Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Air China to buy 45 aircraft from Boeing

Air China to buy 45 aircraft from Boeing July 15, 2008: BEIJING - Air China Ltd said it and wholly-owned unit Air China Import and Export Co have jointly signed an agreement to buy 45 aircraft from Boeing Co.In a statement filed with the Shanghai Stock Exchange, the company said the order breaks down into 15 Boeing 777s and 30 Boeing 737s.The airlines did not give a value for the contract but added that it will obtain a price lower than the combined catalogue value of 6.3 bln usd.The aircraft will be delivered between 2011 and 2015, the company said, adding that its fleet capacity is expected to rise by 35 pct from 2007 levels after the deal.Last week, the company won approval from the securities regulator to issue up to 400 mln additional shares to help finance aircraft orders. Air China orders 45 Boeing planes worth $6.3 billion.

AIR SHOW: Oil Wealth Continues To Drive Aircraft Orders

AIR SHOW: Oil Wealth Continues To Drive Aircraft Orders July 15, 2008: FARNBOROUGH, England - Airlines based in oil-producing nations continued to drive aircraft orders on the second day on the biannual Farnborough International Airshow. While aviation-leasing companies unveiled a few deals, too, the biggest orders came from carriers based in the Middle East and Nigeria, where coffers have swelled in recent years as demand for oil has boosted revenues. As on Monday, there were no orders from North America or Europe, where these days airlines are thinking more about retrenching than about expanding their aircraft fleets. Gripped by rising fuel prices, their biggest expense, more and more airlines are reducing costs by downsizing, laying off workers and grounding planes as financially strapped consumers cut down on nonessential travel. Commercial aircraft manufacturer Airbus, a unit of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. NV (EADSY), snared orders for 148 planes worth $17.1 billion, bringing its tally for the first two days of the show to 211 aircraft valued at $29.7 billion. The European aircraft manufacturer is expected to post more orders Wednesday. EADS's earnings guidance for 2008 is for Airbus to book "over 700" orders this year. The plane maker took 525 orders over the first half of this year, and with those of the past two days its total since Jan. 1 is only a few dozen shy of 700. U.S. rival Boeing Co. (BA) Tuesday unveiled a solitary order for seven planes, bring its two-day total to 106 planes for $13.5 billion. Airbus and Boeing tend to hold back announcements so that they have orders to disclose for the bigger air shows. Airbus's single-largest order on Tuesday, for example, was the confirmation of a memorandum of understanding that had been announced last year. Airbus and Boeing executives may be putting on a brave face about the market's near-term outlook, thanks to robust demand from the Middle East, but the news from Europe is somewhat grimmer. Irish budget carrier Ryanair Holdings PLC ( RYAAY) announced Tuesday that it would trim its winter schedule from its Dublin base to 1,200 flights a week from 1,350 flights last winter, and the number of planes there from 22 to 18. "I think high oil prices will make low-cost carriers rethink their business models," said Qatar Airways' Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker. Qatar Airways Tuesday placed a firm order for four Airbus A321 narrow-bodied aircraft, with options for another two, for delivery starting in 2009. The firm order is worth about $360 million on the basis of catalog prices. "Qatar Airways is clearly bucking the industry trend by placing aircraft orders and being confident of a bright future for the Middle East and global aviation industry," said al-Baker. DAE Capital, the aircraft leasing and financing division of Dubai Aerospace Enterprise, placed an order worth $12.6 billion with Airbus for 100 aircraft, including 30 of its A350-900 wide-bodied jets and 70 narrow-bodied A320s. The two companies had completed the outline of a deal at the Dubai air show last November. Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of DAE, said: "This order confirmation underlines our vision and strategy to make DAE a leader in the aircraft leasing market, that is able to seize upon the significant aviation growth in the Middle East region and in other developing markets." North African airline Tunisair (TUN) confirmed that it had placed an order for 16 Airbus jets including the planned A350 XWB wide-bodied aircraft. The order includes three A350-800s, three A330-200s and 10 narrow-bodied A320s. On the basis of Airbus' catalog prices, the Tunisair order is worth about $1.94 billion. Tunisair also took out an option for one A350 and two A320s. Tunisair signed an initial agreement for its planned order in April when French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Tunisia. U.S. leasing company Aviation Capital Group agreed to buy 23 single-aisle A320 aircraft worth about $1.8 billion. ACG Managing Director Stephen Hannahs said that increasing numbers of airlines would be likely to turn to leasing in the next two years because of "capital restraints" and the high cost of buying new fuel-efficient aircraft. Airbus wound up the day with an order from Russian flag carrier Aeroflot ( AFLT.RS) for five Airbus A321 aircraft worth $400 million at list prices. Russian flag carrier Aeroflot (AFLT.RS) agreed to purchase five Airbus A321 aircraft worth $400 million at list prices. On a quiet day for Boeing, privately owned Nigerian airline Arik Air announced an order for seven next-generation 737s. It had ordered 10 last September. The more recent order had been attributed to an unidentified customer on Boeing's orders and deliveries Web site. The next-generation 737s list at approximately $ 60 million each. Separately, Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Co. (OKBS.RS) Tuesday said it has signed an initial agreement worth more than $630 million to supply Russian leasing company Avialeasing with 24 of its Superjet 100 regional aircraft. Avialeasing has taken options for another 16 planes, Sukhoi said. Company Web sites: http://www.airbus.com; http://www.boeing.com

Saudi Arabian Airlines Orders Eight Airbus A330s

Saudi Arabian Airlines Orders Eight Airbus A330s July 15, 2008: Saudi Arabian Airlines, Saudi Arabia’s national airline, has signed a firm contract with Airbus for eight A330-300 wide body aircraft, as part of its fleet modernisation plan. The contract follows one for 22 Airbus A320s signed at the end of 2007, marking the first agreement between Saudi Arabian Airlines and Airbus for commercial aircraft in 26 years. With this latest contract; Saudi Arabian Airlines will benefit from the operational commonality and efficiency of a combined Airbus wide body and single aisle fleet. "The Airbus A330-300 is the right aircraft for our ambitious fleet renewal plans. The aircraft combines operational efficiency as well as cabin comfort for our customers, and will enable Saudi Arabian Airlines to meet rising passenger demand and expectations,” said His Excellency Engineer Khalid al Molhem, Director General of Saudi Arabian Airlines. Previously, Saudi Arabian Airlines was the launch customer for the A300-600, which was first delivered to Saudi Arabian Airlines in 1984. “Saudi Arabian Airlines is one of the biggest and longest-established airlines in the Middle East and Airbus is delighted to be part of Saudi’s extensive fleet modernisation plan. Airbus is also delighted that this agreement re-enforces our partnership with Saudi Arabian Airlines,” said Tom Enders, Airbus President and CEO. The Airbus A330 remains the most economic means of flying some 300 passengers on medium range routes in true long haul comfort. A330 aircraft not only offer unbeatable economics, but in today’s world where green issues are a concern, Saudi Arabian Airlines has chosen the world’s most fuel efficient and productive aircraft on the market. With a true wide-body fuselage allowing very high comfort standards, the A330-300 is able to accommodate seat and class configurations to suit the diverse customer requirements. It has a range of up to 5,650 nm / 10,500 km with a full passenger load. Highly efficient and optimized for the medium – to extended range market, the A330-300 offers the best balance between range and cost. Orders for the aircraft stand at more than 300.

Boeing, Etihad Airways Announce Twin-Aisle Order

Boeing, Etihad Airways Announce Twin-Aisle Order July 15, 2008: FARNBOROUGH, United Kingdom --- Boeing and Etihad Airways today announced an order for 35 787-9 Dreamliners and 10 777-300ERs (Extended Range) at the Farnborough Airshow. Valued at $9.4 billion at current list prices, the order has been attributed on Boeing's Orders & Deliveries Web site to an unidentified customer. "The new-generation Boeing aircraft we have ordered are among the most fuel efficient and will help maintain Etihad's fleet as one of the youngest and greenest in the sky," said James Hogan, Etihad Airways' CEO. "The size of our order also mirrors the rising prominence of the Middle East and its increasing emergence as a new focal point of global aviation offering the fastest air links for travelers and freight forwarders." Since beginning commercial operations in November 2003, Etihad Airways has grown rapidly to offer service to 45 destinations. The Abu Dhabi-based airline carried 2.8 million passengers during the first six months of 2008, compared to nearly 2 million for the same period in 2007. "We count Etihad as an outstanding, world-class customer, and we congratulate the airline on its remarkable growth," said Boeing Chairman, President and CEO Jim McNerney. "Boeing's commitment to provide the world's most fuel-efficient airplanes is clearly demonstrated by both the 777 and 787, and we know Etihad will benefit from the reliability and efficiency these airplanes bring to twin-aisle operations." The 787 Dreamliner offers passengers a better flying experience and provides airline operators greater efficiency to better serve the point-to-point routes and additional frequencies passengers prefer. The technologically-advanced 787 will use 20 percent less fuel than today's airplanes of comparable size, provide airlines with up to 45 percent more cargo revenue capacity and present passengers with innovations that include a new interior environment with cleaner air, larger windows, more stowage space, improved lighting and other passenger-preferred conveniences. Fifty-eight customers around the world have ordered nearly 900 787s since the program was launched in April 2004, making the 787 Dreamliner the fastest-selling new commercial jetliner in history. The 777 family of airplanes is the market leader in the 300-to-400-seat segment. The 777 is preferred by airlines around the world because of its fuel efficiency, reliability and spacious passenger cabin. The 777-300ER is the world's largest long-range twin-engine jetliner, capable of carrying 365 passengers up to 7,930 nautical miles (14,685 kilometers).

Etihad Airways Buys 55 Airbus Aircraft, Including the A380 and A350

Etihad Airways Buys 55 Airbus Aircraft, Including the A380 and A350 July 15, 2008: Etihad announced orders for 55 Airbus, including ten A380s, and 45 Boeing aircraft on the first day of the Farnborough air show. (Airbus photo)Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has signed a firm contract for the purchase of 20 A320s, 25 A350 XWBs and 10 Airbus A380 aircraft. The agreement was signed by James Hogan, Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Airways and Tom Enders, Airbus President and CEO during a ceremony at the 46th Farnborough International Air Show. “The new generation Airbus aircraft we have ordered are amongst the most fuel efficient and will help maintain Etihad’s fleet as one of the youngest and greenest in the sky. “The size of our order also mirrors the rising prominence of the Middle East and its increasing emergence as a new focal point of global aviation,” said James Hogan. Today, Etihad Airways’ fleet of Airbus aircraft comprises 30 passenger aircraft with an additional 17 to be delivered from existing orders. Etihad Airways also has two Airbus Freighter aircraft. In taking the latest order for 55 aircraft into account, Etihad Airways’ total Airbus fleet will grow to 104 aircraft. “We are delighted Airbus’ partnership with Etihad Airways continues to grow. By selecting and ordering the A350, Etihad Airways will have aircraft from the entire Airbus product range. And the additional order for the A380 demonstrates the confidence Etihad places in this unique product. Airbus is rightfully proud that a dynamic airline like Etihad Airways recognises the value of the operational commonality, efficiency and performance that only Airbus aircraft deliver,” said Tom Enders. The A320 Family, which includes the A318, A319, A320 and A321, is recognized as the benchmark single-aisle aircraft family. Each aircraft features fly by wire controls and all share a unique cockpit and operational commonality across the range. Around 6,200 Airbus A320 Family aircraft have been sold and more than 3,500 delivered to some 280 customers and operators worldwide, making it the worlds’ best selling commercial jetliner ever. The A350 XWB (Xtra Wide-Body) Family is Airbus’ response to widespread market demand for a series of highly efficient medium-capacity long-range wide-body aircraft. With a range of up to 8,300 nm / 15,400 km, it is available in three basic passenger versions: the A350-800 accommodating 270 passengers, the A350-900 seating 314, and the A350-1000 for 350 passengers in a typical three-class layout. Orders for the aircraft stand at more than 350 from over 20 customers. Being greener, cleaner, quieter and smarter, the A380 is already setting new standards for air transport and the environment. In addition to offering unequalled levels of passenger comfort, space and quietness in the cabin, the A380 has unmatched levels of operating costs and fuel efficiency, consuming less than three litres per passenger per 100 kilometres. The A380 not only complies with today’s noise limits, it is also significantly quieter than any other large aircraft flying today. With a range of 8 200 nm / 15 200 km, and seating 525 passengers in a standard three-class layout while being much more eco-efficient, the A380 is the ideal equipment to alleviate traffic congestion at busy airports, while coping with growth. Orders for the aircraft stand at about 200 from over 15 customers.

US Navy Working to Lower Ships’ Fuel Costs

US Navy Working to Lower Ships’ Fuel Costs 15-Jul-2008: If the rising cost of fuel is pushing you to change some of your transportation habits, you’re not alone. The US military started to focus on energy efficiency and alternate energy sources several years ago, as a response to the triple threat of future strategic supply concerns, rising costs that eat into service budgets, and the vulnerability of their fuel supply lines to IED land mines or mine-based interdiction at sea. In addition to moves like installing wind power at Guantanamo Bay, solar-generating parking lot shaders at NAB Coronado, etc., the US Navy has a pair of key energy conservation programs that are expected to save 1.14 million barrels of oil, and about $157 million, in FY 2008. The Navy’s Incentivized Energy Conservation (i-ENCON) program is a “best practices” effort that talks to the operators and shares successful approaches among the fleet. A ship’s fuel cosumption is not a fixed total, and can vary based on shape, conditions, speed, tonnage, and other variables. By changing internal procedures and running only required power plants or improving load distribution within the ship, and adjusting key variables like ship speed during missions, ships can make performance and contingency trade-offs that make them more fuel efficient. i-ENCON began in the 1990s, and won the prestigious White House Presidential Award for Outstanding Federal Energy Management in 2002. committed to reducing ships’ energy consumption by 10% each year, and its training and awareness programs includes videos, packet books and specialized software. The most important training tool, however, is the Navy Energy Usage Reporting Systems (NEURS) that detail the energy consumption of American surface ships, and its accompanying incentive program. Underway surface ships with top-tier records receive special recognition and cash incentives of up to $90,000 or more. The money goes into commanding officers’ discretionary funds, which can be used to improve the ship and reward their crews via “recreation programs.” compared to the overall operating costs of a major surface warship, that amount of money is just a drop in the bucket. Its role in motivating best efforts and making compliance a priority throughout the ship, however, is far out of proportion to its size. Most of FY 2008’s projected fuel savings ad cost savings come from i-ENCON. The US Navy’s other major efficiency program is the Fleet Readiness, Research and Development Program (FRR&DP), which began along with FY 2008, in October 2007. FRR&DP examines new technologies that are ready for immediate deployment, and promise fuel savings that represent a solid return on investment. These technologies must be tested and validated before they can be implemented throughout the fleet. FRR&DP initiatives project more than $19 million in annual cost avoidance, mostly via fuel savings of more than 134,000 barrels. Its major success to date involves fitting stern flaps to cruisers, destroyers, and frigates ($365,000-$450,000 pr ship per year, based on oil at only $96/bbl), and now a similar solution for LSD and LHD amphibious operations ships that is expected to save about $6.3 million per year.


AN AFM-114 HELLFIRE MISSILE ONTO AN MQ-1B PREDATOR. - Mechanics with the Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, load an AFM-114 Hellfire missile onto an MQ-1B Predator unmanned aerial vehicle at Air Base, Iraq. The Predator provides integrated and synchronized close air combat operations for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance purposes.

MBDA launches Meteor's final test phase

MBDA launches Meteor's final test phase 15 July 2008: MBDA is preparing for the final phase of testing in the development of the Meteor BVRAAM (beyond visual range air-to-air missile). Following an initial safe-separation test, two guided firings (GF1-2) will validate the full end-to-end range and performance of the ramjet-powered missile. Four further guided firings (GF3-6), which will prove the missile's seeker and datalink and its resistance to countermeasures, will conclude MBDA's development contract. The GF1 launch is planned for early 2009 at QinetiQ's Hebrides sea range, where all remaining live-fire trials will be conducted. Range qualification flying could start before the end of this year. Some concerns remain regarding the size of the Hebrides range. Even when the sea area was extended for the May 2007 control and dispersion test the missile's very long range left a tight safety margin. With GF testing completed MBDA will submit the Meteor for customer approval to verify that the system behaves as required. Three guided evaluation tests (GE1-3) are planned. The weapon's demonstrated performance will determine how the entire programme moves forward. The GE tests are scheduled towards the end of 2010. Image: Filmed from an MQM-107B target drone during the last guided firing development (GFD) test in March 2008, a Meteor passes within lethal distance of the target (MBDA)

Russia says Iran war games show U.S. does not need missile shield

Russia says Iran war games show U.S. does not need missile shield MOSCOW, July 15, 2008 - Russia's foreign minister said on Friday that Iran's recent missile tests show it does not have ability to attack Europe, and disprove the U.S. justification for a missile shield in Central Europe. Iran test-fired a series of long and medium-range missiles in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz this week. The Shahab-3 missile, launched on Wednesday, could potentially reach Israel, Pakistan, and U.S. bases in the Mideast. United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Thursday that the tests proved the need to deploy interceptor missiles in Poland and a linked tracking radar in the Czech Republic, plans that have infuriated Russia, which views them as a national security threat. Russia's Sergei Lavrov said the tests in Iran "proved that the country only has missiles with a range of 2,000 km (1,240 miles)," much less than the range needed to reach Europe. "This proves what we said before, that the idea of deploying the U.S. missile shield in Europe with its parameters is not needed to monitor and respond to missiles of this range," Lavrov said following talks with Jordanian Foreign Minister Salaheddin Al-Bashir. "We are certain that talk of a missile threat emanating from Iran is an invented motive for deploying a missile shield in Europe," Lavrov said. Iran's test launches came after the Israeli Air Force conducted military exercises in early June, which were seen as a rehearsal for an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. Iran is suspected by Western states of seeking to produce nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian program. Tehran says it needs nuclear technology to generate electricity. The United States has refused to rule out a military attack on Iran over its nuclear ambitions. Lavrov said the problem requires a joint solution, rather than unilateral steps such as missile tests, threats and new bases. He also said Moscow is looking ahead to new talks with Iran, scheduled for later this month. "We advocate the continuation and buildup of diplomatic efforts to reach an agreement on Iran's nuclear dossier. We expect that discussions on the proposals made to Iran last month will help create appropriate conditions for that." Iran's chief nuclear negotiator will meet with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana on July 19 to discuss a set of incentives designed to persuade the country to halt uranium enrichment, a process needed in both electricity and weapons production.

DDG 1000 Destroyer Program Facing Major Cuts

DDG 1000 Destroyer Program Facing Major Cuts 15 July 2008: Indications are growing that the U.S. Navy is poised to forgo further construction of the advanced but very expensive DDG 1000 Zumwalt-class destroyers and end the program at two ships. Eliminating five DDG 1000s could save as much as $25 billion. (Northrop Grumman) Those first two destroyers were authorized in the 2007 budget, and shipbuilders General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman will begin construction of each ship this summer. A third ship is in the 2009 budget request, and current plans call for a total of seven Zumwalts. But the price tag for the ships is staggering: $3.3 billion per copy according to Navy planners, over $5 billion and more by outside estimates. Even at the lower price, they would be the most expensive surface combatants ever built. With the Navy's shipbuilding program considered unaffordable by budget analysts at the Congressional Budget Office and Government Accountability Office (GAO), eliminating five ships could save as much as $25 billion. On the record, Navy officials are mum about their plans. Service support for the DDG 1000 program has been lukewarm at best, and while publicly supporting the ships, Navy leaders behind the scenes have worked halt further production. The move still awaits blessing from on high, sources said, including approval from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the White House. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead "holds his cards real close," said one Congressional source. "But read the body language. He knows he's in trouble with the DDG 1000s. That ship is going to cost anywhere from $1.5 billion to $3 billion more than advertised. And when that happens there's no slush fund. The only billpayer is Navy shipbuilding." The Navy, said the congressional source, needs to protect other programs such as submarine and littoral combat ships from being cut to pay for potential DDG 1000 cost overruns. Instead of the big destroyer, the Navy also hopes to protect the CG(X) cruiser, a bigger combatant designed to protect aircraft carrier battle groups and provide ballistic missile defense. Roughead, the Congressional source said, "has his eyes on the cruiser. He's trying to make sure that ship is a national asset," the source said. But the cruiser won't be ready to build anytime soon. Navy plans officially call for the first ship to be funded in 2011, but no design has been chosen and leaders admit the CG(X) will be delayed - at least to 2015, some say, and maybe beyond. In the meantime, the Navy and its shipbuilding partners need more ships to build, and Congress - particularly House Seapower subcommittee chairman Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., who's district includes the sprawling Northrop Grumman Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula - has urged construction of more DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class Aegis destroyers. The Navy in past years steadfastly argued against more DDG 51s, but service leaders seemingly have had a change of heart. In March, then-Navy acquisition chief John Thackrah confirmed the service was analyzing the construction of more DDG 51s, and Roughead - in private - seems to have embraced the idea as well. Northrop's Ingalls yard and the General Dynamics shipyard at Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine, currently build DDG 51s, the last of which is to be completed in 2013. A Navy official would not confirm the moves to curtail DDG 1000 production at two ships, but noted the need to protect other shipbuilding programs. "We need traction and stability in our combatant lines to reach 313 ships, and we should not raid the combatant line to fund other shipbuilding priorities," Lt. Clayton Doss, a Navy spokesman at the Pentagon, said July 14. Doss noted the program of record remains in place for DDG 1000, and Congress has yet to pass a new defense bill. "Until the 2009 National Defense Act is signed by the president it is inappropriate to comment," Doss said. Work on the new Program Objective Memorandum for 2010 - a key budget-planning document - is ongoing, Doss said. "Service inputs are to be submitted to the Office of the Secretary of Defense later this month. While it would be inappropriate to discuss internal budget discussions, it is fair to say that, as one would expect, the Navy is discussing all options to develop the surface ship force for the future that will meet all identified requirements." Congress already is split on whether to authorize the third DDG 1000, requested in the 2009 budget. Senate authorizers have approved the request, while the House wants to delay the ship. The issue now awaits resolution in conference. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, whose district includes Bath Iron Works, is perhaps the DDG 1000's strongest supporter on Capitol Hill. Aware of faltering Navy support for the ship, she and Sen. John Warner, R-Va., sent a letter July 10 to Navy Secretary Donald Winter urging him to continue support "without restriction," for the ships. Collins has been trying to beat back the House move to delay the Zumwalts. "The decision by the House Armed Services Committee to slash funding for the DDG 1000 has triggered a review within the Department of Defense on the future of the new destroyer," she said July 14 in a statement released by her office. "During the past several weeks, I have had extensive discussions with CNO Roughead, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, and Defense Assistant Secretary John Young about the future of the program, which Navy officials have repeatedly testified provides much-needed capabilities." But Collins also seems to be accepting that additional DDG 1000s won't be built. "If the Navy is considering changing its shipbuilding requirements, I would expect the CNO to work with me and other members of the Senate Armed Services Committee to ensure a stable, well-funded shipbuilding plan that meets the need for expanded capabilities and keeps our skilled shipbuilding workforce strong." A scheduled July 10 meeting between England, Winter, Roughead and Young to discuss DDG 1000 was postponed when Young was called to testify before Congress on an Air Force tanker program. Sources on Capitol Hill and the Pentagon said the meeting was to be a discussion of staying "on message," and not getting ahead of official decisions. The meeting has been rescheduled for later this month. The DDG 1000 issue will get a further airing when Taylor holds a Seapower subcommittee hearing on July 31, and the GAO is at work on another critical review of the program

Patriot punch for Indian air defence

Patriot punch for Indian air defence As India prepares to ward off threats from ballistic missiles, the US has offered to equip the Indian military with a combat-proven surface-to-air guided missile system designed to protect US troops from tactical ballistic and cruise missile strikes. Acting in response to a request for proposal (RFP) floated by the Indian ministry of defence for medium range surface-to-air missiles, US defence contractor Raytheon made a sales pitch for the Patriot air defence system at the Farnborough international air show on Tuesday.
Patriot programme vice president Skip Garrett told HT that the officials of the US department of defence had made two classified briefings detailing Patriot’s capabilities and India had “formally expressed interest” in the system’s newest configuration. The PAC-3 missile incorporated in the upgraded Patriot system uses hit-to-kill technology to destroy ballistic missile targets. The US has invested over $3 billion during the last 10 years to improve Patriot's performance. Garrett, a retired two-star general, said the system would remain the cornerstone of US Army’s air defence till 2028. The Patriot is capable of simultaneously engaging multiple targets in severe electronic countermeasure conditions. Garrett will have to contend with global rivals, including Russian and the Israeli manufacturers, in his quest for an Indian order. Likely competition could come from the Israeli Arrow-2 missile defence system and a variant of Russia’s S-300 surface-to-air missiles that can intercept tactical ballistic and cruise missiles. But it is doubtful if the US, which partially funded the Arrow programme, will allow Israel to vend the system to a third country. The range of tactical ballistic missiles is typically around 150-300 km. The MoD had asked international vendors to respond to the RFP by July-end, but the deadline has been extended by two months to give them a fair chance to compete.

Indian warships to shield PM during SAARC meet in Lanka

Indian warships to shield PM during SAARC meet in Lanka
15 Jul 2008, NEW DELHI: India is not taking any chances with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's security during his visit to Colombo for the SAARC summit early next month. The Centre is planning to despatch three warships, including two frontline guided-missile destroyers, to Sri Lankan waters as security cover for the PM and his entourage from the much-feared LTTE. With national security adviser M K Narayanan personally looking into the issue due to the "high threat perception" from the LTTE, hectic consultations are on between India and Sri Lanka to ensure fool-proof security arrangements. As the Tamil Tigers are known to use suicide bombers, there can be no room for mistakes. With the LTTE having both air and naval wings, and even using trained deep-sea divers for underwater suicide missions, Indian experts obviously do not want to take any chances. What must also be weighing on the minds of the Indian agencies is the LTTE's success in using light aircraft to bomb a military airfield near Colombo without the radar detecting it. Sources said the contingent of the Special Protection Group (SPG)—which provides "proximate security" to the PM—would be much larger this time as compared to the PM's other foreign visits. While the eight-day summit will begin on July 27, the PM will attend it only on the last two days. Apart from Sri Lankan security personnel, security cover will be bolstered by the three Indian warships, including a Delhi-class destroyer and a Rajput-class destroyer, equipped with Sea King and Chetak helicopters. "They will be geared to meet the entire spectrum of security requirements," said a source. The 6,900-tonne Delhi-class destroyer, with a 360-crew, for instance, is "a power-projection warship" capable of operating even in an NBC (nuclear-chemical-biological) environment, with a wide array of missiles and weapon systems. There is even talk of IAF helicopters being deployed in the skies over Colombo for aerial surveillance of high-security zones like the Colombo Fort and Kolpetty areas, apart from strengthening the air defence cover around the summit. The high-profile Indian armed presence is bound to attract some criticism in Sri Lanka. In fact, a section is already up in arms over the high costs of security, including hundreds of bullet-proof vehicles. Some nationalist groups are upset with reports that Indian security personnel will "swamp" Colombo when the PM is there.

India's ONGC could buy U.K. co. operating in Russia, Kazakhstan

India's ONGC could buy U.K. co. operating in Russia, Kazakhstan MOSCOW, July 15, 2008 - Indian oil and gas company ONGC intends to buy 100% of shares in Imperial Energy, a British oil company operating in West Siberia and Kazakhstan, a business daily reported on Tuesday. Imperial Energy, which reached a production rate of over 10,000 barrels of oil per day in December 2007 and aims to achieve 25,000 bpd by the end of 2008, said on Monday it had received a takeover offer but gave no further details. According to Kommersant, which cited an unnamed investment banker, the deal had been prepared since January but only received the approval of Imperial Energy's board of directors and the U.K.'s Financial Service Agency in June. The deal is being managed by Deutsche Bank on behalf of ONGC and by Merrill Lynch on behalf of Imperial Energy. Imperial Energy's stock will go for at least 12.9 British pounds ($25.7) per share, which would put the company's value at $2.62 billion or 67% above its market capitalization as of Friday, and 40.2% above yesterday's share price, the paper said. ONGC's sole project in Russia has been a 20% stake in the Sakhalin-I project off Russia's Pacific Coast with recoverable reserves estimated at 2.3 billion barrels of oil and 485 billion cubic meters of natural gas. The Indian company has made numerous attempts to buy other asserts in Russia, Kommersant said.

Putin calls for oil, gas industry overhaul, more exploration

Putin calls for oil, gas industry overhaul, more exploration SEVERODVINSK, July 15, 2008 - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called Friday for a major technological overhaul in the oil and gas sector, as well as more exploration to find new strategic deposits. "It is obvious that Russia's oil industry and gas sector have reached a crucial juncture, where their growth potential with available sources of raw materials and outdated technology has been almost exhausted," Putin told a conference on oil and gas sector development. Speaking about exploration, the prime minister said he in particular meant eastern Siberia, the Yamal Peninsula in northwest Siberia, and the continental shelf. He said oil companies had committed themselves to eliminate a drop in oil production levels by the yearend, adding that the companies pledged to do so after the government adopted a decision to alleviate the tax burden on the sector. "In response to such actions on the part of the government, oil companies... committed themselves to make up, in yearend results, for the current production drop," Putin said. The Russian premier also said modern resource-saving technologies should be introduced in the oil and gas sector. "We cannot do without the introduction of up-to-date resource-saving technologies, without increasing the efficiency of the use of raw materials," he said. Putin said Russia was and would be able in the long term to provide for the demands of the domestic and foreign markets in energy resources.

Iran says Shahab-3 missile has longer than reported range

Iran says Shahab-3 missile has longer than reported range TEHRAN, July 15, 2008 - Iran's Shahab-3 missiles have a range greater than the reported 2,000 km (1,240 miles), Iran's Fars news agency said on Monday, quoting the country's deputy defense minister. Iran successfully launched last week an upgraded Shahab-3 ballistic missile as part of the Great Prophet III military exercises in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, drawing a new wave of international criticism. "The recently tested Shahab-3 ballistic missile has a flight range of over 2,000 kilometers and features a high kill probability," Brig.-Gen. Nasrollah Ezzati said. "Our rockets could be a factor in preventing possible aggression from Iran's enemies, and also level out the balance of power in the region," he added. He did not specify the range of the rocket. The earlier reported 2,000 km would mean that Iran could strike at Israel, and U.S. bases in the Persian Gulf. The Iranian missile tests came after the Israeli Air Force conducted military exercises involving over 100 fighters in early June. The exercises were widely seen as a 'dress rehearsal' for an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. The United States has not also ruled out a military strike against Iran if the Islamic Republic refuses to halt its nuclear program, which Western countries believe is a cover for a weapons program. Iran says it needs the program to produce electricity. Iran has reacted to rumors of an imminent attack by Israel and/or the U.S. by promising to deliver a "powerful blow" to any aggressor.

Russian Navy resumes military presence near Spitsbergen

Russian Navy resumes military presence near Spitsbergen MOSCOW, July 15, 2008 - The Russian Navy has resumed a military presence around the Arctic Ocean archipelago of Spitsbergen, which belongs to Norway, a navy statement said on Monday. "Russia's fleet has resumed a warship presence in the Arctic, including in the area of Spitsbergen," the statement said. Russia does not recognize Norway's exclusive right to the 200-mile economic zone near Spitsbergen. The statement also said that "the large ASW ship, Severomorsk, has already entered the area to fulfill its tasks." It will be joined, starting from July 17, by the Marshal Ustinov, a Russian Slava-class missile cruiser. According to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, an exclusive economic zone extends for 200 nautical miles (370 km) beyond the baselines of a country's territorial sea. A coastal nation has control of all economic resources within its exclusive economic zone, including fishing, mining and oil exploration.

Russia, China may co-design new passenger plane

Russia, China may co-design new passenger plane FARNBOROUGH, July 15, 2008 - Russia may launch a joint venture with China to continue the development of a new passenger airliner, MS-21, the head of a Russian state-run aviation corporation said on Monday. "We will come to a decision with Chinese manufacturers next year on the possibility of setting up a joint venture to design a new mid-range passenger aircraft, MS-21," Alexei Fyodorov, the CEO of the United Aircraft Building Corporation, said at the Farnborough-2008 air show in Britain. The MS-21 plane is being developed by Russia's major manufacturing companies - Ilyushin, Tupolev and Yakovlev - to replace the aging Tu-154, which currently services some 80% of Russia's passenger and freight traffic, and also the Airbus A-320 and Boeing 737 aircraft. The new passenger jet, due to enter service in 2012, is expected to be 10-15% more efficient than its class's Boeing and Airbus. However, its target price will be just $35 million, $20 million below that of the similarly-sized Boeing 737-700. Fyodorov said the financing of the project, expected to total about $6.5 billion, would be evenly split between the state and private investors. He said that China was already developing a program to build a similar type of aircraft and that a meeting with a Chinese working group was expected in the near future to discuss prospects for cooperation. Fyodorov also said Russia would soon announce international tenders for the production of MS-21 components. "We will announce global tenders with the participation of leading foreign and domestic companies to manufacture components for the MS-21, the most ambitious Russian project in the sphere of civil aviation," Fyodorov said. The single-aisle MS-21 family of passenger aircraft is designed to seat between 150 and 220 passengers and to fly up to 5,000 kilometers (3,125 miles), or 6,350 kilometers (4,000 miles) in the case of the longer-range model. Together with the Sukhoi Superjet 100 passenger plane, the MS-21 may potentially satisfy 80% of Russian air carriers' demand for new aircraft.

Boeing 777 Freighter Makes First Flight

Boeing 777 Freighter makes first flight
EVERETT, Wash., July 15, 2008 -- The first Boeing 777 Freighter, the world's most capable twin-engine cargo airplane, today successfully took to the sky for the first time and completed an initial series of tests during a flight lasting more than three-and-a-half hours. The airplane performed well. "The 777 Freighter completed the scheduled three-hour inaugural flight with no airplane performance-related issues," said Dennis O'Donoghue, vice president of Flight Operations, Test & Validation. "The only issue was a data-communication problem between the airplane and the telemetry room at Boeing Field." Boeing will identify and fix the problem to resume the flight test program as soon as possible. Due to the data-transmission issue, the 777 Freighter was unable to complete all of the first-flight tests and was returned to Paine Field in Everett, Wash. per Federal Aviation Administration procedure. The original first-flight plan called for a landing at Boeing Field. The newest member of the 777 airplane family took off at 10 a.m. (PDT) from Paine Field in Everett, Wash. It landed at 1:38 p.m. at Paine Field. During today's flight, 777 Chief Pilot Suzanna Darcy-Hennemann and 777 Deputy Chief Pilot Van Chaney took the airplane to an altitude of 18,000 feet (5,486 meters) and an air speed of 270 knots, or about 311 miles (500 kilometers) per hour, customary on a first flight. Typically, the 777s cruise altitude is 35,000 (10,668 meters), and its cruise speed is Mach 0.84, about 484 miles (779 kilometers) per hour. "This is the moment that thousands of Boeing employees have worked towards in the design, build and test of the 777 Freighter. The airplane handled perfectly," said Darcy-Hennemann after the flight ended. "Being at the controls of a commercial airplane on its maiden flight is a rare and unique opportunity and it was a great day." The 777 Freighter, the sixth member of the 777 airplane family, will be capable of flying 4,885 nautical miles (9,047 km) with a full payload, making it the world's longest-range twin-engine freighter. The airplane's range capability will translate into significant savings for cargo operators: fewer stops and associated landing feeds, less congestion at transfer hubs, lower cargo handling costs and shorter cargo delivery times. "I'm very proud of our 777 team and what they've accomplished with this airplane," said Larry Loftis, vice president 777 program, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "By working together with our customers and suppliers we have built the best possible new cargo airplane. I couldn't be more pleased." The flight-test program will involve the airplane flown today and a second one. The two aircraft will prove the airplane's safety, reliability and service-ready condition during approximately 270 flight hours and more than 450 ground test hours. Boeing's plan is to earn certification from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and Europe's Joint Aviation Authority during the fourth quarter and deliver to launch customer Air France shortly thereafter. To date, Boeing has secured 78 firm orders from 11 customers for the 777 Freighter.