Monday, August 24, 2009

DTN News: Russian Helicopters To Deliver 20 Mi-171s To Airfreight Aviation Ltd In UAE

DTN News: Russian Helicopters To Deliver 20 Mi-171s To Airfreight Aviation Ltd In UAE *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW, Russia - August 24, 2009: Russian Helicopters, JSC, is to deliver 20 Mi-171 helicopters to the Sharjah, UAE-based Airfreight Aviation Ltd. A contract to that end has been signed at the MAKS 2009 airshow between the Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant – the manufacturer of the helicopter- and Airfreight Aviation Ltd. The Mi-171 helicopters in transport configuration will be delivered to the customer in 2010. The Middle East is a blooming market for Russian Helicopters – manufacturing enterprises within its framework have signed contracts with Airfreight Aviation Ltd. for a total of 70 Mi-171s over the past two years. A joint venture to be established by Russian Helicopters and Airfreight Aviation Ltd. will handle service and maintenance.“This contract has greatly boosted our presence in the region,” states Andrei Shibitov, CEO, Russian Helicopters. “Our next step is to establish a joint service and maintenance venture for Russian-made helicopters. Russian Helicopters is aiming at moving from selling its products proper to selling the entire lifecycle of its products.” The Mi-171 is the ideal choice in countries with difficult operational environments. It is very reliable and easy to maintain. This makes it particularly attractive for operators in the Middle East, where over 100 Mi-171s are already successfully employed. Russian Helicopters, JSC is an affiliated company of UIC Oboronprom. It is the managing body of the following helicopter industry enterprises: Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant, Kamov, Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant, Kazan Helicopters, Rostvertol, Progress Arsenyev Aviation Company, Kumertau Aviation Production Enterprise, Vpered Moscow Machine-Building Plant, Stupino Machine Production Plant, Reductor-PM and Helicopter Service Company (VSK). UIC Oboronprom, JSC is a multi-profile industrial and investment group established in 2002. Its main tasks include helicopter engineering (Russian Helicopters managing company), engine-building (United Engine Industry Corporation managing company), air defense systems and complex electronic systems (Defense Systems holding company), and other machine-building activities. The companies of the group reported revenues of over 100 billion roubles in 2008.

DTN News: India, Russia To Launch Joint Military Airlifter In September

DTN News: India, Russia To Launch Joint Military Airlifter In September *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI, India - August 24, 2009: In line with the BrahMos cruise missile project, India and Russia are expected to ink a deal during Defence Minister A K Antony's Moscow visit next month on setting up of a joint venture for production of state-of-art multi-role transport aircraft (MTA) for their air forces. The "formal agreement" for floating the MTA JV is expected to be signed in September during Antony's Moscow visit for the session of Joint Commission on military- technical cooperation, V Balakrishnan, General Manager of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) aircraft manufacturing division, said. The Russian government has cleared the formalities for the creation of 50-50 JV and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has allocated funds for financing Russia's share, he told the news agency on the sidelines of the International Aero-space show 'MAKS-2009'. From the Indian side HAL will hold 50 per cent equity in the JV. The inter-government agreement for the joint development and production of MTA was inked in 2006 during the then President Putin's India visit, as the air forces of both the countries are seeking to replace their ageing Soviet-era Antonov series transport aircraft. Balakrishnan said IAF has evinced interest in acquiring 40 MTA aircraft for transporting troops, military hardware and military cargo with option of buying more aircraft, while the Russian air force has confirmed readiness to acquire 100 planes. According to earlier reports under the USD 600 million JV, a highly advanced transport aircraft with the capacity of 20 tonnes and capable of landing on any type of runway, including in the high Himalayan altitudes, would be developed on the basis of Ilyushin Il-214 aircraft. HAL and Ilyushin are to co-design and develop the aircraft.

DTN News: Swedish Armed Forces Will Acquire 24 Archer Truck-Mounted Guns

DTN News: Swedish Armed Forces Will Acquire 24 Archer Truck-Mounted Guns *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) STOCKHOLM, Sweden - August 24, 2009: The government decided on Wednesday that the Armed Forces may order twenty-four Archer artillery pieces, in a joint acquisition project carried out in cooperation with Norway. The Swedish government has approved procurement of 24 Archer truck-mounted guns, clearing the way for a joint order with Norway of 48 vehicles. (Swedish Armed Forces photo)
“It is gratifying that the Government has taken this decision; it was awaited, "says Torbjörn Larsson, commander of Artilleriregementet (Artillery Regiment, A 9), the Swedish Army’s center of competence for artillery.
Shortly before mid-summer this year, the Norwegian Stortinget decided to authorize the purchase of twenty-four Archers for the Norwegian armed forces. This was one of the prerequisites for Sweden to also buy these artillery pieces, manufactured by BAE Systems in Bofors.
“This decision came just in time, so now we can continue to work with Norway to prepare for the service introduction," says Torbjörn Larsson.
Costs are shared Thanks to the cooperation with Norway, development and maintenance costs are shared between the two countries. Furthermore, by acquiring the same system Norway and Sweden can also benefit from cooperation on training, exercises, maintenance and future modifications and upgrades.
Development of Archer has been a long process, which started in 2002. Sweden’s old artillery system, Howitzer 77B, was about to reach its retirement age, and there was a need for a new one.
The choice fell on the development of a fully mobile, self-propelled system based on a standard Volvo construction articulated dumper truck, and to be able to use some parts from Howitzer 77B.
Will be ready this year Two experimental demonstrator vehicles were completed in 2005; they have been carefully tested and rebuilt along the way. Two prototypes will be ready this year, and the first production vehicles will start to be delivered in 2011.
“It is good that it is ready. We will have one of the world's best artillery. It fits well into the new flexible response system and can be used to great advantage in international operations," says Björn Isaksson, A 9's project manager for the Archer system.
Characteristics: Archer:
Armored articulated dumper vehicle
Protection against small arms fire, mines, NBC, and fire protection
Maximum speed is 70 km/h on the road.
The crew consists of three to four people: commander, driver and one or two operators.
Caliber is 155mm (or 15.5 cm.)
Built on a Volvo articulated dumper truck
Range up to 50 km, and rate of fire is ten to twelve shots per minute

DTN News: South Korea To Produce Red Shark Torpedoes

DTN News: South Korea To Produce Red Shark Torpedoes *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) SEOUL, South Korea - August 24, 2009: South Korea has given the production go-ahead for the first 70 Hongsangeo anti-submarine torpedoes for deployment between 2010 and 2012, the government has said. The nearly 18-foot, two-stage, precision-guided torpedoes are launched vertically and fly for around 12 miles before parachuting into the sea and heading for their target. Up to 70 of the long-range ship-to-submarine light torpedoes, called Red Shark in English, will be operational aboard some of South Korea's newest country's destroyers, the KDX-I/II, according to the procurement agency Defense Acquisition Program Administration. After nine years of development, the final tests were completed earlier this year, the DAPA's sister organization the state-funded Agency for Defense Development announced in June. Deployment is in response to a growing threat from North Korean submarines, the ADD noted. The nearly 18-foot, two-stage, precision-guided torpedoes are launched vertically and fly for around 12 miles before parachuting into the sea and heading for their target. Production of the torpedoes is expected to cost around $145 million with more being manufactured beginning in 2013. South Korean missile manufacturer LIG Nex1 co-developed the torpedo with the ADD at a cost of around $80 million, the ADD said. The 14-foot, two-stage, solid fuel vertical launch ASROC missile was first made by Lockheed Martin in 1993 after nearly 10 years of development and production problems. Range is around 14 miles and they have carried several types of torpedoes, lately the Mark 46. The ADD and LIG Nex1 have cooperated on other so-called shark-series torpedoes, the Blue and Cheongsangeo (Blue Shark) light torpedo and Baeksangeo (White Shark) heavy torpedo. South Korea first test fired the Cheongsangeo (Blue Shark), missile in 2004. It can be launched from both sea vessels and aircraft such as helicopters and the Lockheed Martin PC-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft, according to a report in the South Korean national Yonhap News Agency. Deployment on the KDX-II destroyers, part of a ship-building program to develop several classes of destroyers, will help enhance South Korea's move into a blue-water navy, meaning operating across wide expanses of ocean. The lead ship of the Chungmugong Yi Sunshin class, called the ROKS Chungmugong Yi Sunshin, was commissioned in December 2003. All six of the planned 500-foot ships have been commissioned. Hull design of the 4,400 ton displacement class is by Hyundai Heavy Industries and ships are built by Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering. The ships also carry Hyunmoo III (Korean Tomahawk) cruise missiles for land attack as well as RIM-116 rolling airframe missiles and Hae Sung (Korean Harpoon) ship-to-ship missiles.

DTN News: China ~ Toyota Recalls 690,000 Cars For Window Bug

DTN News: China ~ Toyota Recalls 690,000 Cars For Window Bug
*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) SHANGHAI, China - August 24, 2009: Toyota Motor Corp. is recalling nearly 690,000 of its China-made vehicles after finding problems with their electric window controls, China's quality watchdog says. The recall involves 407,503 Camry and Yaris passenger cars made by Toyota's joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile Group. Tianjin FAW Toyota is recalling 280,811 Vios and Corollas for the same reason, said a notice by the Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine. The notice, dated Aug. 18, was posted Sunday on the agency's Web site. Staff contacted Monday at Toyota's headquarters in Japan said the company had no comment on the recall. The notice said that due to excessive lubrication, the window switches could short out, possibly causing them to catch fire or otherwise malfunction. Owners of the affected cars can contact Toyota beginning Tuesday to get faulty window switches replaced for free, the notice said.

DTN News: Russian Airlines Face EU Ban From 2012 Over CO2 Emissions

DTN News: Russian Airlines Face EU Ban From 2012 Over CO2 Emissions *Source: DTN News / RIA Novosti (NSI News Source Info) BRUSSELS, Belgium - August 24, 2009: The European Union has placed some 100 Russian air carriers, including Aeroflot, on a list of airlines that could be banned from European airports unless they reduce their environmental impact from 2012. The full list of nearly 4,000 airlines was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on Saturday. In accordance with a newly-introduced EU law, from January 1, 2012 all airlines operating in Europe will have to limit their carbon dioxide emissions or face penalties. The European Commission said that the list "is based on data provided by Eurocontrol using records of flight plans." Experts say air transport produces two percent of all manmade carbon dioxide emissions and 13 percent of CO2 from transport.
During the Soviet era, Aeroflot was the Soviet national airline and the largest airline in the world. Since the dissolution of the USSR, Aeroflot has been transformed from a state-run enterprise into a semi-privatised airline which ranks amongst the most profitable in the world. Aeroflot is still considered the de facto national airline of Russia. Aeroflot has embarked on a fleet modernisation program, extensive route restructuring, and an image overhaul, in order to bring the airline up to world standards. The airline joined SkyTeam in April 2006.
During the Soviet era Aeroflot was synonymous with Russian civil aviation. It became the first airline in the world to operate sustained regular jet services on 15 September 1956 with the Tupolev Tu-104.
In January 1971 the Aeroflot Central Administration of International Air Traffic was established within the framework of IATA, and became the industry's sole enterprise authorised to operate international flights. Abroad, the airline was known as Aeroflot Soviet Airlines. In 1976 Aeroflot carried its 100 millionth passenger.
Its flights were mainly concentrated around the Soviet Union, but the airline also had an international network covering five continents: North and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. The network included countries such as the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Spain, Cuba, Mexico and the People's Republic of China. Since the 1970s some transatlantic flights were flown using Shannon Airport in Ireland as an intermediate stop, as it was the westernmost non-NATO airport in Europe.

DTN News: Pakistan TODAY August 24, 2009 ~ Series Of Raids By Pakistan Police Foil Attacks

DTN News: Pakistan TODAY August 24, 2009 ~ Series Of Raids By Pakistan Police Foil Attacks *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - August 24, 2009: Pakistani police arrested 13 Islamist militants and seized suicide vests and heroin for export in raids they said had foiled major attacks in the country's south and east, officers said Monday. Pakistani police officers escort detained militants, faces covered with a cloth, to produce them into Anti Terrorism Court in Karachi, Pakistan, Monday, Aug. 24, 2009. Police arrested seven members of an al-Qaida-linked group and seized suicide vests, explosives and heroin during a raid in Pakistan's southern commercial center that thwarted planned terrorist attacks, officials said. Nuclear-armed Pakistan is battling al-Qaida and Taliban militants blamed for scores of terrorist attacks over the last two years. On Aug. 5, the campaign got a major boost when Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud was believed to have been killed in a U.S. missile strike close to the Afghan border, where the militants are strongest. Six of the militants were arrested Monday in two raids in the eastern city of Sargodha, police chief Usman Anwar said. He said they were linked to Mehsud's Taliban and had planned to launch strikes next week on at least two places of worship, foreigners, politicians and minorities in the city. He said the raids had "prevented mayhem," giving no more details. Among the six was Zaid Mustafa, who Anwar said recruited potential suicide bombers for training in Afghanistan and who is suspected of providing logistics, explosives and other support for terror attacks in Lahore, Karachi or Rawalpindi. "Every time the Taliban in tribal areas wanted to carry out an attack in Pakistani cities, Zaid would certainly be on board," Anwar said. The seven militants arrested in Karachi were members of the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi movement, blamed for two failed assassination attempts against former President Pervez Musharraf and the beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. The arrests Sunday prevented attacks the militants were planning in Karachi on government officials, police and offices of intelligence agencies, police officer Saud Mirza said. He would not be more specific about the targets, saying it could jeopardize an ongoing investigation. Police seized three suicide vests, 33 pounds (15 kilograms) of explosives, 10 assault weapons and about 4.5 pounds (2 kilograms) of heroin, according to Karachi police officer Fayyaz Khan. The raid provided rare intelligence on how drug money is transferred among Muslim extremist groups cooperating to fight the Pakistani and Afghan governments as well as foreign troops in Afghanistan, he said. "It is often talked about that militants do drug business to finance their needs, but this is the first time we have arrested such a gang," Khan told The Associated Press. The group smuggled the heroin to Singapore, Malaysia, China and United Arab Emirates, he said. Part of the profits were transferred to a Taliban commander named Abdul Samad in Chaman, an area on Pakistan's southwestern border with Afghanistan, Khan said. Karachi — a teeming port city of more than 16 million — has long been a hotbed for Taliban and al-Qaida-linked groups, who are believed to have staged bank robberies, kidnappings for ransom and other criminal activities to raise funds. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi had previously been known as a Sunni sectarian group blamed for attacks on minority Shiite Muslims, whom they consider heretics. However, in recent years the group has been increasingly associated with both the Pakistani Taliban, based mostly in the northwest, and al-Qaida. Two members of the group were arrested and accused of leading the gang that kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter Pearl in Karachi in 2002 on behalf of al-Qaida.

DTN News: Afghan Journalist Shot Dead In Pakistan

DTN News: Afghan Journalist Shot Dead In Pakistan *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - August 24, 2009: Unidentified gunmen today shot dead an Afghan journalist after pulling him out of his car in Pakistan's unruly tribal region, officials said.
The body of Afghan journalist Janullah Hashim Zada lies on a stretcher at a local hospital in Jamrud, a town of Pakistan's Khyber tribal area along Afghan border, Monday, Aug. 24, 2009. Zada, who worked for the Afghan-based Shamshad TV, was shot dead as he traveled on a public mini-bus from Torkham in Khyber to the northwestern frontier city of Peshawar, said Khyber Agency political official Omair Khan.
Janullah Hashimzada, who worked for several Afghan and foreign news organisations, was on his way to the northwestern city of Peshawar when the gunmen killed him in the Khyber tribal region bordering Afghanistan. Officials said the gunmen pulled Hashimzada out of his vehicle on the Pakistan-Afghan highway and shot him. He died instantly.
Supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or Movement for Justice, burn a U.S. flag during a rally against the American policy of expanding U.S. strikes in Pakistani territory, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Monday, Aug. 24, 2009. The gunmen fled and no one claimed responsibility for the killing. Hashimzada, who belonged to eastern Afghan province of Ningrahar and had settled in Pakistan, was coming to Peshawar from Jalalabad, officials said. He worked for the Afghan news agency Pajhwak, CNN, APTN and Al-Arabiya channel.

DTN News: Yemeni Troops Kill 100 Shia Rebels In Fighting

DTN News: Yemeni Troops Kill 100 Shia Rebels In Fighting *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) SANAA, Yemen - August 24, 2009: Yemeni troops have killed more than 100 Shia rebels, including two of their commanders, in an operation to recapture a small town in the northern mountains, the government said yesterday. A video grab from Yemen's state television shows army soldiers firing a machine gun on the frontline at rebel targets on a mountain in Saada province August 17, 2009. Fighting between Yemeni troops backed by fighter aircraft and Shi'ite rebels has killed dozens on both sides since the government launched a wide offensive against the rebels earlier this month after weeks of skirmishes. "The bodies of more than 100 rebels have been recovered from the roadside outside the town of Hafr Sufyan," a government statement said. "It seems that the bodies were those of rebels who were trying to flee the town during a mopping-up operation over the past two days," the statement said, adding that two of the dead were identified as commanders Mohsen Saleh Hadi Gawd and Salah Jorman. President Ali Abdullah Saleh pledged on Wednesday to crush the Shia rebellion in the north as the army pressed on with an offensive launched two weeks ago. The campaign, dubbed Operation Scorched Earth, aims to end once and for all a rebellion by Zaidi Shia rebels, also known as Huthis, in the rugged mountainous region. Fighting began in Saada province on the border with Saudi Arabia and has since spread to Amran province to the south where Hafr Sufyan is located. An offshoot of Shia Islam, the Zaidis are a minority in mainly Sunni Yemen but form the majority community in the north. Saleh is himself a Zaidi.

DTN News: Egypt Court Postpones Trial Of Hezbollah Cell To Oct. 24

DTN News: Egypt Court Postpones Trial Of Hezbollah Cell To Oct. 24 *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) CAIRO, Egypt - August 24, 2009: The Egyptian Supreme Court of Emergency State Security decided on Sunday to postpone to October 24 the trial of 26 men suspected of links with Lebanese Shiite armed group Hezbollah, local Nile TV reported. Suspects accused of plotting attacks on behalf of Lebanon's Hezbollah group stand behind bars during the first day of their trial in New Cairo, August 23, 2009. Egypt began the trial on Sunday of 26 men suspected of links with Lebanon's Hezbollah and who face charges that include planning attacks inside Egypt. The charges against the 26, read out in the emergency state security court, included giving information to a foreign organisation, planning attacks inside Egypt on tourist sites and the Suez Canal and possession of explosive material. The delay will allow the defendants' lawyers more time to review the cases, according to Nile TV. These suspected men are accused of carrying out acts of terrorism against shipping in the Suez Canal and sending operatives to Gaza to help militant groups there and spying for foreign groups. The arrested included 18 Egyptians, five Palestinians, two Lebanese and one Sudanese. Earlier in April, Egypt arrested 49 men for allegedly being Hezbollah agents, accusing them of planning hostile operations in Egypt. Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Shiite group, has been at odds with Egypt, the Sunni-dominated country, since the 22-day Gaza war that ended in January, for which Hezbollah accused Egypt of collaborating with Israel in closing its Rafah border crossing, Gaza's sole gateway that bypasses the Jewish state.

DTN News: Technology TODAY August 24, 2009 ~ Iran Tries To Crack Games Market

DTN News: Technology TODAY August 24, 2009 ~ Iran Tries To Crack Games Market *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) COLOGNE, Germany - August 24, 2009: Video game developers from Iran have been exhibiting at a Western game convention for the very first time. Representatives from the trade body, the Iran National Foundation of Computer Games, were on hand at a dedicated stand at gamescom in Cologne. They were there to showcase the latest games developed in Iran, establish contacts, and to see if Western retailers would stock their games. But they acknowledged the political situation would make it a challenge. "We need more investors," said Amir Tarbyatjoui, head of Parsan Business Development Solutions who managed the Iranian stand. "The [US] sanctions do affect our industry, but they cannot stop it." 'More potential' Mr Tarbyatjoui said that Iran was becoming a leading player in video game development in the Middle East and that the event in Cologne was to show people just what they were capable of. "We are using this event to promote what is happening in the Iranian games industry," he said. "We believe we have more potential and we want to promote that potential." There were a number of different types of game on offer, including a tank shooter set at the start of the Iran-Iraq war, a platform adventure set in Persia, an adventure game where you play the role of a girl called Sara; a young student caught up in events during the early stages of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, and a role-playing game called Age of Pahlevans based on Iranian mythology. Bahram Borgheai, head of Ras Games who make Age of Pahlevans, told the BBC that Iran has a rich history that was custom made for video games. "Persia has been around for a very long time," he said. Mr Borgheai said that while most Western developers used Greek, Norse, or Roman mythology to base their games on, Iran had its own unique mythology that has rarely been used in video games. "What we have is something quite unique and we are using the event in Cologne to show that to the world." Political difficulties Video-game development in Iran attracted global media attention in 2007 with the release of Special Operation 85: Hostage Rescue. The game saw two Iranian nuclear scientists kidnapped by Israel with players in the role of Iranian special forces sent to rescue them, while battling Israeli and American forces. However Mr Borgheai said he doubted if it was a real game in its own right. "We never heard about it in Iran," he said. "It certainly wasn't released there and the first I heard about it was through the international media," he said. "If it was made then I would guess they just took an existing game and stuck a few textures and the like onto it; it certainly wasn't a new game." The group said the event in Cologne had been a success and they would be back next year, but ruled out exhibiting at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles. "It is difficult given the relations between Iran and the USA," said Mr Tarbyatjoui,. "Certainly all of us here today will be at E3 next year, but there will not be a dedicated Iran stand such as you see in Cologne today."

DTN News: USAF Organizes Cyberspace Units Under One Command

DTN News: USAF Organizes Cyberspace Units Under One Command
*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON, USA - August 24, 2009: Air Force Space Command activated a new unit yesterday to better organize space and cyberspace capabilities and to keep pace with the rapid changes in information technology, the Space Command's top military officer said. The 24th Air Force, activated at a ceremony at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, provides the Air Force with one operational command for the entire tactical space and cyberspace community. It will allow space and cyberspace capabilities to be more accessible to military ground commanders and more effectively resourced, Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler said yesterday in roundtable interview with military reporters. Kehler called the activation "the beginning of what will be a deliberate and focused effort to develop and evolve cyberspace forces and capabilities." "[Air Force Space Command] is committed to organizing and equipping the 24th Air Force so it can be a premiere organization dedicated to supporting combatant commanders," he added. The new command consolidates already existing units under one command and improves the way capabilities such as satellite-controlled unmanned aerial systems and GPS technology are resourced. Those units also will be able to adapt easier to mission requirements by centralizing their efforts to meet ground commanders' needs, Kehler said. "We already have units that conduct cyberspace operational missions," the general explained. "That's not new. What's new is that we've put them all under one [command]. The mission will continue that we have today to defend and operate the network and conduct our other operations." Space and cyberspace assets are described by three characteristics: access, persistence and awareness. The cyberspace domain links deployed military forces with each other as well as with higher headquarters, giving them immediate access to information and capabilities around the world, he said. Cyberspace and space capabilities also provide commanders with enduring coverage and strategic views of their environment. The capability allows officials to determine where capabilities would be the most effective. Combining and consolidating capabilities brings "game-changing effects" to the military, Kehler said. "[The new command] provides synergy across these various mission areas, and it allows us to begin to look to the future," he said. "We now begin to think differently about requirements, acquisition and resourcing. All of those are very important for us to put in place as good foundations as we try to improve our agility to deal with what we see coming our way." The command's initial concern is to ensure protection of its space and cyber networks, Kehler said. Today's military is well-versed in information technology and relies heavily on dependable cyber and space capabilities. The general declined to specify exact capabilities, but said safeguarding them against potential threats is the command's top priority for now. "Virtually everything we do in the Air Force anymore is related to network activity in some fashion," he said. "It's about mission assurance, so protecting the networks for mission assurance is No. 1." Air Force Maj. Gen. Dick Webber is in charge of the new command. The command is made up of the 688th, 67th and 689th Information Operations Wings. The 689th is also a new command created from realigning the 3rd and 5th Combat Communication Groups. Webber said the new command will have everything it needs to operate and provide support in fixed and deployed environments.

DTN News: Russia Will Reconsider Sale Of S-300 Air Defense Missiles System To Iran

DTN News: Russia Will Reconsider Sale Of S-300 Air Defense Missiles System To Iran
*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW, Russia - August 24, 2009: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's reported promise to Israeli President Shimon Peres that Moscow will reconsider the sale of powerful S-300 air-defense missiles to Iran could determine whether Israel - and the United States for that matter - launches pre-emptive strikes against Tehran's nuclear facilities. The S-300PMU [SA-10 land-based, SA-N-6 naval version] surface-to-air missile system is able to engage a number of targets simultaneously, countering intensive aircraft raids at low-to-high altitude. The SA-10 offers significant advantages over older strategic surface-to-air missile systems, including multitarget handling and engagement characteristics, a capability against low altitude targets with small radar cross-sections such as cruise missiles, a capability against tactical ballistic missiles, and possibly a potential to intercept some types of strategic ballistic missiles. The first SA-10 site became operational in 1980. Over 80 sites were operational by 1987, when work was progressing on at least another 20 sites. Nearly half of these sites were located near Moscow. This emphasis on Moscow as well as the deployment patterns noted for the other SA-10 sites suggested a first priority on terminal defense of command-and-control, military, and key industrial complexes. A program to replace all of the older strategic SAM systems with the SA-10, well under way by 1996, has been considered by experts to be one of the most successful reequipment programs of the post-Soviet armed forces. This vertically launched missile uses a single-stage solid propellant rocket motor. It is normally armed with a 100 kg HE-fragmentation warhead with a proximity fuse, though a low yield tactical nuclear type is believed to be an alternative warhead option. The missile's vertical launch trajectory provides fastest available reaction time capability to counter targets approaching from any azimuth. Missile engagement altitude extend from 25 m up to about 30000 m. The maximum engagement range is stated as at least 90000 m, though in practice it is probably greater. "President Medvedev promised to review this issue once again after I explained that it would have an impact on the balance of forces in our region," Peres said Wednesday following his meeting with the Russian leader in Moscow on Tuesday. Israel has been threatening to attack Iran's controversial nuclear program for many months because the Jewish state considers Tehran's acquisition of nuclear weapons to be an existential threat. Any Israeli offensive would undoubtedly involve air and missile strikes. At present, the Israeli air force's prospects of penetrating Iran's air defenses, including Russian-supplied M-1 Tor close-range surface-to-air missiles, are reasonably good. But the Israelis' capabilities would be immeasurably reduced if Tehran got its hands on an advanced air-defense weapon like the S-300. Russia says it has not delivered any the missiles to Iran yet, but it may yet do so to up the ante in its growing confrontation with the United States. Medvedev's pledge may be little more than a tactic to force the Israelis to stop providing arms and intelligence to Georgia, Azerbaijan and other former Soviet republics that are defying Moscow. U.S.-based security consultancy Strategic Forecasting noted in July: "The Americans realize that if they arm Russia's adversary, Moscow will respond by arming U.S. adversaries - particularly Iran. "Russia has deals in place under which it would deliver strategic air-defense systems and other arms to Iran and complete Iran's nuclear facility at Bushehr - all things it has notably declined to do for years now. "Moscow has been holding onto this card to ensure that the United States does not fulfill its own commitments to Georgia." So the Israelis believe that their window of opportunity to attack Iran under optimum conditions may be limited and that it should go after the Islamic republic's nuclear centers before any Russian S-300s are delivered despite pressure from Washington not to act unilaterally and risk triggering a regional war with possibly calamitous consequences. At the very least, the Iranians would be expected to retaliate against an Israeli attack by firing salvoes of Shehab-3 intermediate-range ballistic missiles with conventional high-explosive warheads at the Jewish state. Israel does not have the power to knock out enough of the heavily guarded and widely nuclear facilities, most of them buried deep underground, to permanently cripple Iran's nuclear program. But with the Israelis claiming Iran has accelerated its missile production and that Tehran could fashion a nuclear warhead within a year, Israeli strategists appear to be inclined to strike while they can to set back Iran's nuclear ambitions. "With the rise of Binyamin Netanyahu to power in Israel and his appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as his foreign minister, Israel has been behaving in provocative ways that betray a burning desire to strike Iran as soon as possible," Egypt's Al Ahram weekly said in July. The Israelis have conducted several long-range airstrikes over the years, but never simultaneously against such a plethora of targets spread across a country 900 miles away. The Israeli air force simply does not have the capability of targeting all of Iran's nuclear targets in a single raid. Any attack on Iran would be immensely more complicated than the landmark long-range airstrike that knocked out Saddam Hussein's French-built Osirak reactor near Baghdad - far closer to Israel than Iran - in June 1981. Analyst Reuven Pedatzur wrote in Israeli daily Haaretz in May that the 1981 strike, ordered by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, marked the start of "the Begin Doctrine Â… which holds that Israel will not let any hostile country in the region acquire nuclear weapons." But Pedatzur acknowledged: "The problem is that what could be accomplished in Iraq more than two decades ago is no longer possible today under the present circumstances in Iran." The S-300V system (NATO codename SA-12 Giant) can engage multiple targets simultaneously and shoot down aircraft and missiles at a range of around 100 miles. The system is so sophisticated and tamper-proof that air force planners calculate that 20 percent to 30 percent of the aircraft deployed would be lost. According to the Israeli media, a minimum of 90 aircraft would be required to attack three key nuclear sites - all 25 of the U.S.-built F-15I strike jets in the air force's inventory and at least 65 of its 135 F-16s, about one-quarter of the air force's strength. Israel, which has the most advanced ballistic missile programs in the Middle East, also possesses an arsenal of road-mobile Jericho 1, 2 and 3 missiles capable of hitting Iranian targets. The three-stage Jericho 3 is believed to be able to carry a multi-megaton nuclear warhead, or a conventional warhead of 1,000-1,200 kilograms. However, Pedatzur noted, "It is doubtful the Jerichos' accuracy can be relied on, and that all of them will hit those critical spots with precision."

DTN News: IRKUT Corporation Selecting Systems Suppliers For MC-21 Program

DTN News: IRKUT Corporation Selecting Systems Suppliers For MC-21 Program *Source: DTN News / IRKUT Corp (NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW, Russia - August 24, 2009: IRKUT” Corporation” has selected the main Suppliers for a number of systems of MC-21 Program: - Landing Gear system – Proposals of Gidromash” Company (Russia) are selected; - Auxiliary Power Unit - Proposal of Hamilton Sundstrand’s (USA) is selected; - Environmental Conditioning System - Proposal of “Nauka” Company (Russia), which has been prepared jointly with Hamilton Sundstrand (USA) and “Hamilton Sundstrand - Nauka” Joint Venture is selected; - Electrical System including Power Generation System and Power Distribution Complex - Proposal of ECE Company (France), which is a part of Zodiac Aerospace Corporation (France), and Hamilton Sundstrand (USA) is selected; - Interiors and passenger equipment - Proposal of C&D (USA), which is a part of “Zodiac Aerospace” Corporation (France) is selected; - Fuel System - Proposal of Intertechnique (France), which is a part of “Zodiac Aerospace” Corporation (France), is selected; - Oxygen System - Proposal of Intertechnique (France), which is a part of “Zodiac Aerospace” Corporation (France), is selected; - Neutral gas System - joint Proposal of Intertechnique (France), which is a part of “Zodiac Aerospace” Corporation (France), and Hamilton Sundstrand (USA) is selected; - Fire protection System - joint Proposal of L’Hotellier (France), which is a part of Kidde Technologies (USA), and Hamilton Sundstrand (USA) is selected; - Hydraulic system - Proposal of Eaton Corporation (USA) is selected. Eaton Corporation will place orders for manufacturing of more than 50% of parts and units of the Hydraulic System with Russian enterprises – PMZ “Voshod”, PKO “Teploobmennik”, MIZ “Znamya”, “Tehpribor”; - Wing anti-ice System - Proposal of Hamilton Sundstrand (USA) is selected. We have selected two best Proposals for three main systems. With this respect we decided to continue negotiations: Power Plant System - Proposals of Pratt&Whitney (USA) and Rolls-Royce (Great Britain) are selected; Avionics System - The proposals of Rockwell Collins (USA) and “Avionica” Group (Russia) are selected; Integrated Flight Control system - Proposals of “Aviapribor-Holding” (Russia) jointly with Goodrich AS (France) and Moog (USA), and Liebherr Aerospace (Germany) are selected. The selection procedure with respect to the aforementioned Suppliers of the free main system is to be completed by November 1, 2009. MC-21 Program is intended for the creation of the MC-21 short and medium haul Aircraft Family with high operational capability and destined for Russian and international markets. The “IRKUT” Corporation” is the prime contractor of the program. MC-21 Aircrafts will allow the airlines to achieve a new level of efficiency in operation and will help reduce operational expenditures by 15% as compared with the currently operated aircrafts. The Family of Aircrafts includes three models: MC-21-200, MC-21-300 and MC-21-400 with a passenger capacity of 150, 181, and 212 with one class cockpit arrangement. Some flight range modifications are reviewed for each of the models. The first aircraft of the family is expected to be МС-21-200. The innovative solutions, if implemented, would help achieve performance and comfortable environment for passengers that equal to none. The family aircraft will meet the potential standards minimizing the environmental impact. Currently the MC-21 program is under the preliminary design. Introduction of the MC-21 family aircraft is scheduled for 2016.

DTN News: European Union Names Airlines That Could Face Europe Ban

DTN News: European Union Names Airlines That Could Face Europe Ban
*Source: DTN News / AFP
(NSI News Source Info) BRUSSELS, Belgium - August 24, 2009: The European Union on Saturday published a list of nearly 4,000 airlines that it says should reduce their impact on the environment from 2012 or face being banned from European airports. Pollution from aircraft emissions currently represent three percent of European emissions. The EU adopted the policy in January despite opposition from the majority of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) member countries and companies belonging to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). A new European law is due to come into force soon. (Pollution from aircraft emissions currently represent three percent of European emissions) Under the new law, from January 1, 2012 all airlines -- both European and non-European -- operating within Europe would have to limit CO2 emissions or face penalties. Airlines will have to start monitoring their emissions from January 2010, in line with plans submitted this year. Carbon dioxide is widely considered a major greenhouse gas which is seen as contributing to climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a scientific body which assesses climate change, says air transport produces two percent of all carbon dioxide emissions from humans and 13 percent of CO2 from transport. The list was published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

DTN News: Philippines ~ Dispute Threatens Talks To End Filipino Rebellion

DTN News: Philippines ~ Dispute Threatens Talks To End Filipino Rebellion *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) MANILA, Philippines - August 24, 2009: A planned resumption this week of talks on ending one of Asia's longest communist rebellions will likely be called off due to a dispute over a rebel demand for the release of jailed comrades, a Philippine official and the rebels said Sunday. A Philippine Air Force gunner mans a machinegun on a Huey military helicopter as it flies over rebel infested Basilan island in southern Philippines August 20, 2009. Peace talks collapsed in 2004 after the communist New People's Army blamed the government for its inclusion on U.S. and European lists of terrorist groups. A Norwegian-brokered meeting in June led to an agreement to resume talks Friday in Oslo. The rural-based rebellion to create a Marxist state has claimed about 120,000 lives and has been blamed by the government for stunting economic growth. Rebel assaults have continued despite efforts to revive the peace talks. Presidential adviser on the peace process Avelino Razon Jr. said the scheduled talks may no longer take place after rebel negotiators insisted on the release of several guerrillas and the dropping of criminal charges against two others demands he said the government could not immediately grant. "It's unlikely the talks will take place as scheduled," Razon said. "We cannot subvert our legal process." Rebel consultant Jose Maria Sison said the Philippine government reneged on an agreement forged in June to either release from detention or drop "trumped-up" criminal charges against about 14 guerrillas who were to serve as consultants in the talks. The government "has rendered extremely difficult or even impossible the resumption of formal talks," Sison, who founded the Communist Party of the Philippines, said in a statement. The Philippine government last month renewed an agreement, suspended in 2005, shielding 87 guerrillas from arrest and criminal prosecution while involved in the talks. However, Razon said the agreement was not a license for the government to free detained rebels or drop criminal charges against others. Sison also condemned the government for agreeing to release a suspected rebel, Randall Echanis, for only six months, "making him a hostaged consultant," he said. Razon said the government could not direct Philippine courts to immediately free detained rebels or summarily drop criminal charges against two suspected guerrillas, who are at large, so they could participate in the talks. Rebel negotiators will seek a meeting with Philippine officials to discuss the issue, Sison said. Government negotiators welcome that proposal, Razon said. The 120,000-strong military has been carrying out sporadic offensives aimed at crushing the insurgency before President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is scheduled to step down next June.

DTN News: Suspected Muslim Attackers Kill 2 Soldiers In Southern Thailand

DTN News: Suspected Muslim Attackers Kill 2 Soldiers In Southern Thailand *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) PATTANI, Thailand - August 24, 2009: Suspected Muslim rebels killed two soldiers Sunday in an attack on a government checkpoint in Thailand's insurgency-plagued south. Police officers survey the site of a bomb attack in Yala province, south of Bangkok August 22, 2009. Three civil servants were killed in a gun and bomb attack and a Muslim rubber tapper shot dead by suspected insurgents in Thailand's deep south on Saturday, police said. At least 10 men opened fire in the pre-dawn assault in Narathiwat province, police Lt. Thongchai Pookapan said. Three others a soldier, a policeman and a security volunteer were wounded. The attackers fled in pickup trucks after a 10-minute gunfight, he said. More than 3,700 people have been killed in Thailand's three southernmost provinces since an Islamic insurgency flared in January 2004. The provinces are the only Muslim-majority areas in the Buddhist-dominated country, and their residents have long complained of discrimination by the central government. A massive security presence has failed to stop the violence, which has killed more Muslims than Buddhists. The militants target people working with the government, including soldiers, police and informants. They also stage attacks on civilians that are believed to be intended to scare the Buddhist community into fleeing. The insurgents have made no public pronouncements but are thought to be fighting for an independent Muslim state. The area used to be an Islamic sultanate until it was annexed by Thailand in the early 20th century.

DTN News: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Chairman Says Airline Owes Rs 142 Billion In Loans

DTN News: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Chairman Says Airline Owes Rs 142 Billion In Loans *Source: DTN News / The News (NSI News Source Info) ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - August 24, 2009: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Chairman Captain Ijaz Haroon on Saturday blamed the previous management of the national flag carrier for the organisation’s poor financial health, saying that the airlines currently owed Rs 142 billion in loans. Briefing the National Assembly Standing Committee on Defence, which met under the chairpersonship of MNA Faryal Talpur, he denied the PIA was on the verge of bankruptcy or that there were any plans to privatise it. Haroon informed the committee that PIA had to pay back Rs 142 billion in loans including Rs 25 billion to local banks. He said the organisation had suffered a loss of Rs 35.9 billion last year, adding that the depreciation of the rupee had also contributed to PIA’s financial woes. He told the committee the previous management had neglected revenue generation and relied on loans to run the organisation. Defence Secretary Syed Athar Ali, also present at the briefing, also endorsed what the PIA chairman said and added that there had been substantial lapses under the previous management. Haroon said the current management was focusing on revenue generation, which was evident from the Rs 1.81 billion profits that the organisation had earned this year. The standing committee expressed its concern over the huge losses accumulated by the PIA during the last few years. At the PIA management’s request, the committee agreed to ask Finance Minister Shaukat Tareen to reschedule the national flag carrier’s loans and award new loans at low interest rates. The committee also recommended the PIA revised its pricing formula for haj and umrah fares, saying the PIA charged high fares. Talking to reporters, Haroon said it was not true that the organisation was on the verge of bankruptcy, adding the PIA was meeting all its obligations.

DTN News: Israeli President Shimon Peres High Profile Meeting In Azerbaijan

DTN News: Israeli President Shimon Peres High Profile Meeting In Azerbaijan *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) JERUSALEM, Israel - August 24, 2009: As Azerbaijan's neighbors, Georgia and Russia, commemorated the anniversary of the military conflict which erupted in August 2008, Azerbaijan showcased its foreign policy as both balanced and independent. In this handout photo released by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO), Israeli President Shimon Peres and Azeri President Ilham Heydar oglu Aliyev take part in the official welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace June 28, 2009 in Baku, Azerbaijan. President Peres will visit both Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan on a four-day trip to advance Israel's ties with those countries.
Several high level presidential visits to Baku this summer indicate that the Azerbaijani capital is becoming the focus of regional geopolitical developments.
While Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev visited Baku for purely economic reasons, more precisely to discuss energy issues, the visits of Israeli President Shimon Peres and the Syrian President Bashar al-Asad drew most of the attention. The visit by Peres was the highlight of the recent strengthening of Israeli-Azerbaijani relations. Both countries enjoy growing trade, with Israel buying almost 25 percent of its domestic oil consumption from Azerbaijan.
Baku is expressing increasing interest in Israel's defense, agriculture, tourism, and information technology sectors. Indeed, the visit was symbolic not only in terms of bilateral relations, but also within the framework of the dialogue of civilizations, as he continued his trip by going to Kazakhstan, another moderate and secular Muslim-majority country, in an effort to strengthen Israel's links with the Muslim world.
Semyon Ikhiilov, the head of the Community of Mountain Jews in Azerbaijan said that: "President Peres is coming to Baku to promote peace" (Trend News, June 23). Yet, his visit to Baku drew much criticism from Iranian political circles. The Iranian leadership recalled its ambassador from Baku for "the clarification of some issues," and some Iranian politicians and the military establishment made threatening statements towards Azerbaijan (Trend News, June 30).
This was characterized by the Iranian side as "a sign of disrespect towards the Islamic world," and a demand was made to close the Israeli embassy in Baku (, June 30). The response from Baku was rapid, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Elmar Mammadyarov stated that the "Iranian reaction is very surprising to us.
Iranian officials regularly meet with senior Armenian politicians, and Azerbaijan does not comment on these meetings" (Trend News, June 30). Senior officials from the presidential office in Baku went even further in their response. The head of the presidential administration's political department Ali Hasanov said "Azerbaijan has never interfered in the domestic affairs of any state, and it will not tolerate other countries interfering in its own domestic affairs.
We have said to the Iranian side many times that cooperation with Armenia, which has occupied Azerbaijani territories, contradicts the solidarity of the Islamic world" (Aztv, June 4). His colleague Novruz Mammadov, the head of the international relations department in the presidential administration added that "Azerbaijan is not pursuing any measures against the interests of Iran" (APA News, June 8).
Similarly, some members of the Azerbaijani parliament expressed dissatisfaction with the severity of Iranian rhetoric. Despite this rather antagonistic exchange between Tehran and Baku, the visit of the Israeli president took place and was very successful.
The Israeli Ambassador to Baku Artur Lenk, speaking at the Center for Strategic Studies in Baku said that "relations between Israel and Azerbaijan can be an example for Israel's relations with the Muslim world." Eventually, the Iranian ambassador returned to Baku. The head of the presidential administration's department for political analysis Elnur Aslanov urged all sides to refrain from "political speculation regarding Iranian-Azerbaijan relations" (Novosti-Azerbaijan, June 30). Furthermore, Azerbaijan received another opportunity to strengthen its relations with the Muslim world by hosting the Syrian President Bashar al-Asad.
This was the first visit by the Syrian President to Baku, and it was portrayed in the media as being significant for Azerbaijan, since Syria is one of the major players in the region and it also hosts a large Armenian diaspora.
Azerbaijani diplomacy, aiming at securing more support from the Islamic world over Karabakh, welcomed al-Asad to Baku, despite reservations in some Western capitals. 18 documents on bilateral cooperation were signed between the two countries and Asad expressed interest in buying 1 billion cubic meters of gas annually from Azerbaijan (Azertaj News, July 10). The high profile visits by Peres and Asad highlight Baku's increasingly independent course in its foreign policy, and its growing geostrategic importance in the region.
The fact that Baku can host any world leader, despite pressure from powerful regional and other powers, points to the pragmatic, confident, and interest-based foreign policy of the Azerbaijani leadership.
Richard Giragosian, a reputable Armenian political analyst and the Director of the Armenian Center for Strategic and National Studies in Erevan, said that "the recent visits of the Israeli and Syrian presidents confirm the strengthening of the strategic importance of Azerbaijan, and this worries Armenia very much"

DTN News: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ~ US Putting South America Under Siege

DTN News: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ~ US Putting South America Under Siege *Source: DTN News / Tripoli Post (NSI News Source Info) BRUSSELS, Belgium - August 24, 2009: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday said the United States is seeking to put South America under a military siege, and warned Venezuela will strengthen defense. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez shows a copy of the new education law in Caracas August 15, 2009. Washington's aim is to be in control of Venezuela's oil and other strategic targets like the Amazonia forest, the giant South American mining system in Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, Chavez stressed. In his Sunday column "Las lineas de Chavez," the statesman particularly slammed the Colombian government for allowing the United States to use its military bases. According to Chavez, Colombia has become a replica of Israel in South America. In the Americas Summit held in Trinidad and Tobago in April, President Barack Obama talked forgetting the past, and the Colombian representant to a recent UNASUR meeting added the missing part when she spoke of stripping dialogue of any ideological meaning, Chavez noted. The head of State recalled Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa's words when he referred to an international double standard: rebel governments should be blamed for everything, while obedient government must be supported at all costs. "Military bases, according to the Empire's vision, are a problem of the Colombian sovereignty, but the development of a nuclear program by a country Washington considers a member of the Axis of Evil is not a problem of sovereignty, but a global threat," the Venezuelan president said. To face that situation, Chavez ratified his proposal of creating "peace bases," stating that if Venezuela is attacked, the country will defend with all resources available.

DTN News: Greece ~ Thousands Of Residents Flee Northern Athens As Foreign Help Arrives

DTN News: Greece ~ Thousands Of Residents Flee Northern Athens As Foreign Help Arrives *Raging wildfires have forced a mass evacuation of Athens' northern suburb of Aghios Stefanos, though some residents are trying to put out flames with garden hoses. Two Italian aircraft have joined fire fighters as more help from EU countries arrives. *Source: DTN News / Reuters (NSI News Source Info) ATHENS, Greece - August 24, 2009: Strong winds on Sunday fanned a huge wildfire that tore through scores of homes and thousands of acres of forest near Athens, forcing thousands of residents to flee, authorities said. A firefighting helicopter drops water over a forest fire in the Athens suburb of Dionissii on August 23, 2009 in Athens, Greece. Authorities have declared a state of emergency as the large wildfire has raged since Friday, destroying homes and forcing thousands to flee the inferno. The blaze is the worst suffered by mainland Greece since 2007. Thick plumes of smoke hung over the Acropolis as the flames, raging unchecked for a second day, reached the Greek capital’s northern suburbs, testing state resources and the conservative government, which is facing a snap election by March. “The winds are stronger and change direction all the time, spreading the fire even further,” said fire brigade spokesman Giannis Kapakis. Local authorities used loudspeakers to advise residents of Aghios Stefanos to leave the suburb of 20,000, as flames licked its first homes. Many abandoned their homes around Athens overnight and some were frantically trying to stop the flames from reaching houses with garden hoses and tree branches. “We are facing a great ordeal,” Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said. “The fire department is making a superhuman effort.” The handling of the fire, the biggest since Greece’s worst wildfires in living memory killed 65 people in a 10-day inferno in 2007, will be crucial for his political fate as snap polls loom. His government, which is clinging to a one-seat majority in parliament, trails the socialist opposition in opinion polls. Greek authorities declared a state of emergency in eastern Attica on Saturday where the flames seared about 30,000 acres (12,140 hectares) of forest, farming fields and olive groves. “More than 120,000 stremmas (30,000 acres) have been burnt. It is an ecological disaster,” Athens prefect Yiannis Sgouros told Greek television. Help from Greece’s EU allies started to arrive. Two Italian aircraft joined fire fighting efforts and more were expected from France and Cyprus on Sunday, fire officials said. Emergency meeting Karamanlis made a helicopter tour of the area on Sunday and chaired a emergency government meeting as the Greek weather service warned winds were not expected to abate before Monday night, hindering fire fighting efforts. “The situation is extremely difficult due to the weather conditions,” Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos told reporters after the meeting. Greek officials and eyewitnesses said the fire had also reached the suburbs of Anthoussa, Pallini, Pikermi and Dionyssos and that there were people refusing to leave their property as flames approached. The fire broke out late on Friday in the village of Grammatiko about 40 km (25 miles) northeast of the Greek capital and quickly spread to neighbouring villages and Athens suburbs. A children’s hospital and a home for the elderly were evacuated. Police and witnesses said scores of homes were heavily damaged but the fire brigade declined to give official data until the blaze was put out. “The destruction is enormous,” Aghios Stefanos deputy mayor Panagiotis Bitakos told Greek television. “They allowed one fire to destroy all of Attica.” Twelve aircraft, seven helicopters, 136 fire engines and about 644 firefighters were battling the blaze, fire officials said. Some 340 soldiers were also dispatched to the fires. Gale-force winds have fanned more than 100 blazes across Greece in the last three days. Fires also raged on the islands of Zakynthos, Evia, Skyros, and the central Greek Viotia area. Summer fires are frequent in Greece, often caused by high temperatures and winds, drought or arson. Hundreds of fires raged across southern Europe in July, destroying thousands of hectares of forest and gutting dozens of homes.