India: Russia agrees to transfer key technology for T-90 tanks
(NSI News Source Info) New Delhi - August 19, 2008: After months of acrimony, Russia has finally agreed to transfer key technology for the frontline T-90 tanks enabling Indian armament factories to now go ahead full steam to produce these weapon platforms indigenously. "Russians have finally agreed to supply specifications of the T-90 tank barrels by end of this year," a top Defence ministry official said here today after the two-day long intensive deliberations between the two countries. The delay in providing the specifications had held up the indigenous production of the T-90 tanks at the Avadi Heavy Vehicles Factory. India and Russia have signed agreements for delivery of almost 1,200 T-90 tanks at a cost of a staggering US 1.2 billion dollars. The deal, concluded in three tranches over the past five years, also specifies transfer of technology for production of another 1,000 to 1,500 tanks in India. At the 8th meeting of the Indo-Russian working group on shipbuilding, aviation and land systems, Moscow also agreed to full product support for indigenous production of these tanks. "The Russian side have agreed that the delivery schedule mutually accepted by the two countries in June this year would be maintained," the official said. With this crucial agreement, it has become apparent that the Indian army would continue to rely on the Russian tanks as its main battle tanks. This is significant as the indigenous Arjun tanks have yet to pass the crucial induction trials. Though the Ordnance Factories Board had concluded the technology transfer agreement with Russia way back in 2001, Moscow's reluctance to part with key barrel specifications had held up the indigenous production of the tanks. At the meeting co-chaired by Ajay Acharya, Additional Secretary, Defence Production, and his Russian counterpart Karavaev Igor Evgeniyevich, New Delhi also submitted its technical requirements for the joint development of a futuristic 5th generation fighter aircraft. Though the aircraft design is yet to be finalised, the two countries have agreed to step up efforts to ensure that the new fighter enters flying service by 2015. The key working group met within the framework of the Indo-Russian intergovernmental commission military technical cooperation and also took up issues for supply of Russian sub-systems for India's new range of P-17A warships. "The talks were held in a highly professional manner. Sides expressed their readiness to take all the necessary measures to further develop cooperation on a mutually beneficial basis," Defence Ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar said. Russia has also agreed to open cooperation with the bluechip public sector undertaking Hindustan Aeronautics Limited as an offset partner for future programmes.
NATO urges Russia to pull out from Georgia, freezes ties
(NSI News Source Info) BRUSSELS August 19, 2008: NATO foreign ministers said after talks on Tuesday that the alliance is freezing contacts with Russia until it pulls its troops out of Georgia, but stopped short of harsh measures against Moscow. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who visited Moscow last week to mediate in a peace deal after Russian troops entered Georgia following Tbilisi's offensive in breakaway South Ossetia, accused Moscow of breaking promises.
"We are very disappointed, because despite the promise made to us, there has been no withdrawal of troops. When you sign up to an agreement you must respect it," he said.
Russia came under severe criticism from NATO countries, notably the United States and Britain, after its major operation to expel Georgian forces from South Ossetia, and its peace enforcement mission in nearby areas of Georgia proper.
A joint declaration after the NATO ministerial talks in Brussels said: "We have determined that we cannot continue with business as usual" with Russia, and that the alliance "is considering seriously the implications of Russia's actions for the NATO-Russia relationship."
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said: "The future of our relations with Russia will depend on the concrete actions Russia will take to abide by the words of President Dmitry Medvedev... which is not happening at the moment."
"We certainly have not the intention to close all doors," but "Russian troops will have to withdraw now to their pre-crisis positions," he said.
He said the bloc had suspended Russia-NATO Council sessions at all levels until Moscow fully complies with the peace plan.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov branded the NATO statement 'biased' and 'anti-Russian', failing to recognize the atrocities committed by Georgia in the conflict. Russia says Georgian forces killed 1,600 civilians in the offensive, most of whom were Russian nationals.
"NATO is trying to turn an aggressor into a victim, is attempting to whitewash a criminal regime and save a fallen regime, and is taking a course toward re-arming the current Georgian leaders," the diplomat said.
He said he agreed with the NATO chief's assessment that 'business as usual' cannot continue.
"We said this a week ago - when NATO representatives came forward with biased assessments, we made the necessary conclusions."
Georgia's bid to join NATO was rebuffed at the alliance's April summit in Bucharest. However, the NATO ministers on Tuesday decided to create a joint NATO-Georgia commission similar to that already in place with Ukraine, and reaffirmed their plans to eventually accept Georgia as a NATO member.
Lavrov said NATO's encouragement of Georgia's ambitions to join the alliance are "dictated by a drive that can only be called anti-Russian, aimed at supporting an aggressive regime."
The NATO ministers' meeting was called last week by Washington, which has accused Russia of a "disproportionate" response to Georgia's attack on breakaway South Ossetia on August 8.
In the counteroperation to expel Georgian troops from the separatist republic, which broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s, and to reinforce Russian peacekeepers, Moscow sent some 10,000 troops and several hundred armored vehicles into the area.
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said: "We have to deny Russian strategic objectives, which are clearly to undermine Georgia's democracy, to use its military capability to damage and in some cases destroy Georgian infrastructure and to try and weaken the Georgian state."
Russian troops are widely reported to remain in parts of Georgia, including the town of Gori, despite a pledge by President Medvedev that they would begin pulling out from the South Caucasus state on Monday.
Poland and Lithuania, both NATO members, called on Tuesday for the alliance to speed up its acceptance of Georgia and Ukraine into the organization in the interests of "regional security."
Soon after the NATO declaration, Russia announced that it would not participate in the NATO-led Open Spirit 2008 naval exercise in the Baltic Sea, and would refuse to receive a U.S. warship in the Far East port of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.
Russia shuns Baltic drills, refuses to receive U.S. ship
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW August 19, 2008: Russia said on Tuesday it will not participate in the NATO-led Open Spirit 2008 naval exercise in the Baltic Sea, and will refuse to receive a U.S. warship in the Far East port of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.
"In accordance with a decision taken by the Russian defense minister, the Navy command has sent a notification via diplomatic channels to Lithuania that Baltic Fleet mine sweepers will not take part in the Open Spirit 2008 international naval exercises in the Baltic Sea," Capt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo said.
The exercise has been held annually since 1997 within the framework of NATO's Partnership for Peace program, with the aim of sweeping Baltic States' coastal areas for old WWI and WWII explosives.
Russia's Baltic Fleet ships have been participating in the Open Spirit international exercise since 2003.
Dygalo said diplomats will also notify the U.S. of the "impossibility" of receiving a U.S. Navy frigate, which is due to pay a business visit to the Kamchatka Peninsula on September 5-9.
Last week the U.S. and Britain officially pulled out of a Russia-NATO naval exercise, FRUKUS 2008, slated for August 15-23 in the Sea of Japan.
A Pentagon official on Thursday said the United States would stay away from the drill because of the South Ossetia-Georgia conflict.
Washington and London have condemned Russia's response to a Georgian offensive on Tskhinvali, the capital of breakaway South Ossetia. Russia sent troops and armored vehicles into the region last week to expel Georgian troops following the attack.
Previously named RUKUS, the exercises were launched in 1988 as a vehicle for dialogue between the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The exercise name was changed to FRUKUS in 2003, when France formally joined the group.
Boeing Awarded Contract to Continue Developing Mobile Laser Weapon
(NSI News Source Info) ST. LOUIS - August 19, 2008: The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] has been awarded a U.S. Army contract valued at approximately $36 million to continue developing a truck-mounted, high-energy laser weapon system that will destroy rockets, artillery shells and mortar rounds.
Under the High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator (HEL TD) Phase II contract, awarded Aug. 15, Boeing will complete the design of, then build, test and evaluate, a rugged beam control system on a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck. Boeing also will develop the system-engineering requirements for the entire HEL TD laser weapon system. Boeing successfully completed the preliminary design of the beam control system earlier this summer.
"This contract award is an important win for Boeing because it supports a cornerstone of the Army's high-energy laser program," said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems. "HEL TD will give warfighters a transformational capability to counter the difficult threats posed by rockets, artillery shells and mortar projectiles."
"Boeing spent the past year developing the preliminary design of the HEL TD beam control system, and we appreciate the confidence the Army has shown in our efforts by awarding us these contract options to continue working on the program," said Gary Fitzmire, vice president and program director of Boeing Directed Energy Systems.
The objective of the HEL TD program is to demonstrate that a mobile, solid-state laser weapon system can effectively counter rocket, artillery and mortar projectiles. The program will support the transition to a full-fledged Army acquisition program.
Boeing leads the way in developing high-energy laser systems for a variety of warfighter applications. These systems include the Airborne Laser, the Advanced Tactical Laser, the Tactical Relay Mirror System and Laser Avenger.
Boeing Delivers Brazilian TAM Airlines' First 777-300ER
(NSI News Source Info) EVERETT, Washington - August 19, 2008: The first of eight Boeing [NYSE: BA] 777-300ER (Extended Range) jetliners ordered by TAM Airlines, Brazil's largest airline, left Paine Field for Sao Paulo yesterday. TAM is the first Latin American airline to operate the 777-300ER, the world's largest, long-range, twin-engine jetliner, powered by General Electric's GE-90 Series engines. The delivery also marks TAM's first acquisition of a new Boeing airplane.
The airline's new 777s feature the Boeing Class 3 Electronic Flight Bag (EFB), a hardware and electronic data package used by pilots that replaces traditional flight manuals and provides operational and safety benefits. TAM is the first South American carrier to incorporate a Class 3 EFB, which is fully integrated into a commercial airplane's avionics. The EFB features an Onboard Performance Tool, using sophisticated calculations to help the airline optimize its payload for airport and weather conditions and applicable regulations and policies.
TAM plans to operate its 777-300ERs on international flights within South America and connecting South America with Europe and North America.
"The 777-300ER will provide TAM with the lowest fuel consumption and operating costs available for airplanes in this class," said John Wojick, vice president sales, Latin America and the Caribbean, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "Advanced avionics of the Electronic Flight Bag, will further improve TAM's operating economics and reduce emissions."
"These acquisitions reinforce our policy of operating a young fleet that provides more passenger comfort in our quest for TAM 'Service Excellence.' The 777-300ER also supports TAM's two other pillars of excellence upon which our company measures performance -- 'Technical-Operational Excellence' and 'Excellence in Management,'" said Captain David Barioni Neto, TAM's CEO.
Russia says Georgia failing to withdraw troops from S.Ossetia
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW August 19, 2008: Georgian troops are not implementing President Mikheil Saakashvili's orders on their withdrawal from the South Ossetian conflict zone, a senior Russian military official said Tuesday.
Russia began pulling back troops from Georgia on Monday in accordance with a six-point plan to resolve the South Ossetia conflict drawn up by the Russian and French presidents in Moscow on August 12.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the plan in Moscow on Saturday, a day after his Georgian counterpart signed it in Tbilisi.
"Although Saakashvili signed the six principles [peace plan], we can see that this order is not being implemented," said Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of the Russian General Staff.
Earlier Tuesday, Moscow handed over 13 Georgian military personnel and two civilians, captured during the recent conflict over South Ossetia, in exchange for five Russians, among them two pilots.
But the Russian General Staff denied Georgian allegations that it was holding captive 80 Georgian servicemen.
"I wonder if the list of 80 captives had been prepared beforehand... to get on our nerves," Nogovitsyn said.
The military official said Russia would install additional peacekeeping posts in South Ossetia.
"Arrangements are currently underway to prepare material bases for peacekeeping outposts as an extra security measure under Moscow agreements," Nogovitsyn said. "We expect to complete the construction by August 22."
He also said Russian forces would remain in Georgia's Black Sea port of Poti to help with the formation of a new local administration, and vowed to make "rational use" of some of the arms and military equipment abandoned by Georgian troops in South Ossetia.
"We will keep the serviceable weapons and equipment and destroy the rest to prevent them from falling into the hands of those who started this bloody war," said Nogovitsyn.
South Ossetia was attacked by Georgian forces on August 8. The majority of residents of South Ossetia hold Russian citizenship, and Moscow launched a massive operation to expel Georgian troops from the region and to reinforce its peacekeepers.
Russia says at least 1,600 civilians were killed in the Georgian attack on the capital of Tskhinvali. South Ossetia says more than 2,000 people were killed.
Russia moves SS-21 missiles into Georgia: US defense official
(NSI News Source Info) Washington August 19, 2008: Russia has moved short-range SS-21 missile launchers into South Ossetia since fighting there halted, and has yet to give any sign of a significant pullback of its troops from Georgia, US officials said Monday.
Instead, there were indications that Russia was adding ground troops and equipment to its force in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, strengthening its hold over the breakaway Georgian regions, the officials said.
"We are seeing evidence of SS-21 missiles in South Ossetia," a US defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The SS-21's 70 to 120 kilometer range (43 to 75 miles) should put them within striking distance of Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, officials said.
Later Monday, another US defense official said, "While we are still monitoring the situation and it is probably a little early, we have not seen any significant Russian movement out of Georgia today."
The White House would not comment on the status of the Russian forces in the Caucasus country Monday.
"But let me be clear: If it rolled in after August 6th, it needs to roll out," said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe.
"That would be in keeping with the Russian commitment on withdrawal," he said, as US President George W. Bush spent time on his Texas ranch.
Without confirming that a Russian buildup was underway in the enclaves, a Pentagon spokesman said: "Anything such as that or any other military equipment that was moved in would be in violation of the ceasefire and should be removed immediately."
"The only forces that are permitted to remain under the ceasefire agreement are the forces that were in there at the August 6th timeframe" before the conflict erupted, said spokesman Bryan Whitman.
In Moscow, a Russian general denied that SS-21s had been deployed in South Ossetia.
"There was no need for it," General Anatoly Nogovitsyn said at a briefing for journalists.
But the US defense official said several SS-21 launchers and associated equipment entered the enclave after the fighting came to a halt last week.
The New York Times, which first reported on the move, said they entered South Ossetia on Friday.
"We're seeing them solidify their positions in South Ossetia and Abkhazia," said the official, adding that "more troops and more equipment" were evident in the enclaves.
The official said at least 10 battalions of Russian troops were in the enclaves and in Georgia, putting the number of Russian troops at close to 15,000.
It was unclear whether the SS-21s which allegedly arrived Friday were the first to enter Georgia.
Deputy National Security Advisor Jim Jeffrey said a week ago that President George W. Bush, in Beijing at the time for the Olympic Games, was immediately notified August 8 "when we received news of the first two SS-21 Russian missile launchers into Georgian territory."
Bush then immediately met with Russian President Vladimir Putin about it at the Great Hall of the People, Jeffrey said.
Russia has launched about two dozen short-range missiles during the course of the conflict, which erupted August 7 with a Georgian military incursion into South Ossetia and escalated with an all-out Russian offensive two days later, a senior US defense official said last week.
The SS-21 is the NATO designation for what the Russians call the "9K79-1 Tochka-U," which Nogovitsyn said was "widely used" by Russian forces.
A tactical ballistic missile, the SS-21 can carry conventional, chemical or tactical nuclear warheads.
US officials have made no suggestion that nuclear armed missiles have been deployed in this conflict.
Indian, US Officials to Seek Ways to Boost Defence Partnership
(NSI News Source Info) August 19, 2008: With the Indo-US nuclear agreement firmly on track, the two countries are to open talks soon at the highest level to further boost up security and defence partnership. As India's military hardware purchases are expected to touch a staggering USD 50 billion in the next five years and to almost USD 100 billion by the next decade after New Delhi's Russian and Soviet-era arsenal reaches obsolescence, the two countries are looking at starting joint collaborations and research in advanced weapon systems. Towards this end, the two countries, officials said, were looking at concluding key agreements to open doors for transfer of advanced American technology to India. These issues would be in sharp focus when Defence Minister A K Antony undertakes his maiden visit to US from 7th to 10th September. Antony would be leading a high-level delegation comprising Defence Secretary Vijay Singh, Lt-Gen V K Singh, currently General-Officer-Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Army Command, who is probably slated to take over as the next Army chief. The delegation would also include Air Marshal S Mukherjee, currently the Air Officer Personnel at Air Headquarters, who has served a stint in Washington as a Defence Attache and S K Sharma, Director General Acquisitions in Ministry of Defence. The US, which has been comparatively a new entrant to the Indian defence market, is hoping to lay groundwork for far wider cooperation between the two nations in arms building and setting up strategic security related partnerships. US defence majors Lockheed Martin and Boeing are vying for India's largest ever defence contract worth USD 10 billion to sell 126 fighter jets. Lockheed Martin, earlier this year, made a start by inking a deal worth USD 962 million for sale of six C130-J Hercules military transport aircraft for Indian special forces. The company is hoping to sell four more aircraft and missile-approach warning systems to India by 2010. Antony's agenda during his talks with his US counterpart Robert Gates would be to substantially increase the complex range of naval, air force and army war games jointly being conducted by the armed forces of the two countries. With the Left parties in India opting out of supporting the Congress-led UPA government, Washington and New Delhi are also expected to give final touches to key defence protocols between the two countries such as end-user verification agreement and sewing up the logistics support agreement. During his visit, Antony and his entourage would also also visit key US armed forces' complexes including viewing the missile defence shield and other advanced armament systems.
British deployed Desert Hawk III mini-UAVs in Afghanistan
(NSI News Source Info) Upper Sangin Valley, Afghanisatn - August 19, 2008: UK troops are using a new tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to patrol the skies of the Upper Sangin Valley in southern Afghanistan, helping to identify enemy threats and protect soldiers as they go about their work. Launched and operated by gunners from 1 Battery, 47 Regiment Royal Artillery, the Desert Hawk III is one of many assets that are employed to help seek out enemy fighters and one of the newest UAVs that the Royal Artillery use. The UAV provides an over-watch capability for soldiers patrolling from Forward Operating Base (FOB) Inkerman near Sangin.
Traditionally 32 Regt RA were the only regiment in the Army that operated these unmanned aircraft, but to ease the operational commitment, 47 Regt have been tasked with flying the new equipment. Lance Bombardier Ricky Talbot explained:
"It is a mini UAV; it provides reconnaissance for the FOB and over looks patrols. If the FOB wants us to check any vulnerable points or firing points we can easily check them with the Desert Hawk."
The Desert Hawk can be launched by just throwing it into the wind, but the gunners have learnt that for the best take off it is best to gain speed before launching and so they launch it from the back of a quad bike.
The UAV flies itself by inputting a route onto a digital map and a GPS within the aircraft follows that route. An operator can also fly the UAV using a simple games console hand controller.
At the end of a flight, the reconnaissance vehicle lands itself and, when it hits the ground, intentionally breaks into nine parts to minimise the stress on the aircraft. Different payloads can be bolted onto the UAV which gives the user alternative cameras and views to look at.
The footage can be viewed live on the screen of a conventional laptop and also recorded to allow playback to commanders.
British Paratroopers from B Company 2 Para, who are operating in the Upper Sangin Valley, patrol the local area. Patrolling is intense and dangerous with an 80 per cent chance of the patrols coming under attack from enemy forces which can be as close as 30m away.
The Operating Base and its men play a vital role in stopping Taliban fighters moving up and down the Sangin Valley.
U.S. ARMY SOLDIERS OFFLOAD A HUMVEE FROM A FLOATING CAUSEWAY.August 19, 2008 NSI News Source Info U.S. Army soldiers offload a Humvee from a floating causeway during a Joint Logistics Over-The-Shore exercise at Red Beach, Camp Pendleton, Calif., on July 24, 2008. The exercise is a joint military operation aimed at preparing units for amphibious assault landings in friendly and unfriendly situations.
(NSI News Source Info) 19 August, 2008: NEW DELHI - India and Malaysia are discussing boosting defense ties during the Aug. 18 visit of Air Chief Marshal Fali Major, Indian chief of the Air Staff, to Malaysia, Indian Defence Ministry sources said.
The Indian Air Force already is training Malaysian pilots and technicians on the Russian-made Su-30 MKM aircraft.
Major also will visit the Malaysian air base at Gong Kedak, where the Malaysiansare learning to fly and maintain the Su-30 MKM. India is training 15 Malaysian officers and 40 technicians on the aircraft, 18 of which were bought by Malaysia from Russia in 2003.
Indian Air Force personnel also provided training to more than 100 Malaysian personnel on the MiG-29 aircraft.
"The team of IAF pilots and technicians are in Malaysia for two years, on their invitation, to train their pilots, weapon system operators and maintenance staff for the smooth induction and operation of their newly acquired Su-30 MKM fighter aircraft," a senior Indian Air Force official said.
Malaysia is also keen to get training in submarine operations, and has evinced interest in the procurement of the supersonic cruise missile BrahMos, said Indian Defence Ministry sources.
India and Malaysia first signed a memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation in 1992.
Currently, Indian-Malaysian defense ties largely are confined to training of Malaysian defense personnel, but this will expand in the near future to sales of weaponry and equipment from India, the Defence Ministry sources said.
U.S. Land Weapons Adapt to Irregular War Scenarios
(NSI News Source Info) August 19, 2008: In five to seven years, the U.S. Army intends to deploy a new tank round that can take out tanks, unleash high explosives against a building or tear into enemies with one-eighth-inch tungsten-steel balls. "We will have all three of these munitions blended into a single round" with a special fuze, said U.S. Army Col. Jeff Swisher, capability manager, Heavy Brigade Combat Teams for Training and Doctrine Command.
U.S. Marines prepare an M777 A2 lightweight howitzer to fire an Excalibur round in Iraq. In the next few years, the U.S. Army intends to deploy a new tank round that can take out tanks, unleash high explosives against a building or tear into enemies (U.S. Marine Corps)
The new round means a lighter burden in combat and faster switching between weapons - key abilities on a shifting battlefield. That's a common theme for the Army, which is adjusting its arsenal - built to destroy tanks, armies and buildings - to handle the irregular, guerrilla-style warfare that prevails in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Army is firing more tank rounds, artillery shells and even Hellfire missiles engineered to destroy small vehicles and insurgents while reducing the risk to nearby civilians and buildings. Also, the Army is using its Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided (TOW) missile's Improved Target Acquisition System (ITAS) to perform surveillance, even when no missile firing is planned.
Alongside reducing the logistical burden of transporting three kinds of rounds, the new Advanced Multi-Purpose round will allow tankers to switch ammunition quickly. For instance, an attack on a building or armored vehicle might require a high-explosive round, whereas killing three insurgents on the run might need a round loaded with pellets.
"There is no tank-on-tank combat any more," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Tim Hartmann, a tanker just back from war in Iraq.
Since 2005, Army tanks in Iraq have increasingly been using 120mm Anti-Personnel Canister Cartridges loaded with 1,200 tungsten-steel pellets.
"Canister rounds provide the commander with more options when the target is a group of enemy troops, or light-skinned vehicles. Also, they limit collateral damage in the sense that it is a large shotgun shell. You do not have that secondary explosion," said Swisher.
U.S. Army Tank Automotive Armament Command at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., bought 3,600 canister rounds from General Dynamics for $5.8 million in 2005. In July, ATK won the next Army contract for M1028 120mm canister cartridges in a $30 million deal to begin delivering rounds in the next few months.
The Army has been trying to improve the accuracy and lethality of artillery in urban areas.
Officials are test-firing a South African 105mm artillery shell built to kill with tungsten balls. Called Pre-Formed Fragment (PFF) technology, the round is meant for lighter units and infantry brigade combat teams, said U.S. Army Col. Ole Knudson, project manager for combat ammunition systems, artillery, mortar and ammunition at Picatinny.
The Army has not yet decided whether to buy the PFF round.
"This would provide lethality. We've been working on qualifying this design. We are now faced with some cost-benefit analysis," Knudson said.
In the past year, the Army has improved the accuracy of 155mm shells with Modular Artillery Charge Systems (MACS), a propellant made by ATK and General Dynamics Canada. MACS reduces the variation in muzzle velocity from round to round, usually the biggest cause of inaccuracy, Knudson said.
For instance, if the muzzle velocity of artillery rounds leaving the cannon or howitzer varies by as much as five meters per second between rounds, it can diminish accuracy, he said.
At the same time, the advent of GPS-guided precision artillery has allowed the Army to fire 155mm shells in urban, counterinsurgency-type missions previously impossible with conventional artillery.
Excalibur, a $100,000-plus per-round GPS-guided artillery shell that can fly 30 kilometers and land within five meters of its target, debuted in Iraq and Afghanis-tan last year.
"Excalibur has a small warhead, so it can be used in even tighter situations, such as between buildings," Knudson said.
The round's success has led the Army to seek an Excalibur 1B round designed to cost less, fly 25 percent farther and be more precise. ATK, BAE-Lockheed and Raytheon have entered the competition.
"Excalibur 1A will be a golden round, meaning they will have to be careful about using them. The primary focus is to make a highly affordable Excalibur that has more if not all of the things of the first Excalibur," said Mike McCann, vice president of ATK's advanced weapon division.
The Army and ATK are also test firing the GPS-guided Precision Guidance Kit (PGK), which can turn a standard 155mm round into a precision weapon.
"The program is tracking an aggressive schedule. We have completed tactical design and started bench testing," McCann said. "It has GPS guidance such that you are able to take a round that would have a 300-meter CEP [circular error probable] and bring it down to a baseline requirement of 50 to 30 meters."
At roughly $5,000 per round, PGK is cheaper but less precise than Excalibur.
The PGK rounds are designed with a command safe-and-arm device to prevent the round from exploding if it is not near the intended target.
"The PGK round will decide that it is going to land within the 150-meter circle within its planned impact area," McCann said. "Then, it will consciously arm the fuze and fire an electrical charge into a small amount of explosive. That little charge spins a rotor which aligns the explosive chain. Only when that last one spins into place will the explosion take place. If for some reason there is high wind and the system is not able to counteract it, the round becomes a slug of metal."
The safe-and-arm device helps reduce collateral damage in urban or populated areas, McCann said.
Also, PGK can be set to explode at a certain "height of burst" or proximity to the target.
"Ultimately, PGK will have a point-detonate function and a delay function. If you want to penetrate a building, you would put it on a delay mode," McCann said.
The Army plans to purchase 3,000 PGK rounds by April 2009 and roughly 10,000 a year after that.
ATK is starting to develop a PGK variant for the 105mm weapons used by faster-moving infantry brigade combat teams. ATK successfully test-fired a precision-guided 105mm PGK round at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., on Aug. 11. The round is 99 percent common with the 155mm PGK, according to an ATK press release.
"Simulation and analysis that has been done in some early lab testing shows the PGK round is highly adaptable to the 105mm," said Jack Cronin, president of ATK Mission Systems.
"The 105mm has a shorter fuze so it will require tighter packing," he said.
The 130-pound ITAS system, used with the TOW missile, is built to identify targets such as armor, buildings and caves. These days, the system is being used purely for surveillance.
"The ITAS was initially intended to be an anti-tank, anti-armor type weapon used in conjunction with the TOW missile. Over time, what we found was that ITAS had forward-looking infrared and night vision abilities which could see very long distances, so the anti-armor approach became secondary," said Mike Campisi, Raytheon's senior director for combat systems.
Developed in the mid-1990s, the ITAS uses GPS, computer software and laser technology to zoom in on targets from two to five kilometers away. The Army has been using them for surveillance on Humvees and even on top of buildings.
"Think about this in an urban environment or built-up area - an ability to identify people from two kilometers away is not the norm," said George Rhynedance, a Raytheon spokesman.
Georgia, Russia exchange prisoners
(NSI News Source Info) TBILISI August 19, 2008: Russia and Georgia have carried out a prisoner exchange near Georgia's capital Tbilisi, a day after a similar deal failed to go ahead, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.
Moscow handed over 13 Georgian military personnel and two civilians, captured during the recent conflict over South Ossetia, in exchange for five Russians, among them two pilots, said Colonel Igor Konashenkov, an aide to Russia's Ground Forces commander.
The prisoner exchange took place in Igoeti, a town located some 40 km (24 miles) from Tbilisi at 11:00 a.m. Moscow time (07:00 GMT).
The deal was initially scheduled for Monday, however the talks failed when Georgian negotiators walked out after making requests "unrelated" to the exchange, a senior military official said.
However, Georgia's Defense Ministry accused Russia of failing to provide an accurate list of prisoners.
Lt. Col. Andrei Bobrun, an aide to the commander of the North Caucasus Military District, said Russia was to hand over 11 Georgians. The Georgian Defense Ministry later requested the number be increased to 15.
Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of the Russian General Staff, told journalists Monday "We had planned an exchange of 15 Georgian for 12 Russian troops."
Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili denied any such agreement existed.
Georgia launched a major offensive to seize control of South Ossetia on August 8, prompting Russia to send several hundred tanks and thousands of troops into the region.
Russia says at least 1,600 civilians were killed in the Georgian attack on the capital of Tskhinvali. South Ossetia says more than 2,000 people were killed.
Rice says Russia playing 'dangerous game' with bomber flights
(NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON August 19, 2008: Condoleezza Rice has said the Bush administration is unhappy with flights by Russian strategic bombers near U.S. borders and accused Moscow of playing a "dangerous game."
Talking about flights by Tu-95 Bear bombers, the U.S. secretary of state told journalists Monday: "We've had Russian Bear flights along the Norwegian coast...even along the borders with the United States which...is a very dangerous game, and perhaps one the Russians want to reconsider."
"Nobody needs Russian strategic aviation along America's coasts," she added.
Rice made the comments as she left for an emergency session of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels, which is due to meet Tuesday to consider relations with Moscow following a cessation in hostilities between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia.
The emergency meeting was called last week by Washington, which accused Russia of a "disproportionate" response after Georgia launched a military offensive against South Ossetia August 8 to try and regain control over the breakaway region, prompting Russia to send several hundred tanks and thousands of troops into the region.
Rice said the main goal of the meeting of the 26-member alliance was to deny Russia its "strategic objective" by backing Georgian democracy.
She also accused Russia of trying to assert its influence in the region "by military means." She added that Moscow had harmed "its own reputation" with its response to the Georgian attack.
Russia resumed strategic bomber patrols, often escorted by NATO planes, over the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans last August following an order signed by then-president Vladimir Putin.
Syrian president to visit Russia Aug 20-21 - Kremlin
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW August 19, 2008: Syrian President Bashar Assad will visit Russia at the invitation of his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev on August 20-21, the Kremlin said on Tuesday.
Assad's visit was first announced by the Syrian information ministry early last week.
During his two-day working visit, Assad will meet with Russian authorities to discuss bilateral relations and regional and world developments, in particular the peace process in the Middle East and the situation in Iraq.
Assad last visited Moscow in late 2006.
Syria is a major importer of Russian arms.
Tatneft, one of Russia's top 10 oil producers, is carrying out geological prospecting in Syria and is to drill six exploratory wells in the country under a 2005 contract.
Proton-M carrier rocket successfully orbits Inmarsat 4F3 satellite
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW August 19, 2008: A Proton-M carrier rocket, launched early on Tuesday from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan, has successfully orbited an Inmarsat-4 (I-4) satellite, a spokesman for Russia's space agency said.
"The separation of the British satellite from the Russian Breeze M booster, which forms part of the Proton M rocket, took place at 11:46 Moscow time (07:46 GMT)," the Roscosmos spokesman said.
The Breeze M booster resumed service for the first time on Tuesday since it malfunctioned during the launch of a U.S. AMC-14 satellite in mid-March 2008.
I-4 satellites are among the largest and most sophisticated commercial communication satellites in the world, and are capable of delivering advanced voice and broadband data communications to mobile users.
Three I-4 satellites were built for Inmarsat by EADS Astrium. The I-4 F1 was launched in March 2005, while the I-4 F2 was launched in November 2005.
The Inmarsat 4F3 is owned by Britain's provider of mobile satellite communications services, Inmarsat plc.
The Russian-American joint venture International Launch Services (ILS) ILS provides satellite customers with a complete array of services and support and has exclusive rights to market the Proton, Russia's premier heavy-lift launch vehicle, to commercial satellite operators worldwide.
The launch of the Inmarsat-4 F3 will complete the I-4 constellation and support the global delivery of Inmarsat's latest services.
10 French Nato troops killed in Afghanistan: source
(NSI News Source Info) PARIS August 19, 2008:Ten French Nato troops were killed on Monday and Tuesday in battles following a Taliban insurgent ambush near the Afghan capital Kabul, a French presidency source said.Military officials in Kabul said the fierce clashes started with an attack on Monday on an International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) patrol in Sarobi district, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of the capital.Most of the 3,000 French troops participating in the 40-nation Isaf are in Kabul province, which includes Sarobi, and also Kapisa province, northeast of the capital.
Afghanistan: 13 killed as suicide bombers attack US base
(NSI News Source Info) KABUL August 19, 2008: Dozens of Taliban fighters and suicide bombers attacked a US military base in eastern Afghanistan early Tuesday and at least 13 were killed, some in their own suicide blasts, Afghan officials said. Nato's International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) confirmed that Camp Salerno in the eastern town of Khost, 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the border with Pakistan, had been attacked but could give few details."We have heard about suicide bombers on foot. They are receiving indirect fire," an officer in the Isaf media office in Kabul told AFP, referring to rocket and artillery fire.He said he could not give more information because fighting was ongoing.A suicide car bomb at the base on Monday killed 10 Afghan labourers waiting outside.Afghan defence ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi said 15 "terrorists" had attacked the base early Tuesday."Our commando units were deployed into the area and engaged the attackers and pushed them back," he told AFP."So far 13 attackers have been killed. Six blew themselves up, six others died in the explosions and one died in gunfire from commandos. Their bodies have been recovered," Azimi said.Six Afghan commandos had been wounded, he said.A statement from Azimi's office said: "Thirteen suicide bombers were killed in Kijran area of Ali Sher district." The district surrounds Camp Salerno.The Khost governor, Arsala Jamal, said his information was that "about 30 Taliban tried to attack the Salerno base.""They were fired at. We have found six bodies which were all wearing suicide vests," he told AFP.The new attack comes a day after a suicide bombing outside Camp Salerno killed 10 Afghan labourers and wounded 13 more.Security forces were able to prevent a second suicide attack moments later, the US-led coalition and Afghan officials said. The Taliban claimed responsibility.The defence ministry announced separately Tuesday that 10 militants had been killed in the southern province of Helmand and 10 wounded. The province has seen weeks of fighting.
Pakistan: Blast in DI Khan - 25 dead, several injured
(NSI News Source Info) PESHAWAR August 19, 2008: A bomb went off in the compound of a hospital in Dera Ismail Khan on Tuesday killing 25 people and dozens other injured, a senior government official said."We don't know whether it was a suicide attack but the bomb went off in the compound. I have initial reports of 25 dead," said Syed Mohsin Shah, a senior city government official.Supporters of a Shia leader were protesting outside the hospital when the bomb went off. The Shia leader was shot dead earlier on Tuesday and his body taken to the hospital.