Sunday, July 20, 2008

Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) – Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle, USA

Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) – Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle, USA July 20, 2008: The US Marine Corps selected General Dynamics Land Systems to develop a new Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV) in 1996. The name was changed from advanced amphibious assault vehicle to Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) in September 2003. The EFV will replace the current amphibious assault vehicle which entered service in 1972. The current requirement is for 573 vehicles comprising personnel variants (EFVP1) and command variants (EFVC1). The expeditionary fighting vehicle provides the Marine Corp's Marine Rifle Squad with tactical mobility in amphibious operations and in the subsequent ground combat manoeuvres. On land the EFV will carry out manoeuvre and combat operations as part of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force. "The EFV will replace the current US Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle which entered service in 1972." The vehicles will be launched from US Navy amphibious ships at a ship-to-shore distance up to 25nm, i.e. beyond the visual horizon. The vehicles can transit to shore at high speed and travel inland up to 200 miles without refuelling. Once refuelled the vehicles have a range up to 340 miles. The EFV began System Development and Demonstration (SDD) in 2001. In March 2007, General Dynamics was awarded a continuation of the SDD phase with funding for a Design for Reliability (DFR) phase to September 2008. Due to reliability issues and concerns about excessive weight, the USMC is negotiating with General Dynamics to repeat the SDD phase and award a second SDD contract, expected in mid-2008. The second SDD phase would complete in 2011 and there are likely to be significant delays from the projected initial operating capability (IOC) in 2014. The IOC will cover systems for three platoons. One EFV platoon, for marine expeditionary unit deployment, will consist of 13 personnel vehicles and one command vehicle. One platoon will be dedicated to new equipment training and a third platoon will be in production. PERSONNEL VARIANT (EFVP1) Both the personnel and the command variant provide voice communications and standard Variable Message Format (VMF) and United States Message Text Format (USMTF) digital information including messages and overlay data. The vehicles are operated by a crew of three, vehicle commander, gunner and driver. The personnel variant carries 17 fully equipped marines, i.e. a rifle squad of 17 Marines each with individual combat equipment. The vehicle has internal stowage for each marine's ammunition and march-load equipment, i.e. the load for the prosecution of combat operations for extended periods with access to daily resupply. The vehicle will also be capable of carrying other crews and equipment, and has a cargo capacity of 8,150lb in lieu of infantrymen. COMMAND VARIANT (EFVC1) The command variant vehicle, EFVC1, is a command and control platform at battalion and regimental levels and carries the three vehicle crew plus the battalion and regimental staff.
The vehicle is linked to the US Marine Corp's C2I (Command, Control and Intelligence) and the USMC fire support. The vehicle accommodates the three vehicle crew stations and seven command crew stations. The command variant vehicle is armed with a 7.62mm general-purpose machine gun. The troop commander's station is equipped with voice and data communications, a digital map display and a display downloaded from the vehicles' thermal imaging systems. CONSTRUCTION The EFV is of a planing hull design for high speed across water and is constructed of 2519-T87 aluminium, a high-strength aluminium-copper alloy. Integral spall protection is installed and blast-protected seats are fitted. The hull provides protection against armour-piercing rounds and fragmentation devices. Access to the troop compartment is via a hydraulically operated rear ramp. A troop door is also fitted into the ramp and two sliding hatches are installed in the roof over the troop compartment. The engine compartment is located in the centre of the vehicle and the troop compartment is in the rear of the vehicle up to the sides of the engine compartment. The troop compartment is fitted with armour protected padded seats and seat belts. It is air-conditioned and fitted with an overpressure collective protection system against nuclear, chemical and biological warfare. WEAPONS The electronically powered two-man mk46 turret on the personnel variant accommodates the commander on the right and gunner on the left, a fire control system and the main and coaxial weapons. The mk46 turret incorporates a 30/40mm ATK mk44 Bushmaster automatic gun which has a firing rate of 200 rounds a minute and can fire all standard NATO 30/40mm ammunition. A general purpose M240 7.62mm machine gun with 600 rounds of ready-to-use ammunition is mounted coaxially with the main gun. Smoke grenade launchers are installed on the hull. FIRE CONTROL The vehicle has fire-on-the-move capability and the hit probability is 90% at a range of 1,200m. The turret is equipped with a compact modular sight developed by General Dynamics which includes a thermal imaging sight, laser rangefinder and Kearfott Dual Axis Head Assembly (DAHA). The DAHA is gyroscopically stabilised to 50mrad in azimuth and in elevation and provides the stabilised line of sight for the weapon fire control system on vehicle. L3 Communications, Cincinnati Electronics was awarded a contract for a 'drop-in' replacement for the thermal sight on the EFV in September 2007. The sight is based on L3, CE's NightConqueror thermal imager, which uses a medium-wave (3.6-5.0 micron) indium antimonide staring focal plane array. The commander's station is equipped with five forward and one rear-facing periscope sights providing a view of 360° azimuth. ENGINE The EFV is powered by a 2,700hp dual-use (for land and water) MTU MT883 Ka-523 diesel engine. The 12-cylinder diesel engine is mounted in the centre of the vehicle. On metalled roads the maximum speed is over 45mph. The actively damped hydro-pneumatic suspension units, supplied by General Dynamics, and the vehicle's lightweight band track reduce the noise and vibration and give a more comfortable and fuel-efficient ride for the crew.
The continuous moulded lightweight band track was developed by Goodyear and provides traction and strength comparable to the heavier, standard block-type track. The vehicle has seven pairs of road wheels and hydro-pneumatic suspension units fitted with automatic ride height control. About 80% of the amphibious vehicle's mission is performed on land and 20% in water. The vehicles can be deployed in high-speed amphibious landings in seas up to sea state 3. In order to sustain movement in the transition between water and land drive, for example in movement in water over high corals reefs which would otherwise cause dangerous hang-ups for amphibious assault vehicles, the vehicle is equipped with a power transfer module supplied by Allison Transmission Division. The power transfer module automatically shares engine power between waterjets and the vehicle tracks according to how it senses the need. The powertrain and the driveline absorb the transition shock as the vehicle rapidly shifts from one operating mode to another while the vehicle traverses obstacles such as coral mounds in the water. When the vehicle is afloat, the engine couples via the Power Transfer Module to Honeywell counter-rotating 23in water jets mounted on both sides of the vehicle. In endurance tests and in high water speed tests the vehicles have regularly demonstrated high water speeds of more than 25kt in Significant Wave Heights (SWH) of more than 2ft. In the water, the prow plate opens forwards, the flaps over the water jets open and the hydropneumatic suspension retracts. Five bilge pumps, two electric and three hydraulically driven, are installed to maintain buoyancy.

Afghanistan: Coalition 'bombs Afghan police'

Afghanistan: Coalition 'bombs Afghan police' July 20, 2008 - Kabul: International forces have been involved in a series of controversies. At least 13 Afghan police and civilians have died in two incidents involving international forces, officials say. Four Afghan police and five civilians died in an apparently mistaken air strike by international coalition forces in Farah province. Separately, the Nato-led Isaf said it had "accidentally" killed at least four civilians in Paktika province. The incidents are the latest in a series of controversial clashes involving foreign troops. They come as US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is in Afghanistan as part of an overseas tour. Mr Obama, who wants to increase US troop levels in Afghanistan, was due to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday. Mr Karzai has said no civilian casualty is acceptable. 'Mistaken identity' The BBC's Martin Patience, in Kabul, says there was darkness and much confusion when the Farah province fighting took place in the early hours of Sunday morning. The police had opened fire on a joint convoy of Afghan national army and foreign troops believing - incorrectly - that they were Taleban fighters. The deputy governor of Farah province, Younus Rasuli, said the foreign troops had not informed police they were coming. On hearing the gunfire, a number of locals had rushed to support the police, our correspondent says. Nato and US coalition officials are investigating the reports. In Paktika province, Isaf said at least four and possibly as many as seven civilians had been killed when one of its units fired two mortar rounds which landed about 1km from their intended target. "ISAF deeply regrets this accident, and an investigation as to the exact circumstances of this tragic event is now underway," it said in a statement. Series of incidents The issue of civilian casualties at the hands of foreign forces is a hugely sensitive issue in Afghanistan. In the past, the Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said that no civilian casualty is acceptable. Last week, local tribal elders claimed dozens of people, including civilians, died in a Nato-led attack in Herat province, though Nato strongly denied this. Earlier US forces admitted killing eight civilians in Farah province after they were attacked in Bakwa district. And on 6 July, more than 50 people from an Afghan wedding party were said to have been killed after being bombed by US aircraft in the eastern province of Nangarhar.

Mid East deal possible, says PM Gordon Brown

Mid East deal possible, says PM Gordon Brown July 20, 2008: Gordon Brown has said he is optimistic Israel and the Palestinians can sign a peace deal, and has promised British funds to help it work. The PM was speaking after meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders during a visit to the Middle East. Mr Brown said the UK "would do anything we can" to underpin a political breakthrough with economic support. Earlier he said there was an "urgent need for justice" for the Palestinians, and a viable Palestinian state. Speaking at a joint press conference after talks with the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Mr Brown said he "understood the obstacles" to a peace settlement. Opportunities But, he added: "There are great opportunities and we now need to move forward to a peace settlement which is viable and long-lasting." While you disagree with us I hope you understand the position of Israel Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Mr Olmert said he was confident that a deal could be reached by the end of 2008. And he revealed that Mr Brown had criticised the Israeli government's policy of continuing to build settlements on disputed land. Turning to Mr Brown, he said: "You criticised our settlement policy, and I tried to explain to you the restraints that we put on ourselves on the one hand, and the need to keep the pace of life going on the other. "While you disagree with us I hope you understand the position of Israel." More support Mr Brown also spoke of the need of step up diplomatic efforts to deal with Iran's nuclear programme. He said he would speak more fully on that subject on Monday when he becomes the first British head of government to address the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. Earlier, Mr Brown has announced £30m of additional financial support for the Palestinian Authority (PA), on a visit to the West Bank. He also promised further support in training the Palestinian police, after talks with PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Mr Brown said the assistance would help the "great entrepreneurial flair" of the Palestinian people come alive and said he would host an investment conference in London. The prime minister said the West Bank barrier erected by Israel was "graphic evidence of the urgent need for justice for the Palestinian people" and an end to the occupation of Palestinian land. However, he emphasised that progress will largely depend on establishing an end to violence and a resolution to disagreements over Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Viable state Mr Brown called on all parties to "seize the opportunity" to create "a Palestinian state that is viable alongside an Israel which is secure". Mr Brown began his visit by laying a wreath at Jerusalem's Holocaust museum. Afterwards he said: "Nothing prepares you for what we see here. "This is the story of the atrocities that should have been prevented, the killings that should never have happened, the truth that everybody who loves humanity should know." He said he was committed to enabling pupils from every school to go on trips to Auschwitz to learn about what happened there. The visit to Israel is Mr Brown's first since taking over as prime minister a year ago.

BMD Watch: PAC upgrade orders for Raytheon

BMD Watch: PAC upgrade orders for Raytheon Washington July 20, 2008 - The was a banner day for Raytheon: The huge U.S. high-tech defense contractor announced more than $190 million in new orders to upgrade Patriot anti-ballistic missile interceptor batteries for South Korea and Kuwait. Raytheon said in a statement it had won a $38.5 million contract from COMLOG -- its joint venture with the German LFK missile company -- to boost the capabilities of 64 South Korean Patriot PAC-3 interceptors. LFK is part of the multinational MBDA group. The award came as no surprise, as South Korea previously had announced its plans to upgrade its existing PAC-2 capabilities as part of a greatly increased investment in ballistic missile defense. Seoul had bought the old U.S.-built PAC-2s from Germany to be deployed by the South Korean air force. Raytheon said the missiles would be modernized at its Integrated Air Defense Center in Andover, Mass. "The contract enables the upgrade of 64 Korean Patriot Advanced Capability-2 missiles to Guidance Enhanced Missile-Tactical, or GEM-T, configuration, providing enhanced capability against ballistic and cruise missiles, aircraft and remotely piloted vehicles," said Sanjay Kapoor, vice president of Patriot Programs for Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems. "This upgrade is designed to enhance system capabilities to meet current and emerging threats." Raytheon noted that it already had won contracts earlier this year -- previously reported in these columns -- for command and control, communications, maintenance support, and engineering support for the South Korean Patriot program. In all, those contracts were worth $269 million. The company also noted its Integrated Defense Systems division remained the prime contractor for the Patriot program. Raytheon also announced it had won a new $156 million Foreign Military Sales award from the U.S. Army to supply the oil-rich Persian Gulf emirate of Kuwait with Patriot PAC-3 radar upgrade kits and what the company described as "related engineering and technical services." "There continues to be a growing demand, both domestically and internationally, for Raytheon's combat-proven Patriot system," Kapoor said. "This award for the state of Kuwait is an additional indication of the continued expansion of Patriot as the cornerstone of the U.S. and the international partners' integrated air and missile defense systems." "Working with the U.S. Army, we will provide the state of Kuwait with this increased capability," Kapoor said. "The upgrade demonstrates the operational flexibility of Patriot as the premier air and missile defense system." Raytheon said the work on the Kuwaiti contract would be carried out at Raytheon's Integrated Air Defense Center in Andover, Mass.; at the Warfighter Protection Center in Huntsville, Ala.; and at the Mission Capability and Verification Center in White Sands, N.M. New LM complex will test MEADS radarsLockheed Martin announced Monday it had started construction work on a new radar testing complex in Syracuse, N.Y. The company said the new $15 million, 9,600-square-foot complex would soon be used to check out the Medium Extended Air Defense System. MEADS is an ambitious mobile air and missile defense system that is being developed to be the next generation of anti-ballistic missile and air defense interceptor missile, succeeding the current Patriot batteries in the United States and Germany and the Nike Hercules systems still used by Italy. Lockheed Martin said its new Syracuse complex would be producing MEADS' new surveillance radar and it also would be working on software and hardware components for use in the MEADS Multifunction Fire Control Radar. "Our new radar test facility will support next-generation sensor development for 21st-century radar systems with extremely accurate and rapid antenna signal characterization capabilities," explained Carl Bannar, vice president of Lockheed Martin Radar Systems. "The facility's design will ensure that our customers' requirements for protecting allied troops and providing homeland defense are met for the most demanding applications." The new radar testing center also will be equipped with an 80-foot-high advanced, large-antenna measurement system to be erected on the current EP-6 building at Lockheed Martin's Radar Systems facility in Syracuse, the company said. "Once complete in summer 2009, the facility will house one of the largest high-precision, spherical near-field radar test and measurement systems," Lockheed Martin said. Work began on building the new complex last Friday. It will be equipped with new measuring instruments that will allow it "to design, analyze, characterize and test future radar systems, ranging from the smallest systems to next-generation digital phased array systems. It will have the capability to perform highly accurate antenna, radar system and radar cross-section measurements at a wide range of frequencies," Lockheed Martin said. The new equipment will give the company the capability to employ a fully automated "precision antenna measurement process from setup through analysis and report generation," the company said. The new complex will also be equipped with an electromagnetically shielded anechoic chamber insulated with special foam to prevent radio frequency radiation from escaping from it or outside sound interference and radio frequencies from penetrating it. The new complex is being built for Lockheed Martin Radar Systems by MI Technologies of Suwanee, Ga., which won the $9.9 million contract last year.

China: Analysis - Missiles aimed at Taiwan

China: Analysis - Missiles aimed at Taiwan Hong Kong July 20, 2008: Satellite photos of the Leping Ballistic Missile Base in China's southeastern province of Jiangxi show this is a key site for the deployment of the People's Liberation Army Air Force's DF-15A campaign tactical missiles. The direct distance from the base to Taiwan is 435 miles. It is apparent that the striking range of the earlier version, the DF-15 ballistic surface-to-surface missile, has been upgraded. It also appears that the DF-15A SSMs deployed at Leping are fitted with different variants of warheads, one of which seems to have the capability to strike underground targets. The Leping base, home to the No. 815 Brigade of the PLA Second Artillery Force -- PLASAF -- is armed with at least 27 DF-15 launch vehicles. Normally, each such vehicle can perform five consecutive short-range missile launches. It can be estimated that at least 135 DF-15 SSMs are now deployed at the Leping base. Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense believes that at least 192 DF-15A SSMs have been deployed at Leping, based on its own satellite images of this location. Leping is a standard PLA Air Force SSM base, equipped with two flat-roofed garages, identifiable in satellite images by their blue roofs. The longer garage can accommodate at least 12 vehicles, while the shorter one can hold 10. Almost every PLASAF SSM base is equipped with a sports field, which is one of the key landmarks of such missile bases. This sports ground is used not only for the troops' physical exercises, but also as the combat unit's training site. Because of this, the sports grounds of PLASAF SSM bases are often seen fielded with missile launch vehicles. The PLASAF No. 823 Brigade stationed in Jinhua is also armed with DF-15A SSMs, but the sports field or training ground there is much smaller. There is a separate command building at Leping base, which is probably the headquarters of the No. 815 Brigade. There are three administrative buildings at the base and 12 other buildings. One satellite photo revealed three long flat-roofed structures and one round-roofed building, plus several maintenance depots. Only one DF-15 launch vehicle was noticed. There are also five large garages. This indicates that the unit has a huge engineering and support vehicle fleet. Almost 40 vehicles are fielded in the open air. Kanwa Defense Review's estimate is that because the PLASAF is a highly mobile force, armed with high-horsepower vehicles, its fuel consumption is also very high. It is worth noting that no underground facilities have been found at the PLASAF missile bases in Leping, Meizhou, Yongan and Jinhua, nor are there any missile warehouses. It seems that the missile units are deployed here under normal circumstances, but the missile warehouses are at other locations. The Leping Ballistic Missile Base is adjacent to the No. 205 National Highway, so that the SSMs can be conveniently transported to predetermined front-line positions in Fujian province, directly opposite Taiwan. Beautiful Western-style residential buildings have been built for the military officers, similar to townhouses in the United States. These underscore the priority attention this missile unit has received. The PLASAF is staffed with many highly talented technical personnel, yet most of the combat bases are built in small cities or towns. The overall morale of the force has suffered because of this. Internal Chinese military journals report that the PLASAF requires a large number of high-level professionals, but their families can rarely live and work near the bases where they are stationed. Concerned that isolation and boredom may lead its personnel to engage in such activities as speculating on the stock market, the headquarters of the Second Artillery Force has issued an administrative order to its subordinate units prohibiting officers from such activity.

Hungary: Successful Hungarian Missile Trials With Gripen

Hungary: Successful Hungarian Missile Trials With Gripen Jul 20, 2008: The Hungarian Air Force has carried-out a series of successful live firing trials with its Gripen fighters fitted with Sidewinder air-to-air missiles at FMV's Vidsel test range in Sweden. It was the PUMA Squadron, from the Hungarian Air Force Kecskemet Air Base, which flew into Vidsel with six Gripen fighter aircraft during the second week in June. The purpose of the week long visit was to verify the Sidewinder missile system, known as Robot 74 in Sweden, for the Hungarian version of the Gripen fighter. The trials, which involved live firings carried out against manoeuvrable towed targets, took place during two aircraft runs with four planned missile firings on each run. "The trials results were very successful. Together with the customer, we carried out two aircraft runs with a total of six Sidewinder firings in a single afternoon. This is something we have never achieved before," says test site director Laci Bonivart.

China: Beijing's Olympic traffic crackdown begins

China: Beijing's Olympic traffic crackdown begins Sunday, July 20, 2008: With less than three weeks before the Olympics begin, host city Beijing launched a traffic plan Sunday to cut its high levels of air pollution. For the next two months, half of the Chinese capital's 3.3 million cars will be removed from the streets on alternate days. The flow of cars was lighter than usual as motorists followed the rules on the first day of efforts to clear smog-choked skies for the Games, which begin Aug. 8. Cars with licence plates ending in an even number took to Beijing's roads as the plan took effect. On Monday, even-numbered cars will be banned. Other restrictions went into effect earlier in the week. Security checkpoints were set up at several roads leading into the city, causing major delays. All drivers with out-of-town registrations are being stopped and sniffer dogs are checking the contents of their vehicles. One commuter told CBC News the extra time it takes to pass through security checkpoints is adding two to three hours to his drive into the city. To further ease traffic, employers have been asked to stagger work schedules and public institutions will open an hour later than normal. Two new subway lines and an airport rail link should also bring relief to clogged streets. All three lines opened Saturday, a month behind schedule. Besides the traffic plan, chemical plants, power stations and foundries have to cut emissions by 30 per cent beginning Sunday. Dust-spewing construction in the capital was to stop entirely.

Tunguska M1 Low Level Air Defense System, Russia

Tunguska M1 Low Level Air Defense System, Russia July 20, 2008: Moscow, Russia: Tunguska-M1 is a gun/missile system for low-level air defence. The system was designed by the KBP Instrument Design Bureau in Tula, Russia and is manufactured by the Ulyanovsk Mechanical Plant, Ulyanovsk, Russia. It can engage targets while stationary and on the move, using missiles for long-range targets and guns for close-in defence. It is designed for defence against both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters and can also fire on ground targets. Tunguska entered service with the Russian army in 1988 and has been exported to Germany, India, Peru and Ukraine. Morocco ordered 12 Tunguska M1 systems in December 2004. ARMAMENT The Tunguska-M1 vehicle carries eight 9M311-M1 surface-to-air missiles. The missile (NATO designation SA-19 Grison) has semi-automatic radar command to line-of-sight guidance, weighs 40kg with a 9kg warhead. It is 2.5m long with a diameter of 1.7m and wingspan of 2.2m. The missile's maximum speed is 900m/s and can engage targets travelling at speeds up to 500m/s. Range is from 15 to 6,000m for ground targets and 15 to 10,000m for air targets. Two twin-barrel 30mm anti-aircraft guns are mounted on the vehicle. These guns have a maximum firing rate of 5,000 rounds per minute and a range of 3,000m against air targets. This extends to 4,000m against ground targets.
FIRE CONTROL The system has target acquisition radar and target tracking radar, optical sight, digital computing system, tilt angle measuring system and navigation equipment. Radar detection range is 18km and tracking range is 16km. VEHICLE The Tunguska-M1 system is mounted on a 34t tracked vehicle with multi-fuel engine. It has hydromechanical transmission, hydropneumatic suspension which allows for changing road clearance and hydraulic track-tensioning. The armoured turret has both laying and stabilisation drives and power supply. Air-conditioning, heating and filtration systems are fitted. A Tunguska-M1 battery is composed of up to six vehicles and will also include a transloader as well as maintenance and training facilities. The armoured turret has both laying and stabilisation drives and power supply. Air-conditioning, heating and filtration systems are fitted. A Tunguska-M1 battery is composed of up to six vehicles and will also include a transloader as well as maintenance and training facilities.

Russia faces an aging defense industry

Russia faces an aging defense industry July 20, 2008: ZHUKOVSKY, RUSSIA -- At a once-secret airfield outside Moscow, test pilot Sergei Bogdan proudly introduces reporters to what was billed as the latest in Russian military aircraft technology, the Su-35 fighter jet.But the plane is only an upgrade of a 20-year-old model -- and it can't match the speed and stealth of the latest U.S. fighter, the F-22 Raptor, which entered service in 2005.Former President Vladimir V. Putin, now Russia's prime minister, has boasted of new weapons systems and of strengthening the armed forces, raising fears in the West of a Cold War-style military buildup. Flush with oil money, the Kremlin is in the market for new weapons.But Russia's state-run defense industries, experts say, face a crumbling manufacturing base and pervasive corruption; they have produced little in the way of advanced armaments in the Putin era.The Victory Day parade in Red Square in May was intended to showcase the nation's military might. Instead, Russia's arsenal showed its age. Most of the planes, tanks and missiles that rolled past Lenin's tomb dated to the 1980s or were slightly modernized versions of decades-old equipment.Bogdan, affectionately patting his Su-35 in a hangar at Zhukovsky flight test center outside Moscow, hailed its agility, advanced electronics and new engines. "It's very light on controls and accelerates really well," he said.But Alexander Golts, an independent defense analyst, said the Su-35 is just one example of how Russian weapons industries are taking old designs out of mothballs and trying to sell them as new."The Soviet Union saw a tide of new weapons designs in the late 1980s which didn't reach a production stage," Golts said. "They can be described as new only in a sense that they weren't built in numbers."Russian officials have spent two decades trying to build a so-called fifth-generation fighter jet equivalent to Raptor, but the plane hasn't made its maiden flight -- and analysts are skeptical the first test flights will take place next year as promised.Mikhail Pogosyan, the director of the Sukhoi aircraft maker that is developing the new fighter, acknowledged that the company has a long way to go. But he added that the pace of construction could accelerate soon."I don't think that we are lagging behind in a critical way," he said when asked whether Russia was falling behind the U.S. in fighter design.As work to build the new plane drags on, another major weapons program also faces hurdles. The new Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile designed to equip nuclear submarines has failed repeatedly in tests. Prospects for its deployment look dim."The loss of technologies and the brain drain have led to a steady degradation of military industries," said Alexander Khramchikhin, an analyst with the Institute for Political and Military Analysis.Russia's economic meltdown after the Soviet collapse put many subcontractors out of business, rupturing long- established production links. Assembly plants were left to rely on limited stocks of Soviet-built components, or forced to try to crank up their own production."Now when we finally get state orders, plants often can't fulfill them due to the lack of components," Valery Voskoboinikov, a government official in charge of aviation industries at Russia's Ministry of Industry, recently told parliamentary hearings.Despite Putin's pledges to modernize military arsenals, during his eight years as president the military purchased only a handful of new combat jets and several dozen tanks.Commentators say Russia's military technologies have slipped so far behind the United States and other Western nations that the country's share of the global arms market could shrink soon.Russian arms sales have grown steadily in recent years, reaching a post-Soviet record of more than $7 billion last year, according to official statistics. Russia accounted for a quarter of global arms sales from 2003 to 2007, coming a close second after the United States, according to the latest report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.But Russia already has suffered several recent, highly publicized failures in arms exports, in which the broken subcontractor chain and swelling production costs were widely seen as key factors.Russia recently failed to fulfill China's order for 38 Il-76 transport planes and Il-78 tankers, leading to the suspension of the deal. This year, Algeria returned the MiG-29 fighter jets it bought from Russia, complaining of their poor quality. "The system has been broken all the way down," said Anatoly Sitnov, who oversees aviation industries in the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.Russia's aging work force presents another challenge. Many highly skilled workers left defense industries in the 1990s for higher-paid jobs in the private sector, and the arms industry's meager wages have hampered the recruitment of younger workers. The average age of Russia's aircraft industry workers is now 45, and that figure is rising. "There is an acute shortage of key specialists: turners, welders, millers," Voskoboinikov said.Obsolete equipment has hurt efficiency. The last major modernization of defense plants was in the early 1980s, and many machine tools in these factories are even older.The government has responded by creating huge state-controlled military conglomerates, like the United Aircraft Corp., saying they will streamline manufacturing. Critics say they will stifle competition, encourage corruption and further weaken Russia's arms industry."We built good planes in the past because we had a competition between aircraft makers," Svetlana Savitskaya, a Soviet cosmonaut who is now a lawmaker, said during parliamentary hearings."Pulling all of them together under one roof will end competition and destroy what we had. But it could make it more convenient for some to steal government funds."

U.S.A - Taiwan: Door on arms sales not closed yet

Door on arms sales not closed yet
Sunday, Jul 20, 2008: Among the many challenges facing the United States in an election year is the issue of arms sales to Taiwan. Before he leaves office, President Bush must decide whether or not to approve various major sales to the island, including 60 additional F-16s, Patriot PAC III missiles and Apache and Blackhawk helicopters. At present, the Department of State and the National Security Council are holding up these sales. This is an issue which deserves President Bush's immediate attention. A little history helps illuminate what's going on. In 2001, shortly after President Bush took office, he approved in principle several billion dollars in new arms sales to Taiwan. This decision reflected the President's concern for China's military build-up and a continuing U.S. commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act, which obligates the U.S. to provide the island with weapons to defend itself. During the eight-year tenure of former Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian, political infighting between the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and the opposition Kuomintang stalled the funding for these weapons purchases. At the same time, Mr. Chen's independence-leaning policies angered China's leaders. Washington was displeased by Mr. Chen's inability to push through the arms purchases, and because his actions and outspokenness interfered with improving U.S.-China relations. The damage those eight years did to U.S.-Taiwan relations was considerable. Taiwan's relative air, missile defense and antisubmarine warfare capabilities fell further behind as important Taiwan military acquisitions were postponed. China, however, purchased advanced weapons from the Soviet Union and increased funding for its own military research and development programs. Equally important, mutual confidence between Taipei and Washington may have been permanently weakened. U.S. leaders lost confidence in Taiwan's leaders at a time when the U.S. was becoming increasingly dependent on improved U.S.-China relations. In Taiwan, more than ever, domestic political considerations took precedence over national security issues. And although last year the Kuomintang-dominated legislature in Taipei finally passed a defense budget funding many new arms purchases, the damage to U.S.-Taiwan relations already had been done. The U.S. had become increasingly reluctant to take the heat from China over weapons sales it was not confident Taiwan would follow through on. When Taiwan's current president, Ma Ying-jeou, assumed office in May, he ushered in a policy of Taiwan-China détente and subsequently has expressed his desire for resumed purchases of U.S. arms. Still, the lingering fallout from the previous eight years and President Bush's personal reluctance to anger Beijing continue to hold up various pending arms sales. Whether or not President Bush approves some or all arms sales after the Beijing Olympics in August -- he will attend the opening ceremony -- remains an open question. High-ranking officials at State and the White House fear major U.S. arms sales, even then, would undermine Taiwan-China détente and do major damage to U.S.-China relations. They also ask why Taiwan needs more weapons packages now. Why not let the next U.S. President address this issue, while the sale of other, less provocative systems, training and spare parts continue? Herein lies the crux of the problem. How much risk can the U.S. take with Taiwan's security? If it was certain that Taiwan-China détente would go forward without sacrificing Taiwan's young and still fragile democracy, none of this would be of concern. Beijing has proven all too often, however, that it will demand much and give little and that it sees the use and threat of force as an instrument of diplomacy. Has it demonstrated otherwise? Taiwan democratically elected a president who ran on a platform of détente with China. What has changed on the China side of the equation? Until Beijing removes short- and medium-range ballistic missiles targeting Taiwan and reduces the number of combat aircraft and troops on its side of the Taiwan Strait, why should the U.S. delay in responding to Taiwan's requests for arms purchases? It will take months for the next administration to sort out its China/Taiwan policies, only delaying important decisions further. In the meantime, China's pressure on the U.S. will only increase as it continues to finance U.S. debt and leaves Washington worried that it won't cooperate with it in the international arena if the U.S. proceeds with major arms sales. As Taiwan enters this challenging period of détente with China, it needs strong U.S. moral and material support more than ever. By taking action on U.S. arms sales to Taiwan before he leaves office, President Bush would bolster a democratic Taiwan and make it much easier for his successor to withstand pressure from Beijing as arms sales contracts are concluded and weapons systems are delivered. At the same time, President Ma must assure Washington that he is committed to Taiwan's defense and that if Washington approves the sale of F-16s and other major weapons, Taiwan will follow through with signed contracts and adequate funding. It is time to demonstrate clearly that, while the U.S. supports Taiwan-China détente, it stands firmly behind Taiwan's democracy.
Washington has been sending various messages through different channels, making it safe to say that the US is not interested in blocking arms sales to Taiwan. Reports HAVE indicated that the US is planning to halt arms sales to Taiwan, and it is meaningless to discuss responsibility at this stage of the game. Perhaps the government should start brainstorming and try to come up with some ways to coax the White House to change it’s mind. President Ma Ying-jeou and key national security officials have been more active recently in talks with the US about arms sales. They know that if US President George W. Bush’s administration freezes arms sales to Taiwan, they will face even greater difficulty restarting sales after the election of either Republican presidential candidate John McCain or Democrat rival Barack Obama.In the past, the Democrats have approved fewer arms deals with Taiwan than the Republicans. Theoretically, a US president should decide the time, quality and quantity of arms sales in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act.However, the US president has great discretionary powers. Therefore, even if he does nothing, he does not violate the law. Take former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, both Democrats. They seldom sold advanced weapons to Taiwan and Clinton even considered temporarily stopping all sales of weapon parts to Taiwan after then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) made his controversial “state-to-state” statement.As for Republican presidents, although Ronald Reagan was forced to sign the 1982 Sino-US Joint Communique; because of changes in the international situation, he still sold a number of important weapons systems to Taiwan and allowed Taiwan to build the Indigenous Defense Fighter with US help. In addition, George Bush sold Taiwan F-16A/Bs and E-2T early warning aircraft and George W. Bush approved eight arms deals at once.Washington has been sending various messages through different channels, making it safe to say that the US is not interested in blocking arms sales to Taiwan. On the contrary, the US wants the Ma administration to officially declare its stance on arms procurement.First of all, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Stephen Young has been in close contact with leaders of both the pan-blue and pan-green camps, making every effort to push through arms sales. The alleged misunderstanding between Taipei and Washington is a great insult to Young. Washington sent former White House chief of staff Andrew Card to congratulate Ma at his inauguration and AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt has visited Taiwan twice since the presidential election. Washington should understand Ma’s determination to increase Taiwan’s defense budget to 3 percent of GDP and his stance on arms sales. During former president Chen Shui-bian’s administration, Chen purposely tied the three most expensive arms deals together: submarines, anti-submarine aircraft and Patriot missiles.The Democratic Progressive Party even talked about selling government-owned land and issuing government bonds to finance the procurements. The pan-blue camp had no choice but to boycott the deals and some US officials took this to mean that they were against arms sales. Through partisan negotiations, the legislature finally passed a three-in-one procurement package after reducing the total value and establishing an annual budget for it. It is highly unlikely that Washington is unaware of the budget the legislature passed.When Chen pushed for the UN membership referendum ahead of the presidential election, the Bush administration refused to sell F-16C/Ds and froze other arms sales to Taiwan, so as not to affect Sino-US cooperation and to avoid escalating the North Korean nuclear crisis. However, things are different now. The US sincerely hopes that Taiwan can strengthen its defense capabilities and therefore it should not freeze arms sales. Otherwise, why would Ma increase Taiwan’s defense budget? The US hopes that Taiwan will strengthen its defense capacity on the one hand, while improving cross-strait relations on the other. From its own experience, Washington knows that national strength is the biggest bargaining chip in negotiations. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last month, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that as Taiwan improves relations with China, we must not forget that the US is still an important ally of Taiwan. Her comment was made intentionally to show that arms sales to Taiwan remain open. Beijing is trying to “systematize” the freeze of arms sales through US Ambassador to China Clark Randt and Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi. China has always wanted to interfere with US arms sales to Taiwan and would certainly stick its nose in given the chance. Nevertheless, in accordance with Reagan’s six assurances to Taipei, Washington must not allow Beijing to interfere with arms deals between the US and Taiwan.Based on past experience, when the US makes a decision, it can simply inform Taiwan without giving any explanation. Yet Washington allowed Ma to send key security, military and diplomatic officials to participate in the Taiwan-US military meeting in Monterey, California, which opened on Monday. It has also allowed a delegation from the Foreign and National Defense Committee of the Legislative Yuan to visit Washington and meet US security and defense officials later this month, showing that the US has not closed the door on arms sales to Taiwan.It is difficult for Taiwan to make its stance on arms sales known because we do not have control over the matter. Taiwan should not allow Washington to demand sky-high prices or offer weapons systems that do not meet our defense needs. Making Washington understand Taiwan’s determination and need for improving our military without hurting the long-term friendship between the US and Taiwan will require great diplomatic and political skill.

China, Australia hold 11th Strategic Defence Consultation

China, Australia hold 11th Strategic Defence Consultation
BEIJING, July 20, 2008 -- Chinese and Australian military leaders convened the 11th Strategic Defence Consultation here on Sunday, exchanging views on international and regional security issues of common concern and bilateral military relations. Chen Bingde, chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, chaired the consultation. Chen said that the mechanism of consultations on defense matters has been developed smoothly since its establishment in 1997, and has played an active role in promoting mutual understanding and expanding consensus. China appreciated the Australian side's emphasis on China-Australia military relations, and would like to work with the Australian side to enhance dialogue at a strategic level and carry out exchanges of every aspect so as to deepen concrete cooperation and ensure that bilateral military ties are developing steadily, Chen said. Echoing Chen's remarks, Angus Houston, Chief of the Defence Force of Australia, expressed satisfaction towards the dynamic Australia-China relations featuring in-depth communication. The Australian side would like to continuously push forward military ties with China based on the principle of equality, transparency and contact, said Houston. He also wished great success to the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games. The consultation has been held regularly in Beijing or Canberra since 1997.

Dengue cases in the Philippines

Dengue cases increase by 43% in Philippines MANILA, July 20, 2008 -- Dengue cases in the Philippines continue to rise with more than 15,000 recorded in the first six months of 2008, or 43 percent more than the same period last year, according to a report by local TV network ABS-CBN online news on Saturday. The report quoted Health Secretary Francisco Duque as saying 15,061 cases of dengue nationwide were recorded from January 1 to June 14 this year, with Metro Manila remaining on top of the list of regions with the most number of dengue cases. The other provinces which have the high number of mosquito-carried disease are Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon all neighboring Metro Manila. But the case fatality rate remained low at 1 percent, which he attributed to the quick responses of the families of patients and health workers, said the report. Dengue cases have become a year-round phenomenon because of climate change and concentration of population in urban areas, particularly Metro Manila, said the report. The government has called on local population to clean their living surroundings and eliminate mosquito's breeding grounds to prevent spreading of dengue.

Yahoo gets backing from major investor

Yahoo gets backing from major investor LOS ANGELES, July 20, 2008 -- Billionair Bill Miller, Yahoo's fourth-largest shareholder, has voiced his support for the Internet giant in its battle with dissident investor Carl Icahn, the San Jose Mercury News reported on Saturday. Miller, chairman and chief investment officer of Legg Mason Capital Management, said he would support Yahoo's board of directors though he would still back a deal with Microsoft at a decent price, according to the paper. Icahn, who controls about 5 percent of Yahoo's shares, is seeking to replace Yahoo's nine-member board and negotiate the sale of the company to Microsoft. Miller's declaration is significant because he is the first major shareholder to step forward and choose a side, said the paper. In the past, Miller has publicly second-guessed Yahoo's rejection of Microsoft's bid and said shareholders would have settled for a price only one dollar more than Microsoft's final offer of 33 dollars a share. Microsoft withdrew its offer May 3 after Yahoo countered with a request for 37 dollars a share. In a written statement, Miller said he had spoken with members of Yahoo's board as well as senior managers several times and concluded "the current board acted with care and diligence when evaluating Microsoft's offers." Miller called on Icahn and the board to "end this disruptive proxy contest" and said that if Microsoft still wants to acquire Yahoo "it can make the terms and conditions of its offer public." "If Yahoo shareholders support it, I am confident the board of Yahoo will accept it," Miller said in a statement quoted by the paper. Yahoo continued its war of words with Icahn on Friday with the creation of a new Web site skewering Icahn's track record as an activist investor.

U.K. Hundreds take on bikini challenge

July 20, 2008: U.K. -Women over the age of 16 were invited to take part on bikini challenge. Hundreds of women braved the British weather and stripped down to their bikinis to be photographed on a Teesside beach. But the event at Redcar beach failed to beat the existing world record of 1010 women in bikinis which was set on Bondi Beach, Australia, in September 2007. The 320 women who took part, including an 81-year-old, helped raise funds for the Great North Air Ambulance. The event's organiser described the atmosphere as "fantastic". Mike Robson, chairman of fundraising at the Middlesbrough Erimus Rotary Club, said: "The rotary club traditionally do dances and quizzes, it's all the same. "I thought 'it's time we do something different'. "I mentioned it to the club and their jaws dropped but then they saw the double challenge of the Guinness World Record and the fundraising element for the air ambulance and everyone worked their socks off." He added: "It was electric. The atmosphere was fantastic."

China: Car restrictions begin in Beijing

China: Car restrictions begin in Beijing July 20, 2008 - Beijing: Officials hope the traffic restrictions will improve air quality and congestion. Beijing's authorities have introduced drastic traffic rules in a bid to remove more than one million cars from the streets ahead of the Olympic Games. The move, part of the fight against the Chinese capital's infamous pollution and congestion, restricts residents to using their cars on alternate days. Officials hope about half of the city's estimated 3,300,000 cars will be forced from the road over the next two months. A slew of measures to boost air quality have been implemented for the Games. Construction workers have been ordered to down tools and high-polluting industries are cutting production. The authorities have ordered firms, shops and other organisations to stagger work times to cut traffic volumes. They are also encouraging as many people as possible to work from home. The city's public transport system has been improved to cater for millions of Beijingers forced to ditch their cars. Surveillance system The new car restriction, brought in from Sunday, is enforced using the driver's registration number. The control measures are based on drivers' registration numbers. Odd-numbered registrations are allowed to use their cars one day, even-numbered the next. More than 10,000 detection devices including cameras and "ultrasonic and microwave" scanners have been installed to catch anyone breaking the rules. Drivers caught by the surveillance network will be fined 100 yuan ($15; £7.50). The move reflects the importance officials are placing on improving air pollution - which remains a pressing problem just weeks before the start of the Games on 8 August. The International Olympic Committee has said it could postpone endurance events of more than one hour on days when the pollution is too bad.

Zimbabwe introduces Z$100bn note

Zimbabwe introduces Z$100bn note July 20, 2008: Zimbabwe is to introduce a bank-note worth Z$100bn in response to rampant inflation - but the note will barely cover the cost of a loaf of bread. Some Zimbabweans are already calling for higher denominations in a country where the official annual inflation rate has exceeded 2,200,000%. Independent economists believe the real rate is many times higher. Zimbabwe's meltdown has left at least 80% of the population in poverty, facing mass shortages of basic goods. The country's central bank has introduced several new notes already this year in response to the hyperinflation. In January, a Z$10 million note was issued, followed by a Z$50 million. By June the denominations had reached tens of billions. In a notice in the state-controlled Herald newspaper, central bank governor Gideon Gono said the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe would introduce the new notes - known as special agro-cheques - to help consumers. "This new $100 billion special agro-cheque will go into circulation on Monday," the notice said. But Zimbabwe residents say the latest note is already worthless, and does not even cover their daily lunch. "Nowadays, for my expenses a day, I need about Z$500 billion," one resident said. "So Z$100 billion can't do anything because for me to go home I need Z$250 billion, so this [note] is worthless." Zimbabwe was once one of the richest countries in Africa. But it has descended into economic chaos in recent years, with many international observers blaming the policies of President Robert Mugabe.

Obama meets Afghan leader Karzai in Afghanistan

Obama meets Afghan leader Karzai in Afghanistan July 20, 2008: US Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama has met President Hamid Karzai while on a visit to Afghanistan. Details of the talks have not yet been given. Mr Obama said earlier this week he would send extra US forces to the country if he is elected US president. The senator, who flew to Kabul as part of a US congressional team, also had breakfast with US troops in the city. Republican presidential candidate John McCain criticised him for announcing a strategy before visiting the region. Mr Obama is later expected to visit Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Germany, France and Britain. Correspondents say the Illinois senator is hoping to address security issues, seen as the weakest aspect of his bid to win the presidency in November's election. Opinion polls suggest Americans regard Mr McCain, senator for Arizona, as a better potential commander-in-chief. 'Shared experiences' Mr Obama and Mr Karzai met for lunch in the presidential palace in Kabul, according to officials, but it is not known what they discussed. In an interview with CNN last week, Mr Obama criticised Mr Karzai's government, saying it had "not gotten out of the bunker" and had done too little to rebuild the country's institutions. However, asked ahead of his visit what message he would convey to Afghan and Iraqi leaders, Mr Obama said: "I'm more interested in listening than doing a lot of talking." He stressed that he was visiting the region as a senator, not as president. Mr Obama and two other senators on the trip, Republican Chuck Hagel and Democrat Jack Reed, had earlier talked to US troops over breakfast inside Camp Eggers in Kabul. "They sat with the soldiers, shared stories with the soldiers about what is going on in Afghanistan... shared experiences," said US military spokesman Lt Col Dave Johnson. Combat brigades On Saturday, the opening day of Mr Obama's overseas trip, the congressional delegation visited the north-east of the country, where he met troops and US officials. The area has seen an increase in fighting with pro-Taleban rebels in recent months, notably along the border with Pakistan. In a speech earlier this week, Mr Obama promised to commit at least two more combat brigades - up to 10,000 men - to Afghanistan, if he wins November's election. He also said the US military should focus on that country rather than Iraq. Mr Obama also said he would talk to commanders in both Afghanistan and Iraq to find out about their concerns. Correspondents say the McCain campaign will seize on every perceived misstep during Mr Obama's trip, and will also point out that Mr McCain's earlier visits to Iraq and elsewhere attracted far less public attention.