(NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON September 24, 2008: Pakistan and Afghanistan are discussing a possible joint force to combat militants on both sides of their border near Pakistan's tribal region, a senior Afghan official said on Monday. Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak told reporters that such a force would include US troops and address soaring insurgent violence that he said has stretched the capabilities of US, Nato and Afghan forces inside Afghanistan. “We should have a combined joint task force of coalition, Afghans and Pakistanis to be able to operate on the both sides of the border,” Wardak said at the Pentagon during a visit to Washington to discuss a Kabul plan to nearly double the size of the Afghan army. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he had not heard the details of Wardak's proposal but said any effort to improve security in the border area was welcome. “I think anything that impacts better security on that border is a good thing,” he told reporters in Los Angeles. “I am encouraged that a leader in Afghanistan has spoken out with this kind of idea,” he said. “As in all these things, the devil will be in the details.” Wardak said the Afghan government had discussed the task force with Pakistani officials within the past several weeks. “They say they're looking at it,” he said. Speaking two days after a truck-bomb attack on Islamabad's Marriott hotel, Wardak said that given recent events in Pakistan, “everyone should realize we have a common threat, a common enemy and a common objective to achieve.” He noted that insurgent violence in Afghanistan rose three-fold from 2005 to 2007 and said, “2008 is going to be the highest among all.” Insurgency expansion The core of the insurgency consists of 10,000 to 15,000 fighters in Afghanistan, he said, not including those who operated outside the country in areas such as Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, on the Afghan border. “Now I think they're operating geographically in more areas and more provinces than before, and I think they have stretched the capability of the combined forces of ISAF, the coalition and Afghans,” the defense minister said. US commandos crossed the border into Pakistan on Sept. 3 to attack a suspected al Qaeda target. “A terrorist does not recognize any boundaries,” Wardak said when asked about the raid. “We have to deal with the sanctuaries and the real hide-outs of the terrorists, wherever they are.”
Monday, September 22, 2008
INS Vikramaditya Hits Delay, Cost Increases
(NSI News Source Info) September 23, 2008: India’s troubled attempt to convert and field a full-size aircraft carrier – before time and wear force it to retire its existing naval aviation platforms. On January 20, 2004 India and Russia signed a deal to refurbish and convert the 40,000t Soviet/Russian Admiral Gorshkov into a full carrier by removing the guns, anti-shipping and anti-air missile launchers on the front deck, replacing them with a full runway and ski jump, changing the boilers to diesel fuel, enlarging and strengthening the rear aircraft elevator, and many other modifications. The announced delivery date for INS Vikramaditya was August 2008 – an ambitious schedule, but one that would allow the carrier to enter service in 2009, around the time as their 29,000t light carrier/LHA INS Viraat (formerly HMS Hermes, last of the Centaur class) was scheduled to retire. The new ship will berth at the new Indian Navy facility in Karwar, on India’s west coast. Initial reports of delays sparked controversy in India, but even the Ministry has now admitted their truth. The INS Viraat’s retirement is now set for 2010-2012 – but even that may not be late enough, as slow negotiations and steadily-lengthening delivery times will push delivery of the Gorshkov back to 2010 at the earliest. Reports of delivery in 2012 or later have surfaced, and the continued absence of a contract that Russia will honor is likely to create further delays. Even as the delivery date for India’s locally-built 37,500 ton escort carrier appears to be slipping well beyond 2013. Right now, there are 2 major concerns in India. One is that slipping timelines could easily leave India without a serviceable aircraft carrier. The other is the extent of the cost increases, especially if more increases are added once India has paid for most of the budgeted work and is deep into the commitment trap. The carrier purchase has now become the subject of high level diplomacy, involving a shipyard that can’t even execute on commercial contracts, and an agreement in principle that has yet to be finalized into a contract. Meanwhile, Russia’s new naval fighters will have to deploy on land, because its only operational carriers is undergoing refits. That hasn’t stopped India from approving further MiG-29K purchases, however… *Waiting for Gorshkov… *Gorshkov-Vikramaditya: Aerial Complement *INS Vikramaditya: Updates & Contracts [updated] *Appendix A: Additional Readings – Equipment Profiles *Appendix B: Additional Readings – Related Developments Waiting for Gorshkov… According to the 2004 press release, INS Vikramaditya was supposed to enter the Indian Navy in August 2008. That looks almost certain to fail, but India’s Ministry of Defence initially denied reports of delays. Then, in May 2007, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta said the ships will be delivered: ”...by late 2008 or early 2009…. Our officials, who are stationed at the spot, have said that the work is going on as per schedule and we can have a month long delay once the work is completed as that part of Russia is frozen for a long time.” Later comments on this issue included this May 1, 2007 quote: “The work is only three to four months behind schedule and we can expect the aircraft carrier to be delivered by late 2008 or early 2009” Subsequent updates, however, have proven the critics correct, with even the Ministry admitting as much. Cost estimates and reports concerning the Gorshkov’s final total vary from $700-$1.4 billion, of which $400-500 million has reportedly already been paid. DID’s experience with Indian defense procurement issues is that these figures mean little, beyond defining broad orders of magnitude. Transparency will eventually come, but deals with Russia mean that it will come only from pressure within India, and then only after all other alternatives have been exhausted. Reports until then are really a set of varyingly educated guesses. That there is a real issue of both time and cost, however, can no longer be denied. February 2008 news reports are giving figures of up to 3-4 years before refurbishment and testing are complete, and the refurbished ship can join the fleet. This would place its in-service data at 2011-2012, which risks a gap with no serving carriers in the fleet if further delays occur or the INS Viraat retires slightly early. Meanwhile, China is working hard to refurbish the 58,000t ex-Russian carrier Varyag, and some analysts believe the ship could be operational in a testing capacity by 2010. Those sunk construction costs, Russian possession of the Gorshkov, the difficulty in finding a substitute carrier to replace the Gorshkov sooner than 2013, and the Chinese push with the Varyag, have all combined to give the Russians substantial leverage in their negotiations. Gorshkov-Vikramaditya: Aerial Complement Many of Gorshkov’s key modifications are aircraft-related, including the new arrester gear and ski jump. New boilers and wiring are the other major components. The timelines and cost figures for delivery of the ship do not include aircraft, however, which are contracted separately. The original carrier’s complement was 12 Yak-38 Forger V/STOL fighters, 12 Ka-28 helicopters, and 2 Ka-31 airborne early warning helicopters. The removal of the Gorshkov’s forward missiles, ski ramp, and other modifications will improve the ship’s air complement somewhat. The nature of its original design, however, means that INS Vikramaditya will still fall short of comparably-sized western counterparts like the 43,000t FNS Charles de Gaulle nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, with its 40-plane complement that leans heavily to fighter jets. Carriage ranges given for the refitted Vikramaditya seem to average 12-16 fighters and 4-16 of the compact Ka-28/31 helicopters; diagrams seem to suggest total stowage space for a “footprint” of no more than 15-16 MiG-29Ks, with each Kamov helicopter sporting a comparative footprint of about 0.4, and about 5-6 open footprint spots on deck. A related $740 million contract for 16 MiG-29K aircraft plus training and maintenance was confirmed on December 22, 2004, with an option for another 30 MiG-29Ks by 2015. They would be operated in STOBAR (Short Take-Off via the ski ramp, But Assisted Recovery via arresting wires) mode, and the MiG-29K was reportedly selected over the larger and more-capable navalized SU-33 because India hopes to operate them from an indigenous smaller carrier as well. The Gorshkov-Vikramaditya’s complement will also include Kamov Ka-31 AEW and/or Ka-28 multi-role helicopters, along with a complement of torpedo tubes, air defense missile systems, et. al. If India does indeed buy E-2C+/E-2D Hawkeye naval AWACS aircraft, as is currently rumored, they would be added to this mix and take up footprint slots of their own. Updates & Contracts: Sept 21/08: Still no firm deal on the Gorshkov refit, but India’s Defence Acquisition Committee (DAC) has given approval in principle to add another 29 MiG-29Ks to the original 16-plane, $1.5 billion deal. No price negotiations have taken place, but the contract is expected to be worth close to $2 billion. The Navy is reported to have set its sights on a 3-squadron goal for its MiG-29K/KUB force. Indian Express report. June 3/08: Press Trust of India reports that Russia’s Sevmash shipyard has promised readiness by 2012 – maybe. RIA Novosti quotes Sevmash officials as saying that: “The successful solution of all the financial issues will enable the shipbuilders to sail the aircraft carrier out into the Barents Sea for trials. In the winter of 2012, the ship is expected to be finally refitted and trials will continue in the summer of that year… At the end of 2012, the aircraft carrier is expected to be fully prepared for its transfer to the Indian navy in accordance with the schedule approved by the Russian Navy.” Negotiations and maneuvering around the contract’s final details continue, and Sevmash’s history of delivery, detailed below, must also be considered when evaluating such statements. June 2/08: Defense News reports that India’s MiG-29Ks will be based on land, because the country has no operational carriers. With INS Viraat unavailable due to upgrades and Vikramaditya badly behind schedule, the MiG-29Ks will go to the Naval Aviation Centre at INS Hansa in Goa instead. Hansa is the based used to train naval pilots. Deliveries of all 16 MiG-29Ks are expected to be complete by 2009. May 30/08: Reuters reports that American Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was asked about rumours that the USS Kitty Hawk might be sold to India at the at the Shangri-La Dialogue forum of regional analysts, defense and security officials. “I am aware of no such plans,” Gates replied. May 9/08: News Post India’s “Indian Navy To Order Another Aircraft Carrier” claims that the Indian Navy will supplement the Vikramaditya with 2 of its 37,500t indigenous “Air Defence Ship” carriers, instead of just one. The article also includes additional information about the Vikramaditya’s schedule and the potential risks. April 9/08: Despite an agreement that was supposed to be finalized in March, Indian Defence Secretary Vijay Singh describes the parties as still “locked in intense negotiations over the price details,” adding that “technical assessment of the work needed on the carrier is still on…” The expected responses re: the deal being on track, and having a final price proposal to bring to the Cabinet “soon,” were also voiced. Zee News. March 10/08: The Indian government’s DDI News reports that “India has reconciled to a price hike for procurement of Russian carrier Admiral Gorshkov and the government has constituted an experts committee to work out the increase.” Naval Chief Sureesh Mehta, who had opposed additional payments under the contract, said that: “There will be some price hike. We need to pay extra amount and whatever amount is due as per contracts we will pay.” This does not sound like an encouraging report from ongoing negotiations. March 3/08: India opts to pay Russia more, in hopes of getting the Gorshkov ready in time. Figures given vary between $500 million and $1.2 billion; exactly how much more India will agree to pay will be decided later in March 2008, after 2 more rounds of negotiations. India’s Defence Secretary Vijay Singh is quoted as saying that:
“It should be completed by mid-2010. After that, it will undergo 18 months of extensive sea trials by the Russian navy to ensure all systems are working properly.” Retired Admiral Arun Prakash was head of the Indian Navy in 2004 when the original deal was “laboriously and painstakingly negotiated for 11 months, and the contract sealed and signed.” He told BusinessWeek that he is disappointed by Russia “reneging on the deal” and says Russia “gifted” the Gorshkov to India in exchange for a $1.5 billion contract to buy planes and helicopters and “revive their terminally ill shipbuilding and aircraft manufacturing industries.” India will also reportedly send 500 shipyard workers, technicians and managers to Russia, to take direct charge of the work, cover Russia’s labor shortage, and keep an eye on quality control so that it’s caught immediately. Whether this will suffice, in the wake of Sevmash shipyard disasters like the Odfjell contract (q.v. Feb 21/08), remains to be seen. What also remains to be seen is whether India’s MiG-29K contract becomes the next bottleneck. India remains the only customer for this substantially different aircraft, and MiG will need to make production line changes that the existing contract may not adequately finance. Indian MoD.
France To Beef up Afghanistan Mission (NSI News Source Info) PARIS - September 23, 2008: France announced Sept. 22 it will beef up its mission in Afghanistan with helicopters, drones and other military means amid debate over whether 10 French soldiers killed there were poorly equipped. Prime Minister Francois Fillon said France had "learned the lessons" from last month's Taliban ambush that left 10 soldiers dead and 21 wounded, the country's worst military losses in 25 years. "We have decided to strengthen our military means in the areas of air mobility, intelligence and support," Fillon said at the opening of a parliament debate on whether to keep French troops in Afghanistan. The National Assembly voted in favor of continuing the mission, with the majority from President Nicolas Sarkozy's right-wing party easily overriding objections from the Socialists. Fillon said transport and attack helicopters, drones, surveillance equipment, mortars and 100 additional troops necessary for the beefed-up operation will be deployed. The reinforcements will be in place in a few weeks, he added. But the prime minister denied a report in Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper that the 30 French soldiers were no match for the better-equipped and trained Taliban fighters who attacked them on August 18 in the mountains east of Kabul. The newspaper quoted a secret NATO report stating that the paratroopers had run out of ammunition after only 90 minutes and had only one radio that was quickly knocked out, leaving them unable to call in air support. "The reality is cruel enough without adding lies and disinformation," Fillon said. There was no loss of radio contact and the troops were "always able to respond" to Taliban firepower, he added. Both NATO and the French military denied the existence of any such report, saying the newspaper was referring to a leaked email sent by an officer to NATO command in Kabul that gave a partial account of the ambush. France's armed forces chief of staff Jean-Louis Georgelin said it came from a member of a U.S. special forces unit that was patrolling with the French troops before the ambush. The mountain ambush was the deadliest ground attack on international troops since they were sent to Afghanistan in 2001 to oust the hardline Taliban regime. The National Assembly approved by a vote of 343 to 210 a motion to maintain the 2,600-strong French contingent in Afghanistan, one of the largest serving in the NATO-led mission. Socialist minority leader Jean-Marc Ayrault said France was being dragged into a "war of occupation" although he acknowledged that it could not "suddenly disengage from Afghanistan." The Senate, which is also dominated by the governing right, was to hold a similar vote on the Afghan mission later Monday. About 70,000 international troops - 40,000 of them under NATO command - are helping Afghans fight the Taliban who were ousted from Kabul in a U.S.-led invasion launched after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Critics point to France's involvement in Afghanistan as a worrying sign of French alignment with U.S. policy under Sarkozy, who is considered pro-American compared to his predecessor Jacques Chirac. Heightening concerns is the unstable situation in neighboring Pakistan, where a suicide bomb attack at an Islamabad hotel killed 60 people on Saturday. Fillon called on Pakistan to do more to secure control over the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and said France wanted to "broaden its political and security relations" with Islamabad. The prime minister also called on allies to redouble their efforts to avoid civilian casualties during attacks on the Taliban. "A bomb must not create more enemies than it eliminates," he said.
Production VH-71 Makes First Flight (NSI News Source Info) September 23, 2008: The first of a new series of helicopters that ultimately will carry the president of the United States made its first flight Sept. 22 at an airfield in England. PP-1, the first operational pilot production aircraft of the Lockheed Martin/AgustaWestland VH-71 program, took to the air at AgustaWestland's facility in Yeovil, England, the companies said in a press release. The aircraft "performed exceptionally during its 40-minute flight," Stephen Moss, CEO of AgustaWestland North America, said in the release. The helicopter is the first of five VH-71 Increment One production aircraft that will complete the initial phase, or increment one, of the program intended to replace the current fleet of VH-3 helicopters that carry the president and other executives. A further 23 Increment Two VH-71s with increased range and upgraded navigation and communications systems will complete the new presidential helo fleet. The VH-71 program is managed by the U.S. Navy, although when operational the helicopters will be maintained and flown by the Marine Corps. Four VH-71 test vehicles have been assembled at Yeovil and delivered for testing to the Navy. PP-1 ultimately will join the presidential helicopter fleet when it completes its testing program. PP-1 will be shipped in early October aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport to the Navy's test facilities at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., and will undergo further outfitting at Lockheed's facility in Owego, N. Y.
The B-3 Looks Like The B-2 (NSI News Source Info) September 23, 2008: The B-3 has been seen. The U.S. Air Force is working on a replacement for its current force of heavy bombers (20 B-2s, 67 B-1s and 76 B-52s). Models of what the new bomber might look like have been shown, and the "B-3" (officially the NGB, or New Generation Bomber) looks like the B-2. There are two proposals (from Northrop Grumman and Boeing). Both look like the B-2. For the Northrop Grumman proposal, the main difference is that the stubby wings are "cranked" (moved forward a bit, rather than continuing in a straight line from the body of the aircraft). These derivative designs are apparently favored because the air force knows it is unlikely to get the money for a radical (and expensive) new design. There is also talk of building it so it can operate with, or without, a crew. The air force hopes to get the B-3 into service in ten years. That may be possible, given that the air force has several billion dollars of its money currently invested in "black" (secret) aircraft programs. The B-3 spec calls for a smaller and stealthier aircraft that carries a ten ton bomb load (less than half what current heavy bombers haul). This is in recognition of the effectiveness of smart bombs, which are more than a hundred times more effective than unguided bombs. Meanwhile, the most cost-effective bombers continue to be the half century old B-52s, simply because they are cheaper to operate. The well maintained B-52s are quite sturdy and have, on average, only 16,000 flying hours on them. The air force estimates that the B-52s won't become un-maintainable until they reach 28,000 flight hours. Thus these aircraft could serve another 20 or more years. The B-1 and B-2 were meant to provide a high tech (and much more expensive) replacement for the B-52, but the end of the Cold War made that impractical. The kinds of anti-aircraft threats the B-1 and B-2 were designed to deal with never materialized. This left the B-52 as the most cost effective way to deliver bombs. The B-1s and B-2s are getting some of the same weapons carrying and communications upgrades as the B-52, if only because these more modern aircraft provide a more expensive backup for the B-52. Of the 744 B-52s built, only 94 are still fit for service. Nearly fifty have already been donated to museums (including one in Australia and one in South Korea.) Because of the Russia-U.S. START treaty, hundreds of B-52s in the "bone yard" were stripped of any useful equipment in the 1990s, and, since then, chopped up for scrap. This was all done out in the open, so that Russian spy satellites could confirm it. In the last half century, the air force has developed six heavy bombers (the 240 ton B-52 in 1955, the 74 ton B-58 in 1960, the 47 ton FB-111 in 1969, the 260 ton B-70 in the 1960s, the 236 ton B-1 in 1985, and the 181 ton B-2 in 1992.) All of these were developed primarily to deliver nuclear weapons (bombs or missiles), but have proved more useful dropping non-nuclear bombs. Only the B-70 was cancelled before being deployed. The B-1 was delayed and almost cancelled, but proved that the air force would do anything to keep the heavy bombers coming. The air force generals are now asking the aircraft designers for a subsonic, long range heavy bomber that could operate with, or without, a crew. Since the B-2 requires only a two pilots, and many commercial airliners have flight control equipment that, with a little tweaking, could eliminate the pilots altogether, the idea of heavy bomber UAV is well within the capabilities of current technology. The way this is going, it's likely that the next heavy bomber will be smaller (60-100 tons) subsonic, stealthy, uninhabited and familiar looking. And if rumors from the world of "black projects" are any indication, it is already under construction.
Pakistan May Participate In Red Flag Exercise (NSI News Source Info) September 23, 2008: The Defense Department is inviting the Pakistani Air Force (PAF) to participate in the Red Flag aerial combat training exercise next year at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. An Air Force spokesman told Aerospace DAILY there is “a possibility that the Pakistani Air Force will participate in a Red Flag in 2009.” Group Capt. Ahmer Shehzad, the air attaché at the Pakistani embassy, confirmed that the Pakistani Air Force (PAF) had been invited to Red Flag, but he said officials in Islamabad will decide whether to accept the invitation. India, Pakistan’s regional rival – the two countries have fought three wars since they both gained independence in 1947 – participated in Red Flag for the first time this past summer. First indications of Pakistan’s participation came at a hearing before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee earlier this week in which State and Defense Department witnesses tried to persuade skeptical lawmakers of the merits of reprogramming more than $250 million in military assistance funding to pay for upgrades to Pakistan’s aging fleet of F-16A/Bs (Aerospace DAILY, Sept. 17). Bush administration officials insisted that the U.S.-funded upgrades to Pakistan’s 1980s F-16s will be used to counter al Qaeda terrorism – not Indian air superiority. Air Force Maj. Gen. Burton M. Field, vice director of strategic plans and policy on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, told committee members the upgrades will allow the PAF to conduct close air support and precision strikes at night – which it can’t do now. Field said Pakistan’s participation in Red Flag would be preceded by “a series of progressive building block approaches over in their own country, getting them ready for that large scale program.”
Patrol Aircraft Spot Drug Runner Semi-Sub (NSI News Source Info) September 23, 2008: U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection maritime patrol aircraft are the key to the initial successes the government is having in interdicting self-propelled, semi-submersible craft trying to smuggle tons of cocaine into the U.S. In the past week, Navy P-3 Orions working with Coast Guard teams have spotted two of the self-propelled, semi-submersible (SPSS) craft trying to make their way from Colombia up to the west coast of the U.S. in the Pacific ocean. Intelligence helped them know where to look. Rear Adm. Ted N. Branch says the Navy P-3 Orions used in the interdictions have radar and forward looking infrared sensors that can detect these low profile SPSS craft on the ocean. These types of smuggling vessels are fabricated in the jungles of Colombia and designers have moved on from earlier wood and fiberglass models to steel and fiberglass. Their low topside profile creates a small radar cross section, so maritime patrol aircraft have the best detection track record so far, according to the Coast Guard. On Sept. 13, a Navy P-3 Orion directed a U.S. Navy warship to one SPSS so a Coast Guard team could board the vessel. The boarding party surprised the four Colombians aboard, who then opened valves to scuttle the vessel. The Coast Guard crew was able to get the valves closed, allowing the 59-foot long SPSS and seven tons of cocaine to be seized. In the other case on Sept. 17, the P-3 directed the Coast Guard cutter Midgett to an SPSS 400 nautical miles south of the Mexico-Guatemala border in the Pacific. Seven tons of cocaine valued at $196 million were seized, but the SSPS sank after the drugs were removed. This type of low-profile smuggling craft ranges in length from 25 to 65 feet, cruises for 2,500 nautical miles at speeds up to 13 knots and can go 5,000 nautical miles with refueling. Payloads average 3-6 tons and can be as high as 10 tons. The Coast Guard says it has interdicted roughly 71 metric tons of drugs worth about $2.1 billion being carried via SPSS since November 2006. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine office also operates 16 P-3s on this drug interdiction mission in joint operations with the Coast Guard and Navy in the Caribbean and the Pacific, says John R. Stanton, executive director of national air security operations for CBP. The service also has several de Havilland Dash 8-200s and a few Piper Cheyennes equipped for maritime surveillance. In addition, Stanton says, CBP and the Coast Guard are considering the use of maritime surveillance radar aboard the Predator unmanned aircraft to search for drug smuggling vessels. CBP currently operates four MQ-9 Predators for border patrol and is acquiring two more. The Coast Guard may also acquire Predators. Stanton says one radar made by Elbit has been flown on a Predator. He expects a CPB and Coast Guard radar procurement effort to start next fiscal year with a request for information.
Indo-US air force transport exercise at Agra next year (NSI News Source Info) New Delhi (PTI) September 23, 2008: Ramping up the forward-moving interaction between their airforces, India and the US will hold a high-level joint exercise of their transport aircraft and helicopter fleet at Agra in the first half of next year. "The 2009 exercise will include both the transport aircraft and helicopters, and will concentrate more on logistics and air maintenance manoeuvre," a top Indian Air force (IAF) officer told PTI here on Monday. The Agra exercise will witness the USAF's Chinooks and Bell helicopters and the C-130J Hercules multi-role transport aircraft vying with the IAF's workhorses An-32 mediumlift, IL-76 heavylift aircraft and its transport choppers Mi-17 and Mi-26. Incidentally, Chinook is a competitor for the IAF's heavylift helicopter tenders, where airforce is looking to procure 12 heavylift choppers. Bell choppers have also received the Request for Proposals from India for the IAF and Army requirement for 197 light utility helicopters. India has already bought six of the C-130J Hercules for its special forces and a follow-on order of another six Hercules is in the pipeline. Delivery of the C-130J will begin in 2010, according to IAF sources. Just about a week ago, the IAF's Su-30 MKIs multirole air superiority aircraft returned from US after participating in the world's most advanced 'Red Flag' air wargame. India and the US air forces have earlier exercised twice in 2004 at Gwalior (in Madhya Pradesh) and Alaska (in US), and once in 2005 at Kalaikunda in West Bengal, all of which have been fighter fleet exercises.
Lockheed Martin’s Joint Air-To-Surface Standoff Missile Successful in Latest Flight Test (NSI News Source Info) ORLANDO, FL, September 23, 2008: A Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) successfully completed a Product Upgrade Verification (PUV) flight test on September 18 at White Sands Missile Range, NM. The missile successfully navigated through a preplanned route and struck its intended target. The PUV flight tests are designed to test new hardware. The primary test objective of this flight was to demonstrate Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver performance in a jamming environment. “This flight test successfully demonstrated the continued missile reliability and performance of JASSM’s anti-jam GPS,” said Randy Bigum, vice president of Strike Weapons at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “JASSM’s ability to function in a jamming environment is one of its major benefits to our Warfighters.” Earlier in the year, JASSM was successful in 14 of 16 flight tests conducted by the U.S. Air Force that verified the missile as a reliable weapon system. JASSM is a critical weapon for the U.S. Air Force, with the seventh production lot under contract toward a total objective of 4,900 JASSM and JASSM-ER (Extended Range). The baseline JASSM is also produced for foreign military sale customers. JASSM is integrated on the B-1, B-2, B-52 and F-16 aircraft. Future platforms include the F-15E, F/A-18 and F-35. The missile is produced at Lockheed Martin’s award-winning manufacturing facility in Troy, AL. Lockheed Martin has assembled approximately 800 JASSM missiles in Troy since late 1999 for testing and operational use. A 2,000-pound class weapon with a penetrator/blast fragmentation warhead, JASSM cruises autonomously in adverse weather, day or night, using a state-of-the-art infrared seeker in addition to the anti-jam GPS to find a specific aimpoint on the target. Its stealthy airframe makes it extremely difficult to defeat. Headquartered in Bethesda, MD, Lockheed Martin is a global security company that employs about 140,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The corporation reported 2007 sales of $41.9 billion.
NKorea preparing to restart nuclear reactor: official
(NSI News Source Info) Panmunjom, Korea (AFP) September 22, 2008: North Korea, accusing Washington of breaking a nuclear disarmament deal, said Friday it is working to restart its atomic reactor and no longer wants US concessions promised under the pact. "We are making thorough preparations to restore (nuclear facilities)," said foreign ministry official Hyon Hak-Bong. "You may say we have already started work to restore them to their original status," he told reporters at the border truce village of Panmunjom before the start of talks between the two Koreas on energy aid. The US State Department confirmed North Korea was moving "closer and closer" to restarting the plutonium-producing plant, and urged the regime to pull back. "They haven't got to that point yet (of restarting) and we would urge them not to get to that point," department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters. "They have a choice. They can go down the pathway of having different and better relationship with the world... or they can keep themselves isolated, move the process backward. So we'll see," McCormack said in Washington in reaction to the comments. The foreign ministry in Pyongyang said separately that work has been under way "since some time ago" to restore the reactor in response to the US failure to drop the North from a terrorism blacklist. "Now that the US true colours are brought to light, the DPRK (North Korea) neither wishes to be delisted as a 'state sponsor of terrorism' nor expects such a thing to happen," a ministry spokesman told the official news agency. "It will go its own way." The energy talks went ahead Friday despite the deadlock in a six-nation aid-for-disarmament deal, which appeared to be making progress this summer. The hardline communist state, which tested an atomic weapon in October 2006, began disabling its ageing reactor and other plants at Yongbyon last November under the pact with South Korea, the US, Japan, China and Russia. But it announced last month it had halted work in protest at Washington's refusal to drop it from the blacklist, as promised under the deal. Washington says the North must first accept strict outside verification of a nuclear inventory which Pyongyang handed over in June. Foreign ministry official Hyon said such demands for what he called "forceful inspections" are not part of the six-party deal. Similar demands for a "robber-like inspection method" led to war in Iraq, he said in opening remarks at the Panmunjom talks, adding that the US wants "to go anywhere at any time to collect samples and carry out examinations with measuring equipment." Hyon said the North had "perfectly and flawlessly" completed 90 percent of disablement work including the extraction of 4,740 spent fuel rods. In return for disablement, negotiating partners promised the impoverished state one million tons of heavy fuel oil or equivalent energy aid. Nearly half has so far been delivered and Hwang Joon-Kook, chief of the South Korean delegation, said the rest would be sent. "We also want to make sure that the six-party process does not go backward," Hwang said in his own opening remarks. In Seoul, Foreign Minister Yu Myung-Hwan said it is unclear whether the North intends to turn the nuclear clock back "or whether it is another bargaining move." A senior South Korean foreign ministry official said Friday's talks reached no agreement and the two sides failed to set a date for the next meeting. He said Seoul's delegation urged the North to take part in talks on verification methods. "We told them that there will be a problem in (delivering) energy aid if disablement is not done." In London, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said Thursday the North could put its nuclear programme back on track in less than a year. Uncertainty over the health of leader Kim Jong-Il means its nuclear stalemate with Washington is likely to continue, it added. Kim, 66, failed to appear at a September 9 anniversary parade. South Korean officials said he underwent brain surgery following a stroke but is recovering well. Hyon rejected the reports about Kim's health as malicious. "That's sophism by evil people wanting to break up unity between the two Koreas," he said.
Venezuela To Buy Chinese Combat Planes: Chavez
(NSI News Source Info) CARACAS (AFP) - September 22, 2008: Venezuela will buy combat and training aircraft from China this week, leftist Venezuela President Hugo Chavez confirmed in a television broadcast Sunday. The purchases will be made as part of a six-country tour, Chavez said in his broadcast of the "Alo President" television program from the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, hours before leaving on a "strategic interest" trip to Cuba, China, Russia, Belarus, France and Portugal. Chavez, a staunch foe of the US government, confirmed that during his stay in Beijing he will purchase 24 K-8 aircraft "to train fighter pilots." The planes could be part of Venezuela's air force by next year. The president also confirmed that while in Beijing he will arrange the construction of tanker vessels in Chinese shipyards, with the aim of installing a shipyard in Venezuela in the near future. These plans come in addition to the construction of a refinery in China to process oil from Venezuela, and plans to create a bi-national company to install a refinery in the remote oil-rich Orinoco region in eastern Venezuela. Caracas provides 500,000 barrels of oil per day to Beijing, a trade which is expected to increase to one million barrels a day by 2012. Chavez, who describes China as a strategic ally, will move forward with a six billion dollar bilateral investment fund. China will contribute four billion dollars to the fund, and Venezuela two billion dollars. Caracas will use the fund for "socialist productive projects." "Before we had to go to Washington to beg for money. Not now. Now we negotiate with the Chinese," said Chavez. Chavez announced that during his visit to Beijing the investment fund will benefit from an additional four billion dollars for further "development" in Venezuela. After China, Chavez will head to Moscow. Venezuela in recent years has been broadening its military ties to Moscow, and Chavez backed Russia in the recent Georgian conflict. Last week, Russian supersonic Tu-160 bombers for the first time flew training runs with Venezuela in an area of the Caribbean traditionally considered the US military's sphere of influence. Chavez's trip is expected to last until September 27.
Russian strategic bombers to join military drills with Belarus (NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - September 22, 2008: Russian strategic bombers will conduct practice launches of various types of missiles on October 6-12 during large-scale Russia-Belarus military exercises which started Monday, the Air Force commander said. The Stability-2008 exercises will last until October 21 in various regions of Russia and Belarus with the goal of practicing strategic deployment of the Armed Forces, including the nuclear triad, to counter potential threats near the Russian border. "The exercise will involve the majority of personnel and strategic aircraft in service with strategic aviation," Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin said. "The crews will deploy the entire range of on-board weaponry." According to various sources, the Russian Air Force currently has in service at least 141 Tu-22M3 Backfire-C, 40 Tu-95 Bear-H and 16 modernized Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers. The bombers carry long-range cruise missiles and short-range nuclear missiles as primary weaponry. Moscow has repeatedly stressed the need to continue the development of Russia's Strategic Nuclear Forces, including its airborne component, and said they should be able to respond promptly and effectively to any aggression. The Russian Air Force combat training program has scheduled more than 200 exercises with 350 live firing drills for the second half of 2008.
Russian warships head to the Atlantic, Caribbean (NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - September 22, 2008:- A Russian naval task force departed Monday on a tour of duty in the Atlantic Ocean, including joint naval drills with the Venezuelan navy in November, a Navy spokesman said. "A naval task force from the Northern Fleet, comprising the nuclear-powered missile cruiser Pyotr Velikiy, the large ASW ship Admiral Chabanenko, and support ships, left the Severomorsk base early Monday to conduct training exercises in the Atlantic," Capt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo said. Pyotr Velikiy is a Kirov (Orlan) class nuclear-powered guided missile heavy cruiser, which has practically unlimited operational range and carries 20 SS-N-19 Shipwreck surface-to-surface missiles with either nuclear or high-explosive warheads and about 500 surface-to-air missiles of different types, supplemented by a large number of other weaponry. Dygalo said that during the tour of duty the Russian warships would participate in joint naval exercises with the Venezuelan navy on November 10-14, in line with the 2008 training program and in order to expand military cooperation with foreign navies. "During the exercise, ships and naval aircraft will practice coordinated maneuvering, search-and-rescue, and communications," Dygalo said. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez earlier confirmed that Venezuela would hold joint naval exercises with Russian warships in the Caribbean and said the Russian navy would receive a warm welcome in the Latin American country. Russia announced last year that its Navy had resumed and would build up a constant presence in different regions of the world's oceans. A task force from the Northern Fleet, consisting of the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, the Udaloy-Class large AWS ships Admiral Levchenko and Admiral Chabanenko, as well as auxiliary vessels, conducted from December 2007 to February 2008 a two-month tour of duty in the Mediterranean Sea and North Atlantic.
The Grenades Of Iraq (NSI News Source Info) September 22, 2008: As roadside bombs, snipers and large scale ambushes (with machine-guns and RPGs) decline in Iraq, the few terrorists still in play remain desperate to kill Americans. They are now increasingly relying on hand grenades, often unreliable improvised ones. This is a dangerous business, and often gets the user killed. American casualties are few, especially since the grenadiers insist on trying to lob their weapons down the hatches of American vehicles. The terrorists discovered, too late, that this is difficult. Many don't even complete the toss, as alert U.S. troops spot and shoot them. Most terrorist organizations in Iraq have been destroyed, or much reduced in terms of manpower, money and weapons. They can no longer afford to manufacture, emplace and use roadside bombs. That takes technical skill, a large team, and money (most techies will not work for free, nor will arms merchants supply bomb making materials for free.) Snipers were a problem for a while, but over the last few years, those few men who had learned sniping skills in Saddams army, and had sniper grade rifles and scopes, have been hunted down and killed. American technology has played a role in all this, providing equipment that detects roadside bombs, and snipers. Jammers prevent roadside bombs from going off. Homemade grenades are more difficult to fabricate than terrorists think. Just having a mortar shell or RPG warhead, and a blasting cap is not enough. Real grenades are hard to come by, as U.S. and Iraqi troops have been finding and destroying a growing number of illegal weapons caches. A year ago, you could get a grenade on the black market for about ten bucks, now it costs two or three times that, if you can find them at all. The arms merchants are being targeted by Iraqi police and shut down. That's a matter of self-defense, as Iraqi security forces are more often a target than U.S. troops. Many terrorists survive a failed grenade attack, at least the ones smart enough to approach U.S. troops from the safety of a crowd of civilians. They know American troops are told not to fire into a crowd unless they have a specific target and a clear shot. But these grenade tossers are not popular with civilians, because the grenades tend to hurt more Iraqis than Americans. Iraqi police often get enough tips from bystanders to hunt down and arrest the terrorist.
India And Israel Work Together Against Terrorism (NSI News Source Info) September 22, 2008: Israel and India are increasing their cooperation in the fight against Islamic terrorism. Israeli special operations troops are going to India, to exchange information, ideas and techniques with their Indian counterparts. India has been suffering from Islamic violence for centuries, but Israel has been at the forefront in developing effective weapons, equipment and tactics to deal with the problem. Last year, Israeli troops went to Kashmir, and shared their knowledge of how to keep Islamic terrorists from sneaking across borders. Although the Israeli experience is largely related to desert and semi-tropical borders, it is applicable for the mountains and forests more typical of Kashmir as well. The Israeli methods are highly dependent on many types of sensors, and computer software that can "learn" which combination of sensor readings indicate some guys with guns trying to move through an area. Israel has already sold India millions of dollars worth of night vision devices, which the Indians have used with great success against the terrorist line crossers. The Israeli sensors were not always as successful as they should be, and the Israeli trainers and technical experts went to Kashmir to work out the kinks, and set the stage for some large new sensor sales. India has been able to supply Israel with a lot of useful intelligence on al Qaeda activities, and what Iran is up to. India has maintained good relations with Iran, which has been a trading partner for thousands of years. In this case, tradition and mutual-need trumps religious differences. India also has a good informant network in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Somalia: Chaos Continues Without End In Sight (NSI News Source Info) September 22, 2008: The pirates operating off the north coast of Somalia are currently holding eleven ships and 200 sailors. Pirates are demanding a million dollars or more per ship from the owners. This has pushed up insurance rates to over $10,000 per ship moving through the Gulf of Aden (going to or coming from the Suez canal). Some 60 ships have been attacked off Aden this year, with pirates using two or three large fishing ships as "mother ships" to get pirates and their speed boats several hundred kilometers off the north Somali coast, in the middle of the Gulf of Aden, where most of the ship traffic is. More nations are sending aircraft and warships to patrol the Gulf of Aden. But none of these nations are willing to go ashore to destroy pirate bases, and some are restricting the use of force (against the pirates) by their warships. The clan and warlord violence has left about 900 dead in the last three months. Some of the gangs are united by religion, but all are out to make money. Everyone has to live, and dozens of separate clan or warlord gangs use their guns to get whatever they can. The chaos has left a third of the population (nearly four million people) in danger of starvation. Yet the foreign aid groups that are trying to supply food, provide the best targets for attacks from armed gangs. In Mogadishu, clans battling for control of the city, have turned their attacks on African Union peacekeepers. The attacking clans used to control the city, but lost out because they were allied with the Islamic Courts. These Islamic radicals tried to invade Ethiopia, which triggered an invasion by Ethiopian troops, who now help garrison Mogadishu, and support the new clan militias which have taken control of the city. But the clans that were forced out, keep attacking, and using refugee camps outside the cities as bases. Most of the attacks only hurt civilians, because the weapon of choice is mortars, roadside bombs or random rifle fire. The Islamic gangs cannot win in a direct battle with the Ethiopians, so they are trying to create more chaos to force the Ethiopians out. September 17, 2008: Commercial aircraft have stopped using the Mogadishu airport, after threats of attacks by Islamic groups. But peacekeeper flights continue to come in. September 15, 2008: Islamic Courts gangs have threatened to shut down the airport in Mogadishu. They can do this by firing on aircraft landing or taking off from the airport, which is by the seashore. Two Ugandan peacekeepers have been killed by roadside bombs in the past two days. The peacekeepers spend most of their time guarding their base and the airport, along with the roads that connect the two. French commandos freed two French citizens in the north, who had their sailing ship seized by pirates on the 2nd. September 14, 2008: Several hundred Ethiopian troops withdrew from the central Somali city of Beledweyn, and Islamic Courts gunmen moved in later. Gangs of Islamic Courts gunmen have been raiding throughout southern Somalia for the last few months. Gunmen kidnapped two more aid workers (for the UN World Food Program). The two Somalis are apparently being held for ransom, as bandits know that the food aid groups have cash.
The Russian Connection With Hamas & Hezbollah (NSI News Source Info) September 22, 2008: The blockade of Gaza has made the smuggling tunnels a major business, despite regular collapses and Egyptian police finding and destroying them. There's too much money to be made by operating a tunnel, so while the Egyptians discover and destroy at least one a day, work on another one begins. Hamas taxes the tunnels, obtaining nearly $4 million a year from that alone. Hamas operates some of the tunnels, making more money from smuggling in consumer goods. But the tunnels are also used to bring weapons in from Egypt, where police and government officials are bribed to look the other way. Meanwhile, Fatah announced plans to retake control of Gaza by force. While Fatah has established control over the West Bank, any move on Gaza would require cooperation from the Israelis. Something will have to be done about Hamas, because of the growing arsenal of rockets, and continued announcements that Hamas will eventually attack Israel and, with the help of Iran, destroy Israel. The Israeli armed forces believe that Russia is using its intelligence forces, both agents inside Israel and spy satellites and ships, to collect information on Israel and pass it on to Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Israelis believe this has been going on for several years, apparently as part of some deal with Iran. Several corruption investigations have caught up with Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, who has now resigned. The new prime minister will be former Mossad operative (and current foreign minister) Tzipi Livni. It's uncertain how much, if any, change there will be because of this. September 18, 2008: Settler violence continued in the West Bank, as police removed settlers from an illegal outpost, and settlers responded by setting fires and damaging Palestinian property. September 16, 2008: In Gaza, battles between Hamas and clan gangs left eleven dead, including a child and a pro-al Qaeda terrorist (who was protected by the gang). Hamas control of Gaza is not complete. September 15, 2008: A member of the Iraqi parliament (Sunni Arab Mithal Alusi), was punished by his fellow members for visiting Israel to attend a peace conference. The Iraqi parliament is dominated by Shia Arabs, many of whom are pro-Iranian (and Iran continues to publicly call for the destruction of Israel. September 13, 2008: In the West Bank, a Palestinian sneaked into an Israeli settlement and stabbed a nine year old boy. Several dozen of the men from the settlement grabbed their weapons and went to the nearby Palestine village and damaged cars and buildings with rocks and bullets. Six Palestinians were wounded. The Israeli police could not go into the Palestinian village right away because the army controls access to Palestinian areas and it took some time to contact the army and coordinate police-army operations to get the rioting settlers out of the village.