Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Taiwan Supersonic Missile Test Flops

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Taiwan's defense ministry on June 28 confirmed reports that a new supersonic anti-ship missile had missed its target during a routine naval drill in the latest in a series of setbacks.
Analysts say the Hsiung Feng (Brave Wind) III missile, designed to cruise at a maximum speed of Mach 2.0, or twice the speed of sound, and with a range of up to 80 miles, is difficult to defend against.
But the defense ministry said the weapon, the island's first locally developed supersonic anti-ship missile, had failed to hit its objective during the drill due to a computer glitch.
"The ministry will improve on the screening of hardcore facilities ... to ensure the quality of the missiles," it said in a statement. Taiwan started to deploy the Hsiung Feng III on its warships last year in response to China's rapid naval expansion.
But the island's military leaders were left red-faced after two failed missile tests earlier this year that earned rare criticism from President Ma Ying-jeou, who urged the armed forces to practice more.
The Taipei-based China Times said the latest failure was particularly embarrassing for Taiwan's navy, since it "coincided" with Beijing's much-publicized military drills in South China Sea in mid-June.
The missiles are estimated to cost Taiwanese taxpayers at least Tw$100 million ($3.45 million) each, the report said.
Ties between China and Taiwan have improved since Ma became the island's president in 2008 on a China-friendly platform.
But China still regards Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting to be reunified by force if necessary, although the island has governed itself since 1949 when a civil war ended.

Lockheed Shifts F-35 Management Team

Lockheed Martin is shifting some of its executives in order strengthen its most important programs, the company said June 27 in a news release.
In perhaps the most significant move, Orlando Carvalho, Lockheed's Mission Systems & Sensors chief, will become the deputy to F-35 general manager Larry Lawson.
"These appointments will strengthen our performance on high-priority programs and provide growth and development opportunities for key executives," Christopher Kubasik, Lockheed's president and chief operating officer, said in the news release. "They build on our commitment to leverage our talent seamlessly across the enterprise to meet the needs of our customers."

Iran Unveils Underground Missile Silo: State TV

TEHRAN - Iran's Revolutionary Guards on June 27 unveiled an "underground missile silo," which the elite force said will allow them to launch the country's long-range ballistic missiles, state television reported.
The broadcaster showed footage of a facility at an unknown location, with an "underground missile silo" holding a projectile described as a Shahab-3.
The unveiling came as the Guards began a military exercise on June 27, codenamed Great Prophet-6, which was to include the launching of different range ballistic missiles.
"The technology to build these silos is completely indigenous," the state television website quoted the exercise's spokesman, Col. Asghar Ghelichkhani, as saying.
State television also showed a missile launch, without specifying its type or when the firing took place.
With a range of nearly 1,240 miles (2,000 kilometers), the Shahab-3 is a liquid-fuelled missile that can theoretically reach Israeli territory as well as U.S. bases in the Middle East.
In recent years, Iran has tested a dozen of these missiles, which are believed to have been derived from the North Korean No-Dong missile.
The Islamic republic says the latest exercise would carry "a message of peace and friendship to the countries of the region."
In late May, Iran said it had equipped the Revolutionary Guards with a new surface-to-surface missile, the Qiam-1, which it said was built locally and test-fired last August.
Iran says it has a wide range of missiles in its arsenal, and regularly boasts about developing projectiles with substantial range and capabilities. Western military experts cast doubt over its claims, however.
The country's missile program, which is under the control of the powerful Guards, along with its space projects, has been a source of concern in the West.
World powers fear that Tehran is developing a ballistic capability to enable it to launch nuclear warheads, which they suspect Iran is seeking to acquire under the guise of its civilian atomic program.
But Iran has steadfastly denied the Western allegations, insisting that its nuclear and space programs have no military objectives.

Gates: NATO Allies Must Pool Funds or Face Decline

WASHINGTON - European members of NATO need to pool their defense funds to bolster their declining military power, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says.
The Libya air war has exposed serious shortcomings among NATO allies and European governments will have to agree on joint defense budget priorities to rectify the problem, Gates told AFP in an interview.
The Pentagon chief, who is due to retire this week after more than four years in the post, reiterated views he expressed in a blunt speech in Brussels earlier this month, in which he warned the alliance faced a potentially "dismal" future.
"The truth is, as I said in Brussels, there is a lot of military capability and a lot of money being spent in Europe," Gates said on Thursday.
"The problem is, is how it's being spent, and not a sufficient acknowledgement that every nation in NATO can't have a full spectrum capability militarily," he said.
European allies are spending more than $300 billion on defense, but often in an uncoordinated manner, he said.
"So at one point do countries begin to pool their resources, begin to pool their capabilities and say, together they can do this?" he said.
Gates added there are "several countries, and I'm not going to name any names, that can't afford F-16s (fighter jets), but they can pool their resources as they have on the C-17s, the cargo planes, then they have a real capability."
He said he was urging "greater integration within NATO."
In his Brussels speech on June 10, Gates said that many NATO members did not have the military resources to participate in the Libya air campaign and that failure to coordinate defense spending over the years had "short changed" operations.
He also warned that failing to pool funds and coordinate training and other efforts "bodes ill for ensuring NATO has the key common alliance capabilities of the future."
Gates' critique of NATO prompted a sharp response from French President Nicolas Sarkozy last week, who said the American defense secretary's comments reflected the "bitterness" of a future retiree.
"Mr. Gates was heading towards retirement and it gave him pleasure" to criticize the alliance, Sarkozy told a news conference Friday after a summit of European Union leaders in Brussels.
"You can't blame someone who's retiring for showing bitterness," he said, adding that what Gates said was "completely false."
The Pentagon chief's press secretary, Geoff Morrell, has declined to comment on Sarkozy's remarks.
In his Brussels address, Gates rebuked allies for what he called chronic underinvestment in defense, saying NATO members in the Libya campaign are running out of munitions and lacking surveillance aircraft and specialists to identify targets.
Senior British officers have warned that the Libya campaign is putting an increasing strain on the country's armed forces.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Russia, Kyrgyzstan in Talks Over Training Base

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan - Russia is in talks with Kyrgyzstan to expand its military presence in the volatile central Asian nation by setting up a training center in the south, the Kyrgyz foreign minister told AFP.
"We are discussing the possibility of creating a training base in the south of Kyrgyzstan," Ruslan Kazakbayev told AFP in an interview conducted June 24.
The training base was part of ongoing discussions to conclude an agreement under which "all of Russia's existing military installations on our territory will be merged into one," he said.
Russia already operates one base in Kyrgyzstan, the Kant airbase outside the capital Bishkek, as well as several other installations such as a seismic station providing data for strategic missile forces.
Moscow had been in talks about opening a second military base in Kyrgyzstan with the country's previous administration led by Kurmanbek Bakiyev before he was ousted in a violent uprising last year.
Both the United States and Russia jostle for military influence in a region gaining in strategic importance owing to its proximity to Afghanistan.
Washington also operates a military base in Kyrgyzstan, making it the only country in the world to house both Russian and U.S. bases.
Russia lobbied for the closure of the U.S. base but Bishkek eventually agreed to keep it open after Washington more than tripled the rent paid to use Manas. Kazakbayev said the Kyrgyz government and Washington were in similar talks.
"We are also working with the U.S. government in this direction," he said without being more specific. "I would like to stress that a decision on these issues will be made in a transparent manner and will take into account our country's national interests."
Under the current agreement with Washington, the Manas base, a pivotal transit hub for troops and supplies for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, will be stationed in Kyrgyzstan until 2014.
Bloody riots rocked the country last June, becoming the worst inter-ethnic clashes to hit Kyrgyzstan since the collapse of the Soviet Union and taking place two months after violent protests deposed Bakiyev.

Guns, Grenades and iPads for Singapore Soldiers

SINGAPORE - New recruits to Singapore's military, air force and navy are to get a new standard-issue item of equipment besides their rifle - the iPad.
The defense ministry said June 27 it will be issuing "about 8,000" of the sleek, touch-screen tablet computers - already wildly popular with the city-state's tech-savvy youth - to recruits from November.
The ministry said it was also planning to issue the devices to other servicemen next year. The cheapest iPad2 device currently retails in Singapore for Sg$668 ($538).
Defense chief Neo Kian Hong said adopting the iPad would allow the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to take advantage of the technological abilities of the city-state's youth.
"By exploiting the use of popular and current information and communications technology, we are able to harness our advantage of today's technologically savvy servicemen," the Straits Times newspaper quoted him as saying.
Troops can use the iPad's built-in camera to take photos and video clips in the field which can be uploaded to the SAF's online platform, LEARNet.
Soldiers can use these photos and videos to carry out post-mission assessments, the newspaper said.
Soldiers can send questions to their commanders through a live messaging system and group chat discussions can be held, it added.
The SAF said it was working with private contractors to design apps - micro-programs tailor-made for mobile devices with a wide range of functions - for servicemen.
Singapore maintains a conscript-based military and its armed forces are among the best-equipped in Asia. Every able-bodied male citizen and permanent resident aged 18 and above must undergo two years of military training.

Iran to Stage Missile Wargames

TEHRAN - Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards are to launch military exercises on June 26 with the firing of different range ballistic missiles, the state news agency IRNA reported.
The exercises, codenamed Great Prophet-6, are to start on June 26, said a Guards commander, Gen. Ami Ali Hadjizadeh, quoted by IRNA, without specifying how long the maneuvers will last.
"Short-, medium- and long-range missiles will be fired, especially the Khalij-Fars, Sejil, Fateh, Ghiam, and Shahab-1 and -2 missiles," he said.
The general, whose force carries out wargames each year in the Gulf region, said the latest exercises were "a message of peace and friendship to the countries of the area."
In late May, Iran said it had equipped the Revolutionary Guards with a new surface-to-surface missile, the Qiam-1, which was built locally and test-fired last August.
Iran says it has a wide range of missiles, some capable of striking targets inside arch-foe Israel as well as U.S. bases in the Middle East.
The Islamic republic regularly boasts about developing missiles having substantial range and capabilities, but Western military experts cast doubt on its claims.
Iran's missile program is under the control of the Guards.
Its space and missile programs have been a concern in the West, which fears Tehran is developing a ballistic capability to launch potential nuclear weapons which it suspects Iran aims to develop under the guise of its civilian atomic program.
Iran has steadfastly denied these Western charges, saying its nuclear and space programs have no military objectives.

Karzai Rules Out Calling for More U.S. Troops

WASHINGTON - Afghan President Hamid Karzai ruled out June 26 asking the United States to send more troops if the security situation in Afghanistan deteriorates following the U.S. military drawdown.
Asked on CNN whether he would go back to U.S. President Barack Obama and ask him to perhaps reverse the drawdown if the Afghan army failed to maintain security, Karzai replied: "I will not do that.
"It is the responsibility of the Afghan people to protect their country and to provide security for the citizens of the country," he said.

Azerbaijan Warns Armenia with Show of Military Might

BAKU - Azerbaijan paraded thousands of soldiers and hundreds of military vehicles through its capital June 26 in a show of force two days after talks failed to resolve a bitter territorial dispute with Armenia.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who has overseen massive increases in defense spending, warned in his speech that he was ready to take back the disputed Nagorny Karabakh region, which was seized from Azerbaijan in the 1990s by Armenian separatist forces backed by Yerevan.
"The war is not over yet," Aliyev said at the showpiece parade in the center of Baku, vowing to end what he called the "occupation" of Karabakh.
"The territorial integrity of Azerbaijan must be restored and the territory will be restored," he said.
Six thousand troops marched in the parade, accompanied by tanks, armored cars and rocket launchers, as fighter planes and combat helicopters roared overhead and warships lined up in the nearby Caspian Sea bay.
In his speech, Aliyev also spoke approvingly about the increases in defense spending financed by the energy-rich state's huge revenues from oil and gas exports.
"Azerbaijan has fulfilled the task that I set, which was that Azerbaijan's military expenditure must exceed the entire state budget of Armenia," he said, noting that defense spending reached $3.3 billion (2.3 billion euros) this year.
"Military expenditure occupies first place in the state budget of Azerbaijan and that is understandable. It will be like this as long as our lands are not liberated," he said.
Military hardware manufactured in Azerbaijan, including unmanned drones, was on show for the first time to highlight the country's expanding defense industry.
The "Armed Forces Day" parade in Baku was the third in the country's post-Soviet history and also marked this year's 20th anniversary of independence.
It was shown live on state television in a broadcast preceded by a series of patriotic songs accompanied by images of troops in action and President Aliyev wearing camouflage fatigues.
The parade was held after the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia failed to agree despite strong international pressure to a "basic principles" roadmap document that would have been a significant step towards a Karabakh peace deal.
A joint statement issued after the summit in Russia on June 24 merely noted "the reaching of mutual understanding on a number of questions, whose resolution helps create conditions to approve the basic principles".
The two enemies traded accusations after the summit, with Armenia saying that Azerbaijan had torpedoed the talks by wanting a dozen changes to the document and Baku saying that Yerevan was seeking to mislead the world.
The outcome was a major disappointment after hopes had been raised of a long-awaited breakthrough in the talks, which were presided over by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in the city of Kazan.
U.S. President Barack Obama had also telephoned his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts before the summit to urge them to agree the "basic principles" document.
Seventeen years after the Karabakh ceasefire, the opposing sides still often exchange deadly fire across the frontline and Baku has repeatedly threatened to use force if negotiations don't yield results.
Fears have been raised of a return to war that could prove even bloodier than the 1990s conflict and potentially threaten pipelines taking Caspian Sea oil and gas from Azerbaijan to Europe.
The interim "basic principles" agreement would see an Armenian withdrawal from areas around Karabakh that were also seized during the post-Soviet war.
It also envisages international security guarantees and a vote on the final status of the territory at some point in the future.
But even if the document is eventually agreed by both sides, huge obstacles remain to a final peace deal.
Armenia insists that Karabakh will never again be ruled by Baku, while Azerbaijan insists that the region must remain part of its sovereign territory.

S. Korea to Hold Drill Near Tense N. Korea Border

SEOUL - South Korea will hold military drills near the border with North Korea this week against a background of simmering tensions with its communist neighbor, an official said June 26.
The South's army will stage field training exercises in the city of Paju from June 27 to July 1, Seoul's defense ministry spokesman said.
"The training is something we have been doing on a regular basis to improve our combat readiness," he said without elaborating.
Cross-border tension has been acute since the North's alleged sinking of a Seoul warship that claimed 46 lives and a shelling of a frontier island that killed four South Koreans last year.
Ties deteriorated again after Pyongyang announced late last month it was breaking all contact with Seoul's conservative government, which has demanded an apology from the North over the two attacks.
The arrival by boat in South Korea of nine refugees from the North this month has further heightened tensions after Seoul rejected Pyongyang's demand to send the nine back.
A Seoul-based group of North Korean defectors launched 100,000 anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border on Saturday urging the toppling of the communist regime, despite threats from the North to shoot at them.
Giant balloons were inscribed with anti-Pyongyang slogans including one calling for the overthrow of leader Kim Jong-Il and his youngest son Kim Jong-Un's "hereditary dictatorship".

Breaking News From The Department of Homeland Security U.S., China Holding Talks on Rising Sea Tensions

HONOLULU, Hawaii - The United States and China were holding first-of-a-kind talks June 25 on rising tensions in the South China Sea, with Beijing angry over Washington's support of Southeast Asian countries.
Senior officials of the Pacific powers were meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii, days after the United States rallied behind the Philippines and Vietnam which have been alarmed at what they see as Beijing's growing assertiveness at sea.
Kurt Campbell, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said ahead of the talks that he would make clear to China the "strong principles" of the United States in defense of freedom of navigation.
"We want recent tensions to subside and cooler heads to prevail," Campbell told reporters in Washington on June 24.
Campbell reiterated that the United States takes no stance on China's territorial disputes with its neighbors - a point of contention for some U.S. lawmakers who have been pressing for a more proactive role.
"The United States has no intention to fan the flames in the South China Sea and we have a very strong interest in the maintenance of peace and stability," Campbell said.
But China's top official at the Hawaii talks, vice foreign minister Cui Tiankai, warned that U.S. support of its partners in Southeast Asia "can only make things more complicated."
"I believe some countries now are playing with fire. And I hope the U.S. won't be burned by this fire," Cui said, as quoted by The Wall Street Journal.
Cui said that the United States should limit itself to urging "more restraint and responsible behavior from those countries that have been frequently taking provocative actions."
While the United States and China often talk, the session on June 25 is the first to focus specifically on the Asia-Pacific region. The dialogue was set up during the top-level Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington in May.
Campbell said that the United States would also talk to China about its interactions with North Korea and Myanmar, two of the dynamic region's most isolated countries which both count on Beijing as their main source of support.
But the talks are expected to focus on the South China Sea, strategic and potentially oil-rich waters where Beijing has sometimes overlapping disputes with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Vietnam recently held live-fire military exercises after accusing Chinese ships of ramming one oil survey ship and cutting the exploration cables of another.
The Philippines ordered its navy into the South China Sea - part of which it calls the West Philippine Sea - after accusing China of firing on Filipino fishermen and installing posts and a buoy in contested waters.
The United States plans joint exercises with the Philippines and a naval exchange with Vietnam in coming weeks, although U.S. officials have characterized the activities as routine.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on June 23 pledged to assist the Philippines in modernizing its navy, whose flagship is an aging vessel used by the United States in World War II.
"While we are a small country, we are prepared to do what is necessary to stand up to any aggressive action in our backyard," Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said June 23 with Clinton at his side.
The United States a week earlier held talks with Vietnam, in which the former war foes issued a joint call for a peaceful resolution to disputes in the South China Sea.
President Barack Obama's administration has focused on building ties with Southeast Asia, accusing the previous team of George W. Bush of neglecting the fast-growing and often U.S.-friendly region due to preoccupation with wars.

U.S. to Boost Philippine Intelligence, Manila Says

MANILA - Washington has vowed to boost the Philippines' intelligence capabilities in the South China Sea, where tensions with China are rising over conflicting territorial claims, Manila said June 25.
It comes after the United States, which is increasingly concerned about the situation in the South China Sea, said on June 23 it was ready to provide hardware to modernize the military of its close but impoverished ally.
U.S. National Director for Intelligence James Clapper made the commitment in a meeting with Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario in Washington.
Del Rosario is in the U.S. seeking help for the Philippines' poorly equipped military.
"The U.S. official pledged to enhance the NDI's intelligence sharing with the Philippines to heighten the latter's maritime situational awareness and surveillance in the West Philippine Sea," a Philippine Foreign Department statement said.
Clapper was quoted as saying that "we'll do whatever we can to help" as he expressed concern over recent events in the South China Sea.
The "West Philippine Sea" is the term that the Philippine government now uses for the South China Sea to further stress its claim to part of the area.
Del Rosario was quoted as saying he was "exploring an option" which would allow the Philippines to acquire newer military equipment at a lower cost.
However he did not say what this option was.
After their meeting on June 23, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told del Rosario that her government would speed up their military assistance to boost the Philippines' capabilities.
"We are determined and committed to supporting the defense of the Philippines," she told a joint news conference.
The Philippines had sought to modernize its military following a series of incidents with China in the South China Sea, particularly in the Spratlys, a chain of islets believed to sit on vast mineral resources.
However a spokeswoman for Philippine President Benigno Aquino said the renewed ties between the United States and the Philippines should not agitate China.
"We renewed the commitment of both countries for a peaceful environment and reiterated our desire for a multilateral approach to resolving issues," spokeswoman Abigail Valte said in Manila.
"It is just an affirmation of our commitment for peace and stability in the region."
Aside from China and the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim all or part of the South China Sea which includes the Spratlys.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Oxygen Issue Keeps U.S. F-22 Fleet Grounded

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Air Force has grounded its entire fleet of F-22 fighters after problems emerged with the plane's oxygen supply, officials said June 24.
The radar-evading F-22 Raptors have been barred from flying since May 3 and Air Force officials could not say when the planes would return to the air.
"The safety of our airmen is paramount and we will take the necessary time to ensure we perform a thorough investigation," spokeswoman Capt. Jennifer Ferrau told Agence France-Presse.
The Air Force was probing possible breakdowns in the oxygen supply system for the plane after several pilots reported problems, according to the journal Flight Global.
In one case, an F-22 scraped treetops before landing, and the pilot could not remember the incident, indicating a possible symptom of hypoxia from a lack of air, the magazine reported.
Ferrau said it was too soon to say for certain that the technical problem was related to an onboard oxygen generating system, known as OBOGS.
"We are still working to identify the exact nature of the problem," she said. "It is premature to definitively link the current issues to the OBOGS system."
Since January, F-22 pilots have been barred from flying above 25,000 feet, following the crash of a Raptor jet in Alaska during a training flight.
Grounding an entire fleet of aircraft is a rare step, officials said.
In November 2007, the Air Force grounded all F-15 fighters after one of the planes broke apart in flight and crashed.
The planes were not allowed back in the air until March 2008, said Maj. Chad Steffey.
The Air Force has more than 160 F-22 Raptors in its fleet and plans to build a total of 187.
The planes have not been used in the NATO-led air campaign in Libya or the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

U.S. Navy JSFs Resume Flight Ops After Glitch

Flying operations for the U.S. Navy's Lockheed Martin F-35C Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) test program resumed June 23 after a six-day suspension to fix a software problem.
U.S. Navy F-35Cs resumed flight operations June 23 after a software problem temporarily halted flying tests. (Andy Wolfe, Lockheed Martin / U.S. Navy)
The aircraft were grounded June 17 when engineers at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md., discovered a "logic fault" that could have prevented the proper action of aircraft control surfaces - the flaps, rudders and other movable elements that maneuver the plane through the air.
The Navy stressed that no actual fault took place on any aircraft in the air or on the ground.
The software problem affected the "safety mechanism that ensures the wings are folded properly," said Lt. Courtney Hillson, a Navy spokesperson at the Pentagon. "It's the mechanism that prevents the flaps from moving in flight."
The safety monitoring function for the folding mechanism should be turned off during flight, Hillson said, but the software was not properly turning off the function.
The problem has yet to be fully corrected, but the aircraft have resumed flying with certain restrictions, according to a statement from Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) at Pax River.
"A software fix is in progress, and the team has structured temporary maneuvering limitations to ensure it is not a safety hazard," NAVAIR said in the statement.
"Finding issues such as this is the purpose of aircraft test and evaluation," Hillson said. "By finding and correcting such issues, the test team is delivering a better product to the fleet."
The first of three F-35Cs in the Navy flight test program began operating from the Pax River test center in November. The C model differs from the A model for the Air Force and the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing B version for the Marine Corps in that it has folding wings for storage aboard an aircraft carrier.
The Navy JSF team "is still on track to commence initial carrier suitability testing next week with jet blast deflector testing in Lakehurst, N.J.," NAVAIR said June 24 in its statement.
The deflector tests at the Navy's carrier aviation test facility in Lakehurst will be followed in late July or early August by catapult launch and arrested recovery tests, Hillson said.

Sarkozy defends Libya Campaign

BRUSSELS - President Nicolas Sarkozy shrugged off criticism of the NATO-led campaign in Libya on June 24, saying the Western alliance should stay put until Moammar Gadhafi departs.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy addresses a press conference June 24 at a summit of the EU heads of state in Brussels. (Eric Feferberg / AFP via Getty Images)
As some alliance members pull out due to lack of assets, and NATO faces flak over the first civilian casualties in its three-month campaign, Sarkozy instead said at the close of a European Union summit that the campaign was making steady progress.
While skeptics had feared the campaign would get bogged down in the face of a counter-offensive by Gadhafi loyalists, "everyone can see Gadhafi's forces are retreating everywhere," he told a news conference.
"There is a general uprising of the population," he added. "There is progress."
"We will continue until Gadhafi's departure."
Meanwhile Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose foreign minister urged a halt in hostilities after NATO strikes last weekend claimed civilian lives, echoed that the campaign was squeezing Gadhafi's grip on power.
"Gadhafi is increasingly isolated," Berlusconi said. "He has been abandoned. No one can risk a forecast as to when he will leave power."
Amid mounting questions as to how the campaign will last and how much it might cost, Sarkozy said "the reason we're not moving faster is that we don't want mistakes."

Reports: China Warns N. Korea Against New Attacks

SEOUL - China has warned its ally North Korea against making any further attacks on South Korea following two deadly border incidents last year, the South's President Lee Myung-Bak was quoted as saying June 24.
Lee made the remarks during a lunch meeting June 23 with members of the parliamentary defense committee, Yonhap news agency and Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported.
"China delivered its intentions (to South Korea) that it won't stand by the North if it makes an additional provocation," Lee said, according to an unidentified legislator quoted by Yonhap.
It was not clear when the Chinese message was delivered.
Beijing has also made its stance clear to Pyongyang, Lee was quoted by Chosun Ilbo as saying.
A presidential spokeswoman could not immediately confirm Lee's reported remarks.
China is the North's last remaining major ally and its key source of food and fuel. It came in for criticism for failing publicly to censure the North following the two incidents last year.
The South, citing the findings of a multinational investigation, accused its neighbor of torpedoing a warship in March 2010 with the loss of 46 lives.
The North denied involvement but last November shelled a South Korean border island, killing four people including civilians.
Tensions remain high and the North's military has recently threatened retaliation for what it sees as provocations by the South.
China has said it works behind the scenes to restrain the North.
"We are trying to persuade them not to take risks," media reports quoted its Defence Minister Liang Guanglie as telling a Singapore forum this month.
President Lee was also quoted as saying he still feels "outraged" at the artillery attack on Yeonpyeong island, which killed two Marines and two civilians and damaged dozens of buildings.
The South's military was criticized for an allegedly feeble response to the barrage. It has vowed to hit back harder against any new attack, using air power.
Lee is pushing military reforms to improve coordination between the army, navy, air force and Marines and reportedly urged the parliamentary committee to support a series of reform bills this month.

U.S. Navy Resumes EMALS Tests

Flight tests of the U.S. Navy's new electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) resumed in late May after a five-month hiatus, and two more aircraft types have now passed their initial launch tests.
Sailors at Lakehurst Naval Air Station, New Jersey, watch as a T-45C Goshawk of VX-23 rolls down the rail during testing of the EMALS Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System in early June. The aircraft made a dozen launches over two days.
The program's maiden launches were accomplished in mid-December when an F/A-18E Super Hornet strike fighter from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) made four takeoffs from the Navy's catapult test center at Lakehurst, N.J. But the tests revealed the need to fine-tune the software that controls the system's motors and better control the miniscule timing gaps between when the motors are energized and turned off.
"The linear motors fire sequentially as you go down the catapult track," said Capt. James Donnelly, the Navy's program manager for EMALS. "Only three are energized at a time. They turn on, turn off. As each one energizes, a force is exerted on the aircraft, and the timing needed to be fine-tuned."
Flight tests with the F/A-18E resumed May 25, and "the launches validated the software changes," Donnelly said.
The Super Hornet made 14 launches using the revamped software, followed by 12 launches on June 1 and 2 with a T-45C Goshawk training jet from VX-23.
A C-2A Carrier Onboard Delivery aircraft from VX-20 made a further series of 12 launches on June 8 and 9.
The Super Hornet will return in July to Lakehurst for another series of launches using a variety of stores, or weapons, mounted under the wings and on the aircraft. Later in the summer, an E-2D Advanced Hawkeye airborne command-and-control aircraft will begin launch tests, Donnelly said.
The multiple launches are used to test a variety of weights on the aircraft, he said, and to validate the EMALS system and improve reliability. The aircraft are also tested at various launch speeds.
Reliability of the EMALS system is "improving," Donnelly said.
"We have more and more launches without any [warning] lights that come on, anything we annotate in launch logs," he said during a June 23 interview.
"A lot of corrections" were made during the early stages of the program's flight testing, Donnelly said.
"We're doing much less of that. We had very few issues in the May and June launches."
The EMALS, under development by prime contractor General Atomics and the Navy, is intended for installation on board the new Gerald R. Ford CVN 78-class aircraft carriers, where they will replace traditional steam catapults. The launch tests are done at Lakehurst using a mixed Navy-General Atomics team.
Despite the five-month pause in the test schedule, production and delivery of EMALS components is proceeding for the Gerald R. Ford, under construction at Huntington Ingalls Industries' Newport News, Va., shipyard.
"No impact to the ship [construction] schedule," Donnelly said. "We're meeting our required in-yard dates. We started deliveries in May, and we're delivering a lot of equipment this month, including most of the motor generators - the components that many folks were most concerned about schedule-wise."
Asked about the program's budget performance, Donnelly noted that production elements are being procured under a fixed-price contract - "no ups and extras there," he said - but he declined to provide test budget figures.
"We're constantly looking at the testing budget, so that's under discussion," he said.
"The bottom line is, we'll continue testing," he said. "Our focus is to ensure the catapult is as reliable as possible as when we deliver and the ship gets underway with sailors aboard."

U.S. Says It Will Provide Hardware to Philippines

WASHINGTON - The United States on June 23 said it was ready to provide hardware to modernize the military of the Philippines, which vowed to "stand up to aggressive action" amid rising tension at sea with China.
Filipino Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, on a visit to Washington, said the Philippines hoped to lease equipment to upgrade its aged fleet and called for the allies to revamp their relationship in light of the friction with China.
"We are determined and committed to supporting the defense of the Philippines," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a joint news conference when asked about the hardware wish-list from the Philippines.
Clinton said the two nations were working "to determine what are the additional assets that the Philippines needs and how we can best provide those." She said del Rosario would meet Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other Pentagon officials.
Tensions in the strategic and resource-rich South China Sea have escalated in recent weeks, with the Philippines and Vietnam alarmed at what they say are increasingly aggressive actions by Beijing in the disputed waters.
Several Southeast Asian nations have been seeking closer relationships with the United States, which since last year has called loudly for freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
"We are concerned that recent incidents in the South China Sea could undermine peace and stability," Clinton told reporters, urging "all sides to exercise self-restraint."
Del Rosario, with Clinton at his side, said that the Philippines was a small country but is "prepared to do what is necessary to stand up to any aggressive action in our backyard."
The Philippines has announced the deployment in disputed waters of its navy flagship, the Rajah Humabon. One of the world's oldest warships, Rajah Humabon is a former U.S. Navy frigate that served during World War II.
The Philippines has historically bought second-hand hardware, but del Rosario said that President Benigno Aquino has allocated 11 billion pesos ($252 million) to upgrade the navy.
Shortly ahead of his talks with Clinton, del Rosario said that the Philippines was asking the United States for "an operational lease so that we can look at fairly new equipment and be able to get our hands on that quickly."
"We need to have the resources to be able to stand and defend ourselves and, I think, to the extent that we can do that, we become a stronger ally for you," del Rosario said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The United States signed a defense treaty with the Philippines in 1951, five years after the archipelago's independence from U.S. colonial rule. Del Rosario said he believed the treaty - which calls for mutual defense in the event of an attack in "the Pacific area" - covers the South China Sea.
The United States has been providing military aid to the Philippines primarily to fight Islamic militants in the wake the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Del Rosario said that al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf has largely been defeated, estimating that only about 200 guerrillas remained.
"The Philippines' relative success in counter-insurgency coupled with pressures in the regional environment compel a reorientation of focus and resources," he said.
"A reset in our relations has therefore become an imperative to allow the alliance to continue to meet domestic goals while contributing to global stability."
China has said that it will not resort to the use of force in the South China Sea but has also warned the United States to stay out of territorial spats.
"I believe some countries now are playing with fire. And I hope the U.S. won't be burned by this fire," China's vice foreign minister Cui Tiankai said.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Japan, U.S. To Expand Missile Defense, Cyber Cooperation

The United States and Japan pledged to continue working together on missile defense, cyber and space initiatives, as well as expanding information-sharing and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance activities.
"We have … agreed on a framework to transfer jointly produced missile defense interceptors to third parties, to deepen our cooperation on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and to start new initiatives in space and cybersecurity," U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said during a June 21 briefing.
As for missile defense, the ministers decided to study future issues in preparation for transition to a production and deployment phase of the SM-3 Block 2A. The ministers designated the Joint Arms and Military Technology Commission as the consultation mechanism for such future third party transfers.
In addition, the ministers agreed to promote dialogue on the diversification of supplies of critical resources and materials, including energy and rare earths, which are abundant in the region.
"The ministers decided to expand joint training and exercises, study further joint and shared use of facilities and promote cooperation, such as expanding information sharing and joint intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) activities, in order to deter and respond proactively, rapidly and seamlessly to various situations in the region," according to a joint statement by the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee.
The U.S. reaffirmed its pledge to defend Japan and the peace and security in the region through conventional and nuclear force.
The United States also pledged to "tailor [its] regional defense posture to address such challenges as the proliferation of nuclear technologies and theater ballistic missiles, anti-access/area denial capabilities, and other evolving threats, such as to outer space, to the high seas, and to cyberspace."
In space, the two countries acknowledged the potential for future cooperation in space situational awareness, a satellite navigation system, space-based maritime domain awareness and the utilization of dual-use sensors, according to the statement. The ministers also agreed to "promote the resilience of critical infrastructure, including the security of information and space systems."
The ministers also welcomed the establishment of a bilateral strategic policy dialogue on cybersecurity issues.
Many of the strategic agreements are related to recent activities by China and North Korea.
China has been developing anti-ship ballistic missiles that the U.S. views as a threat to its ships in international waters.
At the same time, North Korea has been developing strategic ballistic missiles.
In addition, much light has been shed on the need for space situational awareness in the wake of a Chinese anti-satellite test several years ago, which resulted in the creation of a large amount of space debris.

Obama: U.S. to Pull 30,000 Out of Afghanistan by Summer 2012

WASHINGTON - U.S. President Barack Obama on June 22 ordered all 33,000 U.S. so-called surge troops home from Afghanistan by next summer, declared the beginning of the end of the war and vowed to turn to "nation building" at home.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks June 22 in the White House. (Pool photo via Agence France-Presse)
In a pivotal moment for U.S. national security strategy, Obama also signaled in a 13-minute primetime speech that the United States would no longer try to build a "perfect" Afghanistan from a nation ravaged by generations of violence.
"We take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding," Obama said in the East Room of the White House in an address blanketing U.S. television networks at a time of rising discontent on the war.
"Even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance. These long wars will come to a responsible end," Obama said.
The president's speech came as domestic political support fades for the war following the killing of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden by Navy SEALs on May 2, and as Washington backs fragile Afghan reconciliation talks with the Taliban.
His decision on troop numbers amounted to a rejection of appeals from the Pentagon for a slower drawdown to safeguard gains against the Taliban and to allow a new counterinsurgency mission to unfold in eastern Afghanistan.
The president said that he would, as promised, begin the U.S. withdrawal next month and that 10,000 of the more than 30,000 troops he sent to war in an escalation of the conflict in 2009 would be home this year.
A further 23,000 surge troops will be withdrawn by next summer, and more yet-to-be announced drawdowns will continue, until Afghan forces assume security responsibility in 2014.
"This is the beginning - but not the end - of our effort to wind down this war," Obama said.
"We will have to do the hard work of keeping the gains that we have made, while we draw down our forces and transition responsibility for security to the Afghan government."
Although Obama said the tide of war was receding, there will still be more than 65,000 troops in Afghanistan when he asks Americans to give him a second term in November 2012.
Obama also argued that his policy of escalating the war against the Taliban and al-Qaida had forged substantial progress and had allowed him to commence troop withdrawals from a "position of strength."
He said that documents seized from bin Laden's compound in Pakistan showed that al-Qaida was under "enormous strain."
"Bin Laden expressed concern that has been unable to effectively replace senior terrorists that have been killed, and that al-Qaida has failed in its effort to portray America as a nation at war with Islam - thereby draining more widespread support," he said.
U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and top Pentagon officials had asked for a slower drawdown through summer 2012 to allow them to solidify gains in southern Afghanistan and to mount counter-insurgency operations in eastern districts.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Obama's decision, represented an "unnecessary risk" and noted Petraeus and Defense Secretary Robert Gates had recommended a "more modest withdrawal."
But Obama's timetable may be too slow for critics who want faster withdrawals from a war launched 10 years ago to oust the Taliban after it offered al-Qaida a haven before and after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Some of Obama's fellow Democrats and some Republicans are demanding a faster U.S. exit from Afghanistan, and questioning the huge $10 billion-per-month cost of the conflict at a time of deep fiscal pain.
Obama argued the surge had made progress towards key objectives he laid down at the start of the escalation, namely: reversing Taliban momentum, disrupting and dismantling al-Qaida and building Afghan forces towards an eventual assumption of security duties.
One official said the U.S. operation against al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan tribal regions had "exceeded our expectations," saying 20 of the group's top 30 leaders, including bin Laden, had been killed in the last year.
Administration aides also rejected criticism that Obama's decision would put recent gains in danger and increase the chances that Afghanistan will slip back into an abyss of deep violence.
Obama also placed the Afghan mission in the context of his wider foreign policy and war strategy, arguing he has removed 100,000 troops from Iraq and will oversee the promised full withdrawal by the end of this year.
He announced that a NATO summit to review progress on Afghanistan will take place in his hometown of Chicago in May 2012, alongside the G8 summit of industrialized nations.

India May Buy Honeywell Engine for Jaguars

NEW DELHI - The Indian Defence Ministry is considering a proposal by the Indian Air Force to order 280 Honeywell F125N engines via the U.S. Foreign Military Sales route. That would make the U.S. company the winner of the $2 billion tender to supply engines for the Air Force's Jaguar fighter aircraft.
The procurement process for Jaguar engines, floated in 2008, was halted and reduced to a single vendor when British competitor Rolls-Royce withdrew from the program early this year.
The Defence Ministry is considering the Air Force's proposal as retendering the program would delay the upgrade of the British-built Jaguars, something which the Indian Air Force does not want, ministry sources said.
The ministry as a practice does not place orders in single-vendor competitions, but it will make an exception here as the Air Force has demanded that higher-thrust engines be made available as soon as possible for its 130 Jaguars .
Honeywell's F125N is a 43.8 kilo Newton (kN) thrust engine. Rolls-Royce, whose Adour Mk811 (32.5 kN) presently powers the Jaguars, had offered its Adour Mk821 turbofan.
The British engine maker pulled out of the competition because it could not meet the requirements set forth in the request for proposals, sources said.
A Rolls-Royce executive said at the time that the company was in competition only to upgrade the Jaguar's existing Rolls-Royce engine, not to re-engine the aircraft.
The Indian Air Force wants to replace the Jaguar's Adour engine with a higher-thrust engine that would allow improvements to the Jaguar's mission performance, especially in medium- and high-level sortie profiles; undertake missions that are not possible with the existing engine; reduce pilot workload; and cut maintenance costs, an Air Force official said.
As the Jaguar, which is being used for strike missions, has gotten heavier because of added capabilities, the Adour engine's lack of power has become a serious issue, the service official said.
State-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) already has ties with Rolls Royce but could also work with Honeywell to re-engine the Indian Jaguars, a HAL official said.
The Air Force bought the Jaguars in 1978 for deep strike missions, and HAL began licensed production of the aircraft in the 1980s.
HAL has also upgraded of some Jaguars with avionics from French company Sextant and Israeli company Elta

U.S. Navy UAV Crashes In Recon Mission Over Libya

A U.S. Navy unmanned helicopter crashed while flying a reconnaissance mission over Libya on June 21, Navy and NATO officials said.
At 7:20 a.m. local time, the MQ-8B Fire Scout, which was flying over Libya's central coast, lost contact with a command center and crashed.
It is unclear exactly from where the unmanned helicopter was being controlled, where it was attached, or where it flew from. The Navy referred inquiries to NATO. NATO would not provide details about the aircraft's origin or operators. NATO, for its part, would only say that it was an unmanned aircraft that crashed on the coast and that an investigation is underway.
NATO has been using such craft to build up a "knowledge base," according to an Operation Unified Protector spokesman. NATO has used "a number of intelligence, surveillance, [and] reconnaissance platforms ranging from the whole spectrum available" including drones, since the organization began leading operations March 31, Royal Air Force Wing Commander Mike Bracken said at a news briefing in Naples, Italy.
The crash marked the first military hardware loss since NATO took over operations, and it was the second time the U.S. lost an aircraft in Libya. A U.S. Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle crashed on March 21, when the campaign was led by American, British and French forces. Crew members safely ejected and were rescued.
There have been previous control problems with Northrop Grumman's Fire Scout. During an Aug. 2 test flight from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. operators lost their communication link to the aircraft. The unmanned helicopter flew for around 30 minutes toward Washington before entering restricted airspace. While the aircraft was around 40 miles outside the district, operators switched control to another ground station and regained command of the aircraft before directing it to Webster Field in southern Maryland. Navy officials blamed a software problem but said they developed a fix.

Ukraine Secretly Ramps Up Ties With NATO: Report

MOSCOW - Ukraine is ramping up cooperation with NATO, dealing a blow to Moscow's hopes that its neighbor would align itself more closely to Russia under President Viktor Yanukovych, a report said Tuesday.
The Kommersant Ukraine daily newspaper, citing a secret document on Ukraine's program with NATO for 2011, said Yanukovych sought closer ties with the bloc even more earnestly than his openly pro-Western predecessor, Viktor Yushchenko.
The dramatic turnabout in Kiev's foreign policy comes despite Ukraine last year cementing in law its non-aligned status, and amid disappointment over terms and conditions of rapprochement with the Kremlin, the paper said.
The confidential document approved earlier this year includes a schedule of 64 bilateral events, the newspaper said, adding that the two sides were set to discuss such sensitive issues as Ukraine's energy security, missile defense, and the future of Russia's Black Sea fleet based in Crimea.
Two meetings scheduled for this month are set to address basic principles and strategy of Ukraine's foreign policy.
Asked about the report June 21, Yanukovych said that Ukraine remains a neutral country. The Ukrainian president is visiting Strasbourg, France, the home of the European Parliament.
"Our position remains unchanged: We have been and remain a non-aligned country, just as is dictated by our law," Yanukovych said in comments released by his office.
He added that Ukraine "has not and does not plan" to take any part in the new NATO missile defense shield for Europe, which Russia fears is aimed at its own defenses.
Yanukovych has worked hard to improve relations between Moscow and Kiev since defeating the leaders of the pro-Western Orange Revolution in presidential elections last year.
Soon afterward, he signed a landmark deal with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to keep Russia's Black Sea Fleet based in Crimea at least until 2042, in exchange for a 30 percent discount on Russian gas exports to its neighbor.
But over the past few months, Kiev has grown disillusioned with the prospects of closer ties with Moscow, which it says has tried to strong-arm Ukraine into joining a Russian-led customs union and threatened it with sanctions, the newspaper said.
"Moscow wants us to be in its orbit and pay for that, too," a high-ranking source in the Ukrainian government told Kommersant. "It's not us who are pulling away from Russia. It is pushing us away."
Earlier this month, Russia protested the arrival in the Black Sea of a U.S. Navy cruiser equipped with a ballistic missile defense system. The ship will take part in naval exercises with Ukraine, but Russia said it is a threat to its national security.
Ukraine's foreign ministry shot back, saying the exercises did not present any "real or potential threat" for the countries of the Black Sea region.

India, China Resume Frozen Military Relations

NEW DELHI - India and China resumed military exchanges that were halted in July 2010 after Beijing refused to provide a visa to a top Indian commander intending to visit China.
Even as an eight-member military team begins six-day military exchanges in Beijing, analysts here say, the resumption of military ties has not altered the threat perception about China among military planners.
"The resumption of military ties between the two countries is merely confined to routine exchange of military personnel, or a military exercise. Defense planners here are, in fact, very anxious about the buildup of Chinese weaponry and equipment," said Mahindra Singh, retired Indian Army major general and defense analyst.
India is redrawing its requirements of weapons and equipment so that it can meet the challenges from the eastern front, Indian Defence Ministry sources said.
India and China, which fought a brief battle in 1962 over a territorial dispute, have yet to reach any settlement despite more than a dozen rounds of border talks.
Meanwhile, the Indian Navy has drawn a plan to spend over $2 billion to upgrade the Karwar naval base, which will be home port for the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshokov - to be renamed INS Vikramaditya - which is being procured from Russia, and also the six French-built Scorpene submarines.
The improvements at Karwar are seen as a response to Chinese warships using Pakistan's Gwadar port.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Western Jetmakers Vie For Asian Contracts

TAIPEI - As Western defense budgets crash, East Asian democracies could spend $23 billion within the decade on new fighter aircraft and upgrades, providing lucrative markets for European and U.S. aerospace and defense companies.
Japan released a request for proposals (RfP) in April for 40 fighters for its F-X program. The Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and Eurofighter Typhoon are fighting over the $4 billion deal. Bids are due in August with a contract award by the end of the year. The F-X will replace the Mitsubishi F-4EJ Kai Phantoms due for retirement in 2015.
South Korea is expected to issue an RfP in January for its F-X Phase 3 program. While 60 aircraft likely will be involved, it may come in two tranches, with the first being 40. The Boeing F-15, Typhoon and F-35 are already positioning themselves for the $9 billion deal. The FX Phase 3 will replace aging F-4 Phantom and F-5 Tiger fighters. The RfP is expected for release in January.
Taiwan is an exception. Due to Chinese pressure, the U.S. ignored a 2006 request for 66 F-16C/D Block 50/52 fighters for $5.5 billion. Taiwan also awaits a reply to a $4.5 billion request for an upgrade package for older F-16A/B Block 20 fighters in 2009.
With Western defense budgets under review and increasing pressure to pursue new market opportunities, European and U.S. combat aircraft manufacturers are "vigorously" engaging the East Asian fighter market, said Doug Barrie, senior fellow for military aerospace, U.K.-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.
"While Japan and South Korea have traditionally been U.S. combat aircraft customers, the present round of acquisition programs offers Europe an opportunity to break into the market," Barrie said.
European companies face an "uphill battle" to wrestle control of the fighter market from the U.S., which has "locked in markets" for fighter sales to the region for decades, said Richard Bitzinger, a defense industry analyst at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore.
"The big question will be if the Europeans can break into this market," Bitzinger said. If not, there is future potential for European aerospace companies to participate in indigenous fifth-generation fighter programs in Japan and South Korea, but in terms of new fighter sales, "these countries are still owned by the USA," Bitzinger said.
Barrie said the Typhoon had its best shot at winning in South Korea, despite the fact Boeing won both F-X Phase 1 and 2 with 60 F-15K Slam Eagle fighters. Boeing might propose the stealthy F-15 Silent Eagle in an attempt to edge the Typhoon out of the competition, he said.
In Japan and South Korea, there is a major effort by the competitors to provide local production opportunities.
"The fighter choice in both countries will send a political signal as to the extent to which, if any, South Korea or Japan wants to begin to build a substantial defense-industrial relationship with their respective relationships with Washington," Barrie said.
Japan's F-X program experienced delays over an intense Japanese lobbying effort begun in 2007 to force Washington to release exports of the F-22 Raptor, but the U.S. Congress blocked the effort. After the F-22 rejection, Tokyo set its sights on the F-35, only to see the JSF effort dogged by delays and cost overruns, which postponed the F-X RfP last year.
Tokyo highlighted its interest in stealth by pursuing an indigenous fifth-generation fighter program. Now, Japan is "using their own fifth-generation fighter [TFX] as a bargaining chip" in the competition, but it is still in the research-and-development stage and "hideously expensive," Barrie said.
Japan is desperate to secure local manufacturing options for the F-X, but it is prohibitively expensive for only 40 aircraft. Manufacturing costs could be driven down by the procurement of more fighters to replace F-15Js, increasing the number of F-X fighters to more than 100 and lowering manufacturing costs.
Unless the F-X fighters are produced in Japan, the local fighter manufacturing industry faces dire straits. Japan's only remaining fighter production line, the Mitsubishi F-2, will end in September.
There are also budget concerns after Japan's devastating triple disaster - earthquake, tsunami and a nuclear power plant crisis - and many wonder how the estimated $300 billion price tag for the catastrophe will affect the F-X budget.
Cost issues could push Japan to select the Super Hornet or the Typhoon. Eurofighter officials have been promoting the Typhoon as a flexible, inexpensive alternative to the F/A-18 and F-35. A European industry source in Tokyo said technical restrictions hamper F-35 exports, while Eurofighter has "no black box policy," which means wider options for Japanese industry participation.
Yet the Japan-U.S. military alliance and pressure to procure a U.S. fighter may keep Tokyo from picking a European fighter.
Taiwan's request for new F-16C/Ds is seen as a follow-on request for an earlier procurement of F-16A/Bs in the 1990s. Despite Beijing protests, the U.S. Congress recently called for the White House to release new fighters and upgrade packages, including a request for a follow-on F-16 trainer program for Taiwan's 21st Tactical Fighter Squadron based at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. In dollar amounts alone, as the U.S. economy declines, increased pressure on the White House to release the F-16s might be too great to withstand.
"In the case of Taiwan, irrespective of posturing on the part of Beijing, the delivery of F-16 Block 52s should proceed," Barrie said.
Taiwan bought $16.5 billion worth of U.S.­built arms and equipment from 2007 to 2010. Sales included 12 P-3C Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft, 30 AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters and 60 UH-60M Black Hawk utility helicopters. Taiwan has requirements for signal intelligence aircraft, attack jet trainers, basic aircraft trainers and UAVs.

Chinese Avionics Advances Ripple Throughout Asia

ISLAMABAD - China's avionics industry is closing the gap with other avionics producers, with benefits flowing to Pakistan and new challenges emerging for the U.S.
Chinese aircraft are helping Pakistan maintain conventional deterrence toward India as New Delhi pursues cutting-edge technology to revamp its airpower. As a result, said Usman Shabbir, of the Pakistan Military Consortium think tank, the new "JF-17 Block II [combat aircraft] may see a Chinese AESA [active electronically scanned array] radar along with an IRST [infrared search and track] sensor, and an even better ECM [electronic countermeasures] suite."
Wider advances by China's aviation industry would result in "greater use of composites to reduce the overall airframe weight" for the JF-17 Block II, and also a thrust vectoring control engine; though Shabbir conceded the latter "has never been officially confirmed."
Analyst Kaiser Tufail said an AESA radar is "the way to go," and that "all future [radar] acquisitions or retrofits would be AESA, whether mechanically scanned or phased-array type."
Tufail said the current JF-17 radar, a variant of which is fitted to the Chinese Chengdu J-10 combat jet, is an interim solution "because the [Pakistan Air Force] had been unable to find a radar vendor who could sell cutting-edge technology at an affordable price."
Tufail said Pakistan's acquisition of advanced Chinese avionics should not be seen through the prism of Indian programs, such as the Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft program. Rather, he said, it should be seen as Pakistan's effort to keep pace with modern weaponry.
And China benefits from its collaboration with Pakistan.
"Traditionally, the Chinese aviation industry has found an excellent test bed in the PAF, and their products have been, and can be, proven in ways that are not possible with [China's Air Force], due to limitations of comparative analysis in truly operational scenarios and with respect to Western equipment that PAF operates," he said.
As a result, a "Chinese AESA radar would, therefore, be a synergetic success in partnership with Pakistan," he said.
However, it is unknown whether the new JF-17 Block II radars are variants of those fitted to the improved J-10B. If that is the case, analyst and Chinese specialist Andrei Chang said the new radar is unlikely to be an AESA type.
"The phased-array radar testing on the J-10B is a passive model," he said.
Chang said he does not think the Chinese have developed "a useful AESA radar for the JF-17 and J-10B," but they could in the future.
"I know they are researching AESA radars, but it takes time," he said.
China's technological advances give potential adversaries cause for concern, Tufail said.
"As in many other fields like space and information technology, China is making a mark in major ways which impacts geostrategic and security issues," he said. "Technological developments like AESA radars would, thus, certainly have a bearing on the comfort levels of countries that have an adversarial relationship with China."
The potential threat posed by Chinese advances in avionics is an issue Carlo Kopp of the Air Power Australia think tank has tried to raise.
"Chinese technology is a mix of reverse-engineered Western and Russian designs, and some often very good indigenous ideas," he said. The danger this poses is clear.
"As the Chinese advance and proliferate these products, they are increasingly narrowing the range of environments in which Western air forces and navies can operate," Kopp said.
"Today, only the U.S. F-22A [stealth fighter] and B-2A [stealth bomber] can penetrate Chinese airspace with impunity," he said. "All other Western designs, including the intended F-35 [Joint Strike Fighter] and existing F/A-18E, would suffer prohibitive loss rates" to surface-to-air missiles, he said.
Kopp's opinion of the F-35 is perhaps surprising, but he said he believes China's investment in more maneuverable aircraft will expose severe weaknesses.
"The notion that having a good AESA [radar] can overcome kinematic performance limitations in a design is predicated on the idea that your missiles are 100 percent effective in long-range combat," he said. "The evidence shows otherwise for the AIM-120 AMRAAM."
The approach that says "let the missiles do the turning," rather than the aircraft, "is a mantra in the F-35 and F/A-18 camps," Kopp said. "Unfortunately, it is wishful thinking by folks promoting obsolete designs. The mathematics and physics of aerial combat do not support this proposition."
Therefore, the strategic impact of China's advances will be substantial and exacerbated by poor long-term decision-making by the U.S., Kopp said.
"As China wholly recapitalizes its fleets, and exports these products, there will be an inevitable strategic impact, as the U.S. has been reluctant to export the F-22, has chopped F-22 production funds, and has no new products in the pipeline capable of robustly surviving against top-end Chinese products in combat," he said.
Kopp also blames the reluctance by Washington to share high-technology weaponry with allies that could check China's advance.
He singles out Defense Secretary Robert Gates for making decisions that will produce "a dangerous long-term strategic environment in Asia as China introduces and proliferates advanced technology, and the U.S. chooses for ideological reasons to no longer invest in advanced air power."

RQ-4B Variant Makes Combat Debut Early

PARIS - For the second year in a row, Northrop Grumman officials found themselves at a global air show explaining why the Global Hawk UAV wasn't performing up to Pentagon expectations.
ARTIST'S CONCEPTION OF autonomous aerial refueling between RQ-4 Global Hawks planned for late summer or fall. (Northrop Grumman)
In the wake of a DoD test report that noted deficiencies in nine areas, Northrop's top Global Hawk salesman, Edward Walby, took to a chalet podium at Paris Air Show 2011 to give the company's side of the story.
"When you have a system designed by engineers, made by a manufacturer, tested by evaluators, and certified by administrators, then you put it in the hands of troops, you get an entirely different picture," Walby said.
He was referring to the Global Hawk's unexpected deployments in March - to Japan to support the post-tsunami relief efforts, and to Libya to help U.S. and NATO operations against government troops. The operations catapulted the latest RQ-4B model, the Block 30, into real-world operations, where the aircraft produced performances that looked much better than the IOT&E report, Walby said.
For example, the testers watched the RQ-4 fly 19 sorties over 41 days, with mission effectiveness of 57 percent. But in "March Madness," as Northrop dubbed the intense first month of Libya/Japan ops, the UAVs flew 114 sorties in 45 days with a 92.1 percent mission effectiveness, Walby said. (See Northrop's Global Hawk briefing slides.)
That's a level of performance far beyond the expected for an aircraft that hasn't reached its formal acceptance into service.
"We're not supposed to be doing that yet," he said.
What made the difference? One major thing was simply the passage of time, Walby said. The IOT&E testers looked at aircraft with the mid-2010 equipment and software builds. Since then, Northrop has fixed a leaky oil pump and improved the software in various ways.
One Block 10 aircraft was aloft a total of 379 hours in March - more than half of the hours in the month. Over Japan, two Global Hawks passed in the air, demonstrating the first on-station swap. The post-tsunami ops also saw the operation debut of the Block 30 Global Hawk, whose 3,000-pound payload includes electro-optical/infrared cameras, radar, moving-target indicators, and signals intelligence gear.
Next up for the suddenly hyperactive Global Hawk?
■ Block 30 is slated to be declared initially operational in July.
■ The first Euro Hawk, now finishing up testing at Edwards AFP, Calif., is slated to fly over to Germany later this summer.
■ Two Global Hawks are to attempt the world's first autonomous aerial refueling between UAVs in late summer or early autumn.