Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Al Qaeda’s #2 Mocks President Obama’s “Concern”

Al Qaeda’s #2 Mocks President Obama’s “Concern”
(NSI News Source Info) February 5, 2009: Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number 2 man of al Qaeda, allegedly released an audio message today titled, “Gaza Sacrifices and The Conspiracies.” The voice on the audio sounds very much like Zawahiri; the intonation and accent are consistent with earlier messages by the Egyptian doctor.
Two references indicate that the message was recorded on or after January 20th. This is significant as it gives an idea of how quickly these messages are turned around and released online.
Zawahiri references Israeli forces pulling out of Gaza and he indicates his knowledge that President Obama didn’t mention Gaza in his inauguration speech. Ayman al-Zawahiri criticized President Obama for failing to mention the Gaza conflict at his inauguration. The audio message is part of a production by As-Sahab the video production and mouthpiece of al Qaeda. As-Sahab (The Clouds in Arabic) has been producing propaganda videos for al Qaeda since 2001, shortly after the terror attacks on New York and DC.
Today’s release plays over a graphic showing a photo collage which compliment the message in their symbolism. Mirroring Zawahiri’s opinion that some Arab leaders are involved in a conspiracy against the Palestinian people, the collage shows King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia drinking coffee with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak; and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas posing with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
The rest of the collage shows three dead Palestinian children on one side and Zawahiri’s photo on the other. A graphic video plays before and after the message showing images of various militant attacks in various regions of the world with jihadist songs playing in the background. The subject today is very much the same his message of January 6, 2009 — Gaza. He calls for jihad – holy war. He asks people to donate money, weapons or themselves to “support your brethren in Gaza.” He claims that peaceful demonstrations are not enough and calls for everyone to help “in any way they can.” Half way through his message he says, “Even [President] Obama declared that he was very concerned about the civilians who are being killed in Gaza.” He then mocks the US president by saying “concerned.” Then he continues, ”We are very grateful for your concern Mr. Obama.
We received your ‘concern’ along with thousands of bombs and tons of the white phosphorus mixed with the scattered bodies, blood and tears of the Muslims in Gaza.” Then he concludes, “But apparently, [President] Obama’s “concern” didn’t last too long because in his inauguration speech, he didn’t mention one word about what took place in Gaza as if nothing happened there.” While Zawahiri tells his listeners not to wait for permission to perform jihad and assist Gaza, one must note that his messages don’t seem to ring true with the people of Gaza. Despite the multitude of messages aimed at Gaza and in support of Gaza, we have yet to hear a serious Palestinian response to or acknowledgement of these messages from the Palestinian side — Hamas, Fatah or ordinary Palestinians.

ManTech To Support MRAP Sustainment

ManTech To Support MRAP Sustainment
(NSI News Source Info) FAIRFAX, Va., - February 5, 2009: The U.S. Army has contracted ManTech International Corp. to support mine resistant ambush protected vehicle sustainment initiatives. Virginia-based ManTech received the award from U.S. company VSE Corp. on behalf of the Army Program Executive Office, Combat Support and Combat Service Support and the Tank Automotive and Armaments Command, Product Manager for Assured Mobility Systems. The RG-33 is a mine-resistant light armored vehicle designed by BAE Systems Land Systems a South African subsidiary of BAE Systems and built in York, Pennsylvania, USA. It is one of several vehicles being fielded by the US Armed Forces in Iraq under the MRAP program. It is based on the RG-31, which itself is based on the Mamba APC, although it is roughly twice the weight of an RG-31. There are two variants, the standard RG-33 has four wheels and weighs 14 tons while the extended RG-33L variant has six wheels, can carry twice as many people in the back, and weighs 24 tons. Under the contract, worth approximately $355 million, ManTech will support rapid repair requirements for the Army's fleet of RG31 and RG33 MRAPs deployed to Afghanistan and Southwest Asia. Officials say the level of work on the contract will depend on U.S. operations in Southwest Asia and the scale of the ongoing campaign targeting the Taliban, among other militants. "ManTech has been supporting mine detection, mine retrieval and mine protected systems in Southwest Asia since 2003," Robert Coleman, ManTech president and chief operating officer, said in a statement. "We are proud to support these systems because we understand they play an important role in keeping our war fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan safe."

China Is Major Supplier Of Heavy Artillery For African Countries

China Is Major Supplier Of Heavy Artillery For African Countries
(NSI News Source Info) February 5, 2009:The Angolan army is in contact with Chinese defense manufacturer Norinco, seeking to buy heavy artillery, armored vehicles and ammunition. China already has been supplying an extensive range of light weapons and ammunition to Zimbabwe and Angola. African military sources told United Press International that Norinco recently exported a number of 155mm howitzers to North African countries, including Algeria, Sudan and Egypt. One source told UPI that Algeria purchased enough 155mm auto-propulsion howitzers to equip a battalion. Algeria traditionally has not been a purchaser of Chinese ground-force equipment, but seems to have taken its lead from Sudan, which first bought the howitzers. Early in 2003 it was revealed that NORINCO (China North Industries Corporation) was developing a new version of the WZ 551 (6 × 6) Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) designated the WMZ 551.The original version of the WZ 551 (6 × 6) APC was developed in the early 1980s and used for a variety of roles within the People's Liberation Army (PLA).In recent years it has seen increasing use as a weapons platform. Full details of the WZ 551 (6 × 6) are given in a separate entry.In appearance the WZ 551 (6 × 6) APC is very similar to the French Renault Trucks Defense VAB series of 4 × 4 and 6 × 6 APCs with the commander and driver at the front, power pack to the immediate rear and the troop compartment at the very rear of the hull. The first prototype of the WMZ 551 (6 × 6) APC was completed in the second half of 2003, following which it started its extensive trials programme.In 2008 it was revealed that NORINCO (China North Industries Corporation) had started to market a new 8 × 8 wheeled armoured personnel carrier (APC) called the VN1. At this stage it is not known as to whether this is in service with the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA), or has been developed by the company as a private venture for the export market. There is also a 6 × 6 version of the VN1.As of September 2008 it is understood that the WMZ One company of Chinese auto-propulsion 155mm howitzers consists of six artillery vehicles, one 704-1 positioning radar and one 720-D meteorological radar. One battalion is composed of 18 155mm howitzers, one command vehicle and one surveillance vehicle.This type of auto-propulsion 155mm 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 (30 miles). Other ammunition used for the howitzer includes the 30-kilometer (18 mile) range ERFB/HE — high explosive — and the 39-kilometer (24 mile) range ERFB-BB/HE. The weight of the artillery weapon is 13 tons. Analysts from the African military industry believe China has fitted Russian Krasnopol semi-active laser-guided gun launch projectiles on its 155mm 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 6X6 wheeled armored vehicles to both Zambia and Kenya in the past three years. Kenya is not a traditional market for 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 30mm gun produced under license from Russia. The armored vehicle can be fitted with a 12.7mm machine gun, 105mm smooth-bore gun, 120mm 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 120mm mortar guns, 105mm smooth-bore guns and 2A72 30mm cannon guns. A source from the Chinese military industry told United Press International that the turrets of the WMZ-551 can be transferred to 8X8 wheeled vehicles once those have been developed. 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 (360 miles), a length of 6.69 meters, width of 2.86 meters, and its speed in water is 8 kilometers per hour.

Indonesia Receives 3 Sukhoi Jets From Russia

Indonesia Receives 3 Sukhoi Jets From Russia
(NSI News Source Info) February 5, 2009: Indonesian military got three new Sukhoi jet fighters from Russia on Monday in an effort to boost defense capacity following a series of deadly accidents caused by outdated military aircraft, the Jakarta Post said here Tuesday.
The country now has totally 7 Sukhoi model fighters, all of which were purchased from Russia through a credit scheme.
Indonesian Defense Ministry secretary general Let. General Sjafrie Syamsuddin represented the Indonesian government at a ceremony welcoming the jet fighters at the Sultan Hasanuddin Air Force base in Makassar, South Sulawesi. The Russian Ambassador to Indonesia, Alexander Ivanov, represented Russia.
The secretary general said that Indonesia was expecting to receive another three planes by August to completely equip its Makassar squadron with the responsibility of overseeing the vast eastern archipelago of Indonesia.Indonesian air force officials inspect a Russian Sukhoi Su-30MK2 multi-functional fighter jet during a handover ceremony in Makassar February 2, 2009. Indonesia has received three more new fighter jets from Russia on Monday and they will be stationed in Makassar, an airforce official said.
Indonesia purchased the planes from Russia through a seven-year credit scheme at a total price of 335 million U.S. dollars for seven jet fighters, but does not have to start making payments for five years.
Ambassador Ivanov said although the deal partly came about as a result of good relations between Russian and Indonesian, and the transaction was purely commercial.

Russian Arms Exports To China May Drop Significantly

Russian Arms Exports To China May Drop Significantly
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - February 5, 2009: Russian arms sales to China could shrink from 40% to 10%, the head of a state-controlled arms exporter said on Wednesday. In the past several decades Russia has been selling Su-27 and Su-30 fighters, Varshavyanka-class diesel submarines, and air-defense systems to China, among other types of weapons and equipment. Rosoboronexport's general director Anatoly Isaikin did not say exactly when the Chinese share was expected to drop, stressing, however, that Russia was unfazed by the prospect. "After all, sales volumes [across the world] are still high," he said in an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta. He said Russia's cooperation with Beijing "is reaching a fundamentally new level - the development of dual-purpose products with high-tech components." Isaikin said Russia had signed the first military contract this year for the delivery of more than 100 engines for the Chinese J-10 fighter. He added that China would continue to buy military transport aircraft, fuel tankers, and aircraft engines from Russia, and was also interested in air-defense system and naval systems.

Russia May Build More Krivak Class Frigates For India

Russia May Build More Krivak Class Frigates For India
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - February 5, 2009: Russia and India are negotiating a new contract on the delivery of additional Project 11356 frigates for the Indian navy, the head of Russia's arms exporter said on Wednesday. The talks are being held despite disruptions in the construction of the ships. Russia is building three Project 11356 Krivak IV-class guided missile frigates for the Indian navy at the Yantar shipyard in Russia's Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad under a $1.6 billion contract signed in July, 2006. "The contract deadlines are very tough and there were indeed some disruptions in the construction," Rosoboronexport's general director Anatoly Isaikin said in an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "It took some time to deal with the problems. After additional work and testing were carried out, there were no complaints with regard to the frigate. Moreover, talks are being held for an additional order of this type of combat vessel," Isaikin said. The official said most of the problems were related to advanced weaponry and electronics installed on the frigates to meet the requirements of the Indian navy. A delegation of Indian military officials, led by India's deputy chief of the naval staff, Vice Adm. Raman P Suthan, visited the Yantar shipyard in October last year and said it was satisfied with the pace and the quality of the construction. Russia previously built three Krivak-class frigates - INS Talwar, INS Trishul and INS Tabar - for India, and delivered them all in late 2004. The final vessel of the current batch is due to be delivered to India by 2011-12. All of the frigates will be armed with eight BrahMos supersonic anti-ship cruise missile systems and not the Club-N/3M54TE missile system, which was installed on previous frigates. The Krivak-class frigate has deadweight of 4,000 metric tons and a speed of 30 knots, and is capable of accomplishing a wide range of maritime missions, primarily hunting down and destroying large surface ships and submarines. "In terms of firepower it [the Krivak IV class frigate] has no rivals in the world in its class," Isaikin said.

F-16 Fighting Falcon Is A Versatile, Reliable Proven A Successful Multirole Aircraft

F-16 Fighting Falcon Is A Versatile, Reliable Proven A Successful Multirole Aircraft
(NSI News Source Info) February 5, 2009: February 4, 2009: The U.S. F-16 is the most numerous post-Cold War jet fighter, with over 4,200 built, and more to come. During The Cold War, Russia built over 10,000 MiG-21s, and the U.S over 5,000 F-4s.
The F-16 can also function as a bomber and ground attack aircraft, although not as effectively as the air force folks would have you believe. It can carry four tons of bombs. In air-to-air combat, it has shot down 69 aircraft so far, without losing anything to enemy warplanes. It was originally designed as a cheaper alternative to the heavier F-15. The F-16 are sturdy, and one has spent 7,000 hours in the air before being retired. The F-16C was originally designed for a service life of 4,000 hours in the air. But advances in engineering, materials and maintenance techniques have extended that to over 8,000 hours. The F-16 is used by 25 different countries.
The aircraft is still in production, and is to be replaced in U.S. service by the F-35. But with delays in getting F-35 production going, and trouble keeping the F-35 price down, it appears that the F-16 will remain in production for another decade. Part of the reason for that is the adaptability of the F-16. It's one of those aircraft that is easily upgraded. Consider the Israeli F-16I. This is a 24 ton, two seat fighter-bomber, and is probably the most capable F-16 model in service. It's basically a modified version of the F-16C/D Block 50/52, equipped with a more advanced radar (the APG-68(X)) and the ability to carry Israeli weapons like the Python 4 air-to-air missile and the Popeye 2 air-to-surface missile.
Costing $45 million each, the F-16I has an excellent navigation system, which allows it to fly on the deck (a few hundred feet from the ground), without working the pilot to death. The aircraft can do this at night or in any weather. The F-16I can carry enough fuel to hit targets 1,600 kilometers away (meaning Iran is within range). The aircraft uses the latest short and long range air-to-air missiles, as well as smart bombs.
Electronic countermeasures are carried, as is a powerful computer system, which records the details of each sortie in great detail. This is a big help for training.
The F-16I is basically optimized to deliver smart bombs anywhere, despite dense air defenses. This further increases Israels military power versus its neighbors. Israel has received 102 new F-16I fighter-bombers in the last five years. Added to this will be another 125, as older F-16s are upgraded. What is more likely to put the F-16 out of business are unmanned aircraft like the MQ-9 Reaper. The 4.7 ton Reaper has a wingspan of 66 feet and a payload of 1.5 tons. Reaper is considered a combat aircraft, because it can carry everything from the hundred pound Hellfire missile, to the 500 pound laser or GPS guided smart bomb.
Reaper has a laser designator, as well as day and night (infrared) cameras. Reaper can stay in the air for over 14 hours and operate at up to 50,000 feet. A fully tricked out Reaper costs about $18 million per aircraft (with all the high end sensors). Thus the 19 ton F-16 costs more than twice as much as a Reaper, and is much more expensive to operate. The F-16 uses over a hundred times more fuel, per hour in the air, and with the price of oil rapidly rising, that itself means a lot.
Put simply, It's cheaper, more effective, and safer (for pilots) to use Reapers (or similar aircraft) for a lot of the ground support work. Fighters are still needed to keep the skies clear of enemy aircraft, although Reapers are better suited for the dangerous work of destroying enemy air defenses. But for fighting irregulars, the Reaper is king, and there are more bad guys with guns on the ground, than in the air.

Germany To Base Troops In France For First Time Since WWII

Germany To Base Troops In France For First Time Since WWII
(NSI News Source Info) Paris - February 5, 2009: French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed Wednesday that a German battalion will shortly be stationed on French soil for the first time since World War II.
"France will host a German unit permanently on its soil," the two leaders wrote in a joint statement published by the website of the French daily Le Monde. They stressed "the historic significance” of this new step in Franco-German friendship.
The hundreds of German troops will be serving in the Franco-German brigade that was set up in 1989 and which currently has 2,300 French soldiers and 2,800 German forces stationed side-by-side in southwest Germany.
Der Spiegel magazine reported last month that 500 German soldiers would be stationed in the border town of Colmar but reports in the French press cited Strasbourg, Metz or Bitche as possible bases.
German troops occupied much of France during World War II. The eastern Alsace-Lorraine region has a patchwork history of annexation and occupation under both countries.On the website of Le Monde, the two leaders also called for "real co-operation" between NATO and the European Union, saying the "strategic partnership" between them was not strong enough. "To our great regret, the 'strategic partnership' between NATO and the EU has fallen short of our expectations due to disagreements that persist between certain nations," they wrote.
The two leaders are due to meet on Saturday at the Munich security conference, an annual meeting called the "Davos of defense." The Franco-German Brigade was set up by then French president Francois Mitterrand and German chancellor Helmut Kohl to increase military cooperation between the two former enemies.
There are German officers based in Strasbourg in eastern France who are engaged with the NATO mission Eurocorps, but no German military unit has been stationed in the country since the end of World War II over 60 years ago.
There are also regular exchanges between the two countries including German officers who study at French defense academies and helicopter pilots who train in France.

DoD Clears AESA Export Policy As F-16 Sales Await

DoD Clears AESA Export Policy As F-16 Sales Await
(NSI News Source Info) February 5, 2009: A US Department of Defense ruling on export policy for active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars has set the stage for a new wave of foreign sales, especially for the Lockheed Martin F-16 retrofit market.
Northrop Grumman has confirmed that the DoD approved the classified details of the ruling late last year, setting a firm baseline for the release of hardware and technical data about the increasingly popular radar system for tactical and surveillance aircraft.
The F-16 is the largest Western jet fighter program with over 4,400 aircraft built since production was approved in 1976. Though no longer being bought by the U.S. Air Force, advanced versions are still being built for export customers. In 1993, General Dynamics sold its aircraft manufacturing business to the Lockheed Corporation, which in turn became part of Lockheed Martin after a 1995 merger with Martin Marietta.
"It enables us now to be measured against it," says Arlene Camp, Northrop's director of advanced F-16 radar programmes. The company is continuing to develop a new AESA sensor - the Scaleable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) - for the international F-16 retrofit market. A two-year validation phase culminated at the end of last year with the completion of flight tests aboard a Sabreliner testbed modified with an F-16 radome and radar cockpit controls.
Northrop and the US Air Force are in the process of selecting an advanced F-16 model to use as a flight-test asset for an early production unit of SABR. Flight tests are expected to start before the end of the year.The goal is to select a late-model F-16 - such as a Block 50/52 - to stretch the limitations of the integration challenge for the new radar, Camp says. Newer F-16s carry more power-consuming avionics boxes, making power and cooling performance a premium compared with older versions of the aircraft.
Even so, Lockheed plans to survey the F-16's actual power and cooling needs. "There may be some wiggle room even though we're not sure we need it yet," Camp says. "There may be some additional room that the aircraft has left to give."
Northrop is designing SABR to require few, if any, structural or system modifications to the F-16. However, the company acknowledges that upgrading the F-16's cockpit displays would be needed to properly show the improved radar's tracking results. "That's the plan of a couple of display providers that we would like to see happen," Camp says. "I think that would enhance the user's experience of the radar."
Northrop's SABR faces a rare competitive challenge for F-16 sales. The Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar is also being offered, with Lockheed expected to eventually make a selection which Camp says will likely be final.
"I don't foresee there would be multiple competitions," she adds. "It would make it extremely hard to come back and win a second contract. The price would be much lower due to the development under contract so it would be very hard to unseat an incumbent."

Japan Frets Over The US's F-22s

Japan Frets Over The US's F-22s
By Kosuke Takahashi
(NSI News Source Info) TOKYO - February 5, 2009: Across the world, potential buyers, rivals and military experts are watching closely United States President Barack Obama's decision on whether or not to continue building the costly F-22 stealth fighter, Japan is certainly no exception.
No one expects the US to lose its global military hegemony any time soon, but Obama's decision - which has to be made by March 1 - could be a bellwether of how the global economic upheaval will shape American military planning in the coming years. It is also likely to be a good indication of how he will manage relations between the US government and the military-industrial complex.
In Japan, the first would-be overseas buyer if given the chance, there is all kinds of speculation on the issue of Lockheed-Martin's F-22 Raptor, considered the most advanced air-superiority fighter in the world, and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a next-generation, one-engined supersonic stealth aircraft. Japan could eventually buy one, or both, or neither. It's still hard to find anything concrete.
The US Air Force estimates that the F-22s would cost about $142 million apiece, but when development expenses are added, the price tag soars to more than $350 million per plane. News reports in 2007 said Japan would be willing to pay $300 million each for a fleet of 100.
Some military analysts have said that to replace its aging fleet of about 90 Mitsubishi/McDonnell Douglas F-4EJ fighters, the Japanese Ministry of Defense will maintain its pursuit of F-22 fighter jets. This is based on the assumption that the US Congress will lift its ban on the export of its most advanced US fighters to Japan, which is feasible considering Japan's role as a linchpin of US security interests in the Asia-Pacific region.
They believe Washington is willing to preserve the golden era of US-Japan relations, epitomized by the rapport between former US president George W Bush and former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi.
Some Japanese newspapers, such as the Yomiuri Shimbun, have also reported that faced with continued intransigence from the US Congress over lifting the ban, which is afraid of a cutting-edge technology leak over the possible F-22 fighter sale to Japan, Tokyo will begin to shift towards the other five contenders to replace the F-4 fleet.
Namely, these are Lockheed-Martin's F-35, Eurofighter's Typhoon, Boeing's F-15FX and F/A-18E/F and Dassault's Rafale.
But many are afraid that should the Japanese government order the Eurofighter's Typhoon, the US government would interrupt such negotiations and ask Japan to reconsider them in respect of the bilateral security relationship.
Some are also concerned that Japan's stalled efforts to relocate the US Marine Corps' Air Station Futenma within Okinawa prefecture have already discouraged the US from exporting F-22 stealth fighters to Japan, an indication they say of Washington's waning desire to strengthen the US-Japan alliance as part of its security strategy in the northeast Asian region. The relocation issue has been deadlocked for more than a decade, mainly due to local opposition.
"I don't think Okinawa is a factor at all," Michael Green, former senior director for Asian affairs of the White House National Security Council, said in an interview with Asia Times Online last week. The "biggest issue is whether the USAF [US Air Force] will buy enough to keep the line open until a Japan export version is ready."
Others have also pointed out that Washington is less willing to export F-22 stealth fighters to Tokyo as it could strain strategically important Sino-US relations. Obama's decision on the F-22 fighter program - with its wider implications for Japan-US and China-US ties - will make things clearer on this subject.
"The US is cautious of military technology transfer," said Hideshi Takesada of the Japanese National Institute for Defense Studies, a think-tank attached to the Japanese Ministry of Defense. "It also won't sell the F-22 to the UK and Australia, among others. It should be hard for Japan to receive such special considerations from the US. Should Japan stick to [its plans to buy] the state-of-the-art fighter, it would prove to be damaging to the national interest."
The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) currently possesses about 360 jet fighters, with three different models. It has about 200 F-15s, about 70 F-2s and about 90 F-4EJ jets, but the latter have been used since the Vietnam War and are scheduled to be retired by 2013.
Japan has repeatedly said throughout 2008 that it is seeking access to information on the F-22's technologies and performance data to review its capabilities before procuring next-generation (FX) fighters for the JASDF to replace the aging F-4EJs.
Japan's Defense Ministry was previously scheduled to begin the acquisition of next-generation FX fighters for the JASDF during the fiscal year 2009 starting this coming April, but delayed this before its deadline of September, 2008. It refrained from requesting any part of the national budget, citing difficulties gathering information about candidate airplanes such as the F-22. Instead, it requested 89.2 billion yen (US$996 million) in the national budget to upgrade 22 F-15s to improve air defense capabilities, according to a spokesman at the ministry.
In an effort to reduce the impact of a delayed FX selection, the JASDF is seeking to extend the life of the F-4EJ fighters by using them "more efficiently", the spokesman said.
Although this is little-known among foreign observers, the ministry also requested about 8.5 billion yen in the next fiscal year budget for preliminary work to develop a Japanese version of the stealth fighter called Shinshin, meaning the Heart of God. The ministry plans to spend a total of 39.4 billion yen until the fiscal 2015 to develop the Shinshin. "This is a long-term plan, so nothing related to the FX selection this time around," the spokesman said.

Canada Sends Helos, Drones To Back Up Troops In Afghanistan

Canada Sends Helos, Drones To Back Up Troops In Afghanistan
(NSI News Source Info) KANDAHAR, Afghanistan —February 4, 2009: Canada has boosted its forces in southern Afghanistan with a new contingent of helicopters and drones, a move that senior military officers say will reduce the number of ground convoys used to supply remote bases and better protect soldiers against Taliban fighters. The addition of the new aircraft comes as U.S. attention shifts from Iraq to Afghanistan and as the NATO-led international coalition renews its focus on Kandahar, Helmand and other southern provinces, which have seen a sharp rise in bombings, assassinations and other Taliban violence in the last two years. Eight CH-47C Chinooks were delivered to the Canadian Forces in 1974. The Chinooks were in Canadian service from 1974 to 1991; they were designated CH-147. These aircraft were subsequently sold to the Netherlands and are now operated by the Royal Netherlands Air Force as CH-47Ds. On July 5, 2006, the Canadian government issued a notice that it intends to purchase 16 CH-47F Chinooks. "There are never enough aircraft and helicopters to support operations," said Col. Christopher Coates, commander of the Canadian air wing in Kandahar, during an interview last week. "Certainly, it’s a recognition that there is a need for more aviation support." The new aircraft include six Chinook cargo helicopters, eight Griffon escort helicopters and four Heron unmanned aerial vehicles. A study commissioned by the Canadian parliament recommended last year that Canada purchase new medium-lift cargo helicopters and high-performance surveillance drones. The study, known as the Manley Report, concluded that Canadian soldiers "currently rely too much" on allied forces to provide those capabilities. The panel also recommended that Canada give up security responsibility for Kandahar if other countries did not post more soldiers to the province or if the aircraft were not purchased. Canada has 2,800 soldiers in Afghanistan, most of which operate in Kandahar province. They were joined last summer by about 800 soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment. Canada deployed the new aircraft amid an overall buildup of military forces in southern Afghanistan. The Pentagon is preparing to dispatch as many as 30,000 additional troops to the country over the next year and a half, many of which are expected to deploy to southern regions, almost doubling the current U.S. force in Afghanistan of 35,000 troops. The U.S. 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division has begun deploying soldiers to Wardak and Logar provinces, south of the Afghan capital of Kabul. At least one more brigade — about 3,500 soldiers — is expected to arrive in Afghanistan by summer. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has also called on other NATO countries to provide up to 10,000 additional troops for up to four months to help provide security for the presidential election currently scheduled for August. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force consists of about 55,000 troops from 41 nations, but about half of those are U.S. forces. More than 10,000 other U.S. troops also operate in Afghanistan under separate commands. Several countries, including the United States, Britain, the Netherlands and France, operate aircraft in southern Afghanistan, but helicopters, especially, remain in short supply. Military officials say they are a crucial asset in a country which has few paved roads and is dominated by vast stretches of mountains and deserts. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been calling upon NATO countries for more than a year to contribute more helicopters and other equipment to the war in Afghanistan, but many pledges of help have yet to be fulfilled. The Pentagon announced in December that the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade from Fort Bragg, N.C., would deploy to Afghanistan this spring. The six Canadian Chinooks were purchased from the United States and delivered to Canadian forces in December by the U.S. Army’s 6th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment as that unit redeployed to the United States, Coates said. Coates said the aircraft will be used not only to supply Canadian forces, but will also ferry equipment and soldiers to other NATO bases throughout southern Afghanistan. "It’s the best helicopter for that in theater," he said. But Canadian forces haven’t flown the Chinook since 1992, so pilots and crews have spent much of the past month flying training missions, Coates said. Some of the Canadian helicopters have already flown combat missions, but the aircraft will not be considered fully operational until a sufficient number of pilots and crews are trained, a process that could take another four to eight weeks, Coates said. The smaller Griffon utility helicopters will be used primarily to escort the Chinooks, but can also fly surveillance and reconnaissance missions, Coates said. The Canadian military last week announced that it had also begun operating Heron unmanned aerial vehicles in Kandahar province. The drones should help reduce Taliban attacks by providing troops with the ability to scout convoy routes around the clock and detect fighters trying to plant bombs, officials said.

The USA’s 2009 Hummer Orders

The USA’s 2009 Hummer Orders
(NSI News Source Info) February 4, 2009: The US military’s Hummers have demonstrated severe payload and survivability limitations. Nevertheless, they remain a fixture in the fleet, and new orders continue. Orders and shipments of blast-resistant MRAP vehicles have largely tailed off after a run of over 15,000 vehicles, and the 40,000 to 60,000 vehicle JLTV program will not field Hummer replacements until 2014 – if it survives at all.
The High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV or Humvee) is a military 4WD motor vehicle created by AM General. It has largely supplanted the roles formerly served by the M151 1/4 ton MUTT, the M561 "Gama Goat", their M718A1 and M792 ambulance versions, the CUCV, and other light trucks with the United States military, as well as being used by a number of other countries and organizations.
The US military is working on an interim M-ATV program that will buy lighter blast-resistant vehicles for use on the front lines, but that program has yet to issue a contract, let alone fielding vehicles in theater. All of these options distinguish themselves from the HMMWV or “hummer” by having smooth, shaped bottoms that deflect land mine blasts away, instead of flat bottoms with lots of pockets that catch, reflect, and catch under-body explosions in an iterative cycle.
At one point, the US Marines’ objective was to restrict Hummers to use “inside the wire” of American bases in Iraq. Instead, a sharp reduction in violence within Iraq, and a lower vehicle threat level so far in Afghanistan, have given the HMMWVs a new lease on life.
They are still seeing extensive use on the front lines, and the early wear created by the weight of their add-on armor has led to RESET maintenance programs for some Hummers and allied giveaways for others. The US Army had about 19,000 HMMWV vehicles in Iraq alone in mid-2007. As Hummers wear out and are given away, or are sent to a depot, they must be replaced. Some replacement involves cycling vehicles from other units into theater, but those units must eventually have their lost vehicles replaced with Hummers or with something else, in order to maintain their own readiness rates for deployment. Hence the necessity for ongoing buys of more Hummers, in the absence of a program to provide replacements on a fleet-wide basis. This Spotlight article covers the family’s newest variants, and chronicles the US military’s 2009 purchases. It will soon become a subscriber-only feature.

Germany Orders Spike Missile For New Puma IFV / Order to Integrate Guided Missile Technology Into New Puma IFV

Germany Orders Spike Missile For New Puma IFV / Order to Integrate Guided Missile Technology Into New Puma IFV
(NSI News Source Info) February 4, 2009:Germany's Federal Agency for Defence Technology and Procurement (BWB) has placed an order with PSM GmbH of Kassel for a major expansion of the Bundeswehr's new infantry fighting vehicle, the Puma. The Düsseldorf-based Rheinmetall Group has a 50% stake in PSM, the company in charge of the Puma project.
The order for integration of the multiple role lightweight guided missile system (MELLS) is worth approximately EUR 68 million.
Equipping the Puma with this state-of-the-art guided missile system constitutes an important milestone in the overall programme, as well as underscoring the significance of this procurement project for the Bundeswehr.
The Puma is a German infantry fighting vehicle, currently in the pre-production stage. It will replace the aging Marder IFVs, from 2010 through 2020. Governing company is PSM Projekt System Management, a joint venture of Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall Landsysteme. The Puma is one of the best-protected IFVs, while still having a high power/weight ratio. The MELLS adds a necessary dimension to the Puma's capabilities profile, enabling it to perform the full range of missions for which it was originally intended.
The system is part of an equipment package that encompasses an array of additional capabilities requested by the military but not yet contractually agreed.
The heart of the MELLS system is the Spike guided missile from Eurospike GmbH, another company in which Rheinmetall holds a 50% share. Procurement of the Puma in series should commence this year, and a series order for MELLS integration in every vehicle can now be expected as well.
The integration project involves mounting a launcher for two missiles in the vehicle turret. The Spike guided missile selected here is equipped with an optronic sensor head that transmits imagery via a fibre optic cable to the Puma fighting compartment, where it is displayed on a computer monitor.
It can be controlled via the user interface of the Puma's fire control unit. This will enable Germany's new infantry fighting vehicle to engage heavily armoured enemy ground targets and helicopters as well as countering threats behind cover.
In addition to the autonomous target tracking capability of the missile itself, the Puma crew can take over control of the missile when it is in flight, e.g. in order to switch to a higher priority target.

Burma's Opium Production Back On Rise

Burma's Opium Production Back On Rise
(NSI News Source Info) February 4, 2009: News for farmers making a living off the isolated fields and forests of Burma has been dismal over the past few months. Prices for rubber, a key crop, are down an estimated 75% in the southeastern Mon State. Rice has lost a quarter of its value, while maize has been cut by half. Teak, betel nut and palm oil have also been ravaged by the global drop in commodity prices, throwing millions of Burmese who barely cling to the poverty line further into distress.
Burma's Opium Production Back on Rise. Poppies grow in a field in Burma's Shan State.
But one crop in Burma hasn't been affected: poppies, the colorful blooms that have been processed into opium for thousands of years, and, in more recent history, refined into heroin. A Feb. 2 report by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime found that the price of opium in Burma, also known as Myanmar, increased by 15% last year.
As a result, Burmese land dedicated to poppy cultivation actually expanded in 2008, despite promises by the country's ruling junta to combat its reputation as one of the world's most notorious narco-states. The uptick in last year's Burmese poppy cultivation signals just how easy it is for impoverished farmers to turn to a delicate red flower when things get tough. Most of Burma's poppies flourish in the northeastern Shan State, which abuts the infamous Golden Triangle, where the borders of Burma, Thailand and Laos meet.
(The flowers are also grown in Kachin and Karen states.) And given the omnipresence of opium and heroin smuggling in Burma — the nation is the world?s second-largest poppy producer, after Afghanistan — it's hard to imagine how the trade can flourish without at least the tacit support of the military regime that has ruled there since 1962. Back in 1999, Burma's top brass unveiled a 15-year plan to completely eliminate opium cultivation. For a few years, production, as measured in part by U.N. helicopter forays over Burma, did indeed decline. But the U.N. now reports that poppy land has increased by 33% since the lowest levels recorded in 2006.
Last year was the second consecutive year of growth, and the trend shows how unlikely it is that the junta will make good on its goal of completely wiping out poppies by 2014. (The alarming statistics didn't stopped Myanmar T.V., however, from claiming earlier this month that the anti-drug effort is going forward with "added momentum" and "remarkable progress.") Opium and heroin aren't the only drugs that provide an economic lifeline to Burma. For years, an influx of Burmese-made methamphetamine has flooded into neighboring Thailand and China, feeding Asia's chemically induced highs. There are some signs that the Burmese government is trying to stanch the drug flow.
In January, a high-profile raid in the Burmese commercial capital, Rangoon, netted a large amount of heroin loaded onto a ship bound for Singapore, according to the Irrawaddy, a media organization run primarily by Burmese in exile in Thailand. But the raid appears to have been galvanized by foreign anti-drug agents, and, as the Irrawaddy points out, it's not clear whether the Burmese junta would have raided the ship without international pressure.
In the mean time, Southeast Asia's largest narco-state continues to thrive. And some Burmese farmers are able to fill their bellies for now, even as they are feeding the world's drug habit.

U.S. To Respond To Kyrgyz Base Closure Report - Embassy

U.S. To Respond To Kyrgyz Base Closure Report - Embassy
(NSI News Source Info) BISHKEK - February 4, 2009: The United States will make an official statement on Wednesday on the decision to close its airbase in Kyrgyzstan announced by the Central Asian state's leader yesterday, the U.S. embassy in Bishkek state said. Kurmanbek Bakiyev said in Moscow that he would demand the closure of the U.S. military base used to support antiterrorism operations in neighboring Afghanistan, citing Washington's refusal to discuss higher rental payments and reluctance to address the 2006 killing by a U.S. officer of a Kyrgyz man. At talks with President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday Bakiyev secured deals writing off Kyrgyzstan's $180 million debt and the promise of a $2 billion discounted loan and $150 million in financial aid for the impoverished Kyrgyz republic for years plagued by instability. The Embassy's press service said Kyrgyzstan had so far provided no official documents on the planned closure and the base, home to 1,000 military personnel, was operating as usual. A member of the Communist faction in the Kyrgyz parliament, Iskhak Masaliyev, said on Wednesday the "government should inform the U.S. side of the closure six months in advance." Medvedev said on Tuesday Russia and Kyrgyzstan would continue cooperating with the U.S. on Afghanistan after the closure of the airbase. "We could join our efforts to promote stability in the region, our countries will help the operations underway in the area. We are ready for coordinated action," he said, adding the decision to close the Manas base was Kyrgyzstan's decision.