(NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON - May 16, 2009: Unmanned aircraft likely represent the future for US military aviation with next generation bombers and fighter planes operating without pilots onboard, the top US military officer said on Thursday. Although Gates has pushed for cuts in expensive weapons systems -- including plans for expanding the fleet of F-22 fighter jets -- his proposed budget for fiscal 2010 calls for increasing funding for unmanned drones, including Predators and the newer Reapers (pictured). "We're at a real time of transition here in terms of the future of aviation, and the whole issue of what's going to be manned and what's going to be unmanned," Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate hearing. "I think we're at the beginning of this change," Mullen said when asked about plans for developing a new bomber aircraft. The use of drones has dramatically expanded just in the past few years, he said. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the same hearing that military planners needed to answer the question whether a new bomber would have a pilot in the cockpit or operate as unmanned aircraft. Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mullen said that Lockheed Martin's Joint Strike Fighter now being built could be the last manned fighter jet before robotic planes take over that role. "I mean, there are those that see JSF as the last manned fighter," Mullen said of the F-35. "I'm one that's inclined to believe that." The US military and intelligence agencies now use thousands of drones, ranging from small one meter (three feet) long aircraft that can be thrown into the air by hand to the larger Global Hawk with a wingspan of 35 meters (116 feet), in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Although Gates has pushed for cuts in expensive weapons systems -- including plans for expanding the fleet of F-22 fighter jets -- his proposed budget for fiscal 2010 calls for increasing funding for unmanned drones, including Predators and the newer Reapers. "This is one of the significant growth areas in the budget," Gates said. The defense secretary's budget calls for spending two billion on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, with much of the money going to drones. "We will ramp to build 48 Reapers a year during this budget," Gates said. "We are really placing a major bet in this area."
Friday, May 15, 2009
Future Of Military Aviation Lies With Drones: US Admiral Mike Mullen
Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master Is A military Transonic Aircraft Jet Trainer Flying In Formation And High
Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master Is A military Transonic Aircraft Jet Trainer Flying In Formation And High
(NSI News Source Info) May 16, 2009: The Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master is a military transonic trainer aircraft. It is based on work done by Yakovlev and Aermacchi while working on the Yak-130 as a joint venture.Aermacchi has released a photograph showing for the first time all three extant M-346 Master jet trainers in formation flight. (Aermacchi photograph)
In 1993, Aermacchi signed an agreement to partner with Yakovlev on the new trainer the firm was developing for the Russian Air Force. The resulting aircraft first flew in 1996 and was brought to Italy the following year to substitute the aging MB-339. At the time, the aircraft was marketed as the Yak/AEM-130, however, by 2000, differences in priorities between the two firms brought about an end to the partnership, with each developing the aircraft independently, with Aermacchi retaining worldwide marketing rights except for Russia and the other CIS nations. A Russian version is also being pursued by Yakovlev and Sokol, under a different time schedule. The M-346 is a highly modified version of the aircraft the joint venture was producing, and uses equipment exclusively from Western manufacturers. The first prototype rolled out on 7 June 2003 and flew for the first time on 15 July 2004. In January 2005, the Greek Ministry of Defence signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to become a partner in the programme and, in 2006, Aermacchi signed an industrial cooperation agreement with Hellenic Aerospace Industry. In July 2007, the M-346 flew to the United Arab Emirates for hot weather tests and operational evaluation by the UAE Air Force. In March 2008 the Chilean ENAER signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Alenia Aermacchi at the FIDAE air show. On 10 April 2008 one further prototype in the final configuration (new landing gear and air brake, more composite parts) was rolled out: first flight of this "Industrial Baseline Configuration" is expected in June. In May 2008 Boeing signed a Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate on the marketing, sales, training and support of two Aermacchi trainers, the M-346 and the M-311. On 18 December 2008, the M-346 reached a maximum speed of Mach 1.15 (or 1,255 km/h, that is 677.75 knots or 779.82 mph). The Italian air force intend to acquire a first batch of 15 low rate production M-346 advanced fighter trainer aircraft. The M-346 was named the winner of a competition by the United Arab Emirates at the IDEX 2009 defense show in Abu Dhabi on Feb. 25. The official said the order involved delivery of 48 aircraft to be used for pilot training and light attack duties. A final request for proposals last year had set the requirement at 20 trainers, 20 aircraft for combat duties, and the remainder would go toward the creation of a formation flying team.
DTN News: Myanmar TODAY May 16, 2009 - A Myanmar Protests For Aung San Suu Kyi's Release Outside the Myanmar Embassy In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
DTN News: Myanmar TODAY May 16, 2009 - A Myanmar Protests For Aung San Suu Kyi's Release Outside the Myanmar Embassy In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
(NSI News Source Info) May 16, 2009: A Myanmar refugee stands in front of the Myanmar opposition National League for Democracy flag as she joins a protest demanding pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's release outside the Myanmar Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Friday, May 15, 2009.
A bizarre attempt by a middle-aged American to meet Suu Kyi may have scuttled her chances for release from six continuous years of detention, as Myanmar's military government charged her Thursday with illegally harboring the unwanted visitor who swam across a lake to sneak into her home.
DTN News: Pakistan TODAY May 16, 2009 - Thousands Displaced People Fleeing A Military Offensive In The Swat Valley
DTN News: Pakistan TODAY May 16, 2009 - Thousands Displaced People Fleeing A Military Offensive In The Swat Valley
(NSI News Source Info) PESHAWAR, Pakistan - May 16, 2009: Internally displaced men, fleeing a military offensive in the Swat valley, stand in line for supply rations at a UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) camp, in the outskirts of Peshawar May 15, 2009. U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says Pakistan needs massive international help for hundreds of thousands of people displaced by fighting in the Swat valley to avert a tragedy.People flee a military offensive in the Swat valley approach in Dargai, located in the Malakand district, about 165 km (100 miles) north west of Pakistan's capital Islamabad, May 15, 2009. Pakistani authorities temporarily lifted a curfew on Friday to enable thousands of people to flee the fighting in the militant bastion of Swat and join more than 800,000 who have already left.
U.S. Sends Special Forces To Pakistan
(NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON - May 16, 2009: The U.S. is sending Special Forces teams into two of Pakistan's most-violent regions as part of a push to accelerate training of the Pakistani military, senior U.S. officials said. The Special Forces personnel are being deployed to new training camps in Quetta and Baluchistan, Taliban strongholds that lie close to the porous Afghan-Pakistani border, the officials said. The moves bring U.S. personnel deeper into Pakistan's lawless tribal regions than before. Members of Operational Detachment Alpha 3336, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) recon the remote Shok Valley of Afghanistan where they fought an almost seven-hour battle with terrorists in a remote mountainside village. Senior U.S. officials familiar with the plan said the 25 to 50 Special Forces personnel will focus on training Pakistan's Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force responsible for battling the Taliban and al Qaeda fighters who cross freely between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Boeing, AgustaWestland Sign Contract To Provide ICH-47F Chinooks To Italian Army
(NSI News Source Info) May 15, 2009: The Boeing Company and AgustaWestland, a Finmeccanica company, today signed a contract for the manufacture and support of 16 ICH-47F Chinook helicopters for the Italian Army. The contract makes Boeing the prime subcontractor to AgustaWestland for the new aircraft. The Boeing CH-47 Chinook is a versatile, twin-engine, tandem rotor heavy-lift helicopter. Its top speed of 170 knots (196 mph, 315 km/h) was faster than utility and attack helicopters of the 1960s and even many of today. Its primary roles include troop movement, artillery emplacement and battlefield resupply. It has a wide loading ramp at the rear of the fuselage and three external-cargo hooks. Chinooks have been sold to 16 nations; the largest users are the U.S. Army and the Royal Air Force, see Boeing Chinook (UK variants). The Chinook is now produced by Boeing Integrated Defense Systems. The contract is worth approximately 900 million euros ($1.23 billion). Boeing will build the ICH-47F fuselage at its facility in Ridley Park, Pa. Prime contractor AgustaWestland will be responsible for design and systems integration, aircraft final assembly and delivery to the Italian Army. AgustaWestland is expected to begin deliveries in 2013. "This is an exciting moment for two great companies," said Jack Dougherty, Boeing H-47 Program vice president, who participated in the signing ceremony. "This contract continues our long-standing cooperation on the Chinook program and marks an important step forward in the successful relationship between our companies. We are very proud to help provide the Italian Army with a new generation of multirole helicopters." Dougherty further commended the entire Italian Ministry of Defense team, including the General Directorate of Air Armaments (ARMAEREO) -- which is procuring the latest version of F-Model Chinooks on behalf of the Italian Army -- for its professionalism and focus. "We are happy to have set this major milestone," said Alessandro Parrini, AgustaWestland senior vice president, Italian Government Business Unit. "This contract, which marks the latest step in the long-lasting relationship between AgustaWestland and the Italian Army, further strengthens the strategic partnership between the company and the service, and it will provide a significant contribution to the modernization of the Italian Army helicopter fleet."
Pakistan: Thousands Evacuate War Zone As Curfew Eased In Swat
(NSI News Source Info) SHAGUNA NAKA, Pakistan - May 15, 2009: Pakistan's military suspended a curfew Friday in Swat’s main city of Mingora where it is fighting Taliban militants, officials said, allowing tens of thousands of civilians to flee the area. Pakistani civilians fleeing to camps for the internally displaced are seen through a bullet-ridden windshield in Mardan district, some 200 km northwest of Islamabad on May 15, 2009. Pakistan's military suspended a curfew in a northwest city where it is fighting Taliban guerrillas, officials said, allowing tens of thousands of civilians to flee the area. In what is emerging as a grave humanitarian crisis, hundreds of thousands of desperate civilians have been trying to get to safety from the Swat valley, where the army launched a new offensive late last month to crush the militants. Hundreds of thousands of desperate civilians have been trying to get to safety from the Swat valley, where the army launched a new offensive late last month to crush the militants. The government suspended a curfew for people going out of Swat's main city of Mingora from dawn until mid-afternoon, and local administration chief Arshad Khan said residents had been advised to leave — and were doing so. ‘People are leaving in large numbers,’ Khan said. ‘They are vacating their homes.’ Hundreds of vehicles including buses, cars, rickshaws, pickups and motorbikes were seen crossing the Shaguna Naka checkpoint at the exit of the conflict zone. People sat on the roofs of buses and backs of trucks with their bedding and clothes as they headed for Mardan 30 kilometres away where authorities have set up camps for the displaced people. ‘The situation is very, very bad. We have no hope for life,’ said a young man who identified himself only as Ibrahim. He said he came with 30 people who fled Odigram village near Mingora to escape the fighting. ‘We are going to Mardan. We are just going to sit under a tree somewhere. We just want some safety for our children,’ he said. ‘It was painful, every second we thought we were dying. There was a lot of bombing and shelling,’ he said, adding that the entire market in his village was destroyed. The military says its forces have encircled Mingora, which is held by Taliban militants who have waged a brutal insurgency to extend their control and enforce an uncompromising version of sharia law. There are also concerns that the army campaign — including artillery bombardment, attacks by helicopter gunships and commandos dropped behind Taliban lines — will grow more and more unpopular among Pakistani civilians. DAGAR, BUNER - MAY 15: A truck carrying residents drive past a vehicle destroyed during military operations against the Taliban on May 15, 2009 in Dagar, in the district of Buner, Pakistan. Hundreds of thousands of people are believed to be displaced as a result of these military operations against the Taliban. Naeem Akhtar from Mingora who works in a bank was travelling with his wife and two children in his car riddled with bullets. He said he was furious over the military action, and accused the army of destroying his house. ‘Four members of my family were killed in shelling. The army did it. We have spent last two weeks just like in hell…We just want out of Swat and we would find some safe place.’ An official from the International Committee of the Red Cross, which this week was able to enter one of the hardest hit districts, said there was no longer any electricity or fresh drinking water. The military says up to 15,000 troops are taking on about 4,000 well-armed fighters in Swat, where Islamabad has ordered a battle to ‘eliminate’ the militants. The fighting has sent more than 800,000 people fleeing Swat as well as the areas of Lower Dir and Buner, while hundreds of thousands are believed still trapped in the conflict zone. DAGAR, BUNER - MAY 15: A man walks past a burnt out tank, destroyed during the Pakistan Army's offensive against the Taliban on May 15, 2009 in Dagar, in the district of Buner, Pakistan. Hundreds of thousands of people are believed to be displaced as a result of these military operations against the Taliban. Pakistan's military insists it is taking all possible measures to lessen civilian casualties and avoid populated areas, but analysts have warned that general public support for the offensive could sour as the human cost soars. Before Friday, the military estimated that around 200,000 people remained in Mingora.
Dassault Back In Contention For IAF's $11Billion MMRCA Tender
(NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI - May 15, 2009: French aerospace and defence major Dassault may be back in contention for the Indian Air Force's 126 medium range multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) tender with its fighter offering, the Rafale. No foreign sales have yet been made. Several countries have shown interest in purchasing the Rafale. The Rafale was one of the six fighter jets competing for India's tender for 126 multi-role fighters. In April 2009, news reports stated the Dassault Rafale has been disqualified from the competition for not meeting minimum performance requirements of the Indian Air Force. Other competing aircraft, namely Mikoyan MiG-35, F-16, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, JAS 39 Gripen and Eurofighter Typhoon, qualified for the next round of evaluation. However, the Indian Defense Ministry denied this report; an IAF spokesman stated, "we have not ruled anyone out yet in the MMRCA competition".
Reports suggest that a high-level delegation from France will meet officials in the defence ministry on Friday to offer technical clarifications sought for by the IAF with respect to the tender. Earlier, reports had suggested that the Rafale had been booted out of the race for the massive $11 billion tender as it failed to provide necessary technical information as required by the Request for Proposal (RFP). The French delegation, to be led by Jacques Lajugi, head of France's Air International Development, will call on defence secretary Vijay Singh. Currently defence contractors from the United States, Russia, Sweden and a pan-European Eurofighter consortium have submitted bids for the IAF contract. The companies involved are the Russian MiG RAC, American Boeing and Lockheed Martin corporations, the Swedish Saab and the EADS-led Eurofighter consortium. Rafale was Dassaults' contender in the race. Reports emanating a month or so back suggested that the technical evaluation committee had ousted Dassault as it apparently failed to provide necessary information as required under the provisions of the RFP. This was denied by the company. Indian authorities may also have been peeved by the lackadaisical attitude displayed by the French. Unlike other manufacturers it is the only one that has failed to bring down its aircraft to India for display or first-hand introduction to IAF fliers even once. At the two AeroIndia Yelahanka shows, hosted in 2007 and 2009, all contending aircraft, such as the MiG-35, Boeing F-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin F-16, Saab Gripen JAS-39 and the Eurofighter Typhoon made an appearance and allowed IAF fliers to familiarise themselves with their offerings. The only missing contender was Dassault and its Rafale. ''We are still preparing, actively, technology demonstrations for later this year and early next year,'' said Jean-Noel Stock, Thales's head of the Rafale programme. Thales is responsible for around a third of the weapons system onboard the Rafale. However, reports now suggest that Dassault may have been provided the escape route it seeks as the report of the committee recommending its disqualification is yet to be perused by the Defence Procurement Board. The committee report apparently points out that questions related to equipment and other add-ons that the IAF wants remained unanswered by the manufacturer. This discrepancy, apparently, has now been taken care of by the manufacturer. Rafale updateMeanwhile, Dassault, Snecma and Thales are set to submit a best and final offer for Brazil's first tranche of 36-aircraft FX-2 requirement on 8 June. The French companies are facing off competition from the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the Gripen NG. "We are the only ones offering [to transfer] all equipment, including source codes," said Jean-Noël Stock. He said the French government had okayed Thales sharing source code with partners. Brazil, India and Switzerland - where Rafale also is competing - would also receive the Thales AESA. Thales has completed flight tests for its active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, which is now expected to equip the next batch of about 60 Rafales to be built for the French air force and navy. It will also be the baseline offering for other likely customers, such as Brazil, India and Switzerland. The AESA system would offer an increase of more than 50% in detection range and reduced life-cycle costs, according to Thales. The design will not come under the ambit of US International Traffic in Arms Regulations. Thales claims its AESA offering puts it ''clearly ahead of the other radar manufacturers in Europe." AESA technology is currently being pursued by EADS and Selex Galileo for the Eurofighter Typhoon and Saab Gripen NG, respectively. France has so far ordered 128 Rafales in three batches. The AESA technology is expected to be cleared for service by late 2011 and enter air force use the following year, the company says. The AESA will be retrofitted on existing Rafale fighters. Thales completed a concept demonstration phase in April using three prototype radars flown progressively on a Dassault Falcon 20 business jet, a modified Dassault Mirage 2000 fighter and the Rafale.
Limits To Exporting The Saudis' Counterjihadist Successes
By Kamran Bokhari....STRATFOR
(NSI News Source Info) May 15, 2009: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia historically has played a major role in the development of jihadism. Key pillars of the Saudi state — oil, Wahhabism (a conservative form of Sunni Islam) and the strength of tribal norms — were instrumental in facilitating the rise of Islamist extremism and terrorism around the world prior to 9/11. These same pillars allowed Riyadh to contain al Qaeda within Saudi Arabia in the wake of the insurgency that kicked off in the kingdom in 2003-2004. After this success on the home front, Riyadh is still using these pillars to play an international role in counterjihadist efforts — a role welcomed by the United States. During a visit to the kingdom last week, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the Saudi rehabilitation program for former militants impressed him, prompting him to consider sending Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo Bay to Saudi Arabia as part of Washington’s efforts to close down the detention center. The Saudis probably have done “as good, if not a better, job of that than almost anybody,” Gates said of the Saudi program. In separate comments, Gates called on Riyadh to assist Pakistan in the latter’s efforts to combat its rapidly expanding Taliban insurgency — and Saudi Arabia in fact has been playing a role in efforts to contain the Taliban insurgency in both Pakistan and Afghanistan for some time. Clearly, Saudi Arabia is taking a lead role in anti-extremism, counterterrorism and deradicalization efforts. Understanding what the Saudis are doing and how it has permitted them to succeed in this regard will shed light on Riyadh’s domestic successes, and it will indicate what can be expected from its efforts abroad. Saudi Domestic Counterjihadist Successes The Saudis have had ample experience in dealing with religious extremists and militants since long before their struggle with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in the aftermath of 9/11. The kingdom’s founder, King Abdel-Aziz, faced a situation similar to that now faced by Pakistan before he defeated the Ikhwan in the 1920s. The Ikhwan (not to be confused with the Egyptian group Ikhwan al-Muslimeen, which is Arabic for “Muslim Brotherhood”) was a tribal religious militia of extremist Wahhabis. Whereas the Pakistanis have nurtured jihadist groups as tools of foreign policy in their dealings with India and Afghanistan, the Ikhwan helped Abdel-Aziz conquer most of present-day Saudi Arabia. While Abdel-Aziz was not interested in conquering additional territories, the Ikhwan had larger regional ambitions. The group wanted to expand its jihad into places like Iraq, which the British then controlled. Just as Pakistan has found itself caught between its Islamist militant assets and the United States in the aftermath of 9/11, the nascent kingdom had to decide between the Ikhwan and its first Great Power ally, the United Kingdom. Exigencies forced Abdel-Aziz to choose the British, and he put down a subsequent Ikhwan rebellion. Petrodollars Notably, this all occurred before the discovery of oil and Saudi Arabia’s subsequent emergence as a petrodollar-rich monarchy (and for that matter, even before the state was known as the “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”). While the Saudis did not have their present financial resources, they did have one very important tool they wielded successfully against the Ikhwan threat. That tool was religion, which had become a key part of the fabric of the Saudi state since its first incarnation in the mid-1700s. Religion mixed in with a culture based on strong elements of tribalism and familism provided for a strong social contract involving the Saudi royal family, the family of Muhammad bin Abdel-Wahhab (founder of the Wahhabi school of thought) and the masses. This historic Saudi-Wahhabi alliance has long provided the state with religious legitimacy, which the royal family has used to put down religious dissent on a number of occasions since the Ikhwan uprising. Key among them were the 1979 incident in which a group of Wahhabi militants took over the Kaaba, the dissent within the religious establishment in the aftermath of the 1990-1991 Gulf War, and the 2003-2004 al Qaeda insurgency. The use of religion to consolidate national power has led to a significant blowback, as evident from the global emergence of violent Islamism. But unlike other states, Saudi Arabia has been able to mobilize the tribal, religious, security and commercial spheres of the country against Islamist rebels. Religion and Tribalism The secret to the Saudis’ success was turning the rebels’ strongest weapon, religion, back against them. This was possible because the state enjoyed a monopoly over religious discourse thanks to the vast religious establishment that Riyadh had cultivated over the years. Paradoxically, while this religious establishment has been the source of much radicalism in Saudi Arabia and worldwide, it also has served the Saudis well in terms of giving the state a powerful tool with which to quell dissent and preserve the regime. The tribal nature of Saudi society, with its norms of obedience to those in authority, complemented the state’s religious tools. The Saudi ulema supported by the tribes have laid great emphasis on Quranic notions of obedience to rulers as long as the rulers do not clearly defy Islam. Another important tribal and religious concept is abhorrence of social chaos, which also helped the Saudis isolate the Islamist rebels from the rest of society by arguing that jihadist activity would lead to anarchy. Tribal social structure imposes a hierarchy that forms a strong bulwark against rebellions by forcing conformity upon the tribes, clans and families. This limits the social space available for rebels to operate in. Tribes cooperate with the authorities in taking action against belligerents, and then they also take responsibility for the “good behavior” of repentant militants. The power of the tribal norm is such that it is very unlikely that militants could influence enough tribes to mount a successful uprising. The Saudis have had some two-and-a-half centuries’ worth of experience at skillfully managing tribal politics. The rise and fall of the first (1744-1818) and second (1824-1891) Saudi states and the establishment of the modern kingdom in the early 1900s were to a great degree a function of the ruling al-Saud family’s ability to forge tribal alliances. Prior to 9/11, one Saudi strategy for dealing with products of the Wahhabi establishment who exhibited levels of extremism deemed intolerable involved directing the radicals to fight in war zones like Afghanistan, Central Asia, the Balkans and the Caucasus. This maintained order and security while the rebels were away (and in many cases the radicals died in the fighting). Even after 9/11 — and particularly in the wake of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq — the Saudis employed this approach to defuse domestic tensions and to try to contain increasing Iranian influence in Iraq and the rise of Tehran’s Iraqi Shiite allies. But U.S.-Saudi tensions in the aftermath of 9/11 reached a point where Riyadh knew this was no longer an option. Consequently, under the guidance of King Abdullah, the kingdom embarked upon a strategy of permanently dealing with the issue through reforms at the governmental and societal levels, a process that is still very much a work in progress. The aim was to curb further extremism, as well as to address existing radicalism. High oil prices, which lasted until July 2008, gave the country the financial wherewithal to invest in such a major anti-jihadist initiative. But without a powerful religious establishment at its side, the money alone would not have permitted the Saudis to succeed. This religious establishment has played a key role in the country’s rehabilitation program, which is designed to integrate militants who have surrendered or been captured back into society. While financial resources have played a critical role in efforts to bring previously radicalized youths back into the mainstream, the scholars have provided the theological gravitas to counter the jihadist ideology and wean the youths from jihadism. As mentioned, the process is still in its infancy, and incidents of recidivism have occurred. For example, Said Ali al-Shihri emerged in Yemen as a key leader of the jihadist node on the Arabian Peninsula after undergoing the rehab program. Still, the Saudis’ ability to put a major dent in the capabilities of jihadists in the kingdom and to avoid major backlash to the reform process highlights Riyadh’s successful use of religion to curb extremism. The jihadist threat within the kingdom remains, but a combination of unique circumstances enabled Saudi Arabia to make considerable progress on the home front. Fears still exist that because of the ultraconservative religious nature of the state, the monarchy might fall and be replaced by a radical regime — especially as the kingdom enters an extended period of transition. But for now, the Saudi situation is stable to the point where the Saudis can look beyond their borders and offer help to other jihadist trouble spots. Replicating Saudi Counterjihadist Successes Saudi Arabia’s counterjihadist successes and position as a religious and financial leader of the Islamic world have prompted the United States and countries like Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan to seek Riyadh’s help with jihadist problems. Yemen The first such place to do so is just south of the Saudi border. Yemen has become a jihadist hub where Saudi jihadists have regrouped along with their counterparts from Iraq, Somalia and elsewhere under new management. The country also faces other forms of unrest and insecurity that are weakening the state and raising fears of regional instability among Yemen’s wealthier Arab neighbors. For example, Yemen’s north-south divide is re-emerging, meaning that there are two competing nationalisms in the country. As a result, Sanaa and Riyadh have moved toward greater cooperation, especially on the issue of the jihadists; the Saudis can offer financial assistance and advice to the cash-strapped Yemenis regarding the Saudi rehabilitation program. But unlike Saudi Arabia, where the Saudis have the upper hand in the relationship with the religious establishment, the Yemeni state is dependent upon its religious leaders and upon the Salafist-jihadists who dominate the country’s security establishment. Moreover, Yemen is not as religiously homogenous as Saudi Arabia. While in Saudi Arabia, the religious establishment was strong enough to claim the mantle of Wahhabism and isolate the jihadists as “deviants,” Yemen would have to develop an alternative religious discourse to successfully counter the theological challenge posed by the jihadists. Engendering a mainstream national religious identity takes a long time even for those states endowed with resources, which means there are serious limitations on how far Yemen can expect to succeed in anti-extremism and counterterrorism efforts. Like Saudi Arabia, Yemeni society is also tribal, but it is much more fragmented than that of its richer, larger neighbor. Unlike Saudi Arabia, where the House of al-Saud sits at the top of the tribal hierarchy, Yemeni tribes are neither as strong nor as organized. Moreover, the Yemeni state is dependent upon the tribes for support — explaining why Saana’s bid to win tribal assistance in dealing with militants has not attained the desired results. The huge differences in economic conditions, religious hierarchy and tribal structures between Saudi Arabia and Yemen accordingly will make it difficult for Riyadh to reproduce in its southern neighbor the successful results it has enjoyed at home. Afghanistan and Pakistan Saudi Arabia enjoys a disproportionate amount of influence over both Pakistan and Afghanistan. For example, Saudi intelligence chief Prince Muqrin has recently been involved in efforts to negotiate with the Afghan Taliban. Likewise, the Pakistani interior minister and the two most senior generals of the Pakistani military have made trips in recent months to the kingdom — most likely not just for monetary assistance, but also to benefit from the Saudi experience in dealing with the Taliban problem. Ground realities in Afghanistan and Pakistan make these states much more difficult nuts to crack than even Yemen, which shares some basic social similarities with Saudi Arabia. The security situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan are in advanced stages of deterioration (though to different degrees). Both South Asian neighbors face full-blown insurgencies, making it difficult for the respective states to maintain their writ in the affected areas. This is quite different from anything Saudi Arabia has ever faced, and it also is different from Yemen, where the jihadists have not transformed themselves into a guerrilla movement. On the religious front, Afghanistan and Pakistan lack religious establishments. Instead, they both have highly fragmented religious landscapes consisting of rival Islamist groups, competing Sunni sects and networks of madrassas. Even the two countries’ more mainstream ulema are divided into various groups. Unlike in Saudi Arabia and (to a lesser degree) Yemen, only a tiny minority adheres to Salafist/Wahhabi Islam in Southwest Asia. Even so, the Deobandis (the sect of the Taliban and other Islamist militant groups) are a growing movement, posing a challenge to the Shia and the majority Barelvis (a South Asian form of Sufi Islam). On the social level, while tribes exist in both South Asian states, they are very weak compared to the Arab states in question. In Afghanistan, the tribal hierarchy is almost nonexistent in terms of being able to project power because of the rise of the mullahs and militia commanders. In Pakistan, the tribes are limited to Pashtun areas, and even there the mullahs and militiamen have significantly degraded the power of the tribal maliks. These factors place significant limits on how much the Saudis can assist Islamabad or Kabul in their respective counterinsurgency efforts and anti-extremism drives. For these reasons, the Saudis have focused on trying to broker talks between the Taliban and the Western-backed Karzai regime in Afghanistan. Even on this issue, Riyadh is not having much luck, because the Taliban elements it has been dealing with thus far have been former leaders of the movement, while current Taliban chief Mullah Muhammad Omar and his associates have rejected the idea of talks because they feel they have the upper hand in the insurgency and do not see the West as “staying the course” in their country. Meanwhile, in Pakistan the Saudis have been focused on efforts to create a consensus among various stakeholders on how to deal with the militancy. Riyadh maintains strong ties with Pakistan, especially with the military establishment and right-of-center forces, particularly the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, as well as with several of the country’s Islamist political parties. As a result, the Saudis may be able to use their financial and energy clout to get the religiously and socially conservative forces in Pakistan to agree to support a major state initiative to contain the violence. But in sharp contrast to the way Riyadh took a focused approach to its own Islamist rebels, Islamabad lacks coherence. Therefore, given the social fragmentation and complexities of the two South Asian states, the Saudis will not be able to help either Afghanistan or Pakistan much in terms of bringing down the violence those countries face. It can, however, assist in curbing religious extremism by undermining jihadists, given the ideological proximity of the Deobandis and the Wahhabis. But since the Saudis are still working on the ideological front through rehabilitation at home, it will be awhile before they can help others. Saudi Arabia’s successes in rolling back religious radicalism at home are the result of the confluence of certain unique circumstances that simply do not exist in more troubling jihadist hot spots like Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Saudi example thus offers few lessons for Sanaa, Kabul and Islamabad in dealing with their own situations. Ultimately, while the Saudis will be able to play an important role in providing financial assistance and some help in ideologically undermining Islamist extremism and radicalism, they will be able to do less on the physical battlefield.
Russia To Build 12 Su-30MK2 Fighters For Vietnam: Reports
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - May 15, 2009: Russia has secured an order from Vietnam for 12 Su-30MK2 fighter jets worth more than $500 million (368 million euros), the Vedomosti newspaper said May 14, citing top aviation industry officials. The Sukhoi Su-30MKK is a modification of the Su-27 SK manufactured since 1999 by KnAAPO and Shenyang Aircraft Corporation. It is considered an upgraded version of Sukhoi Su-30. It was joint developed by Russia and China, similar to the Su-30MKI. It is a heavy class, long-range, multi-role, air superiority fighter and strike fighter. The MKK is currently operated by the People's Republic of China, the Indonesian Air Force, and very recently, the Venezuelan Air Force.* The contract with Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport was inked in January, according to the paper, adding that the supersonic fighters are to be sold without on-board weapons. Contracts for missiles and other arms to equip the planes could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, the daily reported. A source in the Russian defense industry confirmed the newspaper report and added that the first planes would be delivered in 2009, the Interfax news agency reported. "A contract for the delivery of Su-30MK2s was signed by Rosoboronexport at the beginning of this year," the source told Interfax. "The delivery of the first Su-30MK2 to the client is planned by the end of the year." The contract with Hanoi is worth more than $600 million (440 million euros) to Russia, according to the industry source. Just last month, media reported Russia had sealed a $1.8 billion deal for the sale of six submarines to the Vietnamese navy. With these contracts Vietnam becomes one of Russia's five largest arms clients, alongside India, Algeria, Venezuela and China, Vedomosti said. The weapons trade has proved one of Russia's most profitable sectors since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia saw record arms sales in 2008 of $8.35 billion (6.5 billion euros), according to figures released by President Dmitry Medvedev in February, and Rosoboronexport said last month it expected similar results in 2009.