Monday, November 03, 2008

Japan Having Hard Time Getting Recruits For Military Careers

Japan Having Hard Time Getting Recruits For Military Careers (NSI News Source Info) Tokyo - November 3, 2008: In a country that has been officially pacifist for decades, even Japan's military is embracing a non-aggressive approach. Despite politicians' push for Japan to play a greater role in global security, the number of people seeking military careers is dwindling as the population grows older and the young find the armed forces very uncool. The Japanese military is responding by launching a charm offensive, letting young people pose for snapshots in uniform and wooing them with cute cartoonish characters. A key target for the campaign by the military -- known as the Self-Defence Forces (SDF) under the pacifist constitution -- is in Tokyo's trendy Shibuya district. Mannequins in ground, marine and air force uniforms stand at the windows of the military's Shibuya office, where uniforms on hangers are ready to be tried on. A TV screen shows videos about life in the SDF. In a glass case are plastic models of planes, ships and tanks along with tiny dolls of smiling, saluting female military personnel. Some 1,600 people have visited the showroom since its official opening on July 1, many more than the 1,000 expected, said Major Makoto Nishida, who is in charge of recruiting and personnel affairs at the Ground Staff Office. Nishida said the number of applicants applying for entry into the SDF had nearly halved from the peak years of 2002 and 2003. "The number of children is on the decline while more are seeking higher education," he told AFP. "Young people just don't think that joining the SDF is one of the options for their future career, unlike becoming police officers or firefighters. We need to soften the image of the SDF as being rigid, severe and dangerous." As soft piano music played on the speakers, two girls browsed the racks in the room, giggling and looking for the cutest outfits. "It was fun," said Akina Namegawa, 15, after trying on a uniform and having her photo taken for free. -- Parents enjoy seeing their children in uniforms -- Her friend Chihiro Shimozuka said she had never thought of joining the military as "it looks tough". But after a browse around the office, she said: "I now think I may take a little bit of interest." While Japan's image in parts of Asia and the West remains tainted by wartime militarism, Japan now officially has no military. The country renounced the use of force in its 1947 constitution imposed by US occupiers. Troops in the post-war SDF -- which has never fired a shot in combat -- are technically civil servants at the defence ministry. The Shibuya office displays the ultimate non-aggressive symbol of the SDF -- big-eyed, apple-cheeked characters named Prince Pickles and his girlfriend Parsley. "As pickles and parsley bring out the best in the main dish in cuisine, they match the (SDF) image of bringing the best out of the people and supporting them," explains the defence ministry. Uniformed men and women distribute stickers of Prince Pickles and Parsley on the street, while inviting children to touch ice the navy has brought from Antarctica. The SDF also runs commercials on television and at cinemas. Despite the pacifist constitution, Japan has the world's fifth biggest military budget and maintains more than 230,000 SDF personnel. The military's mission took a landmark turn when then prime minister Junichiro Koizumi deployed troops to Iraq to help rehabilitate the country after the 2003 US-led invasion. It was the first time since 1945 that Japan deployed armed forces to a country where fighting was underway. The ground mission ended in 2006 but Japan has a naval mission off Afghanistan as part of the US-led "war on terror". The SDF image has taken a serious blow due to a string of scandals. Japan's largest and newest destroyer collided with a fishing boat in February, killing two men -- a father and his adult son -- on board. In September, a naval officer training for an elite counter-intelligence unit died after being forced to kick-box with 15 other men at once in what was apparently a ritual at the base. And so the military PR is starting young. The Shibuya centre has try-out uniforms for children 120 centimetres (four feet) tall, about the size of children entering primary school. Nishida said there were no complaints. "We hope children will have a friendly image towards us. Actually parents are enjoying seeing their children wearing uniforms," he said.

India, Poland Discuss Strategic Ties

India, Poland Discuss Strategic Ties (NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI - November 3, 2008: India and Poland will attempt to set the foundation of a long-term strategic relationship during the Nov. 3-5 visit here of Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich, say officials in the Indian External Affairs Ministry. Areas to be discussed include the possibility of joint research, development and production of weapon systems, said a senior Indian Defence Ministry official. Klich and his Indian counterpart, A.K. Antony, will hold formal talks during the visit, and the Polish defense minister also will meet with top officials of major state-owned Indian defense companies, including Hindustan Aeronautics, Bharat Electronics, Bharat Earth Movers and the Ordnance Factories Board, which manages the 39 Indian defense factories. The Defence Ministry official said they are interested in Polish help to upgrade existing Russian weaponry and equipment. Bumar of Poland already is competing for India's procurement tender of 100 pieces of 155mm self-propelled guns. A diplomat of the Polish Embassy said Poland can help upgrade, on a partnership basis, Indian T-72 tanks, BMP II infantry combat vehicles and a variety of air defense systems purchased from the former Soviet Union. New Delhi and Warsaw signed their first memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation in February 2003, during the visit here of Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller to India. Based on the memorandum, four meetings of a Joint Working Group between the two countries have been held to establish defense cooperation.

DTN News: Bangladesh Mobilizes Warships Over Gas Tensions

DTN News: Bangladesh Mobilizes Warships Over Gas Tensions (NSI News Source Info) DHAKA, Bangladesh - November 3, 2008: Bangladesh mobilized three warships and said it would take "all possible measures" to protect its territory Nov. 3 after accusing neighboring Myanmar of encroaching on its seawaters to hunt for gas. Bangladesh will also send a high-level delegation to Myanmar to "defuse" tensions between the two countries, according to a statement issued by the foreign ministry. The Bangladesh Navy originally under Bangladesh Forces was created during the Bangladesh War of Independence in 1971 against Pakistan. Its official creation was established in July 1971 during the historic Bangladesh Sector Commanders Conference 1971. In 1971, with West Pakistan imposing a military rule in East Pakistan, the Bangladesh War of Independence also known as Bangladesh Liberation War was truly underway. Many Bengali sailors and officers in the Pakistan Navy defected to form the Bangladesh Navy. On 9 November 1971, the first naval fleet consisting of six small ships was inaugurated. Initially, there were two ships and 45 navy personnel. These ships tried to carry out raids on the Pakistani fleet and later were mistakenly hit and sunk by Indian fighter planes on December 10, 1971. A major attack was launched on Mongla seaport. According to official figures from Bangladesh Navy, a total of 334 sailors were involved with the newly created navy with 22 being killed. These sailors were mostly Pakistan Navy trained divers who were absorbed into regular navy after the war ended.* Bangladesh's foreign minister Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury said he had warned Myanmar's envoy to Dhaka that "all steps would be taken to protect the sovereignty and territory of Bangladesh." The Bangladesh Navy warships took up position near disputed waters in the Bay of Bengal to face off with the Myanmar exploration fleet, top navy officials told an AFP correspondent in southeastern port city of Chittagong. "Myanmar navy deployed four civil ships with survey team and equipment of a Korean exploration company at the front side at the disputed waters backed by its two warships from behind," an official said. "We are observing the situation and have urged Myanmar navy to pull back their ships in a bid to ease tension," said a navy official. "We are on high alert." On Nov. 2, Bangladesh summoned Myanmar's envoy to hand over a "strong protest note" over the reported intrusion of vessels to look for oil. The area in question has not been demarcated and both countries claim it as their own. The Myanmar embassy in Dhaka said it had no official comment. Myanmar has discovered huge reserves of natural gas in the Bay of Bengal and has expressed its intention to carry out further exploration in a stretch of the sea also claimed by Bangladesh. The two countries have held a series of meetings in the past year aimed at resolving the disputes over the maritime boundary, including a meeting last month in Dhaka of senior ministers from both countries. Early this year Bangladesh divided its sea territory into 28 blocks and auctioned off the area to international oil companies as part of its efforts to end chronic gas shortages in the once gas-rich country. Myanmar immediately protested the move. Meanwhile, Bangladesh's border security forces said that four Bangladeshi woodcutters were killed after trespassing into Myanmar. Colonel Naim of Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) told AFP the woodcutters' mutilated bodies had been found late Nov. 2 by relatives two kilometers (1.2 miles) inside Myanmar at the foot of a hilly pass. The two countries share a 90-kilometre unfenced border along hilly and porous terrain. "We don't know whether they were killed by the Myanmar border forces or local people from Myanmar, but it appears that the four bodies had been tossed over a hill about 1,000 feet (300 meters) high," said Naim, who uses only one name. He said the bodies were badly disfigured and officials in Bangladesh would be contacting border forces in Myanmar as part of their investigation into the killings. "We have never had such deaths along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border before," he said.

Syria Unexpected Surprised By American Helicopters

Syria Unexpected Surprised By American Helicopters (NSI News Source Info) November 3, 2008: On October 26th, four American helicopters crossed from Iraq into Syria. Two of the helicopters landed near the village of Sukariyya, and Special Forces troops engaged in a brief gun battle with members of the Abu Ghadiyahas network, who had been using the village as part of the smuggling network that brought money, weapons and suicide bombers into Iraq. Eight people died, two were taken captive, and the American soldiers left unharmed.
American helicopters
The timing of the strike is somewhat curious. President Assad of Syria had been moving to close off the border for terrorists, and was making other overtures, though slowly, probably trying to figure out how to stay in power regardless of who wins what. A strike like this, with high potential fallout should have been vetted at the highest level. Was the guy the Special Forces were going after worth it? The fallout is serious, with most Arab states in the neighborhood, including Iraq, criticizing it. Iran was particularly angry, and upset. That's probably because Iran has also supported terrorists based in its territory, and allowing them to move men, money and weapons across the border. Shia radical leader Muqtada al Sadr is hiding out in Iran, where his followers are trained to be better terrorists, then sent back to Iraq. U.S. officials offered international law as justification for this "invasion" of Syria. It goes like this. The United Nations Charter allows nations to defend themselves when under attack, and allows operations inside a foreign nation that cannot, or will not, stop attacks on a foreign country from within its borders. This clause was included to cover a common situation, where one nation will tolerate rebels from another taking refuge inside its borders. This is usually rebels or bandits who use that bases to conduct raids and banditry inside the neighboring nation. Often, the sanctuary nation is unable to clean out the hostile gunmen, or unwilling to do so because they support the goals of the gunmen, or simply want to weaken their neighbor by making it easier for the rebels or bandits to operate. Afghanistan and Iraq would appear to meet these criteria. Afghan and Iraqi officials have long complained about terrorists crossing over from neighboring countries (Pakistan, Iraq and Iran), often with the assistance of border guards. Pakistan had something of an excuse, as they have never been able to control the tribes along the border, and have special laws that grant some autonomy to the border tribes, as long as they control cross-border raids. Pakistan has obviously not been controlling the Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists, so the U.S., as an ally of the Afghans, has been crossing the border, in compliance with the UN Charter, to strike at the hostile forces. This has been going on for nearly a year. Now the practice has spread to Syria, and the Iranians fear they are next. It's this legal angle that has prevents any of the invaded countries from taking the U.S. before an international court. Syria, Pakistan and Iran know that there is a preponderance of evidence proving that terrorists are camping out in their territory, and operating across the border. Even so, the reaction from the Syrians has been rather muted, almost pro forma – they could easily be a lot more vehement about it, let the "rioters" do lots of damage to US property, recall their ambassador, and so on. Could it be that they're not terribly unhappy the raid took place? Assad and his henchmen certainly must realize that al Qaeda ultimately is a threat to their own power, given that Syria is run by secular Shia nationalist socialists (the Baath party). Al Qaeda in Syria only holds back from attacking the government because Assad has been turning a blind eye to operations by Abu Ghadiyahas and his gang. As al Qaeda loses in Iraq, and as Iraq becomes increasingly able to handle its own security, the Abu Ghadiyahas net in Syria could pose a threat in several ways – turning against Assad directly would be the most serious, but also if they take actions that could involve risk to Syrian interests, such as trying to stir the pot in Iraq or Lebanon, or organize strikes against Israel. Going deeper, could the Americans have been tipped off by Assad to the presence of Abu Ghadiyahas with a wink and a nod, possibly through the Israelis, with whom Assad seems to be developing a covert relationship?

ELSORV Prototypes Test Run In Afghanistan

ELSORV Prototypes Test Run In Afghanistan
(NSI News Source Info) November 3, 2008: The enhanced logistic off-road vehicle, known as the ELSORV, may be the answer to navigating Afghanistan’s rugged terrain. Three prototypes are being tested. Afghanistan’s rocky terrain makes the going slow and difficult for supply convoys, evacuation and basic ground transportation. “This vehicle was brought on as an operation need,” said Charlie Copsey, one of the engineers who built the ELSORV. “Rapid Equipment Force funded the building of the prototypes.” All three prototypes are in Afghanistan so soldiers can learn how they handle in the terrain. Over the past year, the ELSORVs went through operational assessments in the United States, and now they are here for a real-world assessment by the soldiers who could end up using the vehicles. “The ELSORV is unlike any other military vehicle I’ve driven,” said Army Sgt. Lance Davis, one of the test drivers. “It goes wherever you want it to go.” Copsey said ELSORVs can carry 2,700 pounds, and they have modified Humvee engines that can conquer approach angles of 90 degrees and climb slopes at 80 degrees. “As long as they have power going to one of the wheels, they’re going to stay mobile,” Copsey said. The ELSORVs allow soldiers to go over obstacles without getting hung up on the undercarriage. The vehicle can go 90 mph safely on a hard surface. “The best place for these vehicles is here in Afghanistan,” Davis said.

France Looks to Regain Export Prominence

France Looks to Regain Export Prominence (NSI News Source Info) November 3, 2008: “Russian Arms Exports Taking Another Jump in 2008” noted the recovery of Russia’s arms industry, which faces significant rebuilding challenges but appears to be on track to surpass the $7.4 billion worth of deals signed in 2007. As “France Trying to Streamline Arms Exports” explained, a cumbersome system was dragging another key exporter down.
Aviation Week’s DTI reports that the reforms are having some effect. France’s defense ministry reported that it had signed off on nearly EUR 4 billion in export contracts by the end of Q3 2008, and is on track to meet its 2008 goal of EUR 6 billion. That’s slightly above previous years, and almost double the nadir reached in 2004. Defense Minister Herve Morin says that France’s long-term goal is to regain the share of the export market it enjoyed during the 1990s, and recover to 13% or about EUR 10 billion by 2010. Key losses in Saudi Arabia and Morocco appear to have stung France’s bureaus into action. Morin credits some of the improved performance to MNA Yves Fromion’s approval reforms, which lengthened general approvals’ duration, discarded them for deals under EUR 150,000, and streamlined the application process. Morin says that wait times have dropped by over 60% to just 30 days on average, with 97% of applications now processed within a month and 20% of contracts given expedited treatment. The reforms also created an inter-ministerial committee to handle major deals, with 67 deals approved by the committee in the last 16 months. Morin is cautiously optimistic that contracts with Libya and Brazil can be signed before year’s end.

British Forces New Mobility "Jackal".... Supacat’s HMT Vehicles

British Forces New Mobility "Jackal".... Supacat’s HMT Vehicles (NSI News Source Info) November 3, 2008: Britain is part of the general push by western countries to field heavier, mine-protected vehicles, via orders for the Mastiff Cougar variant and it’s smaller 4×4 Ridgback companion. UK forces are also fielding vehicles like the Land Rover WMIK (Weapons Mounted Installation Kit) that have a very different concept: firepower and visibility over protection. When deployed in mixed groups with more protected vehicles, and used on open terrain like the plains of southern Afghanistan, ‘the porcupine’ (WMIK) has earned enemy respect and commander requests.
Jackal, Afghanistan Supacat’s HMT Vehicles
The British sought to build on the WMIK’s strengths, in order to create a comparable vehicle with greater firepower and off-road mobility. Supacat’s HMT has been adopted by the British as the MWMIK or “Jackal”. The vehicle has picked up an additional order from Britain, will be used by Australia’s SAS commandos, and is drawing interest from other countries as a special forces platform.
The British Land Rover WMIK lacks even the protection level of an armored Hummer. It’s a flat-bottomed vehicle with the troops are positioned over the axles, which is where pressure mines will detonate. It has very little armor on the sides, no doors, and lacks a roof to protect its crew from the elements. Its weapons even lack transparent gunshields. This is sometimes costly, vid. the June 9/07 incident outside of Sangin, Afghanistan. What the WMIK it does have is a pair of weapon mounts for firepower overmatch. The main mount can take a heavy machine gun for accurate ranged fire, or the 40mm grenade machine guns that have been in demand for their devastating area effects, or even a Javelin missile for use as a scouting mechanism and ultra-accurate long range shot. There’s also a lighter 7.62mm machine gun mount next to the “shotgun” front seat. The “infantry enhancement” effect is similar to adding one of the Royal Marines’ popular BvS-10 Viking tracked vehicles, but with an adjusted set of plusses and minuses.

US NavyCarrier Pilots’ T-45 Training System

US Navy Carrier Pilots’ T-45 Training System (NSI News Source Info) November 3, 2008: The US Navy uses the Hawk-based T-45TS system to train its pilots for the transition from T-6A Texan II/ JPATS aircraft to modern jet fighters – and carrier landings. This is not a risk-free assignment, by any means. Nevertheless, it is a critical link in the naval aviation chain. The T-45 Training System (T45TS), developed for and used by the U.S. Naval Air Training Command, is the first totally integrated jet aircraft training system. It comprises the Boeing-built T-45 Goshawk, advanced flight and instrument simulators, computer-assisted instructional programs, and a computerized training integration system. The integration of all five elements produces a superior pilot in less time and at lower cost than previous training systems. The T45TS has enabled the U.S. Navy to reduce total student flight-hours by 28 percent and duration of training by 17 weeks.