Saturday, June 18, 2011

U.S. Senate Bill Requires Fixed-Price JSF Contract

The defense authorization bill passed by the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on June 16 requires a fixed-price contract for the next F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) buy, forcing the contractors to absorb any cost overruns.
The Pentagon plans to buy 32 JSF aircraft in 2012: 19 for the Air Force, seven for the Navy and six for the Marine Corps. (Senior Aiman Julianne Showalter / U.S. Air Force)
The Senate panel met throughout the week behind closed doors marking up the authorization bill for 2012. Details of the markup were released in a June 17 email from the committee.
"The bill contains a unique requirement that the low-rate initial procurement contract for the FY11 lot of the Joint Strike Fighter (LRIP-5) program must be a fixed-price contract and the contract must require the contractor to absorb 100 percent of costs above the target cost," the committee's statement said.
With lot 4, the Pentagon converted from a cost-plus, award-fee plan to a fixed-price, incentive-fee deal. It is negotiating the LRIP 5 buy with prime contractor Lockheed Martin.
If included in the final bill passed by both chambers, the Senate committee's amendment would make using a fixed-price contract legally binding.
The bill fully supports the Pentagon's budget request for procurement of the aircraft, allocating $3.2 billion for the Navy and $3.7 billion for Air Force's JSF buy. The Pentagon plans to buy 32 JSF aircraft in 2012: 19 for the Air Force, seven for the Navy and six for the Marine Corps.
The JSF program is under intense scrutiny by Pentagon leadership due to dramatic cost overruns and production delays. Defense Secretary Robert Gates put the Marine Corps variant on a two year-probation earlier this year.
A Defense Acquisition Board review that would have established a new cost baseline for the F-35 has been postponed until the fall, according to JSF program executive officer Vice Adm. David Venlet.
The review had been scheduled for late May, and then was rescheduled for mid-June.

Pilatus to Sign Aircraft Deal with India: Report

GENEVA - Switzerland's Pilatus Aircraft is about to sign a record deal to supply 75 of its successful PC-7 trainers to the Indian Air Force for 850 million francs ($1 million), according to a press report June 18.
The daily Le Temps, which described the contract as the biggest in the company's history, said it could eventually be extended to as many as 200 of the single-engine turboprop.
Pilatus declined to comment on the report that the trainer had been selected as the winner of offers invited by India two years ago for a new trainer.
More than 500 PC-7s have been sold across the world to air forces and private customers.

Italy May Consider Final Date of Libya Mission: Minister

ROME - Italy may begin thinking about a date for the end of its active duty in Libya after the three-month period of its commitment in the conflict is over, its defense minister said in an interview June 18.
"What I'm saying is that thinking about a final date for our active participation could lead our British, French and U.S. allies to look for a diplomatic solution to the crisis," Ignazio La Russa told the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
La Russa said that both Italy's government and parliament should be involved in the process.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's center-right coalition government is riven by tensions after the small but influential anti-immigration Northern League called for a halt to Italy's participation in NATO air raids in Libya.
La Russa said that whatever Italy's position after the three-month period Rome would continue to make its military bases available for allied operations.
He also denied assertions by the Northern League that Italy's participation in the Libya campaign had caused an influx of refugees from North Africa across the Mediterranean Sea, which he said would have happened anyway.
The overwhelming majority of the estimated 11,000 Africans who have arrived in Italy from Libya are protected by the Geneva Convention and cannot be repatriated.
According to figures released June 17, only 60 of the 11,000 were Libyan.
Very few of the estimated 900,000 people who have fled fighting between the NATO-backed rebellion and forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi have ended up in Europe, Antonio Guterres, the head of the U.N. refugee agency, said Wednesday.
The Libyan regime and the country's former colonial ruler Italy signed a pact in August 2008 on tackling illegal migration which have seen the number of clandestine arrivals decline by 94 percent.
Under-pressure Gadhafi has threatened to spark a migration invasion of Europe.

U.S., Vietnam Urge Peace in South China Sea

WASHINGTON - The United States and Vietnam on June 17 jointly called for freedom of navigation and rejected the use of force in the South China Sea, amid simmering tensions between Beijing and its neighbors.
After talks in Washington, the two former war foes said that "the maintenance of peace, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is in the common interests of the international community."
"All territorial disputes in the South China Sea should be resolved through a collaborative, diplomatic process without coercion or the use of force," the two countries said in a joint statement.
Disputes have flared in recent weeks in the South China Sea, with Vietnam holding live-fire military exercises after accusing Chinese ships of ramming an oil survey ship and cutting the exploration cables of another one.
China staged its own three days of military exercises in the South China Sea, which state media said was aimed at boosting the country's offshore maritime patrol force.
"The U.S. side reiterated that troubling incidents in recent months do not foster peace and stability within the region," the statement said.
It said that the incidents "raise concerns about maritime security, especially with regard to freedom of navigation, unimpeded economic development and commerce under lawful conditions, and respect for international law."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in remarks in July 2010 on a visit to Vietnam that were closely watched around Asia, said that the United States had a vital national interest in freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
China and Vietnam each claim the strategic Paracel Islands and Spratly archipelago.
China has myriad disputes in the potentially resource-rich sea with countries including Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. The Philippines said June 17 that it was sending its aging naval flagship into the disputed waters.
Amid the tensions, China said June 14 that it would not resort to the use of force in the South China Sea and urged other countries to "do more for peace and stability in the region."

U.S. Lawmaker Slams France-Russia Warship Deal

WASHINGTON - A top U.S. lawmaker blasted France on June 17 for agreeing to sell two warships to Russia, saying Paris had ignored "the clear danger" the deal would pose to U.S. and regional security.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, denounced the deal under which France will transfer sensitive military technology to Russia for the first time since World War II.
"It is deeply troubling that France, a NATO ally, has decided to ignore the clear danger of selling advanced warships to Russia even as Moscow is taking an increasingly hostile approach toward the U.S., its neighbors, and Europe itself," she said in a statement.
"Many of our allies in the region, such as Georgia and the Baltic states, have experienced cyber attacks, severe economic pressure, and even invasion by Russia," she added.
Russia signed the long-awaited contract worth over a billion euros ($1.4 billion) to buy two French warships on June 17 despite alarm from its ex-Soviet neighbors and the United States.
The unprecedented deal comes after talks over the past two years bogged down over pricing and know-how issues.
In a statement entitled "French sale of assault ships to Russia threatens regional security," the Republican congresswoman said it was "a profound mistake to arm our opponents for profit or for the mirage of cooperation that never materializes."
She added the sale of sophisticated arms to Russia was also worrying due to Moscow's past military cooperation with "rogue regimes like Iran and Syria."
"The administration must strongly urge our NATO and EU allies to stop selling weapons systems to Russia that can be used against the interests of the U.S., Europe, and our many other allies," she added.

U.S. Senate Committee: Transfer MC-12s to Army

The U.S. Air Force's MC-12 program could soon be transferred to the Army if an amendment to the defense authorization bill becomes law.
An MC-12 Liberty prepares for takeoff March 11, 2010, at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. (Senior Airman Brittany Y. Bateman / Air Force)
The amendment in the Senate Armed Services Committee markup of the bill requires incoming Defense Secretary Leon Pannetta to "develop and implement a plan for the orderly transfer" of the fleet. It is unclear who introduced the amendment because the markup took place during closed sessions. The language does not appear in the House version of the bill.
The turboprop aircraft are Hawker Beechcraft Super King Air 350s modified with sophisticated ISR capabilities. Each aircraft costs $17 million, and the Air Force plans for a fleet of 37 planes.
This isn't the first time the Army has been poised to receive the Liberty. Two years ago, the Pentagon proposed transferring the Liberty to the Army and moving the C-27J from the Army to the Air Force. While the Air Force eventually took control of the C-27, it also retained control of Liberty.
The MC-12 is the product of Project Liberty, a $461 million program launched in 2008 in the wake of Defense Secretary Robert Gates' criticism of the Air Force, which he said was not deploying ISR assets into combat quickly enough. The plane made its combat debut in June 2009 with a sortie over Iraq.
Built to provide instant ISR data to troops, the MC-12 is a complete collection, processing, analysis and dissemination system of airmen. The plane is flown by four airmen: two pilots, one sensor operator and one signals intelligence specialist. The sensor operator controls the full-motion video camera, and the SIGINT specialist operates "Pennant Race," an advanced version of the SIGINT package found on unmanned MQ-9 Reapers.

Dassault Recommends Heron To Fill Interim UAV Need

PARIS - Dassault Aviation has proposed the Israeli-built Heron TP to the French authorities in the case of an urgent operating requirement for a medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV, a company executive said June 17.
The offer consists of the supply of the air vehicles without sensors from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the executive said. That makes it simpler than the previous système de drone MALE (SDM) proposal Dassault made jointly with IAI, Indra of Spain and Thales.
Dassault has pitched the Heron TP as an interim solution, to provide a quick capability for the French forces while work went ahead on a planned MALE UAV to be developed jointly with Britain under the Lancaster House defense cooperation treaty signed November 2010.

Philippines Sends Ship To Disputed Waters

MANILA - The Philippines said June 17 it would send its aging navy flagship into disputed South China Sea waters amid rising tensions with Beijing over their competing claims.
However defense department spokesman Eduardo Batac insisted the deployment was a routine assignment and had nothing to do with an announcement by China on June 16 that one of its maritime patrol vessels would pass through the area.
"I don't think these are connected," Batac told reporters.
"The navy conducts regular offshore patrols and we should not connect the deployment of Rajah Humabon to the deployment of this maritime vessel of China."
Batac said he was unaware if the Chinese vessel had reached waters claimed by both countries.
He also did not say when the Philippine vessel would be dispatched or exactly where it would go.
The Rajah Humabon, a former U.S. Navy frigate that served during World War II, is one of the world's oldest warships. It began service in the cash-strapped Philippine Navy in 1980.
Meanwhile, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario met with envoys of ASEAN member nations on Friday, calling on them to "take a common position" on the matter.
In the meeting with ambassadors of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, del Rosario said there should be "common approaches in addressing worrisome developments" in the South China Sea.
The Philippines has competing claims with China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei over potentially resource-rich areas in the South China Sea.
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam are also members of ASEAN along with Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand.
Tensions in the long-running dispute over the area have flared in recent months amid allegations by the Philippines and Vietnam that China has become increasingly aggressive in staking its territorial claims.
The Philippines accused China this month of sending naval vessels to intimidate rival claimants around the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
The Philippines also accused China of installing posts and a buoy in nearby areas, opening fire on Filipino fishermen and intimidating a Philippine oil exploration ship with a patrol vessel.
China has maintained throughout the flare-up that its has sole sovereignty over the waters, but that it intends to resolve the dispute peacefully.
Nevertheless, Chinese state media reported on Friday that China had recently staged three days of military exercises in the South China Sea and plans to boost its offshore maritime patrol force.
Del Rosario said the recent incidents showed the need for "collaboration and solidarity (on)... a recurring and an exacerbating problem."