Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pakistan On The Brink, Part One

Pakistan On The Brink, Part One
Author: Brian M. Downing is the author of several works of political and military history, including The Military Revolution and Political Change and The Paths of Glory: War and Social Change in America from the Great War to Vietnam. (NSI News Source Info) January 28, 2009: Pakistan might collapse. It faces regional insurgencies, political failures, rising Islamism (in the public and army alike), and reprisals from India over the Mumbai attacks. The trouble in the US’s principal though duplicitous partner in the war on terror is all the more worrisome because it has nuclear weapons. A great deal of Pakistan’s trouble is the fault of its military, which has thwarted political development, supported terrorism, and encouraged Islamism. US foreign policy has played a supporting role as well.
Pakistan Allows Kashmir Raids, Militants Say, Officials from three Pakistani militant groups that the government of Pakistan has allowed Islamic guerrillas to resume small-scale infiltrations into Indian-controlled Kashmir. India has repeatedly demanded that Pakistan halt the practice, which brought the two nuclear-armed rivals to the brink of war this spring. From its inception in 1947, Pakistan was predisposed to military rule. The British colonial army of the subcontinent was drawn predominantly from the Punjab, a region that became part of Pakistan upon independence. From that point on, the Pakistani army was more unified and capable of concerted action than were the political parties. Seeing itself as embodying the nation far more than they did, the army would push aside civilian governments and assume the reins of power when it saw fit. There’s no edifying morality play here. Pakistan’s political parties are corrupt, oligarchic patronage networks that bear considerable blame as well for the bleak situation today. The Pakistani army, more so than the political parties, benefited from Cold War dynamics. India, though more powerful than Pakistan and hostile to China, chose a path of nonalignment and so Pakistan (along with Iran) became the US’s partner in the region. Arms and money and advisors flowed in, adding to the army’s hypertrophy. The military used its muscle in politics often and the results were not good. Military governments thwarted the development of stable political partnerships and coalitions, failed to integrate the various provinces of the country (Balochistan and the North-West Frontier Province) into a national whole, and also failed to find a political arrangement to limit sectarian clashes. Among the military’s greatest errors has been encouraging Islamism. It did so because less religiously driven Pakistanis were insufficiently fervent to carry on efforts to control Kashmir and to avenge the stain upon national honor brought by the loss of East Pakistan in 1971 – a loss that a neutral observer might unhesitatingly ascribe to the army’s ineptitude. The army set up camps to train guerrillas to carry on the war with India over Kashmir, and political movements to rally Islamist passions for the Kashmir cause. Some of those camps were in Afghanistan, where oversight from Kabul was low and plausible denial to New Delhi a bit higher. The Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 greatly strengthened the army (especially a section of it), which at the time was ruling the country after overthrowing and executing Ali Bhutto. The US and Saudi Arabia poured money into Pakistan to aid the various mujahadin groups fighting just to the north in Afghanistan, most of whom could readily be considered Islamist in nature. The supply effort was entrusted to a section of the military – the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI). In order to inspire new recruits for the war in Afghanistan (and for the struggle over Kashmir and revanchism over the loss of East Pakistan) madrasas were funded. Along the way, the ISI became a state within a state, an army within an army, a praetorian guard within a praetorian guard.

China Exports More Arms To African Countries!

China Exports More Arms To African Countries! Source: UPI Asia by Andrei Chang (NSI News Source Info) Hong Kong - January 28, 2009: Increasing quantities of China-made military equipment have been finding their way to Africa, traded for oil, mineral resources and even fishing rights. Zambia has used its copper resources to pay China in a number of military deals, for instance, and Kenya has been negotiating with China to trade fishing rights for arms.
During Zimbabwe's involvement in the DRC, six or seven F-7s were deployed to the Lubumbashi IAP and then to a similar installation near Mbuji-Mayi. From there, AFZ F-7s flew dozens of combat air patrols in the following months, attempting in vain to intercept transport aircraft used to bring supplies and troops from Rwanda and Burundi to the Congo. In late October 1998, F-7s of the No.5 Squadron were used in an offensive in east-central Congo. This began with a series of air strikes that first targeted airfields in Gbadolite, Dongo and Gmena, and then rebel and Rwandan communications and depots in the Kisangani area on November 21.
Among the most popular Chinese military exports to Africa are the J-7, K-8 and Y-12 aircraft, which are relatively inexpensive and easy to operate. China sees those countries already armed with the K-8 and J-7 aircraft as potential customers for its new FC-1 fighters. Sources from the Russian and South African military industries say they are now keeping an eye on China’s FC-1 fighter sales. The Russian military believes the FC-1 is inferior to its MiG-29 SMT and Su-30 MKA. But the Russians cannot match China’s deal-making ability, as the Chinese are accepting oil and minerals in lieu of cash to pay for their equipment. A delegation from the Nigerian air force told the author at the Cape Town Air Show in South Africa last September that their country was negotiating with China to purchase K-8 trainer aircraft. The country imported Chinese J-7 fighters in 2006, and has expressed an interest in the FC-1. Zimbabwe’s air force delegation told the author that they were negotiating the purchase of one squadron of FC-1 fighters from China. Zimbabwe is already equipped with K-8 trainers and J-7 fighters. In August last year one Zimbabwean K-8 trainer crashed due to pilot error, the air force representative admitted. The current problem lies in how Zimbabwe will be able to pay for the purchase of FC-1 fighters. A source from the South African military industry says that China is interested in Zimbabwe’s zinc and aluminum mines. In recent years, a large number of Chinese companies have been involved in the development of mines in Angola as well. Military observers in South Africa told the author that there are many Chinese workers in Angola, and China has already become the largest importer of the country’s crude oil. A source from the Angolan military said the country was very interested in Chinese arms. He said the Angolan air force needed entry-level trainer aircraft, and therefore was discussing a deal to import Chinese aircraft. The Angolan air force also intends to acquire new-generation advanced fighters. A source from the South African military industry said Angola has at least eight Su-27 fighters. Since Russia denies having exported these planes to Angola, they are believed to be secondhand Su-27 fighters from Ukraine or Belarus, both of which have good military ties with Angola. Since Angola has rich oil resources – and if combat capability is not a top priority in its choice of fighter aircraft – there is a good chance the country may trade its oil for China-made fighters. The author has learned that the Angolan army is also in contact with China’s defense manufacturer Norinco for the purchase of artillery guns, armored vehicles and ammunitions. China has been supplying an extensive range of light weapons and ammunitions to Zimbabwe and Angola. African military sources told the author that Norinco has recently exported a certain quantity of 155-mm howitzers to North African countries, including Algeria, Sudan and Egypt. One source claimed that Algeria purchased enough 155-mm auto-propulsion howitzers to equip a battalion. This country has not traditionally been a purchaser of Chinese ground-force equipment, but seems to have taken its lead from Sudan, which first bought the howitzers. One company of Chinese auto-propulsion 155-mm howitzers consists of six artillery vehicles, one 704-1 positioning radar and one 720-D meteorological radar. One battalion is composed of 18 155-mm howitzers, one command vehicle and one surveillance vehicle. This type of auto-propulsion 155-mm howitzer originated from the 45-caliber PLL01 towed howitzer, which uses extended range full bore, base bleed or rocket-assisted (ERFB-BB/RA) ammunition with a maximum range of 50 kilometers. Other ammunitions used for the howitzer are the 30-kilometer ERFB/HE (high explosive), and 39-kilometer ERFB-BB/HE. The weight of the artillery gun is 13 tons. Analysts from the African military industry believe that China has fitted Russian Krasnopol semi-active laser-guided gun launch projectiles on its 155-mm howitzers. The United Arab Emirates uses the Chinese-version Krasnopols, which are almost one-third cheaper than the Russian originals. A military source also told the author that Norinco has delivered WMZ-551 6×6 wheeled armored vehicles to both Zambia and Kenya in the past three years. Kenya is not a traditional market of Chinese ground-force equipment, but as China has been competing fiercely with Russia and South Africa in selling arms in Africa, it appears to be opening up new markets. The Royal Guards of Oman have imported 50 of these vehicles, and the Sudanese army also has them. The WMZ-551 uses a new turret and is equipped with the 2A72 30-mm gun produced under license from Russia. The armored vehicle can be fitted with a 12.7-mm machine gun, 105-mm smoothbore gun, 120-mm mortar and four HJ-8 anti-tank missiles. It has been reported recently that the Chinese army’s light mechanized brigades have received batches of WMZ-551 wheeled armored vehicles fitted with 120-mm mortar guns, 105-mm smoothbore guns and 2A72 30-mm cannon guns. A source from the Chinese military industry claimed that the turrets of the WMZ-551 can be transferred to 8×8 wheeled vehicles once those have been developed.
Dockworkers in South Africa have blocked a Chinese arms boat from reaching Zimbabwe. The An Yue Jiang, a Chinese ship carrying the weapons, was anchored just outside Durban harbor after receiving permission late Wednesday to dock. Its arrival earlier this week has increased concern about tensions in Zimbabwe, where the ruling party and the opposition are locked in a dispute over presidential elections. A South African government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, had confirmed that there were weapons on board but gave no further details. Aside from the weapon systems fitted on board, the WMZ-551 has a combat weight of 13.5 to 19 tons. It is powered by one 235-kilowatt diesel engine, has a maximum speed of 85 kilometers per hour, a maximum duration of 600 kilometers, a length of 6.69 meters, width of 2.86 meters, and its speed in water is eight kilometers per hour.

Israel: Troops, Palestinian Militants Clash Despite Cease-Fire / Hamas Offers One-Year Truce With Israel

Israel: Troops, Palestinian Militants Clash Despite Cease-Fire / Hamas Offers One-Year Truce With Israel
(NSI News Source Info) GAZA CITY - January 28, 2009: A bomb killed an Israeli soldier patrolling near Gaza on Tuesday, and Israel responded with an airstrike, straining the fragile cease-fire on the eve of a visit by President Obama's new Mideast envoy. The violence jolted the calm that has largely prevailed since Israel ended a devastating three-week offensive in Gaza on Jan. 17. Since withdrawing its troops, Israel has threatened to retaliate hard for any violations of the truce. Israel carries out an air attack on Gaza and sends tanks across the border, after Palestinian militants kill an Israeli soldier. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called an urgent meeting of Israel's top defense officers after the bombing. "We will respond, but there is no point in elaborating," Barak said shortly before the airstrike. Barak talked with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert after the meeting, but no details of the discussion were released. The Israeli military dismissed earlier reports that the explosive might have been an old land mine triggered accidentally. The military said it had determined that the bomb was activated by militants, but it would not give details. The blast also wounded three Israeli soldiers and triggered a brief battle when Israeli troops briefly crossed the border in search of the attackers. Later, Hamas said one of its militants was wounded in the Israeli airstrike.
The violence — a day before the new U.S. Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, was due in Israel — underscored the difficulty Obama faces as he tries to get Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts back on track. Gazans are struggling to resume normal life after the fighting and as international donors discuss how best to help the territory rebuild. Gaza's Hamas leader said Tuesday the group — which is classified as a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union — would not try to claim any of the reconstruction funds. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh remains in hiding because of fears he could be assassinated by Israel. "Our aim now is to ease the suffering of our people and to remove the aftermath of the aggression in Gaza," the Hamas statement said. "Therefore we emphasize that we are not concerned to receive the money for rebuilding Gaza, and we are not seeking that." Hamas said the airstrike wounded one of its members as he rode a motorcycle in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis. The Israeli military said the bomb targeted an Israeli patrol near the border community of Kissufim. There was no claim of responsibility. Not long after the bombing, a 27-year-old Gaza farmer was killed by Israeli gunfire along the border several miles away, according to Moaiya Hassanain of Gaza's Health Ministry. Two other Palestinians were wounded. The military had no comment, and it was unclear whether the two incidents were related. Israel closed its crossings into Gaza to humanitarian aid traffic after briefly opening them Tuesday morning. Gaza border official Raed Fattouh said Israeli officials informed him the closure was due to the bombing. Israel's offensive on Gaza was aimed at halting rocket fire from the territory. Israel announced a unilateral cease-fire Jan. 17, which was followed by a similar announcement from Gaza militants. In the days immediately after the cease-fire, there was shelling by Israeli gunboats and some gunfire along the border. Although there was no claim of responsibility for the deadly bombing, Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas leader, said Israel was to blame for continuing to fire into Gaza. Al-Masri said his group had not agreed to a full cease-fire but only to a "lull" in fighting. "The Zionists are responsible for any aggression," he said. Egypt is trying to negotiate a longer-term arrangement to allow quiet in the coastal territory of 1.4 million people, which has been ruled by the Islamic militants of Hamas since June 2007. Israel wants an end to Hamas rocket attacks and guarantees that Hamas will be prevented from smuggling weapons into Gaza from Egypt. Hamas has demanded that Israel and Egypt reopen Gaza's border crossings, which have been largely closed since Hamas took power. The crossings are Gaza's economic lifeline. The Israeli offensive killed 1,285 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, according to records kept by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. Thirteen Israelis, including three civilians, were killed during the fighting.

Russia To Build Naval Base In Separatist Abkhazia / Russia: Abkhazia Base Planned

Russia To Build Naval Base In Separatist Abkhazia / Russia: Abkhazia Base Planned (NSI News Source Info) January 28, 2009: RUSSIA will start building a naval base this year in Georgia’s Black Sea separatist region of Abkhazia, Russian media reported yesterday, a step Tbilisi said would violate its sovereignty.
Russia angered the United States and Europe after its war with Georgia last year by recognising Abkhazia, and the second separatist region of South Ossetia, as independent states and establishing a permanent military presence in both regions.
A naval base in Abkhazia is likely to add to Western concerns that Moscow is flexing its military muscle by moving its armed forces back into areas vacated after the collapse of Soviet rule. Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency quoted an unnamed official at Russian naval headquarters as saying commanders planned to station vessels at the Abkhaz port of Ochamchire.
Russia’s navy could not immediately be reached for comment. "The fundamental decision on creating a Black Sea Fleet base in Ochamchire has been taken," Tass quoted the official as saying.
"This year we will begin practical work, including dredging, along Abkhazia’s coast." Georgian Defence Minister David Sikharulidze said Abkhazia and South Ossetia were sovereign Georgian territory under Russian occupation. "Any Russian military presence there is illegal, but, unfortunately, Russia ignores that and continues its illegal policy of building military infrastructure on Georgian territory," Sikharulidze told Reuters by telephone.
The report of plans for a base came on the day that NATO decided in Brussels to restore contacts with Russia that were frozen by the military alliance to signal its anger over last year’s war with ex-Soviet Georgia.
The Russian navy has one operational base abroad, in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol. Ukraine’s government — which like Georgia’s leaders are seeking NATO membership — have said they will not renew the lease on the base when it runs out in 2017. Russia’s military says it wants to stay at the base, but has begun exploring possible alternatives.
During Russia’s war with Georgia last year, a group of Black Sea Fleet warships anchored off Ochamchire. They landed Russian marines and sank a Georgian warship. Maxim Gunjia, the separatists’ deputy foreign minister, confirmed the plan for a Russian navy base at Ochamchire to Reuters.
"Many things are still to be determined... It is possible that construction will begin this year. It would be a minor base for water, fuel, other needs. The capacity of Ochamchire bay is not so big." Nicaragua is the only other country which has so far recognised Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.

Obama Imposes His New Plans On Iraq, Afghan Wars

Obama Imposes His New Plans On Iraq, Afghan Wars
(NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON - January 28, 2009: U.S. President Barack Obama has hit the ground running on Iraq and Afghanistan, imposing dramatic changes in policy in both wars within a week of taking the oath of office. There are no surprises in the directions Obama is taking in both conflicts: He spelled them out clearly during his long election campaign. What is striking is the speed and decisiveness with which he is imposing both policies. President Barack Obama speaks alongside Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as he delivers remarks about former Senator George Mitchell's (D-ME) upcoming trip to Iraq in the White House in Washington on January 26, 2009. (UPI Photo/Kevin Dietsch) In Iraq, Obama already has discussed a full range of policy options with Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. David Petraeus, who heads U.S. Central Command, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The president now plans to visit the Pentagon in person to discuss with senior officers his planned policy on Iraq and the different options for fulfilling it. While not unprecedented, such personal visits by the president to the Pentagon are far from routine, and this one appears set to make clear to civilian and military staffers of the Department of Defense the president's determination to withdraw U.S. combat forces from Iraq as soon as possible and set new strategic directions around the world. The Status of Forces Agreement that the Bush administration finally concluded before leaving office with the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gives a three-year deadline for withdrawal from Iraq by U.S. forces. But Obama in his campaign pledged to pull them out in 16 months -- less than half that time. A source close to Petraeus told UPI the president wants to see a range of options to implement his Iraq withdrawal plans. Other military sources have told UPI there is unease, especially among middle-level serving officers in Iraq or those who have served there, about accelerating the rate of the withdrawal and risking destabilizing the great gains in security that have been achieved over the past two years, especially in Anbar and Diyala provinces. Whatever the reservations of serving Army officers, the civilian echelon in the new administration is solidly behind the president on his grand strategy for Iraq, Afghanistan and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell and influential veteran Democratic policymakers like Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk all favor pulling the troops out of Iraq as quickly as possible, starting a serious dialogue with Iran and pushing for a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian settlement with full vigor, sources close to the administration have told UPI. On Afghanistan, there appears to be wall-to-wall agreement between the Obama civilian policymakers and top military officials that a combination of stepped-up U.S. military responses and a vigorous diplomatic initiative is necessary to drive the resurgent Taliban to the negotiating table. Administration sources said the two key figures there were former Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke, who Obama appointed as his chief envoy on the Pakistan and Afghanistan issues, and Petraeus, who the president holds in high regard. Petraeus and Holbrooke see eye-to-eye on Afghanistan. Holbrooke's previous great diplomatic achievement was negotiating an end to the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, especially the Serb-Muslim conflict in Bosnia, which was the bloodiest war Europe has seen since World War II. In negotiating the Dayton Peace Accords of 1995, Holbrooke effectively used U.S. air power and the threat of increased U.S. involvement to bring the Bosnian Serbs to the negotiating table and keep them there. He is, therefore, in full accord with Obama and Petraeus on the need to combine stepped-up military force with a diplomatic initiative. Voice of America radio has reported that Holbrooke's "plan will most likely focus on countering Taliban bases in Pakistan's tribal regions that are blamed for contributing to a spike in violence on both sides of the border." On Friday Obama chaired his first National Security Council session on Afghanistan and Pakistan and approved the continued use of unmanned aerial vehicle attacks on guerrilla bases in the region. Obama, therefore, has wasted no time in maintaining and even stepping up U.S. involvement in the Afghanistan war, while pushing hard to implement his plans for military withdrawal from Iraq. His first moves have been clear and decisive. How successful they will prove remains to be seen.

Nato Tensions Damaging Afghanistan Mission, Warns Thinktank / Nato Losing Battle Against The Taliban, Says IISS

Nato Tensions Damaging Afghanistan Mission, Warns Thinktank / Nato Losing Battle Against The Taliban, Says IISS (NSI News Source Info) January 28, 2009: Tensions within Nato are undermining the west's mission in Afghanistan at the most critical period in the country since the invasion in 2001, a leading thinktank warned today. The warning, from the International Institute for Strategic Studies, comes at a time when Nato commanders are urging governments to deploy more troops to the country, against strong European opposition. Nato is losing its battle in Afghanistan because of tensions within the alliance, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). The think tank said that the Taliban were stepping up the use of suicide bombings and expanding their operations into areas that were previously quiet.At the same time, Nato members are struggling to agree among themselves what constituted "success" in Afghanistan while the global economic crisis meant that military budgets throughout the alliance were coming under pressure. "The western intervention in Afghanistan is faltering and a robust diplomatic strategy involving tribal outreach and a more co-ordinated international approach is vital to success" said John Chipman, the IISS director general. "Counter-insurgency efforts were forced to adapt to changes in Taliban tactics and seemed to make little overall headway," the IISS says in its latest annual Military Balance survey. "Without more positive developments and a more unified approach to the conflict, it seemed likely that some countries with troops deployed as part of the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) mission under Nato command might begin to reappraise their commitments." Chipman added that the security problems posed a threat to presidential elections due later in the year. "There is a risk that it will not be possible to hold elections, or voter turnout may be below the minimum necessary for the ballot to be valid," he said. The warning came as Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, told Congress that Afghanistan was America's "greatest military challenge" and added: "We have not had enough troops to provide a baseline level of security in some of the most dangerous areas – a vacuum that increasingly has been filled by the Taliban." Canada and the Netherlands – two countries which deploy significant numbers of troops in southern Afghanistan – have already announced they intend to cut troop numbers there. The IISS report points out that the Taliban changed its tactics after a series of defeats in open combat and was moving to areas where the Afghan government and Nato troops were fewer in number, such as the south-west provinces of Nimruz and Farah. They were now also active in the northern provinces of Badghis, Faryab and Badakhshan. The IISS said the Taliban operations had also focused on "perceived areas of weakness", particularly the Afghan police who were poorly trained and equipped. Nato's problems are compounded by the fact that many European allies do not share the US and UK governments' view that Afghanistan is at risk of turning into a failed state under Taliban rule. While IISS analysts warned of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, they also said that the al-Qaida leadership, in hiding in the tribal areas of north-west Pakistan, appeared to be weakening. Asked about the impact of missile attacks by American unmanned drones in the area, Nigel Inkster, chief IISS international threat analyst and former senior MI6 officer, replied that "undoubtedly they had had a significant effect [in] degrading al-Qaida central". The al-Qaida leadership had not recently been able to sponsor any significant operation in a western country, Inkster added. However, he added that India had become "very vulnerable to attacks by groups inspired by al-Qaida ideology". Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, is facing increasing criticism in the west for failing to control corruption and lead an effective government. Christopher Langton, IISS senior fellow for armed conflict, said yesterday that nobody had yet declared themselves for the election. The US had not so far backed any candidate, he noted. Yesterday's IISS report said that "to effectively pursue the campaign on terror", the Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari, will need to "balance growing US pressure for military strikes in the tribal areas with the Pakistani army's decreasing tolerance for such attacks".

A New Line Of Defence: Iran's Naval Capabilities

A New Line Of Defence: Iran's Naval Capabilities
(NSI News Source Info) January 28, 2009: Iran has signalled its intention to increase its naval presence along the coast of the Gulf of Oman and up to the Strait of Hormuz, the world's most important oil conduit, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. (Above: Photo/image:71 Alvand, Saam class (Vosper Mk5 type) frigate) The Iranian Navy has traditionally been the smallest branch of Iran's armed forces and is designed solely for securing its own ports and coast, with little in the way of striking power. Before 1971, the Iranian Navy mostly operated equipment provided by the United States and the United Kingdom. Over the following eight years, the fleet added more modern American and British-made destroyers, frigates and many smaller vessels, including powerboats and hovercraft. In the 1970s, Iran planned to extend its naval reach into the Indian Ocean; but this goal was curtailed by the Islamic Revolution (1979), the Iran–Iraq War (1980–1988), and limited funding ever since. This has left the navy with a limited ability to project power from the Persian Gulf into the Arabian Sea (Oman Sea) through submarines and larger surface ships. The last Shah of Iran ordered four modern destroyers from the United States, an order that was cancelled after the Shah fell. The ships were instead commissioned in the U.S. Navy as the Kidd class. After the Islamic Revolution, the United States levied economic, trade and military sanctions on Iran, particularly squeezing the Navy, which had several ships laid up. In the 1990s, the Navy added patrol boats, submarines, and surface-launched anti-ship missiles, and replaced Western ships with ones bought from China, North Korea, and Russia. During that time, it also engaged in naval exercises with Pakistan and India. In terms of major surface ships, Iran's three destroyers are over 50 years old and are kept in material reserve at Bushehr. The Iranian Navy does not include capital ships; their largest ships are five frigates and three corvettes, all of which are armed with modern anti-ship missiles. The main focus of the Iranian Navy seems to be developing new frigates, corvettes and medium to large fast boats capable of carrying modern precision anti-ship missiles. Three of five frigates (Vosper Mark 5), however, were commissioned over 25 years ago and these ships have been updated with Chinese C-802 missiles. Iran's three corvettes were commissioned over 30 years ago; one (the Hamzeh) was originally a government yacht but has now been equipped with Chinese C-802 missiles as well, but it is deployed at Anzali on the Caspian Sea. These eight ships are supported by three Russian SSK Kilo attack submarines and Ghadir and Nahang class mini submarines. The Russian built Kilo submarines are considered among the quietest diesel submarines in the world. The commander of the navy of the Islamic Republic of Iran Military (IRIM), Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, said: "A new line of defence has been established to the east of the Strait of Hormuz ... and if necessary we can prevent any enemy ship from entering the Persian Gulf." Adm Sayyari was speaking at the October 2008 opening ceremony of a new naval base at Jask, a small fishing port about 300 km to the east of the port city of Bandar Abbas. The high-profile deputy commander of the IRIM's navy, Brigadier General Abdolrahim Musavi, echoed these sentiments at the naval base's inauguration. "The mastery of the Islamic republic is reaching the Indian Ocean. ... Today, the enemy is watching how a country, subjected to 30 years of sanctions, is making headway in all domains. ... The time of bullying and unilateralism, encirclement and invasion has come to an end. ... The sooner they understand this the better, otherwise they will have to pay a heavy price," he said. Gen Musavi told reporters that, at one time, aircraft carriers "terrorised" countries along their route, but today they are, as with "the elements of computer games", under the gaze of Iran's armed forces. The following day, while inspecting Iran's main naval bases in Bandar Abbas, Adm Sayyari said that, in line with the new mission of the navy, which is to build an "impenetrable line" of defence along the coast of the Gulf of Oman, new naval bases will be rapidly constructed from Bandar Abbas, which occupies a strategic position on the Strait of Hormuz, to Pasa Bandar, near the Pakistani border.

Oshkosh to Further Develop Unmanned Ground Vehicle Technology / Oshkosh Defense Signs Agreement With U.S. Army To Further Develop Unmanned Ground.....

Oshkosh to Further Develop Unmanned Ground Vehicle Technology / Oshkosh Defense Signs Agreement With U.S. Army To Further Develop Unmanned Ground Vehicle Technology (NSI News Source Info) OSHKOSH, Wis. - January 27, 2009: Oshkosh Defense, a division of Oshkosh Corporation, today signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the U.S. Army's Tank and Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) to refine technology for the operation of unmanned ground vehicles in convoy missions in real-world environments. The CRADA calls for a three-year collaboration between the Army and Oshkosh to integrate a Convoy Active Safety Technology (CAST) surrogate system onto Oshkosh's unmanned TerraMax(TM) vehicle. The objective is to create a lead vehicle that can navigate and operate in missions, while communicating route information to another unmanned follower vehicle. The vehicles must be able to operate near-autonomous in a safe manner among people, animals, vehicles and other obstacles at operational speeds and in tactical environments. "Oshkosh Defense has a long history of developing military vehicle technology and building trucks that help protect U.S. service men and women," said Thom Mathes, executive director of product development for TARDEC. "This commitment and knowledge will help TARDEC increase the overall system effectiveness of the unmanned vehicle program so our soldiers can effectively and safely conduct specified military missions." Oshkosh Defense first developed unmanned ground vehicle technology in response to a Department of Defense mandate that one-third of military vehicles will be operated autonomously - without drivers - by 2015. A framework for technology development was provided through Oshkosh's participation in the 2004 and 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge events and 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge event. The Oshkosh TerraMax completed the 132-mile course in 2005 and was a finalist in 2007. "Both Oshkosh Defense and TARDEC have devoted valuable energy and R&D resources to develop unmanned ground vehicle technology," said John Stoddart, Oshkosh Corporation executive vice president and president, Defense. "By leveraging each other's knowledge and experience, our plan is to meet the military's 2015 goal and ultimately help save soldiers' lives." Under the CRADA, Oshkosh will provide the necessary hardware and software and assist with integrating the CAST system to ensure it interacts with TerraMax effectively. Furthermore, Oshkosh will use the data to add or modify the vehicle's behavior modes and trajectory generation to affect relevant tactical behaviors for convoy missions. Oshkosh also will provide non-proprietary platform information to assist in the integration of CAST technology into other Oshkosh vehicles, such as the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT) or Heavy Equipment Transporter (HET). Additionally, Oshkosh Defense will work to integrate the platform and modeling evaluations of prototyped and simulated components and systems.

Ukrainian Purchase of ex-USN Vessels in Doubt

Ukrainian Purchase of ex-USN Vessels in Doubt (NSI News Source Info) NEWTOWN, Conn. - January 27, 2009: Senior U.S. officials have purportedly expressed doubts regarding Ukraine's ability to acquire ex-U.S. Navy ships under a program originally envisioned to boost Ukrainian naval capacity. On January 24, Interfax news agency quoted U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor as expressing doubts on Kiev's purchase of U.S. surplus vessels. During a press conference, Taylor noted that the U.S. Department of Defense and Ukrainian Defense Ministry had begun negotiations, but that those negotiations were initiated before the onset of the current economic crisis engulfing Ukraine. Taylor added that, "U.S. naval ships and their equipment are very expensive to maintain, and therefore he does not believe these negotiations will result in a decision in the nearest future." The Ukrainian Defense Ministry press service originally reported on October 8, that Ukrainian Defense Minister Yuri Yekhanurov and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates discussed the possibility Ukraine taking possession of secondhand U.S. naval vessels. Gates said that the American government was considering a possibility of the turning over of those ships to the Ukrainian Navy within the framework of military-technical cooperation between Ukraine and the United States. He added, however, that the issue required the support of the U.S. Congress. According to his information, the next round of consultations on the problem on the level of defense ministries of the two countries will be held in San Diego, California, the Ukrainian defense ministry press service reports.

Malaysian Rescue Service Orders Two AW139s / Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department Orders Two AW139s

Malaysian Rescue Service Orders Two AW139s / Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department Orders Two AW139s
(NSI News Source Info) January 27, 2009: AgustaWestland, a Finmeccanica company, is pleased to announce that the Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) has ordered two AW139 medium twin engine helicopters. These aircraft will be used to perform fire fighting, search and rescue, land reconnaissance and general support duties.
The AgustaWestland AW139 is a 15-seat medium sized twin-engined helicopter manufactured by AgustaWestland. Originally designed and developed jointly by Agusta and Bell Helicopters and marketed as the Agusta-Bell AB139, Bell withdrew from the project, which was then renamed the AW139. The AgustaWestland AW149 is a medium-lift military helicopter being developed by AgustaWestland as an enlarged version of the AW139.
The contract also includes conversion training for aircrew and maintenance staff which will be undertaken prior to delivery of the aircraft in the first half of 2010.
The Bomba order for the AW139 follows the order placed by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency for three aircraft plus options in October 2008. The AW139s will supplement the two AgustaWestland AW109 Power helicopters that have been successfully operating with the Bomba since 2004.
The AW139, a new generation medium twin-turbine helicopter that has set new standards in the market, offers unmatched performance and safety levels and has the largest cabin in its class. State-of-the-art mission equipment and outstanding performance features enable the AW139 to accomplish the most demanding operations in the harshest weather and environmental conditions.
Thanks to its powerful engines, each rated at 1252 kW (1679 shp) for take-off, the AW139 is perfectly suited to carry out demanding missions in the hot and high climatic conditions experienced in Malaysia.
This order marks further success for the AW139 in the fire fighting market with orders having already been placed by the Los Angeles City Fire Department and the Gangwon Fire Department of Korea. The order book for the AW139 has now passed 430 aircraft with orders from over 100 customers located in over 40 countries.
Over 200 AW139s have now been delivered and are in service performing many applications including SAR, air ambulance, fire fighting, offshore transport, VIP/corporate transport, law enforcement, scheduled passenger transport and utility transport.
AgustaWestland Malaysia Sdn Bhd, a wholly owned subsidiary of AgustaWestland, continues to play a major role in the Malaysian helicopter market expanding its presence and increasing its market share. In 2008 AgustaWestland Malaysia Sdn Bhd opened a new regional maintenance and support centre located at Kuala Lumpur’s Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in 2008, aimed at supporting the increasing AgustaWestland fleet and keeping closer to the growing number of customers in the region.

Boeing’s Vehicle-Mounted Laser Shoots Down UAV for First Time / Boeing Laser Avenger Shoots Down Unmanned Aerial Vehicle in Tests

Boeing’s Vehicle-Mounted Laser Shoots Down UAV for First Time / Boeing Laser Avenger Shoots Down Unmanned Aerial Vehicle in Tests
(NSI News Source Info) ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - January 27, 2009: The Boeing Company has successfully demonstrated that a laser system mounted on an Avenger combat vehicle can shoot down a small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) like those that increasingly threaten U.S. troops deployed in war zones.
A laser mounted on an Avenger vehicle has shot down a UAV during a test, which Boeing says is a world first for a combat vehicle. (Boeing photo)
During tests last month at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., Laser Avenger achieved its principal test objectives by using its advanced targeting system to acquire and track three small UAVs flying against a complex background of mountains and desert. The laser system also shot down one of the UAVs from an operationally relevant range. These tests mark the first time a combat vehicle has used a laser to shoot down a UAV.
Representatives of the U.S. Army's Cruise Missile Defense Systems project office observed the tests.
"Small UAVs armed with explosives or equipped with surveillance sensors are a growing threat on the battlefield," said Gary Fitzmire, vice president and program director of Boeing Directed Energy Systems. "Laser Avenger, unlike a conventional weapon, can fire its laser beam without creating missile exhaust or gun flashes that would reveal its position. As a result, Laser Avenger can neutralize these UAV threats while keeping our troops safe."
The tests follow a 2007 demonstration in which an earlier version of Laser Avenger neutralized improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and unexploded ordnance (UXO) on the ground.
"We doubled the laser power; added sophisticated acquisition, tracking and pointing capability; and simplified and ruggedized the design," said Lee Gutheinz, Boeing program director for High-Energy Laser/Electro-Optical Systems. "Boeing developed and integrated these upgrades in less than a year, underscoring our ability to rapidly respond to warfighters' needs."
Laser Avenger integrates a directed energy weapon together with the kinetic weapons on the proven Avenger air defense system developed by Boeing Combat Systems in Huntsville, Ala. It is a Boeing-funded initiative to demonstrate that directed energy weapons are maturing and are relevant to today's battlefield.
Boeing leads the way in developing laser systems for a variety of U.S. Air Force and Army warfighter applications. These systems include the Airborne Laser, the Advanced Tactical Laser, the High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator and the Tactical Relay Mirror System.

'Obama Gave Green Light To Pakistan Attacks'

'Obama Gave Green Light To Pakistan Attacks'
(NSI News Source Info) January 27, 2009: US commanders say they had consulted President Barack Obama before launching recent drone attacks on Pakistan's tribal belt near the Afghan border.
"Four days after assuming the presidency, he (Obama) was consulted by US commanders before they launched the two attacks," Guardian said Sunday.
The report comes after 22 people were killed in two separate US missile strikes on the Waziristan region bordering Afghanistan, on Friday. The attacks were the first since President Barack Obama took office Tuesday.
Pakistani tribesmen show pieces of a missile in a house damaged by a suspected U.S. missile strike in Zharki village, near Miran Shah, the main town of Pakistan's tribal area along Afghanistan border, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009. Suspected U.S. missiles killed 18 people on the Pakistan side of the Afghan border, security officials said Friday, the first attacks on the al-Qaida stronghold since President Barack Obama took office.
Obama has said that he is prepared to bomb inside Pakistan if he gets relevant intelligence about the whereabouts of al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden.
Obama earlier hinted at increased operations in Pakistan, saying he thought George W. Bush had made a mistake in switching to Iraq before completing the job against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Meanwhile Pakistan's foreign ministry said Saturday that it had told US that the attacks by unmanned aircraft were of its 'great concern'. "We maintain that these attacks are counterproductive and should be discontinued," it said in a statement. President Obama has not commented on the missile strikes. However, he has made the war in Afghanistan and the intertwined fight with al-Qaeda in Pakistan a foreign policy priority.
Obama has emphasized that Pakistan and Afghanistan are the central front in the US so-called war against terrorism. "Afghanistan and Pakistan are the central front in the America's war against terrorism and the deteriorating situation in the region poses a grave threat to the global security. It's an international challenge of the highest order. That's why we are pursuing a careful review of our policy," Obama said on Thursday.
The tribal regions along the shared border between Pakistan and Afghanistan have become a safe haven for militants after a US-led invasion in late 2001 toppled Taliban in Afghanistan and sent insurgents to border areas with Pakistan.
The US and its western allies have accused Pakistan of 'not doing enough' to prevent attacks on supply routes as well as cross-border operations carried out by insurgents against foreign troops in Afghanistan. Pentagon has used the allegation as a pretext to launch drone attacks on Pakistan's tribal regions -- a move that has increased tension between Islamabad and Washington and has triggered anti-American sentiments among the Pakistani people.
Over 500 people -- suspected militants as well as civilians -- have been killed in such attacks, which started under the Bush administration.
Pakistan says that the drone attacks undermine the country's sovereignty and trigger public anger.

Pakistani Taliban Turn Honeymoon Spot Into Slaughterhouse

Pakistani Taliban Turn Honeymoon Spot Into Slaughterhouse
By Saeed Shah McClatchy Newspapers
(NSI News Source Info) ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - January 27, 2009: The Pakistani Taliban dumped the 27 bodies at a crossroads in the district capital of Swat, all of people whom the militant Islamists accused of having led "un-Islamic" lives. Around the body of a dancer, the killers threw banknotes and DVD recordings of her performances. Swat, a 3,500-square-mile valley, was Pakistan's favorite honeymoon spot, a mountainous area filled with fruit orchards and rushing streams. Now it's under a reign of terror that a yearlong army operation has proved unable to lift. Most of Swat is now under the extremists' control, locals say. The former tourist destination with a population of 1.7 million lies in the North West Frontier Province 100 miles from Islamabad. Swat is a "settled" area of Pakistan, not the lawless tribal area along the Afghan border, which has provided sanctuary for al Qaida. Its near-complete takeover by militants is another sign of the serious deterioration of civil authority in Pakistan, an enormous challenge for the elected government of this nuclear-armed country and for President Barack Obama's new administration. Earlier this month, the Islamic extremists banned schooling for girls and blew up eight more schools, six in Mingora, which had been thought to be the safest place in Swat. The insurgents have destroyed at least 186 government schools, mainly for girls but also a number for boys, according to Pakistani officials. That's deprived 80,000 children of education and raised questions as to whether any parents in Swat will send their children to class now. This week, the Swat Taliban issued a list of 47 people whom they ordered to appear before their "court" or face unstated consequences. In this picture released exclusively to Reuters on January 17, 2009, Taliban militants are seen with their weapons in an undisclosed location in Afghanistan January 16, 2009. Taliban militants, fighting to overthrow the Western-backed Afghan government and drive out foreign troops, have launched hundreds of suicide attacks in the last two years, but some 80 percent of the victims are Afghan civilians. While Taliban influence has spread from their traditional heartlands in the south and east to areas closer to the capital, there were fewer attacks inside Kabul last year than in 2007 with many more police checkpoints throughout the city. Picture taken January 16, 2009. "If Swat is surrendered, it will become a safe haven for militants, who will threaten the rest of Pakistan, Afghanistan and India," said Hasham Baber, a senior member of the Awami National Party, which runs the provincial government. "The army is terrorizing the people of Swat; the Taliban is terrorizing them." A charismatic preacher called Mullah Fazlullah leads the militants and broadcasts his strictures daily over his radio station. Women aren't allowed to go shopping. The Taliban run their own system of justice, with their own courts, and carry out public whippings and other punishments. They execute open critics, denying them even court hearings. The Pakistani army launched an operation against the Taliban in November 2007, but after initial gains the Taliban pushed the army back. Some 12,000 troops are deployed in Swat. Residents accuse the army of failing to attack the militants' headquarters, not holding ground, shelling civilian areas and not even closing the radio channel. Checkpoints, manned by masked extremists, crisscross the valley unchallenged. The government has said that school will start again March 1 after the winter vacation. Teachers fear for their lives, however, and those of their students. "We will not open the schools unless total peace is restored, in the whole of Swat," said Ziauddin Yousafzai, the former president of the Swat schools association. "The Taliban is closing schools at gunpoint, and the government is telling us to open them at gunpoint." Elected representatives have fled Swat, even town council members. Police officers, the target of many suicide attacks, have deserted, with the force down in strength to 295 from 1,725, said Shaukat Yousafzai, the top state official in Swat. "Things are really deteriorating," Yousafzai said. "The police just protect some of the main offices now. They are not fit for tackling an insurgency. This is not a law and order issue." The army has put the blame on civilians, and it complained that the provincial government stopped the military operation last April for two months while it tried to forge a doomed peace deal with the Taliban. That allowed Fazlullah's men to rearm and gain a stranglehold over the population, said Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the army's chief spokesman. "Half of the police has bolted from Swat, by name only the civil administration is there and what about the local leaders? There is a vacuum on the other (civilian) side," Abbas said.

NATO, Russian Envoys Ending Cold War Over Georgia

NATO, Russian Envoys Ending Cold War Over Georgia
(NSI News Source Info) BRUSSELS - January 27, 2009: NATO and Russia discussed new supply routes for alliance troops in Afghanistan in a meeting Monday that helped to mend ties suspended after Russia's August war with Georgia. NATO is urgently seeking an alternative line through Russia to supply the 62,000 Western troops currently in Afghanistan and the 30,000 reinforcements U.S. President Barack Obama intends to deploy this year. Existing routes through Pakistan are becoming precarious amid deteriorating security. President Dmitry Medvedev has said his government is ready to allow the United States and others to cross Russian territory with cargo intended for coalition forces in Afghanistan. NATO spokesman James Appathurai said after the two-hour meeting that the envoys from Russia and NATO's 26 nations had focused on areas of common interest, "with Afghanistan coming up frequently." "There was a very positive discussion, a very positive spirit, with no recriminations or any desire to dredge up past disagreements," he said.
Despite sharp disagreements in the past over NATO expansion and U.S. plans for missile defense, Moscow has repeatedly expressed willingness to help the war effort in Afghanistan. It has warned that any return to power by Afghanistan's Taliban extremists would destabilize Central Asia and endanger Russia's own security. Because Russia does not border Afghanistan, NATO also is negotiating with several Central Asian states to secure transit rights to Afghanistan's northern frontier. Ties between NATO and a resurgent Russia were suspended following the five-day Georgian war in August. NATO nations accused Moscow of using disproportionate force to eject Georgian forces that had shelled and occupied the capital of the breakaway province of South Ossetia, which has run its own affairs with Russian support since the early 1990s. The United States and some Eastern European nations have blamed Moscow for causing the bloodshed, but Moscow says its military actions were defensive and in response to Georgian aggression. As months of angry exchanges subsided, NATO foreign ministers agreed last month to resume high-level contacts gradually. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer last month met Dmitry Rogozin, Moscow's ambassador to the alliance, as a first step. Monday's talks may pave the way for a formal meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, a consultative panel set up in 2002 to improve relations between the former Cold War foes. Appathurai said the next step in the re-engagement process probably would be for de Hoop Scheffer to meet Russian leaders. This could happen as early as next month, when a Russian government delegation will attend the annual security conference in Munich, Gogozin said. Western forces in landlocked Afghanistan rely on the winding, mountainous road from Pakistan's port of Karachi through the Khyber Pass for delivery of up to 75% of their fuel, food and other supplies. Militants have repeatedly attacked supply convoys heading into Afghanistan, where fighting is escalating seven years after a U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban regime. A secondary route through Pakistan's western province of Baluchistan also runs through some of the most Taliban-infested regions of Afghanistan. "NATO needs supplementary routes (through) Central Asia, an area where Russia is czar," Stratfor, an Austin, Texas-based think tank, said in a report released Monday. "The moves are aggressive, because Washington needs to lock down a new supply route ... now rather than later." Several individual NATO nations — including France, Germany and Canada — already use Russia to bring non-lethal supplies to their contingents in Afghanistan. Last week the United States reached a deal with Russia to begin using that route too. Russia does not permit NATO to move weapons and munitions through its territory.

How Obama Should Respond To China’s Growing Military Might

How Obama Should Respond To China’s Growing Military Might Author: Jonathan Holslag is Head of research at the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies (BICCS) (NSI News Source Info) January 27, 2009: China’s new Defence White Paper confronts the fresh administration in Washington with an important strategic dilemma. It will have to choose between backing Taiwan as a regional military balancer against China, and working with China as a partner in global security affairs.In this Jan. 12, 2009 file photo, Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers parade during training at a military base in Xuchang city, central China's Henan province. China said Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009, that its overall security situation had improved over the past year, although it remained alert to separatism in Tibet and Xinjiang and firmly opposed to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. The second option is America’s best pick. But while showing restraint on Taiwan, it should pursue an inclusive balancing strategy that takes the interests of Asia’s other powers into account. The 2008 Defence White Paper, issued earlier this week, reiterates China’s ambition to flex its military muscle globally. China’s growing economic interests abroad have rendered it vulnerable to a wide range of security threats. Terrorists in Pakistan, pirates in the Indian Ocean, and rebels in Africa are raising the costs. In the past few years dozens of Chinese workers have been killed in violent incidents abroad. Vital economic lifelines are endangered, and Beijing knows that it should no longer count on an overstretched superpower to protect them. The free ride is over. It doesn’t come as a surprise that the paper highlights the capability to deploy warships in “distant waters” or to engage its Air Force in long-range “strategic projection operations.” The recent decision to dispatch three vessels in the Gulf of Aden was an important milestone. Also in the coming years, China will continue to modernise its armed forces in order to take over a part of America’s role as defender of global goods. For the US, this forms an opportunity rather than a threat. The combat against terrorism, stability in Africa, the build-up of Afghanistan, maritime security … these shared interests are strong enough to bend China’s security ambitions into joint efforts. Both China and the US have showed their willingness to explore such synergy. The Pentagon invited the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to observe its Cobra Gold exercises in Southeast Asia. It even encouraged China to participate to the UN-backed patrolling in the Gulf of Aden. The Chinese Ministry of Defence confirmed its interest in more international cooperation during last year’s Strategic Dialogue Meeting in Beijing.Yet, Beijing feels uncomfortable with America reaching out one hand, while supporting its archenemy with the other. As long as Washington continues to support Taiwan as an unsinkable aircraft carrier, it shouldn’t expect that Beijing is going to turn its military go-global strategy into a cooperative one. Obama’s team should therefore continue Defence Secretary Gates’ policy of restraint, and give a clear signal to Beijing that it will not supply major arms systems to Taiwan as long as long as relations across the Straits continue to improve. At the same time, Washington needs to be sensitive to concerns of countries like Australia, Japan and India. They might see closer cooperation with China at the expense of their strategic interests. Inclusive balancing is the way out. Engaging Asia should not be a choice between with or against China. Washington needs to engage all four regional powers simultaneously. At the tactical level, Washington could propose a joint searchand- rescue operation with China, Australia, India, and Japan in the Pacific Ocean, as well as annually rotating manoeuvres on land, and closer cooperation in the framework of – guess who’s missing here - UN Peacekeeping Operations. An A-5 annual summit, preferably in the framework of the Asian Regional Forum (ARF), should boost coordination at the strategic level.Sustained US leadership in Asia requires converting aspirations into cooperation, while at the same time maintaining the checks-and-balances between the regional powers.

Thailand Accused Of Dumping Refugees At Sea Without Water / Photos Show Refugees Cast Adrift By Thai Military

Thailand Accused Of Dumping Refugees At Sea Without Water / Photos Show Refugees Cast Adrift By Thai Military
(NSI News Source Info) January 27, 2009: THE first pictures have emerged showing hundreds of refugees who had fled Burma being towed into international waters on the order of the Thai Army and abandoned at sea. The Herald reported last week that about 1000 refugees had been taken into international waters by Thai Army boats and abandoned with barely a day's supply of rice and water. The new photos, supplied to the television network CNN, are believed to have been taken by someone involved in the operation. They show refugees being towed on a small, overcrowded boat by the Thai Army before being cut loose and abandoned. CNN reported that up to 190 refugees, mainly Rohingya Muslims from western Burma, were crowded onto a single boat.The Thai Army has been executing a policy of detaining refugees on the island of Koh Sai Baed, before casting them adrift in unpowered vessels. About 500 men are now missing and feared drowned, and Thailand faces the possibility of bodies washing up on popular tourist beaches in Phang Nga and Phuket. Since media reports began circulating about the mistreatment of the refugees, Thailand has faced international condemnation, and the Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, has promised an investigation. Shocked tourists holidaying in Thai coastal resorts have provided to international newspapers, including the Herald, photographs of refugees lined up on beaches at gunpoint. Mr Vejjajiva had said the Rohingya boat people would be "pushed out of the country" as part of a crackdown on illegal immigration, Hong Kong's South China Morning Post reported last week. The officer at the centre of the controversy, Colonel Manat Kongpat, of the Thai Army's Internal Security Operations Command has reportedly denied the allegations, saying the refugees were given food and water and helped on their way after villagers repaired their boats.

Pakistan: JF-17X Stealth Fighter

Pakistan: JF-17X Stealth Fighter
(NSI News Source Info) Source; Tempur - January 27, 2009: In what is seen as a counter to India’s effort to jointly develop the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) with Russia’s Sukhoi Aircraft Corp, Pakistan’s Kamra-based Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and China’s Chengdu Aerospace Corp (CAC) last October inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to jointly develop an advanced, stealthy, single-seat and single-engined derivative of the JF-17 Thunder fourth-generation light multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) that is already being co-developed by PAC and CAC.
Consequently, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is expected to induct only 100 JF-17s into service between this year and 2014, and subsequently switch over to the acquisition of another 150 JF-17-derived fifth-generation stealthy MRCAs between 2015 and 2025.
Present plans call for the latter MRCA to be powered by SNECMA Moteurs’ M88-3 twin-shaft bypass turbofan, incorporate a digital glass cockpit and open-architecture avionics suite, and use SELEX Sensors and Airborne Systems’ Vixen 500E X-band multi-mode active phased-array radar, or AESA, an integrated electronic warfare/defensive aids suite being developed by China’s CETC, along with a helmet-mounted sighting-cum-cueing system for which systems from THALES, BAE Systems and Denel Aerospace are being evaluated.
The M88 turbofan for this aircraft will have variable camber inlet guide vanes, while its high-pressure compressor will have a sixth stage, and its exhaust nozzle will be of the ejector type. The turbofan will deliver 50kN (11,250lb) of dry thrust and 75kN (17,000lb) with afterburning. The primary offensive armament to be carried by this aircraft will be two underwing-mounted Hatf-8 (also called ‘Raad’ or ‘thunder’ in Arabic) air-launched cruise missile, which has a range of 350km.
For air combat engagements, the stealthy MRCA will be armed with three types of air-to-air missiles: 60km-range PL-12 beyond visual range missile; 15km-range PL-13 within visual range missile; and PL-14 ramjet-powered 100km-range missile. The latter two have been developed by China in cooperation with South Africa’s Denel Aerospace.
In contrast, the JF-17, which is due to enter service late next year, is a light MRCA that will be eventually replace the PAF’s existing CAC-built F-7P Skybolt and F-7MG light MRCAs...

India Goes For 'Urgent' Purchase Of Anti-Tank Missiles

India Goes For 'Urgent' Purchase Of Anti-Tank Missiles (NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI - January 27, 2009: With tensions with Pakistan yet to abate and the indigenous "Nag'' missile still not operational, the Army has gone in for an "urgent order'' of 4,100 French-origin Milan-2T anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs).
Defence ministry sources said the Rs 592-crore order for 4,100 Milan-2T missiles, pending for quite some time, was cleared after 26/11, with the government finally fast-tracking several military procurement plans.
MILAN is a European anti-tank guided missile. Design of the MILAN started in 1962. It was ready for trials in 1971, and was accepted for service in 1972. It is a wire guided SACLOS (Semi-Automatic Command to Line-Of-Sight) missile, which means the sight of the launch unit has to be aimed at the target to guide the missile. The MILAN can be equipped with a MIRA thermal sight, to give it night-firing ability.
Though tanks are slowly losing their relevance in the modern-day battlefield, and chances of face-to-face armoured confrontations diminishing, they will continue to play a critical role in the India-Pakistan context.
Both India and Pakistan, who share a long land border, are currently reorganising their mechanised forces to achieve strategic mobility and high-volume firepower for rapid thrusts into enemy territory.
India, of course, has plans to progressively induct as many as 1,657 Russian-origin T-90S main-battle tanks (MBTs), apart from the ongoing upgradation of its T-72 fleet.
But with Pakistan now looking to procure T-84 MBTs from Ukraine to bolster its already strong fleet of T-80UD, Al-Khalid and other tanks, India also wants its infantry battalions to have potent anti-armour capabilities. This can be gauged from the fact that the latest order for 4,100 "advanced'' Milan-2T missiles with "tandem warheads'' to replenish the Army's dwindling ATGM stock comes barely a few months after the Rs 1,380-crore contract for a staggering 15,000 Konkurs-M missiles.
Defence PSU Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL), incidentally, manufactures variants of the second-generation 2-km-range Milan and 4-km-range Konkurs ATGMs, under licence from French and Russian companies, at around Rs 4.50 lakh per unit. As for the third-generation Nag ATGM, with a 4-km strike range, Army has already placed an initial order for 443 missiles and 13 Namicas (Nag missile tracked carriers).
But the Nag is still to become fully operational almost two decades after it was first tested. DRDO contends that Phase-I of Nag's user-trials were successfully completed last month, with Phase-II now slated for May-June. "Pre-production of Nag is underway at BDL. It's is a fire-and-forget missile, with potent top-attack capability to hit a tank's vulnerable upper portion like the gun turret,'' said an official.
Moreover, Nag's range will be extended to over 7-km in its airborne version named "Helina'', to be fitted on "Dhruv'' Advanced Light Helicopters, each configured to carry eight missiles in two launchers. Incidentally, Nag is the only "core missile system'' of India's original Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), launched way back in 1983, whose development work is yet to be completed.
The IGMDP was "closed'' in December 2007 after DRDO declared development work on all other missiles ― Agni, Prithvi, Akash and Trishul ― was over. While work on "strategic'' nuclear-capable missiles like Agni-III (3,500-km range) and Agni-V (over 5,000-km) is being "undertaken in-house'', India is now increasingly look at foreign collaboration in other armament projects to cut delays.