Friday, June 10, 2011

U.S. House Panel Hits JLTV, Cuts $50M From R&D

U.S. lawmakers took another swipe at the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, hatcheting $50 million off the Army and Marine Corps' 2012 research and development budget request, according to the House Appropriations defense subcommittee's review of the 2012 defense spending bill.
The committee recommended the Army use the money subtracted from the JLTV program toward researching "survivability enhancements" for the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle highlighting the potential for "blast venting technology."
Repeatedly brought up in hearings and commended by Army Secretary John McHugh, the committee again showed their support for what is called the blast chimney, which directs blast energy through the vehicle by way of a vent no wider than a laptop.
"These improvements could lead to a HMMWV with survivability equal to or better than the [Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle], weigh considerably less than predicted for the JLTV, and at a cost significantly less than the other," the subcommittee's report read.
Performance by the HMMWV, MRAP and MRAP All Terrain Vehicle (MATV) over the past 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan has called into question the need for delivery of the JLTV by 2016, according to the review.
Marine Corps leaders have raised concerns with the JLTV's weight and transportability. Many of the same questions have been raised for the Army's other major tactical vehicle program, the Ground Combat Vehicle.
"The committee notes that the operational niche to be filled by the JLTV appears to be shrinking," according to the subcommittee's report.

SIPRI: New START Unlikely to Have Short-Term Effect

HELSINKI, Finland - The recent New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is unlikely to much alter the nuclear landscape in the short term, said SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research institute), the Stockholm-based think tank.
New START calls for slowly paring the U.S. and Russian arsenals to 1,500 warheads from the nearly 5,000 currently deployed, which includes some 2,000 on high alert, SIPRI notes in its 2011 Yearbook, released on June 7.
"It's a stretch to say that the New START cuts agreed by the U.S. and Russia are a genuine step toward nuclear disarmament when their planning for nuclear forces is done on a time scale that encompasses decades, and when nuclear modernization is a major priority in their defense policies," Shannon Kile, a senior research analyst with SIPRI, said in a statement.
The think tank remains skeptical about the desire for meaningful short-term disarmament by the eight nuclear powers.
"The five legally recognized nuclear weapons states, as defined by the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty, are either deploying new nuclear weapon systems or have announced their intention to do so," says SIPRI, referring to the Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S.
India and Pakistan are expanding their ability to make weapons-grade nuclear material, said SIPRI director Daniel Nord.
"South Asia is the only place in the world where you have a nuclear weapons arms race," Nord said.
SIPRI estimates that more than 20,500 warheads are in the arsenals of the world's eight nuclear powers: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States. Russia has 11,000, including 2,427 deployed, while the United States has 8,500, including 2,150 deployed, according to SIPRI estimates.
Global Spending 2010
The SIPRI report also included estimates of countries' defense spending.
It said Brazil, China, India, Russia, South Africa and Turkey are re-emerging as regional powers, with all but Turkey boosting their defense spending.
SIPRI estimates global military expenditure in 2010 rose 1.3 percent in real terms to $1.630 trillion. That's slower than recent years, which the think tank blames on the global economic crisis.
Military spending rose 5.8 percent in South America, 5.2 in Africa, and 4.1 in Oceania, a region dominated by Australia and New Zealand.
The biggest spender, the United States, spent almost six times more than China, its nearest rival, up to $698 billion in 2010.
Rounding out the top 10 were Britain, France, Russia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Germany, India and Italy.

Acquisition Board To Review USAF Options on T-38

The U.S. Air Force has accepted the results of an Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) looking at options to replace the service's geriatric fleet of T-38 Talon jet trainers. The next step is for the AoA to be reviewed by a Defense Acquisition Board in the coming months, a service official said.
"Air Education and Training Command (AETC) and [Headquarters] USAF have validated the AoA," Air Force spokesman Maj. Rosaire Bushey said in an emailed statement. "AETC and the Aeronautical Systems Center are now preparing for a Defense Acquisition Board review later this summer."
However, the Air Force won't release the study because it contains propriety data from would-be contractors.
Air Force officials couldn't immediately comment on what course of action the T-X AoA recommended. However, options are known to include replacing the T-38 with a new aircraft, doing further upgrade work or even doing nothing.
Potential contractors include BAE Systems with a version of their venerable Hawk jet trainer, Lockheed Martin/Korean Aerospace with their T-50 Golden Eagle aircraft, and Alenia with their T-100 jet. Northrop, which built the T-38, might also have an offering, as might Boeing.

Industry Fronts Money for Typhoon Radar R&D

Industry is funding development of the Captor-E active electronically scanned array radar destined for the Eurofighter Typhoon because the four governments in the fighter program don't have the money available at this stage.
Selex Galileo chief executive Fabrizio Giuliani told reporters June 8 that members of the Euroradar consortium and Eurofighter would provide "pre-funding, not self-funding."
The Italian executive said that by the expected signing of a letter of intent backing the AESA program at the Paris Air Show later this month the governments of Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain are "committed to pay back Eurofighter and Euroradar what we anticipate [spending]."
Euroradar, which is led by Selex, also involves EADS and Indra. Eurofighter is the Typhoon management organization operated by BAE Systems, EADS and Finmeccanica.
Bob Mason, the executive vice president for sensors and airborne systems at Selex Galileo, said finance was not an issue. The important thing was to get the Eurofighter nations officially committed to the program through the letter of intent, Mason said.
"We understand the financial constraints. Finance is not the issue; that is being made available by Eurofighter and Euroradar for full-scale development. The issue is the backing of the governments and that's what the letter of intent will give us. Export customers like India and Japan will be more comfortable with the backing of the Eurofighter governments," he said.
The four nations "will join at the appropriate time when they have the budgets available," he said.
The availability of an AESA radar was a key requirement for the multi-billion dollar competition being run by the Indian government to equip the air force with a multi-role medium weight fighter. Typhoon was downselected recently alongside the Dassault Rafale for the final stages of the competition.
Talks over the releasability of the AESA technology to India is still under debate and depends on the final solution and final negotiations, Mason said.
"We are looking at the manufacturer of certain subsystems in India software transition in terms of modes and bringing new modes into the radar as well," he said.
Mason said they had agreed a "large amount of funding" from the Eurofighter governments through to the first production standard radars scheduled for completion in 2014 for aircraft production the following year.
The executive said Euroradar now had a huge team working on the development at Selex's main development plant in Edinburgh and elsewhere.
Aside from the Captor-E, Selex is also working in the combat aircraft field on a similar AESA radar for the Saab Gripen NG, and is involved in separate technology demonstrator programs funded by the British and Italian governments.

Vietnam Plans Live-Fire Drill as China Rift Grows

HANOI, Vietnam - Vietnam announced June 10 that it would hold a live-fire naval drill next week in the South China Sea as an escalating maritime dispute fuels tensions with Beijing.
Relations between China and Vietnam are at their worst in years as the two countries trade accusations over recent confrontations between their ships in potentially energy-rich contested waters.
A Vietnamese naval officer told AFP that the six hours of live-fire exercises would be held on June 13 around Hon Ong island, about 25 miles off Quang Nam province in central Vietnam.
The officer declined to give the reason for the night drill or say how many vessels would be involved.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said the exercises were part of routine annual training.
Tensions between the communist neighbors have risen sharply after Hanoi accused Chinese marine surveillance vessels of cutting the exploration cables of an oil survey ship in May inside its exclusive economic zone, where the drill will be.
On June 9 Vietnam alleged a similar incident in the zone, saying a Chinese fishing boat rammed the cables of another oil survey ship in its waters, describing it as a "premeditated" attack.
Beijing countered by warning Vietnam to halt all activities that it says violate its sovereignty in disputed South China Sea waters.
The two countries have long-standing disputes over the potentially oil-rich Paracel and Spratly archipelagos and surrounding sea.
The area where the live-fire exercise is planned is about 155 miles from the Paracels and about 620 miles from the Spratlys.
Carl Thayer, a veteran analyst of Vietnam and the South China Sea, said the drill would be a way for Vietnam to send a message, after China on June 9 also said it would conduct naval exercises.
Thayer said Vietnam was firing "a soft warning shot across the bow, rather than a real one."
But he added such drills were not unprecedented as Vietnam held an air-defense drill on land about two months ago.
In a sign of how seriously Hanoi views the situation, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung this week vowed to protect Vietnam's "incontestable" sovereignty of the Paracels and Spratlys.
Vietnam said it has since deployed eight boats to "escort" the ship involved in the May incident, without saying what kind of vessels. Analysts say the move raises the stakes in the dispute.
Beijing says it is committed to peace in the South China Sea, but its more assertive maritime posture has caused concern among regional nations.
Tensions have also risen this year between China and the Philippines, another claimant to the Spratlys, where Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also say they have a stake.
"Nobody wants war but when there is an escalation we will act," vice defense minister Lt. Gen. Nguyen Chi Vinh told local media earlier this week.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned last weekend that clashes may erupt in the South China Sea unless nations with conflicting territorial claims adopt a mechanism to settle disputes peacefully.
Hundreds of people held a peaceful anti-China protest outside Beijing's embassy in Hanoi on June 5, the largest action of its kind since 2007. Protests are rare in authoritarian Vietnam.
Tensions have also spread to the Internet.
More than 200 Vietnamese websites have been attacked and some defaced with Chinese flags, an Internet security firm said June 10. The ministries of agriculture and foreign affairs are among those targeted since the beginning of June, said Nguyen Minh Duc, director of the state-linked Bach Khoa Internetwork Security Centre.
"We don't yet know if it concerns Chinese hackers," Duc said.

Powers Unlock $1 Billion For Libya Rebels

TRIPOLI, Libya - Key powers have vowed to unlock a billion dollars for hard-pressed Libyan rebels in talks to map out a "post-Gadhafi Libya" as a fresh volley of NATO air strikes rocked the capital on June 10.
Mikhail Margelov, the special envoy of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, meanwhile said he was preparing to visit Tripoli to find a solution to the Libya conflict after meeting the opposition in their Benghazi stronghold.
Libya's former foreign minister, Abdurrahman Shalgam, said the rebel National Transitional Council needed at least $3 billion over the next four months to pay its expenses as it battles to oust Moammar Gadhafi.
In a boost to the opposition, the United States joined Australia and Spain in recognizing the NTC as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people, with pressure mounting on the veteran leader to step down.
"Gadhafi's days are numbered. We are working with our international partners through the UN to plan for the inevitable: a post-Gadhafi Libya," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told talks in Abu Dhabi on June 9.
"Time is on our side," the chief U.S. diplomat said, adding international military, economic and political pressure was mounting on the Libyan colonel to abandon his four decades in power at the helm of the north African nation.
Clinton was meeting counterparts from NATO and other countries participating in the air strikes against Gadhafi's forces for a third round of Libya talks.
The chief U.S. diplomat said later that "people close to Gadhafi" have been making continuous contacts with many different interlocutors about the "potential for a transition" to a new regime.
"There is not a clear way forward yet," she told a news conference, also referring to the NTC as "the legitimate interlocutor" of the Libyan people.
Clinton offered no direct U.S. financial contribution to the rebels, pledging instead another "$26.5 million to help all the victims of this conflict, including Libyan refugees."
Such money will likely be distributed through relief agencies.
But Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Rome would provide the rebel council with loans and fuel products worth 300 to 400 million euros ($438 million to $584 million). And his French counterpart, Alain Juppe, said Paris would release 290 million euros ($420.9 million) of frozen Libyan funds for the NTC.
In a sign of the continued pressure on the Gadhafi regime, a fresh wave of NATO air strikes hit the Libyan capital very early June 10, with three strong explosions shaking central Tripoli at around midnight. Other more distant explosions followed.
In the past two days, Tripoli has been targeted by the most intense NATO air raids since the international military campaign began on March 19.
The nominee to be the next U.S. defense secretary, Leon Panetta, said the sustained economic, diplomatic and military pressure would likely lead Gadhafi to step down.
"I think there are some signs that - if we continue the pressure, if we stick with it - that ultimately Gadhafi will step down," Panetta told U.S. lawmakers.
"Frankly, I think there are gains that have been made. We have seen the regime weakened significantly. We have seen the opposition make gains, both in the east and the west."
Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade urged Gadhafi to step down as he became the first head of state to visit the rebels' bastion of Benghazi in eastern Libya.
"I look at you in the eyes... the sooner you go, the better," Wade said.
A member of the NTC said on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi meeting that an international fund aimed at helping Libya's rebels had "become operational" from Thursday.
A State Department official later told reporters "we have got commitments of something about $300 million that came out of today's meeting," including $180 million from Kuwait and $100 million from Qatar.
In Moscow, envoy Margelov called on Gadhafi to step down, saying the Libyan leader needs to take a "responsible, courageous decision about his future."
"I am now involved in preparations for a Tripoli trip," he told reporters after returning from his visit to rebel-held eastern Libya and Egypt.
Margelov said Medvedev had not ordered him to meet Gadhafi and instead planned to hold talks with the Libyan prime minister and foreign minister. He did not give any details on when the trip would take place but said the Russian side was waiting for NATO to arrange a transport corridor so that the visit could go ahead in full security.

Gates Laments NATO's Military, Political Flaws

BRUSSELS - In his last official policy speech at the end of an 11-day tour, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates lambasted NATO for its shortcomings in terms of military capabilities and political will in Afghanistan.
In a speech at a high-level Security and Defence Agenda think-tank event in Brussels, Gates cited helicopters, transport aircraft, surveillance and reconnaissance, and intelligence as areas where NATO has struggled. Gates added that "similar shortcomings in capability and political will had the potential to jeopardize the NATO air and sea campaign in Libya."
Although NATO has achieved its initial objectives of grounding Libya's air force and reducing Moammar Gadhafi's ability to attack civilian populations, Gates said fewer than one-third of NATO allies had taken part in airstrike missions. "In the Libya operation, many allies are running short of munitions, requiring the U.S. to make up the deficit," he added.
Gates also said the emergence of a "two-tier alliance" of peacekeepers and those doing the hard combat missions is unacceptable.
Describing himself as the last senior leader to be a product of the Cold War, Gates issued a stark warning to European leaders: "The emotional and historical attachment U.S. leaders had with allies is ageing out. Decisions and choices [in the future] will be made more on what is in the best interests of the U.S. The drift of the last 20 years can't continue if we want a strong trans-Atlantic relationship."
Gates also noted that only five of the 28 NATO allies currently exceeded the agreed NATO benchmark of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense. "Regrettably, the situation is highly unlikely to change. The question is how these dwindling resources are allocated," he said.
NATO should do more to pool and share resources, he added. "We should be alert to areas for trans-Atlantic cooperation, but there is a rich agenda for pooling in Europe that should get attention first," he said.
Both NATO and the European Defence Agency are currently working on potential areas for pooling and sharing. Gates cited NATO's Strategic Airlift Initiative and its Allied Ground Surveillance System as good examples of cooperation.
He said the U.S. has no problem with Europe's efforts to build up its own equipment defense market and that a robust industrial capability between the U.S. and its allies is very important.
Gates also said the U.S. government was looking at dramatic cuts in a wide range of programs. "Defense will have to bear some of that burden," he said.
Introducing Gates to the audience, former NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer called for solidarity from NATO countries. He lamented the "uncoordinated budget cuts we're witnessing in NATO and the EU" and the lack of balance in burden-sharing between the U.S. and European allies.

Danish Planes in Libya Running Out of Bombs: Report

COPENHAGEN - The Danish military forces operating in Libya are running out of bombs for their F-16 fighter jets and have asked the Netherlands to help replenish their stock, a report said June 9.
"The Danish F-16s are about to run out of bombs to continue to attack Libya," the Politiken daily said, citing unnamed defense sources.
"The Danish military has therefore asked Holland for help," it added.
A spokesman for the Danish military's logistics division did not confirm the report but said his department was speaking to other coalition partners about supplies.
"It is our job to always support operations in the short, medium and long-term and we always have a close cooperation with our F-16 partnership countries, in particular Norway and the Netherlands," Anders Paaskesen of the Danish Defence Acquisition and Logistics Organisation told AFP.
Denmark was one of the first countries to offer air assets for the international air campaign to protect Libyan civilians from Moammar Gadhafi's forces.
Its fighter jets have been participating in the mission since March 20.
Denmark has six F-16 jets stationed at the Signonella base of the Italian island of Sicily, four of which are operational at any given time.
Since operations began, the Danish jets have carried out 274 sorties and dropped 494 precision bombs, Inge Borggaard of the Air Force Tactical Command told AFP.

Rise in F-35 Acquisition Cost Marginal: Minister

HELSINKI - The Norwegian government must deliver "exact and transparent figures" on the costs of buying 56 F-35 Lightning IIs lest it face a revolt from opposition benches, the opposition Christian Democrats warned June 7.
"I can only wonder why the Norwegian government is so eager to purchase four F-35 training aircraft at the same time as the U.S. government is postponing its purchases. If the government cannot be transparent about the costs, then we would support a motion to postpone the project," Christian Democrat leader Dagfinn Hoybrathen said during a parliamentary hearing into the costs involved in the Next-Generation Fighter Acquisition Program.
At the hearing, Defense Minister Grete Faremo said the jets' acquisition cost had increased $180 million, to $5.71 billion, since Norway announced it would purchase the F-35 in 2008. She called this a relatively small increase.
Faremo said that total is based on an expected unit flyaway cost of $102 million.
Norway expects to pay up to $13.3 billion for the full complement of 56 aircraft. This price not only includes logistics and weapons, but also a value for uncertainty and potential escalating price risks linked to the project.
Faremo said the government was unable to present a definite cost figure for the total program. Some supplementary costs would not be known until next year, including funding to reorganize the Norwegian Air Force's structures and build one or more new air bases.
But Conservative Party representatives described the government figures as vague and confusing.
"What makes this so difficult is that so much is being postponed until next year. The fighter acquisition program's total cost estimates now vary from between $26.7 billion to $40 billion," said Ivar Kristiansen, the Conservatives' senior representative on the Storting's Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee.
The defense minister confirmed that Norway would formally order four trainer F-35s worth $886 million this fall for delivery in 2016. The other 52 aircraft are to be delivered after 2018.
The operating and maintenance life-cycle cost, spanning 25 to 30 years of projected service for the F-35s, is estimated at $26.8 billion, the minister said.
"Let me again emphasize that we have common interests with the U.S. government to support the measures taken to reduce both acquisition and operating costs related to the F-35," said Faremo.

Rolls Royce Floats UAV Power Options

PARIS - Rolls-Royce could modify one of its turboprop engines and work with Safran's Turbomeca if the British company were to supply propulsion for a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) drone pitched by BAE Systems and Dassault, said Francis Kearney, Rolls' defense director for Europe.
Depending on the power requirement, Rolls would probably pick a power plant from its current product range, such as the RTM22 helicopter engine, and adapt it for the Telemos MALE aerial vehicle proposed by BAE and Dassault as a joint project to Britain and France, Kearney said June 9 on the sidelines of a news conference ahead of the Paris Air Show.
Rolls would likely work with its longstanding industrial partner Turbomeca, part of the Safran aerospace engine and equipment group, Kearney said.
Rolls would supply an "integrated propulsion system" in a pod assembly to the airframe makers, similar to the concept used on BAE's Mantis UAV technology demonstrator.
Rolls supplied its model 250 engine for the Mantis, from concept to first delivery, or "from flash to bang," in 18 months, Kearney said. The model 250 looked underpowered for the needs of the Telemos UAV but the industrial concept would be similar, he said.
BAE and Dassault Aviation on June 8 outlined a joint offer of an eight-ton MALE UAV dubbed Telemos, which is to be able to stay aloft 24 hours and carry smart bombs, deliverable in five years to the British and French forces. Besides a joint offer from Rolls and Safran, the engine options included a Canadian supplier, Dassault said.
On Rolls' offer of an engine upgrade for the French Air Force's fleet of C-130 Hercules transport, Kearney said, "Yes, there is interest."
Two years ago, before the previous Paris Air Show, Rolls presented the T56 3.5 engine package, offering an 8 percent improvement in fuel burn. Since then, there has been development and standardization of the package. Kearney said he hoped for a French response in the next 12 months.
The Anglo-French defense treaty offered business possibilities including the supply of Trent 700 engines for the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) fleet, the Adour engines on the Hawk fast jet trainer as an eventual replacement of the Alphajet trainer and common Anglo-Franco support for the TP400 engines on the A400M airlifter, which could be extended to the other launch European customers.
An Anglo-French commonality of equipment offered economies of scale, Kearney said.
France has delayed the purchase of a 14-strong MRTT fleet as part of a 3.5 billion euro, three-year budget cut.
In the global market, Rolls hopes a win of the Eurofighter Typhoon in the Indian medium multirole combat aircraft competition will generate sales of the EJ200 engine.
Japan is seen as a strategic country target, as the government mulls the Eurofighter and operates EH101 helicopter, which performed rescue missions after the recent tsunami.
Rolls supplies the RTM22 engine for the EH101.
Another potential Asian customer for the EJ200 is South Korea, with its KF-X fighter project, and engine upgrade for the Korean Navy's Lynx helicopter.
Despite the slowdown in Western defense spending, Rolls sees the global market for military aero engines and services worth $450 billion over the next 20 years.