Wednesday, February 17, 2010
DTN News: U.S. Expected To Press China On Yuan *Source: DTN News / By Kathy Chen & Jason Dean WSJ (NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - February 18, 2010: The mounting political tension between U.S. and China is poised to take on a more pronounced economic component—with Washington, in coming months, expected to press China over what officials see as an undervalued yuan. This week, China is facing off with the U.S. over President Barack Obama's planned meeting Thursday with the Dalai Lama, who Beijing alleges has pushed for Tibetan independence from China. On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would also meet Thursday with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. Those tensions come on top of January's announcement that the U.S. would sell $6.4 billion worth of arms to Taiwan, which Beijing claims as part of its territory, and continuing sparring over a cyberattack on Google Inc. widely seen as originating in China. The two sides have also disagreed over whether to sanction Iran over its nuclear program. But for U.S. officials, China's exchange rate is emerging as a top concern. President Obama and other administration officials argue that the Chinese currency is undervalued. That makes Chinese exports artificially cheap in terms of other foreign currencies, contributing to the U.S.'s large trade deficit with China and, they say, depriving Americans of jobs. Also on the economic front, U.S. officials have taken notice of increasing, vocal concerns among U.S. multinationals over what these companies view as growing protectionist trends in China. For years, these companies have acted as a ballast for stable bilateral ties. "We expect to see actions by China" to help rebalance global trade flows, a White House official said. If Beijing fails to act, that "will put greater and greater pressure on the U.S. to respond." "We have 10% unemployment and China is racking up huge trade surpluses with an undervalued currency—the politics [of that] are very tough," said Kenneth Lieberthal, a former Clinton administration official who now heads Brookings Institution's John L. Thornton China Center in Washington. Officials and analysts in both countries say economic codependence and shared strategic interests over such issues as North Korea and nuclear nonproliferation are likely to ensure that relations generally remain cooperative. Underscoring that, five U.S. warships, including the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, docked in Hong Kong on Wednesday for a four-day rest stop. But lately, many elements of U.S-China cooperation have been put to the test. While the value of the yuan has long concerned U.S. politicians and business, the rhetoric is heightening as the U.S. continues to grapple with high unemployment and China hits new growth benchmarks. In a meeting with Senate Democrats this month, Mr. Obama vowed to "get much tougher" with China on trade rules, including currency rates, to ensure that U.S. goods weren't at a competitive disadvantage. The U.S. says its trade deficit with China totaled $226.83 billion in 2009—narrower than the annual deficits from 2006 to 2008, but still the U.S.'s largest imbalance with any nation. The administration has already acted on some trade issues. In September, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced tariffs on certain tires made in China, in response to a surge in Chinese tire exports to the U.S. The next big test comes in April, when, under the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988, the U.S. will decide whether to label Beijing a "currency manipulator." Such a move technically wouldn't result in any U.S. actions against China. But invoking the rarely used act—no countries have been named since 1994—would likely infuriate Beijing and give Congress new ammunition to press for concrete action against China. A senior Treasury Department official said no decision on the matter has been made. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said during his Senate confirmation hearings in early 2009 that Mr. Obama believed China was manipulating its currency. But the administration declined in its semiannual Treasury Department report that April to officially label China a manipulator. Some U.S. lawmakers are also considering steps to address the Chinese-currency issue. Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, will "evaluate legislative options" if the administration doesn't label China a manipulator, said Grassley spokeswoman Jill Kozeny. Nicholas Lardy, a China scholar at the Petersen Institute for International Economics in Washington, argues that the yuan is currently undervalued "in the neighborhood of 25%, and perhaps as much as 30%," against the currencies of its trade partners. China began letting the yuan appreciate against the dollar incrementally in July 2005, after years of keeping it effectively pegged to the greenback. The yuan gained about 21% against the dollar from July 2005 to July 2008, when Beijing halted the rise, as the global economic crisis sapped demand for its exports and fueled worry about a domestic economic slowdown. Many analysts think Beijing might be willing to partially unshackle the yuan again because of concerns that its stimulus-fueled economy risks overheating, making inflation a concern. A stronger Chinese currency would put downward pressure on prices by lowering China's costs for imported raw materials and increasing its purchasing power for foreign goods. A stronger yuan would also likely trim exports, and thus slow the economy. Beijing would have to weigh the advantages of preempting economic overheating with the risks of slowing the economy too much. Any currency movement would almost certainly be gradual, given a stronger yuan's potential impact on Chinese exports and jobs. Too much foreign pressure on China could prompt the country to be more intransigent on the exchange rate, which Beijing views as a domestic issue. "I don't think China is likely to revalue the yuan before April, regardless of whether the U.S. labels China a currency manipulator," says Ji Zhu, an economics professor at the Beijing Technology and Business University. "It won't be forced to make decisions simply based on some pressure from the U.S." He said China's priority remains ensuring stability. "It needs to maintain a trade surplus and continued export growth, to promote job creation." U.S. multinationals, meanwhile, have been complaining to the Obama administration about proposed rules issued by Beijing late last year that would set a list of preferred suppliers for the multibillion-dollar government procurement market and give preferred treatment to companies whose products are deemed to include adequate levels of local innovation. U.S. and other foreign companies fear this could put them at a disadvantage to Chinese players, and compel them to shift intellectual property to China. Nineteen U.S. trade groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, sent a letter in late January to Obama cabinet members saying the Chinese programs "threaten to exclude a wide array of U.S. firms from a market that is vital to their future growth and ability to create jobs here at home." The letter urged the officials to make the issue a "strategic priority." In an unusually broad response, U.S. officials from several government agencies have approached the Chinese to relay concern over the proposed rules, according to people familiar with the situation. "We are expressing our serious concerns with all appropriate counterparts in the Chinese government," said Carol Guthrie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative's office. Jeremie Waterman, senior director of China policy of the U.S. Chamber in Washington, said: "It's increasingly clear (the Chinese) want to limit the ability of foreign companies to compete."—Sue Feng in Beijing and Bai Lin in Shanghai contributed to this article. Write to Kathy Chen at firstname.lastname@example.org and Jason Dean at email@example.com
DTN News: Israel's Rafael Plans JV for Missile Systems In India *Source: DTN News / By Tarun Shukla Livemint.com (NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI, India - February 18, 2010: Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd plans to start a joint venture in India with state-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) to develop advanced missile systems. Since the Kargil conflict in 1999, Israel has emerged as the second largest defence supplier to India, with annual sales estimated at $1 billion (Rs4,600 crore). The state-owned firm plans to use its India joint venture facility to source some locally made materials, mandatory for all overseas defence supplies and known as offsets. “This is will be our first joint venture. Part of the offsets that we have to provide in India will be in this joint venture,” said Lova Drori, executive vice-president, marketing, Rafael, on the sidelines of the sixth land and naval defence systems DefExpo 2010 show in the Capital. With around two dozen firms, Israel’s presence is among the biggest at the expo. As many as 650 firms from 23 countries, excluding China and Pakistan, are present at the show. A BEL executive said his firm is in discussions with Rafael regarding the joint venture. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to speak with the media. “Missiles developed here use command guidance. You can have a radar that can send signals for command guidance. At present that is what is done in Akash,” the official said. “Seekers have been tried in India for Nag missiles. But (more) mature technologies will be helpful as well.” The executive was referring to a seeker, which is a missile guidance device aboard an interceptor missile that searches for and homes in on a target. BEL will hold a 74% stake in the venture and Rafael will own the rest, Drori said, adding that the companies would soon seek government approval on this. He also said that the proposed facility will eventually be scaled up to develop new technologies in missile seekers depending on the projects it can secure from India. Once approved, the factory will be located near an existing campus of BEL, which has facilities in Bangalore, Pune and Hyderabad. Drori said his firm is not looking at a 49% participation in the joint venture as it feels the Indian government may not allow that. “We do not want to do that. Its unachievable. The government will not approve. We will be happy with 26%,” he said.
DTN News: Sikorsky Plans To Make Black Hawk Helicopter In India *Source: DTN News / By Santanu Choudhury Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES (NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI, India - February 18, 2010: Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. Wednesday said it plans to make the Black Hawk helicopter in India, as the U.S. helicopter maker gears up to bid for defense contracts worth up to $12 billion in the next seven to eight years. Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., a unit of United Technologies Corp. (UTX), is in talks with Indian companies, including the Tata group, to manufacture the Black Hawk, Stephen B. Estill, vice president in charge of strategic partnerships, said on the sidelines of DefExpo 2010. "We will bring the Black Hawk here with the option to improve the horse power...," Estill said, adding that the additional power is being planned to operate the helicopter at 14,000-15,000 feet. "We will bring the concept here, we will team for the development program with local industry, team to develop the prototype here and present that as our tailor-made for India," he said. Estill said the Black Hawk is currently produced in countries including South Korea, Turkey, Japan and Taiwan. Sikorsky has a joint venture with Tata Advanced Systems, a Tata group company, to produce cabins for the S-92 helicopter and aerospace parts at Hyderabad city, in southern India. Production of the S-92 cabin has started and the first unit is expected to be exported from the facility in November, Estill said. The Hyderabad factory currently has capacity to produce 36 cabins each year. Sikorsky, Eurocopter and various global defense companies are exploring alliances with Indian companies as they try to meet the country's regulations for defense contracts. The Indian government's offset policy requires the winning bidder in a military tender valued at more than INR3 billion to produce part of the contract's value through partnerships with local vendors. The policy has been formulated to help build the country's fledging military industrial sector. "We are committed to approach the Indian market from the same view point as we approach the U.S. government market," Estill said. "We think it's that important. "What that means is we stack our resources. We localize manufacturing, we localize research and development, we localize support and we work to develop exports for the products that we design here," he said. Estill said Sikorsky expects to bid for potential defense deals in India valued at $8 billion and $12 billion by 2017-2018. He said the company has offered its S-70B Seahawk and the MH-60R helicopters for an Indian Navy contract for 16 multi-role helicopters with anti-submarine warfare capability. The deal is estimated to range between $600 million and $700 million, he said. Sikorsky has also bid for a deal from the Indian Coast Guard to lease up to 20 helicopters for up to four years, he said. FOR FURTHER INFO CONTACT : Santanu Choudhury, Dow Jones Newswires; +91-11-4356-3305; firstname.lastname@example.org
DTN News: U.S. Department of Defense Contracts Dated February 17, 2010 *Source: U.S. DoD issued February 17, 2010 (NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON - February 18, 2010: U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs) Contracts issued February 17, 2010 are undermentioned;
AIR FORCE ~Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., El Segundo, Calif., was awarded a $64,778,516 contract which will provide mission communication system upgrade on four C-32A aircraft and four C-40B aircraft. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. 655 AESS/SYKA, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8625-10-C-6500).
~Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., El Segundo, Calif., was awarded a $46,213,411 contract which will provide the Heterogeneous Airborne Reconnaissance Team Program to develop technologies enabling mission-driven command and control of a heterogeneous team on uninhabited platforms for the conduct of coordinated urban operations. At this time, $9,304,633 has been obligated. AFRL/PKDB, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8650-10-C-7004). DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY ~Burlington Apparel Fabrics, Greensboro, N.C., is being awarded a maximum $9,210,552 fixed-price with economic price adjustment, indefinite-delivery/indefinite quantity, total set-aside contract for khaki cloth. Other locations of performance are Raeford, N.C.; Cordova, N.C.; and Hurt, Va. Using service is the Navy. The proposal was originally solicited through Gateway with one response. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Feb. 16, 2011. The Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity. NAVY ~General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine, is being awarded a $7,921,004 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-06-C-2303) for long lead time material (LLTM) associated with the construction of DDG 1001. This contract provides LLTM general material of plate, shapes, and pipe to support DDG 1001 ship construction commencing in FY 10. The LLTM procured or manufactured for construction or installation in DDG 1001 under previously contract awarded contract (N00024-06-C-2303) is expected to be transferred with its associated costs to the as-yet-to-be-negotiated DDG 1001 ship construction contract. Work is expected to be performed in Bath, Maine (38 percent); Coatesville, Pa. (31 percent); and Burns Harbor, Ind. (31 percent). Work is expected to be completed by August 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity. ~L-3 Communications, Menlo Park, Calif., is being awarded a $7,272,748 ceiling-priced order #7005 under previously awarded contract (N00383-06-G-072B) for the repair of items required to support the E-2C aircraft. Work will be performed in San Diego, Calif., and is expected to be completed by February 2011. Contract funds will not expire before the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively awarded. The Naval Inventory Control Point, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity. ~Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Services, San Diego, Calif., is being awarded a $7,050,112 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-09-C-5215) for applied research in support of reliable acoustic path vertical line array (RAP VLA) sensor systems for distributed network systems (DNS). RAP VLA sensor systems for DNS advanced development efforts are intended to result in a deep water, bottom-mounted, high-grain sensor system that can automatically detect, classify, localize, track and report contacts of interest. Work will be performed in Arlington, Va. (40 percent); Riviera Beach, Fla. (30 percent); Greensboro, N.C. (25 percent); and Groton, Conn. (5 percent). Work is expected to be completed by April 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.
DTN News: Indian Navy Aircraft Carrier INS Vikramaditya Or Admiral Gorshkov Price Agreed At $2.34 Billion
DTN News: Indian Navy Aircraft Carrier INS Vikramaditya Or Admiral Gorshkov Price Agreed At $2.34 Billion *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI, India - February 18, 2010: Six years after the first agreement and the price escalation and hard talks that followed, the Defence Ministry is all set to seek the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for acquisition of the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov from Russia at a final cost of $2.34 billion — in January 2004, India first agreed to acquire Gorshkov at the refit cost of $974 million. Once cleared by the CCS, the Gorshkov deal will be signed during the visit of Russian PM Vladimir Putin on March 13. “The Gorshkov deal is in the final stages and the agreement will be signed as soon as the CCS gives a green signal to the proposal,” a senior official told The Indian Express. The 44,500-tonne carrier, which was to be initially delivered in 2008, will reach Indian waters in 2013-14 after its total overhaul, upgradation, weapon integration and sea trials.
DTN News: Boeing Returns E-4B National Airborne Operations Center Aircraft To Service *Source: DTN News / Boeing (NSI News Source Info) WICHITA, Kan., - February 17, 2010: The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] delivered an E-4B National Airborne Operations Center aircraft to the U.S. Air Force on Feb. 8, after 11 months of maintenance at Boeing’s Wichita facility. The aircraft returns to service in support of the center’s mission -- providing senior government and military decision makers with connected and protected air travel. “The E-4B is the most advanced communications aircraft in the world and on alert 24/7,” said Steve Wade, general manager of Boeing Global Transport & Executive Systems (GTES). “When they’re called upon, it’s our job to ensure they are ready.” The E-4B is a modified Boeing 747-200 that serves the U.S. president, secretary of defense, and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Air Force fleet of four E-4Bs is stationed at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. The upgrade completed last week included an extensive programmed depot maintenance refurbishment, ensuring the aircraft received the repairs and system upgrades it needs to operate effectively and meet Federal Aviation Administration safety requirements. The next E-4B scheduled to enter maintenance will receive a full Mod Block upgrade that includes the addition of a Senior Leadership Communications System and improvements to the aircraft’s Global Air Traffic Management System, audio infrastructure, and interior. GTES, headquartered in Wichita, is a division of Boeing Global Services & Support. In addition to the E-4B, GTES supports all Boeing aircraft in the U.S. executive fleet, including VC-25, C-32A, and C-40B/C, as well as the U.S. Navy’s E-6B and C-40A. A unit of The Boeing Company, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is one of the world’s largest defense, space and security businesses specializing in innovative and capabilities-driven customer solutions, and the world’s largest and most versatile manufacturer of military aircraft. Headquartered in St. Louis, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is a $34 billion business with 68,000 employees worldwide.
DTN News: America's Global Weapons Monopoly ~ Don't Call It "the Global Arms Trade" *Source: Frida Berrigan is a Senior Program Associate with the New America Foundation’s Arms and Security Initiative. (NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada- February 17, 2010: On the relatively rare occasions when the media turns its attention to U.S. weapons sales abroad and shines its not-so-bright spotlight on the latest set of facts and figures, it invariably speaks of “the global arms trade.” Let’s consider that label for a moment, word by word: *It is global, since there are few places on the planet that lie beyond the reach of the weapons industry. *Arms sounds so old-fashioned and anodyne when what we’re talking about is advanced technology designed to kill and maim. *And trade suggests a give and take among many parties when, if we’re looking at the figures for that “trade” in a clear-eyed way, there is really just one seller and so many buyers. How about updating it this way: “the global weapons monopoly.” In 2008, according to an authoritative report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), $55.2 billion in weapons deals were concluded worldwide. Of that total, the United States was responsible for $37.8 billion in weapons sales agreements, or 68.4% of the total “trade.” Some of these agreements were long-term ones and did not result in 2008 deliveries of weapons systems, but these latest figures are a good gauge of the global appetite for weapons. It doesn’t take a PhD in economics to recognize that, when one nation accounts for nearly 70% of weapons sales, the term “global arms trade” doesn’t quite cut it. Consider the “competition” and reality comes into focus. Take a guess on which country is the number two weapons exporter on the planet: China? Russia? No, Italy, with a relatively paltry $3.7 billion in agreements with other countries or just 9% of the U.S. market share. Russia, that former Cold War superpower in the “trade,” was close behind Italy, with only $3.5 billion in arms agreements. U.S. weapons manufacturers have come a long way, baby, since those Cold War days when the United States really did have a major competitor. For instance, the Congressional Research Service’s data for 1990, the last year of the Soviet Union’s existence, shows global weapons sales totaling $32.7 billion, with the United States accounting for $12.1 billion of that or 37% of the market. For its part, the Soviet Union was responsible for a competitive $10.7 billion in deals inked that year. France, China, and the United Kingdom accounted for most of the rest. Since then, the global appetite for weapons has only grown more voracious, while the number of purveyors has shrunk to the point where the Pentagon could hang out a sign: “We arm the world.” No kidding, it’s true. Cambodia ($304,000), Comoros ($895,000), Colombia ($256 million), Guinea ($200,000), Greece ($225 million), Great Britain ($1.1 billion), the Philippines ($72.9 million), Poland ($79.8 million), and Peru ($16.4 million) all buy U.S. arms, as does almost every country not in that list. U.S. weapons, and only U.S. weapons, are coveted by presidents and prime ministers, generals and strongmen. From the Pentagon’s own data (which differs from that in the CRS report), here are the top ten nations which made Foreign Military Sales agreements with the Pentagon, and so with U.S. weapons makers, in 2008: Saudi Arabia $6.06 billion Iraq $2.50 billion Morocco $2.41 billion Egypt $2.31 billion Israel $1.32 billion Australia $1.13 billion South Korea $1.12 billion Great Britain $1.10 billion India $1 billion Japan $840 million That’s more than $17 billion in weapons right there. Some of these countries are consistently eager buyers, and some are not. Morocco, for example, is only in that top-ten list because it was green-lighted to buy 24 of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 fighter planes at $360 million (or so) for each aircraft, an expensive one-shot deal. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia (which inked $14.71 billion in weapons agreements between 2001 and 2008), Egypt ($13.25 billion) and Israel ($11.27 billion) are such regular customers that they should have the equivalent of one of those “buy 10, get the 11th free” punch cards doled out by your favorite coffee shop. To sum up, the U.S. has a virtual global monopoly on exporting tools of force and destruction. Call it market saturation. Call it anything you like, just not the “global arms trade.” Getting Even More Competitive? It used to be that the United States exported goods, products, and machinery of all sorts in prodigious quantities: cars and trucks, steel and computers, and high-tech gizmos. But those days are largely over. The Obama administration now wants to launch a green manufacturing revolution in the U.S., and in February, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced a new “National Export Initiative” with the aim of doubling American exports, a move he said would support the creation of two million new jobs. The U.S. could, of course, lose the renewable-energy race to China and that new exports program may never get off the ground. In one area, however, the U.S. is manufacturing products that are distinctly wanted -- things that go boom in the night -- and there the Pentagon is working hard to increase market share. Don’t for a second think that the American global monopoly on weapons sales is accidental or unintentional. The constant and lucrative growth of this market for U.S. weapons makers has been ensured by shrewd strategic planning. Washington is constantly thinking of new and inventive ways to flog its deadly wares throughout the world. How do you improve on near perfection? In the interest of enhancing that “competitive” edge in weapons sales, the Obama administration is investigating the possibility of revising export laws to make it even easier to sell military technology abroad. As Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morell explained in January, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wants to see “wholesale changes to the rules and regulations on government technology exports” in the name of “competitiveness.” When he says “government technology exports,” Morell of course means weapons and other military technologies. “Tinkering with our antiquated, bureaucratic, overly cumbersome system is not enough to maintain our competitiveness in the global economy and also help our friends and allies buy the equipment they need to contribute to global security,” he continued, “[Gates] strongly supports the administration’s efforts to completely reform our export control regime, starting ideally with a blank sheet of paper.” The laws that regulate U.S. weapons exports are a jumbled mess, but in essence they delineate what the United States can sell to whom and through what bureaucratic mechanisms. According to U.S. law, for example, there are actually a few countries that cannot receive U.S. weapons. Myanmar under the military junta and Venezuela while led by Hugo Chavez are two examples. There are also some weapons systems that are not intended for export. Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor jet fighter was -- until the Pentagon recently stopped buying the plane -- deemed too sophisticated or sensitive to sell abroad. And there are reporting requirements that give members of Congress a window of opportunity within which they can question or oppose proposed weapons exports. Given what’s being sold, these export controls are remarkably minimal in nature and are constantly under assault by the weapons industry. Bans on weapons sales to particular countries are regularly lifted through aggressive lobbying. (Indonesia, for example, was offered $50 million in weapons from 2006 to 2008 after an almost decade long congressional arms embargo.) The industry also works to relax controls on new technology exports to allies. Japan and Australia have mounted campaigns to win the ability to buy F-22 Raptors, potential sales that Lockheed Martin is now especially happy to entertain. The reporting window to Congress remains an important export control, but the time frame is shrinking as more countries are being “fast tracked,” making it harder for distracted representatives to react when a controversial sale comes up. In addition to revising these export controls, the administration is looking at the issue of “dual-use” technologies. These are not weapons. They do not shoot or explode. Included are high-speed computer processors, surveillance and detection networks, and a host of other complex and evolving technologies that could have military as well as civilian applications. This category might also include intangible items like cyber-entities or access to controlled web environments. Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and other major weapons manufacturers have invested billions of dollars from the Pentagon’s research and development budgets in exploring and perfecting such technologies, and now they are eager to sell them to foreign buyers along with the usual fighter planes, combat ships, and guided missiles. But the rules as they stand make this something less than a slam dunk. So the weapons industry and the Pentagon are arguing for “updating” the rules. If you translate updating as “loosening” the rules, then the United States would indeed be more “competitive,” but who exactly are we trying to beat? Weapons Sales are Red Hot “What’s Hot?” is the title of Vice Admiral Jeffrey Wieranga’s blog entry for January 4, 2010. Wieranga is the Director of the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which is charged with overseeing weapons exports, and such pillow talk is evidently more than acceptable -- at least when it’s about weapons sales. In fact, Wieranga could barely restrain himself that day, adding: “Afghanistan is really HOT!” Admittedly, on that day the temperature in Kabul was just above freezing, but not at the Pentagon, where arms sales to Afghanistan evidently create a lot of heat. As Wieranga went on to write, the Obama administration’s new 2010/2011 budget allocates $6 billion in weaponry for Afghan Security Forces. The Afghans will actually get those weapons for free, but U.S. weapons makers will make real money delivering them at taxpayers’ expense and, as the Vice Admiral pointed out, that “means there is a staggering amount of acquisition work to do.” It’s not just Afghanistan that’s now in the torrid zone. Weapons sales all over the world will be smoking in 2010 and beyond. The year began with a bang when Wieranga’s Agency announced that the Obama administration had decided to sell a nifty $6 billion in weapons to Taiwan. Even as the United States leans heavily on China for debt servicing, Washington is giving the Mainland a big raspberry by offering the island of 22 million off its coast (which Washington does not formally recognize as an independent nation), a lethal cocktail of weaponry that includes $3 billion in Black Hawk helicopters. This deal comes on top of more than $11 billion in U.S. weapons exports to Taiwan over the last decade, and is certain to set Chinese-U.S. relations back a step or two. Other bonanzas on the horizon? Brazil wants new fighter planes and Boeing is battling a French company for the contract in a deal that could be worth a whopping $7 billion. India, once a major arms buyer from the Soviet Union, is now another big buy-American customer, with Boeing and Lockheed Martin vying to equip its air force with new fighter planes in deals that Boeing estimates may reach $11 billion. Such deals are staggering. They contribute more bang and blast to a world already bristling with particularly lethal weaponry. They are a striking American success story in a time filled with failures. Put in the lurid but everyday terms of a nation weaned on reality television, the Pentagon is pimping for the U.S. weapons industry. The weapons industry, for its part, is a pusher for every kind of lethal technology. The two of them together are working to ensure that more of the same will flow out of the U.S. in ever easier and more lucrative ways. Global arms trade? Send that one back to the Department of Euphemisms. Pimps and pushers with a lucrative global monopoly on a killing drug -- maybe that’s the language we need. And maybe, just maybe, it’s time to launch a “war on weapons.” Frida Berrigan is a Senior Program Associate with the New America Foundation’s Arms and Security Initiative. “Weapons at War 2008,” a report she co-authored with William D. Hartung, goes into much more detail about the politics and pratfalls of weapons exports.
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DTN News: Turbomeca Strengthens Presence in India With Turbomeca India Engines *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) BORDES, France - February 17, 2010: "The main purpose of this new establishment in Bangalore, India, is to set up a major local interface with the key helicopter manufacturer and Indian operators.This new set-up reinforces our local partnership in order to improve our response to the requirements of an ever-expanding market", claims Satish Kirtikar, managing director of Turbomeca India. With its experienced team of customer support managers and field representatives, Turbomeca India Engines Private Ltd. supplements the local Turbomeca set-up for Indian helicopter manufacturer HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.) which ensures support for military customers. This new site will provide a wider cover for the proximity services required by a more efficient customer and product support for helicopter fleets. A partner for civil and military fleetsIn India, Turbomeca leads the market for helicopter engines with more than a 65% share of the market. In 2003, numerous contracts for several hundred TM 333 and Ardiden 1H1 / Shakti engines were signed with HAL. The Indian helicopter manufacturer has already received an order for 159 Dhruv equipped with Ardiden 1H1 engines. The Turbomeca Arriel engine also equips the 27 Dauphin helicopters operated by Pawan Hans, the largest Indian civil operator which carries out operations in oil and gas exploration and paramedical, medical and tourism missions.
DTN News: Nimitz US Aircraft Carrier In Hong Kong Amid China tensions *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) HONG KONG - February 17, 2010: The American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier the USS Nimitz, has arrived in Hong Kong at a time of strained relations between the US and China. Carrying some 5,000 sailors, the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and four other ships dock for a port call in Hong Kong Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010, in a sign that recent tensions between China and the U.S. may be easing after flare-ups over an arms sale to Taiwan and the Dalai Lama. The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group after spending five months in the North Arabian Sea as a base for air combat missions in Afghanistan, the USS Nimitz public affairs office said in a statement. Less than two weeks ago Beijing said it would suspend military contacts with the US in protest over Washington's sale of arms to Taiwan. The visit also comes just before US President Barack Obama meets Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. China previously refused permission for a US naval visit to Hong Kong in 2007. In recent weeks China has expressed anger over the two issues most sensitive to Beijing - Taiwan and Tibet. China has demanded that Mr Obama cancel a scheduled meeting with the Dalai Lama at the White House on Thursday. Diplomatic links The Nimitz and four accompanying ships will send more than 5,000 sailors ashore on this visit. The four-day rest stop comes after the carrier group spent five months in the north Arabian Sea as a base for air combat missions in Afghanistan. "Hong Kong is a vibrant city and a favourite port of call for our sailors. We look forward to an enjoyable stay here," said the ship's commander, Rear Adm John W Miller. He said it was "a routine port visit" requested through the normal channels, but that he was "delighted" the ship was granted permission to dock.Rear Adm. John Miller, commander of Carrier Strike Group 11, speaks during a press conference on board Aircraft USS Nimitz in Hong Kong Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010. Carrying some 5,000 sailors, the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and four other ships dock for a port call in Hong Kong, in a sign that recent tensions between China and the U.S. may be easing after flare-ups over an arms sale to Taiwan and the Dalai Lama. Rear Adm Miller said China and US were in agreement on many issues "There are a lot of areas where nations that don't always agree on a variety of issues can find agreement," he said. Rear Adm Miller cited China's recent joining of multi-nation efforts to tackle piracy in shipping lanes off the Somali coast as "an excellent example of what like-minded nations can do in various parts of the world". Hong Kong has been a favourite destination for US sailors since the days of the Vietnam War. Such visits were regular and non-controversial when Hong Kong was still a British colony, but China has, on occasion, banned port visits since it took over sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997. The USS Kitty Hawk was denied entry in 2007 in what some analysts said was a retaliation after the US Congress awarded its highest civilian honour to the Dalai Lama. In August last year, China rejected a requested port call in Hong Kong by Japan's navy. China's state-run China Daily said at the time that there was good reason to block the requested naval visit, citing trips to Japan by the Dalai Lama and Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer - considered separatists by Beijing.
DTN News: Afghanistan TODAY February 17, 2010 ~ Marines Battling Afghanistan Taliban Call In Gunships
DTN News: Afghanistan TODAY February 17, 2010 ~ Marines Battling Afghanistan Taliban Call In Gunships *Source: DTN News / BBC (NSI News Source Info) KABUL, Afghanistan - February 17, 2010: US Marines battling the Taliban in southern Afghanistan have had to call in helicopter gunships for support, as a major offensive enters its fifth day. The marines have faced sustained and heavy machine-gun fire from fighters hiding in bunkers, as they try to gain control of the Taliban haven of Marjah. US Marines have come under heavy machine-gun fire in Marjah Some 15,000 troops are taking part in the joint Nato and Afghan operation. To the north, British forces have discovered an insurgent cache of stolen Afghan army and police uniforms. U.S. Marines from Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines and an Afghan soldier prepare to enter a house to search for weapons in the town of Marjah, in Nad Ali district of Helmand province February 16, 2010. U.S. Marines, leading one of NATO's biggest offensives against Taliban Islamic militants in Afghanistan, are facing fierce resistance in some areas, bogged down by heavy gunfire, snipers and booby traps. The find suggests the Taliban could have been planning attacks disguised as Afghan security personnel, the BBC's Frank Gardner in Kandahar says. Both American and British forces taking part in Operation Moshtarak have been having to deal with large numbers of improvised bombs. American forces have found a so-called "daisy chain" - a long bomb rigged up from mortar bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and a motorbike, our correspondent says. Flames rise up from heroin and hashish set ablaze during a drug burning ceremony in Khost, south of Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010. Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium, the raw ingredient for heroine, which is considered to be a major funding source for the Taliban. Meanwhile, British engineers have deployed a device called a "python" - a length of explosives designed to set off mines and clear a safe path through them, he says. Afghan army chief of staff Besmillah Khan told the AFP news agency the threat from improvised bombs meant gains were coming "slowly". Nato says discussions with the local population on how to bring lasting security in the area are continuing, our correspondent adds. Missiles 'on target' US forces have encountered pockets of fierce resistance around the town of Marjah as the operation to force the Taliban out of their strongholds in Helmand province continues. But British and Afghan troops are reported to be advancing more swiftly in the nearby district of Nad Ali. Operation Moshtarak is the biggest coalition attack since the Taliban fell in 2001 The commander of British forces in southern Afghanistan said on Tuesday a missile that struck a house outside Marjah on Sunday killing 12 people, including six children, had hit its intended target. Maj Gen Nick Carter said the rocket had not malfunctioned and the US system responsible for firing it was back in use. Officials say three Taliban, as well as civilians, were in the house. Initial Nato reports said the missile had landed about 300m (984ft) off its intended target. Gen Carter blamed these "conflicting" reports on "the fog of war". He said that protecting the local population remained at the heart of the operation and that coalition forces were being very careful with aerial-launched missiles. Nato has stressed that the safety of civilians in the areas targeted is its highest priority. Speaking on Tuesday, Dawud Ahmadi - a spokesman for Helmand Governor Gulab Mangal - said the Afghan National Army and Nato forces were clearing areas around Marjah of mines. Mr Ahmadi said that 1,240 families had been displaced and evacuated from Marjah - and all had received aid in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah. Operation Moshtarak, meaning "together" in the Dari language, is the biggest coalition attack since the Taliban fell in 2001. Allied officials have reported only two coalition deaths so far - one American and one Briton killed on Saturday. TALIBAN CONFLICT LATEST NEWS Taliban 'military chief' seized in Pakistan Afghanistan missile 'hit target' Afghan Taliban resist Nato push Operation Moshtarak: Day-by-day Operation Moshtarak: Diary BACKGROUND Breakthrough? How significant is Taliban chief's arrest? Tightening grip Critical operation has high stakes Operation Moshtarak Information - the new frontline 'Success not surprise' Who are the Taliban? Map: Foreign forces Q&A: Who is fighting the Taliban Mapping the militant nexus
DTN News: The Meaning of Marjah *Source: By Kamran Bokhari, Peter Zeihan and Nathan Hughes STRATFOR (NSI News Source Info) - February 17, 2010: On Feb. 13, some 6,000 U.S. Marines, soldiers and Afghan National Army (ANA) troops launched a sustained assault on the town of Marjah in Helmand province. Until this latest offensive, the U.S. and NATO effort in Afghanistan had been constrained by other considerations, most notably Iraq. Western forces viewed the Afghan conflict as a matter of holding the line or pursuing targets of opportunity. But now, armed with larger forces and a new strategy, the war — the real war — has begun. The most recent offensive — dubbed Operation Moshtarak (“Moshtarak” is Dari for “together”) — is the largest joint U.S.-NATO-Afghan operation in history. It also is the first major offensive conducted by the first units deployed as part of the surge of 30,000 troops promised by U.S. President Barack Obama. The United States originally entered Afghanistan in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. In those days of fear and fury, American goals could be simply stated: A non-state actor — al Qaeda — had attacked the American homeland and needed to be destroyed. Al Qaeda was based in Afghanistan at the invitation of a near-state actor — the Taliban, which at the time were Afghanistan’s de facto governing force. Since the Taliban were unwilling to hand al Qaeda over, the United States attacked. By the end of the year, al Qaeda had relocated to neighboring Pakistan and the Taliban retreated into the arid, mountainous countryside in their southern heartland and began waging a guerrilla conflict. In time, American attention became split between searching for al Qaeda and clashing with the Taliban over control of Afghanistan. But from the earliest days following 9/11, the White House was eyeing Iraq, and with the Taliban having largely declined combat in the initial invasion, the path seemed clear. The U.S. military and diplomatic focus was shifted, and as the years wore on, the conflict absorbed more and more U.S. troops, even as other issues — a resurgent Russia and a defiant Iran — began to demand American attention. All of this and more consumed American bandwidth, and the Afghan conflict melted into the background. The United States maintained its Afghan force in what could accurately be described as a holding action as the bulk of its forces operated elsewhere. That has more or less been the state of affairs for eight years. That has changed with the series of offensive operations that most recently culminated at Marjah. Why Marjah? The key is the geography of Afghanistan and the nature of the conflict itself. Most of Afghanistan is custom-made for a guerrilla war. Much of the country is mountainous, encouraging local identities and militias, as well as complicating the task of any foreign military force. The country’s aridity discourages dense population centers, making it very easy for irregular combatants to melt into the countryside. Afghanistan lacks navigable rivers or ports, drastically reducing the region’s likelihood of developing commerce. No commerce to tax means fewer resources to fund a meaningful government or military and encourages the smuggling of every good imaginable — and that smuggling provides the perfect funding for guerrillas. Rooting out insurgents is no simple task. It requires three things: 1) Massively superior numbers so that occupiers can limit the zones to which the insurgents have easy access. 2) The support of the locals in order to limit the places that the guerillas can disappear into. 3) Superior intelligence so that the fight can be consistently taken to the insurgents rather than vice versa. Without those three things — and American-led forces in Afghanistan lack all three — the insurgents can simply take the fight to the occupiers, retreat to rearm and regroup and return again shortly thereafter. But the insurgents hardly hold all the cards. Guerrilla forces are by their very nature irregular. Their capacity to organize and strike is quite limited, and while they can turn a region into a hellish morass for an opponent, they have great difficulty holding territory — particularly territory that a regular force chooses to contest. Should they mass into a force that could achieve a major battlefield victory, a regular force — which is by definition better-funded, -trained, -organized and -armed — will almost always smash the irregulars. As such, the default guerrilla tactic is to attrit and harass the occupier into giving up and going home. The guerrillas always decline combat in the face of a superior military force only to come back and fight at a time and place of their choosing. Time is always on the guerrilla’s side if the regular force is not a local one. But while the guerrillas don’t require basing locations that are as large or as formalized as those required by regular forces, they are still bound by basic economics. They need resources — money, men and weapons — to operate. The larger these locations are, the better economies of scale they can achieve and the more effectively they can fight their war. Marjah is perhaps the quintessential example of a good location from which to base. It is in a region sympathetic to the Taliban; Helmand province is part of the Taliban’s heartland. Marjah is very close to Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second city, the religious center of the local brand of Islam, the birthplace of the Taliban, and due to the presence of American forces, an excellent target. Helmand alone produces more heroin than any country on the planet, and Marjah is at the center of that trade. By some estimates, this center alone supplies the Taliban with a monthly income of $200,000. And it is defensible: The farmland is crisscrossed with irrigation canals and dotted with mud-brick compounds — and, given time to prepare, a veritable plague of IEDs. Simply put, regardless of the Taliban’s strategic or tactical goals, Marjah is a critical node in their operations. The American Strategy Though operations have approached Marjah in the past, it has not been something NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) ever has tried to hold. The British, Canadian and Danish troops holding the line in the country’s restive south had their hands full enough. Despite Marjah’s importance to the Taliban, ISAF forces were too few to engage the Taliban everywhere (and they remain as such). But American priorities started changing about two years ago. The surge of forces into Iraq changed the position of many a player in the country. Those changes allowed a reshaping of the Iraq conflict that laid the groundwork for the current “stability” and American withdrawal. At the same time, the Taliban began to resurge in a big way. Since then the Bush and then Obama administrations inched toward applying a similar strategy to Afghanistan, a strategy that focuses less on battlefield success and more on altering the parameters of the country itself. As the Obama administration’s strategy has begun to take shape, it has started thinking about endgames. A decades-long occupation and pacification of Afghanistan is simply not in the cards. A withdrawal is, but only a withdrawal where the security free-for-all that allowed al Qaeda to thrive will not return. And this is where Marjah comes in. Denying the Taliban control of poppy farming communities like Marjah and the key population centers along the Helmand River Valley — and areas like them around the country — is the first goal of the American strategy. The fewer key population centers the Taliban can count on, the more dispersed — and militarily inefficient — their forces will be. This will hardly destroy the Taliban, but destruction isn’t the goal. The Taliban are not simply a militant Islamist force. At times they are a flag of convenience for businessmen or thugs; they can even be, simply, the least-bad alternative for villagers desperate for basic security and civil services. In many parts of Afghanistan, the Taliban are not only pervasive but also the sole option for governance and civil authority. So destruction of what is in essence part of the local cultural and political fabric is not an American goal. Instead, the goal is to prevent the Taliban from mounting large-scale operations that could overwhelm any particular location. Remember, the Americans do not wish to pacify Afghanistan; the Americans wish to leave Afghanistan in a form that will not cause the United States severe problems down the road. In effect, achieving the first goal simply aims to shape the ground for a shot at achieving the second. That second goal is to establish a domestic authority that can stand up to the Taliban in the long run. Most of the surge of forces into Afghanistan is not designed to battle the Taliban now but to secure the population and train the Afghan security forces to battle the Taliban later. To do this, the Taliban must be weak enough in a formal military sense to be unable to launch massive or coordinated attacks. Capturing key population centers along the Helmand River Valley is the first step in a strategy designed to create the breathing room necessary to create a replacement force, preferably a replacement force that provides Afghans with a viable alternative to the Taliban. That is no small task. In recent years, in places where the official government has been corrupt, inept or defunct, the Taliban have in many cases stepped in to provide basic governance and civil authority. And this is why even the Americans are publicly flirting with holding talks with certain factions of the Taliban in hopes that at least some of the fighters can be dissuaded from battling the Americans (assisting with the first goal) and perhaps even joining the nascent Afghan government (assisting with the second). The bottom line is that this battle does not mark the turning of the tide of the war. Instead, it is part of the application of a new strategy that accurately takes into account Afghanistan’s geography and all the weaknesses and challenges that geography poses. Marjah marks the first time the United States has applied a plan not to hold the line, but actually to reshape the country. We are not saying that the strategy will bear fruit. Afghanistan is a corrupt mess populated by citizens who are far more comfortable thinking and acting locally and tribally than nationally. In such a place indigenous guerrillas will always hold the advantage. No one has ever attempted this sort of national restructuring in Afghanistan, and the Americans are attempting to do so in a short period on a shoestring budget. At the time of this writing, this first step appears to be going well for American-NATO-Afghan forces. Casualties have been light and most of Marjah already has been secured. But do not read this as a massive battlefield success. The assault required weeks of obvious preparation, and very few Taliban fighters chose to remain and contest the territory against the more numerous and better armed attackers. The American challenge lies not so much in assaulting or capturing Marjah but in continuing to deny it to the Taliban. If the Americans cannot actually hold places like Marjah, then they are simply engaging in an exhausting and reactive strategy of chasing a dispersed and mobile target. A “government-in-a-box” of civilian administrators is already poised to move into Marjah to step into the vacuum left by the Taliban. We obviously have major doubts about how effective this box government can be at building up civil authority in a town that has been governed by the Taliban for most of the last decade. Yet what happens in Marjah and places like it in the coming months will be the foundation upon which the success or failure of this effort will be built. But assessing that process is simply impossible, because the only measure that matters cannot be judged until the Afghans are left to themselves.
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Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information supplied herein, DTN News ~ Defense-Technology News cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. Unless otherwise indicated, opinions expressed herein are those of the author of the page and do not necessarily represent the corporate views of DTN News ~ Defense-Technology News.