German Parliament Approves Extra Troops for Afghanistan
(NSI News Source Info) October 19, 2008: Germany's lower house of parliament voted on Thursday to increase the number of troops Berlin can send to Afghanistan by 1,000 soldiers and extended the mission's mandate by 14 months.
German troops in Afghanistan
A majority of 442 lawmakers voted to support a proposal by Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition to extend Berlin's participation in a NATO-led peacekeeping mission, which currently includes just over 50,000 soldiers. 96 parliamentarians voted against and 32 abstained. Under a previous parliamentary mandate, Germany was allowed to send up to 3,500 troops to Afghanistan. The vote on Thursday increases that number to 4,500. The mandate is valid for 14 months. Troop morale at a low The vote comes at a time when morale among German troops in Afghanistan is low as they face increased attacks from a resurgent Taliban. Five years ago, when the German army began its mission in northern Afghanistan, the region was regarded as one of the country's safest. Now, the solders run the daily risk of "being caught in an explosive or being shot at," one officer said. During the last year, the security situation has deteriorated not only in the north, but all across Afghanistan. The Afghan presidential election, likely to shape the country's future for years to come, is scheduled around autumn 2009, making a further escalation of violence in the coming year more than likely. As voter registration started last week, Taliban spokesman Kari Jussif Ahmadi warned the population against registering, saying it was a "waste of time," as the militants were set to prevent the election from happening. "More than half of the country is in our hands, and we will not let it happen," he said. Added danger posed by upcoming election While the Taliban are unlikely to prevent the polls -- they failed to do so in 2004 despite grand announcements to the contrary -- they are believed to be strong enough to severely disrupt the run-up to the election. The international community has made it clear that securing the election will be one of the most important tasks in 2009. The German troops within the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) will also play a role in the training of Afghan security forces, a process that must be speeded up after being promoted too timidly for a long time. There is no doubt that this will be dangerous. Even today, the duty of the 4,500 German soldiers is a far cry from the beginning of the mission, when ISAF troops really were peacekeepers. Soldiers at the German camp in the northern province of Kunduz nicknamed the full moon "rocket weather," because of the many attacks raining down on them by moonlight. In September, a German soldier was killed in an attack. "You have an odd feeling when you leave the camp on a mission," said an officer, who did not want to give his name. "It sensitizes you, but also creates a distance to the population. Just being present, just walking down to the bazaar, like we did two, three years ago, that's not possible anymore." Little support on the home front Other soldiers believe that the German population does not appreciate their work, which only makes headline news when attacks occur. "The soldiers want more interest in Germany, and that there is not just focus (on them) when something happens," the German Bundeswehr in Afghanistan said in a statement. "More appreciation of the efforts here would be welcome, after all soldiers here can die for Germany," the army said.
DoD Plans To Spend $360B More Over 6 Years
(NSI News Source Info) October 19, 2008: As President George W. Bush prepares to leave office in three months, his budget writers at the Pentagon are planning to dump a giant budget increase on the team that replaces them.
Bradley Berkson, the Pentagon's director of program analysis and evaluation, confirmed that defense budget officials are preparing spending plans for the next six years that add about $60 billion a year to the "base" military budget.
That would push the planned 2010 "base" defense budget to $587 billion, up from the previously proposed $527 billion. It would add $360 billion to Pentagon spending over six years.
In addition to the base budget for 2010, the Defense Department will need "supplemental" funding to keep fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Berkson said during an interview on the television show "This Week in Defense News." The interview is slated to air on Oct. 22.
Berkson said wartime supplementals have been adding about $150 billion a year to total defense spending.
For a departing president to propose giant defense spending increases on his way out the door "is very unusual," said Steven Kosiak, chief of budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. "The time for the administration to present a budget with these changes was in February, not now."
Each February, the Defense Department sends Congress a defense budget request for the next year and a future year defense program, or FYDP, that projects defense spending for six years into the future.
"It's not clear what has changed since February when the last FYDP was released that would indicate a need for extra money," Kosiak said.
Berkson said the funds are needed because the U.S. military is adding 92,000 soldiers and Marines.
"We are preparing a budget consistent with force structure President Bush has announced," he said.
The additional troops will require "operations and maintenance support and capital support," Berkson said. That is, money to maintain equipment, to train troops and to buy new weapons.
An extra $60 billion a year "will be sufficient to sustain those forces," he said.
"The last FYDP was supposed to include money for the additional manning and equipment. That's what they told Congress," Kosiak said.
What has changed in the nine months? Kosiak asked. There is no additional force structure and no new, costly programs, he said.
"Were the estimates from February way off?" Or possibly, "this is an attempt to lay out a marker for the next administration to have to deal with when they come into office," Kosiak said. By adding $60 billion a year to the long-range defense spending plan, the outgoing administration could put pressure on the new administration to boost military spending that was scheduled to level off after a decade of substantial increases. Any defense spending proposal that is lower than Bush's 11th-hour bulked-up budget could be assailed as a defense spending cut.
"I'm not sure how seriously this will be taken by the next administration," Kosiak said.
Bush's successor should conduct a careful examination of the military to determine how much money is needed in the base budget, how much extra is needed for the wars and what kind of a military is needed for the future, he said.
"This is not a flattering picture of the administration's management of budgeting in general and of defense budgeting in particular," Kosiak said.
Artillery Gun Module (AGM) Medium Weight Self Propelled Howitzer, Germany
(NSI News Source Info) October 18, 2008: Krauss-Maffei Wegmann's Artillery Gun Module (AGM) is an air-transportable, medium-weight, turreted self-propelled howitzer based on the proven technology of the PzH 2000 SP howitzer in service with the German Army. The system is fully autonomous and provides the same performance as the PzH 2000, but with reduced cost, crew levels and weight.
The Artillery Gun Module (AGM) is a medium-weight, turreted, self-propelled howitzer based on the PzH 2000 SP howitzer in service with the German Army.
The AGM howitzer mounted on the MLRS chassis is air transportable on an Airbus A400M transport aircraft.Using standard rounds the maximum range is 30km; with base bleed rounds the range is more than 40km.
The AGM system is fully autonomous and provides the same performance as the PzH 2000, but with significantly reduced weight.
A proof-of-principle demonstrator has been built and trialled with a 52-calibre gun mounted on a Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) tracked chassis.
The gun module can be fitted on a tracked or wheeled chassis. The intention is to integrate the gun module into available in-service chassis for the customer country and to set up co-production arrangements with the local in-country chassis producer to provide a cost effective and medium weight indirect fire support platform.
The first demonstrator was completed in 2004. The verification phase was finished in early 2007.
The artillery gun module development has been based on the 155mm / L52-calibre gun but the system could also be adapted for a lighter gun such as a 105mm gun or 39-calibre 155mm gun.
The module can be fitted on a heavy 6x6 or 8x8 chassis, a tracked Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) hull or a main battle tank hull. It is necessary to fit hydraulically operated stabilisers and firing spades to wheeled platforms for the vehicle to withstand the recoil. The AGM installed on an MLRS chassis has a combat weight of 27t. Mounted on a 6x6 truck the combat weight is about 22.5t compared to the PzH 2000 combat weight of about 55t.
Under a completely separate programme led by shipbuilders HDW, a naval modular artillery gun, MONARC, is being developed that integrates the gun turret and autoloader from the PzH 2000 into the deck of a naval vessel.
The development programme was started in early 2003. A proof-of-principle demonstrator has been built with a 52-calibre gun mounted on an MLRS tracked chassis. Preliminary verification firing trials of the proof-of-principle demonstrator were successfully carried out at the German Army's live firing range at Meppen in August and September 2004. 79 rounds were fired during the trials. Most were Zone 6 firings using Rheinmettall DM72 charge systems with a 52°C charge temperature.
The proof-of-principle demonstrator was not built with an autoloader and was manually loaded for the trials. The system successfully fired with the turret in the forward and rear positions and up to 45° in azimuth on either side of these positions. The firing tests were completed at all elevations. Some firings, but not at all elevations, were carried out with the turret at 90° to the forward position and using the most powerful Zone 6 charges.
Assembly of a fully functioning second demonstrator started in the second quarter of 2005. The demonstrator includes a fully automatic loading system which loads the projectiles and the charges. A new six-cylinder engine and transmission is intended to be installed in the next evolutionary step.
The system is operated by a crew of two. The AGM uses the main gun components from the PzH 2000 – the barrel and elevating mass, the shell loader and flick rammer. The system also has a separate dedicated auxiliary power unit. The turret is of lightweight aluminium armour construction.
The 12.5t turret carries 30 projectiles and charges. The autoloader is based on a modified PzH 2000 shell loader and an automatic charge loader. The charge loader will automatically compose the selected charges using any Joint Ballistics Memorandum of Understanding (JBMOU) compliant charge module. The autoloader is powered by a 24V electrical supply.
A lifting system is installed at the front of the turret allowing the crew to reload the magazine from outside the vehicle. The ammunition feed has an automatic inductive fuse setting system. The pneumatically operated flick rammer rams the shells into the breech with elevation angle-dependent ramming pressure control.
The MLRS chassis is modified with stronger torsion bars and extra shock absorbers.
The crew cabin is separated from the firing module. The crew cabin is fitted with a computerised fire control system with the NATO armament ballistic kernel software implemented and linked to the KMW artillery command and control system or to other command and control systems. The system can be loaded and fired manually.
The cabin provides protection against small arms rounds, anti-personnel mines, bomblets and nuclear, biological and chemical warfare attack.
The AGM can fire against stationary and moving targets at a rate of six to eight rounds a minute including Multiple-Round Simultaneous-Impact (MRSI) firing. Using standard rounds the maximum range is 30km; this is increased to more than 40km with base bleed rounds.
The artillery gun module development has been based on the 155mm / L52-calibre gun.
The into-action and out-of-action times for the AGM are similar to those of the PzH 2000 – approximately 30 seconds. The system receives target data via a radio link either while it is on the move or in a defilade position. The laying and loading data is computed and the firing command is executed. Immediately after firing the last round, the vehicle leaves the firing position in a shoot-and-scoot manoeuvre to avoid counter battery fire.
The howitzer on the MLRS chassis is air transportable on an Airbus A400M transporter aircraft. With the gun in the forward position lowered over the cab the barrel overhangs the vehicle by 2.5m. For air transport, the artillery gun module is 10.42m long, 2.97m wide and 3.06m high.
Delivery of 12 Leopard 2 HEL Armoured Recovery Vehicles to Hellenic Army Completed
(NSI News Source Info) October 18, 2008: Rheinmetall Defence's Land Systems division, one of the world's leaders in the development and production of armoured recovery vehicles, was awarded a contract in July 2004 to supply the Greek Army with 12 armoured recovery vehicles (ARVs).
Leopard 2 HEL Armoured Recovery Vehicles
The vehicles are based on a Leopard 2 tank chassis equipped with a crane, winches, dozer blade and recovery systems.
Featuring high towing and winch performance, the ARV Leopard 2 HEL is designed to recover main battle tanks and other heavy tracked vehicles; moreover, its powerful crane system is perfect for sensitive positioning of heavy loads.
This high performance equipment gives the ARV an extensive range of capabilities, including towing, shunting, recovery, dozing, crane operations, power pack transportation and installation as well as fuelling and de-fuelling. The vehicle can be used in both combat and peacekeeping missions thanks to its high speed, multiple capabilities and its ability to operate in practically every type of terrain.
Under an offset benefit programme, 70% of the vehicle – including the hull, welding parts, tracks, recovery components, electric and electronic systems, cables and hydraulic systems – were produced by several Greek defence contractors. Final assembly of the vehicles took place in Germany at the Rheinmetall plant in Kassel, followed by extensive Rheinmetall Quality Control testing.
By March 2007, the 12 ARVs had been delivered to the Greek military right on schedule. Following the required quantitative and qualitative checks and function tests, the ARVs have now been successfully integrated into the Greek Army, whose rigorous acceptance tests left no doubt as to the reliability and perfect construction of the vehicles. Initial reports indicate that the new ARVs are performing extremely well.
In addition to the ARVs, Rheinmetall also supplied the Greek Army with the necessary special tools, measuring and testing equipment and technical documentation. During the delivery process, Rheinmetall's experienced team also supported the Greek Army staff with theoretical, operational and maintenance training.
Venezuela Buying More Russian Tanks
(NSI News Source Info) CARACAS - October 18, 2008: Venezuela is buying more Russian weapons, including armored personnel carriers and tanks, to replace aging ordnance and to improve the country's security and defense capabilities, a top military commander said Oct. 16.
"We could be talking about 100 to 500 tanks," said Strategic Operations Command chief Gen. Jesus Gonzalez. "Right now it's impossible to know ... because strategic research studies are still underway [and] we're still negotiating."
BMP-3 Russian Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV)
The general was confirming an Interfax news agency report Oct. 15 about a Russian weapon shipments to Venezuela, which Russian arms export agency deputy director Igor Sevastyanov said included "a large number of BMP-3 armored personnel carriers" and multiple rocket launchers.
The move follows increasingly closer Russian-Venezuelan relations and $4.4 billion in bilateral arms deals signed since 2005 that have raised U.S. concerns, especially in view of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's fierce anti-American stance.
After meeting with a top-level Russian delegation headed by Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev, Gonzalez said "nobody should be surprised or afraid" about the arms deal and growing friendship between the two countries.
"Our security and defense require the purchase of airplanes, helicopter and tanks," he added, without mentioning a price tag for the recent weapons deal.
Moscow, he said, "is now supplying us with the materials we need for our defense," including armored personnel carriers.
He said Venezuela needed tanks "because the French AMX tanks we got 30 years ago are quite old now, and the Scorpio tanks from Britain are also quite old. We're buying mid-sized T-62 [Russian] tanks ... reconnaissance tanks and other models offered us."
Venezuela and Russia's "decision to have bilateral, technical-military trade is firm and permanent," the Venezuelan general stressed.
Venezuela has already bought 24 Sukhoi fighter jets, 50 helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles from Russia.
During a visit by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Moscow last month, Russia announced it was giving Venezuela a $1 billion credit to buy Russian weapons and the two countries discussed nuclear energy cooperation.
They are also planning joint naval exercises in the Caribbean in November.
U.S. military chiefs have said they are concerned about the military buildup in Venezuela, and the U.S. State Department has said it will be watching the Russian-Venezuelan naval exercises "very closely."
India Deploys Warship to Fight Piracy
(NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI - October 18, 2008: India said Oct. 17 it is deploying a warship to protect its merchant vessels in the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia.
The move comes after the MT Stolt Valor, carrying mainly Indian crew was hijacked Sept. 17 by Somali pirates in the gulf.
"The government has approved the deployment of one warship with immediate effect to patrol the route followed by Indian flagships between Oman and Yemen," a defense ministry official said.
The number of warships could be increased later, he added.
The "anti-piracy patrol" vessel will have helicopters and marine commandos onboard, an Oct. 16 ministry statement said.
India Deploys Warship to Fight Piracy
The deployment follows weeks of protests by shipworkers and families of the detained crew who have been demanding rescue efforts for the 22 aboard the MT Stolt Valor.
Eighteen crew members are Indians, while there are two Filipinos, a Bangladeshi and a Russian.
"The presence of Indian Navy in the area will help to protect our seaborne trade and instill confidence in our seafaring community, as well as function as a deterrent for pirates," the statement said.
The Gulf of Aden is a "major strategic choke point in the Indian Ocean region and provides access to the Suez Canal through which the sizeable portion of India's trade flows", the statement noted.
Warships from several other nations patrol the Gulf of Aden, one of busiest shipping lanes in the world.
The International Maritime Bureau reported more than 24 known attacks off the Somali coast between April and June, and more have been committed in recent months. Many attacks go unreported along Somalia's 3,700-kilometer (2,300-mile) coast where pirates operate high-powered speedboats and carry heavy machine guns and rocket launchers.
More Automatic Ammunition-Handling on Stryker for Meggitt
(NSI News Source Info) October 18, 2008: Meggitt Defence Systems has won another 80 automatic 105 mm ammunition replenisher systems for the M1128 Stryker Mobile Gun System (MGS) worth around $11.5 million. Developed under contract to General Dynamics Land Systems, over 100 systems including spares, support, and reset have been delivered since 2004.
The Stryker MGS replenisher, which holds ten 105 mm rounds in the vehicle’s hull and automatically transfers ammunition into the ready magazine in the turret, has seen extensive combat duty in Iraq since its deployment in 2006.
Greg Hill, Director of Meggitt’s ammunition handling system business area team, said, “We are proud to be part of GDLS’ Stryker team and the combat record we have helped build with our system.”
The equipment will be manufactured at Meggitt’s facility in Irvine, California.
Meggitt Defence Systems, a Meggitt group company, specialises in the design, development and production of ammunition-handling, environmental control and training systems. Its products are found on many of the world’s leading military platforms including the Abrams main battle tank, Stryker Mobile Gun System, the F-16 Falcon, the F/A-18 Hornet, AC-130 Spectre Gunship, and the AH-64D Apache Attack Helicopter.
The Meggitt group, headquartered in the UK, designs and makes high performance components and systems for aerospace and defence. The group employs c. 8,000 people across 34 operating companies.
(NSI News Source Info) NES TZIONA, Israel — October 18, 2008: Israel's newest soldier can see at night, never nods off on sentry duty and can carry 660 pounds without complaining.
The Guardium, an unmanned ground vehicle commissioned by the Israeli military and shown to The Associated Press on Monday, is essentially a robotic soldier, among the first in the world to be operational. It can replace human soldiers in dangerous roles, cutting casualty rates.
Like the pilotless drones that have become a mainstay of air forces in Israel, the U.S. and elsewhere, the four-wheeled Guardium is operated from a command room that can be far from the front line.
It can be mounted with cameras, night-vision equipment and sensors, as well as more lethal tools like machine guns.
Following pre-programmed routes, it can navigate alone through cities — the vehicle knows how to deal with intersections, traffic and road markings. It can patrol borders, its cameras scanning 360 degrees at all times, and alert operators if it spots anything suspicious.
The Guardium never mentally wanders or falls asleep, as soldiers have been known to do during mind-numbing guard or patrol missions. And it doesn't have a family that will miss it when it's away on reserve duty.
"Representatives of armies with troops who are taking high casualties in asymmetric warfare from threats like roadside bombs get excited about this product," said Erez Peled, general manager of G-Nius Unmanned Ground Systems, the company that developed the robot.
The control panel includes two large screens and a joystick. If the operator wants to take control, he can do so from a steering wheel and gas and brake pedals that lend the console the look of a video arcade game.
"Any kid who grew up with a PlayStation will be able to come in here and learn this in seconds," Peled said.
A vehicle alone costs approximately $600,000. With the operating system, the price runs to several million dollars, depending on what equipment is installed on the robot.
The Israeli military said the Guardium has yet to enter operational service, and would provide no further comment.
John Pike, director of the Virginia-based military think tank Globalsecurity.org, said there is only one other similar vehicle operational — a South Korean robot used to patrol the demilitarized zone with North Korea.
With the details of the Korean vehicle classified, Pike could not say which was more advanced.
Robots like this are potentially the future of ground warfare, Pike said.
"A robot does what it's told, and you'll be able to get them to advance in ways its hard to get human soldiers to do. They don't have fear, and they kill without compunction."
But more importantly, he said, "A robot means you don't have to write a condolence letter."
(NSI News Source Info) Kharkov, Ukraine – October 18, 2008: According to an announcement made by the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Armed Forces are ready to place an order for ten Oplot main battle tanks (MBT), three Atlet Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicles (ARRV) and 10 BTR-4 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC).
This was announced by the Chief of General Staff and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine General Sergey Kirichenko during his visit to the State-owned Enterprise Kharkov Morozov Machine Building Design Bureau (KMDB).
The task of accepting for service the new vehicles developed by KMDB and commencing purchasing them was given to the Army by the President of Ukraine Victor Yushchenko. Meanwhile, procurement of the upgraded Bulat MBTs will continue.
While visiting KMDB, General Sergey Kirichenko familiarized himself with the latest Ukrainian-designed armoured vehickes, including the upgraded Oplot MBT, Atlet ARRV, BTR-4 and Dozor-B APCs as well as the simulators for the BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle crew.
The upgraded Oplot MBT differs in many aspects from its previous version that was demonstrated during the parade in Kiev in 2001. According to some media reports, this tank is the most protected MBT in the world, as it is immune to all existing and newest-generation anti-tank projectiles (with a slight increase of weight in comparison with the previous version). No detailed information about this tank has been unveiled, but the vehicle seems to be considerably lighter and smaller than any European or American tank. The pictures of the upgraded Oplot show some innovations into its traditional design, including a panoramic sight and remote-controlled anti-aircraft machine gun system positioned next to it (this feature was recently also adopted to the design of the German Leopard MBT and French Leclerc MBT).
Japan concerned over Chinese submarines near maritime borders
(NSI News Source Info) TOKYO - October 18, 2008: Chinese submarines have recently increased their activity near Japan's maritime borders in the East China Sea, a Japanese military source said on Friday.
According to the source, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force detected the presence of a Chinese Han-class nuclear-powered submarine and a Song-class diesel attack submarine in the region as the U.S. George Washington nuclear aircraft carrier was heading to the South Korean port of Pusan on a friendly visit.
The USS George Washington is stationed at a U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, Japan.
The source said the Chinese submarines did not violate Japanese territorial waters, but described their activities as attempts "to gather data on noise signatures emitted by all automated systems of the U.S. aircraft carrier" and "some sort of intimidation."
In response to the Chinese moves, Tokyo and Washington increased the number of patrol flights by Japan's P-3C Orion ASW aircraft and deployed additional U.S. reconnaissance satellite assets to monitor the area.
The Chinese Navy's submarine fleet includes at least two nuclear-powered attack submarines, and its 13 Song-class submarines are extremely quiet and difficult to detect when running on electric motors.
In October 2006, an undetected Chinese Song-class submarine popped up in the middle of a U.S. task force during an exercise in the Pacific at the distance of only 5 miles from the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier.
The Chinese vessel slipped past at least a dozen other American warships which were supposed to protect the carrier from hostile aircraft or submarines.