Wednesday, October 29, 2008

U.K. to Send Upgraded Vehicles to Afghanistan

U.K. to Send Upgraded Vehicles to Afghanistan (NSI News Source Info) October 30, 2008: The British Defence Secretary, John Hutton announced today over £700m for an extra 700 vehicles to protect the safety of troops on duty in Afghanistan.
Buffalo mine-protected vehicle
The defence minister described the provision of new vehicles as an 'absolute priority'. "I have seen first-hand the difference our Mastiff and Jackals are already making to our troops in Afghanistan. The arrival of 700 new vehicles will improve even further their ability to move cross country, and provide vital support with the utmost protection to our existing vehicle fleets," Hutton said. The £700m budget includes; £350m for over 400 new armoured tactical support vehicles (TSV). The three TSV categories are the Wolfhound, a heavy armoured support truck, used for supporting and resupplying Mastiffs in the highest threat areas, the Husky, a mobile medium support truck for low-threat zones and the Coyote, a light armoured support vehicle used to support the Jackal vehicles over harsh terrain. Over 100 new Warthog armour reinforced cross-country vehicles will also be supplied. These vehicles will replace the Viking in Afghanistan as the extremely agile all-terrain, armed off-road vehicle of choice. A £96m specialist route-clearing system, which includes the Buffalo mine-protected vehicle, will also give forces improved capabilities in dealing with improvised explosive devices (IED). All these vehicles have the highest level of mine blast protection currently available, a necessity, as the death toll of British troops stationed in Afghanistan has risen to 121, with a huge proportion of these deaths linked to IED, mine and roadside bomb explosions. Hutton showed his awareness of the risk to troops from such explosions."Today's multi-million-pound package shows that we are responding to new and changing threats on the ground and will provide our serving personnel with the highest levels of protection and mobility that technology will allow," he said. In addition to the new vehicles, a series of new upgrades and modifications were also announced. These include; modifications to 30 4x4 and 6x6 purchased Cougar vehicles, mobility and protection modifications to the Panther vehicles, and the specially designed Snatch-Vixen, which has enhanced load capacity, mobility and protection to suit the Afghan terrain

India Seeks 8 Mine Countermeasure Vessels

India Seeks 8 Mine Countermeasure Vessels (NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI - October 30, 2008: The Indian Navy has floated global bids worth more than $1.4 billion to acquire eight mine countermeasure vessels (MCMVs) as it expands its blue-water capabilities. France's DCN International, Fincanteri of Italy, Izhar of Spain, Kangnam of South Korea and Northrop Grumman of the U.S. have been invited by the Indian Defence Ministry to participate.
Mine Countermeasure Vessels (MCMVs)
The MCMVs will hunt for mines with a high-definition sonar and then destroy them using explosives by remote-controlled mine-disposal systems. The navy wants the MCMVs to be an important element of its blue-water navy, which is being built to protect Indian interests from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean, a senior navy official said. The MCMVs will replace the 12 existing Pondicherry-class ocean minesweepers procured in the 1970s and 1980's. The shortlisted shipyards will be expected to transfer technology so six of the craft can be produced at India's state-owned Goa Shipyard. The MCMVs will be made of reinforced plastic with help from several Indian electronic companies that also will provide a variety of radar. A navy official said the MCMVs should be capable of operating in areas of naval interest to locate, classify, sweep, hunt and neutralize all types of marooned and drifting mines. The MCMVs will also be deployed with local naval defense and search-and-rescue missions. The vessel should be 50 to 60 meters long, no wider than 11 meters, have a maximum speed of at least 16 knots and be able to operate at least 10 days with a planned lifespan of 30 years. The MCMVs will be fitted with one lightweight, 30mm anti-surface air gun, two 12.7mm heavy machine guns and two Kavach chaff launchers developed by the state-owned Gun Carriage Factory at Jabalpur. The contract entails compulsory defense offset of about $420 million.

Russia's The State Defense Order: An Arms Race Gets Off To A Heavy Start

Russia's The State Defense Order: An Arms Race Gets Off To A Heavy Start
(NSI News Source Info) Moscow - October 29, 2008: The state defense order is the lifeblood of the army. It is approved by the federal budget and it is within its limits that the state pays for all purchases (from food to nuclear ammunition) and all works (from construction of heating mains to development of the latest weapons) for the army. A balanced order is essential for the fulfillment of delivery plans, but, as the past few years have shown, the defense order remains sometimes unfulfilled in some respects, which is particularly critical amid the continuing world financial crisis. The causes of such irregularities in recent years have been the sharply increased military equipment prices and the inability of some firms to fulfill their orders on time and with required quality. Growing prices prompted the Defense Ministry to complain as early as 2007. This resulted in the government resolution on prices for armaments and military equipment, which set the profit rate at 25%. Under the new rules, prices for military products must be registered with the Federal Tariff Service for the entire production cycle, or for a calendar year if the cycle exceeds one year. Prices for nuclear munitions must be registered with the Federal Nuclear Power Agency, and can be revised only if there are increases in prices for stock materials and components. Still, weapons and equipment prices continue to grow. The price of a Be-200CS aircraft, for example, purchased for the Emergencies Ministry, has risen from 700-750 million rubles to a billion, a T-90 tank has increased from 42 million rubles to over 60 million, and a Project 20380 ship - the corvette Steregushchy - has gone up in price during its construction from 1.8 billion to 5 billion rubles. Such ballooning prices can have a serious effect on the 2006-2015 State Armaments Program, which plans to allocate nearly five trillion rubles for the re-equipment of the armed forces with new and upgraded arms. Put together in 2005 and based on the prices valid at that time, the program today cannot keep up with rapidly mounting costs and risks falling back amid the current economic crisis. An equally serious threat is the increasing deterioration of production facilities at some defense plants, making them in many cases incapable of producing military hardware. A glaring example is last year's scandal involving the modernization of the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov for the Indian Navy. Most experts agree that a shortage of engineers and skilled workers at the shipyard, coupled with rising component prices, caused the fallback. This raises doubts that the yard, which is working on a large submarine building program, can also shoulder an aircraft carrier construction program being pushed on it. There are many examples of failure to fulfill the state defense order: delivery of Su-34 aircraft and Mi-28N helicopters is well behind schedule, the missile-carrying submarine Yury Dolgoruky is certain not to be launched in 2008, and the second submarine in the series is unlikely to hit the water in 2009, as scheduled, either. At the same time, there is some good news: the timeline for Topol-M deliveries to troops is being scrupulously followed, although it is not known whether it will be kept when another new missile - the RS-24 - starts to be mass-produced. It is understandable that defense sector plants cannot solve their problems by themselves, as these have taken twenty years to pile up. A way out must be found in the near future, and must involve state support, not only in the form of financial injections and bylaws regulating profit rates. It must above all be a state program for retooling defense plants, providing them with up-to-date equipment and staffing them with highly-trained workforce. And while the first problem can be addressed by imports from abroad, the second one will take years and require an overhauling (actually re-establishing) of a system of vocational training. Aside from other factors, there is also the psychological one - the appeal of a worker's job in the post-Soviet era has substantially diminished in Russia. Defense order problems are not endemic to Russia alone. The number of programs to make purchases for the US Armed Forces that failed or were terminated because of exorbitant prices defy listing. Among the latest and largest, mention should be made of the winding up of a program to build LCS class warships, a program to build Zumwalt-type destroyers, a program to build the Comanche reconnaissance helicopter and a program to build the ARH-70 reconnaissance helicopter. The models that have made it to the production stage are also plagued by problems. The U.S. Navy, for example, is dissatisfied with the quality of San Antonio class landing craft, whose tactical fitness is under threat because of a host of defects, while the Marine Corps has refused to adopt for service the newest EFV amphibious vehicles, which have likewise proved to be unreliable and costly. The resumption of an arms race following a long pause is proving too heavy for both key participants, although is unlikely to "call off the competition." The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

Competing Against Israel

Competing Against Israel (NSI News Source Info) October 29, 2008: For the second year, the Hamas office in the capital of Iran, is sponsoring a hacking contest.
Masked militants of Islamic Jihad march during a rally marking the 13th anniversary of the death of the group's leader Fathi Shekaki in Khan Younis refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, Friday Oct. 24, 2008. Shekaki was shot and killed in a shooting attack in Malta in 1995. The group claims Israel was responsible for his death.
Whoever makes the most spectacular attack on the most important Israeli web sites (belonging to a government agency or one of the major political parties), wins a prize of $2,000. Not that a lot of Moslem hackers need much encouragement for this sort of thing. But the Islamic radical groups have noticed that they are not getting the best hacking talent, and the Israelis typically respond much more forcefully. It has been found, however, that a prize, and a formal competition, tends to bring in the more skilled, if less religiously radical, Moslem hackers. There are a growing number of programmers and Internet specialists in the Moslem world, but most of them have legitimate jobs in software firms, or maintaining software and Internet services for companies. Some are involved with Internet crime, and a very few spend some time trying to get some Internet based terrorism going. Currently, many of the religious minded Moslem hackers are involved in an Internet based war between Sunni and Shia Moslems. Although most Hamas members are Sunni, Shia Iran is a major backer of Hamas. So it makes sense for Hamas to come up with something to stop the Internet war between Shia and Sunni Moslems, and unite everyone against Israel.

Pirates Seize Ships Off Somalia...Another Ceasefire To Ignore..

Pirates Seize Ships Off Somalia....Another Ceasefire To Ignore (NSI News Source Info) October 29, 2008: A third of the nearly 200 pirate attacks in the world so far this year have occurred off the Somali coast. Moreover, nearly all the serious piracy cases (where the ship is hijacked, not just robbed) have occurred off Somalia. So far this year, 63 ships have been attacked off the Somali coast. Pirates managed to seize 26 vessels (8 off the east coast, 18 in the Gulf of Aden).
Armed pirates hijacked a tanker and a ship off Somalia's coast, the latest in a series of attacks that have sent jitters among seafarers in an area known for its lawlessness.
Currently, 12 vessels are held for ransom, along with some 250 sailors. NATO, the European Union and countries in the region still have no solution to the piracy. The twenty or so warships off the Somali coast can make life more difficult for the pirates, but won't stop the piracy. They might reduce it a bit for a while, but more and more warlords are setting up piracy operations along the north coast (in Puntland). The money is too good to ignore, and the foreign warships are unwilling to shoot-on-sight speedboats (even if weapons are not visible.) While the French have seized and destroyed two such speedboats, most nations sending warships have given their captains more restrictive ROE (Rules Of Engagement). The Ethiopian policy of driving away hostile civilians, led to 35,000 people fleeing Mogadishu last month. These refugees go to camps along the roads leading to Mogadishu. From there, the members of families belonging to Islamic or clan militias that want to regain control of Mogadishu, commute to the city (10-20 kilometers away) to fight. Ethiopia has agreed to withdraw from Somalia, feeling that they have the rebellion in Ogaden (a province adjacent to Somalia full of ethnic Somalis) under control, and can come back into Somalia if the Somalis do not control their Islamic militants (who have been preaching for the need to take Ogaden from Somalia). NATO warships have begun patrolling the coast of Somalia, and escorting aid ships (especially those carrying food) to Mogadishu and other ports. Much of the food is stolen by warlords once it gets ashore. October 27, 2008: In the southern port of Kismayo, seized by Islamic militants two months ago, a woman was executed by stoning. She had been raped, but was accused of adultery, for which Sharia (Islamic law) prescribes stoning to death as punishment. October 26, 2008: The Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS, a successor to the Islamic Courts Union) and the Transitional National Government (TNG) signed a ceasefire, that calls for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops. However, about a third of the gunmen loyal to the ARS, the radical third, refused to abide by the agreement. These radicals have over a thousand gunmen available for fighting. This agreement calls for Ethiopia to withdraw from Mogadishu by November 21st, and be out of the country in four months. The ARS and TNG signed a ceasefire last June, but that one was wrecked by radical factions of the ARS. This time, the TNG and ARS are to set up a security force of 10,000 gunmen, who will fight those who violate the ceasefire. October 25, 2008: Another foreign aid worker (employed by a woman's rights NGO) was killed, making it fifteen so far this year. The Islamic radical groups are increasingly hostile to foreigners, or Somalis working for foreign aid organizations. They will tolerate the free food coming in, as long as the foreign aid workers do not try and stop the Islamic radicals from controlling who the food goes to. October 24, 2008: Gunmen loyal to the Transitional National Government (TNG) attacked and drove Islamic radical gunmen out of the town of Bardale, which is 60 kilometers west of the TNG capital at Baidoa. Five people were killed in this action. October 23, 2008: France turned eight pirates over to the Puntland government, four days after capturing them at sea. The French sailors burned the pirates two speed boats (the pirates had already tossed their weapons into the water). October 21, 2008: Indian sailors are threatening, through their union, to refuse to work on ships going near the Somali coast. Pirates recently seized an Indian dhow (a type of sailing ship used throughout the Indian ocean for centuries) off the Somali coast. Fortunately, Puntland police were able to arrest four of the pirates (the other four escaped) and freed the dhow and its crew of 13. Normally, when the pirates come ashore, they do so at a heavily guarded village that has been taken over by a warlord. But smaller groups of pirates are now out there, and these groups are not so formidable on land. October 20, 2008: Two UN aid workers have been killed in the past two days, and the UN is helpless to do much about it.

Escalating Conflict in Mosul, Iraq

Escalating Conflict in Mosul, Iraq (NSI News Source Info) October 29, 2008: The central government in Baghdad perceives the semiautonomous Kurdish region in the north of Mosul and the Kurds' larger ambitions to expand areas under their control as a central obstacle to its power. The American military is increasingly concerned that Mosul, a northern city in Iraq where insurgents remain strong, could degenerate into a larger battleground. Left, an American soldier near an Iraqi Amy base in western Mosul.
Iraqi soldiers in western Mosul. Tension has risen to the point that last week American commanders held a series of emergency meetings with the Iraqi government and Kurdish officials, seeking to head off violence essentially between factions of the Iraqi government.
A Iraqi Army captain interrogated an Arab whose father is being held as a suspected insurgent. The Americans are hoping to refocus the central government and the Kurds on fighting the insurgency rather than each other.
Iraqi soldiers at a checkpoint in Mosul after a mortar landed nearby. The Kurds are resisting, underscoring yet again the depth of ethnic and sectarian divisions here and the difficulty of creating a united Iraq even when overall violence is down.
Worry is so high that the American military has already settled on a policy that may set a precedent, as the United States slowly withdraws to allow Iraqis to settle their own problems. Left, an Iraqi soldier prayed at an Iraqi Amy base in western Mosul.
The competing agendas of the Kurds and central government have nearly provoked violence before, but each side eventually grasped the risks. That may be the case now. But the tensions underscore that achieving basic security is only the first step toward deeper progress in Iraq -- and that much remains, bitterly, unresolved.

Russian Military To Receive Up To 30 Alligator Helicopters By 2012

Russian Military To Receive Up To 30 Alligator Helicopters By 2012 (NSI News Source Info) ARSENYEV (Primorye) - October 29, 2008: The Russian Armed Forces will receive up to 30 new Kamov Ka-52 Alligator helicopters by 2012, the head of the Progress aircraft maker said on Wednesday.
Kamov Ka-52 Alligator
"The company plans to deliver up to 30 Ka-52 helicopters by 2012," Yury Denisenko told reporters after a demonstration of the helicopter in Arsenyev, in Russia's Far East. Ka-52 chief designer Sergei Mikheyev said the helicopter would meet strong demand on the world arms market, and that India and several Southeast Asian countries had already shown an interest. He also said a new, ship-born Ka-52 modification would be developed soon. The multi-role all-weather combat Ka-52 Alligator (NATO reporting name: Hokum B) helicopter is a twin-seat derivative of the attack Ka-50. It can be used for a wide range of combat missions.

Syria Appeals To UN Over U.S. Air Strike

Syria Appeals To UN Over U.S. Air Strike (NSI News Source Info) DAMASCUS - October 29, 2008: Syria has appealed to the UN after a U.S. attack over the weekend left eight civilians dead and 14 others injured, national media reported on Tuesday. Syrian media earlier reported that on Sunday American troops launched an airborne assault on a village near the Iraqi border, killing eight civilians, including four children. The U.S. said the helicopter strike had targeted al-Qaeda fighters moving through Syria into Iraq. The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) said that two letters, addressed to the UN Secretary General and Security Council head, had been sent to the UN on Tuesday with a request to prevent further attacks "by the U.S. inside Syrian lands." "Syria draws attention to this aggressive act and expects the UN Security Council and member countries to assume their responsibility by preventing a repetition of this dangerous violation," the letters read. Syria also urged the UN Security Council "to hold the aggressor responsible for the deaths of innocent Syrian nationals". Moscow has said it is "greatly concerned" by the incident, while France urged "restraint" by both sides. Egypt called the U.S. operation a "serious violation of Syria's sovereignty," while Iraq condemned the attack and said it has launched an investigation into the raid.

Russia Delivers Cargo Plane To China

Russia Delivers Cargo Plane To China (NSI News Source Info) BEIJING, October 29, 2008: The first Russian-made freight plane built for China by the Aviastar-SP aircraft maker has landed at Tianjin Airport, a spokesman for a Russian air company said on Tuesday. The delivery is the first of five new-generation Tu-204-120CE freight planes, powered by Rolls Royce engines and equipped with western avionics, due to be supplied to China's International Cargo Transport Ltd. under a contract signed in 2001. "The delivery of this plane as part of China's order has proved to local airlines that the Russian civil aircraft industry is alive," a spokesman for Aviaexport, involved in delivering the plane, said, adding that it would pave the way for further trade and economic cooperation with China. "It complies fully with international airspace standards, which is confirmed by certificates issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency and Civil Aviation Administration of China," Dmitry Basov said. The Tu-204 medium-range liner is manufactured by Aviastar-SP located in Ulyanovsk, central Russia. It is capable of carrying up to 28 metric tons of cargo over 4,000 km.
In order to broaden the product appeal, the Tu-204-120/220 features western avionics and engines. It is powered by 2 Rolls-Royce RB211-535 engines each with thrust of 192 kN (43,100 lbf). Cairo Aviation of Egypt became the launch operator when it took delivery of a Tu-204-120 and its cargo version the Tu-120C, in November 1998. The Tu-204-220 and Tu-220C, cargo version, is a higher gross weight variant of the basic Tu-204-120. The Tu-204-120 has a maximum take-off weight of 103 metric tons and range with 196 passenger in 2-class configuration is 4,600 km (2,500 nautical miles).

Pakistan Army Out Of Funds To Construct Military Headquarters

Pakistan Army Out Of Funds To Construct Military Headquarters (NSI News Source Info) Source-INDIADEFENCE October 29, 2008: Pakistan's army has halted construction of an expensive new headquarters in the capital, Islamabad, because of the dire economic woes facing the country.Pakistan is grappling with a balance-of-payments crisis and has just a few weeks to raise billions of dollars in foreign loans needed to meet debt payments and pay for imports.The seven-month-old civilian government running Pakistan after more than eight years under former army chief Pervez Musharraf is reluctant to go to the International Monetary Fund for help but analysts say it has little choice.A military spokesman said army chief General Ashfaq Kiyani had decided to suspend construction of a $210 million new headquarters. Even before the economic crisis set in, critics said the project was a waste of money."About 10 percent of work has been completed but we felt it should be halted as we understand the nation's quest for economic stability and want to help," said the spokesman, Major-General Athar Abbas.Construction began last year under Musharraf, on a big plot of land up against the foothills of the Himalayas, as part of a plan to move all three military services to one headquarters.The powerful army's headquarters is in nearby Rawalpindi, which was a garrison town under British colonial rule.Newspapers have speculated that the IMF would seek a big cut in defence spending as part of any loan deal but President Asif Ali Zaradri was reported as saying on Tuesday there would be no cut in the military's budget.The army is battling Islamist militants across the northwest as part of the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism, and is trying to match old rival India's military power.

Aging Aircraft: Cracks In USA’s F/A-18 Fleet

Aging Aircraft: Cracks In USA’s F/A-18 Fleet (NSI News Source Info) October 29, 2008: The USA’s is watching the average age of its fighter fleet rise, and will continue to do so even if all F-22s and F-35s envisioned in current Pentagon plans are purchased. “Aging Aircraft: USAF F-15 Fleet Grounded” covered the long saga of the USA’s F-15A-D fleet, which is culminating in early retirement for a number of its aircraft.
F/A-18C to Afghanistan
The A-10C re-winging program acquired added urgency with the recent revelation that wing cracks had been found in active aircraft. Now the US Navy’s long-serving F/A-18A-D Hornet fleet can be added to the list. Earlier in October 2008, a routine post-flight maintenance inspection found a crack in an aileron hinge, which led to inspections of Hornets from various squadrons. Similar cracks were found on 14 other planes, which prompted a fleet-wide inspection bulletin on Oct 23/08. The tests will require about 15 days, and priority will be given to the 112 deployed Hornets within the 636-plane fleet. Aileron hinge replacement requires service back at a depot, however, and outer wing panel replacement is a 4-day exercise. That could remove some of these aircraft from duty. Unlike the newer F/A-18 E/F super Hornets, the Hornets under scrutiny have 5,000 – 7,500 light hours on their airframes, in an aircraft initially designed for 6,000 hours. Life extension programs have extended that limit to 8,000 hours, and structural improvements that include center barrel replacements are expected to extend that to 10,000 hours. Nevertheless, other problem can and do arise, as illustrated here. They will need to be manageable, because the US Navy already projects a shortage of strike aircraft from 2015-2025, due to forced Hornet retirements and slower replacement via Super Hornet and F-35C deliveries. 2017 is currently pegged as the nadir, with a shortage of 69 aircraft. Aero News Network Flight International CNN Virginian-Pilot.

China Considers Next-Generation Su-33s For Aircraft Carrier Programme

China Considers Next-Generation Su-33s For Aircraft Carrier Programme (NSI News Source Info) October 29, 2008: China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is close to reaching a decision on the procurement of aircraft for its aircraft carrier programme, Russian industry sources have reported.
Sukhoi Su-33
Negotiations between the PLAN and the Komsomolsk-na-Amure Aviation Production Association (KnAAPO) in Russia have been held intermittently for several years, with the Chinese military said to be unsure whether to purchase a version of the Sukhoi Su-33 carrier-capable fighter or develop its own carrier aircraft based on the Chengdu J-10. Russian sources have now told Jane's that under the current proposal the Russian in-service Su-33 would be put back into production and the PLAN would acquire 14 of this type to be used for the training phase of the programme. This option will see a carrier aircraft delivered to the PLAN in the shortest possible timeframe. The development of a new-configuration aircraft to be used in actual carrier operations would take place in parallel with this training programme. "The next step will be to modernise the Su-33, which was first designed in the late 1980s, with a new set of state-of-the-art onboard systems," a KnAAPO representative told Jane's on the eve of the biennial Air Show China in late October. "What this new aeroplane is most likely to be is a combination Su-33 airframe with a radar, avionics and cockpit instrumentation that is a 'developed' configuration based on the Su-30MK2, and this will be the PLAN's operational version."
Near the end of October 2006, Russia’s Kommersant newspaper revealed that Russian state-run weapon exporter Rosoboronexport is completing negotiations with China to deliver up to 48 Sukhoi SU-33 (NATO codename: Flanker-D) carrier-capable fighter aircraft in a purchase deal reportedly worth $2.5 billion. The SU-33 is a variant of Sukhoi’s SU-27 Flanker with forward canards, foldings wings, an arrester hook, a reinforced structure, and other modifications that help it deal with carrier operations and landings.