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.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Wasp Rapid Deployment Reconnaissance Vehicle (RDRV), South Africa
July 29, 2008: The Wasp rapid deployment reconnaissance vehicle is produced by BAE Land Systems OMC and was developed to satisfy the requirements for a light airborne rapid deployment vehicle. The vehicle weighs 2,550kg, allowing it to be airlifted by medium-lift helicopters and also allowing four of these vehicles to be transported by a Hercules C-130B and deployed by parachute. "The Wasp reconnaissance vehicle can be airlifted by medium-lift helicopters." The Wasp rapid deployment reconnaissance vehicle has also been designed to be multi-purpose with a payload capacity of 1,350kg that allows the cargo area to be configured in a variety of formats including personnel carrier, 60mm mortar carrier, anti-tank vehicle, gun carrier, hostage release vehicle, surveillance vehicle or command vehicle. WASP CONTRACTS In April 2008 the Wasp was chosen by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) for use by their special forces in covert operations as an air-droppable vehicle. The South Africans ordered 25 of these out of a total requirement for 40 vehicles. The vehicle is known as the Hornet by the South Africans. The Wasp was originally developed in the early 2000s in response to a proposal from Armscor. By September 2000 a prototype had been completed, which was evaluated in the period up until June 2002. In July 2003 Armscor put in an order for 25 Wasps, 50 of the interchanging platforms and 25 weapons mounts
WEAPONS The Wasp has three side-by-side seats in the front row, the centre of which has dual positions to enable firing from a weapons mount on the windscreen frame. This could be a 7.62mm machine gun, a 12.7mm machine gun, a light-recoil 20mm MG-151 type cannon or a 40mm automatic grenade launcher. In the rear of the vehicle there is a reconfigurable seat and a weapons pallet that may be fitted with various light support weapons. These can include a 60mm mortar, a 107mm multiple rocket launcher, a pedestal mounted 20mm cannon or 12.7mm machine gun. Variations of the configuration include an eight-seat troop carrier or a five-crew reconnaissance vehicle. WASP ARMOUR The vehicle has armour protection from three sides for the engine, transmission, transfer box, fuel tank and batteries. "The Wasp rapid deployment reconnaissance vehicle is known as the Hornet by the South Africans." From the front there is protection provided against 7.62mm armour-piercing attack, side protection is provided against 7.62mm ball. There is a 38mm armoured windscreen giving protection against 7.62mm ball ammunition. Under-floor protection is provided against M26 hand grenades and 200g anti-personnel mines detonated beneath the wheels. There are additional armour protection options if required. ENGINE The Wasp is powered by a Detroit Diesel Corporation (DDC) (VM Motori), 2.8l four-cylinder that can develop 100kW at 3,800rpm. The transmission is based on an automatic four-speed Daimler-Chrysler gear box. The vehicle has a top speed of 116km/h and can carry 60l of fuel and 60l of water under normal operational conditions.
Boeing Begins Final Assembly of 2nd P-8A Poseidon ST. LOUIS, July 29, 2008 -- Boeing [NYSE: BA] began final assembly of the second P-8A Poseidon for the U.S. Navy on July 24 in Renton, Wash. The aircraft, S1, is the program's static test vehicle and will be used to test the airframe's structural strength. The start of final assembly follows Spirit AeroSystems' delivery of the aircraft's fuselage to Boeing. S1 is one of five P-8A test aircraft -- three flight-test and two ground-test -- that the Boeing-led team of CFM International, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Spirit AeroSystems and GE Aviation is building for the Navy as part of a System Development and Demonstration contract. During full-scale static testing in Renton, external loads will be systematically applied to the airframe to validate that the P-8A can withstand the loads it will be subjected to during its service life. Boeing Commercial Airplanes will install about 4,000 sensors and other types of measurement instrumentation on the airframe for these tests. Boeing Integrated Defense Systems and Boeing Commercial Airplanes are working together to build the P-8A, a military derivative of the 737-800, on a new final-assembly production line in Renton. This third line takes advantage of the proven efficiencies, manufacturing processes and performance of the highly reliable Next-Generation 737. The Navy plans to purchase 108 P-8As to replace its fleet of P-3C aircraft. The P-8A will provide the Navy increased capability in long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
Indian Navy to Acquire 26 Sea King, 11 Kamov-28 Helicopters
July 29, 2008: The Indian Navy is all set to strengthen its air fleet by acquiring 26 Sea King anti-submarine and troop carrying helicopters and 11 Kamov-28 choppers. The Defence Ministry will soon issue the request for proposal (RFP) to procure these 37 anti-submarine helicopters. The contract for choppers is worth Rs.14, 500 millionThe ministry has finalized global tenders to acquire troop carrying and anti-submarine helicopters as well as to upgrade its fleet of Sea King and Kamov-28 helicopters, a senior naval officer said. He also said that the delivery of 12 single-seat MiG-29K and 4 two-seat MiG-29KUB would start by the year-end. They will be later deployed on the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier being refitted in Russia.The first batch of four aircraft for the Navy is likely to fly into the naval air station at Goa. The officer also said that the Navy is also looking for its own Airborne Early Warning Aircraft. The navy operates 14 Sea King and 12 Kamov anti-submarine helicopters. In addition, the Sea Kings are also used for reconnaissance, search and rescue operations, and for ferrying personnel and supplies.Meanwhile, in a major drive to modernize the armed forces and expand aviation wings of the Services, the Defence Ministry today issued a RFP to procure 197 helicopters. The proposed procurement is worth Rs.30, 000 million. The armed forces will modernize their helicopter fleet by 2010 by replacing the age-old Cheetah and Chetak, which have been in service for last 40 years.
First Littoral Combat Ship Gets Underway
July 29, 2008: The U.S. Navy's first Littoral Combat Ship, the Freedom (LCS 1), left its pier for the first time Monday and moved into Lake Michigan to begin a series of underway builder's trials. The first Littoral Combat Ship, the Freedom (LCS 1), left its pier for the first time Monday and will spend the next two weeks conducting trials in Lake Michigan, said Lockheed Martin spokesman Chip Eschenfelder. (LOCKHEED MARTIN) "Freedom is now under way," said Joe North, director of Lockheed Martin's LCS program, in a statement. The 378-foot long ship will spend the next two weeks conducting the trials, said Lockheed spokesman Chip Eschenfelder. During that time, engineers from Lockheed Martin, its shipbuilder, Marinette Marine, and other subcontractors will check out the ship's propulsion, communications, navigation and mission systems, as well as other ship systems, Eschenfelder said. The ship will not remain underway for the entire period, but will return to harbor or anchor for most nights. If the builder's trials are successful, the Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey will then conduct acceptance trials to determine if the ship's systems meet standards. If all goes well, the ship should leave the Great Lakes later this year to head for its homeport in San Diego. Marinette Marine and Lockheed have been working hard to prepare for the trials, which the shipbuilders had hoped to carry out last spring. The LCS program, which originally envisioned a two-year construction period for the ships, has experienced multiple design and production difficulties, and Freedom is more than a year behind schedule. The ship's keel-laying was held in June 2005, and it was launched in September 2006. Costs for the first-of-its-kind ship have risen dramatically. Projected in 2004 at $220 million, the price tag has more than doubled. Navy and Lockheed officials won't reveal current numbers, but sources have said the price for the first ship is at least $500 million. Delays and cost growth have also affected Lockheed's competitor in the LCS program, the General Dynamics Independence (LCS 2), which is under construction at Austal USA in Mobile, Ala. Cost growth and a desire to renegotiate the construction contracts caused the Navy last year to cancel construction of each company's second ship, and for now, the Freedom and Independence are the only LCS ships under construction. Three more have been approved or requested, but contracts have yet to be awarded. Navy officials have been loathe to show off the new ships publicly, and shipyard visits by the media and independent analysts have been severely limited or not allowed at all. At 2,862 tons full load, the Freedom represents the first of what the Navy hopes will become a total of 55 ships. The LCS is intended to fight in waters near shore and carry out a variety of missions, including fighting off surface ships, hunting submarines and clearing out mines. Once the ships are completed, the Navy will carry out competitive trials of the Freedom and Independence and decide whether to build more of each design or concentrate on just one.
Indian Light Helicopter RFP Out
July 29, 2008: Seven months after India scrapped its bid for 197 light helicopters for the Indian army given to Eurocopter, it has once again released a request for proposal (RFP) to replace its aging Chetak and Cheetah helicopters. Aerospace Daily has learned the RFP has not changed much and has been given to the same companies as was the previous document. It is expected that the helicopters will go in to service by 2010. While the Indian army and the air force jointly require 312 helicopters, the size of the tender was reduced after government-owned Hindustan Aeronautics assured it would deliver 115 platforms over the next five-to-six years. According to the RFP, 133 will be for the army and 64 for the air force. Bid submissions are due in three months, following which the army and the air force will jointly evaluate the bid - a process likely to be completed by the end of 2009. Vendors include Eurocopter, Bell, MD Helicopters, AgustaWestland, Kamov and Kazan. The last time around, the Eurocopter AS-550 and Bell 407 made it to the final round. It is not clear if the deal will be negotiated based on Defense Procurement Procedure-2006 (DPP-2006) as the revised DPP-2008 is not yet announced. According to a government source, the DPP 2008 will be unveiled in the first week of August.
Militants abduct about 30 Pakistani police, troops
Tue Jul 29, 2008: PESHAWAR, Pakistan - Suspected Islamic militants abducted about 30 police and paramilitary troops in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, a day after three intelligence agents were killed there in an ambush, officials said. Security was deteriorating in the Swat Valley despite a peace deal reached in May between the provincial government and pro-Taliban militants. Insurgents overpowered the security forces who were manning a security post in Swat's Deolai area, police official Ismail Khan said. The army said that 27 troops and police were missing. Most were feared kidnapped, though it appeared that a few of them had managed to flee and hide, spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said. A militant spokesman, Bakht Ali Khan, claimed responsibility and accused the government of not sticking to the peace accord. "The government is not honoring the peace agreement with Taliban and the government will be responsible for any consequences," he said. "We will take revenge for any action against us." On Monday, Ismail Khan said militants ambushed a pickup truck and shot three intelligence agents inside. Abbas blamed followers of Mullah Fazlullah — a pro-Taliban cleric who last year took control of large tracts of Swat until an army operation drove militants out. Ali Khan, a spokesman for Fazlullah, also claimed responsibility for the killings, saying it was revenge for the alleged torture of militants in the custody of security forces. In other unrest in the Swat Valley, security forces traded gunfire Tuesday with militants after a military convoy came under attack, Ismail Khan said. There was no report of casualties. He said militants also burned down a girls school in Khawaza Khela town — the latest in a series of such arson attacks, apparently motivated by a fundamentalist opposition to girls' education. Swat lies in an area of northwestern Pakistan that has increasingly come under the sway of Islamic militants as the government's grip on the region has weakened. Last year, the army launched a major operation that banished militants to the mountains, but since the May deal they have re-established their presence in the valley. Pakistan is facing increasing Western pressure to act against Taliban and al-Qaida strongholds in its frontier regions with Afghanistan, amid concern its policy of seeking peace gives militants more freedom to operate and launch attacks on U.S. and NATO forces over the border.
Indonesia condemns deadly bombings in India, Turkey JAKARTA, July 29, 2008 -- The Indonesian government strongly condemns the weekend bombings which claimed 45 lives in the Indian city of Ahmedabad, and 17 in Istambul, Turekey, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Kristianrto Soeryo Legowo said here on Tuesday. "The deadly bombings in India and Turkey indicate that terrorist attacks can happen anywhere and anytime," Kristianrto Legowo said, adding that the international community should continue to cooperate in dealing with the criminal activity. He said the Indonesian government hoped that the perpetrators of the bombings could be arrested soon and processed in accordance with the existing legal rules. Kristiarto said the ministry was coordinating with the Indonesian embassies in New Delhi and in Ankara to find out if any fatalities in the incidents. "But according to preliminary information there are no Indonesian nationals among the fatalities," he added.
Russian mini-subs surface after dive to bottom of Siberian lake
IRKUTSK, July 29, 2008 - Two Russian mini-submarines came to the surface of Siberia's Lake Baikal on Tuesday after a dive to the bottom of the world's deepest lake. The Mir-1 and Mir-2 submersibles were shown on TV channel Vesti-24 being lifted onto a barge after their ascent from one of the deepest points of what locals call the 'Sacred Sea'. The crew earlier claimed to have reached a depth of 1,680 meters (5,500 feet), but around 20 minutes after the subs resurfaced, expedition leader Artur Chilingarov told reporters that no records had been broken. "This was not a record, we didn't do this to break records," he said. Expedition member Anatoly Sagalevich clarified that Mir-1 had reached a depth of 1,580 meters (5,184 feet) during a 90 minute descent, while Mir-2 reached 1,592 meters (5,223) in just over one hour. The record of 1,637 meters (5,371 feet) for a freshwater dive is held by a 1990s Baikal exploration team. Chilingarov is a Russian lawmaker who also led a symbolic dive to the North Pole seabed last August, during which a Russian flag was planted on the seabed. The mini-subs, which were used for the Arctic dive and had been specially adapted for freshwater conditions, were submerged in the middle of Lake Baikal, between Olkhon island and the Svyatoy Nos ('sacred nose') peninsula. Chilingarov earlier said the Mir dives were "a logical continuation of lake exploration that was begun 30 years ago with the Pisces apparatus." Soviet scientists in a Pisces submersible reached a depth of 1,410 meters (4,600 feet) in 1977, and examined the lake's bed with searchlights. The lake has since been the focus of numerous Soviet, Russian and international research expeditions. Baikal, whose age scientists estimate at 25 million years, is a UNESCO World Heritage site with hundreds of species of unique fauna and flora. Crew member Natalia Komarova told reporters before the dive that the results of the expedition would have an important impact on environmental legislation, and that new safeguards would be needed to protect the lake, given the planned intensive economic and industrial development of East Siberia over the coming years. The lake has been the focus of major environmental scares in recent years, with a last-minute change to an oil pipeline route that was set to pass near Baikal's shores, and environmental regulators' claims against a pulp mill accused of pumping large volumes of toxic waste into the lake. 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.
Boeing Airborne Laser Team Begins Testing Laser With Chemical Fuel
St. Louis MO (SPX) Jul 29, 2008: Boeing, industry teammates and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency have completed installing the high-energy laser aboard the Airborne Laser (ABL) aircraft and have begun testing the laser with its chemical fuel at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The tests involve flowing the laser's chemicals through the laser to confirm sequencing and control. Once these tests are completed, the test team will fire the laser aboard the aircraft on the ground for the first time. "The Airborne Laser team has done a great job preparing the high-energy laser for these fuel tests, which will lead the way toward achieving 'first light' of the laser aboard the aircraft," said Mike Rinn, Boeing vice president and ABL program director. "Once again, we made and demonstrated enormous progress toward ushering in a new age of directed-energy weapons." Repeated laser firings aboard the aircraft will demonstrate lasing duration and power at levels suitable for the destruction of multiple classes of ballistic missiles. The laser will then be fired through the aircraft's beam control/fire control system, including the nose-mounted turret. This will be followed by functional check flights of the entire ABL weapon system. The test campaign will start with the first airborne intercept of a ballistic missile in 2009. The ABL aircraft consists of a modified Boeing 747-400F whose back half holds the high-energy laser, designed and built by Northrop Grumman. Before being installed, the high-energy laser completed rigorous ground testing in a laboratory at Edwards. The aircraft's front half contains the beam control/fire control system, developed by Lockheed Martin, and the battle management system, provided by Boeing.
New records set at Berlin Air Show 28.07.2008 Volker K. Thomalla Exhibitors at the Berlin Air show 2008 have every reason to be pleased, with an excellent response from trade visitors and the general public alike. Measured by numbers, the Berlin Air Show has no reason to be shy of comparisons with other international air shows: 241,000 visitors made their way to the temporary exhibition grounds at Berlin Schoenefeld Airport between 27 May and 1 June The first few days were devoted to trade visitors, who also came in great numbers. By the end of the trade days the number of visitors had reached 120,000. This high number of industry representatives was noticeable in the number of deals that were concluded: during the show exhibitors announced the signing of orders worth over five billion euros. There were also record numbers of aircraft. At none of the big global airshows are more aircraft represented than at ILA 2008. Besides the A380, which was the undisputed star of the flying programme, there were plenty of other highlights to marvel at: the C-5 Galaxy, B-1B, C-130J Hercules and other types flown by the USAF, the Eurofighter, P-3 Orion and a large range of helicopters belonging to the Bundeswehr. Among the more exotic species seen at the airfield were a Hungarian Mi-24, a Polish An-26 and a Polish MiG-29, a Hungarian Gripen and a Rafale belonging to the French Armee de l’Air. Politically, the air show enjoyed support “at the highest level”. Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the trade fair with a tour of the exhibits, while Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Michael Glos and Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung attended on different occasions. As a partner country to the ILA, India had a very visible presence. Not only was an Indian Air Force helicopter squadron to be seen flying in formation in the air display programme every day with their four Dhruv helicopters, but over 40 exhibitors from India had come to Berlin to present their services. Again, this year’s partner country took an active part in the conference sessions. The conference programme took the form of over 80 conferences, ranging from extensive events like the “European Air Transport Congress” or the “European Technology Days” to very specialised conferences such as “Pilot assistance system for helicopters”. The Berlin Air Show sets the standard as far as space is concerned. No other international aerospace fair offers such a broad range of exhibitors from the space industry as the Berlin Air Show. New activities at ILA included the Career Centre and the International Suppliers Centre. Both of these were well-received by exhibitors and visitors alike. In the Career Centre the ILA has created a communication platform that is internationally unique in this form, at which employers and would-be recruits were able to discuss the opportunities and prospects of a career in aerospace. If the shortage of aerospace engineers becomes any more acute, the Career Centre will gain further in importance. The supplier industry currently faces major challenges, as all the systems manufacturers want to reduce the number of suppliers they use dramatically. Hence the International Suppliers Centre was an important element in the overall offerings at the airshow. A number of exhibitors and visitors were critical of the fact that the temporary premises were located on the building site of the future Berlin Brandenburg International Airport. The consistently good weather caused a lot of dust to develop on the building site so that the aircraft had to be cleaned anew every day. There were also problems some days with access to the temporary car parks. These problems were always resolved by the organisers within a day. Once the airshow is over, the two organisers, the German Aerospace Industries Association and Messe Berlin, can turn their attentions to the next Berlin Air Show, which will take place between 8 and 13 June 2010.
Emirates Airline Buys 60 Airbus Wide-Body Aircraft July 29, 2008: Emirates has signed a letter of intent for 60 additional Airbus widebodies including 30 A350XWBs, which will bring its total A350 fleet to over 100. (Airbus imagery)Dubai based Emirates Airline has signed a Letter of Intent (LoI) for 30 Airbus A350XWB plus 30 A330-300s. The agreement was signed between Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive Emirates Airline and Group and Tom Enders, Airbus President and CEO on the occasion of their first A380 delivery in Hamburg, Germany. At the 10th Dubai Airshow in 2007, Emirates signed a firm order for 70 A350 XWBs with an option for 50 more. Today’s agreement includes the firming up of 30 of these A350 XWB options and will eventually increase Emirates’ total order for the A350 XWB to 100. Sheikh Ahmed said, “Dubai's aims to attract 15 million visitors a year by 2012 and Emirates is forging ahead with expansion plans. The A350 XWB and A330 will enable Emirates to expand using modern fuel efficient aircraft and alongside the A380 will be key tools in achieving our goals.” “Emirates Airline continues to impress with its pace of growth. We are honoured in the faith Emirates places in Airbus and we are delighted that the vision and innovation that are hallmarks of the A330, the A350 and all Airbus aircraft products, will further support the growth and success of Emirates. These orders and the delivery of its first A380, make this a truly remarkable day in the history of both companies,” said Tom Enders, Airbus President and CEO. 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, which is reinforced today by high fuel prices. The A330-300 is the current most economical means of flying around 300 passengers on medium range routes in true long-haul comfort. 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. The A350 has the widest fuselage in its category, offering unprecedented levels of comfort, the lowest operating costs and lowest seat mile cost of any aircraft in this market segment. Powered by two new generation Rolls Royce Trent XWB engines delivering each up to 92,000 lbs of thrust, the A350 XWB Family is designed to confront the challenges of high fuel prices, rising passenger expectations, and environmental concerns. Not taking the Emirates LoI into account, firm orders for the aircraft stand at more than 470 from 28 customers.
India Invites Bids for 197 Military Helicopters
29 July, 2008: India on Thursday [July 24] invited bids for 197 utility helicopters for the army and the air force Thursday, with the choppers expected to be inducted by 2010 in a deal that has been valued at Rs.30 billion ($750 million), an official said. Between them, the two services require 312 helicopters but the size of the tender was reduced after state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) assured the defence ministry that it would be in a position to develop a similar platform and supply the remaining 115 machines in the next five to six years, the defence ministry official said. “The request for proposal (RFP) for 197 helicopters - 133 for the army and 64 for the air force was issued today (Thursday),” the official added. The Indian Army urgently needs replacements for its ageing 1970s-vintage Chetak and Cheetah helicopters, as it modernises and expands its Army Aviation Corps (AAC) to meet current and future rapid mobility battlefield requirements. The Indian Air Force also uses Chetaks and Cheetahs to ferry supplies in high-altitude regions like the Siachen glacier in Jammu and Kashmir - considered the world’s highest and coldest battlefield. “Three months time will be given to the vendors to respond to the RFP, followed by three months of scrutiny (of the bids received). Thereafter, the army and the air force will jointly evaluate the helicopters (on offer). This process is likely to be completed by the end of 2009,” the official said. Six contenders are in the fray: the Eurocopter AS550-C3 manufactured by a four-nation European consortium, the Bell-407 and the MD500 of the US, Agusta of Italy, and Kamov and Kazan of Russia. The deal will be negotiated on the provisions laid down the Defence Procurement Procedure-2006 (DPP-2006) as the revised DPP-2008 is yet to be announced. “There will be a licensed transfer of technology to HAL but only for maintenance of the helicopters,” the official added.
Indian submarine to join navy after delayed refit in Russia
ST. PETERSBURG, July 29 (RIA Novosti) - 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.
Su-27 Flanker fighter crashes in Russia's Far East, 1 pilot dead
MOSCOW, July 29 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian Su-27 Flanker air superiority fighter crashed on Tuesday in the Primorye Territory in Russia's Far East, killing one pilot, an Air Force spokesman said. The $35-mln combat aircraft crashed at 11.30 Moscow time (07.30 GMT) while conducting a routine training flight near an airfield 12 kilometers (7 miles) north of Ussuriisk. "One of the pilots was killed, and the other survived the crash," Lt. Colonel Vladimir Drik said, adding that no casualties or damage on the ground had been reported. The Su-27 Flanker and its variant, the Su-30 Flanker C, account for a major share of Russia's arms exports. Last year, Sukhoi exported 50 of these aircraft, accounting for 50% of Rosoboronexport's export revenues. An Su-27 fighter from the 6th Air Army flying from St. Petersburg to Kaliningrad, a Russian Baltic exclave surrounded by European Union states, crashed on September 15, 2005 on Lithuanian territory after a navigation system failure. Russia has compensated Lithuania $23,000 in damages for the accident. On July 27, 2002 a Ukrainian Air Force Su-27 of the Ukrainian Falcons crashed during an aerobatics presentation at Sknyliv airfield near Lviv, Ukraine, killing 85 people and injuring over 100 spectators. The crash remains the world's worst airshow disaster to date.
The 2006 Saudi Shopping on Arms Spree
July 29, 2008: On Nov 14/06, a US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notice hinted that Saudi Arabia may be about to become the first F-15 operator to switch its Pratt & Whitney F10 jet engines for General Electric’s F110. The total contract could be worth up to $1.5 billion. There’s often a long delay between the DSCA announcement and a contract, however, let alone delivery. The GE F110 was developed as an engine alternative to Pratt & Whitney’s original F100, and has since become very popular in F-16s due to its higher thrust. Most of the USAF’s current F-16 fleet currently flies with GE F110 engines, for instance. Despite extensive US F-15E trials in 1999, however, almost all F-15s worldwide use the P&W F100 engine. South Korea’s new F-15Ks and Singapore’s new F-15SG Strike Eagles will fly with the F110 as pre-installed equipment, becoming the first F-15 fleets to do so. Saudi Arabia’s F-15S variant did become the first fleet to perform a re-engining switch… but don’t forget the training. Saudi F-15 The Saudi F-15S is an F-15E Strike Eagle variant with downgraded avionics, downgraded LANTIRN night viewing and targeting pods, and a simplified Hughes APG-70 radar without computerised radar mapping. It serves beside F-15C/D air superiority fighters in the Royal Saudi Air Force. Each fighter has 2 engines, and any purchases must also account for inventory spares. Foreign Military Sales from the USA are typically managed by a US military agency, working on the customer’s behalf. July 24/08: Don’t forget the training. The USAF is modifying a cost plus fixed fee contract with Battelle Memorial Institute of Columbus, OH by an estimated $18.5 million. BMI will modify Royal Saudi Air Force F-15S aircraft maintenance trainers and integrated avionics trainers to add training related to the new GE engines. At this time all funds have been obligated. 558 ACSG/PK at Hill AFB, Utah manages this FMS contract (FA8223-08-C-0006). Dec 7/07: The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces Saudi Arabia’s request for 40 of Lockheed Martin’s AN/AAQ-33 SNIPER Advanced Targeting Pods, which would replace the older LANTIRN twin-pod systems installed on Saudi F-15S Strike Eagles. Sniper ATP pods significantly enhance an aircraft’s strike capability by adding stabilized long-range laser tracking and targeting illumination, high performance day/night surveillance, GPS targeting capabilities, and even some air-air target detection and tracking abilities to aircraft using them. Note that a DSCA request is not a contract. See “Saudis Seek Sniper ATP Supplementation for F-15S” for more. Oct 3/07: GE announces that the Royal Saudi Air Force has selected General Electric Company’s F110 fighter engine to begin to re-engine its twin-engine Boeing F-15S aircraft. The initial agreement calls for the purchase of 65 of GE’s F110-GE-129C engines, plus a logistic support package. Deliveries begin in 2008, and the entire package has a total value of more than $300 million. The F110-GE-129 engine model that will power the Royal Saudi aircraft incorporates GE’s Service Life Extension (SLEP) hardware, which includes the core of a successful CFM56 commercial engine, 3D aero technology, and upgrades to the combustor and high-pressure turbine. The enhancements reportedly provide up to a 25% improvement in cost-per-flying hour, a significant on-wing increase, and elimination of special inspections. GEAE release. Nov 14/06: The DSCA release states that this purchase “will help overcome an ongoing sustainment problem with RSAF’s F-15S engines that has affected their air operations. The RSAF is considering re-engining its 70 F-15S aircraft [DID: of the original 72], or undertaking a massive recovery/re-sustainment plan of the current engines, or a combination of both.” The purchase will involve aircraft integration, program management, publications, trainers; mission planning, training, spare and repair parts, repair and return services, contractor technical assistance and other related elements of logistics support, plus either: 155 General Electric (GE) F110-GE129 engines; or 20 Pratt &Whitney F100-PW229 engines to restore/refurbish the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) current inventory of P&W engines; support equipment; engine improvement program services; flight tests; Technical Coordination Group/International Engine Management; Hush House refurbishment; et. al. The prime contractor will be General Electric Corporation of Fairfield, CT and/or Pratt and Whitney of East Hartford, CT. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale, and implementation of this proposed sale will potentially require the assignment of up to 10 U.S. Government representatives and up to 10 contractor representatives to Saudi Arabia for approximately one week, semi-annually, in order to participate in program support and technical reviews. Implementation of this sale also will potentially require the assignment of several U.S. Government Quality Assurance Teams to Saudi Arabia for two weeks to assist in the delivery and deployment of the engines. There may also be approximately 15 contractors in Saudi Arabia providing technical assistance on a full time basis.
Taiwan Seeking a Better F-CK, With Possible Longer-Term Aspirations
July 29, 2008: The Taipei Times passes along a China Times bulletin noting that The Aerospace Industrial Development Corp (AIDC) based in Taichung has upgraded two of the Republic of China Air Force’s 130 F-CK-1 Ching-Kuo Indigenous Defense Fighters “to improve their combat-capabilities against China.” The modified parts include the Ching-Kuo’s avionics, fire-control system and landing gear, said the paper, and the two modified IDFs will make their formal debut on October 10, 2006. Upgrades of the other 128 aircraft will follow. If the money to do so is approved. A recent Flight International report notes that this has not happened, even as a major Taiwanese arms request that includes 66 F-16C/D fighters remains stalled in Washington. As one can see, the Ching-Kuo IDF borrows design features from the F-16 Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, and F-20 Tigershark, but its two ITEC TFE-1042 engines generate only 9,500 lbs/ 42kN thrust each, leaving it somewhat underpowered. These air superiority fighters made their first flight in 1989, and were declared fully operational in the RoC (Republic of China) Air Force of Taiwan in January 2000. The last of a total of 130 aircraft entered service in July 2000, and state-run AIDC was commissioned to carry out the IDF’s mid-life upgrade project in cooperation with the military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology. Air Force Technology had previously reported that AIDC was developing an improvement package featuring a digital cockpit and an upgraded radar. The previous Golden Dragon CD-53 multi-mode pulse Doppler radar had look-down, shoot-down capability and can operate in air and sea search mode with a range over 80 nautical miles. This is respectable performance, but many modern radars offer significant improvements. Whether improved radar performance is part of this package will make a significant difference to the Ching-Kuo’s combat capabilities, especially when facing China’s SU-30MKKs with their advanced Phazotron radars and long-range missiles. Subsequent announcements have mentioned that the upgraded “Chingkuo Imposing Eagles” have been fitted with additional fuel tanks to extend range and patrol time, a new flight control computer system, and reinforced structure to accommodate weapon pylons for an additional pair of Tienchien (Skysword) II air-to-air missiles, raising capacity from 2 to 4. One interesting note from the Taipei Times report: “AIDC is upgrading the IDFs because in most countries, warplanes are upgraded 10 years after they have entered service. Ten years ago the Air Force launched its second-generation fleet—130 IDFs, 150 F-16 Block A/Bs and 60 Mirage 2000-5s—to boost defenses against China. The Air Force is seeking to introduce its third-generation fleet.” Recent press reports have said that Taiwan may be interested in augmenting its F-16 fleet by requesting an NT 150 billion (roughly $4 billion) order of 66 F-16 C/D Block 50/52+ aircraft from the USA, and a recent Reuters report provided confirmation courtesy of a US official. Which was true, but the USA has refused to approve the sale until Taiwan approves a critical weapons package that has been languishing for years, due to the opposition Kuomintang party’s persistent stalling on ever-shifting grounds. UPDATES: July 23/08: Flight International reports that the upgrade program has yet to be funded. Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) is urging its government to fund the program, citing the USA’s ongoing refusal to approve a multi-billion arms package request that includes F-16C/D fighters. State Department officials sympathetic to China are reportedly working to block the sale, and despite China’s rapid arms buildup, US Pacific Command, commander Adm Timothy Keating is quoted as saying that Washington’s decision makers have concluded that there is “no pressing, compelling need” for an arms sale to Taiwan. March 27/07: The first upgraded Ching-Kuo fighter makes its debut at Aerospace Industrial Development Corp.’s (AIDC) central Taiwan plant in Taichung County’s Shalu township, in central Taiwan. The upgraded aircraft will be renamed the Chingkuo Imposing Eagle.
South Korean Army to Use New Rifle Next Year 29 July, 2008: SEOUL - South Korean soldiers will be armed next year with a new rifle capable of firing bullets and high-explosive grenades with a single trigger, officials said July 28. The XK-11 rifle is also equipped with electronic devices for night missions, the defense ministry's Agency for Defence Development (ADD) said in a statement. "The new rifle exceeds existing weapons in every aspect, which will significantly improve our forces' combat capabilities at a very low cost," Kim In-Woo, an ADD developer, told Yonhap news agency. The new rifle, which weighs 6.1 kilograms (13.4 pounds), costs about 16 million won ($15,900), the agency said. It can fire 5.56mm bullets and high-explosive grenades capable of exploding over targets and penetrating the walls of buildings. Several rifles used by military forces around the world are capable of firing grenades as well as bullets, but a second trigger is usually required.