Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pakistan's Economic Recovery: A Key Test for Democracy

Pakistan's Economic Recovery: A Key Test for Democracy
(NSI News Source Info) December 11, 2008: Not long ago, Pakistan was touted as the next big emerging market, whispered in the same breath as Brazil and Indonesia. Today, Pakistan’s economy is on its knees. Back when there was cause for optimism, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, a former Citibank executive, was feted at Davos and other major conferences. Private equity funds rolled in and bankers came sniffing. The Karachi stock exchange boomed, ending the year 2007 as the sixth best emerging markets performer. Investment, particularly from the oil-rich Persian Gulf states and China, poured in. By October of 2007, Pakistan had more than $16 billion in cash reserves, a 7 percent annual growth rate three years running, a manageable inflation rate, and a growing reputation as the next big market in South Asia. In recent months, a sense of gloom has squashed hope. The country recently was forced to reach for the much-reviled "begging bowl" once again, negotiating a $7.6 billion bail-out with the International Monetary Fund as it faced a mounting debt crisis. The inflation rate climbed to 25 percent, and stocks crashed, falling on average 35 percent for the year with trading volume stuck at historically low levels. All major rating agencies have downgraded Pakistan. Meanwhile, new investment has largely dried up. Mohsin Khan, the distinguished Pakistani economist and former senior IMF official who brokered the IMF-Pakistan deal as a last hurrah before his retirement in early December, said recently that "full recovery is a long way off." Speaking at an Asia Society event, Khan said that Pakistan will likely grow at 2-3 percent for the fiscal year 2008-2009. "Given population growth, that is effectively a recession," he said. Economists in Pakistan are predicting significant job losses over the next two years, anywhere from 3 to 4 million, further exacerbating the crisis faced by Pakistan’s poor and struggling middle class. The economic crisis comes amid heightened tensions with India after Pakistani militants went on a killing rampage in Mumbai. What happened to Pakistan’s economy? How did it go from emerging market star to the precipice of economic disaster? A range of reasons have been proffered from high oil and food prices to political and security volatility, but the one that seems to arise most often among analysts is the simplest one of them all: bad governance. At key points in Pakistan’s economic descent, political leaders failed to make policy decisions that would have forestalled the decline. The dramatic spike in oil and food prices in the 2007/2008 fiscal period was met with "policy inaction," according to Khan. "They didn’t do what they needed to do when they faced these shocks, mostly because they were running for office." As high oil and food prices tore through reserves, political turmoil gripped the country as former President Pervez Musharraf faced down judges, dissolved the judiciary, and eventually succumbed to elections, while street protests grew violent, former Prime Minister and Pakistan People’s Party star Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, a caretaker government tread cautiously, and political hopefuls vied for votes. Today, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari faces a dizzying array of challenges from security concerns in ungovernable tribal areas and the al Qaeda presence in Waziristan to the heightened tensions with India, but he also faces a larger challenge: restoring faith in democracy among Pakistanis mired in economic pain. The influential Pakistanti columnist Shaheen Sebhai recently wrote of an "over-riding sense of failure" that free and fair elections failed to restore trust between the government and the people, while the new leaders have simply "descended into the years-old hit and run, grab and go, mad race for petty political gains, major financial benefits, local and international lucrative jobs." Dr. Farrukh Saleem, the executive director of the Islamabad-based Center For Research and Security Studies said recently that Pakistan is not only haunted by a budget deficit and trade deficit, but also a "trust deficit" with the outside world: "they [the people] do not trust that the government will do the right thing," he said in a recent seminar in Islamabad. Here is where the economy comes in. For the ordinary citizen, nothing is more important than a sense of economic security. Though Pakistan still had a long way to go, the government of Musharraf was making dents in the decades-old fight with poverty and economic underperformance. Failure by Zardari and his economic team to simultaneously provide social safety nets for the poor and navigate Pakistan’s economic recovery with skill might lead many to long for the days of the "enlightened" autocrat. Furthermore, rising unemployment and economic insecurity combined with one of the youngest populations in the world is a hazardous social cocktail that could lead to widespread unrest - and military intervention. This will lead to a further erosion of trust with the international community (It should be noted that IMF and World Bank officials largely avoid Pakistan; they conduct their meetings with Pakistani officials in Dubai). The silver lining in this cloud is that the IMF bail-out has prompted others to step in. The Asian Development bank, the World Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and China, are all expected to announce large loans to Pakistan’s government. What’s more, several analysts indicate that the IMF restrictions are not nearly as onerous as they have been in past bailouts. Sakeeb Sherani, chief economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland, said in a recent seminar: "Compared to the 46 conditions accompanying the 2000 [plan] the latest $7.6 billion IMF package carried only up to 10 performance criteria. If it can ensure good economic management there is no question why Pakistan shouldn’t fulfill those criteria." In other words, there will be no excuse for "policy inaction" this time. Not only do Pakistan’s people deserve it, but the near-term future of Pakistan’s democracy may depend on it.

Spain Could Double Amount Of Troops Abroad: Defence Minister

Spain Could Double Amount Of Troops Abroad: Defence Minister
(NSI News Source Info) December 11, 2008: Minister for Defence, Carme Chacón, said that the current 3,000 limit was now obsolete.
The Spanish Minister for Defence, Carme Chacón, has told Congress today that she is going to lift the current maximum number for Spanish troops serving abroad from 3,000 which she described as an obsolete limit. She said that the number could more than double to 7,700 from January 1 next year.
Speaking to the Defence Commission in Congress, Carme Chacón said that the new limit would be fixed only by parliament and the capacity of the armed services to respond.
She said the 7,700 limit she suggested could be met now, and allow Spain to be in two main scenarios, and four smaller ones.
She said the change was needed as the response to international conflicts today was ‘multilateral, integral and sustained over time. She gave the Balkans as an example where Spain has been present for 16 years, and only now is the end in sight.

US Aerospace Sales Seen Rising Modestly In 2009

US Aerospace Sales Seen Rising Modestly In 2009
(NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON - December 11, 2008: U.S. aerospace industry sales are set to grow a modest 2.2 percent in 2009 from what would have been rung up this year if not for a strike at Boeing Co, the sector's chief trade group said on Wednesday. Aerospace sales
-- including civil and military aircraft, missile and space-related hardware
-- are on pace to hit $204 billion this year, said the Aerospace Industries Association. This would be a rise of 2.1 percent, a lower growth rate than in recent years but a record sales figure for the fifth year in a row, said the AIA. For 2009, sales should reach $214 billion, "a figure that is about 2.2 percent more than the total the industry would have achieved this year had a work stoppage not impacted the 2008 bottom line," the trade group said in its annual year-end review and forecast. A 58-day strike by Boeing's 27,000 machinists shut down its commercial aircraft plants from Sept. 6 to Nov. 2. U.S. aerospace exports are expected to rise 2.1 percent in 2008 to $99.2 billion, from $97.2 billion last year, fueling a foreign trade surplus of about $61 billion, little changed from 2007, AIA said, referring to this as the largest trade surplus of any U.S. manufacturing sector. The industry group
-- whose members include Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing and Northrop Grumman and many other companies
-- has begun playing up the number of jobs it creates in an apparent effort to protect lucrative arms programs under the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama. The group has launched an advertising campaign that says the aerospace industry supports two million middle-class jobs spread over 30,000 companies, many of them small suppliers, in all 50 states.

US Aerial Tanker Said At Least 2 Years Away

US Aerial Tanker Said At Least 2 Years Away
(NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON - December 11, 2008: The United States will take at least two more years to start replacing its aircraft-refueling fleet after seven years of failed efforts, the head of a House of Representatives subcommittee with responsibility for defense spending said on Wednesday.
A team of Northrop Grumman Corp and Europe's EADS beat Boeing Co for the projected $35 billion first phase of the project in February. But Boeing has been given a second chance under the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama, after its protest was upheld by a congressional umpire. "It will take at least another two years, at minimum, before we begin to start procurement of a replacement tanker," Rep. John Murtha, who heads the Appropriations subcommittee on defense, said in remarks prepared for a discussion on military priorities at the Center for American Progress think tank. Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said the Defense Department had "wasted" the past seven years in its botched efforts to procure a replacement for the KC-135 fleet that averages nearly 50 years old.

Norway’s Fighter Evaluation Was “Incomplete and Faulty,” Saab Says

Norway’s Fighter Evaluation Was “Incomplete and Faulty,” Saab Says
(NSI News Source Info) December 11, 2008: During the past two years, Saab has participated in the procurement process to replace the Norwegian F16 air force fleet. Throughout, Saab has experienced it to be a professional and open process and has had good relations to all concerned Norwegian counterparts. We have provided answers to thousands of technical, economic and organizational questions.
We have also continuously been given clear signals that the answers provided have been satisfactory. It is important for procurement processes of this kind that the potential customer has access to all information considered important to form a fact based decision. We have not once had reason to believe this was not the case.
We were given reason to believe that the Norwegian government wanted a close industrial co-operation between the two countries, and therefore put great emphasis on finding strong and competitive co-operative possibilities. The Norwegian prime minister’s announcement on 20 November that Norway had chosen the American F35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) came as a surprise to Saab. The arguments put forward seemed to have very little, or no, establishment in the preceding procurement process.
We did not recognize ourselves in the assessment of Gripen’s operational capacity or the description of its costs. It sounded like the description of another aircraft. The industrial cooperation we had promised to create, to a value of up to NOK 50 billion, seemed not to have been of any greater importance. Saab fully respects Norway’s right to procure the aircraft representing its government’s preference. We have been in the industry long enough to know that these types of decisions contain several different considerations; they are sometimes to our advantage and sometimes not.
However, Saab must clearly point out our view that the reasons publicly brought forward by the Norwegian government cannot rest on a thorough evaluation of the alternatives. The claim that Gripen does not fulfil Norway’s operational demands and that Gripen would prove essentially more expensive must, according to our view, rest on an incomplete, or even faulty, analysis. It is not only important for Saab that certain facts are clarified, it is equally important for existing and future procurers of Gripen as well as for our partners and shareholders.
Saab has conducted a thorough evaluation of the information communicated by the Norwegian government in relation to the decision. We hold that:
- claims that Gripen does not meet the Norwegian air force’s demand rests on simulations containing incomplete or non-existent capacity information;
- the alleged life cycle cost does not rest on experience of the Gripen system but has been calculated by applying own assumptions and models of calculations;
- conditions underpinning the calculation are in parts radically altered and based on internal Norwegian assumptions.
Simulations with incomplete data
The claim that Gripen does not fulfil the operational requirements required by the Norwegian air force is important to understand. It also turns out to be founded on simulations previously unknown to us. To our understanding those simulations must be based on incomplete performance information, simply because such information about Gripen has neither been communicated to us nor requested from us or the Swedish government.
The Norwegian evaluation committee has thereby not had access to the parameters required to reach the announced results. Saab therefore makes the judgment that the basis for the decision cannot have been sufficient for the far-reaching conclusions made in these previously unknown simulations.
Price comparisons with inadequate assumptions
A key argument for Gripen is its extremely competitive life cycle cost. Compared to competing aircraft Gripen is a cost-effective alternative. Therefore, it was a great surprise to Saab when the Norwegian evaluation committee concluded that Gripen would have a higher life cycle cost. It is not consistent with what we know of the costs of keeping different aircrafts operational over time.
If the claimed estimates are correct it would be cheaper for Norway to obtain JSF, even if Sweden would have developed and given 48 Gripen Next Generation (NG) as a gift to Norway. It should be unreasonable.
It also turns out that the Norwegian estimates to a large extent rests on previously undisclosed conditions and complex re-calculations and assumptions. It is Saab’s assessment that only 20 percent of the Norwegian evaluation committee’s cost estimates are based on the facts presented in the Swedish offer.
Remaining estimates represents, according to our view, assumptions and self-made estimates, not based on information that has been confirmed by us. The number of aircraft has been changed from 48 to 58 and the operational life cycle has been extended from 25 to 35 years. These are two new conditions entirely decisive for the calculation. That these calculations to a large extent have been conducted without dialogue is most unusual and has contributed to an incorrect picture of the alternatives.
Three examples of assumptions which have great effects on the calculation concerns upgrade costs, crashes and fuel consumption. It is our view that the calculations have a weak or non-existing relation to the Swedish offer or from the gathered experience of Gripen.
Saab’s own calculations of upgrade costs are based on 50 years of experience of developing and upgrading fighter aircraft to customers in Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Norway has applied its experiences from the F16 to these costs – a very different and in important aspects non-comparable aircraft. Upgrade costs according to the Norwegian calculation are several times higher than the costs Saab and Swedish authorities have calculated and provided. Our estimated value of fuel consumption is based on experience from 120,000 flight hours with Gripen.
Even though the Norwegian specification of requirements seeks lowered fuel consumption, the evaluation committee chooses to raise the values we have provided, adding further additional costs. The cost for replacing aircraft is part of the estimation, with the assumption that almost half of the aircraft fleet will crash in 35 years. This is completely unfounded if applied to Gripen’s statistics. This also adds further billions to the calculation.
Further to this is a number of questions that the Norwegian evaluation group has chosen not to respond to, such as what specific currency rate was used, what price was used for calculating purchase of further aircraft, what other considerations in the calculation that had the procurement price as basis for the calculation and how much the weapon procurement was estimated to.
Saab has not received any information that makes us change our understanding of the accuracy of our initial calculation. However, should we adjust our calculations according to the new information, Gripen is still faced with a total cost that substantially falls short of the published figures.
The evaluation has undergone external quality inspection in Norway. Given that there are in our view many apparent unreasonable assumptions and calculations regarding the economic evaluation, it reasonably also casts some doubt over the operational evaluation.
Moving on towards new markets
Saab respects the Norwegian decision and is fully aware that many considerations, political as well as other, govern this type of procurement processes. From our perspective, it is however entirely unreasonable that our main product has been claimed not to fulfil operational demands for future threats that could come to affect our clients without being able to meet these claims. It is also entirely unreasonable that the Norwegian evaluation committee, according to us, allocates a price to our product not based on accurate facts.
To Saab it is important to call attention to that claims of Gripen’s insufficient performance and high costs are not founded on recognized facts and experiences. We now move on and gather strength on markets where there is a real interest to evaluate Gripen based on our offers and a genuine and mutual interest to establish long-term industrial cooperation.
Gripen is a very competitive alternative, operationally as well as financially. Saab’s goal to sell 200 aircraft on the export market remains and today we are pursuing active marketing towards eight potential customer countries. We are confident that we will conduct many more successful deals.

Poland Keen on Surplus Finnish Hawk Trainer Jets

Poland Keen on Surplus Finnish Hawk Trainer Jets
(NSI News Source Info) December 11, 2008: Poland has expressed interest in buying some of the Finnish Air Force's inventory of British Aerospace Hawk advanced jet trainers, the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) reported on Wednesday.
The public broadcaster added that the issue had been raised last week when Bogdan Klich, the Polish defence minister, visited Finland. Poland is in the process of procuring 16 trainer jet aeroplanes and aims to close the deal by the end of the year. Some of the FAF's fleet of 65 Hawks are becoming redundant as Finland's plans to found an international air combat school in Kauhava have come to nothing.

U.S. Army to Upgrade Shadow UAV

U.S. Army to Upgrade Shadow UAV
(NSI News Source Info) December 10, 2008: Shaddow-200 RQ-7B Tactical UAV is used to support the brigade with integral intelligence, reconnaissance and target acquisition at distances of up to 125 km. The UAV uses the IAI/Tamam POP-200 payload, which detects and identifies targets from a range of 3-5 kilometers.
It also offers automatic target tracking. With Imagery received at the Shadow's One System ground system is shared via datalinks with other intelligence assets, including ASAS, the Air Forces' Joint STARS, Intelligence and field artillery information systems. The all composite constructed Shadow 200 uses a hydraulic launcher for takeoff. The Shadow can be launched over a distance of 10 meters, and in crosswinds as strong as 20kt. Landing is performed automatically in day or night using a portable tracking system, an airborne transponder and arresting cable system. The entire Shadow unit is air transportable with three C-130 aircraft. The US Army plans to buy a total of 70 TUAV systems. According to planning, every brigade sent to Iraq or Afghanistan will be equipped with the Shadow. The units currently operating the TUAV in Iraq include the 4th Infantry, 1st Cavalry and 82nd Airborne and 2nd Infantry divisions and the Stryker brigades. Some units also operate the Hunter and I-Gnat UAV systems. 51 systems have already been delivered by October 2006, when the Shadow 200 fleet accumulated 129,000 flight hours, more than 85% in support of combat operations in Southwest Asia. Production is scheduled to commence through September 2008. In Iraq the Shadow 200 is flown by nine Brigade's military intelligence (MI) platoons, in reconnaissance missions and in support of force protection missions, to oversee vehicle convoys. Shadow companies are deployed with maneuver brigades, including the new Stryker brigades. Although the basic system has been operating well, some improvements are already planned, including enhanced wing, which will carry more fuel, and increase endurance by 20%. The system will also get the tactical common datalink (TCDL), which will eliminate interference encountered in dense electromagnetic environments. Other improvements will improve the system's POP200 payload, refining the target location error, and adding laser designator. The Army also considers fielding a new "Step & Stare" payload (probably L-3 11SST type) to augment the POP-200 with the capability of rapid mapping of large area. In October 2006 the US Army awarded AAI US$ 13.5 million contract for the first lot of POP-300 payloads, to replace currently used POP-200. A follow-on order expected in early 2007 will bring the total value of this procurement is expected to be $27 million.
Since December 1999, when the U. S. Army selected AAI to be the Shadow TUAV system prime contractor, the company has received awards for the production of 64Shadow systems, bringing to 256 the total number of air vehicles ordered. As of May 2006, 43 systems have thus far been delivered, with system deliveries now extending through November 2006.
On May 4th 2006 the US Army contracted AAI $87 million to deliver nine additional Shadow 200 systems under full rate production. The order covers 36RQ-7B UAVs, 18 ground control systems, This program will continue through December 2009. The company also received $65 million for technical support and logistics to be provided through October 2007.

Reports: British troops out of Iraq by June

Reports: British troops out of Iraq by June (NSI News Source Info) LONDON – December 10, 2008: Britain could start withdrawing troops from Iraq in March and most will have left by June, according to reports Wednesday which were not denied by the Ministry of Defence. Citing a senior defence source, the BBC and the Guardian newspaper said the pull-out was planned to begin in March if provincial elections in January pass off peacefully. Other newspapers also reported that the withdrawal would start in March, six years after the US-led invasion of Iraq. From a peak of 46,000 soldiers in 2003 when Britain joined the invasion, just 4,000 remain in Iraq and the majority are currently confined to Basra air base in the south of the country. The Guardian said that instead of handing over to the Iraqi authorities, the troops will be replaced by several thousand US soldiers. Up to 400 troops are likely to remain to help train the Iraqi forces, while equipment such as helicopters will be transferred to Afghanistan. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has ruled out a timetable for a withdrawal but has indicated he wanted to reduce the number of troops in Iraq. Visiting Iraq in July, he told troops they were bringing Britain's work in the country to its conclusion. The Ministry of Defence did not deny the withdrawal reports. A spokeswoman reiterated that ministers have spoken of a "fundamental change of mission" in 2009. "Significant progress has been made in Basra, a city which has now been transformed thanks to Iraqi, coalition and British efforts. As such, we are now expecting to see a fundamental change of mission in early 2009," she said. Iraq's national security adviser, Muwafaq al-Rubaie, told AFP last month that negotiations between London and Baghdad on Britain's pullout had begun a fortnight earlier, and said troops would leave by the end of 2009. "By the end of next year there will be no British troops in Iraq," he said. However, any decision will likely depend on the situation on the ground, and in particular the peaceful passage of the provincial elections at the end of January -- the first vote in the country since 2005. Since the invasion, 177 British troops have died in Iraq.

India, Pakistan Nukes Secure: Pentagon

India, Pakistan Nukes Secure: Pentagon (NSI News Source Info) Washington - December 10, 2008: The Pentagon expressed confidence Tuesday that India and Pakistan's nuclear arsenals remain secure despite tensions over the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai. "We see no reason at this point to have any concern with regards to the security of either countries' arsenal," said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary. Morrell, who did not elaborate, made the comment in response to a question at a news conference about the risk terrorists could obtain nuclear weapons in the current crisis. "Whenever you are dealing with terrorism in countries that are nuclear powers, it ... creates a heightened concern," he said. "And so, we want to work with them and any others who find themselves in the situation, to make sure that their nuclear arsenals are always secure," he said.

Russia, China To Strengthen Ties In Military Aircraft Production

Russia, China To Strengthen Ties In Military Aircraft Production (NSI News Source Info) BEIJING - December 10, 2008: Russia and China are set to boost cooperation in the sphere of combat aircraft production, the director general of Russia's Sukhoi aircraft manufacturer said on Wednesday. "China is one of the main customers for our [Russian] aircraft and today the Chinese Air Force has in service over 200 of our Su-27 Flanker and Su-30 Flanker-C jet fighters," Mikhail Pogosyan said. Pogosyan is on a visit to China with Russia's Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and is attending the 13th session of the Russian-Chinese mixed commission on military and technical cooperation. Pogosyan said that the commission is set to discuss the further development of cooperation in the sphere of aircraft production and particularly the licensed production of Su-27 and Su-30 planes in China. China has acquired 76 Su-27SK fighters from Russia since 1992, and bought a license for production of another 200 planes in 1995, in a deal worth $2.5 billion. However, the 1995 agreement did not include the transfer of avionics and AL-31F turbofan engine technology, and the Chinese manufacturers had to rely on the Russian supply of these systems. Pogosyan also told Chinese journalists that Russia would soon sign a contract with India to jointly develop and produce a fifth-generation jet fighter. "We plan to begin flight tests [of the fighter] as early as in 2009," he said. The Russian-Indian advanced multirole fighter is being developed by Sukhoi, which is part of Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), along with India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), under a preliminary intergovernmental agreement signed in October 2007. Russia and India will simultaneously develop two versions of the combat aircraft - a two-seat version to meet the requirements of India's air superiority policy, and a single-seat version for the Russian Air Force.

Taiwan Gets E-2C Upgrade

Taiwan Gets E-2C Upgrade (NSI News Source Info) December 10, 2008: U.S. Naval Air Systems Command awarded Northrop Grumman Systems a $5.6 million order on Dec. 9 to provide sustaining engineering support for Taiwan's E-2C Hawkeye Airborne and Early Warning (AEW) Program. Work will be performed in the United States and is scheduled to be complete in December 2009. Taiwan's Air Force has six E-2 aircraft in its inventory. It ordered four E-2T aircraft for $700 million in 1993, rebuilt E-2Bs with AN/APS-145 radar, taking delivery in 1995. In 1999, Taiwan ordered two additional E-2 Hawkeye 2000 aircraft for $400 million taking delivery in 2004.

The AN/APS-145 radar is capable of tracking more than 2,000 targets and controlling the interception of 40 hostile targets at ranges over 550km The aircraft make up the 2nd AEW Squadron, 20th Group, 6th Composite Wing, Pingtung Air Base, in west central Taiwan. One E-2T was severely damaged in March 1997 after landing without its wheels down. It has since been completely refurbished and reinstated. Taiwan did modify one C-130 in 1993 into a C-130HE (1351) now assigned to the 6th Wing. There have been discussions on procuring three additional C-130s for electronic warfare and procuring two signal intelligence aircraft, but internal problems have seriously delayed plans. Taiwan procured 20 C-130s in the early 1990s; one crashed in 1997. Taiwan has looked at the procurement of additional C-130s or possibly C-27J Spartan transport aircraft for its future transport needs. Taiwan's state-owned Aerospace Industrial Development manufactures the C-27Js tail assemblies.

U.S. Army To Upgrade Raven Capabilities

U.S. Army To Upgrade Raven Capabilities (NSI News Source Info) December 10, 2008: The Raven digital data upgrade is being done with the $300 million allocated by Congress earlier this year to increase intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets. (U.S. Army) "We are moving a digital data link onto the Raven, which allows us to fly more aircraft," said U.S. Army Col. Greg Gonzalez, project manager for UAS. "We are buying 50 new Ravens and retrofitting 200 which we will start fielding in early 2010."
The Raven digital data upgrade is being done with the $300 million allocated by Congress earlier this year to increase intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets Most UAV systems run on analog systems, which limit the amount of information which can be transmitted in a certain area, Army officials said. "When you can digitally compress video you can smash it into a smaller bandwidth so they can fly a lot more Ravens in the same area because there are more channels," said an executive with AeroVironment, a California company that makes the digital data link.
The 12.5-pound, handheld Raven has logged more than 40,000 flight hours thus far in the current U.S. wars, according to a 2008 Army Posture Statement. So far, the Army has procured at least 376 Ravens, the statement said. The back packable Raven has an electro-optical/infrared sensor designed to beam back images from the terrain below.