russia and central Asia and head into Mongolia and northwestern China. It then curves to the southeast before expiring near the city of Xian at 1120 GMT, after a trek of some 10,200 kilometres (6,375 miles). Most of Asia, northern Europe and northern Canada will see a partial eclipse, weather permitting, according to NASA's veteran eclipse expert, Fred Espenak (http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/OH/OH2008.html). "More than a billion people will be in the shadow of the Moon on August 1st," says the US publication Sky & Telescope, which is backing a trip aboard a Russian icebreaker by US amateur astronomers, who will view the eclipse from the Arctic Ocean. Eclipses of the Sun -- the bringer of light, and thus life -- have long held a tenacious grip on the human mind. To the ancient Chinese, the eclipse was a sun-eating dragon which had to be chased away with clashing cymbals and pans. For Vikings, two chasing wolves, Skoll and Hati, were to blame. In Hindu mythology, a spiteful demon called Rahu takes a bite out of the Sun from time to time. The first known record of an eclipse was made in the reign of Zhong Kang, the fourth emperor of China's Xia dynasty. Because we know that several solar eclipses took place around that time, astronomers are uncertain of the exact date when this event took place -- it could be 2128 or 2134 BC. -- Eclipses occur because of a weird symmetry -- But even then, the brief text shows that the eclipse was clearly mind-blasting. "In the fifth year of Zhong Kang, in the autumn, in the ninth month, on the first day of the month, there was an eclipse of the Sun, when he ordered the Prince of Yin to lead the imperial forces to punish Hsi and Ho," says the record. Hsi and Ho, according to legend, are two astrologers of the Imperial Court who were beheaded because they had failed to warn the boss that the Sun would be blotted out. Today, a total solar eclipse remains a stunning sight and a humbling reminder of human puniness, but mathematics have taken the sting out of superstition. Eclipses occur because of a weird symmetry. The Sun is 400 times wider than the Moon, but it is also 400 times farther away. As a result, when the Moon is perfectly in line between the Earth and the Sun, for those in the complete lunar shadow, the entire solar surface is covered. The Sun turns black, leaving just a golden halo. The stars are blotted out and the sky turns indigo. Birds become confused or may go to roost, and bats and other nocturnal animals may sleepily emerge. In Friday's eclipse, totality will last a maximum of two minutes, 27 seconds, at 1021 GMT, near Nadym, in northern Russia, according to Espenak. The record duration for totality is seven and a half minutes. The next solar eclipse takes place on July 22, 2009 when it will cross central India, northern Bangladesh and central China. That is likely to be the most-viewed eclipse in the history of humanity. The last time an eclipse tracked over such a populous eclipse was an alignment on August 11, 1999 which swept from western Europe to India. For eclipse junkies, safe viewing is essential, using proper optical filters to protect the retina from dangerous ultraviolet light, which still reaches Earth even at totality. Some Internet sites are offering live webcasts of the event.