Friday, November 4, 2011

India Unseals MMRCA Bids from Dassault, EADS

NEW DELHI - The Indian defense ministry unsealed bids by the final two competitors in the $10 billion Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition, but a final decision is up to two months away.
Top, a German Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon performs a flight demonstration during Aero India 2009. Bottom, a French Air Force Dassault Rafale performs at Aero India 2011. Eurofighter and Dassault are both competing in India’s MMRCA competition. (File photos / Agence France-Presse)
The bids will be evaluated for lowest life-cycle cost.
"The lowest bidder will be announced after six to eight weeks," ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar said.
The acquisition process is being kept secret to ensure transparency, said another ministry official.
Officials from neither Dassault, which is offering the Rafale, nor EADS, which is offering the Eurofighter, were available for comment.

EU, U.S. Conduct Cyber Attack Exercise

BRUSSELS - The EU and U.S. carried out their first joint exercise to test responses to cyber incidents, including cyber attacks, here Nov. 3 as experts simulated how authorities on both sides of the Atlantic would cooperate in response to attacks.
Sony PlayStation, the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, European Commission and European External Action Service have all been subject to cyber attacks in recent months.
Two hypothetical scenarios were tested during "Cyber Atlantic 2011": an attack that attempts to extract and publish sensitive online information from the EU's national cybersecurity agencies, and an attack on supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems in EU power-generation equipment.
Cyber Atlantic 2011 grew out of an EU-U.S. Working Group on Cybersecurity and Cyber Crime, which was established in November 2010 to tackle new threats to global networks. The initial findings of the exercise will be taken into account in the working group's report, which will be presented to the EU-U.S. summit later this year.
EU and U.S. leaders agreed to set up the working group at their summit in Lisbon, Portugal, last November. Four expert subgroups have been established to deal with four different subject areas: cyber incident management; public-private partnerships; awareness raising; and cyber crime.
"Recent high-profile cyber attacks show that global threats need global action. Today's exercise provides valuable lessons for specialists on both sides of the Atlantic," EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes said in a Nov. 3 press release

U.S. Army Receives First of Latest Apaches

MESA, Ariz. - Amid fanfare and after an Apache tribal blessing, the most lethal and technologically sophisticated attack helicopter in the world has been delivered to the U.S. Army by its Mesa manufacturer.
Named after the Native American tribe, the AH-64D Longbow Apache Block III is geared to meet next-generation battlefield challenges with high-tech gear such as sensors that allow pilots to guide unmanned aircraft to their targets, Army officials said Nov. 2.
"Our enemy is ruthless," said Maj. Gen. Anthony Crutchfield, commanding general of the Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, Ala. "They are determined. They are adaptive ... and we must be adaptive and innovative."
Crutchfield was among 500 Army officers and enlisted personnel, Boeing employees and international customers, and public officials who celebrated the delivery of the first five Block III Apaches during ceremonies at The Boeing Co. plant where the aircraft is made.
Although the festive event portrayed the helicopter's devastating power, White Mountain Apache Tribal Chairman Ronnie Lupe concentrated on its lifesaving ability as he blessed the helicopters in a spiritual ceremony.
Holding eagle feathers as white smoke from a nearby smoldering pot of sage dissipated in heavy wind gusts, Lupe and two other tribal members approached one of the helicopters, touching it with the feathers during the early morning ritual on an asphalt flight line.
"That prayer was to the creator for the warrior in hopes that the warrior would return," said Crutchfield, who is of Native American heritage.
Jerry Gloshay, Lupe's executive assistant, said the tribal leader views the aircraft as a "living bird that is sort of like the Apache warrior."
"He wants to have a blessing, not in the light of the helicopter being on the attack mode, but rather how it is going to protect the family's well-being in the future," he said.
Gloshay said Lupe, a Korean War veteran who served with the U.S. Marine Corps' 1st Division, blessed the original "A" model of the Apache helicopter when it was built in 1984.
The war, which began in 1950, gave birth to the Marines' first helicopter unit specifically formed for combat.
Public officials attending the ceremony talked of a different type of blessing from the continued production of the rotorcraft at The Boeing Co. plant.
"I like to say that Mesa is the epicenter of Boeing rotorcraft," Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said. "Apaches bring 4,500-plus employees to this site. ...We look forward to another 30 years of growth, accomplishment and pride."
The helicopters are being built under a $247 million deal with the Defense Department.
The first phase of production will lead to the manufacture of 690 of the Block III aircraft for the Army, which could extend production for nearly a decade or more, according to Boeing officials.
The Army plans to acquire the helicopters between now and 2026 at a production rate of about two battalions per year, according to the Army. Of this amount, 643 will be remanufactured aircraft and 56 will be new.
Since the first Apache, called the A model, was delivered, more than 1,700 various models of the rotorcraft have been manufactured for the Army and U.S. allied forces.

U.S. Reins in Drones Over Diplomatic Concerns

WASHINGTON - The U.S. spy agency has quietly tightened its rules on drone strikes in Pakistan over concerns about their impact on tense relations with Islamabad, the Wall Street Journal reported Nov. 3.
Pakistanis protest U.S. drone strikes on Oct. 28 in Islamabad, Pakistan. Concerned about strained relations between the U.S. and Pakistan, the CIA has tightened rules on drone strikes, according to the Wall Street Journal. (Aamir Qureshi / AFP via Getty Images)
The Journal, citing senior officials, said the new rules resulted from a behind-the-scenes battle between an aggressive Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. military and diplomatic officials concerned about relations with Pakistan.
A high-level review reaffirmed support for the drone program - which has killed hundreds of militants, including top commanders, in recent years - but established new rules to minimize the diplomatic blowback, the Journal said.
The changes reportedly include granting the State Department greater sway in strike decisions, giving Pakistani leaders advance warning of more operations and suspending operations when Pakistani officials visit the United States.
"It's not like they took the car keys away from the CIA," the Journal quoted a senior official as saying. "There are just more people in the car."
The Journal said the debate was sparked by a particularly deadly drone strike on March 17 that took place just one day after Pakistan agreed to release a CIA contractor who had killed two Pakistanis.
Tensions between the two allies escalated throughout the spring, climaxing in May with the killing of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in a secret U.S. commando raid carried out without Islamabad's knowledge.
At issue in the debate over drones were so-called "signature strikes," in which unmanned drones fire on groups of suspected militants without necessarily knowing all their identities.
These strikes, which make up the bulk of operations, are seen as more controversial than "personality" strikes, which target alleged top militants, the Journal said.
U.S. officials do not publicly discuss the drone program, but they claim to have substantially weakened al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan in recent months by taking out top leaders.
Pakistan has criticized the program, however, saying it inflames anti-American sentiment and extremism by killing scores of civilians.

Libya Pledges To Destroy Chemical Weapons

THE HAGUE, Netherlands - Libya's National Transitional Council has pledged to continue with the previous regime's program of destroying its chemical weapons stockpiles, an international monitoring group said Nov. 4.
"The new authorities inherited the obligations of the old regime as a state party to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons," the organization's spokesman Michael Luhan said at its headquarters in The Hague.
"The new authorities accepted this heritage," he told AFP.
Slain leader Moammar Gadhafi's regime joined the OPCW in 2004, but it had yet to destroy 11.5 tons of mustard gas - representing 45 percent of its initial stock - when the rebellion that toppled him was launched in mid-February.
"The destruction facility malfunctioned in February, so when destruction resumes will depend on when the facility is repaired," Luhan said but stressed that the NTC should destroy all chemical weapons by April 29, 2012.
Libya destroyed its total stockpile of 3,500 munitions - including bombs, shells and missiles that could be used to deliver chemical weapons such as mustard gas - shortly after joining the convention in 2004, the OPCW said.
Mustard gas causes serious chemical burns in the eyes, on the skin and in the lungs.
The new Libyan authorities also told the OPCW on Nov. 1 that further stocks of what were believed to be chemical weapons had been found, but the find needed to be verified.
The NTC declared "total liberation" in Libya on Oct. 23, three days after Gadhafi's death following his capture.
Libyan academic Abdel Rahim al-Kib has been charged to form a interim government by Nov. 23, tasked with disarming the country and getting its economy back on its feet.

Pakistan Clandestinely Moving Its Nukes: Report

WASHINGTON - Pakistan has started moving its nuclear weapons in low-security vans on congested roads to hide them from U.S. spy agencies, making the weapons more vulnerable to theft by Islamist militants, two magazines reported Nov. 4.
The Atlantic and National Journal, in a joint report citing unnamed sources, wrote that the U.S. raid on May 2 that killed al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden at his Pakistani compound reinforced Islamabad's longstanding fears that Washington could try to dismantle the country's nuclear arsenal.
As a result the head of the Strategic Plans Divisions (SPD), which is charged with safeguarding Pakistan's atomic weapons, was ordered to take action to keep the location of nuclear weapons and components hidden from the United States, the report said.
Khalid Kidwai, the retired general who leads SPD, expanded his agency's efforts to disperse components and sensitive materials to different facilities, it said.
But instead of transporting the nuclear parts in armored, well-defended convoys, the atomic bombs "capable of destroying entire cities are transported in delivery vans on congested and dangerous roads," according to the report.
The pace of the dispersal movements has increased, raising concerns at the Pentagon, it said.
Pakistan has long insisted its nuclear arsenal is safe and the article quotes an unnamed official from the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency saying: "Of all things in the world to worry about, the issue you should worry about the least is the safety of our nuclear program."
The Pentagon declined to comment on the article but a senior U.S. military official told reporters in Washington that the United States remains confident Pakistan's nuclear weapons are secure.
"I believe the Pakistan military arsenal is safe at this time, well guarded, well defended," said the military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The article, based on dozens of interviews, said the U.S. military has long had a contingency plan in place to disable Pakistan's nuclear weapons in the event of a coup or other worst-case scenario.
U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) has for years trained for a potential "disablement campaign" that its forces would lead and that would require entering more than a dozen nuclear sites and seizing or defusing atomic weapons, it said.
The operation would use sensitive radiological detection devices that can pick up trace amounts of atomic material, and JSOC has even built mock Pashtun villages with hidden mock nuclear-storage depots at a site on the East Coast to train elite Navy SEAL and Delta Force commandos, the report said.
Although Pakistan has suggested it might shift towards China and forsake its ties to Washington, Chinese officials have reached an understanding in secret talks with U.S. representatives that Beijing would raise no objections if the United States opted to secure Pakistan's nuclear weapons, said the report, citing unnamed U.S. sources.