Monday, September 15, 2008
Pakistan soldiers 'confront US' (NSI News Source Info) September 16, 2008: (BBC article....link) Pakistani troops have fired shots into the air to stop US troops crossing into the South Waziristan region of Pakistan, local officials say. Reports say nine US helicopters landed on the Afghan side of the border and US troops then tried to cross the border. South Waziristan is one of the main areas from which Islamist militants launch attacks into Afghanistan. The incident comes amid growing anger in Pakistan over increasingly aggressive US attacks along the border. The latest confrontation began at around midnight, local people say. They say seven US helicopter gunships and two troop-carrying Chinook helicopters landed in the Afghan province of Paktika near the Zohba mountain range. US troops from the Chinooks then tried to cross the border. As they did so, Pakistani paramilitary soldiers at a checkpoint opened fire into the air and the US troops decided not to continue forward, local Pakistani officials say. Reports say the firing lasted for several hours. Local people evacuated their homes and tribesmen took up defensive positions in the mountains. The incident happened close to the town of Angoor Adda, some 30km (20 miles) from Wana, the main town of South Waziristan. A Pakistani military spokesman in Islamabad confirmed that there was firing but denied that Pakistani troops were involved. Diplomatic fury It emerged last week that US President George W Bush has in recent months authorised military raids against militants inside Pakistan without prior approval from Islamabad. The BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad says there is a growing American conviction that Pakistan is either unwilling or unable to eliminate militant sanctuaries in its border area. There have been a number of missile attacks aimed at militants in Pakistan territory in recent weeks. Pakistan reacted with diplomatic fury when US helicopters landed troops in South Waziristan on 3 September. It was the first ground assault by US troops in Pakistan. Locals in the Musa Nikeh area said American soldiers attacked a target with gunfire and bombs, and said women and children were among some 20 civilians who died in the attack. In the latest incident, the tribesmen say they grabbed their guns and took up defensive positions after placing their women and children out of harm's way. Pakistan's army has warned that the aggressive US policy will widen the insurgency by uniting the tribesmen with the Taleban. Last week the army chief declared that Pakistan would defend the country's territorial integrity at all cost, although the prime minister has since said this would have to be through diplomatic channels rather than military retaliation.
Russia eyes Mediterranean as alternative to Sevastopol naval base (NSI News Source Info) SEVASTOPOL - September 15, 2008: Russia could build up its presence in the Mediterranean to make up for the loss of its naval base in Ukraine's port of Sevastopol, a Black Sea Fleet official said on Monday. "Undoubtedly, the withdrawal [of the Black Sea Fleet] from the Crimea will affect Russia's security in the south. New bases in the Mediterranean Sea could make up for the departure," Rear Admiral Andrei Baranov said without elaborating. Russia is set to leave the Sevastopol base when the current lease agreement expires in 2017. The base has been a source of friction between Russia and Ukraine in recent years, as Ukraine's pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko has sought NATO and EU membership for the country. Russia has accused Kiev of 'unfriendly' policies toward the Black Sea Fleet base. Yushchenko has called for the Russian navy's early pullout, tougher deployment requirements and higher fees, demands that have not been backed by his former coalition ally, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Russia-Ukraine tensions heightened after several Black Sea Fleet warships dropped anchor off the Georgian coast during and after the armed conflict with Tbilisi over breakaway South Ossetia last month. Russia's naval base in the Crimea currently has 50 warships and powerboats, along with around 80 aircraft, and employs coastal defense troops. The Soviet-era Navy maintenance site in Syria named Tartus is the only Russian foothold in the Mediterranean. Russian media reports earlier said the facility could be turned into a base. About 10 Russian warships and three floating piers are reported to be currently deployed there, and Russia is expanding the port and building a pier in nearby El-Latakia. No official confirmation of the reports has been made. Baranov said Black Sea Fleet and NATO commanders will continue cooperation in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. "I do not see why our relations with NATO should end over last month's events," Baranov, said referring to Russia's response to Georgia's offensive to retake South Ossetia in early August. Western nations criticized Russia's counterattack as excessive and condemned Moscow's subsequent recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states. Russia and NATO have since frozen cooperation. Russia has blamed Western powers for encouraging Tbilisi's aggression and criticized the alliance for building up forces in the Black Sea and helping Georgia to re-arm in the conflict zone. Baranov said Russia is meanwhile building up its Black Sea Fleet: "We are learning the lessons of the naval operation to force Georgia to peace" He said a gunship and a minesweeper have been supplied to the fleet, and new torpedo boats and air defense systems are undergoing tests.
Russian strategic bombers patrol Caribbean (NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - September 15, 2008: Two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers that landed in Venezuela last week will carry out a patrol mission over the Caribbean on Monday, a Russian Air Force spokesman said. The bombers landed at Venezuela's Libertador airfield on September 10 and were accompanied by NATO fighters during the 13-hour flight from their home base in central Russia. "The current patrol mission will be conducted over neutral waters in the Caribbean," Lt. Col. Vladimir Drik said. "The aircraft will take off from Libertador airbase and spend about six hours in the air." The Tu-160 Blackjack is a supersonic, variable-geometry heavy bomber, designed to strike strategic targets with nuclear and conventional weapons deep in continental theaters of operation. According to the spokesman, the bombers are carrying dummy missiles without warheads and will practice patrol sorties in a tropical climate. Following the training mission, the Tu-160 crews will meet with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday. "The meeting will take place on September 16 at the invitation of the Venezuelan president," Drik said. The spokesman added that the bombers will return to their home base in southern Russia on September 19. "The aircraft will take off from an airfield near Caracas on September 18 and conduct a 15-hour return flight to Russia. Their landing at a base in Engels [Saratov Region] is scheduled for September 19," Drik said. Earlier reports indicated that the bombers had been scheduled to return home on September 15.
Iran starts large-scale Air Force, air defense drills (NSI News Source Info) TEHRAN - September 15, 2008: Iran has launched a three-day series of Air Force and missile defense exercises throughout the country, the Air Force commander said on Monday. "The drills are being conducted in more than a half of Iran's provinces. Their main goal is to rehearse tactical operations with modern weapons and generally to upgrade the operational effectiveness of the country's armed forces," Brigadier General Ahmad Mighani said. He said all air-defense units of Iran's Ground Forces would be involved, including during launches of advanced missiles and other precision guided weapons. Iran has conducted several high-profile war games this year, while promising a powerful retaliation in the event of any act of aggression against the country. The U.S. and Israel have consistently refused to rule out the possibility of military action against Iran over its refusal to halt its nuclear program. Iran recently took delivery of 29 Russian-made Tor-M1 air defense missile systems under a $700-million contract signed in late 2005. Russia has also trained Iranian Tor-M1 specialists, including radar operators and crew commanders. In July Iran successfully launched an upgraded Shahab-3 ballistic missile with a range of 2,000 km (1,240 miles), and several missiles with a range of 350 kilometers (217 miles) as part of the Great Prophet III military exercise in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, drawing a new wave of international criticism. Iran is currently under three sets of relatively mild UN Security Council sanctions for defying demands to halt uranium enrichment, which it says it needs purely for electricity generation despite Western accusations that the program is geared toward weapon production.
NATO chief heads for Georgia in show of support against Russia (NSI News Source Info) TBILISI - September 15, 2008: NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer will arrive in Georgia on Monday, after making strong statements in support of Georgia that have been met with criticism from Russia. Georgia's Foreign Ministry said the NATO chief, heading a delegation with envoys from all 26 members of the Western military alliance, will also discuss plans for Tbilisi's future NATO membership and meet with President Mikheil Saakashvili. On Sunday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov issued an angry response to De Hoop Scheffer's outspoken criticism of Moscow's actions in Georgia. "I have of course heard the statements he has made, statements that are inappropriate for the leader of such a serious organization," he said at a news conference with Sergei Bagapsh, the president of Abkhazia. Russia recognized Abkhazia, along with Georgia's other rebel region of South Ossetia, as independent states after concluding its 'peace enforcement' operation that followed Georgia's August 8 attack on South Ossetia. The NATO delegation's two-day visit to Georgia will start with a meeting of the NATO envoys, who will once again consider whether to admit the former Soviet republic to the Membership Action Plan (MAP), a key step towards full-fledged membership, at the next NATO summit in December. At a summit in Bucharest in April, NATO members decided against the move, but pledged to review the decision in December. The alliance remains divided on the issue, with the U.S. leading calls for Georgia and Ukraine, another of Russia's former Soviet neighbors, to be admitted to MAP, and several EU members arguing it would unnecessarily provoke Russia. During his visit, de Hoop Scheffer will also meet with several top government officials, opposition members, and leaders of nongovernmental organizations. NATO's secretary-general will also pay a visit to Tbilisi State University to meet with students. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned in late August that Russia could sever all ties with NATO amid a standoff over the Georgia-Russia conflict. NATO had already suspended cooperation with Russia, saying "business as usual" could not resume until the country withdraws all troops from Georgia. Russia has blamed Western powers for encouraging Tbilisi's aggression and criticized the alliance for building up forces in the Black Sea and helping Georgia to re-arm in the conflict zone.
Atomic Bomb Plans Still For Sale - NUCLEAR, BIOLOGICAL AND CHEMICAL WEAPONS (NSI News Source Info) September 15, 2008: The UN IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) has continued investigating Pakistani nuclear weapons scientist A Q Khan's illegal nuclear weapons technology smuggling organization. IAEA believes that Khan's group not only had a wider reach than previously thought, but is still in business. Khan himself recently admitted that the Pakistani Army knew he was selling nuclear weapons secrets to Iran, Iraq and North Korea. Previously, he had insisted that he, and his small group of accomplices, had done it all themselves. Back in 2003, the U.S. imposed sanction on a North Korean and Pakistani firm (Changgwang Sinyong Corporation and A.Q. Khan Research Laboratories) for illegally trading missile technology for nuclear weapons. Khan had been suspected of peddling nuclear secrets as far back as the late 1990s. In 2004, Khan finally admitted it. There was popular outrage in Pakistan at a local politicians suggestion that A Q Khan, who originally stole technology from the West and created Pakistans nuclear bombs, be questioned by foreign police for his role in selling that technology (as a private venture) to other nations (like Libya and North Korea). Khan was placed under house arrest after he confessed, and kept away from journalists, but was otherwise untouchable, because he was a national hero for creating the "Islamic Bomb." Popular demand eventually led to Khan being released from house arrest earlier this year. But the IAEA continued to question Khan's customers, some of whom (particularly Libya) have been very cooperative. It is now known, for example, that most of the nuclear weapons documents provided were in electronic form. Thus the information could be easily copied and distributed. There's no way to track down how many copies there are or who has them. It is known that the documents are not in wide distribution, but it is likely that someone (especially in Iran and North Korea) has copies. But there are indications that the documents are still on the market. It gets more interesting. The U.S. CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) concluded that the 2006 nuclear weapons test in North Korea was a failure. This came after analysis of air samples, seismic (using earthquake detectors) and spy satellite data. There was a nuclear explosion, of about one kiloton, but it was the result of a improperly constructed nuclear weapon. Sort of a very low grade nuclear weapon that vaporized, rather than detonated, most of its nuclear material. This sort of explosion is called a "fizzle" and was last seen in 1998, when a Pakistani nuclear weapons test produced a very similar result. What's interesting about this is that the group of Pakistani nuclear scientists (the Kahn group) who were secretly peddling nuclear weapons technology during the 1990s, were apparently selling a defective design. But the IAEA investigation revealed that the Khan group was offering several different designs. Exactly who got what is unclear, and the fizzle that North Korea detonated was either one of the primitive designs, or a poorly put together version of one of the better ones. Khan received a pardon from Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf, but was placed under house arrest and kept from the media. Musharraf was head of the army during the time that Khan and his cronies were peddling their nuclear secrets. Musharraf recently resigned as president, but the current government, controlled by opposition parties, does not appear eager to allow any more investigations of Khan inside Pakistan. Khan has not said that Musharraf knew specifically of the sale of Pakistani nuclear weapons secrets, or made any money from it. But someone had to be paid off to enable North Korean aircraft to load up with Pakistani nuclear weapons related equipment, and taking off for a flight home. The high level of corruption in Pakistan has always worried Western nations, because of the fear of weapons, or technology, being sold. The Khan group simply demonstrated that these fears were real. The Pakistanis have sold them once, and it is feared they would do so again. If not the weapons themselves, then the technology to build ones that work. But the remaining Khan network may no longer be controlled by Pakistanis. Whoever does control this material would also have to be very careful. The CIA, and most of the major intelligence agencies on the planet, are looking for this sort of activity, and will pounce if they get wind of it.
CHRONOLOGY: A.Q. Khan 1936 Khan is born in Bhopal, India. 1952 Khan immigrates with his family to Pakistan. 1961 Khan moves to Europe to complete his studies, first in West Berlin and later at the Technical University in Delft, Holland, where he receives a degree in metallurgical engineering in 1967. 1972 Khan receives Ph.D. in metallurgical engineering from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. May: Khan begins work at Physical Dynamic Research Laboratory (FDO), a subcontractor of Ultra Centrifuge Nederland (UCN). UCN is the Dutch partner in the Urenco uranium enrichment consortium. May 8: Within one week of starting work at FDO, Khan visits the advanced UCN enrichment facility in Almelo, Netherlands to become familiar with Urenco centrifuge operations and the aspects relevant to his own work to strengthen the metal centrifuge components. Khan is not officially cleared to visit the facility, but does so many times with the consent of his employers. Early 1970s Dutch intelligence begins to monitor Khan soon after he begins work at FDO, concerned by a series of inquiries about technical information not related to Khan's own projects. 1974 May 18: India conducts its first nuclear test, a "peaceful nuclear explosion." September: Khan writes to Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to offer his services and expertise to Pakistan. Late: Khan is tasked by UCN at Almelo with translations of the more advanced German-designed G-1 and G-2 centrifuges from German to Dutch, to which he has unsupervised access for 16 days. Late 1970s and Early 1980s American intelligence officials convince Dutch authorities on two occasions not to arrest Khan for the purposes of monitoring his activities further. Abdul Qadeer Khan, nuclear scientist, father of Pakistan's nuclear program and rogue nuclear salesman.
1975 October: Khan is transferred away from enrichment work with FDO as Dutch authorities become increasingly concerned over his activities. He is reportedly observed asking "suspicious questions" at a nuclear trade show in Switzerland. December 15: Khan suddenly leaves FDO for Pakistan with copied blueprints for centrifuges and other components and contact information for nearly 100 companies that supply centrifuge components and materials. 1976 Khan begins centrifuge work with the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) July: After conflicts at the PAEC, Prime Minister Bhutto gives Khan autonomous control over Pakistani uranium enrichment programs. Khan founds Engineering Research Laboratory (ERL) on July 31, which focuses exclusively on developing an indigenous uranium enrichment capability. 1978 ERL develops working prototypes of P-1 centrifuges, adapted from the German G-1 design Khan worked with at Urenco. Pakistan enriches uranium for the first time on April 4 at Khan's enrichment facility at Kahuta. Early 1980s Khan acquires blueprints for the Chinese bomb that was tested in China's fourth nuclear explosion in 1966. Khan is, reportedly, approached by an unknown Arab country (possibly Saudi Arabia or Syria) requesting nuclear assistance. Exterior of the A.Q.Khan Nuclear Research Laboratory. 1981 May 1: ERL is renamed A.Q. Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) by President Zia ul-Haq in recognition of Khan's contributions to the operational enrichment facility at Kahuta. 1983 Khan is convicted, in absentia, in Dutch court for conducting nuclear espionage and sentenced to four years in prison. 1985 Khan's conviction is overturned based on an appeal that he had not received a proper summons. The Dutch prosecution does not renew charges because of the impossibility of serving Khan a summons given Pakistan security and the inability to obtain any of the documents that Khan had taken to Pakistan. Mid 1980s Pakistan produces enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) for a nuclear weapon. KRL continues work on enrichment and is tasked with research and development of missile delivery systems. Khan, reportedly, begins to develop his export network and orders twice the number of components necessary for the indigenous Pakistani program. This transition from importer to exporter of centrifuge components is, apparently, completely missed by western intelligence services who believe Khan is only working on Pakistan's domestic nuclear weapons program. Benazir Bhutto, Former Prime Minister of Pakistan (centre) & Abdul Qadeer Khan (right) Late 1980s Khan and his network of international suppliers are reported to begin nuclear transfers to Iran. The period of cooperation is thought to continue through 1995 when P-2 centrifuge components are transferred. The Pakistani government claims no transfers occurred after the shipments of P-1 components and sub-assemblies from 1989 to 1991. 1987 Khan is believed to make a centrifuge deal with Iran to help build a cascade of 50,000 P-1 centrifuges. 1988 Iranian scientists are suspected of having received nuclear training in Pakistan. 1989 Iran is suspected of receiving its first centrifuge assemblies and components around this time. The shipped components are likely older P-1 centrifuge components that Khan no longer has use for in Pakistan. Through 1995, Khan is reported to have shipped over 2000 components and sub-assemblies for P-1, and later P-2, centrifuges to Iran. 1990 An Iraqi memo, found during inspections in 1995, indicates that Khan may have offered significant nuclear assistance to Iraq in late 1990. He offered to sell Iraq a nuclear bomb design and guarantee material support from Western Europe for a uranium enrichment program. However, Iraq is believed to have turned down the offer, suspecting it to be a sting and no known follow-ups were made after the 1991 Gulf War. 1994 or 1995 More advanced components for P-2 centrifuges are suspected to have arrived in Iran. B.S.A. Tahir, a Sri Lankan business man and Khan's chief lieutenant, told Malaysian police that Iran paid approximately $3 million for these centrifuge parts. Monument to A.Q. Khan, father of Pakistan’s nuclear program. Mid 1990s Khan starts travel to North Korea where he receives technical assistance for the development of the Ghauri missile, an adaptation of the North Korean No Dong design. Khan makes at least 13 visits before his public confession in 2004 and is suspected of arranging a barter deal to exchange nuclear and missile technologies, though the details of any nuclear transfers remain unknown. Khan is suspected to have met with a top Syrian official in Beirut to offer assistance with a centrifuge enrichment facility. 1997 Khan begins to transfer centrifuges and centrifuge components to Libya. Libya receives 20 assembled P-1 centrifuges and components for 200 additional units for a pilot enrichment facility. Khan's network will continue to supply with centrifuge components until late 2003. Khan is suspected of beginning nuclear transfers to North Korea around this time, though the dates of the first transfers are highly uncertain. Transfers to North Korea are believed to have continued through 2003, but the Pakistani government claims these transfers ceased in 2001. Over this period, Khan may have supplied North Korea with old and discarded centrifuge and enrichment machines together with sets of drawings, sketches, technical data, and depleted uranium hexafluoride. 1998 India detonates a total of five devices in nuclear tests on May 11 and 13. Pakistan responds with six nuclear tests on May 28 and 30. 2000 September: Libya receives two P-2 centrifuges as demonstrator models and places an order for components for 10,000 more to build a cascade. Each centrifuge contains around 100 parts, implying approximately 1 million parts total for the entire P-2 centrifuge cascade. A.Q. Khan (far left) and General Pervez Musharraf (far right), President of Pakistan 2001 Libya obtains 1.87 tons of uranium hexafluoride, the gas that is used to feed enrichment centrifuges. The amount is consistent with that required for a small pilot enrichment facility. March: Khan is forced into retirement. Khan refuses the compensatory position of "advisor to the chief executive" and is later given the ceremonial title of "Special Advisor to the Chief Executive on Strategic and KRL Affairs." Summer: American spy satellites detect missile components being loaded into a Pakistani cargo plane outside of Pyongyang. Intelligence services assume the cargo to be missile technology traded in direct exchange for nuclear technology, but no hard evidence exists. December: B.S.A. Tahir signs a $13 million contract with Scomi Precision Engineering (SCOPE) in Malaysia for 25,000 aluminum centrifuge components. Late 2001 or Early 2002 Libya receives blueprints for nuclear weapons plans. The plans are reported to be of Chinese origin with Chinese notes in the margins. 2002 December: Shipments begin from SCOPE of aluminum centrifuge components. Four shipments are believed to have been sent from Malaysia to Dubai before August 2003, en route to Libya. 2003 October: The German cargo ship BBC China is intercepted en route to Libya with components for 1,000 centrifuges. The parts were manufactured in Malaysia by SCOPE and shipped through Dubai. December: Libya renounces its nuclear weapons program and begins the process of full disclosure to the IAEA, including the declaration of all foreign procurements. 2004 February 4: Khan makes a public confession on Pakistani television (in English) of his illegal nuclear dealings. Khan claims that he initiated the transfers and cites an "error of judgment." He is pardoned soon after by President Musharraf and has been under house arrest since. The Pakistani government claims that Khan acted independently and without state knowledge. March: A container aboard the BBC China (the ship that was previously intercepted) arrives in Libya with one additional container of P-2 centrifuge components. Colonel Qaddafi reports the arrival to American intelligence and the IAEA. The Libyans warn American officials that not all of the components from Libya's orders had arrived and some might still show up in the future.
U.S. Air F0rce's 21st Century AWACS (NSI News Source Info) September 15, 2008: The U.S. Air Force has completed testing its latest E-3 AWACS (Air Warning And Control System) upgrades. This Block 40/45 version consists largely of replacing the 1980s era computers and electronics with modern gear. This also makes it possible to more quickly upgrade hardware and software (often using off-the-shelf commercial stuff) in the future. Most visibly, the new software eliminates most of the hundreds of switches and knobs that surrounded the monitors and keyboards of the old model. Not only are many operations automated, but using many functions are now point-and-click on a screen, not a separate switch. The AWACS proved to be a key to victory in the 1991, 2001 and 2003 campaigns. The key to doing this was knowing where all friendly aircraft were at all times. Directing a lot of warplanes over enemy territory has long been a problem. It was elegantly solved with the development of airborne control aircraft like the E-3. But it took half a century to perfect this approach. The problem was first noted during World War II, when operations involving over a thousand aircraft in the air at once demonstrated how out of hand things could get. But no technical solution was available. That is, you could not put a radar in an aircraft powerful enough to get the big picture, the entire picture. However the U.S. Navy did plan to use radar equipped TBF Avengers to control the fighter screen protecting the fleet from Japanese suicide bombing attacks during the planned 1945 invasion of Japan. But the invasion never came off and the Navy pursued the radar equipped control aircraft idea at a more leisurely pace after the war. The navy E-1 airborne early warning aircraft first flew in 1956 and entered service in 1960. While mainly used to extend the radar coverage of a naval task force, this type of aircraft also had a vital role in controlling large numbers of friendly warplanes in air battles. The U.S. Air Force also kept working on the problem. By 1953, the Air Force was able to send propeller driven transports (EC 121 Lockheed Constellations), equipped with powerful radar and radio equipment, off the coasts of North America to watch for Russian bombers. Beginning in 1965, the first of thirty EC 121s was sent to Vietnam, where they controlled combat operations in the northern part of the country. As useful as these aircraft were, it was obvious that, with a little more technology, one could really control air combat operations. The ultimate solution came in the form of a four engine jet transport converted to a flying radar station and control tower. This was the E-3 AWACS, whose development began in the late 1960s, and the first prototypes were flying in the late 1970s. The E-3 went into regular use in 1982. Flying far enough inside friendly territory to avoid enemy anti aircraft missiles, the AWACS radar has a radar range of between 200 km (for small aircraft or cruise missiles flying close to the ground) to 600 km (for large aircraft flying at high altitude). The AWACS tracks several hundred friendly and enemy aircraft at once. The AWACS acts as an airborne command center for aircraft. Friendly planes are kept out of each others way (there was not a single friendly air to air collusion during the 1991 Gulf war, or in any subsequent operations using the E-3.) Enemy aircraft are spotted, identified and friendly interceptors assigned to take care of the hostile planes. One or more AWACS is used to control an air operation and each can stay up eleven hours at a time, or up to 22 hours with refueling and extra crew on board to man the equipment. Its first wartime workout, during the 1991 Gulf war, was a spectacular success, often in more ways than anticipated. For example, the use of over a hundred tankers to refuel combat aircraft would not have been possible without the AWACS being there to efficiently link tankers and aircraft needing fuel. Forming up the Wild Weasels, and coordinating their use with the bombers they escorted, was much easier using an AWACS. Just keeping track of who was who and going where would not have been possible without the AWACS.
Thailand Plans $191.3M Arms Purchase (NSI News Source Info) BANGKOK - September 15, 2008: Thailand's military, still standing watch over the kingdom's political upheaval, has been cleared to purchase thousands of Israeli assault rifles and a Singaporean warship. Embattled Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, who doubles as defense minister, approved a package of defense modernization deals with his Cabinet on Sept. 9. In total, the package is worth an estimated $191.3 million. Most of the package is devoted to a $152.8 million Singapore Technologies-designed amphibious frigate. The Royal Thai Armed Forces will also buy thousands of Israeli assault rifles and Russian shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. "The Cabinet has been lenient with military requests this year in particular," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political and security analyst with Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University. "The last thing Samak needs right now is disgruntlement in the military." Cabinet documents obtained by Defense News say that Thailand's military will contract with Singapore Technologies to buy one large, amphibious frigate - called a landing platform dock ship - for transporting cargo and troops. However, the papers don't specify an exact model. The frigate will be paid off in installments through 2011. Thailand has also inked a contract to buy 15,037 Tavor TAR-21 assault rifles from Israel. This $30.1 million buy will boost the Thai military's total stock of the bullpup-design rifles to more than 30,000 - replacing many of the Army's aging rifles. That purchase is coupled with a $4.4 million order for 531 Israeli Negev light machine guns, raising Thailand's stock to more than 1,100. These will be partially paid for from a special budget tied to securing the violence-scarred Malaysian border, where separatist Muslim insurgents continue to target soldiers and civilians. Russia will also supply 36 Igla-S shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles to Thailand - with seven launching mechanisms - for nearly $4 million. The contracts, which Thitinan described as "scattered," suggest the Thai military lacks a "coherent long-term procurement strategy," he said. In December, when a military council still led Thailand after former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's 2006 coup, it announced a similar round of purchases. In addition to overall modernization plans for each service, the military announced plans to buy Saab Gripen fighter jets, Chinese surface-to-surface missiles, armed personnel carriers and more. "It's been a hodgepodge package in the last few years," Thitinan said. The new package appears in part to address some of Thailand's topical needs, with the Negev light machine guns intended to fight the kingdom's gruesome southern insurgency. The amphibious frigate, according to Cabinet documents, will provide quick disaster relief. Singapore's fleet of landing platform dock ships - all built by the same Singapore Technologies firm - were among the many vessels delivering medics and supplies during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The deal, a modernization boon to Thailand's military, was inked under a shroud of political unrest. To approve the package, the prime minister and his Cabinet convened many provinces away from their Bangkok compound, still occupied as of Sept. 12 by protesters demanding Samak's resignation. At one point 10,000 deep, the protesters transformed the prime minister's stately grounds into a grungy campsite ringed with razor-wire and makeshift barricades. After Samak issued a state of emergency on Sept. 2, no soldiers were dispatched to the compound, and many questioned his sway over the military. Gen. Anupong Paochinda, the Royal Thai Army's commander in chief, has insisted that restoring peace through the military is not the answer. Still, Thai military leaders took a similar public stance just before they ousted previous Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra two years ago. Relations between Samak and the military remain "smooth and close," said government spokesman Nattawut Saikua. But he added: "I say this realizing the leader of the last coup said many, many times he would not seize power." However, Samak's tenuous hold on the prime minister's seat is not expected to affect the military's new arms package.
Georgia lost up to 3,000 men in S. Ossetia conflict - source (NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - September 15, 2008: About 3,000 Georgian soldiers and police were killed during its recent attempt to take control of South Ossetia, a Russian intelligence source said Monday. Georgian troops attacked the breakaway republic on August 8, killing a number of Russian peacekeepers and hundreds of civilians. In response, Russia launched a five-day military operation to "force Georgia to accept peace." "Our data gathered from various sources indicates that Georgia lost up to 3,000 servicemen and police in attack on South Ossetia," the source said, adding that Georgia's Western allies also were aware of numbers involved. "Georgia's leadership is attempting to cover up the real scale of the losses and is officially reporting about 70 confirmed deaths," he said. "But their figures are significantly understated." The source said Georgia suffered such heavy losses because of the poor training and low morale of its military personnel, especially reservists. "Besides, many Georgian soldiers, who are accounted for as MIA, are deserters," he added. "Georgian police are still looking for these people, who simply left the battlefield." Official statements last week put Russia's losses in the short conflict with Georgia at 66 killed and at least 340 wounded.