Saturday, August 13, 2011

India Tests BrahMos Block III Supersonic Missile

NEW DELHI - Even as Pakistani and Chinese troops jointly conduct war games close to the Indian border, the Indian Army has tested a supersonic missile, the BrahMos Block III, in the Rajasthan desert.
The supersonic cruise missile can engage inaccessible targets, even inside hillocks. The BrahMos Block III, developed jointly by India and Russia, can scale mountainous terrain and then take a steep dive to engage targets located inside hillocks, officials said.
The BrahMos would be used in the mountainous terrain along the Pakistani and Chinese border.
Citing technical issues, officials said the BrahMos test had been scheduled for Aug. 8 but was postponed to Aug. 12.
An Indian Army official said the BrahMos Block III can engage ground targets from a very low altitude and can reach a speed of Mach 2.8 with a solid propellant rocket for initial acceleration and a liquid fueled ramjet to sustain supersonic cruise.
China's People's Liberation Army 101 Engineering regiment is taking part in land exercises inside Pakistan along the Indian border. This is the first time Chinese and Pakistani troops have been spotted carrying out joint exercises.

Japan Calls for China To Explain Aircraft Carrier

TOKYO - Japan's defense minister called on China on Aug. 12 to explain why it needs an aircraft carrier, after Beijing sparked increased concerns over its military expansion by starting sea trials for the vessel.
"As an aircraft carrier, it is of a highly maneuverable and offensive nature. We want China to explain the reasons why it needs it," Toshimi Kitazawa told reporters.
"There is no doubt that it will have a big impact on the region," he added.
China put the revamped Soviet-built aircraft carrier Varyag to sea on Aug. 10, prompting the United States to call for an explanation.
Beijing has sought to play down the vessel's capability, saying it will mainly be used for training and "research."
In its annual defense report last week, Japan expressed concern over China's growing assertiveness and widening naval reach in nearby waters and the Pacific and over what it called the "opaqueness" of Beijing's military budget.
China criticized the report as "irresponsible," insisting its drive to modernize its forces was entirely defensive.

Norway pulls Falcons back

HELSINKI - Norway has withdrawn its F-16 fighter squadron from NATO's Operation Unified Protector (OUP). The return of the F-16s ends Norway's direct involvement in the operation and the enforcement of NATO's no-fly zone over Libya.
Danish F-16 fighters are seen at the Italian military airport of Sigonella in March. Norway has withdrawn its F-16 fighters from NATO's Libya operation, but Denmark's fighter jets have continued bombing missions. (Mario LaPorta / AFP via Getty Images)
The Norwegian Air Force's squadron, comprising six F-16s, flew 596 missions, almost 10 percent of the total by NATO-aligned aircraft, since March. The aircraft dropped 542 bombs and logged about 2,000 hours of flight time over the four-month period, according to Norwegian Ministry of Defense figures.
The number of missions flown by the aircraft declined in June when two F-16s were recalled to Norway from Souda Airbase in Crete. Britain compensated for the partial withdrawal, sending an extra four Panavia Tornado GR.4 ground-attack jets to replace the F-16s.
By contrast, Denmark's F-16 fighter squadron, which joined the operation in early April, dropped some 705 bombs, including seven precision bombs, on Libya, according to the latest data from the Danish Ministry of Defense.
In recent weeks, six Danish Air Force F-16s have been engaged in bombing missions on targets located between Zlitan and the Libyan capital Tripoli. Targets have included military depots and support facilities.
The Libyan mission cost the Danes up to $16 million a month, a figure that excludes capital outlay to replace precision missiles, bombs and other munitions. The Danes' core arsenal includes GBU-49 type 500-pound bombs and 1-ton bunker killer BLU-109 warheads.
The Zlitan area, which lies 160 kilometers east of Tripoli, has seen increased fighting between rebel groups and forces loyal to the Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi, in recent weeks.

Gadhafi Unable to Launch Offensive: NATO

MONTREAL - Forces loyal to Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi are no longer able to launch a credible military offensive, the commander of NATO-led Libyan operations told AFP in an interview Aug. 11.
"The Gadhafi regime's forces continue to be weakened, both in strength and their will to fight," Canada's Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard said, speaking from his Italy headquarters, as rebel troops made new advances.
"They are no longer able to launch a credible offensive," he added.
NATO was authorized in March by U.N. Security Council resolution 1973 to defend Libya's civilian population from attacks by Colonel Gadhafi's regime, which faced a popular revolt after 42 years in power.
As NATO-led airstrikes have helped the rebels on the ground without managing to decisively turn the tide in the conflict, Gadhafi has brought in fighters from other African countries to bolster his embattled forces.
"We're seeing lots of mercenaries, ruthless mercenaries that come from other countries and are enlisted by Gadhafi's forces to inflict extreme violence on men, women and children," Bouchard said.
"The recruiting of these mercenaries continues," he said. "There is a growing demand for their services which lends credibility to the fact that Gadhafi's forces are being affected by NATO's actions as well as defections of generals, policemen and even politicians."
The rebels, meanwhile, have treaded water since scoring early victories that led to their control of Cyrenaica in the west, and enclaves in Tripoli.
Today, there's "activity" on three fronts, in Brega in the east, and in Misrata and Jebel Nefoussa in the west. Gadhafi forces are "shooting blindly on civilians," Bouchard said.
"On the three fronts, we're seeing changes as anti-Gadhafi forces march forward to stop the attacks on the population," he added.
Gadhafi's regime this week accused NATO airstrikes on the village of Majer of killing 85 people, including women and children, south of the disputed city of Zliten.
"I can assure you that the target was a legitimate one that contained mercenaries, a command centre and 4x4 vehicles modified with automatic weapons, rocket launchers or mortars," Bouchard said.
"I cannot believe that 85 civilians were present when we struck in the wee hours of the morning and given our intelligence" on the target, he added.
"I can assure you that there wasn't 85 civilians present, but I cannot assure you that there were none at all."
"Frankly, I cannot say if there were any civilian deaths or how many," said the general, who accused Gadhafi forces of often leaving already dead corpses at military sites after they have been leveled by NATO airstrikes to make the bombings appear like blunders.
The NATO mission is due to wrap up in September unless it is extended by states participating in it, including Britain, Canada, France, Italy and the United States. Their governments are under increasing fiscal pressure to pull back.
And if the mission "Unified Protector" is not renewed? "It's just speculation," said Bouchard. "My goal is to bring this conflict to an end before the mission is over."

Denmark Extends Libya Mission

COPENHAGEN - Denmark decided Aug. 11 to extend its participation in NATO operations in Libya for three months and to allow the rebel National Transitional Council to send envoys to Copenhagen.
Denmark's multi-party Libya contact group announced at a news conference the Scandinavian country's six F-16 fighter jets would continue participating in NATO bombing missions over Libya for another three-month renewable period after the current one expires later this month.
"There is a broad agreement that the strategy we have chosen is the right one," Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen told AFP after the news conference.
She insisted that Denmark's participation in the NATO operations was creating a possibility for Libya to become a free and democratic society.
"But the pressure must remain on (Libyan leader Moammar) Gadhafi, so we will maintain our strategy, but adjust it so that it fits the developments of the past couple of months," she said, adding there were no plans to pull the Danish fighters out of Libya any time soon.
"We agree that Denmark must be patient and steadfast. We will continue both the military pressure on Gadhafi and our political efforts to find a political solution to the problems in Libya," Espersen told AFP.
The foreign minister added that Denmark was prepared to welcome envoys from the NTC as representatives of their country, after Copenhagen on Aug. 9 declared the two remaining Libyan diplomats appointed by the Gadhafi regime persona non grata.
"We have chosen to say that we are positively inclined to letting the National Transitional Council have a political representative in Denmark in order to have a partner for political dialogue so we are also able to ensure they move along the road of democracy," Espersen said.
She stressed the TNC had not yet applied for such a post, and it was not yet clear whether such a representative would be able to move into Libya's now empty embassy.
Other parties said they supported the strategy.
"I hope we soon see an end-date (for military operations), but that depends on when Gadhafi leaves the scene," Mogens Lykketoft, the foreign policy spokesman of the main opposition Social Democrats, told AFP.
The Socialist People's Party also agreed with the decision, and the party's defense spokesman Holger Nielsen told AFP that if the left-leaning opposition wins general elections - set to be held in Denmark no later than November - it would not shift the strategy.
"We have broad consensus among most political parties in parliament about this military mission, so I do not see any changes in the Danish policy towards Libya," he said.