Monday, July 21, 2008

Russia needs bombers in Cuba due to NATO expansion - ex-commander

Russia needs bombers in Cuba due to NATO expansion - ex-commander MOSCOW, July 21, 2008 - The possible deployment of Russian strategic bombers in Cuba may be an effective response to the placement of NATO bases near Russia's borders, a former Air Force commander said on Monday. Russian daily Izvestia earlier on Monday cited a senior Russian military source as saying that Russian strategic bombers could be stationed again in Cuba, only 90 miles from the U.S. coast, in response to the U.S. missile shield in Europe. "If these plans are being considered, it would be a good response to the attempts to place NATO bases near the Russian borders," Gen. of the Army Pyotr Deinekin told RIA Novosti. "I do not see anything wrong with it because nobody listens to our objections when they place airbases and electronic monitoring and surveillance stations near our borders," the general said. However, Deinekin said the possibility of Russian bombers being stationed in Cuba is largely hypothetical, because Russia's Tu-160 Blackjack and Tu-95MS Bear strategic bombers are both capable of reaching the U.S. coast, patrolling the area for about 1.5 hours, and returning to airbases in Russia with mid-air refueling. Russia resumed strategic bomber patrol flights over the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic oceans last August, following an order signed by former president Vladimir Putin. Russian bombers have since carried out over 80 strategic patrol flights and have often been escorted by NATO planes. Deinekin suggested that Cuba could be used as a refueling stopover for Russian aircraft rather than as a permanent base, because the Russian political and military leadership would be unlikely to take such a drastic step under current global political conditions. In October 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis brought U.S. and the U.S.S.R. to the brink of nuclear war when Soviet missiles were stationed in Cuba. The crisis was resolved after 12 days when the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, backed down and ordered the missiles removed. Moscow had a military presence on Cuba for almost four decades after that, maintaining an electronic listening post at Lourdes, about 20 km (12.5 miles) from Havana, to monitor U.S. military moves and communications. Russia was paying $200 million a year to lease the base, which it closed down in January 2002.

Iran's Air Force to test new armaments in large-scale war games

Iran's Air Force to test new armaments in large-scale war games TEHRAN, July 21, 2008 - Iran will test new armaments in a major air exercise to be held soon, Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najar said on Sunday. "The Air Force exercises, Protectors of Velayat Air, which will be held soon, will test the newest armaments developed by specialists of the country's defense ministry," Najar said. The Iranian defense minister said that Iranian specialists were developing combat hardware taking into account modern threats. Iran successfully launched last week an upgraded Shahab-3 ballistic missile as part of the Great Prophet III military exercise in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, drawing a new wave of international criticism. The Iranian missile tests came after the Israeli Air Force conducted military exercises involving over 100 fighters in early June. The exercises were widely seen as a 'dress rehearsal' for an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. Iran has reacted to rumors of an imminent attack by promising to deliver a "powerful blow" to any aggressor.

Belarus secretly delivers Russian warplanes to Sudan - paper

Belarus secretly delivers Russian warplanes to Sudan - paper MOSCOW, July 21, 2008 - A consignment of Russian fighter jets has been shipped to Sudan from Belarus, in an apparent breach of a UN Security Council resolution banning arms sales to the African state, the Sudan Tribune said. The daily quoted an anonymous source as saying a dozen MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters were shipped discreetly by freight planes via a Belarusian company two weeks ago, but could not confirm whether the fighters were actually sold by Belarus or simply came through the country. If the MIG-29s are used in Darfur, it would be in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1591, which prohibits selling arms to Sudan's government or Darfur rebels for use in the war-ravaged region. Last year Russia was accused by Amnesty International of supplying arms to Sudan for use in Darfur, but the Russian Foreign Ministry denied the allegation. A Russian air group in Sudan, comprising 120 personnel and four Mi-8 helicopters, provides transport for UN military observers in Sudan and carries out rescue operations. The Russian peacekeepers are expected to stay in Sudan for up to six years. Last May a MIG-29 was shot down by Darfur rebels over the Sudanese twin capital city of Omdurman, and its Russian pilot was killed.

Sikorsky S-70 International Black Hawk

Sikorsky S-70 International Black Hawk July 21, 2008: The Sikorsky S-70 family of helicopters, designated the H-60 in US military use, is the most popular US military helicopter next to the Bell UH-1 Huey. Variants of the S-70, with names like Seahawk, Jayhawk and Pave Hawk are used by the US Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force and are used around the world. They serve in a wide range of transport and support roles, including search and rescue, antisubmarine and maritime surveillance, and special tasks. The Customs Service and the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) also use the aircraft. It is the most popular U.S. military helicopter produced in the last two decades, with more than 2,400 in use. The Sikorsky Model S-70 was developed in response to the Army's 1972 request for a Utility Tactical Transport System (UTTAS) helicopter. The UTTAS design criteria were based upon U.S. experience during Vietnam. In particular, the Army wanted a helicopter with crew survivability features and engines, rotors, and transmission designed to be better capable of taking damage than the Huey. Sikorsky equipped the S-70 with a crashworthy cabin "box," an armor-plated cockpit, self-sealing fuel tanks, and wheeled landing gear that could absorb heavy vertical impacts. The S-70, unlike most Hueys, has two engines, either of which can keep the helicopter in the air if the other fails. It also has widely-separated redundant electronic and hydraulic systems. It has four main rotor blades and a tail rotor that is tilted at an angle and therefore provides some additional lift. One of the most distinctive aspects of the S-70 is its shape. Unlike the Huey, it is long and low-set. This design was dictated by the requirement that the helicopter be able to fit inside a C-130 Hercules cargo plane without removing the rotors. Two of the craft had to be capable of fitting inside a C-141 and six within a C-5 Galaxy. The low ceiling of these aircraft required a helicopter that was wider and squatter than a Huey. The US military versions of the H-60 helicopter have been expanded into a series of S-70 derivatives specifically focused on the international market. A growing number of international customers rely on the S-70 for their Utility Transport and Maritime requirements. The legendary ruggedness and survivability of the BLACK HAWK, combined with its multi-mission flexibility, have made the S-70 the world's standard medium utility helicopter. Sikorsky has marketed the S-70 to various militaries around the world. Spain, Japan, Australia, Greece, Taiwan, Thailand and Turkey fly naval variants. Army variants are flown by the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Jordan, Bahrain, Brunei, Columbia, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, South Korea, Japan, Egypt, Mexico, Morocco, Hong Kong, Argentina, Israel, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Malaysia, Kuwait and Czechoslovakia, and others. Japan produces both versions under license, and Turkey and South Korea co-produce them as well. Civilian versions are also in operation, usually for VIP transport or law enforcement purposes. Although the Black Hawk is a highly capable successor to the Huey, it has drawbacks that made it unsuccessful commercially. It is more expensive than the Huey and more complicated. Iinitially it ecoountered avionics problems when German power lines affected its electronics. The two engines require more maintenance than the Huey's single engine. For some civilian roles and some foreign militaries, the S-70 is larger and more sophisticated than needed.

Piranha III / LAV III Wheeled Armoured Vehicles, Switzerland

Piranha III / LAV III Wheeled Armoured Vehicles, Switzerland July 21, 2008: Piranha III is a family of armoured wheeled vehicles developed by Mowag Motorwagenfabriken of Switzerland, now part of General Dynamics European Land Combat Systems (ELCS). "Piranha III is a family of armoured wheeled units." Over 8,000 Piranha family vehicles have been ordered and delivered. General Dynamics Land Systems - Canada (formerly General Motors Defense) also produce a version of the Piranha III known as the LAV III. The vehicles are constructed in a 6x6, 8x8 and 10x10 configuration. BAE Systems Land Systems (formerly Alvis) of the UK is also licensed for production and marketing of Piranha 8x8 and 10x10 light armoured vehicles. The vehicles are available as armoured personnel carrier, command vehicle, reconnaissance, fire support, repair and recovery vehicle, ambulance, mortar carrier, observation, load carrier and mortar fire control variants. PIRANHA III ORDERS Piranha III has been ordered by Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, Spain and Switzerland. Sweden (13 vehicles) has ordered the 10x10 command vehicle and sensor vehicle for the coastal artillery; Denmark (22 – delivered) 8x8 APC; Ireland (40 delivered plus 25) APC; and Spain (18) 8x8 amphibious vehicles in APC, command post and ambulance variations, for deployment with the Spanish Marine Infantry. Spanish APC vehicles have Cadillac Gage 40mm / 50-calibre turrets, an improved version of the US Marine Corps UGWS (Upgunned Weapon Station) with new flat roof and composite armour. Deliveries began in 2003. In January 2003 Switzerland ordered 36 Radio Access Point (RAP) vehicles to be based on the Piranha III. Denmark ordered a further 22 vehicles (11 APC, 11 ambulance) in July 2003 and another 69 in October 2004. Ireland ordered a further 15 in January 2006, nine with the 12.7mm Kongsberg weapon station and six with an Oto Melara 30mm Weapon System, to be delivered in 2007. In January 2006, Switzerland ordered eight vehicles as platforms for the integrated radio surveillance electronic warfare system. In November 2007, Switzerland ordered an additional 26 vehicles. In December 2007, Spain placed an order for 21 more vehicles in the amphibious version for the Spanish Marines. In March 2006, Belgium awarded a contract to Mowag for the first batch of 138 Piranha IIIC vehicles, to be delivered between 2007 and 2012. Total requirement is for 242 vehicles and the second, optional batch will be delivered between 2012 and 2015. "Piranha III is based on a new lightweight hull design with increased variable ballistic protection." Seven variants will be ordered: 99 APC, 32 with the Elbit 30mm overhead weapon station, 40 with the CMI 90mm turret, 24 command post, 12 ambulance, 17 recovery and repair, and 18 engineer vehicles. The combat variants will have OIP day / night sights and laser warners and Thales communication systems. In December 2006, Romania selected the Piranha IIIC. 31 vehicles are required for deployment in Afghanistan and Iraq. The order was placed in May 2007. The vehicles have 12.7mm unmanned turrets supplied by Elbit Systems of Israel, who are also providing the driver's thermal viewer and other electro-optic systems. In January 2007, the Swiss Army placed an order for the conversion of 160 Piranha I Tank Hunter vehicles to protected command vehicles. Deliveries are scheduled between 2008 and 2010. The vehicles will be fitted with the Kongsberg Protector remote weapon system. In September 2006 (and announced in February 2007), the Brazilian Navy ordered five Piranha III vehicles in the amphibious version, for the Brazilian Marines. The vehicles were delivered in 2007 and will be deployed to Haiti, as part of the UN mission in 2008. A further batch of five vehicles was ordered in December 2007. The General Dynamics Land Systems - Canada (formerly General Motors Defense) LAV III 8x8 is in service with Canada (650 ordered) and New Zealand (NZLAV, 105 delivered between October 2003 and November 2004). The first deployment of the LAV III was with Canadian Forces during UN operations in Eritrea in early 2001. The LAV III forms the basis of the US Army's Interim Armoured Vehicle (IAV) programme and has been named the Stryker. The US Army plans to procure over 2,000 Stryker IAVs. First deliveries were in July 2002 and the vehicle entered service in November 2003. The Stryker forms the basis of the mobile gun system which consists of a 105mm cannon mounted on a General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) low-profile turret integrated on the IAV. In December 2001, the US Army awarded a contract for ten Stryker mobile gun systems to GM GDLS, a joint venture between General Motors and GDLS and the first unit was delivered in July 2002. PIRANHA V General Dynamics UK (with GDLS and Mowag) is developing the next version of the Piranha, Piranha V 8x8, which will have a maximum weight of about 26t. A Piranha Evolution demonstrator, based on elements of the Piranha V, took part in the Army's medium-weight day in Warminster in September 2006. The first Piranha V is expected to be completed by the end of 2008. In July 2007, Piranha Evolution was one of three vehicles which took part in trials (the 'trials of truth') for the utility variant of the UK Army's future rapid effect system (FRES). In May 2008, General Dynamics United Kingdom Limited was selected by the UK Ministry of Defence as the provisionally preferred bidder for the utility vehicle design (UVD). Subject to satisfactory completion of the package of work on risk reduction, General Dynamics UK will develop the Piranha V as the FRES utility vehicle for the British Army. The company will now enter negotiations with the MoD to determine the scope of development work required. PIRANHA DESIGN The third-generation Piranha family is based on a new lightweight hull design with increased variable ballistic protection and higher performance in terms of payload versus gross vehicle weight and increased useable internal volume. "Over 8,000 Piranha family vehicles have been ordered and delivered." Key design features identical throughout the family of vehicles include: power pack on the front right hand side, central driveline system, independent wheel suspension, amphibious capability and large usable accommodation at the rear for weapon stations, equipment and troops. Piranha is air transportable in a C-130 aircraft. The Piranha baseline vehicles have two propellers for water propulsion with maximum speed in water of 10km/hr and an amphibious kit is provided for rough seawater operations. Air-conditioning equipment includes a conditioner with 10kW cooling capacity and an Arctic heater kit for operation at temperatures below -40°C. ARMAMENT The Piranha vehicles are equipped for peace-keeping and peace-enforcing roles with a range of weapons from small-calibre turrets to a 105mm gun. PIRANHA SELF-PROTECTION Ballistic protection is provided by the application of replaceable quick-mount add-on armour packages. A mine protection kit and an NBC protection kit (either an overpressure system or a set of collective face masks) are available. Fire- and explosion-suppression systems are installed on the vehicles. In September 2007, Mowag announced that the Saab Avitronics LEDS active protection system has been integrated on a Piranha III vehicle. LEDS has a sensor system and dispenser for a variety of countermeasures and is effective against threats including Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and Rocket-Propelled grenades (RPGs). Pre-series integration is to begin in early 2008. PROPULSION The modular design allows a choice of high-performance engines and torque-matching automatic transmission. Options include: German MTU 6V183TE22 (400hp at 2,300rpm) and ZF Ecomat 6hp 600 automatic transmission Swedish Scania DSJ9-48A (400hp at 2,300rpm) and ZF Ecomat 6hp 600 automatic transmission US Caterpillar 3126 (350hp at 2,500rpm) and Allison MD 3066P automatic transmission British Cummins 6CTAA8.3-T350 (350hp at 2,200rpm) and Allison MD 3066P automatic transmission US Detroit Diesel 6V53TA (350hp at 2,800rpm) and Allison MD 3560P automatic transmission A hydropneumatic system which incorporates a height adjustment assembly at each wheel station, an integral Central Tyre Inflation System (CTIS) and Anti-locking Brake System (ABS), a high power to weight ratio and the selection of the tyres to suit the type of terrain provide the high level of mobility. PIRANHA IV Mowag has introduced the Piranha IV 8x8, the latest vehicle in the Piranha family of wheeled armoured vehicles. The first prototype was completed in 2001 and the second in 2004. "A range of add-on armour protection is available for the Piranha family of vehicles, including underfloor protection against mines." A range of add-on armour protection is available, including underfloor protection against mines. The upgraded MTU 544hp powerplant gives an increased power-to-weight ratio and maximum speed of 100km/h and 750km road range. Piranha IV is fitted with hydropneumatic suspension, ABS and a traction control system. Combat weight is up to 24t with a 10t payload and the vehicle is air transportable in C-130 aircraft. A variety of weapon stations can be fitted and armed with 12.7mm, 25mm, 30mm or low recoil 105mm guns, including Rheinmetall Landsysteme weapon station with 12.7mm gun and Delco Systems 25mm and 30mm turrets. BAE Systems Land Systems has been given a licence to market the Piranha IV in the UK and in selected other countries. Komatsu, a Japanese company, has been given a licence to manufacture the Piranha IV for a possible Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force (JGSDF) requirement for a wheeled armoured vehicle.

T-90S Main Battle Tank, Russia

T-90S Main Battle Tank, Russia July 21, 2008: The T-90S is the latest development in the T-series of Russian tanks and represents an increase in firepower, mobility and protection. It is manufactured by Uralvagonzavod in Nizhnyi Tagil, Russia. The T-90S entered service with the Russian Army in 1992. In February 2001, the Indian Army signed a contract for 310 T-90S tanks. 124 were completed in Russia and the rest are being delivered in 'knocked down / semi-knocked down' form for final assembly in India. "The T-90S Russian tank represents an increase in firepower, mobility and protection." The first of these was delivered in January 2004. The locally assembled tanks are christened 'Bhishma'. The tanks are fitted with the Shtora self-protection system and Catherine thermal imagers from Thales of France and Peleng of Belarus. In January 2005, it was announced that a further 91 T-90S tanks would be procured for the Russian Army, although this number was later reduced. Deliveries are underway. By November 2007, it has been estimated that the Russian Army has around 200 T-90 tanks. In August 2007, Thales was awarded a contract to supply 100 of these with the Catherine FC thermal imager. In March 2006, Algeria signed a contract for the supply of 180 T-90S tanks from Uralvagonzavod, to be delivered by 2011. In November 2006, India ordered a further 300 T-90 tanks, to be licence-built by Heavy Vehicle Factory (HVF), Avadi. Deliveries are to begin in 2008. ARMAMENT The T-90S armament includes one 125mm 2A46M smoothbore gun, stabilised in two axes and fitted with a thermal sleeve. The gun tube can be replaced without dismantling inside the turret. The gun can fire a variety of ammunition including APDS (Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot), HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank), HE-FRAG (High Explosive Fragmentation) as well as shrapnel projectiles with time fuzes. The T-90S gun can also fire the 9M119 Refleks (NATO designation AT-11 Sniper) anti-tank guided missile system. The range of the missile is 100m to 4,000m and takes 11.7 sec to reach maximum range. The system is intended to engage tanks fitted with ERA (Explosive Reactive Armour) as well as low-flying air targets such as helicopters, at a range of up to 5km. The missile system fires either the 9M119 or 9M119M missiles which have semi-automatic laser beamriding guidance and a hollow charge warhead. Missile weight is 23.4kg. The guns automatic loader will feed both ordnance and missiles. Also fitted is a coaxial 7.62mm PKT machine gun and a 12.7mm air defence machine gun. A 5.45mm AKS-74 assault rifle is carried on a storage rack. SELF-PROTECTION The T-90 tank is protected by both conventional armour-plating and explosive reactive armour (ERA). The T-90 is fitted with the Shtora-1 defensive aids suite which is produced by Electronintorg of Russia. This system includes infrared jammer, laser warning system with four laser warning receivers, grenade discharging system which produces an aerosol screen and a computerised control system. It is also fitted with NBC (nuclear, biological and chemical) protection equipment. FIRE CONTROL AND OBSERVATION The T-90S has the 1A4GT integrated fire control system (IFCS) which is automatic but with manual override for the commander. The IFCS contains the gunner's 1A43 day fire control system, gunner's TO1-KO1 thermal imaging sight which has a target identification range of 1.2km to 1.5km and commander's PNK-S sight. "The T-90S has the 1A4GT integrated fire control system (IFCS) which is automatic but with manual override." The gunner's 1A43 day FCS comprises: 1G46 day sight/rangefinder with missile guidance channel, 2E42-4 armament stabiliser, 1V528 ballistic computer and DVE-BS wind gauge. The commander's PNK-4S sight includes a TKN-4S (Agat-S) day/night sight which has identification ranges of 800m (day) and 700m (night). The driver is equipped with a TVN-5 infrared night viewer. PROPULSION The T-90S has a liquid-cooled V-84MS 618kW (840 hp) four-stroke V-12 piston engine. This engine can be fuelled by T-2 or TS-1 kerosene and A-72 benzine, in addition to diesel. The tank can carry up to 1,600 litres of fuel in the main fuel tanks and fuel drums. The fuel tanks are reinforced with armour plating. The tank is provided with a snorkel for deep fording and can ford 5m of water with equipment which can be deployed in 20 minutes. The mechanical transmission includes primary reduction gear, two planetary final gearboxes and two planetary final drives. The running gear features torsion bar suspension with hydraulic shock absorbers at one, two and six road wheel stations and tracks with rubber-metallic pin hinges

AS 550 Fennec - Single-Engined Light Military Helicopter, Europe

AS 550 Fennec - Single-Engined Light Military Helicopter, Europe July 21, 2008: The Eurocopter AS 550 Fennec single-engine helicopter is operational with the Singapore armed forces, the Royal Australian Army, the Brazilian Army and Air Force, the Danish Army and the French Army. "The Eurocopter AS 550 Fennec is a single-engine helicopter." The Fennec belongs to the Ecureuil / Fennec family of helicopters which includes: the single-engine military AS 550 Fennec and civil AS 350 Ecureuil; twin-engine naval AS 555 Fennec and civil AS 355 Ecureuil; and the civil EC 130 single-engine helicopter. Over 3,150 helicopters of the family have been ordered, of which 2,500 have been delivered and are operational in over 70 countries. The AS550 Fennec can be fitted for anti-tank, air-to-air combat, ground support and training missions and it is also used in the utility transportation role. The combat version is called the AS 550C3. The helicopters are in production at Eurocopter's engineering and production facilities at Marignane in France, and they are also built under licensed production agreements in Brazil and in China. The maximum speed is 287km/h and the service ceiling is 5,280m. With maximum fuel the helicopter achieves a range of 666km. A proposed order of 197 Fennec helicopters by India was cancelled in December 2007. AS 550 FENNEC DESIGN The AS 550 is of light construction based on a reinforced high-strength glass fibre and aramid airframe. The Starflex main rotor head and blades are also of composite materials for added strength and weight reduction. The engine cowlings are armoured for protection. The helicopter is fitted with armoured seats and can carry the pilot and up to five troops. The cabin can also be configured for medical evacuation with capacity for one stretcher patient and two doctors. For cargo carrying, the cabin can take a 3m³ load. "The combat version of theAS 550 Fennec is called the AS 550C3." The military AS 550 is fitted with sliding doors on each side rather than the hinged door fitted on the civil AS 350 variant. The 1m³ baggage compartment is installed behind the main cabin and is accessed via a door on the starboard side. A cargo sling, rated at 1,160kg, and a 204kg hoist can be used. AS 550 COCKPIT SYSTEMS The cockpit is equipped with single controls and is night-vision compatible. The navigation suite includes a global positioning system, a VHF Omnidirectional Radio Ranger and Instrument Landing System (VOR/ILS), an automatic direction finder, distance measuring equipment and a marker beacon transponder. The secure communications systems are fitted according to the customer country's specification. The pilot has a vehicle and engine multifunction display which allows shows the main vehicle and engine parameters on a dual LCD screen. FENNEC WEAPONS SYSTEMS The helicopter is fitted with a wide range of weapon systems to suit the operational requirements of the country's forces. Weapon fits include anti-tank missiles, rockets or guns. The Danish Army AS 550C2 helicopters are armed with the Systems & Electronics (formerly ESCO) HeliTOW sighting system and TOW anti-tank missiles. The HeliTOW sight is roof-mounted and contains direct view optics, day and/or night sight and laser rangefinder. The AS 550 can be fitted with two Forges de Zeebrugge rocket launchers which carry seven 2.75in rockets each, or two Thales Brandt 68mm launchers with 12 rockets each. The helicopter has been fitted with the Giat 20mm gun type M621, and the FN Hershal twin 7.62mm and 12.7mm machine gun pod. The surveillance and observation systems include a forward-looking infrared, optical cameras and Spectrolab SX 16 searchlights. Thales Detexis EWR-99 radar warning receiver and Alkan ELIPS countermeasures dispenser can be fitted. "The AS 550 is of light construction based on a reinforced high-strength glass fibre and aramid airframe." ENGINES The single Turbomeca Arril 2B engine provides 632kW take-off power. The engine is fitted with Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC). The main gearbox has a 45-minute dry run capability. The self-sealing plastic fuel tank has a capacity of 540l. An auxiliary fuel tank can be installed in the cabin to provide an additional 475l of fuel for extended-range operations. LANDING GEAR The helicopter has steel tube skid-type landing gear. Emergency flotation gear is fitted for operation over water.

Tiger Attack Helicopter, Germany

Tiger Attack Helicopter, Germany The EC665 Tiger helicopter is being developed for France and Germany in three configurations, UHT multi-role fire support for the German Army and HAD multi-role combat and HAP combat support for the French Army. Tiger is being built by Eurocopter, a subsidiary of the EADS (European Aeronautics Defence and Space) company formed by DaimlerChrysler Aerospace of Germany, Aerospatiale Matra of France and CASA of Spain. "Tiger can be equipped with four MBDA Mistral or Raytheon Stinger air-to-air missiles." The first flight of the aircraft was in 1991. Serial production began in March 2002 and the first flight of the production Tiger HAP for France took place in March 2003. France has ordered 80 aircraft (40 HAP combat support and 40 HAD multi-role combat). The first HAP version was delivered in March 2005. Germany has ordered 80 combat support aircraft and the first UHT Tiger for Germany was delivered in April 2005. Total procurement is planned to be 120 for France and 120 for Germany. In December 2001, Eurocopter, with the Tiger ARH (armed reconnaissance), was awarded the contract for the Australian Army’s Air 87 requirement for 22 helicopters. The Tiger ARH is a modified version of the Tiger HAP with upgraded MTR390 engines, a laser designator incorporated in the Strix sight for the firing of Hellfire II air-to-ground missiles and M299 "smart" launchers. The first Tiger ARH took its maiden flight in February 2004 and deliveries began in December 2004. It is scheduled to enter service in mid-2008. Certification of the Hellfire II missile is underway and should be completed in September 2005. Australian Aerospace (a subsidiary of Eurocopter) has set up a local production facility for assembly of the helicopters and the manufacture of parts for the entire programme. ADI Ltd is a major subcontractor, responsible for customising the mission and communications systems. In September 2003, Spain selected a version of the Tiger HAP combat support helicopter, to be called the HAD, which will be armed with the Rafael Spike-ER anti-armour and Mistral air-to-air missile systems. 24 helicopters will be ordered which will also have an uprated Enhanced MTR390E engine and a heavier payload. Six helicopters in the HAP version will be delivered to Spain in 2007, which will later be converted to HAD. The first three were delivered in May 2007. 18 HAD versions will be delivered between 2010 and 2014. France originally placed an order for 70 HAP and ten HAC, an anti-tank variant but this was changed to 40 HAP and 40 HAD variants in December 2005. Spain and France signed the development contract for the helicopter in December 2004. The production HAD made its maiden flight in December 2007. TIGER UHT HELICOPTER Tiger UHT multi-role fire support helicopters have an Osiris mast-mounted sight from SAGEM, with Infrared Charge Coupled Device (IRCCD) camera and laser rangefinder. There is a nose-mounted Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) with a 40° x 30° field of view. "In its combat support role the Tiger uses a gun, 68mm rockets and Mistral missiles." Tiger can be equipped with four MBDA (formerly Matra BAe Dynamics) Mistral or Raytheon Stinger air-to-air missiles. The air-to-air missile control functions are on the flight control grip. Target acquisition is achieved by using the joystick to steer the sight manually or with automatic tracking. The FIM-92 Stinger missile, also produced under license by EADS (formerly LFK), is equipped with a 1kg warhead and range up to 5km. The Mistral missile has a 3kg warhead and range of 6km. The Tiger is fitted with EADS/LFK ATA firing posts for the launch of Euromissile HOT 3 and Euromissile TRIGAT LR anti-tank missiles, fired by the gunner. Only one weapon is activated at a time. The TRIGAT LR missile has a range of 500m to 5,000m and can be applied in direct attack or terminal dive attack modes. The HOT 3 missile has a range of up to 4,000m. Germany placed a production contract for the PARS 3 (TRIGAT LR) missile in June 2006. 680 PARS 3 LR missiles are to be delivered by 2014 for the German Army Tiger UHT helicopter. The Tiger ARH for Australia is being fitted with the M299 launcher for Hellfire II missiles and will also be armed with 70mm rockets. France and Spain have not yet selected an anti-tank missile. TIGER HAD The 40 Tiger HAD helicopters for France will be armed with eight Lockheed Martin Hellfire II air-to-ground missiles. Hellfire II has a semi-active laser seeker and range of over 8km. Spanish HAD will be armed with Rafael Spike-ER air-to-ground missiles, license-built by General Dynamics Santa Barbara Sistemas. In addition, HAD is armed with one Nexter (formerly Giat) 30mm cannon turret, 70mm rockets and four Mistral air-to-air missiles. HAD helicopters will also be equipped with the Sagem Strix roof-mounted sight. TIGER ARH The Tiger ARH for Australia is being fitted with the M299 launcher for Hellfire II missiles and will also be armed with 70mm Hydra rockets, the Nexter 30mm cannon and four Stinger air-to-air missiles. COMBAT SUPPORT TIGER In its combat support role, the Tiger HAP uses a gun for short-range engagements, 68mm rockets at medium and long range and Mistral missiles to engage airborne threats. The helicopter is equipped with a turreted 30mm gun together with: either four Mistral missiles, 44 rockets plus four Mistral missiles, or 68 rockets. Only one weapon can be activated at a time. "The Tiger frames and beams have been fabricated from Kevlar and carbon laminates." The Tiger HAP helicopter for the French Army is equipped with a 30mm AM-30781 automatic cannon from Nexter. Rate of fire is 750 rounds a minute. Tiger HAP also carries four Mistral missiles and two pods each carrying 22 SNEB 68mm rockets. Tiger HAP has a SAGEM Strix roof-mounted sight, with a gyro-stabilised platform, infrared camera, Charge-Coupled Device Television camera (CCD TV), laser rangefinder and direct optical sight. French Tiger HAP helicopters will be capable of deployment from French Navy Mistral and Foudre Class amphibious transport vessels and Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier. Initial operating capability for the maritime role is scheduled for late 2008. DESIGN In order to minimise the weight, approximately 80% of the airframe has been constructed of composite materials. The frames and beams have been fabricated from Kevlar and carbon laminates. Panels are composed of Nomex honeycomb material with carbon and Kevlar skins. The helicopter blades are of fibre-composite construction. Radar reflective structures and surfaces have been minimised. COCKPIT Each cockpit is equipped with two multi-function colour displays supplied by Thales Avionique and VDO Luftfahrtgerate Werk GmbH, which display imagery from the gunner's sight, the FLIR and video image from the Dornier/VDO Eurogrid digital map generator. The French Tigre helicopter has a TopOwl helmet-mounted sight for both crew stations and a head up display for the pilot, all supplied by Thales Avionique. The German Tiger crew is equipped with BAE Systems Integrated Day and Night Helmets. Australian Tigers have the Helmet-Mounted Sight Display (HMSD) from ADI. Each crew station is equipped with a Control and Display Unit (CDU). Navigation, communications and system status are controlled via the CDU. The CDU includes a Data Insertion Device (DID), which is a removable memory pack preprogrammed with mission data at a ground station. COUNTERMEASURES "Each cockpit is equipped with two multi-function colour displays." EADS Defence Electronics is providing the EWS electronic warfare suite for the Tiger, which includes a radar warning receiver, laser warner, MILDS missile launch detector developed by EADS DE, central processing unit from Thales and SAPHIR-M chaff / flare dispenser from MBDA. This system is also fitted in the NH 90 helicopter. Indra is providing the electronic warfare suite for the Spanish Tigers. NAVIGATION The navigation system contains two Thales Avionique three-axis ring laser gyro units, two magnetometers, two air data computers, BAE Systems Canada CMA 2012 four-beam Doppler radar, radio altimeter, global positioning system and a suite of low air speed sensors. TURBOSHAFT ENGINES The Tiger HAP / UHT is powered by two MTU / Turbomeca / Rolls-Royce MTR390 turboshaft engines rated at 960kW (1,285shp). Self-sealing crashworthy fuel tanks have explosion suppression and non-return valves. Tiger HAD has two MTR390-E enhanced engines rated at 1,094kW (1,467shp).

Zimbabwe leaders agree talks pact

Zimbabwe leaders agree talks pact July 21, 2008: President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai have signed a deal outlining a framework for talks on Zimbabwe's political crisis. The pair - who shook hands after the signing - have been locked in a bitter dispute over this year's presidential elections. Mr Tsvangirai described the agreement as a "first tentative step". It says that talks on a power-sharing arrangement should be completed within two weeks of its signing. Discussions will focus on security and the political and economic priorities of the new government. There will be a news black-out during the period of dialogue. Each party will be expected to do everything possible to stop all forms of political violence and refrain from hate speech. The BBC's Jonah Fisher, in Johannesburg, says it is difficult to foresee such quick progress in resolving the issues at stake. The document does not address the central issue of Mr Mugabe's future or go into the details of how a power-sharing government will be formed, he adds. Mr Mugabe insists that he must be recognised as Zimbabwe's president - a position rejected by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Mr Tsvangirai, the MDC's leader, garnered more votes in the initial presidential poll in March, but election officials said there was no outright winner and called for a run-off. Mr Mugabe won the run-off - but he was the only candidate after Mr Tsvangirai withdrew, accusing the government of mounting a campaign of violence against his supporters. First step The document was signed at a Harare hotel during the first meeting between Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai in a decade. Mr Tsvangirai said that in signing the deal - an occasion he described as historic - he and Mr Mugabe were committing themselves to the "first tentative step towards searching for a solution to a country that is in crisis". Morgan Tsvangirai speaks after signing the deal with Mr Mugabe. He went on: "We want to make sure that every Zimbabwean feels safe, we want to share a common prosperity for everyone and we want a better Zimbabwe." Mr Tsvangirai acknowledged that many "bitter words" had been exchanged between the two sides but said they all must exercise tolerance and work together if they wanted progress. Mr Mugabe said the two sides had agreed on Sunday on the need for the country's constitution to be amended on various points. "We sit here in order for us to chart a new way, a new way of political interaction," he said. He also praised South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki, who helped broker the deal, for his mediation efforts. Mr Mugabe added: "We shall be doing this as Zimbabweans, entirely as Zimbabweans with the help of South Africa." Arthur Mutambara, who leads a breakaway faction of the MDC, also signed the agreement. Mr Mbeki said: "All the Zimbabwean parties recognise the urgency of the matters they are discussing and all are committed to trying to complete this process as quickly as possible." The BBC's southern Africa correspondent Peter Biles, in Johannesburg, says Mr Mugabe seemed to be in conciliatory - and sometimes good-humoured - mood as he made the unprecedented move of appearing with his arch-rival in front of the media. Mr Mugabe said the agreement was a serious matter for his Zanu-PF party, and that he hoped it reflected sincerity. It was a breakthrough, our correspondent says, even if it was only a first step. Both sides have had to swallow some pride and make some concessions to reach this stage, he adds, once it became clear that the solution to Zimbabwe's political crisis would not come in a winner-takes-all scenario. New elections The MDC has previously accused Mr Mbeki of being biased in favour of Mr Mugabe. Robert Mugabe speaks about signing the agreement. The fact that the African Union (AU) and the United Nations joined the South African mediation efforts was crucial in persuading the MDC to agree to talk, analysts say. Diplomats from the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) are also involved. The MDC still has several conditions to be met before starting substantive talks with Mr Mugabe. Party spokesman George Sibotshiwe told the BBC that future dialogue would remain conditional on a complete cessation of violence and the release of all political prisoners. The MDC wants some kind of "transitional authority" to organise new, internationally-monitored elections. The party says at least 120 of its supporters have been killed, about 5,000 abducted and 200,000 forced from their homes since the first round of the elections, in a campaign of violence by pro-Mugabe militias and the army. Cabinet ministers and military officials have denied the charges. The deal between Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai comes on the day that a new banknote was issued, for 100bn Zimbabwe dollars - the latest sign of the country's economic meltdown. This is not quite enough to buy a loaf of bread and is worth less than US$1. The official inflation rate is 2.2m%.

Obama arrives in Baghdad on fact-finding tour

Iraq eyes U.S. pullout by 2010 amid Obama visit BAGHDAD, July 21, 2008 -- The Iraqi government said Monday that it hopes the U.S. combat troops would leave by 2010, raising a clear vision of time line after the two countries have agreed on a vague "time horizon." Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh made the remarks as U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is here on a fact-finding tour. After Obama's meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Dabbagh said Iraq did not set a fixed withdrawal timetable, but hopes the U.S. troops would end its combat role and pull out by 2010. Maliki told the Illinois senator that Iraq has successfully overcome difficulties and security challenges and achieved victory in the fighting against al-Qaida terrorism group and militias, and is making economic achievements, according to a statement issued by Maliki's office. Obama said he believed that the Iraqi government will be able to succeed in passing a legislation in the interest of the Iraqi people in the economic fields. During his meeting with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Obama praised the political progress achieved in Iraq, including the return of Sunni parties to the government, Talabani's office said in a statement. Obama arrived in Iraq Monday morning from Kuwait after a visit to Afghanistan, the first leg of his Middle East and European tour designed to boost his say in foreign affairs amid a presidential campaign dead heat back in the United States. The Democratic presidential candidate has promised to withdraw the U.S. troops from Iraq within 16 months if elected, and send more troops to Afghanistan where security situation is getting worse. The U.S. Embassy in Iraq said earlier Monday that he will also meet Coalition leadership and U.S. diplomatic officials as well as constituent service members and civilian staff working in Iraq. Obama's visit came as Iraq and the United States are on a bumpy track toward concluding a bilateral security pact. On the back of a dramatic security upturn and under increasing pressure at home ahead of the provincial elections which could be held in October, Maliki's government is taking a stronger stance in the negotiations, including voicing a time limit for the presence of U.S. troops when the UN mandate expires at year's end. The two sides are also at odds over some other issues like whether Iraqi laws would apply to the U.S. service people and contractors in the future. U.S. President George W. Bush opposes a specific timetable for pulling out the troops, insisting such a move hinge on situation evolvement on the ground. In a video conference last week, Bush and Maliki agreed on a "time horizon" for reducing the troops. Bush sent in five combat brigades last year to quell a growing wave of violence in Iraq. Now, violence here has dropped to a four-year low. The last batch of reinforced American troops is expected to leave by the end of this month. U.S. military commanders are mulling on further cut of force according to an assessment of the local security situation. General David Petraeus, U.S. top commander in Iraq, is expected to make his recommendations on future troop levels in a report to the U.S. Congress in September. Also, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has mentioned a perspective of further drawdown following his recent visit to Iraq. While noting the security gains are not irreversible, Mullen said on Wednesday that the situation is "unquestionably and remarkably better," and "if these trends continue I expect to be able to recommend to the secretary and the president further troop reductions early this fall." During his stay in Afghanistan, Obama met with President Hamid Karzai and visited U.S. military bases. Before coming to Baghdad, Obama visited the southern Iraq city of Basra. The oil-rich region has long been a hotbed of turf war among Shiites, and saw large-scale crackdown operations against militants in March. In Iraq, the locals were divided over their preference for the next U.S. president. "I am not really care who will be the next U.S. president, because I think the policy of the U.S. administration would not be affected by a person," said Dhiyaa al-Hadithy, a 38-year-old physician, "However, if you insist, I prefer Obama, because this man supports the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq as soon as possible. Besides, the man is the son of a black Kenyan. Maybe he will feel our suffering because of his cultural background." Abdul-Hussein al-Kaaby, 47, threw his support behind Obama's Republican presidential campaign rival John McCain. "I believe that McCain is more reasonable in leading the U.S. policy in Iraq. The man is realistic. They can't just pull out the troops, while our security forces are facing considerable threats from terrorists," said the lawyer. "We are facing terrorism coming from the region and all over the world, so we still need the world great powers to support us, and Mr. McCain and the Republicans are the right people to provide back-up," he said.

Google profit up 35 percent at 1.25 billion dollars

Google profit up 35 percent at 1.25 billion dollars San Francisco - July 21, 2008: Google's second-quarter profit rose 35 percent from a year ago to 1.25 billion dollars, led by strong growth outside the US market in online advertising operations, the Internet giant said Thursday. The results however were below most Wall Street forecasts with a profit excluding special items of 4.63 dollars per share, compared with a consensus expectation of 4.84 dollars. Google reported revenues of 5.37 billion for the quarter to June 30, an increase of 39 percent from a year earlier and up three percent from the first quarter. Excluding traffic acquisition costs, the money Google pays to its partners, revenues totaled 3.9 billion dollars, a bit higher than most forecasts. "Strong international growth as well as sustained traffic increases on Google's web properties propelled us to another strong quarter, despite a more challenging economic environment," said Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive. "As we continue to focus on innovating in our core business of search, ads and apps, we also look forward to enhancing the experience of our users and expanding the reach of our advertisers and partners with new technologies and formats, particularly as our integration of DoubleClick gains momentum and creates new opportunities in display advertising and elsewhere." Google earlier this year completed its takeover of online advertising firm DoubleClick, strengthening its domination of the lucrative online ad business. The leader in Internet search said its own sites generated revenues of 3.53 billion dollars, or two-thirds of the second-quarter total. Google's partner sites generated revenues, through its AdSense program, of 1.66 billion dollars, or 31 percent of the total. Revenues from outside of the United States accounted for 52 percent of Google's total and provided a modest lift to the company because of the weak dollar. The company said it expects "to continue to make significant capital expenditures" but offered no details in its earnings report. Google's planned tie-up with Yahoo for online advertising has drawn scrutiny from Washington and complaints from rivals that it would dominate the Internet advertising business.

SPACE 2008 Conference September 9-11 In San Diego

SPACE 2008 Conference September 9-11 In San Diego Reston VA - Jul 21, 2008The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) will hold the SPACE 2008 Conference and Exposition September 9-11 at the San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, Calif. The conference is co-chaired by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. Sponsors of the conference are: ATK; Northrop Grumman Corp.; Orbital Science Corp.; Raytheon Company; Stellar Solutions, Inc.; The Aerospace Corporation; and United Space Alliance. The AIAA SPACE 2008 program will offer attendees a blend of keynote addresses, plenary sessions, moderated panel sessions and technical paper sessions. The conference's theme: "Future Space: National Priorities, Critical Decisions," will thoroughly examine three main themes of the 2008 presidential campaign: American economic competitiveness, the global war on terror, and the need for increased monitoring of global climate change. Guiding the formation of the conference are executive co-chairs: Dr. Charles Elachi, director, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Lt. Gen John T. Sheridan, commander, U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems; David W. Thompson, chairman and CEO, Orbital Sciences Corporation; Dr. Alexis Livanos, corporate vice president and president, Northrop Grumman Space Technology; and Michael Keebaugh, president, intelligence and information systems at Raytheon Company. The AIAA SPACE 2008 conference will kick-off with remarks from California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi and AIAA President George K. Muellner. Following their remarks an opening panel session with the conference executive chairs discussing "Future Space: National Priorities, Critical Decisions," will take place. The panel will give attendees a critical look at the future uses of space by industry and the military. Luncheon keynote addresses include high-level government representatives and business leaders: Tuesday, September 9, 12:30 p.m. - Opening Keynote Luncheon, David McGlade, CEO, Intelsat, Ltd. Wednesday, September 10, Noon -AIAA Awards Luncheon, the Honorable Michael D. Griffin, NASA Administrator. Thursday, September 11, Noon - "STRATCOM 2008: Year of Change," Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, commander, U.S. Strategic Command. A special event, the William H. Pickering Lecture, will be held on Wednesday, September 10. This year's lecture will honor the Phoenix Mars Mission, NASA's exploration of the surface of Mars. Peter Smith, principal investigator and project leader, University of Arizona, and Barry Goldstein, project manager, NASA Joint Propulsion Laboratory will make presentations. The lecture is open to the public.

When Mars Was A Water World

When Mars Was A Water World Moffett Field CA - Jul 21, 2008: Mars once hosted vast lakes, flowing rivers and a variety of other wet environments that had the potential to support life, according to two new studies based on data from the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) and other instruments on board NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). "The big surprise from these new results is how pervasive and long-lasting Mars' water was, and how diverse the wet environments were," says Scott Murchie, CRISM's principal investigator at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), in Laurel, Md. One study, published in the July 17 issue of Nature, shows that vast regions of the ancient highlands of Mars -- which cover about half the planet -- contain clay minerals, which can form only in the presence of water. Volcanic lavas buried the clay-rich regions during subsequent, drier periods of the planet's history, but impact craters later exposed them at thousands of locations across the planet. The clay-like minerals, called phyllosilicates, preserve a record of the interaction of water with rocks dating back to what is called the Noachian period of Mars' history, about 4.6 to 3.8 billion years ago. This period corresponds to the earliest years of the solar system, when Earth, the moon and Mars sustained a cosmic bombardment by comets and asteroids. Rocks of this age have largely been destroyed on Earth by plate tectonics; they are preserved on the moon, but were never exposed to liquid water. The phyllosilicate-containing rocks on Mars therefore preserve a unique record of liquid water environments - possibly suitable for life - in the early solar system. "The minerals present in Mars' ancient crust show a variety of wet environments," says John Mustard, a member of the CRISM team from Brown University in Providence, R.I., and lead author of the Nature study. "In most locations the rocks are lightly altered by liquid water, but in a few locations they have been so altered that a great deal of water must have flushed though the rocks and soil. This is really exciting because we're finding dozens of sites where future missions can land to understand if Mars was ever habitable and if so, to look for signs of past life." A companion study, published in the June 2 issue of Nature Geosciences, finds that the wet conditions persisted for a long time. Thousands to millions of years after the clays were formed, a system of river channels eroded them out of the highlands and concentrated them in a delta where the river emptied into a crater lake slightly larger than California's Lake Tahoe, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) in diameter. "The distribution of clays inside the ancient lakebed shows that standing water must have persisted for thousands of years," says Bethany Ehlmann, another member of the CRISM team from Brown and lead author of the study of the ancient lake within Jezero Crater. "Clays are wonderful at trapping and preserving organic matter, so if life ever existed in this region, there's a chance of its chemistry being preserved in the delta." CRISM's combination of high spatial and spectral resolutions-better than any previous imaging spectrometer sent to Mars-reveals variations in the types and composition of the phyllosilicate minerals. By combining data from CRISM and MRO's Context Imager (CTX) and High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), the team has identified three principal classes of water-related minerals dating to the early Noachian period: aluminum-phyllosilicates, hydrated silica or opal, and the more common and widespread iron/magnesium-phyllosilicates. The variations in the minerals suggest that different processes, or different types of watery environments, created them. "Our whole team is turning our findings into a list of sites where future missions could land to look for organic chemistry and perhaps determine whether life ever existed on Mars," says APL's Murchie. APL, which has built more than 150 spacecraft instruments over the past four decades, led the effort to build CRISM, and operates the instrument in coordination with an international team of researchers from universities, government and the private sector. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft.

China's Long March 2F Rocket Ready For Trip To Launch Center

China's Long March 2F Rocket Ready For Trip To Launch Center
Beijing - Jul 21, 2008: The Long March 2F rocket designed to carry China's third manned spacecraft into space will be sent to Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest Gansu province in a few days, officials with the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) said here Saturday. The rocket was coated in red, a color to show that it was ready to fulfill its mission, said Jing Muchun, chief designer of the spacecraft, adding that further testing will be conducted to ensure 100 percent safety after the rocket arrives at Jiuquan. About 10 days ago, Shenzhou VII, China's third manned spacecraft, arrived at Jiuquan. It is expected to be launched in October. CALT head Li Hong, together with 200 launch team members, promised they would try every means to ensure the success and safety of the launch. In 2003, China became the third country to send an astronaut into space in its own spacecraft. The United States and the former Soviet Union (now Russia) are the others to have done so.

Experts question whether Afghan troop surge can work

Experts question whether Afghan troop surge can work Washington - July 21, 2008: The Pentagon is pushing for more troops to go to Afghanistan but experts question whether a new "surge" can shut down the insurgency flourishing in Pakistan's safe havens. "That's a totally open question," said Michael O'Hanlon, an expert at the Brookings Institution. US commanders in Afghanistan have asked for 10,000 more combat troops for what until recently was thought of as a forgotten war. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday he wanted to send more forces "sooner rather than later." The push comes on the back of a "surge" strategy in Iraq that succeeded in bringing down violence dramatically over an 18 month period with the addition of five combat brigades. But Pentagon officials acknowledge that what worked in Iraq cannot be neatly translated to a very different situation in Afghanistan, which is larger, poorer, more populous and contains some of the world's most difficult fighting terrain. "The environment in Iraq and the environment in Afghanistan are very different. The enemy in Iraq and the enemy in Afghanistan are very different -- the terrain, the conditions," said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman. "There is a certain amount of planning that takes place, and appropriately takes place, for the environment, and the mission and the enemy you are going to be deployed against," he said. Pentagon officials have not said how many additional forces can be mustered or what they will do with them, but it's clear that a top priority is to stop the flow of fighters into Afghanistan from safe havens in Pakistan. "The border there is a really critical issue that we're going to have to solve," Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday. The Pakistani government, however, has resisted US entreaties to do more to control their side of the border, pulling army troops out of the region under a truce struck with militants in March. "It's very clear that additional (US) troops will have a big impact on insurgents coming across that border," Mullen asserted Wednesday. But others are doubtful that more US combat troops can seal an ill-defined border that runs through towering mountains and open desert. "You cannot seal borders," British Defence Minister Des Browne said here last week. "We could not seal 26 miles of border between north and south of Ireland with 40,000 troops. Please do not demand of Pakistan and Afghanistan that they they try to seal the many hundreds of kilometers of mountainous border between these two countries," he said. Moreover, sending more troops into a country with a long history of resistance to outside forces may further inflame the insurgency, some experts warn. "The past history is that a large footprint in Afghanistan has engendered a quick turn by locals," said Sam Brannen, an analyst at the Center for International and Security Studies. "There is a historical threat there that says that Afghans don't like large occupying forces," he said. "If this was a NATO surge, I would tell you it's exactly what the country needs but a US surge is risky," he said. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force has grown from 37,500 in January 2007 to 53,000 today, and there are now about 70,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, including American forces not under ISAF. The Afghan National Army is supposed to grow to 80,000 troops by the end of this year, but that pales in comparison to the 566,000 security force members in Iraq. And despite the growth in the international forces, the insurgency also has spread over the past two years, gaining intensity and lethality with tactics borrowed from Iraq -- roadside bombs, suicide attacks, and ambushes. An assault on a combat outpost Sunday that left nine US soldiers dead showed new levels of sophistication that US military officials believe has come from improved training inside Pakistan. "I think one of the reasons you add forces now is it's hard to know what else to do," said O'Hanlon. "You hope that it will make a meaningful difference, but you also hoped that about the previous increment of forces, which as you know has already gone up quite a bit in Afghanistan compared to earlier years. "There is no way to know whether this 10,000 would be the magic 10,000 to get us over the hump," he said.

Analysis: U.S. military to patrol Internet

Analysis: U.S. military to patrol Internet Washington - July 21, 2008: The U.S. military is looking for a contractor to patrol cyberspace, watching for warning signs of forthcoming terrorist attacks or other hostile activity on the Web. "If someone wants to blow us up, we want to know about it," Robert Hembrook, the deputy intelligence chief of the U.S. Army's Fifth Signal Command in Mannheim, Germany, told United Press International. In a solicitation posted on the Web last week, the command said it was looking for a contractor to provide "Internet awareness services" to support "force protection" -- the term of art for the security of U.S. military installations and personnel. "The purpose of the services will be to identify and assess stated and implied threat, antipathy, unrest and other contextual data relating to selected Internet domains," says the solicitation. Hembrook was tight-lipped about the proposal. "The more we talk about it, the less effective it will be," he said. "If we didn't have to put it out in public (to make the contract award), we wouldn't have." He would not comment on the kinds of Internet sites the contractor would be directed to look at but acknowledged it would "not (be) far off" to assume violent Islamic extremists would be at the top of the list. The solicitation says the successful contractor will "analyze various Web pages, chat rooms, blogs and other Internet domains to aggregate and assess data of interest," adding, "The contractor will prioritize foreign-language domains that relate to specific areas of concern ¿¿ (and) will also identify new Internet domains" that might relate to "specific local requirements" of the command. Officials were keen to stress the contract covered only information that could be found by anyone with a computer and Internet connection. "We're not interested in being Big Brother," said LeAnne MacAllister, chief spokeswoman for the command, which runs communications in Europe for the U.S. Army and the military's joint commands there. "I would not characterize it as monitoring," added Hembrook. "This is a research tool gathering information that is already in the public domain." Experts say Islamic extremist groups like al-Qaida use the Web for propaganda and fundraising purposes. Although the extent to which it is employed in operational planning is less clear, most agree that important information about targeting and tactics can be gleaned from extremists' public pronouncements. Hembrook said the main purpose of the contract is to analyze "trends in information." The contractor will "help us find those needles in that haystack of information." The solicitor says the contractor's team will include a "principal cyber investigator," a "locally specialized threat analyst" and a "foreign-speaking analyst with cyber investigative skills," as well as a 24/7 watch team. The contractor will produce weekly written reports, containing "raw data and supporting analysis." The addresses of the Web page sources will be "captioned under alias to preserve access," says the solicitation. Experts have noted in the past that publishing the addresses of some extremists' sites has led to them being attacked or moving. However, the contractor will "consider releasing specific (Web page addresses) on an as-needed basis ¿¿ if explicit threat materials or imminent threat to personnel or facilities are discovered." The contractor also will notify the command immediately "upon receipt of any and all stated or implied threats that contain timing and/or targeting information relating to personnel, facilities or activities, and to specifically designated areas of concern." While declining to comment on the specific solicitation, Ben Venzke, CEO of IntelCenter, an Alexandria, Va.-based company that monitors Islamic extremist propaganda for clients including U.S. government agencies, said it was "common" for the military or other agencies to employ contractors "to support their own work on these issues." "What most people don't get," he said, "is that (each agency or entity) has their own very specific requirements. ¿¿ They are looking for one type of thing in particular." Venzke explained that while an analyst for a big-city police department might be looking at extremist Web sites for certain kinds of information, their requirements would be different from those of intelligence analysts looking for evidence of trends in extremist targeting or ideology, which in turn would be different from those concerned -- like the Fifth Signal Command -- with force protection. "There is some overlap," he said, "and you always have to work to minimize that, but generally, there are so many different ¿¿ pieces you can look at ¿¿ it's not duplication."

Analysis: Mapping malware, spam on the Web

Analysis: Mapping malware, spam on the Web Washington - July 21, 2008: The growing prevalence of Web sites that can download malicious software onto the computers of unsuspecting visitors has led some to compare the Internet to the lawless Wild West, but a new survey suggests that in law and order terms, the Web looks more like a city with a broad variety of neighborhoods -- some safe, and some less so. The second annual "Mapping the Mal Web" report was prepared by researchers from Santa Clara, Calif.-based computer security giant McAfee Inc., using data from an analysis of 9.9 million oft-visited sites in 265 different Web domains -- the regions denominated in the last part of the Internet address. Domains are either generic, like .gov or .com, or national, like .ru, for Russia. The survey says that the .hk, for Hong Kong, domain was the Internet neighborhood with the highest proportion of risky sites, with nearly one in five being rated "red" or "yellow" in a three-part assessment system. "Green" sites are considered safe. "It's like a kind of giant tourist guide ¿¿ for the Web," said the survey's author, Shane Keats, adding that it would help Internet surfers identify the areas they ought to be wary in, telling them, in effect, "This is an alley you don't want to go down." The Chinese national domain, .cn, was the second-riskiest overall this year, tying with the generic domain .info, both of which had 11.8 percent of their sites flagged. Finland, .fi, remained the safest online destination for the second year running, with 0.05 percent of sites rated as risky, followed by Japan, .jp. Keats said the data were collected by a McAfee program that "crawls the Web, and clicks 'Yes' to everything," using a unique e-mail address and virtual computer for each site it visited. "If that (virtual computer) gets spyware on it" or the e-mail address started to receive large volumes of spam, "We know exactly where it came from," he said, and the site would be flagged. The free program, called SiteAdvisor, is one of a number of so-called safe search tools that warn surfers when they are about to visit a site considered dangerous. "No one suggests you shouldn't use the interstate (system) because there are horrible accidents on it every day," Keats said. "But if you are going to drive, drive in a safe car and put on your seat belt." "If you are going to surf the Web, make sure you have up-to-date security software and use a safe search tool," he said. The threats represented by risky sites "run the gamut from the merely annoying to the egregious," said Keats. At one end were the sites offering free downloads of screensavers or other software -- "a lot of them aimed at teens and tweens," according to Keats -- which were bundled with so-called adware, which generates annoying pop-up advertisements for users. Other sites promised free gifts in exchange for registration with an e-mail address, which was then sold to spammers. At the other end of the threat spectrum were so-called drive-by exploits, software that could download malicious software onto a visitor's computer without any further action on their part. "Just by touching the site," said Keats, surfers could end up infected with hacker programs like password sniffers, which enable people's identity and -- if they bank online -- their cash to be stolen; or have their computers recruited into vast "botnets" of infected and enslaved machines that hackers use to send spam or launch cyberattacks. "These are very dangerous, but very rare," said Keats of such drive-by exploit sites. The survey notes that just 0.07 percent of all sites analyzed attempted drive-by exploits, meaning that, in visiting 10,000 different Web sites at random, the average surfer would encounter just seven. But Keats pointed out that such sites were not equally rare everywhere. In the Romanian national domain, .ro, more than 1 percent of all Web sites were rated as risks for drive-by exploits -- making it the No. 1 domain for that threat, and twice as risky as the No. 2, the generic .info domain, where just over half of 1 percent of sites attempted an exploit. Keats said that hackers and others setting up such shady Web sites looked at three factors: lightness of regulation, ease of registration and cost. "You want to do business with someone who doesn't ask you any questions," he said, and since the majority of such sites were closed down relatively quickly, "You want to do business where it is cheapest" and easiest to register a site, to reduce overhead costs. Keats said Hong Kong jumped from 28th most risky domain last year to top of the list this year, at least in part because of a number of "entirely legitimate" changes the registrar -- the entity that leases a domain's Web addresses -- had made to the registration process to attract more users. "They offered two for (the price of) one domains, and made it easier to register multiple domains simultaneously," he said.

Understanding The Human Brain

Understanding The Human Brain July 21, 2008: We know that people differ in the way they solve problems. We call this their intellectual, or cognitive, ability. We may differ from our friends not only in overall ability, sometimes referred to as IQ, or "smarts", but also in the pattern of our abilities. One person may be especially good at problems involving words, whereas another may be better at dealing with problems relating to real-world objects. Since the brain is the centre for all such activities, there must be some way in which brains differ slightly from one person to another. For most of the history of brain research, until about 20 years ago, our information about the human brain was obtained primarily from post-mortem cases. This is information from people who have died, and whose brains are studied after being fixed in solutions to preserve them. But in the past few years, new ways of looking at the brain safely in living persons have become possible, so now we are better able to link the abilities of a particular person with his or her brain structure. Our problem-solving abilities depend mainly on a part of the brain called the cerebrum. The cerebrum is divided into two parts called the left and right cerebral hemispheres. These hemispheres don't have exactly the same functions, and this difference in the way the two hemispheres work is called functional asymmetry. Differences between the hemispheres The left hemisphere is important for all forms of communication. We know this because when it is damaged, perhaps as a result of an accident or a stroke, there can be serious problems in speaking (this is known as aphasia). After left-hemisphere damage there can also be difficulties with other complicated movements of the mouth, or of the hands and arms -- demonstrating a pout, or miming how to salute or to hammer a nail, for example. It seems that the left hemisphere specializes in controlling certain movements, including the movements we use to communicate. In people who are born deaf and who communicate using hand movements (manual sign language), damage to the left hemisphere can badly affect their signing ability. The right hemisphere, by comparison, doesn't appear to be involved much in communication, although it can help us understand words to some extent. Instead, it specializes in receiving and analysing information from the outside world. Therefore, damage to the right hemisphere may result in our being unable to tell the difference between melodies, or having difficulty in identifying a face or in locating an object accurately in space. Some parts of the right hemisphere are mainly concerned with helping us understand what we hear (auditory), while other parts help us make sense of things that we see. The temporal lobe (in the lower part of the hemisphere) analyses much of the auditory input, while the occipital and parietal lobes (in the rear and upper regions) provide information about where objects are. The frontal lobes in each hemisphere seem to be important in planning our actions. Seeing the differences Although we have known for over a hundred years that the two cerebral hemispheres have these different functions, or properties, until recently people thought that they looked the same. Now we know that there are also small differences in the appearance, that is, in the actual anatomy or visible structure of the left and right sides. These differences are called anatomical asymmetries. Let's look, for example, at the temporal lobe. Part of this lobe is hidden in the Sylvian fissure. This part, important for understanding speech, is larger in area on the left side than the same region on the right side. Babies are born with this difference, so we know that it doesn't develop as a result of children learning to speak. There is also a difference in the appearance of the Sylvian fissure on the two sides, with the left side arching up more gradually than the right. Other anatomical asymmetries between the left and right sides have also been observed. Right left, left right? We have seen that the two sides of the brain are different, but how much can one person's brain differ from another's? Research shows that all human brains are very much alike, but there are minor differences between one brain and another. The question is whether these are just chance variations which don't mean anything, or whether it can be shown that they are associated with different traits in different people. One characteristic that might be expected to relate to brain asymmetry is hand preference, that is, which hand a person prefers for most everyday activities, including writing. Over 90 per cent of people are right-handed. We know that fine movements of the hands depend on activity in areas of the opposite hemisphere of the brain. Right-hand movements depend critically on the left hemisphere. This led scientists to believe that the left hemisphere was somehow "dominant" in most people, because it controlled the preferred hand and was also essential for speaking. At first it was taken for granted that left-handers would show an opposite, or mirror-image, pattern to right-handers, that is, their speech would rely mostly on the right hemisphere. But over time it has become clear that this is not quite the case. Although it is true that left-handers more often rely on the right hemisphere than do right-handers, well over half of them are like right-handers in so far as they rely mainly on the left hemisphere for speech. So how do left-handers' brains differ from right-handers? Research is still going on to explore this question. So far it seems that the temporal-lobe and Sylvian-fissure anatomical asymmetries we described above are less marked in left-handers than in right-handers. Male and female brains Whether you are a boy or a girl also determines how your brain looks and works. We know from animal research that substances called sex hormones, produced by the sex glands, are needed to develop the differences between males and females. Sex hormones are necessary both for forming the genitals and for the behavioural and brain differences between the sexes. The hypothalamus, which is a tiny structure at the base of the brain, regulates many basic functions, such as eating, sleeping, temperature control, and reproduction. One part of the hypothalamus responsible for sexual behaviour is larger in male brains than in female brains, in human and non-human animals. In rats the enlargement is known to depend on male sex hormones, called androgens. Sex hormones also affect other parts of the brain. For example, the outer layer of the cerebrum, called the cortex, is thicker on the right hemisphere than on the left in male rats, but not in female rats. Another recent discovery is that male and female brains in some ways work differently. When set the same task, females may use both hemispheres, while male brain activity is restricted to one side. For example, if the task is to define words, men appear to use only their left hemisphere, while women use both. For many other problem-solving activities however, men's and women's brains work in the same way. The left and right cerebral hemispheres are connected by fibres running crosswise between them called commissures. The largest and most important commissure is called the corpus callosum; another important connection is the anterior commissure. One way the commissures are useful is in exchanging information between the two hemispheres. These connections between the hemispheres may also be somewhat different in men and women. The area of the anterior commissure seems to be larger in women, and some researchers have found that the back part of the corpus callosum is larger in women. If the larger area of the commissures results in better communication between hemispheres, this could make some difference to the way men's and women's brains work. Finally, there is probably also a difference between men and women as to which part of the left hemisphere is responsible for speech and hand movements. There are two major areas devoted to speech, one in the frontal lobe, and the other at the back, where the temporal and parietal lobes meet. In women, the frontal region is more important than the area at the back, so problems with speaking are more likely to happen if the front part of the left hemisphere is damaged. In men, the areas contribute more equally, but if anything the back part, especially the parietal region, is more important. Evolutionary change Some of the differences between the ways that men's and women's brains work must have evolved over time. We know that the average man and woman have slightly different intellectual strengths. Some of these differences appear to be the result of a division of labour between men and women going back to our hunter-gatherer past. For example, men are better at spatial-navigational skills such as map reading and judging distances and at targeting skills (dart throwing for instance). These skills probably developed through hunting. Women have a better memory for words and objects, and are better at fine motor skills. These abilities probably developed through food gathering near the home and through making clothes and preparing food. We know from animal research that sex hormones help determine such patterns, because if the brains of young female rats are exposed to androgens right after birth, their spatial abilities as adults are different from normal females', and more like males'. Similarly, in humans, girls exposed to excessive androgens early in life have better spatial skills than other females. Exactly how sex hormones cause changes in the brain to make one person intellectually different from another is not yet understood in detail, but it is a fascinating subject which is the focus of much current research.

Qatar: Plans to buy 2 C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft

Qatar: Plans to buy 2 C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft 21-Jul-2008: At present, Qatar’s air transport assets would involve pressing the Qatar Amiri VIP Flight at Doha into service; it flies of a mix of Boeing aircraft (707, 727, 747), small Airbus models (320 family), and a Falcon 900 business jet. As the Gulf Cooperation Council begins to work together more closely and members like the UAE begin to adopt specialty roles, however, improved air transport capabilities are a natural outgrowth. While tactical airlifters like the C-130 Hercules serve in other GCC countries, Qatar is reaching higher. The country plans to buy 2 C-17 Globemaster III strategic transport aircraft, and On July 11/08, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced Qatar’s official request for logistics support, training, and associated equipment and services. The total value of the support arrangements could be as high as $400 million. Services will include logistics support and training, spare and repair parts, support equipment, flight engineer training, communications equipment, maintenance, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical data, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics support services, preparation of aircraft for shipment, etc. C-17 maker Boeing will be the contractor. The proposed services will require 10 U.S. Government and contractor representatives to participate in training, and be present for technical reviews twice per year. The C-17 aircraft and engines will be sold via direct commercial sale, rather than a Foreign Military Sale that must be announced by the DSCA. Based on past C-17 purchases, the 2 planes are likely to cost another $400-450 million. The order is significant, in that it demonstrates the growing internationalization of the C-17’s customer base. It also has future implications, via ongoing maintenance contracts under the C-17’s Globemaster Sustainment Partnership. The order itself, however, is too small to affect the looming closure of the C-17 production line – a move that would leave Airbus’ forthcoming A400M and the Antonov AN-124 in joint possession of the strategic military transport market.

Singapore’s RSAF Orders American Missiles

Singapore’s RSAF Orders American Missiles 21-July-2008: The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced Singapore’s official request for a series of American air-air missiles and precision strike weapons. The $962 million request also includes items and services like missile containers, common munitions built-in test reprogramming equipment, testing, integration, devices, aircrew safety equipment, repair and return, weapons trainers, electronic warfare systems and support, software support and test equipment, life support and survival equipment, spares and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor technical and logistics personnel services, and other related support. Singapore is currently in the process of buying 20 F-15SG Strike Eagles, whose features and equipment will make them the most advanced F-15s in service anywhere in the world. Past weapons requests associated with the F-15SGs have been announced as such, but this order was simply listed as a general weapons order. Other aircraft in the RSAF’s inventory that could use some or all of the weapons listed below include their squadrons of F-16C/D Block 52+ aircraft, and F-5T Tiger II lightweight fighters that were modernized in the 1990s. The equipment requested includes: 128 AIM-120-C7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles. The C7 variant is the most advanced AMRAAM in current production, but the AIM-120D is gearing up for future production. 6 AMRAAM Captive Air Training Missiles (CATMs). Missiles with seeker heads but no rocket motors, used for training. 72 AIM-120-C5 AMRAAM missiles. 200 AIM-9X Sidewinder Missiles. The short-range air-air missiles are the most advanced Sidewinder version, with more maneuverability, a wider “sighting cone”, and other improvements. 4 AIM-9X Special Air Training Missiles (NATMs) 32 AIM-9X Captive Air Training Missiles (CATMs) 8 Tactical-9X WGU-51/B Guidance Units 12 CATM-9X WGU-51/B Guidance Units 50 MK-82 (GBU-38) Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) with BLU-111 Warhead. These GPS/INS guided 2,000 pound bombs include a warhead designed to penetrate lightly buried or reinforced targets. 100 KMU-556/B JDAM Bomb Tail Kit Assemblies, which can be added to existing bombs to turn them into JDAMs. 72 MK-82 500lb Empty Bombs (Flight Test Only) 4 GBU-12 Bombs w/o Fuse (Flight Test Only) 4 Computer Control Group (Flight Test Only) 4 MK-82/MK-84 Bomb Practice trainers 30 AGM-154A-1 Joint Standoff Weapons (JSOW) with BLU-111 Warhead. The BLU-111 is a hardened penetration warhead. 30 AGM-154C JSOW. See “AGM-154 JSOW Wins US DoD Acquisition Award” for more information re: JSOW variants. 300,000 20mm Practice Round Cartridges. 71 AN/AVS-9 (V) Night Vision Goggles. Worn by aviators. 50 Link 16 Multifunctional Information Distribution System-Low Volume Terminals (Fighter Data Link (FDL) Terminals), which provide a shared view of the battlefield. See “The Wonders of Link 16 For Less: MIDS-LVTs (updated)” for more information re: MIDS. The DSCA announcement did not discuss contractors, but Raytheon is the clear winner (AIM-120 AMRAAM, AIM-9X, JSOW). Boeing is the JDAM’s manufacturer.

Venezuela: Chavez Goes Weapons Shopping in Russia Amid Arms Race

Venezuela: Chavez Goes Weapons Shopping in Russia Amid Arms Race July 21, 2008: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez heads to Moscow today to shop for air defense systems, submarines and other weaponry as Latin America's arms race quickens amid signs that his regional influence is waning. Past Venezuelan arms purchases from Russia have strengthened ties with Moscow as its rivalry with the U.S. intensifies over President George W. Bush's plans for an Eastern Europe missile defense system and other issues. Chavez, 53, also plans to visit Belarus, a Russian ally that the U.S. considers a dictatorship. Chavez ``regularly refers to us as an `empire,' opposes our initiatives in the Americas and seeks out our adversaries as friends and allies,'' Assistant U.S. Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon said July 17 in testimony to a congressional committee. Chavez will order $2 billion worth of weapons, including Project 636 diesel subs, Mi-28 combat helicopters and airplanes made by Ilyushin Co., the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported May 12, without saying how it obtained the information. The Russian Interfax news service, citing an unnamed defense ministry official, said today Chavez may order $1 billion of weapons, including three Varshavyanka subs and up to 20 Tor-M1 air-defense systems. `Some Shock' ``What Chavez likes to do is to shock, and this will create some shock in Washington,'' said Riordan Roett, a professor of Latin American studies at Johns Hopkins University. Chavez, who plans to meet Russian President Dmitry Medvedev tomorrow, has bought more than $4.4 billion of Russian arms since 2003. He says the hardware, including jets and submarines, is needed to counter a military threat from the U.S. and its main regional ally, Colombia. Russia last year announced plans to build two factories to make Kalashnikov assault rifles in Venezuela. Russia has used Venezuela to diversify its arms-selling business beyond China and India, said Dmitry Vasiliev, an analyst at the Center for the Analysis of Strategies & Technologies, a Moscow-based defense research center. Venezuela was Russia's third-biggest arms customer last year, he said. Trade between the two countries surged to $1.13 billion in 2007 from $517 million the previous year, according to a statement published on the Venezuelan Information Ministry's Web site. `Ideal Partner' ``Russia is trying to be good friends with Chavez because he is an ideal partner in arms trade,'' said Fyodor Lukyanov, an analyst at the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy in Moscow. The Venezuelan president said this month he'll also discuss the creation of a joint development bank and an investment fund with Russia. Latin American countries have gone on a military spending spree in recent years as their governments collect record income from commodities, including Venezuela's oil windfall. Regional arms spending jumped 55 percent over four years to $38.4 billion in 2007, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. The buildup comes amid increased regional rivalries. Chavez was outmaneuvered this month when Colombian President Alvaro Uribe rescued 15 hostages from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans. Chavez had been trying to negotiate the captives' release from the guerrilla group, while denying accusations by the U.S. and Colombia that he had supported the FARC rebels with arms and funding. Uribe has been increasing military pressure on the FARC since becoming president in 2002, with the help of $5 billion in military assistance from the U.S. Colombia-Brazil Accord Colombia and Brazil on July 19 signed an accord to strengthen military ties, promote the sale of weapons and expand joint training exercises. Venezuela ordered troops moved toward the Colombian border in March, after Colombia conducted an anti-FARC raid into neighboring Ecuador, a Chavez ally. The three countries later moved to mend relations. In May, Chavez said he was prepared to scramble his fighter jets after a U.S. Navy S-3 aircraft flew into Venezuelan airspace. The U.S., which buys about 1.36 million barrels of oil a day from Venezuela, says the incursion was due to a navigational error. The U.S. has tried to isolate Chavez. It cut off U.S. arms sales to Venezuela in 2006, refusing to sell it F-16 jet replacement parts, and declared that the government ``isn't fully cooperating'' in the war on terror. Missile Test Since then, Chavez has stepped up purchases from Russia. Last month, the Venezuelan military fired its first test missile from a Russian Sukhoi fighter jet. Chavez will also travel to Spain and Portugal this week to discuss energy and trade accords. Lisbon-based Galp Energia SGPS SA, Portugal's biggest oil company, has agreed to work with state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA to build liquefied natural gas plants. Chavez last month threatened to stop selling oil to Europe and outlaw investment from European countries after the EU passed legislation allowing detention of undocumented workers. ``With all due respect, I recommend that the leaders of Europe make a sustained effort to understand what's happening in Latin America,'' Chavez said in a speech last month. ``They don't understand us.''

India: Two line up bids for Indian Army howitzer contract

India: Two line up bids for Indian Army howitzer contract July 21, 2008: BAE Systems and Singapore Technologies (ST) Kinetics are to submit bids by 7 April to supply the Indian Army with 140 ultra-light 155 mm/39 cal howitzers. However, the two systems are not scheduled to enter trials until 2009, when they will be tested in the Rajasthan desert and at high altitudes. Representatives from both companies have told Jane's that they were negotiating collaborative agreements with local companies to jointly build the howitzers under licence and satisfy the mandatory offset obligation of 30 per cent of the overall contract value. BAE Systems is offering its M777 155 mm/39 cal towed howitzer, which weighs less than 4,220 kg. ST's rival Pegasus 155 mm/39 cal lightweight howitzer weighs 5,400 kg.

India, Russia plan to build futuristic MBT

India, Russia plan to build futuristic MBT July 21, 2008: MOSCOW: Encouraged by the remarkable success of their pilot co-development defence project, the Brahmos missile, India and Russia are planning to design and build a futuristic main battle tank. Defence industry experts will discuss the new project when a delegation of the Russian Uralvagonzavod (UVZ) tank-building factory visits India this week to participate in an international seminar on the Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT) organised by the Army along with the Confederation of Indian Industry. The two sides have already had preliminary discussions on the issue, according to UVZ Director General Nikolai Malykh. “We put forward this idea [of a joint tank project] at the turn of the 21st century,” he told journalists in Moscow. “The Indian side has now come up with a similar proposal. We will take the first step when our experts go to India to attend a conference on the future tank and prospects for the tank-building industry.” “The new tank will consolidate India’s edge over the Pakistani Army armed with Ukraine’s potent T-80 MBT and the Al-Khalid MBT built jointly with China and Ukraine,” Ruslan Pukhov, Director, Centre for Analysis and Technologies, said. “Russia’s Uralvagonzavod would be the best partner for India in designing and building the new tank given a long history of its cooperation with the Heavy Vehicles Factory in Avadi in the production of T-72 and T-90S MBTs.” India has purchased over 1,600 T-90S MBTs built by the UVZ of which 1,000 will be manufactured at the Avadi plant. The Indo-Russian MBT is likely to incorporate the best features of prototype tanks developed at Russia’s leading tank-building plants — UVZ and Omsk Transport Machine-Building Plant — which are now being merged into a single corporation. According to the Moscow Defence Brief magazine, the new tank will mark a great step forward in armour technology. It will feature higher speed, better firepower, sophisticated armour protection and a low silhouette. An armour-protected crew compartment will be sealed from the unmanned turret equipped with an automatic loader. The crew will be provided with a virtual-reality command information system linked to reconnaissance aircraft and will enjoy a smoother ride thanks to a new hydro-pneumatic suspension. The new tank is likely to have a new main gun of up to 152 mm calibre and a new hunter-killer fire control system with target acquisition in optical, thermal, infrared and radar spectrums that will be accessible both to the gunner and tank commander, the Moscow Defence Brief said.