Sunday, December 14, 2008

India, Singapore Hold Joint Air Exercise - SINDEX 2008

India, Singapore Hold Joint Air Exercise - SINDEX 2008 (NSI News Source Info) December 15, 2008: A joint air exercise between the air forces of India and Singapore is in progress at the Kalaikunda air base in West Bengal and will conclude on December 15, IAF sources said today.
The bilateral air exercise codenamed SINDEX began on November 24.
The Royal Singapore Air Force (RSAF) has brought its F-16C/D fighter aircraft and IAF its MiG-27 ground attack fighters in the 20-day war games."SINDEX provides a valuable opportunity to both the air forces to interact in realistic and challenging conditions and learn from each other's experiences," IAF sources said, when asked about the objectives set for the exercise.
"This is the sixth exercise of the SINDEX series to be conducted in India and second after the two sides signed a bilateral agreement for conducting joint military training and exercises in India," sources said.
The exercises have helped the IAF and RSAF, sources said, to understand each other well and operate jointly.The two sides have warm defence relations, which include regular exchange visits and professional interaction, they added

Lithuania Buys Two Former Royal Navy Minehunters

Lithuania Buys Two Former Royal Navy Minehunters (NSI News Source Info) December 14, 2008: Thales UK’s venture into acting as the marketing arm for the British Ministry of Defence has paid off with the purchase by the Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence of two former Royal Navy minehunters. The Hunt-class vessels – HMS Cottesmore and HMS Dulverton - were converted in 1997 by the Royal Navy from their original use as minehunters into patrol vessels. These were later declared surplus to requirements and put on the MoD list for disposal in 2004 ... where they stayed until 2006 when Thales UK approached the MoD and offered to use its international marketing and sales expertise to help find a country interested in purchasing the ships in their original minehunting role. Thales UK's naval business has now been awarded the prime contractorship to upgrade the vessels with a technologically advanced minehunting system which will include fitting the new hull-mounted Sonar 2193 system, propulsion, command and control systems, and mine disposal systems. The ships are expected to enter service with the Lithuanian Navy by 2011.

Russia Sells SA-20 To Iran

Russia Sells SA-20 To Iran
(NSI News Source Info) December 14, 2008: Irrespective of Kremlin denials, Iran is buying the Russian-built SA-20 strategic-range air defense system, say senior U.S. government officials. Deployment of the system - a threat previously thought to be only a bargaining tool - would mark a capability leap in the Middle East and considerably improve Iran's ability to defend its nuclear facilities. Western officials are concerned that Tehran is pursuing nuclear weapons. "The Iranians are on contract for the SA-20 [which NATO designated ýýýGargoyle']," says one of the U.S. government officials. "We've got a huge set of challenges in the future that we've never had [before]. We've been lulled into a false sense of security because our operations over the last 20 years involved complete air dominance and we've been free to operate in all domains." The proliferation of so-called double-digit surface-to-air missile systems - such as the Almaz Antey SA-20 (S-300PMU1/S-300PMU2) - poses an increasing threat to nonstealthy aircraft, and will force changes in tactics and operational planning. The SA-20 has an engagement envelope of roughly 100 mi., and Iran may be signed up for the S-300PMU-2 variant with even greater range. Russia could use Belarus as the route for a sale, allowing Moscow to deny any direct involvement, says a U.S. official. It would likely take the Iranian armed forces as long as 24 months to become proficient in the operation of the SA-20; however, any deal would almost certainly cover training support in the interim. Israel might be tempted to preemptively strike suspected nuclear sites prior to the SA-20 becoming operational, or even try to hamper delivery. "The beginning of proliferation of double-digit SAMs is more of a concern than the potential air threats [such as Russia's Sukhoi Su-35 and China's Chengdu J-10] that are coming into service," says the government official. The presence of Russian double-digit long-range SAM systems in the region during the recent Georgian incursion had a direct impact on NATO planning - resulting in a decision not to use the Boeing E-3 AWACS for surveillance. The SA-20 and, even more so, the SA-21 Growler (S-400) now entering service pose an increasing problem for mission planners using conventional strike aircraft. While low-observable aircraft offer greater latitude for operations, they are not totally immune to air defenses. The Lockheed Martin F-22 with its all-aspect, -40-dBsm. radar cross-section signature can operate within the engagement envelope of the SA-20 and SA-21. But the Lockheed Martin F-35 with its -30-dBsm. signature, but not all-aspect stealth, is at greater risk. The rear quadrant of the F-35, particularly around the engine-exhaust area, is not as stealthy as the F-22. Because of its aging stealth design, the Northrop Grumman B-2 also has limitations in the amount of time it can spend within the range of double-digit SAM systems, since small signature clues can become cumulative and offer a firing solution. The U.S.'s next-generation bomber program is aimed at developing a low-observable platform capable of operating irrespective of the threat from systems of the SA-21 class. During the recent conflict between Georgia and Russia, the caution with which double-digit SAMs are treated was obvious. NATO wanted to monitor the fighting and refugee problems and track combat forces with its fleet of recently updated E-3 AWACS surveillance aircraft. They were banned from the area because the Russian attack columns included mobile SA-20 batteries. From their location in the Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia, these SAMs covered airspace over the eastern Black Sea where the E-3s would have needed to operate. "If a coalition organization wanted to establish [surveillance or reconnaissance] flights or a no-flight zone in an area populated by double-digit SAMS, you couldn't do it with nonstealthy aircraft," the government official says. "These modern weapon systems are going to deny us strategic and operational options that in the past we haven't had to worry about." The Iranian deployment of the SA-20 would most directly be a threat to Israel's fleet of advanced, but nonstealthy, F-15Is and F-16Is. Israel would need to rely on countermeasures - such as airborne jamming, false-target creation and network attack - rather than on platform survivability to counter the introduction of the Gargoyle. More capable point-defense systems - which would likely be used to protect SA-20 sites, for example - are also being introduced into the region. Syria is acquiring the SA-22 Greyhound (KBP Pantsyr), which uses a vehicle-mounted combination of cannon and missiles intended to provide defense against aircraft, helicopters, precision-guided munitions and cruise missiles. New threats, involving advances in commercially available electronics, continue to rapidly mutate in the area of secure communications and command and control, as demonstrated in Mumbai, India. During the recent attack, gunmen talked by cell phone and Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) to their commanders in Pakistan for orders about avoiding police, attacking additional sites, and selecting hostages for execution. And during the 2006 fighting between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, the non-state group was able to set up command-and-control networks - using commercially available, Chinese-built, high-power cordless phones - to shift combatants and rocket launchers. These messages could not be intercepted by the Lebanese or Israeli governments. "[Part of the threat is] the new phones that are coming out with GSM, Satphone, Bluetooth, 80211G and 80216 [technologies] all built into one handset," says an electronic warfare specialist in the U.S. aerospace industry. "It's already happened. A multifunction handset switches you through all the options to find a usable route. If your GSM link goes out, it will automatically hook up to the nearest 80211G link, get the message to an Internet node and then go VOIP. That kind of connection technology is here, and it's cheap for the bad guys. All you have to do is be clever about how you use it for command and control." Recent pictures of the interior of a new Chinese surface-to-air-missile command-and-control vehicle show two Lenovo laptops and the commander of the integrated air defense system talking on a Blackberry. In the battery's briefing vehicle, there's a VOIP connection. These are all good, cheap commercial products. Defense officials say that with the new telecommunications used by opponents, U.S. planners have to be much more detailed about how electronic attack is conducted against certain networked, computer-controlled threats such as integrated air defenses. The question arises: Is there any good news in this scenario? Perhaps there is at the intersection of electronic attack and cyberwarfare (a new specialty called special-purpose electronic attack, or SPEA) and at the overlap of electronic attack and high-power microwave weapons (called nontraditional electronic attack, or NTEA). SPEA moves into cyberwarfare because operators are looking at more than jamming external emissions. They are dealing with affecting layers of digital instructions, called protocols, that run the network. They are using electronic attack, but it is against a computer network and not just a radar or radio signal. So there are new procedures that can be used in the electronic attack domain that are special and unique. NTEA involves producing long-lasting, instead of temporary, effects on enemy electronics. "It's not solely about effective radiated power [for jamming] anymore, it's about control," the EW specialists says. "It's about what part of the protocol stack can you get to and, possibly, take control of. A lot of it is not about preventing them from communicating; we're just controlling it in some way."

Israel Ends Service Of A-4 Skyhawk

Israel Ends Service Of A-4 Skyhawk (NSI News Source Info) December 14, 2008: Israel is finally getting rid of the last of its U.S. made A-4 Skyhawk light bombers. Israel bought over 200 in the 1960s and 70s, and lost 53 to ground fire and missiles during the 1973 war. Later, most were sold or retired.
The remaining two dozen are used for pilot training. But some of these have crashed, as the A-4 isn't a great trainer aircraft. The elderly A-4s are also expensive to maintain. So Israel is shopping for a new trainer, and will scrap the remaining A-4s when that is done. When Israel bought the second-hand U.S. A-4s, it did so because the aircraft cost a quarter what an F-4 fighter-bomber did, and could carry as many weapons. Thus the heavy losses in the 1973 war (because Israel underestimated the capabilities of new Russian surface-to-air missile systems, and numerous anti-aircraft gun systems, the Arabs now had). The 11 ton A-4 could carry about four tons of bombs, along with two 20mm autocannon. Smart bombs make it unnecessary to have a lot of fighter-bombers, much less lower cost light bombers like the A-4. Thus the use of A-4s as pilot training aircraft, a job they were not really designed for.

Pakistan: Tribal Laws Unabated In NWFP (The Khyber Pass)

Pakistan: Tribal Laws Unabated In NWFP (The Khyber Pass) (NSI News Source Info) December 14, 2008: For centuries, the tribes along the main road between Pakistan and Afghanistan (mainly the ones that go through the Khyber Pass, and several others) collected payments from the merchants (or, these days, trucking companies) to insure safe passage.
Some of the current tribes are pro-Taliban, but this is business, and it has become more lucrative as the Afghan economy has revived since 2001 (when the reactionary, and bad for business, Taliban were chucked out).
But now some pro-Taliban groups are trying to grab a chunk of the "security" business. This explains the several attacks made on convoys and truck stops in the past month. These new guys want a piece of the action, and the people who already have it are fighting back.
While you hear about the U.S. and NATO convoys being attacked, the battles back in the hills, between the rival warlords, gets less coverage (mainly because reporters are apt to be shot, just to keep the media away from the savage fashion in which these disputes are settled.)
The truck security payments (often a thousand dollars or more per truck per trip) are a major source of cash for the border tribes. It's something worth fighting, and dying, for. While religion and tribal politics play a big role in the Taliban and al Qaeda violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan, you also have to follow the money to get to the source of most of the fighting. You can live without religion, but you can't live without food. And that will cost you, especially in one of the poorest regions of Asia.
It's also one of the most heavily armed parts of Asia, where hungry tribesmen have long resorted to violence when they were hungry, or just greedy.

Piracy Cannot Be Solved By Force Alone, Pentagon Warns

Piracy Cannot Be Solved By Force Alone, Pentagon Warns (NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON — December 14, 2008: The Pentagon warned Friday that piracy rampant in the Horn of Africa cannot be solved by force alone, as the United States circulated a draft UN resolution to chase pirates even on Somali soil. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman declined to say whether the US was ready to take military action if the resolution is adopted.(Seen in Photo: Vice Admiral William Gortney and Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff) "We're looking at how the military can contribute to an overall solution with respect to piracy," but "this needs to be looked at more broadly," Whitman said. "We've indicated for some time now that this is an activity that concerns us and that we're going to be looking at the issue broadly and with partners in the region." But the US Fifth Fleet commander said Friday that the US Navy would go after pirates off Somalia if the international community came up with a process for holding and trying them as criminals. "I don't need any authority for offensive actions against the pirates. I have all I need," said Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, who recognized that without an international legal process for trying pirates, navies have had little choice but to release those captured. The resolution, which diplomats indicated could be adopted as early as Tuesday, would be the fourth approved by the UN Security Council since June on piracy off Somalia's coast. The resolution would authorize for one year states already involved in fighting piracy there to "take all necessary measures ashore in Somalia, including in its airspace, to interdict those who are using Somali territory to plan, facilitate or undertake acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea," according to a copy of the text obtained by AFP. "While there may be a military component, this is an issue that needs to be addressed more broadly, diplomatically," warned Whitman, who indicated the US is working with its allies on legal, practical and other issues associated with the resolution. Under the resolution, states and international organizations would also establish an international cooperation mechanism to coordinate anti-piracy efforts. The Minnesota-based activist group Somali Justice Advocacy Center expressed "grave concern" Thursday on the prospect of taking the fight inland, describing the resolution effort as a "futile exercise" since Somalia is largely controlled by warlords and extremist militias. "I find that not only odd but illegal and a clear violation of the code of the international law," said the group's director Omar Jamal. Somali pirates have attacked at least a hundred ships since the beginning of the year. They currently hold at least 17 ships, including an arms-laden Ukrainian cargo vessel and a Saudi supertanker carrying two million barrels of crude oil. The international community has significantly stepped up its anti-piracy military apparatus off the Somali coast. Britain and Kenya signed a memorandum of understanding Thursday for the British navy to hand over to Kenya any suspected pirates it may seize during operations in the Gulf of Aden or Indian Ocean.

Iranians Shun Security Forum Addressed By Gates

Iranians Shun Security Forum Addressed By Gates (NSI News Source Info) MANAMA - December 14, 2008: An Iranian delegation did not show up as expected on Saturday at a regional security forum in Bahrain that was addressed by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, organisers said. Kazem Jalali, chairman of the Iranian parliament's foreign affairs committee, was to have delivered a speech to The Manama Dialogue on Saturday, the director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies said. John Chipman, who said he had confirmed the attendance of Jalali and two Iranian diplomats during a recent visit to Tehran, told participants of the no-show just before Jalali was due to speak. In his speech, Gates said the United States was seeking a change of behaviour and not a regime change in Tehran, which is suspected by the international community of developing a nuclear programme for military use. "What we are after is a change in policies and a change in behaviour so that Iran becomes a good neighbour of people in the region (rather) than a source of instability and violence," Gates said.

Russian Warships Sail Into Nicaragua Political Storm

Russian Warships Sail Nicaragua Into Political Storm (NSI News Source Info) Managua - December 14, 2008: Three Russian warships moored off Nicaragua's Caribbean coast today, in a visit which has sparked heated debate in a country divided by disputed elections. Leftist President Daniel Ortega claims he is authorized to approve the visit, but opposition lawmakers say the currently-paralyzed congress needs to approve visits by foreign military forces. "We don't want to violate Nicaragua's laws. We only came on a friendship and humanitarian mission," Russian ambassador Igor Kondrashev told local media after the ships, led by destroyer Admiral Chabanenko, moored off Nicaragua s coast. The ships carried computers, electric generators, medicines and other donations for the impoverished Central American country and were due to stay until Monday, the diplomat said. Reports said Ortega was due to visit the ships today. Nicaragua's congress was closed down on November 24 after the opposition proposed a bill to annul contested November 9 mayoral elections over fraud allegations. Last week the Admiral Chabanenko became the first Russian warship to use the Panama Canal since 1944, after participating in joint exercises with the Venezuelan navy. The maneuvers in the Caribbean a region traditionally seen as the US backyard--have been seen as a rebuke for Washington s decision to deploy an anti-missile defense "shield" in eastern Europe and to send warships carrying aid to Georgia during that country's war with Russia in August.

General Dynamics Gets $940 Million U.S. Navy Deal

General Dynamics Gets $940 Million U.S. Navy Deal (NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON - December 14, 2008: General Dynamics Corp is being awarded a U.S. Navy $940.4 million shipbuilding contract add-on, the Pentagon said on Friday. The contract modification covers a pair of dry cargo/ammunition ship construction options plus a kind of down payment for two more such ships, the Defense Department said in its daily contract digest. Work will be performed in San Diego, California, and is to be wrapped up by November 2014, for the last of the four T-AKE ships involved, the contract notice said. Included are options for "long lead" material for T-AKE 13 and T-AKE 14, which would be completed in 2014, the Pentagon said. The ships are designed to operate independently for extended periods while providing replenishment services to warships at sea. They are to replace aging T-AE ammunition ships and T-AFS combat stores ships that are nearing the end of their service lives, the Navy says. (Reporting by Jim Wolf)