Friday, May 27, 2011

Hostage To Lead U.S. Air Combat Command

The U.S. Senate has quietly confirmed Lt. Gen. Michael Hostage as the next commander of Air Combat Command.
Hostage, the commander of U.S. Air Forces Central who oversees air operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, will take over for Gen. William Fraser, who has led ACC since September 2009.
The Senate Armed Services Committee received Hostage's nomination on May 16 and the full Senate confirmed the fighter pilot on May 26 by a voice vote, according to a notice in the congressional record. The notice did not list an assignment, only that Hostage will be "assigned to a position of importance and responsibility." However his assignment will be ACC, according to an Air Force official.
The Pentagon typically announces high-level, general officer promotions publicly. However, Hostage's name was not included on any general officer promotion lists released in May.
In addition, the Air Force usually announces pending nominations on the specific general officer's official biography on its website. Hostage's biography lists him as the commander of U.S. Air Forces Central in Southwest Asia.
Defense sources say Fraser, whom Hostage will replace, is being considered to lead U.S. Transportation Command, replacing Gen. Duncan McNabb, who is expected to retire. Some sources have said Fraser is considered a candidate to replace Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff, should Schwartz become the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The White House is expected to announce a new chairman and vice chairman as soon as next week.
Hostage spent the former part of his career flying F-15 and F-16 fighters, but has spent much of the last decade in important staff positions, including the senior military assistant to the secretary of the Air Force, director of requirements integration (J8) at U.S. Joint Forces Command and vice commander at Pacific Air Forces.
Air Force officials declined to comment on Hostage's assignment.

San Diego Shipyard Gets 2 Ship Orders

The General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) shipyard in San Diego, Calif., received a major contract award May 27 when the U.S. Navy ordered the first two Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) ships.
The $744 million fixed-price incentive fee contract is for the detail design and construction of the two ships. The order follows several previous contracts for preliminary work on the ships, including a $115 million contract last August for long-lead material for the first ship.
The ships, which will be built to a design originally proposed by NASSCO, will be able to ballast down to float on or off barges and smaller craft. The ships will have a reconfigurable mission deck, feature a vehicle staging area and be able to carry up to three air-cushioned landing craft.
The Navy intends to order a total of three ships. The first as-yet-unnamed ship is to be delivered in 2013, although it is not expected to be operational until 2015. The ships will be assigned to Maritime Prepositioning Ship squadrons.
The MLPs were crucial to NASSCO's ability to keep its workforce employed as it starts to wind down series production of the T-AKE 1 Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ships for the Navy. A keel-laying ceremony took place May 18 for the 14th and last T-AKE, the Cesar Chavez, due for completion in November 2014.

Poland To Host U.S. F-16 Rotations: Official

WARSAW - U.S. F-16 fighter jets and Hercules transport aircraft will be deployed in Poland on a rotating basis while a U.S. aviation detachment will be permanently stationed there, a senior U.S. adviser said May 27 as President Obama arrived in the country.
"We are going to announce tomorrow the conclusion of the agreement to establish an aviation detachment in Poland that will allow for our two air forces to cooperate in training the Poles to utilize the American aircraft that they purchased, F-16 and (Hercules) C-130," Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, a senior adviser for European affairs on the National Security Council told reporters. "What we will be doing is rotating trainers and aircraft to Poland so that they can become more interoperable with NATO. This will be a small permanent presence on the ground and a permanent presence that will be rotational."
Ahead of the visit, officials in Warsaw had expressed hope it would bring a deal for the permanent stationing of a U.S. Air Force technical ground crew at a Polish F-16 base, as well as training rotations of U.S. F-16 fighters and Hercules transport aircraft as of 2013.
Last year saw the first three rotations of unarmed training batteries of U.S. Patriot missiles in Poland, a move that also sparked Russia's ire. Four rotations are planned this year.

Russia, U.S. Sign Chopper Deal for Afghanistan

MOSCOW - Russia has signed a contract with the U.S. Army to deliver 21 MI-17 helicopters to Afghanistan, new agencies quoted the defense ministry's arms oversight service as saying May 27.
The contract includes new helicopters, along with "delivery of spare parts, on-ground service, and material-technical support," RIA Novosti quoted the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation statement as saying.
The contract was previously valued by the Russian media at $367.5 million.
The Russian helicopters will be sent to be used in Afghanistan's air force starting in October, with deliveries continuing through next year, RIA-Novosti reported.
Washington has decided to pick up the tab after months of talks between NATO and Russian officials ground to a halt.
Some NATO states pressed Russia to deliver some of the transport helicopters for free as they were unable to pay Russia for the aircraft.

Russian Sub To Join NATO Exercise for 1st Time

BRUSSELS - A Russian submarine will take part in the world's biggest submarine rescue exercise with its former Cold War foe, NATO, next week, the military alliance said May 27.
The Russian submarine, the first to participate in any NATO exercise, will drop to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea along with Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish submarines and will await listless for a rescue mission off the coast of Cartagena, Spain.
About 2,000 military and non-military personnel as well as ships and aircraft from more than 20 nations will take part in the exercise, dubbed Bold Monarch 11, that will run from May 30 to June 10.
Held every three years, it "is the world's largest submarine rescue exercise," said a statement from NATO's SHAPE allied military headquarters based in Mons, Belgium.
"The exercise is designed to maximize international cooperation in submarine rescue operations - something that has always been very important to NATO and all the submarine-operating nations," it said.
The inclusion of a Russian submarine in the exercise comes amid a warming of ties between Moscow and the 28-nation alliance, nearly three years after Russia's war with Georgia had sparked tensions between the two sides.
The U.S., Russia, Italy and Sweden are contributing submarine rescue vehicles and sophisticated gear to clear debris. France, Norway and Britain will use a jointly owned rescue system.
Aircraft will deploy from Italy, Britain and the U.S. to help locate the submarines and drop parachutists to provide emergency assistance.
The vast exercise will culminate with a 48-hour coordinated rescue and evacuation of 150 survivors, including casualties, from a submarine acting in distress.

Japan Considers Export of SM-3 Block IIA Missiles

TOKYO - Sources here confirmed that Japan is actively considering allowing the export of SM-3 Block IIA missiles to third-party countries following repeated requests by the U.S. government that the next-generation missile defense system, which is being co-developed by Japan and the U.S., be made available to protect other U.S. allies.
An SM-3 is launched from the destroyer Hopper during a 2009 test by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. (U.S. Missile Defense Agency)
In an official comment by the Ministry of Defense (MOD), a spokesman said the issue is "under careful consideration" between the two governments, but the MOD had not yet reached a conclusion on the issue.
However, a senior official confirmed May 27 that the Japanese government is actively considering how to relax the export ahead of two-plus-two security talks in June by U.S. and Japanese defense and foreign ministers.
"Yes, the MOD's Policy Division is considering the issue," the official said.
The move is politically sensitive for both sides as Japan has strict regulations on arms exports, and the U.S. is keen that the advanced, next-generation Block IIA missiles, which are much more capable than the current SM-3 missiles, be available to allies.
In 1967, Japan introduced laws banning the export of weapons to communist bloc countries, countries subject to U.N. arms embargoes, or countries involved in or likely to become involved in international conflicts. In 1976, it extended the ban to weapons-related technology, although this was later relaxed in 1983 to allow export to the U.S. only. In a 2005 agreement, Japan further relaxed the law to include missile interceptors to be deployed by the two countries. However, re-export to third countries of the SM-3 Block IIA would still be banned unless Japan changes its position.
According to the MOD, Japan is spending 47.3 billion yen (U.S. $583.9 million) this fiscal year on development of the missiles, which will have a burnout velocity that is 45 percent to 60 percent greater than that of the Block IA and IB versions, as well as a larger-diameter kinetic warhead. This year, as part of the final phase of the development, prototype missiles will be designed and manufactured for use in a sea-launched missile experiment, according to the MOD documents.
Under the Obama administration's European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) for European ballistic missile defense (BMD) operations, the more advanced SM-3 Block IIA missiles would be placed on BMD-capable Aegis ships and would operate in European waters to defend Europe from potential ballistic missile attacks from countries such as Iran.
In September 2009, the U.S. government said it would deploy SM-3 Block IIA missiles by 2018 in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.
Keidanren, Japan's most powerful industrial lobby that has been exerting pressure on the government for decades to allow the export of Japanese defense and space equipment, supports the impending change, said Satoshi Tsuzukibashi, director of Keidanren's Office of Defense Production Committee. "Yes, we support the relaxation of export rules in principal, as long as the exports remain carefully controlled to trusted allies," he said.
Japan is supposed to reach a decision on the issue by the end of 2011, according to a statement released by Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa in January.
An official at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo declined comment on the issue except to say that missile defense cooperation was a "central element" in the U.S.'s bilateral defense relationship with Japan.

India Urges France To Stop Arms Sales to Pakistan

NEW DELHI - India has told France to stop supplying weapons and equipment to Pakistan in the name of fighting terrorism. The issue arose during talks between French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet and Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony during Longuet's visit here May 27.
Longuet confirmed India's expressions of concern about supplying weapons, telling reporters, "[India's] concern about weapon sales [by France to Pakistan] was raised."
France cannot afford to ignore New Delhi's concerns at a time when the French Rafale is competing in India's $10 billion Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) program, which is in the final stages of evaluation, said Mahindra Singh, a retired Indian Army major general and independent defense analyst here.
Longuet also told reporters that India and France would hold land-based joint exercises in the future.
Longuet made a pitch for the Rafale during his talks with Antony, an Indian Defence Ministry source said.
Another topic that was discussed was joint development on an air defense system under the proposed Maitri project. However, no details are known on its progress.
The French also offered to sell India a variety of missiles, including beyond-visual-range missiles, said a diplomat of the French Embassy in New Delhi.

China Sets Up Military Cyber-Warfare Team: Report

BEIJING- China's military has set up an elite Internet security task force tasked with fending off cyberattacks, state media reported May 27, denying that the initiative is intended to create a "hacker army."
The People's Liberation Army has reportedly invested tens of millions of dollars in the project, which is sure to ring alarm bells around the world among governments and businesses wary of Beijing's intentions.
"Cyber attacks have become an international problem affecting both civilian and military areas," the Global Times quoted China's defense ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng as telling a rare briefing this week. "China is relatively weak in cyber-security and has often been targeted. This temporary program is aimed at improving our defenses against such attacks."
The 30-member "Cyber Blue Team" - the core of the PLA's cyber force - has been organized under the Guangdong military command in the country's south and will carry out "cyber-warfare drills", the newspaper said.
The United States, Australia, Germany and other Western nations have long alleged that hackers inside China are carrying out a wide-range of cyberattacks on government and corporate computer systems worldwide.
But in a commentary, the Global Times hit out at "some foreign media" for interpreting the program as a breeding ground for a "hacker army".
"China's capability is often exaggerated. Without substantiated evidence, it is often depicted by overseas media as the culprit for cyberattacks on the US and Europe," the paper said. "China needs to develop its strong cyber defense strength. Otherwise, it would remain at the mercy of others."
China's military has received annual double-digit increases in its budget over much of the last two decades as it tries to develop a more modern force capable of winning increasingly high-tech wars.
In 2007, the Pentagon raised concerns about a successful Chinese ballistic missile test strike on a satellite. That weapon could be used to knock out the high-tech communications of its enemies.
U.S. computer firm McAfee said in February that hackers from China have also infiltrated the computer networks of global oil companies and stole financial documents on bidding plans and other confidential information.
According to US diplomatic cables obtained and published by WikiLeaks, the United States believes that China's leadership has directed hacking campaigns against U.S. Internet giant Google and Western governments.
In one cable, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said it learned from "a Chinese contact" that the Politburo had led years of hacking into computers of the United States, its allies and Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

New China Missile Unit Near Taiwan: Spy Chief

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Taiwan's top intelligence chief said China had deployed a new missile unit near the island, a lawmaker revealed May 26, sparking concerns about the fragility of ties with the mainland.
Tsai Teh-sheng, head of the National Security Bureau, described the new unit, located in southern China, while replying to queries last week raised by legislator Lin Yu-fang of the ruling Kuomintang party.
"The unit, carrying the code number 96166 and based in Guangdong province, is indeed a new unit, probably a new ballistic missile brigade," Tsai said, without providing details, according to a statement released by Lin.
"Over the past few years, the People's Liberation Army has kept increasing its deployment of ballistic missile units in both quantity and quality opposite Taiwan," the intelligence chief was quoted as saying in the statement.
Taiwanese experts estimate that China currently has more than 1,600 missiles aimed at the island, mostly deployed in Fujian and Jiangxi provinces in the mainland's southeast, forecasting that the number will reach 1,800 next year.
Lin, a university professor specializing in military affairs, said China's continued expansion of its railway network also has helped boost the flexibility of its missile arm.
The extensive rail network enables the weapons to be transported swiftly to the coastal areas when needed and even to be launched from railway cars.
On May 26, in response to questions raised by another Kuomintang legislator, Tsai said that with restrictions on visits to the island being eased, Chinese intelligence agents have arrived disguised as tourists, academics and civil organization staff.
Tensions across the Taiwan Strait have eased since Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang became Taiwan's president in 2008 on a platform of boosting trade links and allowing in more Chinese tourists.
However, Beijing still refuses to renounce the possible use of force against the island, which has ruled itself since the end of a civil war in 1949, should it declare formal independence.
The Pentagon said in an annual report to Congress last year that China's military build-up against Taiwan had "continued unabated" despite improving political relations.
The perceived threat has prompted Taiwan to seek more advanced weapons, mainly from the United States.