Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Secret Pakistan BBC

U.S. Air Force To Upgrade 300 F-16s

The U.S. Air Force will upgrade between 300 and 350 F-16C Block 40 and 50 fighters with new avionics and increased airframe life, a three-star general said before Congress.
Testifying Nov. 2, Lt. Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle, Air Force deputy chief for operations, plans and requirements, also said the service doesn't have enough trained UAV pilots, and that the U-2 isn't quite ready for retirement.
"You hear an announcement fairly quickly from the United States Air Force, we're going to [service life extension program (SLEP)] and avionics modernize probably in the vicinity 300 to 350 F-16s,".
That number could climb to 600 aircraft, Carlisle said, but it is not likely the Air Force will have to upgrade so many jets.
The modernized jets will be crucial to maintaining the Air National Guard (ANG) and Air Force Reserve fighter force. It will also help maintain the Air Force's dwindling arsenal of tactical fighters before the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) becomes operational.
Although the service doesn't yet know when the F-35 will become operational, the aircraft will likely miss the current projected date of 2016. The aircraft will likely become fully operational in 2018, Carlisle said, but the service is not naming an official date until the new master schedule is complete.
There is money in fiscal 2012 budget to develop a modernization program for the F-16, Carlisle said. The Air Force will start developing the avionics modernization plan soon, he said.
Maj. Gen. Jay Lindell, Air Force director of global power programs, said the airframe life of the F-16 would be increased from 8,000 to "at least" 10,000 hours. That would afford the Air Force eight more years of operations using the old aircraft, he said.
"We're looking at capability through the next decade, which would be through 2030," Lindell said.
Each plane would cost $9.4 million, he said, so the Air Force wants to get its money's worth.
The scope of the modernization plan for the F-16 fleet and the fielding of the stealthy new F-35 depends on the forthcoming integrated master schedule for the new jet, Carlisle said. The F-35 will be fielded to ANG units, starting with the Vermont ANG, he said.
With the upgrades, the F-16 could be serving for decades to come.
The Navy and Marine Corps are also working on extending the life of 150 of their F/A-18 Hornets, said Marine Lt. Gen. Terry Robling, the U.S. Marine Corps' deputy commandant for aviation. The upgraded F/A-18s are slated to hold the sea services over until the F-35 becomes operational.
Pilots for UAVs
In his testimony, Carlisle said the Air Force doesn't have enough pilots for its growing fleet of drones. He said the service was on its sixth surge for providing Predator and Reaper combat air patrols (CAPs). But to attain the required 60 CAPs, the Air Force has had to press instructor pilots into active service and shut down its elite Weapons School course for the unmanned planes, he said.
"Our issue today is our ability to train our sensor operators and pilots," Carlisle said.
The Air Force will likely have to ratchet down the number of CAPs to reconstitute its ability to train and field new unmanned aircraft pilots, he said. The community has grown quickly; it is now the single largest group of aviators in the service.
Reconstituting the training force and rebuilding the expertise at the Weapons School will take about a year, Carlisle said. Once the Air Force can rebuild its schoolhouses, the Air Force can get back on track to fielding 65 CAPs as required by the forces deployed in combat.
No Retirement for U-2
Of the Air Force's U-2 spy planes, Carlisle said the Air Force won't be retiring them until a technical shortcoming with the RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude unmanned aircraft is resolved.
Although the Air Force plans to replace the venerable U-2 with the new unmanned aircraft, the Global Hawk's sensors are still not capable of measuring up to the standards set by the five-decade old Dragon Lady.
"The Global Hawk, the RQ-4, will be the replacement," Carlisle said. "It is not there yet. The sensors suite is not there. It cannot match what the U-2 does."
There is a high-altitude transition team, but the U-2 will be maintained until the Global Hawk can match the older plane. With the sensors on the Block 40 Global Hawk, the unmanned plane will "start to get close to that," Carlisle said.
The U-2 will be around through 2014 and 2015, but the Global Hawk should be able to start matching its capabilities by then, he said.

F 35 Sea Trials

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U.S. Ready To Sell F-35 to India: Pentagon

WASHINGTON - The U.S. would be prepared to sell India the new F-35 fighter jet, the Pentagon said Wednesday, after New Delhi rejected a U.S. offer of older aircraft in a major competition this year.
In a report to Congress on U.S. defense ties with India, the Pentagon said India was a vital partner and that Washington wanted to bolster security cooperation with New Delhi, including joint exercises and high-tech arms sales.
In the first round of a contest for a combat aircraft contract, India in April shortlisted France's Dassault and the European Eurofighter consortium while rejecting the U.S. offer of F-16 and F-18 jets.
"Despite this setback, we believe US aircraft, such as the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), to be the best in the world," said the Pentagon report, referring to the radar-evading F-35 jet.
"Should India indicate interest in the JSF, the United States would be prepared to provide information on the JSF and its requirements ... to support India's future planning," it said.
Mindful of China's rise and growing military reach, President Barack Obama has placed a high priority on deepening ties with India.
The U.S.-India defense relationship has expanded rapidly over the past decade and the administration sees India as a natural partner and global "player," Robert Scher, deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia, told reporters.
India has made no request for more information on the F-35, but the U.S. invitation was "an example of the high regard that we hold India's military modernization," Scher said.
In the April contest for a new multirole fighter for India, Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon beat out U.S. aerospace giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin, as well as Sweden's Saab AB and the Russian makers of the MiG 35.
The U.S. report noted that India is working with Russia on developing a fifth-generation fighter aircraft.
The Pentagon touts the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as the premier fifth-generation fighter equipped with stealth technology, but the program faces rising costs, with a price tag of nearly $150 million each.
The two U.S. senators who asked the Defense Department for the report welcomed the document but said Washington needed to work to expand its security relationship with India.
"While the report shows that tremendous progress has been made in military-to-military relations over the past ten years, we believe that there is much more that can be done," Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said in a statement.

New Bomber Won't Be Nuclear-Capable at First: USAF Chief

The U.S. Air Force's top uniformed officer said the service's new Long Range Strike bomber will be built with nuclear capability but will operate as a conventional strike aircraft initially.
Testifying before Congress on Nov. 2, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said deferring the new aircraft's nuclear certification until the B-52 and B-2 bombers start to retire would help the service manage costs.
"The reason is that we're trying to control costs," Schwartz said.
Testing for the nuclear role is much more elaborate than testing for conventional weapons.
Nonetheless, "the airplane will be dual-capable," Schwartz said.
Schwartz reiterated that the aircraft will be designed and built with all the hardware for both the nuclear and conventional missions from the outset.
"This will not be backed in later," he said.
At least for the time being, the service's Air Combat Command (ACC) is the lead command for developing the new bomber, Schwartz said. That is because ACC has the capability and expertise to build requirement.
The Global Strike Command is still not fully up to speed, Schwartz said. Eventually, however, the command might take over the program, he said.
For the nuclear mission, Schwartz appealed to the congressional committee to ask the Department of Energy to modernize and upgrade the B-61 nuclear bomb.
During the rest of his testimony, Schwartz reiterated that defense cuts beyond the current $450 billion would seriously damage the U.S. Air Force. Already, he said, the service is looking at divesting itself of "hundreds" of aircraft.
Entire fleets, including the entire logistical train, may have to be removed if further cuts are made, Schwartz said.
Lt. Gen. Herbert Carlisle mirrored those sentiments later in the afternoon during his testimony.
Schwartz also stressed the importance of the KC-46 tanker, F-35 fighter and the new bomber. However, this time, he added the MQ-9 Reaper to his three priority programs.
Cyberwarfare is the only area in which the Air Force or Defense Department forces might expand, Schwartz added.

Finland Weighs Surface-to-Surface Missile Options

HELSINKI - Finland's armed forces are examining costs and needs for surface-to-surface tactical missiles (SSMs) as part of the Army's $60 million SSM modernization program, which centers on purchasing new ordnance for guided rocket launchers and 155mm artillery systems.
The main focus is on advancing a procurement solution that will add new strength to the Army's battlefield weapons arsenal, and that can guarantee economy of purchase and deployment. The Finnish military's armory includes the M270 armored and self-propelled multiple-launch rocket system (local designation: 298 RsRakH 06), Euro-Spike anti-tank missiles and Czech-produced RM-70 multiple rocket launcher (local designation: 122 RakH 89).
The SSMs being considered would be launched from heavy rocket launchers. The SSM type review and inspection process is expected to continue into 2013, with a decision on whether to purchase in 2014 or 2015.
A big component of the SSM project would be upgrades to the rocket launchers' computer software support programs, which would enable launchers to use new types of modern ordnance with a range of 200 to 300 kilometers.
The Finnish armed forces have engaged in several notable and capital-intensive strategic defense programs since 2008. In 2009, the Ministry of Defence approved a $700 million budget to cover the cost of a new Norwegian Advanced Air-to-Surface Missile air defense and radar platform supplied by Norway's Kongsberg and the U.S.'s Raytheon.

Israel Tests Rocket Amid Talk of Strike on Iran

JERUSALEM - Israel on Nov. 2 successfully tested what local media called a "ballistic missile" as speculation in the Jewish state grew over the possibility of an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.
A Defence Ministry official called the launch a "test firing of the rocket-propulsion system," which he said had long been scheduled. He did not give further details.
Haaretz newspaper, which, like public radio, described the weapon as a ballistic missile, quoted the ministry as saying the test was unrelated to a report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was seeking cabinet support for a pre-emptive strike on Iran.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak praised the engineers and technicians behind the launch.
"This is an impressive technological achievement and an important step in Israel's progress in the area of missiles and space," he said in a statement before leaving on a visit to Britain.
Public radio reported the test was carried out at the Palmachim military base, south of Tel Aviv.
Citing foreign defense analysts, the radio said the system is capable of firing ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads.
The test came as local media speculation grew about the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran.
Reports said a strike is opposed by a number of cabinet ministers and by the heads of the army and the intelligence services.
Barak on Oct. 31 was forced to deny media reports that he and Netanyahu had already decided to launch an attack against Iran over those objections.
Barak appeared to suggest in remarks to parliament Nov. 1 that Israel could be forced to act alone against Iran.
"A situation could be created in the Middle East in which Israel must defend its vital interests in an independent fashion, without necessarily having to reply on other forces, regional or otherwise," he said.
Haaretz said no decision had yet been taken on any military strike, and that a Nov. 8 report from the International Atomic Energy Agency nuclear watchdog would have a "decisive effect" on the decision-making process.
The newspaper also cited western specialists as saying any attack on Iran during the winter would be almost impossible because of thick cloud cover, raising questions about when any military action might be launched.
Israel and western governments fear that Iran's civil nuclear program masks a drive for an atomic weapon.
Iran denies any such ambition and insists its nuclear program is for power generation and medical purposes only.
In January 2008, Israel successfully test-fired a long-range ballistic missile, days after warning "all options" were open to prevent Iran from obtaining an atomic weapon.
Israel is thought to be developing a Jericho-3 ground-to-ground missile that can be equipped with a nuclear, chemical or biological warhead and could have a range of up to 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles).
It is widely considered to be the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear power, with an estimated arsenal of 200 warheads.
In September, Newsweek magazine reported that Washington had secretly authorized the sale of 55 powerful bunker-busting bombs to Israel, although U.S. officials declined to comment on the report.
The 2,000-pound bombs are designed to destroy targets buried deep underground and could be used to strike well-protected Iranian nuclear facilities.