Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Turkey Takes Aim At Targeting Pod

ANKARA - Turkey's largest defense company is beginning to flight-test the country's first indigenous advanced targeting and reconnaissance pod.
The tests mark the end of the initial phase of an ambitious program by military electronics specialist Aselsan. It is not publicly known how long Aselsan has been working on the once-classified project, but the company says it has so far spent $50 million to design and develop the Aselpod.
Built to track up to four targets simultaneously in infrared (IR) and day video, the pod contains a zoomable, third-generation IR camera with a 640x512 mid-wave detector and three fields of view. Both IR and video cameras can automatically track objects on the ground and in the air, and inertial trackers help keep the cameras on target even when the line of sight is momentarily obscured.
For stability, the cameras pivot on a four-axis gimbal in the sensor head. Solid-state recorders bring the information back home for debriefing. A laser pointer enables the pod to designate targets for other weapons, and a laser spot tracker allows the pod to lock onto targets illuminated by others.
Military and company officials declined to discuss further details about the pod and its development.
The tests are proceeding at an air base in Eskisehir, 220 kilometers northwest of here. The Turkish Air Force plans to install the first Aselpod to an F-4E 2020 before the end of 2011.
The second phase of the program calls for the production of 16 pods, to be installed on F-16 Block 50 fighter jets.
Procurement officials said the Aselpod, when fully operational, will replace the U.S. made LANTIRN, a combined navigation and targeting pod system for use on the U.S. Air Force's premier fighter aircraft - the F-15E Strike Eagle and F-16 Block 40/42 C and D models.
Last year, Lockheed Martin signed a foreign military sales contract to deliver Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods (ATPs) and LANTIRN Enhanced Resolution (ER) navigation pods to the Turkish Air Force. Valued at $118 million, the contract will provide Sniper ATP and LANTIRN ER navigation pods to equip Turkish Air Force F-16 Block 40 and Block 50 Peace Onyx aircraft.
A Turkish defense official said the military hopes the Aselpod eventually will replace the LANTIRN.
"The program reflects a strategic choice to end our dependency on foreign [U.S.] systems for targeting equipment," he said.
Observers' Doubts
But analysts were dubious about official claims about the Aselpod.
An Ankara-based defense analyst said that although Aselsan has invested much time and resources into the Aselpod program, the end result may fall short of the Turkish ambitions.
"No doubt, the Turkish system will work this way or another, within this time frame or another," he said. "But how much the Aselpod may deviate from the existing technology and costings is yet to be seen."
A London-based Turkey specialist said the Aselpod may be another example of Turkish ambition to go local.
"Indigenous programs often make the Turks proud. But success in terms of desired capabilities and costs is something else," he said.
In recent years, Turkey's procurement planners have strongly encouraged local design, development and production of systems including UAVs, armored vehicles, helicopters, trainer aircraft, naval platforms and several defense electronic, avionic and software systems.
Aselsan is a public company owned by the Turkish Armed Forces Support Foundation. Turkey's top five defense companies are all owned by the same foundation.
Aselsan reported $792 million in sales in 2010. It aims at $850 million this year and $1 billion in 2013. The company exports products to 37 countries.

U.S. Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps List $1B in Unfunded Needs

While the U.S. Army has funded all of its requirements in its fiscal 2012 budget request, the Air Force, the Navy and the Marine Corps have each submitted a list of unfunded requirements to Congress.
The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force have a combined total of more than $1 billion in unfunded needs in their fiscal 2012 budget requests. The Navy lists $367 million for maintenance of ships and submarines, such as the nuclear sub West Virginia (MC1 Kimberly Clifford / Navy)
The Navy's list totals $684 million for ship depot maintenance and aviation spares, while the Air Force lists $124 million in unfunded requirements, including money to replace munitions expended during operations in Libya. The Marine Corps' list totals $227 million for emerging requirements, including a need to upgrade equipment for its Chemical, Biological, Nuclear Incident Response Force.
In an April 15 letter to the leaders of the House Armed Services Committee, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the new chief of staff of the Army, says the service has no requirements that remain unfunded for 2012.
It is the only time the Army has not had unfunded requirements since 1995, when lawmakers first asked service chiefs to prepare lists of things they want but didn't get money for in the Pentagon's annual funding request.
The services' lists for 2012 mark a dramatic change from just a few years ago, and reflect the growing constraints being placed on the defense budget as the U.S. government tries to rein in federal spending.
In February 2008, the Air Force's wish list for the 2009 budget request totaled $18.7 billion, dwarfing the Navy's $4.6 billion list, the Army's $3.9 billion in unfunded needs, and the Marine Corps' $1.3 billion list.
"At a time of constrained resources, my primary request is that the Committee supports the President's Budget," writes Gen. Norton Schwartz, chief of staff of the Air Force, in an April 29 letter to Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash. Smith serves as the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee.
However, if additional funds become available, Schwartz outlines how the Air Force would spend the money.
It requests $42.5 million for the A-10 Maintenance Tester, $33.7 million for the EC-130H Avionics upgrade, and $47.5 million to replace munitions used during operations in Libya.
"Both the A-10 Maintenance Tester and the EC-130H Avionics Upgrade improve our readiness posture and operational capabilities by resolving issues that could require grounding aircraft," Schwartz writes.
For the munitions used in Operation Odyssey Dawn, the Air Force is requesting $26 million for Joint Direct Attack Munitions, $11 million for Anti-Missile Countermeasure Decoy Systems, $6 million for Air to Ground Missiles and $5 million for laser-guided weapons. The funding would replenish munitions used through April 8, according to Schwartz's letter.
In addition to these items, the Air Force is working on a cost estimate for the recent storm damage done to its aircraft and installations in the southeastern United States. Schwartz says the current estimate is $60 million and that the Air Force will work with Congress to include these costs in the course of drafting the fiscal 2011 omnibus spending bill.
The Navy lists $367 million for maintenance of ships and submarines in an April 22 letter signed by Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations.
This funding would restore 44 deferred ship non-docking availabilities.
The remaining $317 million is for aircraft spares and repair parts for V-22s tilt-rotor aircraft, EA-18G and F/A-18E/F planes, and MH-60R/S helicopters.
These requirements are not of higher priority than what is already funded in the Navy's 2012 budget request, but these accounts are "stressed by increased operational tempo," Roughead tells Congress.
"Please keep in mind, the half-year Continuing Resolution for 2011 has the potential to impact requirements in [fiscal year] 2012," Roughead says.
The bulk of the Marine Corps' funding - $155 million - is for construction activities related to the Marine Corps University located in Quantico, Va., with academic facilities at other Marine Corps bases worldwide.
Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, identifies a handful of other unfunded requirements "that will provide substantial benefit to the Marine Corps today and in the future," in an April 26 letter to Smith.
His list includes $45 million for the Enterprise Land Mobile Radio and $17 million for fire suppression equipment for the Marine Corps' vehicles used in Afghanistan.
Based on lessons from recent operations in Japan, Amos also lists funding for equipment like protective suits, replacement respirators and unified command suites to improve the Corps' Chemical, Biological, Nuclear Incident Response Force.
"In light of the financial constraints facing our nation, we are especially grateful for the commitment by Congress to ensuring our men and women in harm's way receive the equipment and resources they need," Amos writes.

New LCS Executive Office To Be Created

The offices that manage the U.S. Navy's littoral combat ship (LCS) program are to be combined under one executive, according to a Navy official, bringing together the ship and mission module development efforts for one of the service's largest ship construction programs.
Since its inception in 2003, the LCS effort has been split in two - one office to develop the ship, or sea frame, and another office to oversee development of the complex mission modules that are unique to the LCS concept.
Now, with two ships in service, two more under construction and more under contract, increased focus is being placed on how the ships are used and supported in the fleet. Those aspects will also be included under a new program executive officer LCS (PEO LCS).
Sean Stackley, the Navy's top acquisition official, discussed the changes Wednesday morning during an all-hands call at the Pentagon, the Navy official, speaking on background, confirmed. Stackley reportedly stressed that the changes do not reflect any program performance issues, but rather are a result of increased momentum coming from recent LCS construction contract awards and integration of the ships into the fleet.
There are no plans to eliminate any jobs as a result of the reorganization, Stackley reportedly said.
The program offices are all established under the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). While a detailed announcement is expected soon, the reorganization would reportedly include the following offices: Remote Minehunting System (PMS 403); LCS Mission Modules (PMS 420); and Mine Warfare (PMS 495) - all now organized under the PEO for Littoral and Mine Warfare.
From the PEO Ships side, the offices of Unmanned Maritime Systems (PMS 406) and Littoral Combat Ship program (PMS 501) would be included.

Indian Defense Leaders To Visit Saudi Arabia, Qatar

NEW DELHI - A.K. Antony will make the first visit by an Indian prime minister to Saudi Arabia and Qatar when he leads a senior defense delegation to the two gulf countries May 7-9.
Antony will be accompanied by Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar, Lt. Gen. A.S. Lamba, the vice chief of the Army Staff, and other senior Defence Ministry and armed forces officials.
In the first leg of his visit to Riyadh, Antony will discuss with top Saudi leadership issues of bilateral and regional importance. The visit also aims to increase defense interactions between the armed forces of the two countries, especially in the areas of training and technical exchanges, says an Indian Defence Ministry release.
India and Saudi Arabia have regularly exchanged defense-related visits, and Indian and Saudi ships have visited each other's ports.
In the second leg of his visit, Antony will go to Doha.
"Expansion in bilateral exchanges and regional security issues will come up prominently during the discussions that Antony will hold the Qatari leadership," the release stated.
India and Qatar signed a bilateral agreement on defense cooperation during the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Doha in November 2008. The Indian and Qatari armed forces have exchanged visits and participated as observers in each other's exercises.
India and Qatar are working toward the joint manufacture of weapons and equipment, including ammunition and light weapons for the troops, and also electronic warfare systems, said Indian Defence Ministry sources.
In 2006, India attempted to buy 12 used Mirage aircraft from Qatar but agreement could not be reached because of price differences.

Romania Air Base to Host U.S. Missile Shield

DEVESELU, Romania - Bucharest said May 3 that U.S. missile interceptors would be deployed in southern Romania, a key link in Europe for a defense shield, prompting Moscow to ask for "safeguards" from Washington.
Romania's Deveselu air base is seen May 3. Washington and Bucharest said May 3 that U.S. missile interceptors will be deployed at a former Soviet-built airbase in southern Romania, the first such move in Europe for a future defense shield. (Daniel Mihailescu / AFP via Getty Images)
Romania and the United States have been negotiating for more than a year about the deployment of ballistic missile interceptors, which should be operational by 2015.
"We have decided that the anti-missile shield will be deployed at the former airbase at Deveselu," Romanian President Traian Basescu said in a televised address.
Moscow, which fears the shield could be turned against Russia, swiftly demanded assurances from Washington.
"In this situation, U.S. legal guarantees on their intention not to deploy a missile defense system aimed at the strategic nuclear forces of Russia is becoming even more relevant," Russian Foreign ministry said quoted by news agencies.
The Romanian airbase, located in an agricultural region 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of the Bulgarian border, was built nearly 60 years ago with assistance from the Soviet Union.
In 1952, the first Soviet-made MiG-15 aircraft landed on the 700-hectare (1,700-acres) base.
Nearly a third of it will be used by American troops, whose number could go from 200 to a maximum of 500.
Closed down in 2002, the airbase will need investment worth 400 million dollars to become operational again, officials said.
An "American district" will be built in the 3,300-inhabitant village, the mayor Gheorghe Bece told Mediafax news agency.
"We are confident that Deveselu will be an excellent site and will prove to be the optimal location" for the interceptors, Lt. Gen. John Gardner, deputy commander of the U.S. Europe Command, told journalists.
The choice was made after a detailed analysis of security requirements, Basescu stressed.
"This place used to be a lot better when the military base was operational. Now all we have is agriculture," Nicolae Nutescu, a 53-year-old farmer, told AFP.
"I hope that the village will be bustling with activity again" when the U.S. troops arrive, he added.
Washington originally planned to install its anti-missile shield in Poland and the neighboring Czech Republic, aimed at countering feared attacks from Iran. But that plan, which angered Russia after it saw itself as the target for the shield system, was scrapped by U.S. President Barack Obama in September 2009.
Washington has since reworked the scheme and signed a new treaty with Moscow on reducing strategic nuclear weapons.
Russia has said it reserves the right to withdraw from the treaty if Washington presses ahead with missile defense systems in Eastern Europe in a way that Moscow opposes.
But Basescu stressed May 3 that the shield was "purely defensive and not directed against Russia."
"The U.S. missile shield has been discussed for a long time at both a political and a military level. So I don't think Russia still has doubts about its defensive nature," former foreign minister Cristian Diaconescu told AFP.
The deployment of the U.S. European-based Phased, Adaptive Approach for Missile Defense (EPAA) system started with the presence since March in the Mediterranean of a guided missile cruiser equipped with Aegis radar, the USS Monterey.
The second phase is to include the deployment of 24 SM3-type interceptors in Romania, followed in 2018 by a similar deployment in Poland.
"This is the highest level of security Romania can attain," Basescu said.
Analysts said the agreement marked a step further in the strategic partnership between the U.S. and Romania, a former communist country seen today as one of Washington's closest European allies.
Basescu's announcement coincided with the start of a visit by Ellen Tauscher, U.S. Undersecretary of State for arms control and international security affairs, who went to Deveselu on May 3.
Basescu also said U.S. troops and military equipment bound for Iraq and Afghanistan would be allowed to transit through its main port of Constanta on the Black Sea as well as the local airport.
"We have approved the use of the Mihail Kogalniceanu airport and of the harbor of Constanta for the transit of U.S. troops and equipment going to Iraq and Afghanistan and back to Europe," Basescu said in his televised address.
"Kogalniceanu and Constanta will thus become two strategic sites for the U.S. as well as for Romania."

U.K.'s Marshall to Supply Fuel Tanks for USAF KC-46A

LONDON - British company Marshall Aerospace has secured an order to supply body fuel tanks to boost the performance of the Boeing 767, selected by the U.S. Air Force to become its new KC-46A in-flight refueling tanker.
European industry may have missed out on the big prize when EADS failed to win the huge KC-46A contract, but U.K. companies aligned with the 767 bid have started to see their position on the Boeing team turn into firm contracts.
Marshall Aerospace announced it has been awarded a deal to design and supply body fuel tanks for the 767-derived tanker to increase flight range and refueling capability.
Each aircraft will carry four of the tanks. Initially, the Marshall deal covers a batch of tanks destined to be fitted to development aircraft, but the Cambridge-based company said in a statement that it expects production orders will follow from the USAF for more than 650 tanks over a 15-year period.
The value of the program is expected to exceed 100 million pounds ($165 million) over the duration of the program, and Marshall said it expects that number to rise on the back of export prospects for the tanker.
Boeing has previously awarded Marshall body fuel tank work on aircraft such as the P-8 Poseidon, the 777 and the 747.
Earlier this year, Boeing's 767 beat out a bid by its European rival, which offered a variant of the Airbus A330 airliner, to supply 179 KC-46A tankers to the USAF.
In February, British company Cobham announced it was to supply the hose and drogue refueling systems for the KC-46A. Most of that work will be conducted at a new facility in Davenport, Iowa.
Cobham was in a win-win situation; its market-leading refueling systems were also specified for the Airbus plane.
A Cobham spokesman in the U.K. said he expected the total amount of work generated for the company by the tanker order would be about $1 billion over the life of the program. That work would be dominated by supply and support of the refueling systems, he said.