Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Despite Sales Drop, France 4th Largest Exporter

PARIS - French arms export orders fell in 2010, but the country held its ranking as the world's fourth-largest exporter, an annual report on foreign defense sales to parliament said Oct. 26.
Exports declined to 5.12 billion euros ($7.12 billion) in 2010 from 8.16 billion euros in the previous year, according to the report.
The foreign sales were secured in a "difficult climate and in an extremely volatile context," a Defense Ministry spokesman, Army Gen. Philippe Ponties, told journalists.
Exports are seen as vital to French defense industry and the government, as the domestic budget is expected to fall sharply as part of deficit reduction plans.
A major objective next year is to pursue at a New York conference an international treaty on arms sales, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero.
France held a 6 percent share of the world market based on an annual average of deliveries, behind the United States, which dominates with a 53.7 percent share, Britain with 12.5 percent, and Russia with 8.2 percent, the report said.
The world market was estimated at 60 billion to 70 billion euros in annual sales, Ponties said.
Major deals sealed last year included a sale of the A330 multirole tanker transport aircraft to Saudi Arabia, Cougar helicopters to Malaysia, and the upgrade of Alphajet trainer jets for Morocco.
This year, France sold two Mistral-class command and projection ships to Russia, and signed a long-awaited contract to modernize Mirage 2000 fighter jets for the Indian Air Force.
Winning a big contract for 60 Rafale fighter jets with the United Arab Emirates has proved elusive, as the UAE balked at an initial $10 billion price tag.
Defense Minister GĂ©rard Longuet said Paris is in "final negotiations" with the UAE on the Rafales, but there has been no comment from UAE authorities.
Paris supports foreign arms sales, which are seen as a key foreign policy tool, helping France hold its place at the top in international affairs, Ponties said.
The sales are conducted under a strict export control regime, he said.
The foreign contracts also are seen as vital to maintaining the country's defense industry and technology base and supporting 135,000 directly employed in the domestic economy, he said.

$24M Awarded to Find Cause of F-22 Oxygen Problem

Lockheed Martin has been awarded an F-22 Raptor sustainment contract for $24 million to find the root cause of the fifth generation air superiority fighter's oxygen system among other things.
The company "is being awarded a $24,363,993 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for the F-22 Program to provide sustaining engineering and depot partnering task associated with non-destructive inspection organic capability, hypoxia root cause analysis, titanium crack growth, site activation, slider seals, and radar cross section turntable," reads a Defense Department contract announcement posted on
The release was issued on Oct. 26.

Germany Wavers Over Sub Sale to Israel: Report

JERUSALEM - Germany is reconsidering its sale of a sixth submarine to Israel in the wake of new tensions over Jewish settlement construction, an Israeli newspaper reported Oct. 26.
Yediot Aharonot said Berlin was rethinking the deal because of German frustration over Israel's decision to approve new settlement building in annexed east Jerusalem, which has raised tensions between the two countries.
The Israeli daily, citing unnamed "high-ranking officials," said the deal had been jeopardized by fraying relations between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Merkel was reported to have strongly criticized the Israeli premier during a telephone call last month, saying she had "absolutely no understanding" of Israel's decision to increase settlement building in east Jerusalem.
Speaking to Israeli public radio Oct. 26, Defence Ministry Director General Udi Shani declined to confirm or deny the reported problems with the submarine deal.
"It's a very complicated, very sensitive file that is under discussion. There are many parameters that have to be taken into account," he said.
There have been conflicting reports about whether Israel even wants to buy a sixth Dolphin-class submarine from Germany.
The Israeli navy currently has three Dolphin-class submarines, two of which were bought after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Two others are on order from Germany and being built at the Kiel shipyard. They are due for delivery in 2012.
Media reports have said the submarines can carry nuclear warheads and have an operating range of 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles).
In July 2010, the Defense Ministry denied that Israel was looking to purchase a sixth submarine, after media reports said Berlin had rejected an Israeli request for subsidies for the sale.

New Missile Craft for Egypt Delivered

The first of four new fast missile craft for Egypt was dedicated Oct. 25 at a shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., and the ship's name was announced.
The S. Ezzat is named after Soliman Ezzat, the admiral who founded and led the modern Egyptian Navy from 1953 to 1967, shipbuilder VT Halter Marine said in a press release.
Construction of the ship began in a newly built fabrication facility at VT Halter in November 2009 under a U.S. Navy Foreign Military Sales program managed by the U.S. Navy's Naval Sea Systems Command.
The original contract for the program was awarded to VT Halter in November 2005. Since then, the U.S. has awarded the shipbuilder more than $800 million for the ships.
Also known as the Ambassador III class, the stealthy, 550-ton ships are 207 feet long. They are powered by three MTU diesels and designed for a top speed of 41 knots. The ships are armed with eight Harpoon surface-to-surface missiles and an OTO Melara 3-inch gun, with self-defense provided by a Rolling Airframe Missile launcher and a Close-In Weapon System Block 1B. They are designed to operate at sea for up to eight days.
The Egyptian Navy operates several classes of fast missile ships, built in the Soviet Union, Germany and Britain, but the last was delivered in 1982.
The Ezzat is expected to leave Mississippi for Egypt during 2012.
Construction continues on the other three ships: F. Zekry, M. Fahmy and A. Gad. The last ship is contracted for delivery in December 2013.

Qatar Admits It Had Boots on Ground in Libya

DOHA - Qatar revealed for the first time Oct. 26 that hundreds of its soldiers had joined Libyan rebel forces on the ground as they battled troops of veteran leader Moammar Gadhafi.
"We were among them and the numbers of Qataris on the ground were hundreds in every region," said Qatari chief of staff Maj. Gen. Hamad bin Ali Al-Atiya.
The announcement marks the first time that Qatar has acknowledged it had military boots on the ground in Libya.
Previously, the country said it had only lent the support of its air force to NATO-led operations to protect civilians during the eight-month uprising, which ended when Gadhafi was captured and killed last week.
Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of military allies of Libya's National Transitional Council, Atiya said the Qataris had been "running the training and communication operations."
"Qatar had supervised the rebels' plans because they are civilians and did not have enough military experience. We acted as the link between the rebels and NATO forces," he said.
Libya's interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil told the meeting that Qatar had been "a major partner in all the battles we fought."
He added that the Qataris had "planned" the battles which paved the way for NTC fighters to gradually take over Gadhafi-held towns and cities.
Atiya also said that after the departure of NATO troops, a new international coalition led by Qatar would oversee "military training, collecting weapons, and integrating the rebels in newly established military institutions."
The coalition, named as the "Friends Committee in Support of Libya" and which held its first meeting in Doha on Oct. 26, is made up of 13 countries including the U.S., Britain and France, Atiya said.
Abdel Jalil, meanwhile, urged NATO to continue its Libya campaign until year's end, saying Gadhafi loyalists still posed a threat to the country.

Panetta Pledges 'Nuclear Umbrella' for S. Korea

SEOUL - U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pledged Oct. 26 to preserve a "nuclear umbrella" protecting South Korea, a day after the U.S. held talks with Seoul's hostile neighbor North Korea.
"I've come here because, in many ways, this is the front line," Panetta told some 300 U.S. troops at the Yongsan base in Seoul. "Six decades later [after the 1950-1953 Korean War], the U.S. remains fully committed to the security of South Korea," he said.
Some 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in the South. Cross-border tensions have been high for the past year, after the South accused the North of mounting two border attacks in 2010 that killed a total of 50 South Koreans.
The U.S. withdrew atomic weapons from the South almost 20 years ago but guarantees to provide a nuclear deterrent to any nuclear attack on it.
Panetta, who is on the last leg of a tour which also took him to Indonesia and Japan, emphasized the U.S. defense commitment despite a flurry of diplomacy designed to revive six-nation talks on the North's nuclear disarmament.
U.S. and North Korean officials held talks Oct. 24 and 25 in Geneva to try to set terms for a resumption of the negotiations, their second such meeting in three months.
Chief U.S. envoy Stephen Bosworth described the talks as "very positive" but cautioned that not all differences could be quickly overcome.
The North quit the six-party forum in April 2009, a month before staging its second atomic weapons test.
It has since repeatedly said it wants to return without preconditions to the negotiations grouping the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.
Washington and its allies say it must first take action to show its sincerity, such as shutting down a uranium enrichment plant that could be converted to make nuclear weapons.
China, which has held the talks since 2003, sent Vice Premier Li Keqiang to North and South Korea this week to try to restart them.
Li met the North's leader Kim Jong-Il in Pyongyang and held talks Oct. 26 with the South's president, Lee Myung-bak.
"I told Chairman Kim several times that it is important to realize denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and protect peace and stability," Lee's office quoted the vice premier as saying.
Lee told his guest that he hopes China - which is the North's closest ally but the South's biggest trading partner - "will continue to play an important role in denuclearizing the Korean peninsula and leading North Korea to reform and openness."
Panetta, in an article in Chosun Ilbo newspaper Oct. 26, said the U.S. and South Korean military "stand prepared to defeat the North should it ever force war upon us.
"It is important to send this signal because North Korea remains a serious threat. Pyongyang has demonstrated its willingness to conduct provocations that target innocent lives," he wrote.
Panetta said the U.S. and South Korea are developing capabilities to address the North's ballistic missile threats, and strengthening operational planning.
In addition, the U.S. "will ensure a strong and effective nuclear umbrella over the ROK [South Korea] so that Pyongyang never misjudges our will and capability to respond decisively to nuclear aggression."
The defense secretary during his three-day visit will stress the two countries' capability to deter provocations and to defeat the North if deterrence fails, said a senior official traveling with Panetta.
"Our experience is that our North Korean friends go through cycles of diplomatic engagement and provocation. We need to be prepared for how that cycle may play itself out in the next turn," the official said.

Taiwan Urges Better South China Sea Defense

TAIPEI - Taiwan's security chief called Oct. 26 for improved defenses of a group of islands in the South China Sea, reacting to reports that rival claimants to the disputed waters are building up arms.
"The Spratly Islands are our territory ... We should upgrade our defense capabilities and replace some aging equipment," Tsai De-sheng, head of the national security bureau, said in parliament.
Tsai's comments came after defense minister Kao Hua-chu endorsed a plan proposed by lawmakers to deploy advanced missiles in the contested waters over concerns that Taiwan's coast guards were vulnerable.
The Taiwanese coast guard currently has a 130-strong garrison on Taiping, the biggest island in the Spratlys archipelago.
Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, China, Malaysia and the Philippines claim all or part of the Spratlys, which could lie on top of large oil reserves.
All claimants except Brunei have troops based on the archipelago of more than 100 islets, reefs and atolls, which have a total land mass of less than five square kilometers (two square miles).
Taiwan's navy in July took a group of academics to the disputed islands despite a flare-up of regional tensions over rival claims for the contested waters.
Tensions in the decades-old dispute escalated this year amid accusations from the Philippines and Vietnam that China was becoming increasingly aggressive in staking its claims.