DTN News: Raytheon ATFLIR Marks More Than 500,000 Flight Hours*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) MCKINNEY, Texas - December 17, 2009: Raytheon Company's (NYSE: RTN) Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared pod, which provides pinpoint accuracy and real-time target assessment from long standoff ranges, has marked more than 500,000 hours of operational flight on the U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet. F-15E1, a Boeing technology-demonstration aircraft, is shown carrying the Raytheon Terminator advanced targeting forward looking infrared pod during an April test flight. Terminator is a variant of the ATFLIR that the U.S. Navy will install on its Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft.
In coordination with the Navy, Raytheon has continually improved performance and added advanced capabilities to the targeting pod. ATFLIR allows target recognition and tracking at altitudes and ranges substantially greater than those of other targeting systems. It remains the only targeting pod certified for operation on U.S. naval aircraft carriers.
"The ATFLIR pod system offers the warfighter advanced integrated diagnostic, tracking and targeting capabilities," said Tim Carey, vice president for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Systems. "The ATFLIR program represents a capability that promotes Raytheon's reputation as a technology leader. With more than 500,000 operational flight hours, our targeting pod has proudly supported the Navy warfighter in operations around the world."
Manufactured by Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, ATFLIR is a high-technology subsystem that replaced three separate legacy F/A-18 pods. It incorporates an innovative common optical path and continuous auto-boresight technology that significantly increases targeting accuracy while minimizing the potential for collateral damage.
"This milestone represents a true team effort between government and industry," said Cmdr. Frank Morely, deputy program manager, F/A-18 and EA-18 program office. "There is no combat system on the F/A-18 used more in today's operations than the ATFLIR."
Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, with 2008 revenues of $4.4 billion and 12,000 employees, is a leading provider of sensor systems that provide actionable information for the network-centric battlefield.
Raytheon Company, with 2008 sales of $23.2 billion, is a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, homeland security and other government markets throughout the world. With a history of innovation spanning 87 years, Raytheon provides state-of-the-art electronics, mission systems integration and other capabilities in the areas of sensing; effects; and command, control, communications and intelligence systems, as well as a broad range of mission support services. With headquarters in Waltham, Mass., Raytheon employs 73,000 people worldwide.
DTN News: Pakistan TODAY December 17, 2009 ~ President Zardari Under Pressure As Pakistani Judges Rule Amnesty Is Void• Opposition calls for resignation after supreme court decision
• President faces legal battle over long-running allegations
*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - December 17, 2009: President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan suffered a fresh blow to his precarious position today when the supreme court ruled that an amnesty protecting him from corruption charges was null and void. Mubashar Hasan, petitioner against the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), speaks to the media along with his lawyers Abdul Hafiz Pirzada (L) and Salman Akram Raja (R) after the Supreme Court of Pakistan announced its decision outside the court building in Islamabad December 16, 2009. Pakistan's highest court on Wednesday struck down an amnesty that has protected President Asif Ali Zardari and some aides from corruption charges, raising the prospect of political turmoil.
The main opposition party called for his resignation on moral grounds only hours after the ruling, but Zardari's office said he had no intention of stepping down.
The ruling paves the way for legal challenges against Zardari at a time when he is deeply unpopular because of public perceptions that he is being too compliant with the US. The Obama administration has been pressing Islamabad to crack down on al-Qaida and Taliban insurgents using sanctuaries in Pakistan to launch operations against Nato forces in Afghanistan.
The court's ruling also leaves thousands of officials, including ministers loyal to Zardari, vulnerable to renewed corruption cases.
"All the benefits given under the [amnesty] cases withdrawn, acquittals made are declared void," the chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, said in announcing the decision of the 17-member bench.
Chaudhry, long a thorn in the side of the former president General Pervez Musharraf, has turned out to be just as independent-minded in his dealings with Zardari.
A presidential spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, told reporters that the government respected the court ruling but would issue a formal response after reviewing the judgment. He noted that, as president, Zardari had immunity from prosecution.
The amnesty was part of a US-brokered deal with Musharraf that allowed the return from exile of Benazir Bhutto to take part in politics. Zardari, Bhutto's husband, took control of the party after Bhutto was assassinated in 2007.
But the National Reconciliation Ordinance, as the amnesty is known, is highly contentious as many civil rights groups see it as a way for those accused of corruption to avoid scrutiny. Allegations of corruption have swirled round Zardari, 54, for years, dating back to governments led by his late wife. Nicknamed Mr 10 Percent, Zardari spent several years in prison under previous administrations. He denies any wrongdoing.
The amnesty had protected Zardari from cases dating back to the late 1990s. One case alleges he misappropriated $1.5bn. The president's office has declared the cases "unproven, politically motivated allegations".
Zardari was democratically elected and heads the largest party in parliament, and even some of his critics acknowledge that his political demise at midterm would be a heavy blow to the country as it seeks to consolidate its return to democratic rule after years of military government.
Despite his immunity from prosecution, Zardari's opponents are now expected to challenge his eligibility to remain as president on the grounds that if it were not for the amnesty he would not have been able to run for the post. Analysts and legal experts are divided over whether this push will succeed and the process is likely to take months.
Zardari is already a weakened figure. Earlier this year, he caved in to street protests and reinstated Chaudhry as chief justice after he was fired by Musharraf. A few weeks ago Zardari relinquished command of the country's nuclear arsenal and said he would give up more powers soon.
Zardari's domestic troubles can only complicate matters for the US as it seeks a stable partner at a time when the Obama administration is escalating its military effort in Afghanistan by sending an extra 30,000 troops to fight the Taliban.
DTN News: Lockheed Martin Achieves Critical Global Ballistic Missile Defense Milestones In 2009*Source: DTN News / Lockheed Martin
(NSI News Source Info) BETHESDA, MD, - December 17, 2009: Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] missile defense systems achieved several key milestones in 2009, including five successful intercepts and numerous other major accomplishments, further solidifying Lockheed Martin as a world leader in air and missile defense.
With 20 successful Aegis BMD intercepts, six successful Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) intercepts and 26 successful Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) Missile intercepts since the inception of those programs, Lockheed Martin continues to build on its unmatched legacy as the pioneer of hit-to-kill technologies.
“Lockheed Martin is proud to continue to lead ballistic missile defense efforts for the United States and allied nations,” said John Holly, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s newly established Missile Defense Systems operating unit, based in Huntsville, AL. “The depth and breadth of our experience in missile defense systems allows us to meet ever-evolving threats in support of global security.”
Lockheed Martin operational systems and next-generation capabilities address each phase of missile defense – boost, ascent, midcourse and terminal – in support of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s (MDA) layered Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) and international allies’ requirements.
2009 Missile Defense Milestones – Weapons Systems
In July, the Aegis BMD system destroyed a ballistic missile target in an at-sea firing under operationally realistic conditions – marking the continued successful engineering development of the next generational upgrade in Aegis BMD capability.
The USS Bunker Hill completed its operational trial of its full combat system, which includes Aegis Open Architecture, in August. This milestone is part of the development path to merge Aegis Open Architecture and Aegis BMD in 2012, when the Aegis Modernization program begins for the Navy’s 62 Aegis-equipped destroyers.
JS Myoko, Japan’s third destroyer equipped with the Aegis BMD system, successfully intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile target above the atmosphere during an October test event. Also that month, the MDA awarded a $1 billon follow-on contract providing for the integration of Aegis BMD into the Aegis Modernization program and a contract vehicle for the next five years to continue evolving BMD capability. Additionally, the guided missile cruiser USS Lake Erie – using the latest Aegis BMD baseline version 4.0.1 and new Aegis BSP signal processor – proved successful during a series of long-range tracking, surveillance and engagement exercises against a variety of ballistic missile targets in October.
In July, the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) successfully completed Critical Design Reviews (CDRs) for all major components, clearing the way for production of radars, launchers, tactical operation centers, and reloaders needed for system tests. The program is on track to complete its final system-level CDR event in August 2010, with initial flight tests planned for 2012.
The program announced that it had received approval to use a European cryptographic device to implement Identification Friend or Foe in October. The selected subsystem makes both of the MEADS radars more robust than other current U.S. systems and provides the highest level of fratricide prevention available to protect coalition pilots. MEADS is designed to permit full interoperability between the U.S. and allied armies, and it is the only medium-range air defense system to provide full 360-degree coverage.
Lockheed Martin broke ground on an expansion of its state-of-the-art PAC-3 Missile production complex in Camden, AR, in May. This new facility will allow for continued production expansion and modest hiring of new employees over the next several years.
In September, Airmen of the Japanese Self Defense Force and Lockheed Martin successfully conducted the second Japanese PAC-3 Missile flight test at White Sands Missile Range, NM. The flight test demonstrated the Patriot Configuration-3 upgrades to Japanese Patriot ground system, and the addition of the PAC-3 Missile Segment to detect, track, engage and destroy a tactical ballistic missile target in a realistic battlefield environment.
On December 11, Lockheed Martin successfully conducted the PAC-3 Missile PC-08 Flight Test at White Sands Missile Range, NM. Preliminary test data indicates mission objectives were successfully achieved. The test demonstrated system capability using Post Deployment Build -6.5 (PDB-6.5) software to search, detect, track, engage, and kill an aerodynamic Tactical Ballistic Missile (TBM) using a ripple method of fire engagement.
In March, Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency conducted their sixth successful intercept in six attempts of the THAAD weapon system at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, HI. This flight test demonstrated the system’s ability to detect, track and intercept a separating target inside the Earth’s atmosphere. This was the first salvo mission, with two THAAD interceptors launched against a single separating target, which is a tactical option for the system. Data indicates the first interceptor successfully destroyed the target while the second interceptor destroyed a large piece of debris from the initial intercept. This year, Lockheed Martin employees celebrated the 10th anniversary of the first THAAD successful intercept and the 25th anniversary of the first hit-to-kill intercept of a ballistic missile target outside of the Earth’s atmosphere.In October, the U.S. Army and the MDA activated the second THAAD Battery at Fort Bliss, TX, signifying the continued integration of THAAD into the U.S. Army’s Air and Missile Defense force structure. Unit training on the second THAAD Battery is underway with equipment hardware deliveries slated to occur within a year.
2009 Missile Defense Milestones – Next-Generation Capabilities and Supporting Systems
Command, Control, Battle Management & Communications (C2BMC) continues to support real-world operations 24/7 around the world in 17 time zones, supporting the Missile Defense Agency’s strategic and regional objectives.
Logistics and Sustainment:
In November, Global Aerospace Logistics, LLC (GAL), Lockheed Martin and Raytheon announced the signing of a Joint Collaborative Agreement that will establish world-class logistics and sustainment services for the United Arab Emirates’ air and missile defense systems. Under the agreement, GAL will work with Raytheon and Lockheed Martin to develop a logistics and sustainment capability to meet the immediate and future needs of the UAE’s air and missile defense strategy.
Targets and Countermeasures:
Through 2009, Lockheed Martin’s Targets and Countermeasures Program has achieved 33 successful target missions out of 34 since 1996. Lockheed Martin’s unmatched 97 percent reliability rate has included unitary and separating targets, spanning land, sea and air launches. In 2009, Lockheed Martin shipped the next-generation Launch Vehicle-2 target to a test range in preparation for an upcoming test.
Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS):
In November, the Lockheed Martin-led team developing the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) program for the U.S. Air Force successfully completed thermal vacuum testing of the first geosynchronous (GEO-1) satellite, one of the most significant program milestones that validates spacecraft performance in a simulated space environment. The first SBIRS GEO spacecraft is planned for delivery to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in late 2010, where it will then undergo final processing and preparation for launch aboard an Atlas V launch vehicle. Lockheed Martin plays a critical role in the nation’s layered air and missile defense system. In addition to operational defenses, Lockheed Martin provides the backbone systems that integrate the sensors, command and control, and weapon system elements of the ballistic missile defense system. The corporation also is focused on next-generation capabilities and provides targets and other methods to test system elements.
Lockheed Martin is a world leader in systems integration and the development of air and missile defense systems and technologies, including the first operational hit-to-kill missile defense system. It also has considerable experience in missile design and production, infrared seekers, command and control/battle management, and communications, precision pointing and tracking optics, and radar and signal processing. The company makes significant contributions to all major U.S. missile defense systems and participates in several global missile defense partnerships.
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 2008 sales of $42.7 billion.
DTN News: Boeing Team Demonstrates Multimodal Unmanned Systems Operations*Source: DTN News / Boeing
(NSI News Source Info) ST. LOUIS, - December 17, 2009: Boeing [NYSE: BA] Dec. 16, 2009 announced that it has completed a demonstration for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) at Fort Bragg, N.C., that integrated both air and ground unmanned systems to perform psychological operations (PSYOP) wartime missions for combatant commands.
The USASOC and a Boeing-led contractor team conducted the demonstration in November, using the Schiebel S-100 Unmanned Aerial System and the John Deere R-Gator Unmanned Ground Vehicle to demonstrate an electro-optical/infrared, audio, and leaflet drop mission.
"Working with USASOC, we were able to pull together a team to demonstrate this integrated, multimodal operation in just 45 days," said Vic Sweberg, director of Boeing Unmanned Airborne Systems. "We brought together hardware and software from five different contractors into a single multimodal system that allowed the control of different unmanned systems capabilities to accomplish a particular mission."
"This is an example of how Boeing unmanned operational services and contractor logistics support capabilities can support USASOC warfighters today," said Greg Deiter, vice president of Boeing Defense & Government Services. "We are working together with USASOC to support its need for quick-insertion capabilities in the multimodal unmanned operations world."
The Boeing Unmanned Airborne Systems division includes the A160T Hummingbird, ScanEagle, SolarEagle, and MQ-X. Boeing also has teams deployed with U.S. Navy ships and ground forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan, supporting U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps, Army, and Special Operations Command operations in a variety of roles and services.
DTN News: Nato Chief Seeks Russian Helicopters For Afghanistan
*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW, Russia - December 17, 2009: Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has asked Russia to provide helicopters to Afghanistan to help win the war against the Taliban insurgency. More than 12,000 Mi-8 (NATO codename Hip) multi-purpose helicopters have been produced, with more than 2,800 exported, and they are operational with over 50 air forces worldwide.
During talks in Moscow he also asked Russia to help train Afghan forces.
Russia said it would study the request. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov welcomed what he called a new "readiness for dialogue" between Russia and Nato.
Mr Rasmussen's visit is the first by a Nato chief since relations chilled after last year's Russian-Georgian war.
The three-day visit, including talks with President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, signifies the alliance's determination to strengthen ties with Moscow, analysts say.
Mr Rasmussen said he had presented Russian leaders with a list of "concrete proposals" on helping Nato confront the Taliban insurgency.
"I think Russia could contribute in a very concrete way by providing helicopters, helicopter training and spare parts," he said.
Helicopters are considered a crucial asset in the war against the Taliban, for their ability to move troops around and provide air support. Nato allies have found a shortage of helicopters one of the main handicaps in fighting the insurgency.
The Kremlin says it wants Nato to win in Afghanistan and is willing to help. But so far its support has been largely rhetorical, says the BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Moscow.
Russia still sees Nato as fundamentally an anti-Russian military alliance, our correspondent says. So Mr Rasmussen's focus on Afghanistan is designed to find common ground.
"Disagreements should not overshadow the fact that, basically, we share security interests in many areas because we are faced with the same threats," Mr Rasmussen said before the talks on Wednesday.
Mr Lavrov said that while they recognised there were differences between them, both sides were trying "to normalise relations and bring them to a new level".
Analysts say the atmosphere between the alliance and Moscow has improved recently. Earlier this month, the Nato-Russia Council convened for the first time since the Georgia conflict.
During this visit, discussions on missile defence, Iran and a joint review of new security challenges are expected to take place.
The expansion of Nato remains a sensitive issue between the two sides, with Russia firmly opposed to any move towards membership by Ukraine or Georgia.
Mr Rasmussen has previously said they would become Nato members as and when they satisfied the necessary criteria, but emphasised that Moscow should not see that as a threat.
DTN News: Iran Tests New Sejjil-2 Missile With Success
*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) TEHRAN, Iran - December 17, 2009: Iran has successfully tested an optimized version of the solid-fuel Sejjil-2 deterrent missile as part of its long-term plans to defend the country's borders.
The high-speed surface-to-surface, which was launched on Wednesday morning, has been designed and built by the Iranian Ministry of Defense. Back in May, Iran tested the initial version of the two-stage Sejjil-2 missile. The Sejil-2 has a longer range than the Shahab-3 missile. (Press TV footage of the launch of Iran's new optimized Sejjil-2 missile, Dec. 16)
The deterrent system was built as part of an effort to design a more accurate and swift missile than previous Iranian-made models. This new version of the Sejjil-2 is faster during the powered flight portion of its trajectory and also during the re-entry phase.
It is also harder to detect for anti-missile systems, as it is covered with anti-radar material. The new highly maneuverable missile is also more efficient as it requires less amount of time for prelaunch preparations.
This quality reduces the possibility of it being targeted prior to take off. According to comments made by Iran's defense minister, Brigadier Ahmad Vahidi, the missile-launch is part of Iran's efforts to boost deterrence capabilities.
"The launch of an optimized version of Sejjil is part of Iran's defense doctrine and its standard missile activities," Vahidi said in a speech before the test began. "Iran's missile capabilities are strictly defensive and at the service of regional peace and stability. They will never be against any country," he stressed.
In a phone interview with Press TV, journalist and political commentator Kiyan Nader Mokhtari elaborated more about the features of the new missile.
"The engine and various fuels have been tested and the platform is now highly reliable. The latest tests to be carried out are mainly to do with the variety of warheads that it has to carry," he said. "Some of the warheads obviously have been designed to be able to evade anti-ballistic missile defenses of the enemy in actual battle conditions," he added.
DTN News: South Korea TODAY December 16, 2009 ~ Net Closes On North Korea's Arms Exports
*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) SEOUL, South Korea - December 16, 2009: Kim Jong-il is feeling the noose of sanctions tighten but he will prove a hard man to restrain.
North Korea's dictator already knew the world's security services were becoming adept at intercepting his seaborne arms exports, but Thailand's seizure of an aircraft carrying weapons from Pyongyang at the weekend is a serious irritation for him. South Korean Army soldiers manoeuvre K-1 tanks during an annual river-crossing exercise on the Han river in Yeoju, about 100 km (62 miles) southeast of Seoul December 16, 2009. The aim of the exercise is to prepare soldiers for a possible invasion by North Korea.
Weapons probably earn hundreds of millions of dollars of vital foreign currency each year for impoverished North Korea. Mr Kim will find valuable Middle Eastern customers such as Iran wary of doing business if the US and its allies consistently pin down his country's arms' flights.
"This will affect the revenue stream," said Daniel Pinkston, at the International Crisis Group. "It is a sign of the increasing risk of doing business for the buyers, who are also violating United Nations Security Council resolution 1874."
The resolution, passed after North Korea carried out its second nuclear test in May, is aimed at Pyongyang's arms industry. Despite this weekend's seizure of 35 tonnes of arms, North Korea still smuggles out the vast majority of its intended heavy arms exports, diplomats and analysts estimate. In doing so, the closed state and its buyers would both be contravening UN sanctions banning arms exports.
"The recent case is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of all of North Korea's illegal arms' smuggling," said Jeung Young-tae, a senior research fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul. "Still, I expect the consistent implementation of UN sanctions to deliver a strong jab to North Korea."
The world's navies have been closely monitoring North Korea's small fleet of rusty freighters for years and seizures have probably forced much contraband on to foreign aircraft and ships, analysts say. In 2002 Spanish forces found Scud missile parts hidden under bags of cement on a North Korean ship. The next year Australian forces detained a North Korean ship smuggling heroin, another source of dollars. The ship was later destroyed.
This year the United Arab Emirates seized 10 containers of North Korean arms, including rocket-propelled grenades, on board a Bahamian-flagged ship, the ANL-Australia. The manifest listed "oil-drilling equipment" destined for Iran.
Several weeks earlier the US navy shadowed a North Korean ship, the Kang Nam, suspected of carrying arms to south-east Asia, forcing it to turn back.
"Pyongyang is playing hide-and-seek with the world, both at sea and in the air," according to an editorial in the South Korean daily, Dong-a Ilbo.
The Kazakh and Belarusan crew of the aircraft detained in Bangkok have yet to explain their route. Analysts assume North Korean arms have been smuggled through Chinese airspace, as Beijing is lenient to its communist neighbour. India, by contrast, denied overflight rights last year to a North Korean aircraft bound for Iran.
Choi Choon-heum, another senior research fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification, said China's stance remained vexed, but he thought Beijing was also clamping down on North Korea's missile trade in an attempt to push Pyongyang back to nuclear disarmament talks.
"The Chinese . . have their own criteria and will act on their own if North Korea does not listen to their advice on not selling missiles," he said.
DTN News: Pakistan TODAY December 16, 2009 ~ Nato Oil Tankers Torched, Gas Pipeline Blown Up*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) QUETTA, Pakistan - December 16, 2009: Two oil tankers carrying fuel for Nato forces in Afghanistan were torched and a gas pipeline in the Loti area of Dera Bugti district was blown up on Tuesday. Police found both tankers without drivers and cleaners on reaching the spot, DSP Kharotabad, Jamil Kakar, said.
Police said the tankers were fired upon early in the morning in the Kharotabad area. The drivers stopped the vehicles after which the assailants set them afire. Both the tankers were completely gutted.
Meanwhile, militants blew up a 16-inch pipeline, suspending gas supply from the Loti gas field.
According to officials, a team of engineers was dispatched from Sukkur to repair the damaged pipeline.
In Quetta, a bus carrying police recruits escaped a bomb blast in the Sariab area. Police said the bomb was attached to a bicycle which exploded moments after the bus passed by.
DTN News: NATO May Deploy Awacs Plane To Fight Pirates, Di Paola Says
*Source: DTN News / Int'l News By James G. Neuger & James G. Neuger in Brussels
(NSI News Source Info) BRUSSELS, Belgium - December 16, 2009: NATO may deploy an Awacs radar plane to hunt pirates in the seas off Somalia as attacks on merchant ships spread further into the Indian Ocean, the head of the alliance’s military committee said. The E-3 airborne warning and control system (AWACS) is built by Boeing Defense & Space Group. The role of the E-3 is to carry out airborne surveillance, and command, control and communications (C3) functions for both tactical and air defence forces.
Commanders are seeking to back up a five-ship counterpiracy task force with one of the airborne warning and control system surveillance planes, possibly sharing it with the allied International Security Assistance Force fighting in Afghanistan.
“It would not be inconceivable, for example, having a dual use of Awacs maybe located somewhere in the region and being able to perform missions for ISAF and missions for counterpiracy,” Italian Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, the committee chairman, said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Brussels today.
Stalked by warships from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the European Union and countries including Russia and China, pirates operating from safe havens in Somalia are ranging as far as 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) out to sea to prey on merchant vessels.
Pirates struck 147 times off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden during the first nine months of 2009, up from 63 attacks in the year-earlier period, the International Maritime Bureau said. A tenth of the world’s trade passes through that sea corridor.
Somalia’s lack of an effective government after almost two decades of civil war has turned it into a base for gangs that seize commercial ships. Pirates often hold them for ransom, as when they extorted $2.8 million for the release of the 24 Ukrainian crew members of a British-owned bulk carrier last week after a seven-month ordeal.
NATO Task Force
Warships from the U.S., Italy, Portugal and Canada make up the current NATO task force, cobbled together from a group that is normally used for routine exercises and port visits.
Known as “eyes in the sky,” the Awacs are modified Boeing 707s topped with a rotating dome housing radar equipment. NATO’s 17-plane Awacs fleet, managed by crews from 15 countries, is based in Geilenkirchen, Germany.
Use of the Awacs in a conflict zone requires unanimous approval by the 28 NATO allies. It took months for NATO last year to approve the deployment of Awacs over Afghanistan to monitor the increasingly crowded airspace there.
The Awacs request for the piracy mission “has just come in so I would feel the discussion will start the beginning of next year,” said Di Paola, whose committee consists of high- ranking officers from all NATO countries.
‘Not for Free’
“Deploying an Awacs costs money, it’s not for free,” Di Paola, 65, said. “There will be some serious discussion up to which point this can be done.”
Di Paola rebutted concerns that there is a lack of coordination between the NATO and EU anti-piracy task forces and solo ships from other countries.
The EU’s six-frigate force may start patrolling further into the Indian Ocean as pirate activity widens, U.K. Rear Admiral Peter Hudson, commander of the EU mission, said in an interview last week.
NATO ships have chased sea bandits as far as the approaches to the Seychelles islands, and the various fleets have working arrangements to divide up their zone of coverage depending on where the pirates are, Di Paola said.
“There is a lot of maritime space over there,” Di Paola said. “The pirates are responding in an intelligent way, moving wherever they think there’s a lack of presence. If NATO forces for a certain period are more concentrated on the Gulf of Aden, this allows the European Union to move away.”
DTN News: NATO Chief In First Russia Visit To Rebuild Trust
*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW, Russia - December 16, 2009: NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen was to meet Russian leaders Wednesday in Moscow, the first visit by a head of the Western military alliance since the Georgia war blew a Cold War chill through ties.
Furious disputes over Russia's actions in its war with Georgia last year led to a halt in cooperation between the two sides, but Rasmussen has vowed to rebuild trust since taking office in August.
"Given the announcements by the new NATO secretary general about increasing the quality of partnership with Russia, special attention will be put on activating (Photo: US, Canadian and Georgian soldiers participate in NATO training exercises) cooperation to increase trust," the Kremlin said in a statement ahead of the visit.
It said the two sides would also discuss important international issues, including Afghanistan, Iran's nuclear programme and the peace process in the Middle East.
Rasmussen is to meet all the key players in Russia in a packed schedule of meetings on Wednesday, including Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, President Dmitry Medvedev and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
On Thursday Rasmussen is to meet more top officials and also give a keynote speech to the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations, according to the Kremlin.
As NATO forces step up the fight against the Taliban, the alliance will be looking for greater assistance from Russia on Afghanistan, an area where Moscow has been wary of involvement since the debacle of the Soviet invasion.
Russian media have also reported that Rasmussen may be seeking more concrete cooperation from Russia by giving the coalition AK-47 assault rifles, armoured personnel carriers and other military hardware.
"No one in NATO expects Russia to again send its soldiers into Afghanistan. But we can do a lot together," Russia's Nezavisimya Gazeta quoted an official as saying.
In a keynote policy speech in September after taking office, Rasmussen had described improving relations with Russia as one of the key priorities of his tenure.
"We need Russia as a partner in resolving the great issues of our time," Rasmussen said in the speech in Brussels.
Russia's relations with NATO and the United States have been helped by the US decision to shelve a plan for building missile defence facilities in Central Europe that had infuriated Russia.
In the Brussels speech, Rasmussen, a former Danish prime minister, said the potential for linking the US, NATO and Russian missile defence systems should be explored.
NATO and Russia have been at loggerheads for years over missile defence, arms treaties, their stance on the independence of Kosovo -- where the alliance has a peacekeeping force -- and their attitude toward Iran.
But their relations plunged to a post-Cold War low after Moscow sent its troops into Georgia in August 2008 and then recognised the independence of two breakaway Georgian regions.
However the "reset" of Russia-US relations under President Barack Obama has also warmed Russian ties with NATO. NATO and Russian foreign ministers on December 4 held the highest level meeting since the Georgia crisis.