Friday, July 25, 2008

How Taliban is using technology

How Taliban is using technology
26 July, 2008 - KABUL: The once media-shy Taliban have gone hi-tech with DVDs, mobile phone messages, ring-tones, emails and a website to publicise their exploits and lambast their Afghan and Western enemies, a think-tank said. The Taliban hanged televisions and music tapes from trees in an effort to stamp out corrupting Western influences during their hardline Islamist rule of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Their leaders had only one computer, Afghanistan experts say.
But after US-led and Afghan forces toppled the austere movement following the September 11, 2001, attacks, the militants regrouped and re-launched their insurgency in 2005, copying the tactics of roadside and suicide bombs from Iraq. Now, the Taliban have also created a "sophisticated communications apparatus" using the full range of media allowing them to project an "increasingly confident movement,” the International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a report. With their own website, magazines, DVDs, audio cassettes, pamphlets and mobile phones, the ICG says, the Taliban are able to capitalise on mistakes made by the government and its allies and reveal their own “inflated tales of battlefield exploits.” Taliban statements emailed to the media talk of killing “puppet terrorists,” meaning Afghan security forces, and destroying "occupation tanks" and seizing their arms. So-called night-letters are delivered to homes warning Afghans against cooperating with the government and international troops, while DVDs, text and video messages are aimed at the more tech-savvy.
Alienation The ICG said the Afghan government and its allies must try harder to combat weakening public support and alienation caused by arbitrary detentions and civilian casualties which the Taliban are able to exploit through their media. "Whatever the military benefits of arbitrary detentions, they are far outweighed by the alienation they cause," the ICG said. A series of air strikes by international forces in Afghanistan in the last month, Afghan officials say, have killed more than 60 civilians. "The effectiveness of aerial bombardment, even if strictly exercised within the bounds of international law, must be considered against the damage to popular support," the ICG said. The Taliban, it said, are not going to be defeated militarily and are resistant to outside criticism. "Rather the legitimacy of its ideas and actions must be challenged more forcefully by the Afghan government and citizens," the ICG said. Militants should be held to public account for killing civilians and targeting community leaders through open trials, and the Afghan government and its international allies should similarly be bound by the rule of law, the ICG said. "Ultimately, winning popular support is not about telling local communities that they are better off today. It is about proving it," it said.

Venezuela to sell oil at $100 a barrel to Spain: Chavez

Venezuela to sell oil at $100 a barrel to Spain: Chavez
July 25, 2008 - MADRID: Venezuela will sell Spain up to 10,000 barrels of oil per day at 100 dollars a barrel in exchange for imports of medical equipment and other goods, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Saturday. The roughly 400 million dollars (255 million euros) which will be raised from the sale of this oil will be deposited in a bank account in Madrid which will be used by Venezuela to pay for the imports, he said in an interview with Spanish public television TVE .
"This could allow us to create a new international financial architecture in the future. It is a trial, an invention, I think it is time to start inventing new mechanisms of cooperation," he said, adding the oil sales would start "soon". "This will allow us to import food, medical equipment, technology, technology for wind energy which is of great interest to us," he added. Chavez said the agreement was finalised during his meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on Friday in Madrid. Oil prices hovered around 125 dollars a barrel on Friday after reaching a record high of over 147 dollars on July 11. Venezuela already provides oil at reduced prices to several Latin American countries including Cuba. Chavez said he had also agreed during his visit to allow Repsol to boost its presence in the Orinoco oil belt in eastern Venezuela. "You will have oil supplies guaranteed for 100 years because Venezuela has oil for 200 years," he told TVE . Venezuelan state-owned oil firm PDVSA estimates there are a total 235 billion barrels of crude in the Orinoco belt. Chavez's visit to Spain was the last stop of a tour of Europe that has already taken in Russia, Belarus and Portugal.

SOF To Convert One C-27J To Gunship Lite

SOF To Convert One C-27J To Gunship Lite July 25, 2008: The Pentagon is planning this fiscal year to buy one C-27 for quick modification as a prototype gunship to augment U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command’s (AFSOC) existing AC-130 fleet. A $1.8 billion reprogramming request from the Pentagon for FY ’08 includes a set aside for $32 million for the purchase of a single C-27, which would be modified to include “proven/known” weapons, sensors and other tactical systems for what AFSOC is calling an AC-XX Gunship Lite prototype. “This prototype will serve as a risk mitigation effort to field a new platform to operate in austere locations, with increased operational flexibility and a smaller support tail of manpower and logistics,” the reprogramming request states, noting the effort is a new start. The U.S. Army and Air Force are already on contract to buy the first C-27Js for use as light cargo transports. The aircraft are being built by an L-3/Alenia North America team, with Boeing continuing negotiations to help stand up a U.S.-based final assembly plant in Florida. Another $11.5 million is requested to execute an AC-XX feasibility study and engineering analyses associated with the so-called Gunship Lite. Further funding for the procurement of the aircraft is likely to be in the FY ’10 budget, which is now being crafted at the Pentagon. In congressional testimony earlier this year, the Special Operations Command’s (SOCOM) chief said SOCOM was trying to roll out a small fleet of gunship-oriented C-27Js but was struggling under competing Air Force budget pressures, as well as the need to pursue necessary funds via an unfunded priority list to Congress that is not part of the regular appropriations process. He told senators that it would be an “exaggeration” to say SOCOM and the Air Force were equally eager to fund the small gunship variant, but the armed service supported the combatant command’s effort nevertheless (Aerospace DAILY, March 10). SOCOM, which has limited acquisition authority of its own, listed $30 million for a “gunship lite prototype” as a high priority in its annual unfunded procurement wish list this year. Meanwhile, AFSOC has also dashed its plans to field a 30mm weapon on the AC-130U gunship. Command officials had hoped to replace the AC-130’s 40mm and 25mm weapons with a common 30mm system. But it fell short in testing. “Flight-testing revealed that it is operationally unsuitable due to unsatisfactory gunfire accuracy,” the reprogramming says. Legacy systems AFSOC is adding the 40mm and 25mm weapons back to the four AC-130Us delivered with the 30mm gun configuration. The omnibus includes a request to shift funding from the 30mm program back into the legacy systems. Also for AFSOC, the Pentagon requests $7.5 million be transferred from an account for the MC-130W weapon system trainer to one that will purchase a U-28A trainer. AFSOC has begun to purchase the modified Pilatus PC-12 fixed wing aircraft for use in low-profile intratheater lift missions. A separate line-item in the omnibus reprogramming also calls for $23.9 million to be dedicated toward the purchase of six PC-12s for use as communications relay systems for the Air Force. The mission is now being handled by C-130s and EA-6B Prowlers, which are badly needed to conduct other missions. This is also a new start program.

Cooperation a key to the international aviation market

Cooperation a key to the international aviation market 25/ 07/ 2008: MOSCOW - On July 14-20, Farnborough, a town in Hampshire, England, 30 miles west of London, hosted the 46th International Air Show, the largest such event featuring the latest achievements of the global aircraft industry. Spectators liked the prototype Boeing B-787 Dreamliner that remained grounded during the show and the low-noise Airbus A-380 jumbo jet that thrilled everyone with its clean lines and smooth performance. Russian aircraft makers displayed mock-ups of the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29-OVT Fulcrum air-superiority fighter with a vectored-thrust engine, the Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker, multi-role fighter and the civilian Sukhoi SuperJet-100 medium-haul airliner. In contrast, on July 7, military attaches from South East Asia and Latin America were shown a prototype Su-35 in Zhukovsky near Moscow. Why did the Russians bring only aircraft mock-ups to Farnborough? Should our companies attend the show without taking part in demonstration flights? Mikhail Pogosyan, CEO of Russian aviation giant Sukhoi Holding Company, said foreign experts appreciated the national aircraft industry's development levels, and he said the Su-35 and the SSJ-100 were currently being tested. Instead of taking part in expensive demonstration flights, the company wanted to streamline both planes and to finance more important projects, Pogosyan told RIA Novosti. Nevertheless, Russian companies, including Sukhoi, were very popular at the show in Farnborough. Sukhoi Civil Aircraft, a Sukhoi Holding subsidiary, and the Avialeasing Company offering professional services in aircraft leasing signed a preliminary contract for the delivery of 24 SSJs in Farnborough. SuperJet International, a joint venture involving Sukhoi Holding, Sukhoi Civil Aircraft and Italy's aerospace engineering corporation Alenia Aeronautica, a subsidiary of Finmeccanica, said it had signed two more contracts for the sale of 25 SSJ-100s. The company said Aeroflot, the largest Russian airline, as well as companies in France, Italy and The Netherlands, had ordered 100 airliners to date, and that delivery would begin next year. The Farnborough Air Show highlighted cooperation and co-production arrangements between Russian and foreign companies. Colonel General Vladimir Popovkin, Russia's Deputy Defense Minister in charge of weapons procurement, General Staff Chief Army General Nikolai Makarov and Air Force Commander Colonel General Alexander Zelin, visited Farnborough on July 14. General Popovkin later told Russian journalists that every aircraft displayed in Farnborough was the result of international cooperation. "Isolated decisions and isolated production are becoming history," General Popovkin said, promising that non-strategic Russian military aircraft would also feature foreign-made equipment. Russian armored vehicle producers recently bought thermal imaging systems, also known as infrared night vision devices, worth $1 billion, from France's company Thales. The Su-30MKI multi-role fighter being supplied to India features French, Israeli and British avionics. The SSJ-100 program involved 30 foreign companies, including Boeing, Snecma, Alenia Aeronautica, Thales and Honeywell International. Russia's United Aircraft-Building Corporation (UABC) that consolidates private and state assets manufacturing, designing and selling military, civilian, freight, and unmanned aircraft and the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS) signed a contract to convert 30 A-320 and A-321 passenger airliners into cargo planes for AerCap, a global aviation and leasing company based in The Netherlands. Fifteen of these airliners will be refitted in Lukhovitsy near Moscow, and the rest in Dresden, Germany. This will make it possible to retain skilled workers in both countries and to pave the way for long-term cooperation. Sergei Chemezov, CEO of Russian Technologies, an emerging industrial behemoth with assets in many sectors, from defense to automotive to civil aviation, discussed a Russian-U.S. joint venture now being established in Verkhnyaya Salda in the North Ural Region. Until recently, billets supplied by Russia's VSMPO-AVISMA, the world's largest titanium producer, to Boeing and Airbus were machined at plants in Europe and in Japan and used for load-bearing structures of the B-787 Dreamliner and the A-380 landing gear. This production will now be relocated to Russia. Boeing finds the deal profitable because the billets no longer have to be delivered to Europe and Japan and because Verkhnyaya Salda workers are paid less than their foreign counterparts. VSMPO-AVISMA will also profit from processing titanium shavings. There are many other examples of cooperation between Russian and foreign companies. Pogosyan said that 20 years ago, the Soviet Union returned to Farnborough for the first time in 50 years, displaying its Su-24 Fencer tactical bomber and Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack jet, the Su-27 Flanker, MiG-29 Fulcrum and MiG-31 Foxhound fighters there. At that time, the U.S.S.R. had the reputation of a formidable military superpower. Things have changed a great deal since then. The Russian aircraft industry now offers military and civilian aircraft, air-traffic safety, servicing, repair and upgrade systems and related logistics. Moscow is actively involved in international co-production arrangements and is ready to implement other mutually beneficial projects. Russian companies need to take part in international air shows such as Farnborough, and in Le Bourget near Paris, in Berlin, Singapore, Cape Town and on Langkawi Island, Malaysia, to promote Moscow's economic and political interests.

Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker

Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker
Moscow - July 25, 2008 The Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker is not quite a fifth-generation combat fighter, but it comes very close to being one. Under current plans, Russia will not be producing a fifth-generation air superiority fighter until 2015. However, the technical characteristics of the Sukhoi Su-35BM are high enough to fulfill this task, outmatching all the modern American, French and European Union generation 4-plus fighter designs, including the Super Hornet, Rafale and Typhoon. The Sukhoi Su-35 is able to withstand even the world's only fifth-generation fighter now in production, the F-22, though it is much cheaper than the American fighter -- its cost is around $40 million, compared with $300 million for the F-22. Regarding the Russian Defense Ministry's plans, the question emerges whether Russian industry would be capable of launching production in the required numbers within the scheduled period. The answer is more likely to be positive: The industrial capacities are beyond doubt, as the production of numerous modifications of Sukhoi Su-27s and Sukhoi Su-30s for export is on the rise. What the program requires is uninterrupted state funding. With the Sukhoi Su-35 launched into mass production in 2011, the 182 aircraft ordered by the Russian Defense Ministry would be delivered by 2020. By that time the Russian air force would have between 120 and 140 upgraded Sukhoi Su-27s and 30 to 40 fifth-generation fighters, enabling the air force to maintain its combat potential in the next two to three decades. There have been many successful designs in the history of aviation, but only a few could match rising combat requirements for a number of years, like the famous piston-engined Messerschmitt Bf-109 and North American P-51 Mustang air superiority combat fighters of World War II, the Tupolev Tu-95 Bear and Boeing B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers, and the Sukhoi Su-27. The T-10 prototype made its maiden flight in 1977 and another flight in 1981 after major improvements. The fighter went into mass production as late as 1984, and it still has the combat potential sufficient to remain one of the world's best aircraft. The Sukhoi Su-35BM, taking to the skies in 2008, showed even higher performance, an unprecedented improvement on a design developed 30 years ago. It's not easy to forecast what lies ahead for the Sukhoi Su-35, but no doubt it will live through a few decades of service with gradual renewal of armament and avionics, until the moment when this fighter, along with more sophisticated aircraft, will be replaced by aerial vehicles based on new physical principles. (Ilya Kramnik is a military commentator for the RIA Novosti news agency. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.) (United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

Raytheon's SLAMRAAM Completes System Field Integration Testing

Raytheon's SLAMRAAM Completes System Field Integration Testing
Tewksbury MA - Jul 25, 2008: Raytheon's Surface Launched Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile successfully completed system field integration testing at White Sands Missile Range, N. M., demonstrating interoperability with both Patriot and Avenger weapon systems. "Successful integration testing will help put this much-needed air defense capability into our warfighter's hands," said Pete Franklin, vice president for Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems' National and Theater Security Programs. "Interoperability is the key to enhanced situational awareness." SLAMRAAM demonstrated its ability to form a network of sensor elements tracking live targets and providing each battlefield element with a common air picture with fire quality data. Avenger fire units with Stinger missiles under SLAMRAAM command and control received targeting data directly from the SLAMRAAM system allowing precise slew-to-cue of the gunner turret to targets. SLAMRAAM and Patriot exchanged and displayed unit position and air track data to form a common operational air picture between the two air defense systems. SLAMRAAM interoperability testing demonstrated that these systems could work together to cover a large battlespace and allow the most appropriate weapon to engage a particular threat. SLAMRAAM also demonstrated the ability to communicate while on the move, maintaining both ground situational awareness and a live air picture at fire units to support hasty emplacement and engagements. "This was a great collaborative effort from the SLAMRAAM contractor and government team, demonstrating a distributed network in a field environment as we move away from stovepipe systems to a system that is interoperable with other air defense systems," said Susan Christiansen, the Army's SLAMRAAM deputy product manager. SLAMRAAM is a tailorable, state-of-the-art air defense system that can defeat current and emerging cruise missile threats and a wide range of air breathing threats. It provides the warfighter with a system of highly mobile battlefield elements networked and geographically distributed to provide integrated fire control capability against airborne threats.

China's mobile users top 600 million: govt

China's mobile users top 600 million: govt Beijing - July 25, 2008: The number of mobile users in China, the world's biggest cellphone market, now tops 600 million, the government said, as subscribers increasingly abandon fixed lines. Mobile phone users in the country increased to 601 million at the end of June, up by 8.6 million from the end of May, the Ministry of Information Industry said in a statement posted on its website on Wednesday. From January to June, the nation of 1.3 billion recorded 53.5 million new cellphone users, it said. By contrast, fixed-line subscribers fell by 9.3 million in the first six months to 356 million, it said. Mobile service is becoming more popular in the country after operators lowered tolls in March for making phone calls outside a user's registered local service area and cancelled charges for answering calls in some cities. China has been leapfrogging into the age of mobile telephony because of the huge costs associated with installing fixed lines across a nation the size of the United States.

Boeing Delivers 747-400 Freighter to Cargolux

Boeing Delivers 747-400 Freighter to Cargolux EVERETT, Wash, July 25, 2008 -- The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] recently delivered to Cargolux Airlines International S.A. its 16th and last 747-400 Freighter with a ceremony at Paine Field in Everett, Wash. This year celebrates the 30th anniversary of Cargolux taking delivery of its first Boeing 747 Freighter. The airplane, dubbed "City of Contern," was delivered before a contingent of official representatives from the commune of Contern, Luxembourg, as well as Luxembourg-based media. Cargolux is the launch customer for the 747-8, and will take delivery of the first of its 13 Boeing 747-8 Freighters in 2009. Cargolux's new 747-8 Freighters will offer significant capacity benefits over their 747-400F fleet, with a maximum structural payload capacity of 140 metric tonnes (154 tons) and 16 percent more revenue cargo volume, with slightly greater range and 16 percent lower tonne-kilometer costs.

Germany's Daimler to buy into Russian truck maker KamAZ

Germany's Daimler to buy into Russian truck maker KamAZ MOSCOW, July 25, 2008 - German auto giant Daimler may buy a 42% stake in Russian truck maker KamAZ, Moscow-based investment company Troika Dialog said on Friday. Troika Dialog said Russian Technologies Corp., a diversified industrial giant which holds 37.8% in KamAZ, approved the choice of Daimler Trucks as the company's 'exclusive partner' after months of negotiations with a number of Western truck makers. It added that the deal could be closed before the end of 2008. Troika Dialog said Daimler Trucks sees the acquisition of an interest in KamAZ as one option among others for entering the Russian market. KamAZ, based in the Volga Republic of Tatarstan, produces more than 30 models of trucks, as well as trailers, buses, tractors and spare parts. It also manufactures engines and components. The company has assembly facilities in Poland, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Vietnam and Ukraine. Russian Technologies Corp was established by a Russian presidential decree in November 2007 as a spinoff of arms exporter Rosoboronexport, to promote the development, production and export of high-tech industrial products.

U.S. set to bag contract for Navy surveillance planes from India

U.S. set to bag contract for Navy surveillance planes from India July 25, 2008 - NEW DELHI: The U.S. is set to bag a multi-billion dollar Indian Navy contract for maritime surveillance planes, with both sides deciding to put the contentious issue of signing an end user agreement on the backburner. A Boeing-led consortium had concluded all technical and price negotiations for the $ 2.2 billon contract and the proposal would now be taken to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for approval, said Ministry of Defence sources. This would be the second major military aviation contract signed with the U.S. this year. Both were in areas, once the preserve of the Russians. The first contract was for six all-weather all-terrain C-130 J military transport planes with Lockheed Martin. All military transport planes in the Indian armed forces’ inventory were of Russian origin. Similar all long-range surveillance planes were from Russia and the Boeing P-8i maritime reconnaissance planes would be breaching that suzerainty. The sources said if the Navy was satisfied with the planes, repeat orders could be placed in future. A sticking point in the deal was the end user agreement which made inspection of the sold platform mandatory to ensure that the technology was not passed on to the wrong hands. India objected to this. Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta, said: “The U.S. may have this kind of [end user] agreements with everyone. I don’t believe in that. We pay for something and we get some technology. What I do with it is my thing.” Instead of stretching the negotiations because of differing views on the agreement, the two sides decided to revisit it later. This was because the first plane would arrive four years after the contract was signed, leaving enough time to discuss and conclude the end user’s agreement. It could not be confirmed whether India would sign a package deal on end user agreements on all high-tech contracts. The end user agreement was in the eye of the storm earlier this year when the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) panned the Indo-U.S. deal for a huge second hand troop landing ship. “[The] restrictive clauses raise doubts about the real advantages from this deal. For example, there are restrictions on the offensive deployment of the ship and permission would be given to a foreign government to conduct an inspection and inventory of all articles transferred under the end-use monitoring clause of the Letter of Agreement,” the CAG report on INS Jalashwa (formerly USS Trenton) said. However, U.S. Navy Secretary Donald Winter had denied the sale was accompanied by a ban on its use for offensive operations, adding that the U.S. did not limit the use of warships sold to other countries in support of their national defence objectives. The U.S. wanted India to sign the End Use Monitoring Agreement besides the Mutual Logistic Support Agreement, the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CIS MoA). It argued that these pacts would lead to better operational and business ties at the military level between both countries.

The Gripen Has Landed in Switzerland

The Gripen Has Landed in Switzerland July 25, 2008: The first candidate for the Partial Tiger Replacement programme (PTR) landed Emmen this morning. With the arrival of the Swedish Gripen aircraft in Switzerland, the air and ground tests for the PTR programme will begin. In the course of the second half of the year, the two other candidates, Rafale and Eurofighter, will follow. Today at 11.58 hours, two Saab Gripen aircraft landed at the Emmen airbase (LU). These two-seaters will be stationed in Switzerland for around a month from 24 July 2008. As part of the air and ground tests from Emmen as main airbase, some 30 flights are planned, some of which will also be carried out at night. In addition, about 50 sorties will be made with F/A-18 and F-5 aircraft, which will serve as targets and/or for formation flights with the PTR [candidates]. The evaluation flights form part of current flying contingents and should not cause additional flight movements at the respective airbases. And then? The arrival of the French Dassault Rafale is planned for 9 October 2008 and the European EADS Eurofighter are expected to arrive on 6 November 2008. The flight and ground test procedures will be identical for all three types of aircraft. In parallel to evaluating the air and ground test, the tenders that were handed in on 2 July 2008 will also be examined. The collected data will serve as a basis for a second call for tenders. After a second offer has been made and the subsequent evaluation report is produced in May 2009, the selection of the aircraft type is scheduled for July 2009.

France: Caesar truck-mounted 155mm howitzers for the French Army.

Caesar truck-mounted 155mm howitzers for the French Army.
July 25, 2008: Nexter Systems (formerly GIAT Industries) has delivered the first of 77 Caesar truck-mounted 155mm howitzers for the French Army. (DGA/French)

A U.S. Army soldier talks with Iraqi children

A U.S. Army soldier talks with Iraqi children during a patrol in the Shula district of Baghdad, Iraq, on July, 20, 2008.

Analysis: Tight rein on inflation is crucial for UK defence industry

Analysis: Tight rein on inflation is crucial for UK defence industry 25 July 2008: With the UK a year into the global credit crunch and possibly already in a recession, Jane's views the country's defence industry as somewhat more resilient than other sectors of the economy. This resilience has been due to the relative lack of debt on UK defence companies' balance sheets (and therefore reduced exposure to tightening credit conditions); revenues that are driven by government rather than consumer spending; medium-term revenue visibility through the fixed three-year government defence budget (set under the Comprehensive Spending Review - CSR); access to long-term government contracts; and access to export markets. However, with the UK treasury reporting in July that Consumer Price Inflation (CPI) inflation had reached 3.8 per cent and producer output inflation 10 per cent, this access to a fixed defence budget throws up its own problems and, factors that were previously beneficial, can become liabilities. The 2007 CSR assumed that CPI inflation would not exceed 2 per cent in 2007 and subsequently remain at 2 per cent until 2010. A comparison of independent forecasts produced by the treasury in July 2008 suggests inflation will stay at around 3.6 per cent through to the end of 2008 before dropping to 2.4 per cent in 2009: still 20 per cent above the inflation assumption. A longer-term inflation forecast published by the treasury in May shows CPI inflation staying stubbornly at 2.2 per cent until 2011. Should inflation persistently remain above the level planned for in the CSR, it will erase the much touted annual 1.5 per cent increase in real-terms defence spending currently programmed for the years through to 2010. This would effectively leave the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) with a reduced budget in real terms at a time when all of its costs are rising.

U.S. to Help Upgrade Pakistan Fighter Fleet

U.S. to Help Upgrade Pakistan Fighter Fleet 25 July, 2008: WASHINGTON - The White House confirmed on July 24 that it planned to shift $230 million from counter-terrorism programs to aid for Pakistan to upgrade Islamabad's aging F-16 fighter jets. The news came as U.S. President George W. Bush prepared to host Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on July 28 for talks set to focus on cooperation to fight Taliban and al-Qaeda extremists and Pakistan-Afghanistan tensions. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said a New York Times article detailing the shift was "accurate" but rejected criticisms that Pakistan chiefly views the jets through the lens of its nuclear rivalry with neighbor India. "The F-16s that they have are used in counterterrorism operations. We made them available to the Pakistanis and they need to be maintained," Perino told reporters. Pakistan's new government "is facing a lot of pressure from a severe fiscal situation" stemming partly from soaring food and energy costs, and "they need assistance from the United States," the spokeswoman said. But the Times reported that some U.S. lawmakers have greeted the proposed shift with anger, saying that Pakistan does not use its F-16s in support of the campaign against fighters in its remote tribal areas out of a fear that civilian casualties could fuel support for the extremists. Asked what the U.S. would get in return for the move, Perino replied: "The F-16s are used in their counter-terrorism operations, so we get support in our national security efforts." The package for the fighters would run about two-thirds of the $300 million that Pakistan will get this year in U.S. aid for military equipment and training, the Times said. In 2007, U.S. lawmakers specified that the monies should to go to law enforcement or counter-terrorism. The daily cited unnamed US State Department officials as saying that the upgrades would sharpen the fighters' ability to carry out accurate air strikes, reducing civilian casualties. The move came with Gilani expected to face searching questions about his fledgling government's commitment to battling Islamist extremists, particularly in the remote tribal areas along Afghanistan's border, where terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden is thought to be hiding. Bush said earlier this month that he was "troubled" by the movement of extremists from Pakistan to Afghanistan and would discuss the threat with Gilani when he visits. U.S. military commanders have reported a 40 percent rise in militant attacks on parts of eastern Afghanistan since Pakistan's new government launched peace talks with Taliban rebels in the tribal belt. Legislation was introduced in the U.S. Congress on July 15 proposing non-military aid to Pakistan be tripled to $7.5 billion over five years, but linking security aid to counter-terrorism performance. Washington has already pledged $750 million in development aid to the tribal areas over the next five years, in addition to the $10 billion in military aid it has channeled to Islamabad since 2001.