Tuesday, May 24, 2011

White House Threatens Veto for 2012 Defense Bill

The Obama administration is threatening to veto the 2012 defense authorization bill if it contains language that would prevent money from being used to enhance the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine or would make an effort to revive the canceled General Electric F136 engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
"If the final bill presented to the president includes funding or a legislative direction to continue an extra engine program, the president's senior advisers would recommend a veto," the White House statement reads. "The administration strongly objects to the language in section 215, which limits the obligation or expenditure of funds for performance improvements to the F-35 Lightning II propulsion system unless there is competitive development and production of such a propulsion system."
The White House said that improvements may be needed to the F135 engine as it proceeds through tests. It is adamant that the F136 is not necessary and eats up money needed elsewhere in the defense budget.
The White House also objects to language that would require the Pentagon to store the F136 engines and would mandate an engine competition for the nascent U.S. Air Force bomber program.
The administration also threatened a veto over implementation of the New START treaty and the handling of detainees captured during counterterrorism operations.
In addition, the statement contained a laundry list of other objections, including Abrams battle tanks, cyberspace and shipbuilding.

French Fighter Jet Crashes in Afghanistan

KABUL - A French fighter jet crashed in western Afghanistan on May 24, although the crew escaped without injury and enemy fire was not to blame, a French army spokesman said.
"A Mirage 2000-D crashed 100 kilometers west of Farah," French army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Eric de Lapresle told AFP.
He excluded enemy fire as the cause of the crash, the first of a French plane during the near 10-year conflict in Afghanistan.
"The crew are in good health and have been recovered," the spokesman added.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, under which French forces operate in Afghanistan, also confirmed the incident.
"An ISAF aircraft crashed in western Afghanistan this morning," it said in a statement. "The crew members are uninjured and have been recovered and the crash site has been secured."
The statement added that the cause of the crash of the French-built jet was currently unknown and an investigation into what happened had been launched.
France has six fighter jets based in Afghanistan at Kandahar Airfield in the south.
There are around 4,000 French troops stationed in Afghanistan as part of the 130,000-strong international force fighting the Taliban and other insurgents.

Pakistan Nuclear Security 'Of Concern': NATO

KABUL - The head of NATO said on May 24 that he was confident Pakistan's nuclear weapons were safe, but admitted it was a matter of concern, the day after the worst assault on a Pakistani military base in two years.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks during a joint press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul on May 24. (Shah Marai / AFP via Getty Images)
Anders Fogh Rasmussen was in Afghanistan on a one-day visit and met President Hamid Karzai to discuss the transition of security from NATO-led troops to Afghan security forces, which is due to begin in July.
Rasmussen was asked if NATO was concerned about Pakistan's nuclear weapons after it took Pakistani forces 17 hours to reclaim control of a naval air base from Taliban attackers and following the death of Osama bin Laden.
"I feel confident that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is safe and well protected," said Rasmussen. "But of course it is a matter of concern and we follow the situation closely."
The attack in Karachi, the worst on a base since the army headquarters was besieged in October 2009, piled further embarrassment on Pakistan three weeks after the al-Qaida leader was found living in the city of Abbottabad, close to the country's military academy.
Rasmussen was scheduled to wind up his Afghan visit on May 24 after spending a night and a full day in Afghanistan.

U.S. Military May Deploy F-35 Before Formal IOC

The U.S. military may deploy the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) before the tri-service fighter is formally declared Initial Operational Capable (IOC), top uniformed officials told Congress on May 24.
While the U.S. Marine Corps has always maintained that it would declare IOC with interim Block 2B software, the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy require that the aircraft be fielded with Block 3 software before the jet is formally declared operational. However, in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, leaders from both services said they would consider deploying the fifth-generation stealth fighter into combat zones with interim Block 2B software provided that there were no safety concerns.
"If the combatant commander said, 'bring me this capability,' then we clearly would provide it," said Air Force Lt. Gen. Herbert Carlisle, the service's deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements.
The Navy's director of warfare integration, Rear Adm. David Philman, who was also testifying, concurred.
"I don't see any reason we wouldn't be able to be told to go into theater, assuming all the safety considerations have been taken care of," he said.
Both the Navy and the Air Force would have some number of the aircraft prior to any IOC date, but the specifics of how many planes would be available is not yet known.
"We will have a number, probably on the order of a 100, airplanes delivered to operational units before we declare Initial Operational Capability," Carlisle said. "Clearly, although we may not declare IOC, we'll be training, we'll be doing the tactics, training and procedures with the Block 2."
The maintenance and logistical systems would also be built during that period, he said.
Philman said the Navy would have some aircraft available but not as many as the Air Force.
Marine Lt. Gen. Terry Robling, that service's deputy commandant for aviation, who was testifying alongside Carlisle and Philman, said that his service still plans to declare IOC with the interim Block 2B software and would have about 50 F-35s available near that time. He said IOC for the Marines is now estimated to fall between 2014 and 2015, which is a two-year slip.
Even with the interim software, the F-35 would be vastly more capable than existing warplanes, they said.
"There is a lot of capability even in the Block 2 airplanes that look very impressive," Carlisle said.
However, the Air Force and the Navy will both insist upon Block 3 hardware and software for their formal IOC declarations, both Carlisle and Philman said.
Insisting on the Block 3 configuration allows the Pentagon to keep the pressure on Lockheed Martin, the contractor that builds the F-35.
"I'll be perfectly frank: In a lot of cases, if you delay an IOC, you can maintain pressure on a contractor," Carlisle said.
IOC for the Air Force and Navy, like the Marines, will slip by about two years from 2016, Carlisle and Philman said. None of the three services has set a fixed IOC date, but Philman said the 2016 date is no longer valid.

China, Russia Erode U.S. Stealth Technology Lead

The United States' lead in stealth technology is eroding more quickly than anticipated, senior uniformed officials told Congress on May 24.
"Those are discouraging," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Herbert Carlisle, the service's deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Carlisle was referring to Russia's development of the Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA and China's efforts to build the Chengdu J-20 fifth-generation fighters.
"Over time I believe we will still maintain an advantage, but I think our advantage will be a shorter period of time," he said.
Carlisle added that the U.S. has maintained an advantage in stealth technology since the late 1970s with the debut of the now-retired F-117 stealth fighter.
"I don't see us maintaining an advantage for as long, as I think other nations will continue to gain that technology," he said.
Carlisle, who has extensive experience flying Soviet-built warplanes during the 1980s as part of the formerly classified 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron, said both Russia and China are skilled at building good fighter aircraft.
However, Carlisle cautioned that neither of those two countries would be able to build such aircraft overnight. It takes time and experience to build such sophisticated stealth warplanes, he said.
'These things are hard to develop," Carlisle said, pointing to the difficultly the U.S. faced in building the B-2 stealth bomber, F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
"We have the same assessment," added Marine Lt. Gen. Terry Robling, that service's deputy commandant for aviation, who was testifying alongside Carlisle. "What's keeping us ahead right now - I think the Joint Strike Fighter and its capabilities will do that."
Speaking to reporters after his testimony, Carlisle added that although he thought Russia and China will eventually get to an operational fifth-generation fighter, they are not remotely close to matching the F-35.
"I think they'll get there eventually, but by that time, we'll be at the next level," he said.

Turkish Army Scraps Major Drills

ANKARA,Turkey - The Turkish army said May 24 it had canceled two major military exercises in the Aegean Sea region in the west, where tensions with neighboring Greece are high.
The annual Efes exercises, involving land, air and naval drills, and the Denizkurdu (Sea Wolf) maneuvers, held at sea every two years, have been canceled, said a brief statement on the army's website without elaborating. The general staff had organized a press tour for the maneuvers, scheduled to start on May 25.
Despite notable improvements in their ties over the past decade, NATO partners Turkey and Greece remain at loggerheads over territorial rights in the Aegean Sea.
In 2006, a Greek pilot was killed when his plane collided with a Turkish jet during a mock dogfight over the Aegean.
Diplomats from the two countries have been holding so-called "exploratory talks" behind closed doors since 2002 in a bid to resolve the dispute. A 51st round of meetings was held at Turkey's Aegean resort of Cesme last week.

Indian Navy Leaders Review Needs, Readiness

NEW DELHI - The Indian Navy's top commanders have begun their biannual review of the maritime force's requirements and related issues at their annual conference here May 24-27.
The Naval Commanders' Conference provides an opportunity for the chief of the Naval Staff to examine the service's operational readiness, assess the progress made in key projects, and initiate functional, organizational and administrative steps to further prepare for current and emerging challenges.
"Over the next four days, commanders of the Indian Navy will discuss issues of operational relevance and future plans of the Indian Navy," the Indian Defence Ministry said in its official statement.
"With the security situation being fluid, we need to maintain the organizational ability to deploy ships, submarines and aircraft at 'immediate' notice," Adm. Nirmal Verma, chief of the Navy, said at the conference.
The Navy's strength is declining, and it is feared that the service's 140-warship fleet could dwindle to only 120 by 2017. The Navy is retiring ships more quickly than acquiring them.
The Navy has already embarked upon a modernization program under which it will buy landing platform docks (LPDs) worth $3.5 billion and build stealthy destroyers for $6.5 billion. This year, the service will begin shopping worldwide for six conventional submarines, for which it is prepared to spend more than $10 billion.
Last year, the Navy bought four additional Boeing-built P-8I long-range maritime aircraft from the U.S. at a cost of more than $1 billion.
The LPD project will be executed under the "buy and make" category, under which a foreign shipyard will help build the four LPDs in India using transferred technology, as was done in the case of the French-designed Scorpene submarines being built by India's Mazagon Docks.

Britain Undecided on Libya Choppers, Despite French Claims

LONDON - Britain said on May 24 it has not yet decided whether to deploy attack helicopters in Libya, contradicting NATO ally France which announced that both countries were ready to send choppers.
Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey was forced to make a statement to lawmakers a day after French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said London would deploy Apache helicopters from an aircraft carrier.
"I state again for the avoidance of all doubt: no such decision has been taken by the United Kingdom," Harvey said in parliament after opposition MPs claimed the government was not keeping them informed.
"It is an option we are considering and there is absolutely no sense in which it is true to say that we have kept parliament in the dark about a decision."
But Harvey insisted that any deployment of helicopters would not represent mission creep two months into the NATO-led air war against Libyan Moammar Gadhafi's forces, adding that their use would only be a "tactical shift."
Longuet said on the sidelines of a meeting in Brussels on Monday that he had discussed the plan to deploy helicopters with Gerald Howarth, the British minister for international security strategy.
"The sooner the better is what the British think," Longuet said, adding that the U.S.-designed Apaches, which are used in Afghanistan, would operate from the British aircraft carrier HMS Ocean.
A British government source speaking on condition of anonymity expressed frustration that French officials had announced London's military plans before they had received ministerial approval.
NATO says it has seriously degraded Gadhafi's military machine with air strikes from combat jets, but helicopters would help the alliance strike regime assets hidden in urban areas.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Paris was deploying Tigre and Gazelle class helicopters aboard an aircraft carrier.