Thursday, November 13, 2008

India navy displays country's rising might

India navy displays country's rising might (NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI — November 13, 2008: A helicopter carrying Indian commandos swooped in low over the distressed Saudi Arabian chemical tanker, firing its machine guns and sending three speedboats filled with pirates fleeing for the lawless Somali coast.
Twenty minutes later they rescued a nearby Indian ship, navy officials said, foiling another hijack attempt by a different band of pirates in east African waters of the Indian Ocean. Tuesday's rescues, by forces based on an Indian warship patrolling some 1,800 miles from their home port, mark a significant step for the South Asian giant, which is determined to translate its growing economic strength into global military and political clout. And on Wednesday, India successfully test-fired a medium-range, surface-to surface missile — called Shourya (Valor) — with a range of 375 miles. The announcement of the test followed an earlier anonymous report that the weapon tested was a nuclear-capable K-15 missile. At the heart of this effort — which has seen the country of 1.1 billion people become a nuclear power and actively campaign for a seat on the United Nations Security Council — is a program to expand the navy from traditional coast-guard duties to one of the world's largest sea forces. In the process, India is acquiring the biggest visible symbols of naval power — aircraft carriers — and nuclear submarines. India plans to have three aircraft carriers at sea in the next decade — a refurbished Russian one and two made locally. India is also leasing an advanced Russian Akula-class submarine and designing a homegrown version, the Advanced Technology Vehicle. India's attempts to secure nuclear submarines surfaced this week after 20 people were killed in an accident on a Russian submarine undergoing sea trials Saturday in the Sea of Japan. Russian and Indian media reports said the craft was destined for India, though neither country would confirm it. India's navy chief said last month that a Russian submarine would be used to train the crews that will, eventually, man Indian nuclear subs. India currently operates 16 diesel-powered submarines. In part, India's efforts are in response to moves by China. The two countries are increasingly competing for influence over vital Indian Ocean shipping lanes, and India fears China's large and increasingly sophisticated submarine fleet. The U.S. military says China already has eight nuclear submarines, three of which are believed to be able to launch nuclear weapons. While Indian and Chinese relations are the closest in decades, the Indian military also harbors a long-standing mistrust of China dating back to a brief 1962 border war in which China routed India's forces. The Indian navy has been slowly expanding its scope of operations, with rescue operations during the 2004 tsunami and in Lebanon during the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. They have also held joint maneuvers with other navies active in the area, particularly the United States. But Tuesday's missions against pirates marked the first time the navy had fired shots to protect India's overseas interests. The clash involved the Indian warship, the INS Tabar, which was dispatched to the Gulf of Aden in October after a spike in piracy and hijackings off the coast of Somalia many of them targeting ships that are Indian or had Indian crews. Much of India's trade and the energy supplies vital to fueling India's economy flow through those waters.

Afghan Commandos Capture Explosives Expert

Afghan Commandos Capture Explosives Expert (NSI News Source Info) American Forces Press Service, WASHINGTON - November 13, 2008: Afghan national security forces, assisted by their coalition partners, captured enemy bomb expert Badshah Khel in the Sabari district of Afghanistan’s Khowst province last night, military officials reported. After receiving credible information from local Afghan officials, Afghan National Army commandos conducted an early morning raid on Badshah Khel's compound and captured him within minutes of initiating the operation, officials said, adding that no shots were fired and no noncombatants were harmed.
Afghan National Army soldiers march during their graduation ceremony in Kabul October 18, 2008
Badshah Khel is one of the most active roadside-bomb cell commanders in the area, and is responsible for numerous attacks against coalition and Afghan national security forces in the Khowst province, officials said. In other news from Afghanistan, coalition forces acted in self-defense after a civilian vehicle, driving erratically, inserted itself into a military convoy in western Afghanistan yesterday. One Afghan was killed and another Afghan was wounded. The wounded person was taken to a local coalition base for treatment. Coalition forces went through warning procedures, including firing warning shots, before the vehicle posed an imminent threat, officials said. Coalition forces then fired into the engine block of the civilian vehicle. A round ricocheted, resulting in the death of one of the civilians. The incident occurred near the site of a suicide bombing that killed two coalition members Nov. 9. The incident is under investigation. (Compiled from U.S. Forces Afghanistan news releases.)

Russia to buy pilotless aircraft from Israel over 3 years - MP

Russia to buy pilotless aircraft from Israel over 3 years - MP (NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - November 13, 2008: The Russian General Staff has decided to buy unmanned planes from Israel over the next two to three years, a lawmaker in the lower house's defense committee said Thursday. Mikhail Musatov quoted General Staff chief Nikolai Makarov as saying: "The General Staff has decided that while we don't have such drones, over the next two to three years, we will buy them from Israel." Musatov said the unmanned reconnaissance planes at issue were those used by Georgia during August offensive on its breakaway republic of South Ossetia. "These are unmanned reconnaissance planes, which had performed well in Georgia. They were used by Georgia at that time," he said. Numerous flights by reconnaissance drones over South Ossetia were reported by Russian peacekeepers before Georgia launched its military offensive against the region on August 8. Earlier reports said Georgia had acquired a total of 40 drones, worth around $2 million each, from Israel between 2006 and 2008.

Russia considers opening Black Sea Fleet base in Abkhazia

Russia considers opening Black Sea Fleet base in Abkhazia (NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - November 13, 2008: Russia is considering opening a base for its Black Sea Fleet in Abkhazia, a lawmaker and former fleet commander said on Thursday. Russia's Black Sea Fleet uses a range of naval facilities in Ukraine's Crimea as part of a 1997 agreement, under which Ukraine agreed to lease the bases to Russia until 2017. Vladimir Komoyedov, a Communist Party lawmaker, took part in a parliamentary defense committee meeting on the Armed Forces' development up to 2020. Asked about the possibility of creating a base at Ochamchira, a seaside town in the separatist Georgian republic recognized by Russia as independent, Komoyedov said: "The issue concerning Abkhazia is under consideration." Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko announced in the summer that Ukraine would not extend the lease of the base in the Crimean city of Sevastopol beyond 2017, and urged the Russian fleet to start preparations for a withdrawal. Although the agreement for Russia's use of the base foresees a possible extension of the lease, and Moscow has repeatedly said it wants negotiations on the issue, Ukraine reiterated its position last month that it would not permit an extension of Russia's naval presence in the country after 2017. Tensions between Russia and Ukraine heightened after several Black Sea Fleet warships dropped anchor off the Georgian coast during and after the August armed conflict with Georgia over breakaway South Ossetia. Earlier in the month a source in the Russian Defense Ministry said that Russia plans in 2009 to open one base in Gudauta, in the west of Abkhazia, and another in Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia. Russian General Staff chief Gen. Nikolai Makarov told journalists in Moscow in October that in line with friendship and assistance treaties, concluded with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, each base will deploy some 3,700 service personnel.

Indian lunar probe starts remote sensing of Moon

Indian lunar probe starts remote sensing of Moon (NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI - November 13, 2008: India's first lunar probe entered its final polar orbit around the Moon late on Wednesday and has now begun remote sensing of the surface, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said on Thursday. Chandrayaan-1, meaning "Moon Craft" in ancient Sanskrit, was launched on an Indian-built PSLV-C11 rocket on October 22. The next step in a two-year mission will be the release of the Moon Impact Probe, which will take photographs of the Earth's largest satellite and analyze the composition of its thin atmosphere before landing on the lunar surface. Researchers hope the probe will uncover signs of Helium 3, an isotope that may fuel energy generation from nuclear fusion in the future, the ISRO said. The 1,304-kg spacecraft is equipped with 10 scientific instruments to study the Moon from a 100-km orbit. Five of the instruments were built in India, while the other five were the result of cooperation with Europe and the United States. The remote-sensing satellite will create a detailed three-dimensional map of the Moon's surface and investigate its chemical composition. The primary goal is the discovery of water, along with magnesium, aluminum, silicon and titanium, and the radioactive elements radon, uranium and thorium. The ISRO said all of the unmanned spacecraft's systems were functioning normally after entering lunar orbit and the instruments would be activated sequentially in the near future. "The analysis of the data received from the spacecraft will take time. The first results can be expected in several weeks," the organization said.

Medvedev says Russia could cancel plans for missiles near Poland

Medvedev says Russia could cancel plans for missiles near Poland (NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - November 13, 2008: Russia could abandon its plans to place short-range missiles in the Kaliningrad Region if the new U.S. administration reverses its decision to deploy a missile shield in Central Europe, the president said. As an "asymmetric" response to the missile shield, President Dmitry Medvedev announced last week the possible deployment of Iskander-M short-range missile systems in the Kaliningrad exclave, sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea. "We could reconsider this response if the new U.S. administration is ready to once again review and analyze all the consequences of its decisions to deploy the missiles and radar facilities, and to analyze their effectiveness along with a number of other factors, including how appropriate these means are as a response to the threat from the so-called rogue states," Medvedev said in an interview with France's Figaro newspaper published on Thursday. The Russian president said the signals so far from president-elect Barack Obama's transition team indicate Washington's willingness to consider a compromise on the issue. "The first reaction we have seen from the incoming U.S. administration gives us grounds for hope. In any event, our future partners are reflecting on how useful and effective this system could be, and so it seems that we do have something to discuss. We are ready for talks, and at the same time we are also ready for the 'Zero Option'," Medvedev said. The term Zero Option was first used in the early 1980s to refer to Ronald Reagan's offer to the Soviet Union for the mutual withdrawal of nuclear missiles from Europe. Russia believes that a security agreement based on respect for common interests would remove the need for a U.S. missile shield in central Europe, and consequently the need for tactical missiles to be stationed in Russia's western exclave. "This would be a completely acceptable way out of this situation. Moreover, we are ready to continue work on the idea of a global defense system in which the United States, the European Union member states, and the Russian Federation would all take part," the president said. Washington said last Thursday it had provided new proposals to ease Russia's concerns over the planned deployment of 10 U.S. interceptor missiles in Poland and a tracking radar in the Czech Republic, which the Bush administration has said are needed to counter possible attacks from "rogue" states such as Iran. Russia, which says the missile defense system is a threat to its national security, has indicated it will not address the U.S. proposals until after Barack Obama is inaugurated as U.S. president in January. The U.S. embassy in Moscow announced on Wednesday that Russia and the United States had agreed to resume talks on strategic security and missile defense in December. U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs William Burns discussed arrangements for the upcoming meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier this month.

Final Sniper Rifle Delivered to UK Troops

Final Sniper Rifle Delivered to UK Troops
(NSI News Source Info) November 13, 2008: Snipers fulfil a vital and enduring role on the battlefield, in terms of intelligence gathering, target identification and eliminating high value targets. Unveiled earlier this year, the L115A3 rifle, part of the Sniper System Improvement Programme (SSIP) is a larger calibre weapon and provides state of the art telescopic day and night, all-weather sights, increasing a sniper's effective range considerably; thereby beating enemy forces capability. Group Captain Paul Ridge, the DE&S Light Weapons, Photography and Batteries Integrated Project Team Leader said: "I am delighted to accept the delivery of the last weapon of this order from Accuracy International whose co-operation and performance has been outstanding. "The new weapon system has already been used on operations and is proving to be an outstanding system. Having just returned from Afghanistan, where I had the opportunity to discuss the weapon system with snipers - it is clear that this battle-winning equipment has already proven to be a reliable and extremely accurate system that is giving our forces a real edge" The first batch of SSIP systems was deployed to Afghanistan with members of 16 Air Assault Brigade in May this year with subsequent deliveries being made to training units across the UK.
Tom Irwin, Managing Director of Accuracy International said,
"Accuracy International has supplied sniper rifles to the British forces since the eighties. We accepted the challenge to provide a new .338 calibre rifle and were selected by the MoD, after testing and trials and against international competition. The SSIP contract is extremely significant to us and we have exerted all of our effort to complete this programme on time. We are proud to supply the best .338 sniper rifle in the world to our forces." BACKGROUND NOTE:
-- Accuracy International Ltd is based in Portsmouth and employs around 40 people -- Day sights are manufactured by Schmidt & Bender
-- Other elements of the Sniper System Improvement programme include night sights, spotting scopes, laser range finders and tripods, and will be sourced from a variety of suppliers taking the total procurement value to over £11 million.

Bulgarian Border Police Buys EADS Radios

Bulgarian Border Police Buys EADS Radios
(NSI News Source Info) November 13, 2008: EADS Secure Networks (SN), an integrated activity of EADS Defence & Security, has been awarded by the Bulgarian Ministry of Finance a contract to procure TETRA radios to the Bulgarian Border Police. The contract follows a competitive tendering during which SN has been chosen for its offer. The order encompasses 2200 robust and user-friendly THR880i handheld radios and 350 vehicle mounted TMR880i radios together with their accessories, documentation and training. These radios are to be delivered by the end of the year and will be used as of early 2009. The new equipment will provide the users from the Bulgarian Border Police and other Border Agencies with smooth and secure communication and support their work in their own language, as both the THR880i and TMR880i radios come with Bulgarian display texts and voice feedback. Both radio models have similar features and menus, making it easy for the users to learn how to use the radios and switch from one model to another. SN already delivered the complete TETRA infrastructure which is currently in use by the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior and for which the cooperation dates back to 2002. “This is a strong sign of confidence in our partnership and we remain highly committed to provide the most advanced TETRA solutions to Bulgaria. Together, we are bringing the most modern TETRA equipment to the Bulgarian Border Police who need to rely on efficient tools while fulfilling their hard tasks" said Jean-Marc Nasr, President of EADS Secure Networks.
EADS Secure Networks is a world leading provider of Professional Mobile Radio (PMR) and an integrated activity of EADS Defence & Security (DS). DS is a systems solutions provider for armed forces and civil security worldwide. Its portfolio ranges from sensors and secure networks through missiles to aircraft and UAVs as well as global security, service and support solutions. In 2007, DS – with around 22,000 employees – achieved revenues of EUR 5.5 billion. EADS is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. EADS is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2007, EADS generated revenues of EUR 39.1 billion and employed a workforce of about 116,000.

Lockheed Delivers First C-130J to Norway

Lockheed Delivers First C-130J to Norway
(NSI News Source Info) MARIETTA, Ga. - November 13, 2008: Lockheed Martin delivered the first of four C-130Js to the Royal Norwegian Air Force at a ceremony today with U.S. and Norwegian officials at the company's Marietta, Ga, facility. "As the first C-130J order under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program, the Norway contract marks an important milestone for sales of the C-130J internationally," said Ross Reynolds, vice president of C-130 programs for Lockheed Martin. "Norway joins the growing list of countries that are realizing the flexibility of the Super Hercules and the benefits it brings to a nation's overall airlift capability. With the arrival of its new C-130J aircraft, the Royal Norwegian Air Force will have one of the most advanced cargo fleets in the world." Other nations that are operating or have ordered the C-130J include Australia, Canada, Denmark, India, Italy, Qatar, the United Kingdom and the United States. A second ceremony will occur in Norway when the aircraft flies there at the end of the month. The Norwegian Super Hercules are the longer fuselage, or "stretched," variant of the C-130J similar to those being delivered to the U.S. Air Force. Future C-130J deliveries to Norway will include one in 2009 and two in 2010. "C-130Js provide greater availability, flexibility and reliability than other airlifters," said Reynolds. "Currently they are deployed in two combat theaters and are operating at a very high tempo, efficiently and reliably." In non-combat environments, the C-130Js are used in humanitarian relief efforts such as those following Hurricane Katrina, Thailand's tsunami and Myanmar's typhoon. The worldwide fleet of C-130Js has flown nearly half a million flight hours, with some C-130J operators flying as much as 1,000 hours per month. Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security company that employs about 140,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The corporation reported 2007 sales of $41.9 billion.

Finnish Air Force Eyes F-35 As Hornet Successor

Finnish Air Force Eyes F-35 As Hornet Successor
(NSI News Source Info) November 13, 2008: The Finnish Air Force is keen on Anglo-American stealth strike fighter F-35 as a potential replacement of the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18, the FAF's current mainstay, Finnish national daily Helsingin Sanomat and the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) reported on Wednesday. HS and YLE quoted the FAF as saying that a political decision on replaceing the F/A-18s would ideally be made in 2015, that is, about half way through the fleet's service life. Major-General Jarmo Lindberg, the commander of the FAF, said the cheapest version of the F-35 costs about 70 million euros (56 million euros), or about double the unit cost of an F/A-18.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: the 70 million figure above is an error, and should probably read refer to US dollars, not euros)
The FAF is to begin decommissioning its 63 F/A-18s in 2025, with the last aircraft due to retire five years later.

BAE Wins New $1.6 Bn Order for FMTV Trucks

BAE Wins New $1.6 Bn Order for FMTV Trucks
(NSI News Source Info) SEALY, Texas – November 13, 2008: BAE Systems has been awarded a $1.6 billion contract from the U.S. Army to build another 10,000 Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) and trailers for delivery during 2009 and 2010. Earlier this year, BAE Systems received two contracts totaling nearly $2.1 billion for 10,000 vehicles, and to provide program support, engineering, integrated logistics support, configuration management and field service support. This latest contract brings the total award value for FMTVs in 2008 to $3.7 billion. BAE Systems will manufacture the FMTVs in the Long Term Armor Strategy (LTAS) configuration, which is designed to accept an adaptable armor system allowing protection to be increased or decreased based on the threat. Vehicle variants to be built will include cargo trucks, wreckers, expansible vans, shop vans, tractors, load handling systems, High Mobility Artillery Rocket System support vehicles and Low Velocity Air Drop configured trucks. "This award will boost FMTV production to record rates,” said Chris Chambers, vice president of Medium/Heavy Vehicles for BAE Systems in Sealy, Texas. “It introduces the advanced LTAS FMTV configuration at high numbers, rapidly equipping the U.S. Army with the very latest adaptive, protection technology.” More than 48,000 FMTV trucks and trailers are in service with the U.S. Army. The commonality of parts among FMTVs includes shared engines, transmissions, power trains, tires and cabs. This commonality significantly reduces the logistics burden, and operating and support costs for the U.S. Army. FMTVs have set new tactical vehicle standards for capability, reliability, mobility, protection and transportability. Production of the LTAS cargo vehicles will be performed at BAE Systems’ facilities in Sealy, Texas, and Cincinnati, Ohio. Deliveries of the base contract are expected to be complete by February 2010, and deliveries of the option would be complete by November 2010. BAE Systems employs more than 2,500 people in Sealy, Texas and has nearly 900,000 square feet of manufacturing and office space on approximately 200 acres. The location has a long history with wheeled vehicle products. It has established itself as a world-class designer, volume manufacturer and through-life supporter of high-quality, best value, military tactical trucks and wheeled vehicle systems with payload capacities from 2.5 to 18 tons. Today, BAE Systems is the exclusive manufacturer of FMTVs and the producer of three Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) variants, the Caiman, the RG33 and the RG31. The Caiman is manufactured in Sealy. In Cincinnati, Ohio, BAE Systems employs more than 2,000 people and has about 900,000 square feet of manufacturing and office space. The Cincinnati operations has played a vital role in both the Caiman and RG33 MRAP programs by providing armor systems for both vehicles, as well as the FMTV. Other products include up-armored vehicles, commercial armored vehicles, integrated armor kits and accessories for a full range of tactical wheeled vehicles, combat vehicles and construction equipment. The Cincinnati operations also include a state-of-the art ballistic glass plant. About BAE Systems BAE Systems is the premier global defense and aerospace company delivering a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, information technology solutions and customer support services. With approximately 100,000 employees worldwide, BAE Systems' sales exceeded £15.7 billion (US $31.4 billion) in 2007.

Air Arabia Confirms the Purchase of 10 New Airbus A320s

Air Arabia Confirms the Purchase of 10 New Airbus A320s (NSI News Souurce Info) November 13, 2008: Air Arabia (PJSC), the first and largest low-cost carrier (LCC) in the Middle East and North Africa, has signed a firm contract for 10 additional A320 aircraft. The contract follows one for 34 Airbus A320s signed at the end of 2007. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Al Thani, Chairman, Air Arabia said, "Following Air Arabia's expansion plans and the new hub in Morocco expected to operate next year, expanding the fleet size is certainly a need. Our vision is to be one of the world's leading budget airlines in terms of profit margin, innovation, reputation, and operational excellence, and having the A320 at the heart of our fleet is the best and quickest way we can achieve this." "We are pleased Air Arabia has once again confirmed their trust in our A320 family. With this decision, Air Arabia recognises the technological superiority of the A320, which also has the lowest operating costs in its class. The A320 also has the widest fuselage giving added operational efficiency and passenger comfort including increased storage volume," said John Leahy, Airbus Chief Operating Officer, Customers. Sharjah based Air Arabia already operates 16 A320s, and serves a network of more than 44 destinations across the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, Central Asia and North Africa. With the establishment of a second hub in Casablanca in early 2009, Air Arabia will extend its network to Europe, Middle East and Africa through a joint venture with Moroccan privately owned airline Regional Airways. The new airline will be called Air Arabia Maroc. Launched in 2003, Air Arabia has served more than 5 million passengers over the past four years. The A320 Family, which includes the A318, A319, A320 and A321, is recognised as the benchmark single-aisle aircraft family. Each aircraft features fly by wire controls and all share a unique cockpit commonality across the range. With proven reliability and extended servicing periods, the A320 Family has the lowest operating costs of any single aisle aircraft. Over 6,300 Airbus A320 Family have been sold and over 3,600 delivered to more than 210 customers worldwide, making it the world4 best-selling commercial jetliner ever. Uniquely, the A320 Family offers a containerised cargo system, which is compatible with the world-wide standard wide-body system.

Turkey And Iran Co-operated Against The Kurds

Turkey And Iran Co-0perated Against The Kurds (NSI News Source Info) November 13, 2008: Two years ago, Turkey and Iran established a bilateral commission to combat Kurdish separatists rebels. In effect, the two countries cooperated to fight the Turkish PKK rebels and the Iranian PEJAK. In addition to sharing intelligence, there were some joint operations, with Turkish and Iranian forces operating together against Kurdish separatist gunmen and bases. Apparently this hurt PEJAK enough so that the organization has renounced armed violence, and turned more to political activism to improve conditions for Iranian Kurds. This can be interpreted as an effort to build a stronger base of support, before returning to armed resistance. But it still counts as a win for Iran. However, there's a catch. PEJAK also wants to develop closer relationships with the PKK, which is still battling the Turks. Apparently PEJAK has not renounced violence forever. There are seven million Kurds Iran, six million Kurds live in Iraq, two million in Syria, two million in Pakistan about 14 million in Turkey and another two million scattered around the world. Despite thousands of years of efforts, the Kurds have never been able to establish their own Kurdish state.

Indian Navy Commandoes Chase Away Somalian Pirates

Indian Navy Commandoes Chase Away Somalian Pirates
(NSI News Source Info) November 13, 2008: The Indian navy came to rescue of a thirteen year old, 71,000 DWT (deadweight ton) Indian bulk carrier in the Gulf of Aden. The 700 foot long "Jag Arnav" was surrounded by several speed boats full of armed pirates, who were trying to get close enough to the moving ship to climb aboard. The merchant ship, which wasn't fast enough to outrun the pirates, sent out a distress signal, and the Indian frigate Tabar, which was about 50 kilometers away, responded. Since it would take an hour for the warship to reach the scene, the Tabar launched its 5.5 ton Dhruv helicopter. Similar to the UH-60, the only weapons a Dhruv usually carries are missiles, but it can also carry up to a dozen passengers, and in this case it had marine commandos on board. The helicopter was on the scene within fifteen minutes, and the pirates fled. The Gulf of Aden is one the busiest shipping lanes in the world (with nearly ten percent of global traffic). Each month, 1500-1600 ships pass the northern coast of Somalia. So far this year, 2-4 of those ships have been seized by pirates each month. That's one ship out of every 400-500. But with the pirates getting more and more ransom money for each ship, the number of pirate groups operating in the Gulf of Aden is increasing. It's believed that at least three fishing trawlers (able to stay out for weeks at a time, and carry speed boats for attacks) are acting as mother ships for the pirates. Most merchant ships are wary of pirate operations, and put on extra lookouts, and often transit the 1,500 kilometer long Gulf of Aden at high speed (even though this costs them thousands of dollars in additional fuel). The pirates seek the slower moving, apparently unwary, ships, and go after them before they can speed up enough to get away. For the pirates, business is booming, and ransoms are going up. Pirates are now demanding $2-3 million per ship, and are liable to get it for the much larger tankers and bulk carriers they are now seizing. An international naval task force has set up a patrolled corridor through the Gulf of Aden, and advised slower ships to travel in convoys (which will get extra attention from the warships.) Ships are being warned to transit the Gulf of Aden carefully. It's the slow moving ships, without sufficient lookouts (the speedboats are difficult to spot with the radar used by merchant ships) that are most vulnerable. Meanwhile, the government in Puntland (noreastern Somalia) appears to be intimidated, and/or bought off, by the warlords running the pirate operations along their coast. The pirates know that the warships will not attack them unless a hijacking attempt is in progress. The Gulf of Aden is several hundred kilometers wide, so there are simply not enough warships (over two dozen at the moment) to effectively cover the entire area. Moreover, not all the ships have armed helicopters on board. So the pirates will keep at it.

Venezuela's weapons shopping

Venezuela's weapons shopping (NSI News Source Info) November 13, 2008: Venezuela has bought $4.4 billion worth of weapons from Russia over the past four years. And despite the collapsing global price of oil, Venezuela's weapons planning top general has announced it is going to buy lots more. "We will continue buying weaponry in Russia, China and Belarus in future years to ensure the defense of our territory and oil reserves from countries like the United States," Gen. Jesus Gonzalez, director of weapons purchases for the Venezuelan armed forces, said during a visit to Mexico last week, RIA Novosti reported Friday. Gonzalez claimed the enormous arms buildup, which would make Venezuela by far the most powerful military power in Latin America and the Caribbean, and a potential threat to its neighbors, was essential because the country faced the threat of a U.S. invasion. "I have no doubt that the Americans want to come here in search of oil, and we must be ready to face them. If you want peace, prepare for war," Gonzalez stated, according to the report. "That is why we asked for help from such countries as Russia and China. Russia is our friend, who has helped us in difficult times." RIA Novosti noted that from 2005 to 2007 Venezuela's fiercely anti-American President Hugo Chavez had approved 12 contracts with Russia that had a cumulative value of $4.4 billion. The agreements covered huge supplies of state-of-the-art air superiority fighter aircraft, a fleet of helicopters that would dramatically boost the mobility and reach of the Venezuelan army, and even an agreement to build a new factory to manufacture under license Kalashnikov AK-103 automatic assault rifles. In addition to those $4.4 billion of weapons purchases, in September Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin approved a further $1 billion loan with which Chavez is purchasing Russia's short-range but highly advanced TOR-M1 air defense systems, Igla-S portable SAM systems, Ilyushin Il-78 aerial tankers and Ilyushin Il-76 military cargo aircraft. Some military analysts believe the Tor-M1 may have an up to 80 percent success rate in shooting down the U.S. Air Force's veteran subsonic Tomahawk missiles. "During the upcoming visit of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to Venezuela in November this year we may finalize the details of deals on the procurement of (Russian) BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles and T-72 tanks," Gonzalez said. His comments came after the Russian air force in September successfully flew two supersonic, swing-wing Tupolev Tu-160 White Swans -- NATO designation Blackjack) -- all the way to Venezuela, where their crews spent a week being feted by Chavez and flying long-duration patrols over the Caribbean Sea. The Tu-160 Blackjack, with a top speed of 1,380 mph at sea level and a 99,000-pound bomb load or ordnance capacity, is the most advanced bomber in the world. It has twice the speed and weapons-carrying capacity of a B-2 Stealth bomber and can carry 12 KH-55 air-launched cruise missiles -- NATO designation AS-15 Kent -- each of which has a range of 2,000 miles. The announcement of the Blackjack patrols alarmed the U.S. government. In August Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned that Washington looked with disfavor on the Russian air force using the Tu-160 Blackjacks to carry out their training and test flights so close to the United States. She warned the Kremlin that it was conducting a "dangerous game."

China's Enemies Are All Around

China's Enemies Are All Around (NSI News Source Info) Hong Kong (UPI) November 13, 2008: China's military preparedness and strategic deployment of weaponry take into consideration a whole range of potential enemies, an analysis of internal People's Liberation Army documents has revealed. In order of importance -- that is, the likelihood of actual military engagement -- those enemies are Taiwan, the United States and Japan -- as potential defenders of Taiwan, India, Vietnam, Southeast Asia, Russia and the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Chinese military journals consistently criticize the United States for seeking to isolate and contain China. The PLA's indignation and frustration over this perceived U.S. interference is a reflection of its ambition to become a global hegemon, or at least a regional one. As evidence of U.S. hostility, the military journals cite Washington's sales of arms to Taiwan, its military alliance with Japan, its support of NATO's eastward expansion, the stationing of a permanent force in Afghanistan, the expansion of its nuclear arsenal and its influence in restricting European arms sales to China. The journals claim these U.S. actions all pose a direct or indirect threat to China's national security. As for Japan, despite warmer political relations between the two countries in recent months, there are two prickly issues that will not be easily resolved. One is the territorial fight over the Diaoyutai Islands -- which Japan calls the Senkakus -- and the other is the dispute over the exact location of the border in the East China Sea, in the midst of rich oil and gas reserves that both sides claim. For now the two sides are working together to develop these resources, but the lack of a legally defined border makes the situation unpredictable. Also, China remains highly wary of any Japanese steps to strengthen its military. On the Indian front, mistrust between the two countries has become more heated. New Delhi is wary of China's increased deployment of ballistic missiles aimed at India, the activities of the Chinese navy in the Indian Ocean and China's intentions with regard to territorial disputes. On the other hand, China is also keeping an eye on India's active development of its Flame III intermediate-range ballistic missile, the activities of the Indian navy in the South China Sea and India's constantly changing attitude with regard to border disputes. Differences between China and Vietnam focus on disputed maritime territories. At the same time, China is watching closely Vietnam's rapprochement to India and the United States. As for the members of the Association of South East Nations, they too have disputes with China over territories at sea. China thinks it eventually will recapture the Nansha Islands -- better known as the Spratlys -- located between Vietnam and the Philippines and claimed by both, as well as by China. The area is a rich fishing ground and may also contain oil and gas. There may one day be a struggle over ownership of these islands. In the midst of these disputes, since the mid-1990s Chinese military strategists have focused on one key issue -- the economic, political and national security benefits of expanding the military and centralizing all forces to "solve the Taiwan issue." Their position was that after Taiwan was reunited with the mainland, there would be additional economic benefits and national security gains resulting from the military buildup. One argument held that the South China Sea disputes could be easily resolved when the time was right. Toward that end, there was a need to develop major maritime combat platforms, including an aircraft carrier.

Indian Air Force Shore Based Training Facility to be Set Up in Goa

Indian Air Force Shore Based Training Facility to be Set Up in Goa
(NSI News Source News) November 13, 2008: To help its fighter pilots hone their skills ahead of more aircraft carriers joining the fleet, the Navy is setting up a shore-based training facility (SBTF) in Goa for MiG-29K and Naval LCA aircraft. This will be the third such mock flightdeck facility in the world, with only the US and Russia having the other two.The work on the SBTF has already started at the Naval air base INS Hansa, which houses the Navy's fighter squadrons and training squadrons flying the existing fleet of sea Harriers, Navy sources said. The work on setting up the SBTF with the ski-jump facing the sea-front in INS Hansa has been handed over to Goa Shipyard Limited, a Defence public sector undertaking, through the Bangalore-based Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA).GSL sources said the SBTF is likely to be completed next year, much ahead of schedule in 2010. Coinciding with the SBTF getting ready for use by naval fighter pilots for training, India would get the delivery of the first four MiG-29Ks early next year, after a delay of nearly six months from the original deadline of September this year.The rest 12 of the 16 MiG-29Ks, for which India signed a deal with Russia in January 2004, would come by later next year.

2nd Bidder Protests JTLV Awards

2nd Bidder Protests JTLV Awards (NSI News Source Info) November 13, 2008: On Nov. 10, Textron-Boeing-SAIC became the second team to protest the U.S. Army's Oct. 29 award of Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) technology demonstration contracts. "We asked the GAO [Government Accountability Office] to review our team against the requirements in the RfP [request for proposal]. We have specifically asked the GAO to review scoring methodology and standards of evaluation in three key areas: system maturity, logistics and cost," said Stephen Greene, Textron communications vice president. "We believe there were unintended discrepancies in the methodology and we felt our proposal deserved higher scores." The protest follows Northrop-Oshkosh's Nov. 7 filing. The Army said that same day that it would temporarily stop work on the JLTV program. The winners of 27-month, $60 million contracts were BAE-Navistar, Lockheed-BAE and General Tactical Vehicles.

Reports: Kremlin rejects US missile defense

Reports: Kremlin rejects US missile defense (NSI News Source Info) AP - November 13, 2008: The Kremlin has rejected a second of U.S. proposals offered to assuage increasingly strident Russian criticism of plans for an American missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, news agencies reported Wednesday.The U.S. administration says the system based would protect Europe from attacks by Iranian long-range missiles. Moscow has angrily dismissed those assertions, saying the system could eliminate Russia's nuclear deterrent or spy on its military installations.In a major speech just hours after Barack Obama won the U.S. presidential vote, President Dmitry Medvedev pledged to base short-range Iskander missiles in the Baltic Sea region of Kaliningrad, bordering Poland, if the U.S. goes forward with its plans.U.S. President George W. Bush's administration later sent Moscow a new set of proposals. Previous U.S. proposals involved, among other things, offers to allow Russia to send observers to monitor the missile defense sites. Russian and U.S. officials have not publicly disclosed the contents of the latest proposals.However, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking this weekend after meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, called them insufficient.On Wednesday, an unnamed Kremlin official told Russian news agencies that Moscow was prepared to work with Washington on questions of European security. But the official accused the Bush administration of trying to limit the incoming Obama administration's choices on the issue. «The Americans have presented us with several proposals. These proposals are inadequate, they have nothing new in them,» the official said.The Kremlin refused to comment on the report.The comments come as the U.S. State Department's third-ranked official, William Burns, traveled to Moscow for talks with senior Russian officials on Iran and other matters.The U.S. Embassy issued a statement saying Burns met with Lavrov and Kremlin foreign policy aide Sergei Prikhodko for discussions on various subjects, including talks on missile defense that would take place next month. No further details were released. In Brussels, the Russian ambassador to the European Union said Medvedev's speech was intended as a signal to the Obama administration «Russia has been warning the international community for many months that we would have to react,» Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov told reporters. «Russia wants to be transparent.«But no final decisions have been taken,» Chizhov said at a news conference ahead of an EU-Russia summit Friday in Nice, France. «I don't want to prejudge any decision that President-elect Obama will be taking, but I believe it's best for him to know what to expect from Russia in case this decision is taken,» he said. Associated Press Writer Slobodan Lekic contributed to this report from Brussels

Moscow believes G20 crisis summit 'unlikely to see breakthrough'

Moscow believes G20 crisis summit 'unlikely to see breakthrough' (NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - November 13, 2008: Moscow does not expect any major decisions or breakthroughs to emerge from the upcoming U.S. financial summit of G20 leaders, a Kremlin source said on Thursday. The leaders of the G8 group of industrial nations and major developing economies are scheduled to meet in Washington on November 15 to discuss the state of the world economy amid the ongoing financial crisis, as well as measures to reform the global economic system. "We do not expect any major breakthroughs [from the summit], but it is likely to be a good occasion to discuss the issue and tell each other directly what needs to be done and where we see our partners' errors," the source said. Measures taken by the United States and other leading economies to solve liquidity problems and ease the credit crunch have failed so far to restore investor confidence as global trading floors continue to show losses and the financial crisis threatens to plunge the world into a lengthy recession. Sergei Prikhodko, an aide to the Russian president, said the G20 financial summit was an unprecedented event. "For the first time ever, the leaders of the world's leading economies will gather in such a broad format to discuss one of the most acute issues of modern development," he said. "This means that the international community is gradually beginning to realize that global problems affecting the interests of virtually all countries cannot be solved from a single center and that the time is ripe for truly collective decisions and actions," Prikhodko also said.

U.S. billionaire club goes bust

U.S. billionaire club goes bust (NSI News Source Info) NEW YORK - November 13, 2008: A U.S. gated resort community for billionaires has filed for bankruptcy, the Forbes magazine has said. Yellowstone Club, located in Montana's Gallatin Mountains, is one of the world's most exclusive clubs. It counts Microsoft's Bill Gates among its members and offers prime ski-slopes and golf courses. "Even a company with billionaire clients can't stay financed in these lean times," Forbes commented. The club's founder, Tim Blixseth, first opened the club in 1999 as an elite hideaway for around 340 billionaires. Membership fees are an annual $250,000. The super-exclusive club, which was taken over by CEO Edra Blixseth after the couple divorced in 2006, owes an estimated $343 million to creditors due to an ambitious expansion plan, Forbes said. "We felt this step was necessary to address short-term liquidity constraints and preserve Yellowstone Club's long-term future," Edra Blixseth said. The club recently announced that it planned to expand to Scotland, France, Mexico and the Caribbean. In May, its 125 members said that the club's policies were a matter of concern.

Russian, British navies prevent Danish ship seizure by pirates

Russian, British navies prevent Danish ship seizure by pirates (NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - November 13, 2008: The Russian frigate Neustrashimy (Fearless) and Britain's HMS Cumberland frigate have prevented the seizure of a Danish merchant vessel by pirates off Somalia's coast, a Russian Navy spokesman said on Wednesday. "Pirates tried shooting at the vessel and made two attempts to capture it. Their actions were prevented by the joint efforts of the Russian and British warships. A Ka-27 helicopter took off from the Neustrashimy and a Lynx helicopter took off from the HMS Cumberland," Capt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo said. The Neustrashimy entered waters off the Somali coast in late October. Somali pirates have attacked around 60 ships so far this year, resulting in the seizure of around 30 vessels. The East African nation has been without a functioning government since 1991 and has no navy to police its coastline. A Ukrainian ship, the Faina, carrying tanks and heavy weaponry was seized by Somali pirates on September 25. The pirates have demanded a $5-million ransom in exchange for the release of the Ukrainian-Russian crew. NATO and the EU have recently announced plans to increase their naval presence in the Gulf of Aden. About 20,000 vessels pass through the region annually. In early June, the UN Security Council passed a resolution permitting countries to enter Somalia's territorial waters to combat "acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea."