Friday, May 6, 2011

China urges world to back Pakistan in fight against terror

China reaffirmed its support on Thursday for efforts by its ally Pakistan to combat terrorism after the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by US forces, and urged the world to help Islamabad.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu stopped short of directly criticising the daring raid by US special forces on Pakistani soil that ended with Bin Laden’s death but said national sovereignty “should be respected” at all times.
“Pakistan is at the forefront of the international counter-terrorism effort. The international community should understand and support Pakistan,” Jiang told a press conference.
“We support Pakistan’s position and understand and support Pakistan formulating and implementing a counter-terrorism strategy based on its national conditions.”
Since Sunday’s raid, Pakistan has been on the defensive over its failure to find Bin Laden, who was living in a compound near the country’s top military academy in Abbottabad.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu stopped short of directly criticising the daring raid by US special forces on Pakistani soil that ended with bin Laden’s death but said national sovereignty “should be respected” at all times.
“Pakistan is at the forefront of the international counter-terrorism effort. The international community should understand and support Pakistan,” Jiang told a press conference.
“We support Pakistan’s position and understand and support Pakistan formulating and implementing a counter-terrorism strategy based on its national conditions.”
Since Sunday’s raid, Pakistan has been on the defensive over its failure to find bin Laden, who was living in a compound near the country’s top military academy in Abbottabad.
Islamabad has rejected those criticisms, with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani saying that the United States and other countries shared the blame for not finding bin Laden sooner.

Army-to-Navy Transfer of U.S. JHSVs Finalized

The move to transfer custody of all five Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV) to the U.S. Navy was formally agreed upon May 2 with the signing of a memorandum of agreement between the Navy and U.S. Army.
The transfer was approved in December during Army-Navy war fighter talks. Previously, each service was planning to buy, field and crew its own force of JHSVs.
Uniformed Army personnel had been training to crew the new ships, with the first vessel scheduled to enter service late this year. Army watercraft personnel have been reassigned, and all JHSVs will be operated by the Navy's Military Sealift Command crewed by civil service mariners or contract mariners.
The ships are intended primarily for logistic operations, although they will be armed for self-defense. The aluminum, wave-piercing catamaran JHSVs are under construction by Austal USA in Mobile, Ala., based on a commercial ferry design.
In addition to the Navy and Army, the ships are intended for use by "multiple non-Navy customers," according to the memorandum.
The JHSV program was formed in 2006 from a merger of the Army's Theater Support Vessel and the Navy High-Speed Connector programs. The Navy has been handling design, contracting and oversight of the program.
The Army operates a sizeable fleet, including landing craft, tugs and barges to support waterborne logistic operations. At the instigation of the then-Army chief of staff, Gen. George Casey, the services last year discussed the potential transfer of all Army watercraft to the Navy, but in the end only the JHSVs will be transferred.
The Spearhead, first of the JHSVs, has been named by the Army and is scheduled to be delivered in December. The agreement notes that the Spearhead's name will be retained by the Navy, but the Navy can rename the other JHSVs should it choose.
The JHSV program currently envisions a total of 10 ships, but planners have envisioned a greater role for the vessels, and the number may grow to as many as 23.

USAF Indefinitely Grounds F-22 Raptors

The U.S. Air Force has grounded all of its F-22 Raptors until further notice because of potential malfunctions in the fighter jets' oxygen-generation system.
The On-Board Oxygen Generating System has been under investigation since a November 2010 crash in Alaska. (File photo / U.S. Air Force)
Gen. William Fraser, commander of U.S. Air Combat Command, ordered a stand-down of the 165-plane fleet May 3, ACC spokeswoman Capt. Jennifer Ferrau said. Ferrau didn't immediately know how long the Raptors will be out of service.
The On-Board Oxygen Generating System (OBOGS) has been under investigation since an F-22 crashed in November just outside Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Until the stand-down, Raptor sorties had been restricted to an altitude of 25,000 feet or below for training missions because of the potential malfunctions.
The limits were "designed for mishap prevention and is a prudent measure to ensure the OBOGS are operating safely," ACC spokesman Col. William Nichols said in March, when the command first publicly disclosed the investigation.
An OBOGS malfunction can be potentially life-threatening, said Hans Weber, who sat on the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's Research, Engineering and Development Advisory Committee, and is president of Tecop International, a San Diego consulting firm.
"It's a big deal if you're at high altitude and you run out of oxygen," Weber said in a March interview.
At 50,000 feet, a human being has less than 10 seconds of useful consciousness, he said. The 25,000-foot altitude restriction would allow the pilot to quickly dive below 18,000 feet, where the atmosphere has enough oxygen to ensure prolonged survival in case of an emergency.
"It would take you so long when you're way up high, you may black out before you make it to a safe altitude," Weber said.

Mission Helo Was Secret Stealth Black Hawk

The helicopters that flew the U.S. Navy SEALs on the mission to kill Osama bin Laden were a radar-evading variant of the special operations MH-60 Black Hawk, according to a retired U.S. special operations aviator.
Part of a damaged helicopter is seen lying near the compound after U.S. Navy SEAL commandos killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2. (Reuters via Newscom)
The helicopter's low-observable technology is similar to that of the F-117 Stealth Fighter the retired special operations aviator said. "It really didn't look like a traditional Black Hawk," he said. It had "hard edges, sort of like an … F-117, you know how they have those distinctive edges and angles - that's what they had on this one."
In addition, "in order to keep the radar cross-section down, you have to do something to treat the windshield," he said. If a special coating was applied to the windshield it is "very plausible" that would make the helicopter more difficult to fly for pilots wearing night-vision goggles, he said. The helicopters carrying the SEALs arrived over the bin Laden compound at about 1 a.m. local time on May 2. One crash-landed in the courtyard and was so badly damaged it was unable to take off again.
That crash landing might have been caused by a phenomenon known as "settling with power," which occurs when a helicopter descends too quickly because its rotors cannot get the lift required from the turbulent air of their own downwash.
"It's hard to settle with power in a Black Hawk, but then again, if they were using one of these [low-observable helicopters], working at max gross weight, it's certainly plausible that they could have because they would have been flying so heavy," the retired special operations aviator said, noting that low-observable modifications added "several hundred pounds" to the weight of the MH-60, which already weighs about 500 to 1000 pounds more than a regular UH-60 Black Hawk.
The special operations troops on the bin Laden mission destroyed the stricken aircraft - most likely using thermite grenades - but the resultant fire left the helicopter's tail boom, tail rotor assembly and horizontal stabilizers intact in the compound's courtyard.
Photographs of the wreckage taken the next day raced around the Internet, creating a firestorm of speculation among military aviation enthusiasts because the tail of the helicopter did not resemble any officially acknowledged U.S. military airframe.
This was to be expected, the retired special operations aviator said.
"Certain parts of the fuselage, the nose and the tail had these various almost like snap-on parts to them that gave it the very unique appearance," he said.
He and another source referred to the disc-shaped device that is seen covering the tail rotor in the photographs as a "hubcap."
If the radar-evading technology worked, it "would be a true statement" to say that the use of the low-observable Black Hawks was evidence that the United States gave Pakistani authorities no advance warning of the mission, the retired special operations aviator added.
The low-observable program started with AH-6 Little Bird special operations attack helicopters in the 1980s, said the aviator. During the 1990s U.S. Special Operations Command worked with the Lockheed-Martin Skunk Works division, which also designed the F-117, to refine the radar-evading technology and apply it to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment's MH-60s, he said. USSOCOM awarded a contract to Boeing to modify several MH-60s to the low-observable design "in the '99 to 2000 timeframe," he said.
Initial plans called for the low-observable Black Hawks to be formed into a new unit commanded by a lieutenant colonel and located at a military facility in Nevada, the retired special operations aviator said. "The intent was always to move it out west where it could be kept in a covered capability," he said.
USSOCOM planned to assign about 35 to 50 personnel to the unit, the retired special operations aviator said. "There were going to be four [low-observable] aircraft, they were going to have a couple of 'slick' unmodified Black Hawks, and that was going to be their job was to fly the low-observables."
SOCOM canceled those plans "within the last two years," but not before at least some of the low-observable helicopters had been delivered to the Nevada facility, the retired aviator said. "I don't know if it was for money or if it was because the technology was not achieving the reduction in the radar cross-section that they were hoping for," he said. In the meantime, MH-60 Black Hawk crews from the 160th's 1st Battalion, headquartered at Fort Campbell, Ky., would rotate to Nevada to train on the stealthy aircraft, he said.
The low-observable MH-60s were armed with the same sort of door mini-guns as standard MH-60s, he said. "There was not a DAP conversion," he added, referring to the MH-60 variant known as the Direct Action Penetrator, which is equipped with stub wings upon which can be fitted a variety of armaments.
The early versions of the low-observable Black Hawks were not fitted with air-to-air refueling probes, the retired special operations aviator said. "The probe would disrupt the ability to reduce the radar cross-section," he added. "There was no way to put some kind of a hub or cowling over the probe that would make it stealthy." However, he said he did not know whether the models that flew the bin Laden mission had been equipped with such probes.
USSOCOM spokesman U.S. Army Col. Tim Nye said his command had no comment for this story.

GE, Rolls-Royce To Fund F-35 Alt-Engine in 2012

General Electric (GE) and Rolls-Royce are hoping to reinstate the recently terminated F136 engine program as a company-funded effort, but one with the official backing of the U.S. Defense Department.
"Instead of lobbying for the final 20 percent needed to finish the engine, the GE team has committed to funding the engine for fiscal year '12 on their own dime. I will accept and support their approach," House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., said May 5 in a speech before the Heritage Foundation.
"GE and Rolls Royce are aware of the current stresses on the defense budget and the taxpayer, so I am pleased to announce that instead of being part of the problem they have decided to be part of the solution."
GE spokesman Rick Kennedy said the company had offered to fund its own engine development in exchange for access to the F136 engines that have already been built for the government, and the associated test equipment.
"We're offering to self-fund fiscal year '11 and '12 without any appropriations," Kennedy said.
The company will commit to spend "in excess of $100 million" to fund the remaining developmental work. The engine is about 80 percent through its developmental cycle.
Kennedy said the company hopes to have the F136 compete against Pratt and Whitney's F135 for the Low Rate Initial Production Lots 8 and 9 around 2016 or 2017.
"We're not demanding government funding in [Fiscal Year] '13 and beyond, that's not what we're seeking," Kennedy said.
He said that the engine might even be used for the Air Force's nascent bomber program.
"We're trying to align across any future aircraft program," he said.
Earlier, the House Armed Services Committee inserted language into the defense authorization bill that limits the Defense Department from spending obligated funds for performance improvements to the F-35 "propulsion system" unless the defense secretary "ensures that funds are made available and expended in Fiscal Year 2012 for two options for the F-35 propulsion system."
Staff writer Kate Brannen contributed to this report.

Romania, U.S. Conclude Talks on Missile Shield

BUCHAREST, Romania - Bucharest and Washington have concluded talks on the deployment of U.S. missile interceptors in Romania and will sign the agreement next autumn, Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi said May 5.
"The two teams have finalized the text of the agreement on installing an American defense system in Romania," Baconschi told a press conference.
The agreement will be signed in autumn and submitted for ratification to parliament, he added.
The two countries had made important strides in the talks with the May 3 announcement of the site where missile interceptors are to be installed.
After a detailed analysis, the two sides decided a former airbase in southern Romania, Deveselu, was the best location, President Traian Basescu had said.
A total of 24 SM-3 interceptors will be deployed at the airbase, which will host a maximum of 500 U.S. troops.
"This defense system will play a double role: both protect this country and deter potential attacks," Baconschi stressed.
He added that Romania's prestige and credibility will be boosted by participation in this system.
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.
On May 3, Moscow said it would seek legal guarantees that the U.S. does not intend to deploy a missile defense system aimed at its strategic nuclear forces.
But Baconschi once again stressed that the shield was "purely defensive" and added that he hoped Russia would participate in a constructive way in this system.

Pakistan Wants U.S. To Reduce Military Personnel

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan - Pakistan said Thursday it wanted Washington to reduce its military personnel in the country and threatened to review cooperation in case of another raid similar to that which killed Osama bin Laden.
Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani "made it very clear that any similar action violating the sovereignty will warrant a review of military, intelligence cooperation with the U.S.," a military statement said.
Army corps commanders were called to army headquarters in the garrison town of Rawalpindi by Kayani to be "informed about the decision to reduce the strength of U.S. military personnel in Pakistan to the minimum level."
The statement did not give further details about who may have taken any decision to reduce the strength and when.