(NSI News Source Info) Washington - Aug 16, 2008: The US Air Force's new chiefs vowed Tuesday to restore "perfection" as the standard for the control of US nuclear forces, in the wake of a series of embarassing blunders that cost their predecessors their jobs. "It is a mission where anything less than perfection is not acceptable. And that is the standard," said General Norton Schwartz, the air force chief of staff. "That certainly is the standard of the folks that brought that to us through the years, and we will return to that standard," he said at a news conference with Mike Donley, the new air force secretary. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates sacked their predecessors in June after an investigation into the nuclear mishaps found an erosion in standards and a loss of focus in the air force's handling of nuclear weapons. The investigation was prompted by two major incidents that shook confidence in the air force's stewardship of the sensitive nuclear mission. In September 2007, nuclear armed cruise missiles were inadvertently loaded onto the wing of a B-52 bomber at Minot Air Force Base, in North Dakota, and flown to Barksdale Air Force Base, in Louisiana. In March, the air force discovered that four fuses for nuclear weapons and nose cone assemblies for ballistic missiles were mistakenly shipped to Taiwan as helicopter batteries in August 2006, an error that went undetected for 18 months. Donley said a review into the accountability of generals and colonels singled out in an investigation of the Taiwan mis-shipment was expected to be completed in a couple of weeks. A separate study of the military's management of nuclear weapons by a task force led by former defense secretary James Schlesinger is nearing completion, he said. "What I can promise you is that we're taking a comprehensive look at this issue, so this is not onesies and twosies and a handful of fixes," he said. The air force chiefs said they also would be giving high priority to the service's acquisitions programs, which have been plagued by spiralling costs. The Pentagon was forced to reopen bidding for a 35 billion dollar contract for a new generation of air refueling tanker after government auditors criticized an award given to Northrop Grumman and its European partner EADS. Schwartz also said he will focus on delivering more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to US forces. Gates had complained publicly that getting the military services to provide more unmanned surveillance aircraft was "like pulling teeth."
Saturday, August 16, 2008
New air force chiefs promise to raise nuclear standards
Raytheon Awarded Contract To Continue Patriot Pure Fleet Upgrades (NSI News Source Info) Tewksbury MA (SPX) Aug 16, 2008: Raytheon has received a $34.4 million U.S. Army contract continuing Patriot "Pure Fleet" modernization. The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command contract for additional upgrades is part of a $310 million "Pure Fleet" contract awarded to Raytheon in December 2007. It enables the continuation of upgrading Army Patriot equipment to state-of-the-art Patriot Configuration 3 status. "Upgrading Patriot fire units from Configuration 2 to Configuration 3 enhances the system's capabilities to meet current and emerging threats," said Sanjay Kapoor, vice president of Patriot Programs at Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems. "As the prime contractor for the Patriot system, Raytheon is committed to ensuring our Patriot systems continue to provide superior, affordable and reliable air and missile defense capability to meet the Army's mission," Kapoor said. "The U.S. Army's upgrade to Configuration 3 is leading the way as many of our international Patriot partners around the globe are similarly upgrading the Patriot system as a key component in their air and missile defenses." The add-on contract calls for Raytheon to provide hardware upgrades to Patriot radars, engagement control stations and launchers as well as enhanced logistics capability through support to a common configuration. Work will be performed at Raytheon's Integrated Air Defense Center, Andover, Mass. Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems (IDS) is the prime contractor for the Patriot system and the system integrator for the system that includes both the PAC-3 missile and the Guidance Enhanced Missile-T. As the system integrator, Raytheon IDS ensures that all Patriot system components provide the warfighter a reliable and lethal capability to defeat the threats in current and future combat environments.
Taleban at Kabul's doorstep (NSI News Source Info) Wardak 16 August, 2008: Taleban claim they control three quarters of Wardak. It is just an hour's drive south-west of Kabul on Afghanistan's main highway before you start to see dramatic evidence of how the insurgency is closing in on the capital. The first thing to notice are the holes in the road - the tarmac ripped up by bombs - which the traffic has to carefully veer around. Then it is the burned-out skeletons of trucks left by the side of the road, or some still standing where they were ambushed and burned - an obvious reminder of how security so close to Kabul has been steadily deteriorating. Highway One was a triumph for Afghanistan's new found freedom from the Taleban. Built at record speed with international money, it was an example of what was to follow in the rebuilding and redevelopment of a country at war for almost three decades. Now it is almost impassable in places as buses loaded high with goods and people, or convoys of containers with supplies for international forces have to negotiate the damage and the debris. 'Valid target' An hour before we were escorted along the road by a heavily armed police convoy, an Afghan National Army patrol had fought with insurgents after being ambushed. Every seven or eight kilometres (four to five miles) there is a crater in the road where a hidden explosive device had been detonated as whatever the insurgents decreed a "valid target" had gone past. Highway One is full of craters made by landmines. Wardak is the neighbouring province to Kabul and in just one month 51 trucks were burned. But the new governor, in place less than a month, thinks he can get a grip on security. "The government has 100% control in Wardak, and the Taleban are in a very poor condition in this province - they do not have the support of the people," said Mohammad Halim Fidai, the eloquent and well-educated new arrival. "Some of the incidents that took place on the highways are because we did not have enough Afghan National Police and there is misinformation against us," he said, explaining there were now checkpoints in the areas Taleban fighters "from other provinces" were most likely to strike. But the men in the hills, just 2km from the road, told a different story of who held power and influence. A local BBC reporter visited districts close to the main road and to the more remote villages up in the mountains. Brazen display He met a Taleban commander who took him to film perhaps two dozen men, all heavily armed and parading on motorbikes, in daylight, within view of Highway One. "I have 6,000 fighters," the commander said, "and control three quarters of Wardak province." It was a massive exaggeration, but their brazen display by day was a strong sign of how much influence the insurgents have by night. The Taleban commander in Wardak says he has 6,000 fighters. That presence and the "misinformation" they spread will help them appear stronger than they are in reality - and fighting an insurgency, that is what counts. The terror tactics, attacking convoys and leaving bombs, splits the people from a government which does not have a strong enough presence to win the people's backing. Our reporter spoke to many local people - a lot supported the Taleban, but they would perhaps be afraid to speak out otherwise, given their presence on the ground. Others were critical. "All the Taleban did was provide security," one young man said with a couched compliment. "Now the Karzai government is building roads and bringing development. Unfortunately they cannot bring security." Another villager was more upbeat: "In my view this government is better than the Taleban as there was no education, economy or development. "Now the economy is good and children are going to school - even girls - the Taleban were brutal and took power by force, not democracy." And it is not just the local people who are suffering - those aid workers trying to rebuild and redevelop Afghanistan are now increasingly unable to work in parts of the country. 'Extremely risky' A recent statement by 100 aid agencies described the worsening security close to Kabul, and in neighbouring Logar province six landmine clearers were recently abducted - as if it wasn't a risky enough job to begin with. The UN produces internal "accessibility" maps which colour code areas by level of risk. A comparison between 2005 and June 2008 shows the dramatic deterioration of security in such a short space of time. Almost half the country is now "extremely risky" for UN staff - a classification that did not even appear on the map legend three years earlier. Kabul is ringed by areas classified as a "high risk/volatile environment", previously reserved for only the worst insurgent areas in the east and south. "Security in itself is a challenge. There are places where our de-miners cannot go because of the security risk," said Dr Mohammad Haider Reza, the head of the UN Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan. "It's as close to Kabul as Logar and that's of a concern to us," he added, saying the six abducted men had been released but their vehicles and equipment had been taken. The Taleban's tactics are all part of the war - sowing fear in the minds of the people to turn them against a government that cannot protect them. But the threat is real and the attacks are getting closer to the capital.
Pakistan Targets Air Combat (NSI News Source Info) 16 August 2008: ISLAMABAD - The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has not seen serious air combat since the 1965 and 1971 wars with India, but the ability to defeat a massive Indian assault on its air defenses early in a war remains its primary mission. In 1965, Pakistan successfully trumped India in air combat, but it was ill-prepared for the 1971 conflict in which India dominated the skies. Fears of losing another war, much less a nuclear war, are unthinkable, and the PAF is modernizing its air interdiction, air surveillance and reconnaissance, command and control, and honing its air delivery skills for nuclear weapons. Air interdiction is the PAF's primary mission, but it has not ignored retaliatory strike missions, said Haris Khan of the Pakdef Military Consortium. The PAF has expanded modernization efforts to include "nuclear weapons delivery, support of ground operations, fleet protection/maritime strike, and search and rescue are secondary," he said. The PAF believes the Indian Air Force will launch a massive assault on Pakistan's air defense and command-and-control hubs during the first wave of a war, said A.B. Mahapatra, director of the New Delhi-based Centre for Asian Strategic Studies - India. The Indian Air Force's primary mission is to neutralize Pakistan's nuclear option, he said. "Thus, PAF is enhancing its air combat profile to encounter such future challenges," Mahapatra said. The PAF's interdiction efforts include new and refurbished Lockheed Martin F-16s, now on order, and JF-17 Thunder fighters, built by Pakistan with Chinese assistance, now being manufactured. In June 2006, the PAF ordered 18 F-16 C/D Block 52M fighters along with an option to procure another 18. A midlife upgrade will augment its existing fleet of 40 F-16 A/B Block 15s, along with buying 20 more F-16 A/B models via the Excessive Defense Articles program. The F-16s will not be outfitted with nuclear weapons, but question marks remain for the JF-17. Known as the Chengdu J-10 Vigorous Dragon, the JF-17 will replace about 450 aging Nanchang A-5C Fantans, Dassault Mirage III/Vs and Chengdu F-7P Skybolts in the air-to-air combat and ground-support roles. "The replacement will not be matched by an exact number, but initial reports indicate between 250 and 300 aircraft will be purchased by PAF," Khan said. Khan said the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex is conducting flight evaluations of prototype aircraft "fitted with the Chinese-built NRIET KLJ-10 radar" and "Chinese-designed SD-10/PL-12 active-homing medium-range air-to-air missile." The first 50 JF-17s will be outfitted with Chinese avionics, radar and missiles. But under an agreement with France in February, newer JF-17s will be outfitted with MBDA Mica air-to-air missiles and Thales RC 400 multimission radars. The Russian-built RD-93 turbofan engine outfitting the JF-17 will have to be replaced due to pressure from India on Russia. Khan said the Chinese-built WS-13 Taishan engine is the most likely replacement. There are unconfirmed reports, Khan said, that the PAF has ordered four aerial refueling tankers, possibly the Ukrainian-built Il-76. Tentative UAV Plans PAF also is improving its surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. "Pakistan uses UAVs for surveillance and is keen to augment the reconnaissance capabilities to a new height," with plans to procure up to 60 UAVs by 2010, Mahapatra said. The Army has ordered the Luna short-range UAV from Germany and the Italian-built Galileo Falco UAV. "An agreement was also signed in July of 2006 between the PAF and Turkey to jointly manufacture a UAV, which will meet the requirements of both air forces. The PAF UAV program is still in its adolescent stage, but they acknowledge the significance of the program for its future war plans," Khan said. In April, the first of five Saab 2000 turboprop aircraft equipped with the Saab-Ericsson Erieye Airborne Early Warning & Command (AEW&C) system was rolled out during a ceremony in Sweden. Delivery to Pakistan is expected in mid-2009. Khan said there are discussions with China to co-develop an AEW&C aircraft designated as ZDK03 modeled on the Shaanxi Y-8F-400. "PAF has mapped a very detailed and comprehensive plan for an early warning system to cover Pakistan's airspace with both airborne platforms and a ground-based radar network," he said. Pakistan will integrate this plan with ground-based radar, including the U.S.-supplied AN/TPS-77 and Chinese-supplied JYL-1, JL3D-90A and JY-11 D air surveillance radars. Khan points to other efforts, including a 2006 test of the Czech Vera passive radar system and an order for a number of MBDA Aspide/Spada 2000 low- to medium-altitude air defense batteries. "These missiles are supposed to replace Thales Defence Systems Crotale. PAF is actively looking to purchase a high-altitude missile air defense system," with the Chinese-built FT-2000 as the front-runner, Khan said. In the 1965 and 1971 wars with India, Pakistan successfully attacked ground targets, including high-value targets, within 200 miles of Pakistan's border. Khan said in any future conflict with India, "I believe PAF will employ similar tactics," but with more intensity on high-value targets. "PAF would, in the first instance, be tasked with countering India's planned advance into Pakistani territory by seeking to prevent the Indian Air Force from achieving local tactical air superiority," he said. "At the same time, it would be required to strike surface-to-surface missile launchers, if these can be identified. It would also be called upon to provide air cover for the strike corps in their limited advance to occupy Indian territory." ■
Cambodian, Thai troops withdrawing from disputed temple: official (NSI News Source Info) PREAH VIHEAR August 16, 2008: Cambodian and Thai troops have begun to pull back from disputed territory around an ancient Hindu temple, an official said on Saturday.More than 1,000 soldiers from both countries have been stationed around a small pagoda near the Preah Vihear temple on the Cambodia-Thai border for a month in a fraught standoff.But after a military agreement was reached on Wednesday, troops have started to withdraw "step-by-step", said Preah Vihear provincial governor Preap Tann."It is just step-by-step... troops from both sides have been leaving the pagoda since last night," Preap Tann told AFP.Thai troops were gathering their tents and belongings to leave, the Cambodian military said.They declined to give exact figures of those remaining but Cambodian General Neang Phat, a top defence official, said most troops would leave on Saturday evening."They will withdraw this evening and there will be only around 10 or 20 troops from both sides remaining stationed there," Neang Phat told AFP.Security around the temple was tightened mid-afternoon with visitors prohibited and journalists banned from taking pictures of the site.Relations between the neighbours flared up last month after Preah Vihear, which belongs to Cambodia, was awarded heritage status by the United Nations, angering nationalists in Thailand who still claim ownership of the 11th century Khmer temple.On July 15, Cambodia arrested three Thai protesters for illegally crossing the border to try to reach the temple, sparking the deployment of troops from both sides on a tiny patch of disputed land near Preah Vihear.The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia, but surrounding land remains in dispute.The Cambodian-Thai border has never been fully demarcated, in part because the border is littered with landmines left from decades of war in Cambodia.Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said Thursday he had approved a 1.4 billion baht (41.7 million dollar) mine clearing operation on the border.
Afghanistan: More than 60 militants killed (NSI News Source Info) KABUL August 16, 2008: Afghan and US-led coalition forces have killed more than 60 militants during several days of fighting in the south of the country this week, the US military and the Afghan Interior Ministry said on Saturday.Violence has risen in Afghanistan this year with about 2,500 people, including 1,000 civilians, killed in fighting between Taliban militants and foreign and Afghan forces, aid agencies say.Clashes erupted on Wednesday when several militants attacked a joint Afghan and coalition patrol with machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades, the US military said in a statement."ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) and coalition forces returned fire with small arms and close air support. Multiple vehicles and enemy fighting positions were destroyed," it said.More than three dozen insurgents were killed, it said.No soldiers from the Afghan and US forces or any civilians had been killed in the fighting, which was continuing on Saturday, a spokesman for the US military said.The US military gave no more details about the location of the battle.Afghan police killed 23 insurgents on Friday after militants attacked two separate police checkpoints in Nad Ali district of the southern province of Helmand, the Interior Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.Four policemen were wounded in one of the attacks, it said.In another incident, militants attacked US-led coalition forces in Kapisa province to the northeast of the capital, Kabul, on Friday, the US military said."Coalition forces responded with air strikes and small-arms fire, killing the militants," it said, without specifying how many insurgents were killed in that incident.A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said Taliban fighters had taken control of the Marja district in the southern province of Helmand and the Nawa district in Ghazni province, south of Kabul.Afghan district officials said their forces were pushing the Taliban back out of the districts.
22 killed in Sri Lanka fighting: military (NSI News Source Info) COLOMBO August 16, 2008:Twenty-two Tamil rebels have died in fresh ground battles in war-torn northern Sri Lanka as soldiers move closer to the insurgents' political stronghold, the military said on Saturday.Troops on Friday moved nearer the rebels' political capital of Kilinochchi, 330 kilometres (206 miles) north of Colombo, while keeping up pressure on guerrillas in Weli Oya, Vavuniya and Mullaittivu, the military said.A total of 22 rebels died in Friday's fighting while 16 government soldiers were wounded, the defence ministry said in a statement.The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who have been fighting for a separate state since 1972, did not comment on the fighting.The latest government figures raised the number of rebels reported killed by government troops to 5,881 since January, while 536 soldiers have died in the same period. Government claims cannot be independently verified.The ministry's statement came a day after London-based rights group Amnesty International warned that tens of thousands of lives in the north were under threat due to heavy fighting between troops and the LTTE.Restrictions on travelling to rebel-held areas had blocked the flow of food and medical supplies, Amnesty said.Government bombardments and artillery shelling since May have forced thousands to flee their homes, mainly in the Kilinochchi and Mullaittivu districts, the group added.UN aid agencies working in conflict-hit areas say 112,000 people have been displaced in the past two months and warn the figure could rise to 200,000 in the coming weeks.Colombo has poured a record 1.5 billion dollars into this year's war efforts and pulled out of a Norwegian-brokered truce with the LTTE, saying it believes soldiers are on track to militarily crush the rebels.
Russian president signs Georgia peace plan (NSI News Source Info) SOCHI August 16, 2008 - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed on Saturday a French-brokered plan on resolving conflicts in Georgia, aggravated following Tbilisi's assault on its breakaway South Ossetia on August 8., 2008. "The Georgian-South Ossetian conflict issue was considered during a meeting of the [Russian] Security Council, and the president informed those attending that he had just signed the plan based on the six principles," a presidential press secretary, Natalya Timakova, said. The plan contains the main principles to resolve the conflict in South Ossetia, worked out at the August 12 meeting between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. These are renouncing the use of force, halting all military action, providing free access to humanitarian aid, the return of Georgian Armed Forces to their bases, the return of Russia's Armed Forces to their positions prior to combat and the start of international discussions on the future status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and on ways to ensure their security. The six-point deal, altered to meet Russia's demands, is widely seen as leaving Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in a far weaker position than before his costly attempt to seize control of South Ossetia through a military offensive, which left at least 1,600 civilians dead, by Russia's estimates. The plan was signed by Saakashvili on Friday evening and earlier by the leaders of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which have been seeking secession from Georgia since the 1990s. However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday that the document signed by the Georgian president differs from the peace plan worked out by the Russian and French presidents. "We are somewhat bewildered by the fact that the document signed by Saakashvili differs from the document worked out by the presidents of Russia and France, so the issue is still to be specified via diplomatic channels," Sergei Lavrov said. He said the document signed by Saakashvili lacks the introductory clause.
Ukraine seeks integration into European missile defense (NSI News Source Info) KIEV August 16, 2008 - Ukraine may integrate its early warning missile system with Europe or propose other countries use its missile defense capabilities, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said Saturday. Earlier in the year Russia and Ukraine had withdrawn from an agreement on Moscow's renting radar sites in Ukraine. The agreement, signed in 1992, defined the main principles for using early-warning missile systems located in Ukraine, as well as the operational order for Mukachevo and Sevastopol units and their provision, funding, modernization and reconstruction. "Ukraine's withdrawal from the agreement offers the possibility of developing active cooperation with European countries with a view to integrating units of early missile warning and space systems with similar systems," the ministry said. The statement from the Ukrainian diplomatic body comes amid Russia's concerns over U.S. plans to deploy elements of its missile shield in Europe. The United States and Poland signed an agreement on Thursday to deploy 10 U.S. interceptor missiles in the former Communist-bloc country. Russia is strongly opposed to the missile shield plan, which it says will undermine its nuclear deterrent and threaten its national security. Washington says plans to place 10 interceptor missiles in Poland coupled with a radar system in the Czech Republic are intended to counter possible attacks from what it calls "rogue states," including Iran.
Russia supports S.Ossetia, Abkhazia against Georgian peacekeepers (NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW, August 16, 2008 - Russia supports Abkhazia and South Ossetia in their decision against the presence of Georgian peacekeepers on their territories, a senior Russian military official said on Saturday. "The president [of Russia] has clearly stated that after all that had happened neither Abkhazians, nor South Ossetians will accept Georgians as peacekeepers on their territories," said Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of the Russian General Staff. Earlier this week South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity said during a press conference with the Abkhaz leader in Moscow that no Georgian peacekeepers or international observers would be allowed in South Ossetia. "Only Russian peacekeepers will be allowed in South Ossetia and Abkhazia," he said. "There will be no Georgian peacekeepers on South Ossetian territory." Kokoity and the Abkhazian President Sergei Bagapsh signed a peace plan in Moscow during a meeting with the Russian president last Thursday. The French-brokered peace agreement, approved by Russia and Georgia Tuesday, requires an immediate ceasefire and troop withdrawal.
Russian troops prevent arms smuggling to South Ossetia (NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW, August 16, 2008 - Russian troops detained two cars carrying ammunition via a humanitarian channel into the Georgian breakaway republic of South Ossetia, a senior Russian military official said Saturday. Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of the Russian General Staff, said that on Friday afternoon Russian troops stopped two cars with civilian and military people. "A gun shot erupted during the inspection as a result of which one car was damaged and the other managed to flee the scene of the incident," he said. Nogovitsyn said that the damaged car contained 19 grenade launchers and a box with cartridges and grenades. Russia sent troops and armored vehicles into the conflict region to expel Georgian troops from South Ossetia following Tbilisi's offensive on Tskhinvali, the capital of the rebel republic, on August 8. As a result of Georgia's military offensive Tskhinvali was mostly destroyed. According to Russian figures, around 1,600 civilians were killed.
Iran to launch its first satellite by next weekend - president (NSI News Source Info) TEHRAN, August 16, 2008 - Iran will launch its first satellite in the nearest few days, the country's president said on Saturday. "The first satellite created by Iranian specialists will be orbited by an Iranian carrier rocket before the end of the next week," Iranian media quoted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying. He added that economic sanctions imposed by the United States against the Islamic Republic had a "favorable effect on the country's scientific progress." According to Ahmadinejad, over 7,000 scientific inventions have been registered in Iran over the last few years. In February Tehran successfully launched the Explorer-1 research rocket, which is reportedly capable of carrying a satellite into orbit, and unveiled the country's first domestically built satellite, named Omid, or Hope.
100 Georgian armoured vehicles seized in South Ossetia: Russia (NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - August 16 2008: Russia's army has seized 100 Georgian armoured vehicles, including 65 tanks and five ground-to-air missile launchers, in operations near South Ossetia, Russian news agencies reported on Saturday.The military materiel also included 15 light armoured vehicles, said Colonel Igor Konashenkov, of the Russian infantry staff.For the most part, the armoured vehicles had been manufactured in Ukraine, he said, adding that an unspecified number of US-made troop transporters had also been found. D-30 cannons and Czech-manufactured artillery systems also featured on the list of materiel which the Russian army said it had recovered.
U.S. Army conducting it's duties in Iraq August 16, 2008 NSI News Source Info U.S. Army Sgt. speaks with a local resident while conducting a combined patrol with Iraqi Police in Ha'Teen, Baghdad, Iraq, on Aug. 4, 2008. U.S. Army makes his way down a road after canal vegetation is set ablaze in Tahwilla, Iraq, on July 30, 2008. Extremists use the concealment provided by the canal system to place IED's under the cover of night. U.S. Army scans the countryside for suspicious activity during a clearing mission near a canal outside of Tamuz, Iraq, on Aug. 9, 2008.