Israel Picks Skylark as Battalion-Level Mini-UAV / Elbit Systems' Skylark I LE Selected by the Ministry of Defense as IDF Battalion Level Mini UAV
(NSI News Source Info) HAIFA, Israel - December 18, 2008: Elbit Systems Ltd. announced that it was selected by the Israeli Defense Ministry to answer the battalion-level IDF tender, calling for a wide procurement of mini-UAVs for all IDF Ground Forces battalions, including training and logistics support.
The procurement potential is evaluated at dozens of million USD, in accordance with IDF's requirements and procurement process.
Elbit Systems' Skylark I LE has been selected by the IDF following an extensive evaluation process, including operational ability to answer the high requirements of the IDF, based on its rich operational experience.
The Skylark I LE is based on the accumulated experience acquired by the Skylark I, in thousands of operational hours performed, in various battlefields, including Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Elbit Systems' UAV family has served the IDF in recent years in counter terror missions and took an operational part in Israel's second Lebanon War. The upgraded UAV includes additional unique features, to significantly improve its operational capabilities and offers the IDF a highly advanced UAV.
Haim Kellerman, General Manager of Elbit Systems UAV Division said: "We take great pride in being selected by the Ministry of Defense for this important IDF project. This selection attests to the acknowledgement of this UAV's professional maturity and unique capabilities, and strengthens our position as a leading UAV supplier in Israel and worldwide."
Kellerman added: "We have witnessed great interest among numerous defense forces in the export model of the Skylark I LE and we expect that many other customers will follow the IDF in its selection of this Elbit Systems UAV."
Elbit Systems Ltd. is an international defense electronics company engaged in a wide range of defense-related programs throughout the world. The Company, which includes Elbit Systems and its subsidiaries, operates in the areas of aerospace, land and naval systems, command, control, communications, computers, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, unmanned air vehicle (UAV) systems, advanced electro-optics, electro-optic space systems, EW suites, airborne warning systems, ELINT systems, data links and military communications systems and radios.
EADS North America Delivers the 50th UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopter to the U.S. Army
(NSI News Source Info) COLUMBUS, MI - December 18, 2008: EADS North America today delivered the 50th UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopter to the U.S. Army. This delivery marks another on-time milestone in the acquisition and fielding of the UH-72A to satisfy the Army's Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) requirement.
The 50th and 51st UH-72As were delivered to the Eastern Army National Guard Aviation Training Site (EAATS) from American Eurocopter's Mississippi production facility, where the Light Utility Helicopter, based on Eurocopter's EC145, is built. Based in Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., the EAATS may operate as many as 18 UH-72As in the qualification of Army and Army National Guard aviators on the new LUH.
These were the third and fourth Lakotas provided to the EAATS unit which received its initial two UH-72As in June and July 2008.
"The assignment of the 50th aircraft to the Army National Guard is particularly significant because the Guard will be the primary operator of UH-72As within the U.S. Army," said Ralph D. Crosby, Jr., the chairman and CEO of EADS North America.
"We are proud to be a partner with the Army in modernizing its rotary-wing fleet. Our primary goal is to meet -- and exceed -- our commitments on this key program."
The UH-72A first entered service in 2007, and deliveries to date have provided aircraft to Army and Army National Guard units in California, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Army plans call for the acquisition of 345 Lakotas through 2016. With its recent order of 39 aircraft, the U.S. Army has now confirmed orders for 123 UH-72As.
The UH-72A is used for missions ranging from homeland security and drug interdiction, to support, logistics and medical evacuation flights (MEDEVAC). Introduction of the UH-72A enables aging Army National Guard OH-58 and UH-1 rotary-wing aircraft to be retired, while Lakota deliveries to the active component of the Army free up UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for assignment to warfighting missions.
The Lakota fleet has an operational availability rate of over 90 percent, with more than 7,000 flight hours accumulated so far in U.S. Army operations -- demonstrating the twin-engine aircraft's excellent performance, reliability, and successful mission execution.
In addition to their continental U.S. basing assignments, overseas deployments of UH-72As are anticipated with the U.S. Army in Europe, Japan and the Pacific region. The UH-72A has attracted interest from other U.S. military services, including the U.S. Navy which ordered five additional Light Utility Helicopters through the Army contract.
The Navy will use the helicopters for pilot training at the Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Md. Production of the UH-72A is averaging three to four helicopters per month -- with the capability of reaching five aircraft monthly at the Mississippi production facility located at the Golden Triangle Industrial Park. The state-of-the-art production site is a 220,000 sq. ft. addition to American Eurocopter's Mississippi rotary-wing aircraft center of excellence. The facility has brought high-value jobs into the region with total employment planned to surpass 200 as UH-72A production is fully transferred to the facility.
Estonian Border Guard Orders Third AW139 Helo / Ministry of the Interior of Estonia Orders Third AW139 Helicopter
(NSI News Source Info) December 18, 2008: AgustaWestland, a Finmeccanica company, is pleased to announce that on December 4th the Government of Estonia gave approval for the Ministry of the Interior of Estonia to sign a contract with AgustaWestland for the purchase of a third AW139 helicopter.
This aircraft will be delivered in the last quarter 2010 and operated by the Border Guard to perform search and rescue, medical evacuation and border patrol duties. This third AW139 will be based at Kuressaare Airport (Saaremaa Island), from 2011 when a new base will be opened, that will allow faster coverage in the Western area of Estonia.
Meanwhile the second AW139 was delivered in early December and is based in Tallinn together with the first aircraft.
These helicopters will ensure that the work of guarding the external borders and the border control infrastructure are in compliance with the European Schengen zone requirements.
The order for a third AW139 follows the successful introduction into service of the initial aircraft and highlights the customer’s satisfaction with the helicopter, training and support provided by AgustaWestland.
Since the start of operations in October 2007, the first Estonian Border Guard AW139 has successfully accomplished a number of search and rescue and patrol missions in demanding conditions, dramatically enhancing operational effectiveness and border security.
The AW139’s superior performance allows greater coverage of the areas for longer periods compared to any other helicopter in the medium twin class. Excellent one engine inoperative capability ensures the helicopter can deliver while on-station, safely accomplishing the rescue mission. Cutting edge technology reduces pilot workload and allows the crew to concentrate on the mission.
With the largest cabin in its class the AW139 can easily accommodate the crew, rescue equipment and survivors.
The AW139 has already been chosen for SAR and border patrol duties by a number of customers in the UK, Italy, Spain, Japan, Ireland, United Arab Emirates, Republic of Korea and Malaysia. Over 430 AW139 helicopters have been ordered so far by almost 110 customers in nearly 40 countries to perform a wide range of roles such as search and rescue, emergency medical service, law enforcement, offshore transport, VIP/corporate transport and utility.
Last Three F16s Reach Poland
(NSI News Source Info) POZNAN-KRZESIN, Poland - December 18, 2008: The last three out of 48 F-16 multirole aircraft purchased by Poland arrived at the 31st Tactical Aircraft Air Base in Poznan on 11th December. The purchase agreement for F-16 was signed in April 2003.
Now the Polish Air Force operates 36 F-16C Block52+ and 12 dual seat F-16D Block 52+ aircraft. After Acceptance Procedure Inspection in the 31st Airbase, “Fs” will be operated by 10th Tactical Squadron (10 ELT) in Łask.
The following day, the airbase was visited by Minister Bogdan Klich, accompanied by civilian and military authorities. Minister was acquainted with the level of training and infrastructure of the airbase.
He met as well with pilots serving in both airbases. During the press conference that followed Klich said that “Hawks” as F-16s are called in Poland have “d technical culture” in the Polish Armed Forces and are a strong, modern element of the Air Force.
As the minister said, he tries to be-up-to-date with all the information and facts related to the Fs and is ready for a polemic with journalists spreading untrue and unverified information on Polish Fs' capabilities.
Klich confirmed that Polish air base in Krzesiny has 32 hangars and 75% of the aircraft is airworthy, which is a high level. Pilots' training is also implemented according to the schedule, Klich said.
It is planned that in September 2009 there will be 46 jet fighter pilots and the number is scheduled to rise to 1.5 pilot per aircraft in 2012. Klich said as well that he would like Polish Air Forces to purchase fighter-training aircraft by 2013.
(NSI News Source Info) HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii - December 18, 2008: Air Force officials have scheduled to deploy two contingents of F-22A Raptors to the Pacific theater in January 2009 for approximately three months.
Current plans call for 12 of the fighters to deploy to Kadena Air Base, Japan, from Langley Air Force Base, Va., and another 12 to deploy to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.
The deployments support U.S. Pacific Command's theater security packages in the Western Pacific.
The F-22A is a transformational combat aircraft that can avoid enemy detection, cruises at supersonic speeds, is highly maneuverable, and provides the joint force an unprecedented level of integrated situational awareness.
As part of continuing force posture adjustments to address worldwide requirements, the Defense leaders continue to deploy additional forces throughout the Western Pacific.
This is the latest example of the flexibility U.S. forces have to meet their ongoing commitments and security obligations throughout the Pacific region.
Russia Mulls Unprecedented Israel Drones Purchase
(NSI News Source Info) Moscow - December 17, 2008: Russia is holding talks with Israel over buying Israeli unmanned reconnaissance drones, a top general said on Tuesday, in what would be Moscow's first purchase of military hardware from the Jewish state.
The Russian interest in purchasing the drones comes after its military was taken by surprise by Georgia's use of Israeli-supplied drones in its war against Russia in August.
"We're talking about the purchase of a test batch of Israeli reconnaissance drones," the Interfax news agency quoted the head of Russia's general staff, General Nikolai Makarov, as saying.
"If our industry is unable to produce in the near future the drones we need, then possibly we will purchase one batch, first of all for testing, from Israel," he said.
Russian defence expert Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Centre of Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, confirmed that Russia had never bought military hardware from Israel before.
"Nothing has been bought on behalf of our interests from Israel before," he told AFP.
"This is a rather bold decision. Both the Americans and our own industry" will not be happy about the possible deal, he said.
"Israel is the most experienced maker and operator of the drones, even the United States buys from it," Pukhov said.
The Kommersant daily said the head of the armed forces General Vladimir Popovkin was in Israel in late-November for talks on the purchase with Israel's defence ministry and defence contractor Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
The paper quoted a Russian arms industry official as saying: "a contract for producing drones is almost certain to be given to Israel Aerospace Industries."
It also quoted an Israeli defence ministry official as saying a decision had been taken "at the highest level but the further fate of the contract is still being discussed."
Kommersant cited Israeli press reports that the value of the proposed contract would be 10-12 million dollars (7.3-8.7 million euros) but said the true sum was likely to be much higher.
Defence experts say Russia found itself lacking drones during August's military thrust into southern neighbour Georgia, while the Georgian side made wide use of such Israeli devices, including in an attack that seriously wounded Russia's commander in the Caucasus, General Anatoly Khrulev.
"The Russian army found itself working practically blind," Kommersant said.
The paper noted Russia had refrained from outspoken criticism of Israeli arms supplies to Georgia, despite scathing criticism of Ukraine for the same reason.
It said this silence was connected to the drone purchase, which was likely to be opposed by Washington.
Weapons trading between Israel and Russia is a touchy subject due to Russian arms ties to Israel's foes in the Middle East, Syria and Iran.
A report in the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta in September said that a drone shot down by Georgia that month, which Moscow denied ownership of, may have come from a Russian domestic defence supplier and been undergoing testing by the military.
JFCOM Studies Way To Get 4th Brigade To Afghanistan
(NSI News Source Info) December 17, 2008: U.S. Joint Forces Command officials are working to help the Pentagon dispatch the last of four new brigades requested by commanders in Afghanistan by late spring or early summer, according to JFCOM's deputy commander.
(U.S. soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division and Afghan National Army load onto a Chinook helicopter last month. JFCOM is helping determine which units might be used to fill battlefield needs in Afghanistan)
JFCOM officials "are looking at options for that as we speak," Navy Vice Adm. Robert Harward told reporters in Washington.
One of the many tasks of the Norfolk, Va.-based command is to help Pentagon officials and regional commanders determine which units might be used to fill battlefield needs.
President-elect Barack Obama and top U.S. commanders have vowed to swell U.S. ranks in Afghanistan by 20,000, which could push the total U.S. military presence there above 50,000. But some national security experts say more is needed - an "all-of-government" surge that would send more representatives of federal agencies that focus on diplomatic, political, economic and humanitarian aid.
Some defense observers have suggested one way to free up troops for the Afghanistan mission would be to move forces out of Iraq faster than currently planned. Harward said he "would assume" that such a scenario is "an option" political and defense officials will consider.
Harwood declined to name specific units that are being considered for the deployment, saying only that so-called "low-density, high-demand" units are very good candidates because they are "enablers" for combat forces. These units perform functions like engineering work, construction of buildings that must be erected before a larger American force can set up shop there, and public affairs tasks, Harward said.
"Based on my time on the ground in Afghanistan, I could not have done my work without these enabling units," he said.
Asked whether the debate in Washington about the fourth brigade will end in coming weeks, Harward said, "I think so."
The JFCOM No. 2 said Joint Forces Command's analysis shows the military should pay particular attention to preparing to take on non-state foes that will employ "hybrid" and "irregular" tactics. Harward pointed to the 2006 Lebanon battle between Hamas and Israel's military as an example of the kind of enemy, and fighting tactics, the U.S. military likely will face in coming years.
JFCOM's Joint Operating Environment concept, released earlier this month, endorses such a focus. The document, which is billed as a tool to help strategic planners think about future threats, also uses the Lebanon battle as a lesson for the American military.
Irregular wars are likely to be carried out by terrorist groups, "modern-day militias," and other non-state actors, the study said. It pointed to the 2006 tussle between Israel and Hezbollah, a militia that "combines state-like technological and war-fighting capabilities with a 'sub-state' political and social structure inside the formal state of Lebanon."
Training regimens must continue to prepare American forces for wars like the Iraq war and the 2006 Lebanon conflict.
"The difficulties involved in training to meet regular and nuclear threats must not push preparations to fight irregular war into the background, as occurred in the decades after the Vietnam War," it said.
One retired Army colonel has called the study "the latest in a series of glaring examples of massive overreaction to a truly modest threat": Islamist terrorism.
"It is causing the United States to essentially undermine itself without terrorists or anyone else for that matter having to do much more than exploit the weaknesses in American military power the overreaction creates," said Douglas Macgregor, who writes about Defense Department reform at the Washington-based Center for Defense Information.
"Unfortunately, the document echoes the neocons, who insist the United States will face the greatest threats from insurgents and extremist groups operating in weak or failing states in the Middle East and Africa," he said.
Macgregor and others have pointed to the August clash between Georgia and Russia as proof that conflicts with peer militaries are still very much possible.
Further, Harward said the military's top two most pressing technological needs are "precision close air support" and tools to "counter" the kinds of improvised bombs that have plagued American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
JFCOM also helps military commanders set up training regimens, and Harward said the military should step up its use of combat simulators.
He talked about being impressed by the Nintendo Wii, a popular gaming system that allows users to make simulated actions like tossing a bowling ball or playing a guitar.
"We have nothing like that for the U.S. military," he said. "There's more we can do there."
U.N. Empowers Land Operations Against Somali Pirates
(NSI News Source Info) UNITED NATIONS - December 17, 2008: The U.N. Security Council on Dec. 16 unanimously adopted a resolution for the first time authorizing international land operations against audacious, armed pirates sheltering in Somalia.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hailed the adoption of the U.S. resolution saying it sent a "strong signal to combat the scourge of piracy" and stressed the need "to end the impunity of Somali pirates."
The text, co-sponsored by Belgium, France, Greece, Liberia and South Korea, gives those nations already involved in battling pirates off Somalia a one-year mandate to act against the brigands inside the country.
Resolution 1851 authorizes the states to "take all necessary measures that are appropriate in Somalia" to suppress "acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea."
However, to overcome objections from countries such as Indonesia an earlier reference in the text to "ashore" or "including in its (Somalia) airspace" was dropped.
Increasingly emboldened, pirates have carried out more than 100 attacks in the key shipping lanes of the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean since the start of this year.
Last month, they captured the world's attention when they hijacked the Saudi-owned super-tanker Sirius Star, carrying two million barrels of crude oil, and demanded a $25 million ransom for the boat and its crew.
It is one of about 17 ships, including an arms-laden Ukrainian cargo vessel, currently in pirate hands.
Rice told the high-profile U.N. ministerial session that the U.S. intended to work with partners to set up a contact group on Somali piracy, adding the insecurity and lawlessness in the Horn of Africa nation had to be urgently addressed.
The Dec. 16 resolution was the fourth approved by the council since June to combat the rampant piracy off Somalia's coast. And unlike previous resolutions, the current text empowers states combating piracy to conduct operations on land in Somalia.
But the Pentagon warned there were "practical challenges" to taking such action inside Somalia.
"We welcome the passing of the resolution. We will continue to work with our allies and partners to address this troublesome problem," said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman.
He pointed out that U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates had raised "some of the practical challenges associated with combating this illegal activity."
Rice also told the U.N. session attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Chinese deputy foreign minister He Yafei and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, that it was time "to authorize a U.N. peacekeeping operation" in Somalia.
Ethiopian troops, who intervened in Somalia in 2006 to prop up the weak transitional government, will be withdrawn early next month, leaving the ill-equipped and under-strength 3,400-strong African Union force on its own to face a resurgent Islamic rebellion.
U.N. chief Ban welcomed the council's actions to combat Somali piracy and said he would submit recommendations "on ways to ensure the long-term security of international navigation off the coast of Somalia."
But he stressed the need to address the country's broader security challenge, saying the most appropriate response was "a multinational force (MNF), rather than a typical peacekeeping operation."
Ban said he had approached 50 countries and three international organizations for contributions to such a force.
Indonesia's U.N. Ambassador Marty Natalegawa meanwhile made clear that "the fight against piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia needs to be undertaken in full compliance with international law, in particular the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea."
Ban added the council could explore the possibility of setting up a maritime task force or adding to the current anti-piracy operations "a quick reaction component."
NATO has also dispatched naval forces to the region, joining other national navies in place, but increasingly bold and well-equipped pirates have continued their attacks.
Russia To Deliver 10 MiG-29s To Lebanon
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - December 17, 2008: Russia has agreed to deliver 10 Russian MiG-29 fighter jets to Lebanon, the Lebanese defence minister said Dec. 16.
"Russia has agreed to deliver to Lebanon 10 MiG-29 fighter jets," Lebanese Defence Minister Elias Murr said during talks with Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, quoted by Russian news agencies. He did not disclose any financial details or say whether Lebanon would be purchasing or leasing the fighter jets.
Serdyukov added that that Russia "had received a list of the requirements of the Lebanese armed forces and is ready to examine them in the near future."
The Gulf States Must Press The Nuclear Issue Before It’s Too Late
(NSI News Source Info) December 17, 2008: Yesterday the foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany were joined by those of Egypt, Jordan and the GCC states to discuss next steps on Iran and Gulf security.
The surprise meeting comes at a moment of fluidity and uncertainty on international policy towards Iran. European diplomats are concerned that the stated willingness of Barack Obama to start a direct and unconditional dialogue with Iran could undermine their own UN-based diplomatic efforts to get Iran to first suspend its uranium enrichment activities and then engage in a comprehensive dialogue. And Arab states, who don’t have (and may not even want) a seat at the negotiating table, are worried that a rapprochement between the US and Iran may come at the expense of their own political and strategic interests unless they take a more proactive role.
These concerns were clearly laid out during last week’s IISS Manama Dialogue, a gathering of senior officials involved in Gulf affairs. There, US Defence Secretary Bob Gates walked a fine line: he warned that an Obama administration would not get soft on Iran (a message meant to reassure his Arab listeners) but reiterated a preference for dialogue. Tellingly, the Iranian officials slated to attend failed to show up, a sign that there is no consensus yet in Tehran about how to deal with such overtures.
Another way to improve regional security is to build a regional architecture that would essentially do three things: stabilise Iraq, tame Iran and moderate the US. Ideas about how to do that abound, but not all are necessarily sound. Gates proposed that Iraq join the Gulf Cooperation Council, a move that would wreck the only functioning regional organisation in the Middle East. He also defined the contours of an alliance to contain Iran, a sort of Middle Eastern Nato whose foundation would be the current political-military relations between GCC states and the US. But Western-engineered formal alliances in the Middle East are notoriously weak and have a tendency to collapse, taking down with them a government or two, as happened with the ill-fated Cento that ended monarchical rule in Iraq in 1958. And then there is an idea floated by Hillary Clinton during the US Democratic primary: to deter Iran and prevent a regional nuclear arms race, the US would extend a formal nuclear umbrella to its regional allies. The value of this proposal is dubious: it is politically toxic, it does not add anything to the existing US commitment to defend its allies, and it paradoxically legitimises Iran’s rationale for pursuing a nuclear capability.
Iran puts forward a simpler idea, probably because it has not yet put enough thinking into what it really wants and can get: an unconditional withdrawal of all foreign forces from the Gulf region, which, in Iranian minds, would clear the way for Iranian hegemony in the region. And if it cannot have that, then it could accept an arrangement with the great powers that acknowledges its regional role and reach. But Tehran never hints of substantive arrangements with those most concerned by its ambitions, its immediate Arab neighbours. And this very unwillingness to discuss the core tensions related to Iranian behaviour is what riles the Arab states the most.
The Gulf states have another approach. They neither can afford confrontation, nor do they want it. But they certainly can’t remain idle as Iran gets closer to nuclear status, and yesterday’s meeting was an occasion to press that message.For too long, these countries have been unable to adopt and promote a regional structure that suits their security needs. The enemy (whether Nasserism, Baathism or Khomeinism) was too strong and too elusive to counter without alliances in the West, a strategy that served them well until recently. And despite all the current talk of an imminent American eclipse, the GCC countries need similarly strong relations with the US in particular for a host of strategic and economic reasons.
That said, there is policy innovation coming from the Gulf states primarily due to a sense that US competence or intentions cannot be fully trusted. The first leg of that more assertive approach is sustained outreach to other partners in the West and Asia. Every possible ally is courted and given a stake in the region’s security, hence the French decision to open a base in the UAE and the interest of several Gulf states in acquiring missile defence technology from the US.
Another facet of this strategy is greater diplomatic creativity. Ideas are forming here about how the region’s politics should be organised. At the Manama meeting, the Bahraini foreign minister was as bold as it gets. He proposed the establishment of a regional security organisation inclusive of all countries in the Middle East, a clear reference to Israel and Iran. This organisation would be the basis of a collective security architecture that would guarantee national sovereignty and regional stability. This idea is in its infancy and needs to be endorsed by Arab heavyweights but nevertheless shows some far-reaching thinking. And the Gulf states can find inspiration in successful models abroad, notably the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
An overlapping proposal endorsed by GCC states is to initially focus on establishing a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Gulf rather than condition from the outset any progress on Israel dismantling its nuclear arsenal. Such an arrangement would require Iran to comply with strict safeguards on its nuclear programme and to enrich uranium at a facility outside the region. In exchange, GCC states would provide Iran full guarantees that they would not develop nuclear programmes. A bold move in this regard is the UAE’s unilateral offer to relinquish its right to enrich uranium. And once the Gulf becomes a nuclear weapons free zone, the thinking goes, it will be easier to pressure Israel to denuclearise.
There is evidently no lack of ideas when it comes to a regional architecture. What still lacks though is policy coherence and momentum. Ultimately, the Gulf states understand well that relations between Iran and the US can drive their future either way, but they are proving more adept at shaping their future. They need to be listened to.