Thursday, November 10, 2011

Air-Sea Battle Office a Nexus of Networking

The complexities of modern warfare offer a bewildering array of threats, countered by an increasing and sometimes disparate list of countermeasures. Military commanders seeking to thwart an enemy's moves may not be aware of the full range of options, leaving gaps in their defenses even when an effective counter may be available elsewhere.
The Pentagon officially announced the creation of the Air-Sea Battle Office in a Nov. 9 press release. (File photo / U.S. Air Force)
Helping commanders fill those gaps with assets they may not otherwise know they had is one of the prime missions of a new, very small, yet potentially very influential office in the Pentagon, the Air-Sea Battle Office (ASBO).
Although created on Aug. 12, the Pentagon officially announced the office's creation with a Nov. 9 press release. The small group, with a core of about 12 to 15 officers, is drawn from the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.
Its charter is to examine the full range of threats to the United States, from more traditional air, sea and land-based threats to space and the cyber environment. ASBO is also, according to defense officials, about assuring the ability to move into contested areas and clear them of a threat - also known as anti-access, area denial capabilities.
"It's about access and freedom of action and making sure you have enough of what you need to get after your goals and protect and preserve your vital assets," one defense official said Wednesday at a press background briefing.
The Pentagon stressed that the office is "not about a specific actor, not about a specific regime." Officials resisted efforts by reporters to link the effort to China's rising capabilities.
"We're talking about taking our current state to a higher level," said one defense official.
"Air-Sea Battle represents change," the official said. "Three dimensions of change - institutional, conceptional and material."
Broadly, a Pentagon official agreed, the concept is a highly classified clearinghouse, set up to consider a wide range of current and potential threats. ASBO is charged with gaining familiarity with a vast number of capabilities and potential responses already available in the military, and matching them with threats.
"This is not about telling the combatant commanders to do their job," a defense official stressed. "It's about maintaining a military advantage to operate in the global commons."
A key priority for the office, a defense official said, is "to develop air and naval forces that are integrated."
The Army, for the time being, is not a significant player in the ASBO construct, although one officer is assigned to the group. Officials stressed that the office will evolve and mature, and will not be tied to a specific doctrine or set of responses.
"There is a nearly limitless number of things we can look at to challenge integration," one defense official said.
A report on the group's efforts will be issued, defense officials said, but "the report is not the end state."
Pentagon officials stressed the group has top-level support and will establish "an enduring relationship."
"They're actually very serious about this," an official said.

India Presses Russians on Smerch Problems

NEW DELHI - India is pressing Russia about Smerch multibarrel rocket launchers (MRBLs) that Indian Army officials say have problems with their firing system. The Army is also having difficulties obtaining spare parts for the Russian-built weapons.
An Indian delegation raised the matters last month at a joint meeting in Moscow, Defence Ministry sources said. The outcome of the meeting was not known.
A Russian diplomat here said the firing system problems occur only in isolated cases, and noted that the Army had tested the weapons before bringing them into service.
The Indian Army needs more Smerches, despite the technical problem, an Army official said.
India bought the Smerch in 2005 and 2006. New Delhi asked for technology transfer, but Russia refused.
The Army relies heavily on the Smerch MRBLs, which can fire 12 rockets at once and hit targets out to 70 kilometers, along with the Russian-origin Grad 122mm rocket systems and indigenous Pinaka MRBL.
Its range can be extended to 90 kilometers, the Army official said. It can also launch surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles, he added.

Chemical Weapons Inspectors to Return to Libya

UNITED NATIONS - International weapons inspectors will visit Libya within weeks to check new secret chemical arms stockpiles found since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi, a weapons treaty spokesman said Nov. 10.
"Eyes in the sky" are watching over the security of the caches which Libya's National Transitional Council reported to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said its spokesman Michael Luhan.
Inspectors went to Libya last week to check the safety of the stockpile that Gadhafi revealed in 2004 after his country signed the treaty which orders a global ban on chemical weapons.
Luhan said the weapons base at Ruwagha in the Libyan desert was "in order."
"Those stockpiles remain in place. There had been no tampering, no diversions despite the emergency and the insecurity."
The Libyan authorities must now make a new declaration about the new caches.
"They have provided general descriptive information of what is there," Luhan told AFP.
Luhan said the OPCW hoped to carry out a new visit "in the next three or four weeks."
"We also hope to keep a small group of inspectors on the ground, to liaise with the government on security arrangements."
Canada, the United States and Britain have offered technical assistance to Libya with the destruction of the weapons.
Countries in the chemical weapons treaty "have had different kinds of forces on the ground and they have been focused on certain things such as keeping eyes in the sky on the chemical weapons out on the desert, making sure there is a semblance of security," Luhan said.
After the stockpiles have been assessed, the OPCW will set the Libyan government a deadline to complete destruction of the stockpile.
Luhan praised the NTC for having "proactively and very quickly brought the existence of these two undisclosed stockpiles to the attention of the international community."
The OPCW "will set what we feel would be a reasonable deadline, to keep pressure on the government to address this but also give enough latitude as it is becoming a new government," the spokesman said.
At the Ruwagha facility in southeast Libya, the Gadhafi government declared 25 tons of liquid sulfur mustard gas, 1,400 tons of precursor chemicals intended for use as nerve agents and 3,500 unfilled aerial bombs designed to carry the chemical weapons.

Germany Plans Major Afghanistan Troop Reduction

BERLIN - Germany is planning a major cut in its military forces in Afghanistan next year, according to a government document seen by AFP on Nov. 10.
Under the plan, the current force, up to 5,350-strong, will be reduced to 4,900 in February, with a further 500 soldiers leaving the country by early 2013.
The plan was outlined by German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in a letter to parliamentary groups, obtained by AFP.
Behind the decision, it said, was the "current and forecasted security situation", as well as the state of training of Afghan security forces. Germany, which has the third biggest force in Afghanistan behind the United States and Britain, said at the start of the year that it aimed to begin pulling its military forces out, eyeing 2014 for complete withdrawal.
Polls have shown the mission, the first major Bundeswehr deployment outside of Europe since World War II, has been consistently unpopular in the country.

Lockheed Martin Unveils Australian Cyber Lab

CANBERRA - Lockheed Martin has unveiled its latest NexGen Cyber Innovation and Technology Centre (NCITE) facility in Canberra, joining existing sites in the United States and United Kingdom.
The 10 million-Australian dollar ($10.38 million) center, known as NCITE AU, occupies a reconfigurable, 900-square-meter area of the company's new headquarters in the nation's capital. When fully operational, about 200 people will work in the facility.
The official opening will occur in March, when the center will reach full operational capability. The company said it will link with the other two labs and bring together leading technologies and talent in a secure environment.
"The investment in the NCITE AU demonstrates Lockheed Martin's long-term commitment to Australia and the desire to serve its national security requirements." said Raydon Gates, chief executive of Lockheed Martin Australia.
"It will provide us with a base to service customer needs in both the civil and military markets, along with a platform to leverage industry partner and Lockheed Martin technologies to create rapid prototypes to speed innovation of solution delivery, while providing seamless advanced cybersecurity," he said.
"Networks and platforms must be defended against breaches," added Curt Aubley, Lockheed's vice president and chief technology officer of cybersecurity and NexGen Innovation. "By building trust and resilience in the systems we build and use for ourselves, Lockheed Martin and its industry partners can assure our customers that we have the capabilities and technology to do the same for them."
According to Aubley, the facility will also be part of a Global Cyber Innovation Range.
"We will be able to conduct offensive and defensive control testing and wildfire work on the Internet," he said. "It is a separate network where we can train offensive versus defensive, so we can rapidly learn in a safe and secure environment."
It will operate three private and one public computing clouds and operate to a secret level, Aubley said.
Lockheed also is considering incorporating a Systems Intelligence center in the facility in the future.
Other NCITE facilities, together with Systems Intelligence centers, are located in Gaithersburg, Md., and Ampthill, U.K.
The company also announced the imminent formation of what is tentatively known as the Global Innovation Alliance to harness the resources of leading technology providers in Australia. Inaugural members of the alliance will include Australian National University (ANU) Edge, Computer Associates, Dell, Glasswall Solutions, Hewlett-Packard, McAfee, Quintessence Labs, Schneider Electric and Taskey. Other organizations also are reportedly interested.
"By bringing the combined strengths of leading universities such as the ANU together with industry partners to address the challenge of cybersecurity, we can accelerate the development of effective solutions to growing threats without boundaries or limitations," said ANU Edge Professor Mick Cardrew-Hall, speaking on behalf of Canberra-based IT service providers.
"To defend against advanced persistent threats, we need to build effective security ecosystems based on collaboration, knowledge sharing and the rapid uptake of best practices," he said.
Cyberspace threats were recently added to consultative arrangements within the Australia, New Zealand, United States Treaty and the Australian government is fast-tracking a cybersecurity white paper, that was flagged in the defense white paper of 2009.

China's PLA Involved in Cyber Espionage: Report

TAIPEI - For the first time, a new report details China's signals intelligence (SIGINT) organization, including what role the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has in cyber intelligence collection.
The report, "The Chinese People's Liberation Army Signal Intelligence and Cyber Reconnaissance Infrastructure," by Mark Stokes and Jenny Lin of the Project 2049 Institute, Arlington, Va., provides the first overview of the PLA General Staff Department's Third Department, China's premier cryptologic service responsible for signals and cyber intelligence collection.
The Third Department is comparable to the U.S. National Security Agency and appears to be diversifying its traditional SIGINT mission to include cyber surveillance, also known as computer network exploitation (CNE), the report said.
The Third Department's Seventh Bureau (61580 Unit) is responsible for CNE. Headquartered in Beijing, the bureau's engineers specialize in computer network defense and attack, and have conducted joint studies with the PLA Information Engineering Academy Computer Network Attack and Defense Section. The bureau has been known to conduct research outlining U.S. network-centric warfare and dense wavelength-division multiplexing.
CNE also is conducted by the Technical Reconnaissance Bureaus (TRB), Stokes said: "A senior engineer from the Hainan office was granted awards for network-related work, including possible surveillance of Voice over Internet Protocol."
The Chengdu Military Region's 1st Technical Reconnaissance Bureau also may be involved in cyber surveillance.
The degree of control that the Third Department exercises over the Technical Reconnaissance Bureau bureaucracies of the country's seven military regions is unknown, but Third Department's resources dedicated to high-performance computing and its large arsenal of skilled linguists could comprise China's cryptologic "A-Team."
"The combination of SIGINT and CNE, for example, fusing transcripts of phone conversations with intercepted email exchanges, would enable a powerful understanding of plans, capabilities, and activities of an organization or individual in near real time," Stokes said.
China could be cracking down on its own cyber warfare activities. Lt. Gen. Wu Guohua, who directed the Third Department from 2005 to 2010, allegedly was transferred out due to unauthorized cyber attacks.
"If true, it appears that senior civilian leaders could have some understanding of the political damage caused by overt, hostile network penetration," Stokes said.
Another possible reason for the dismissal could be that the Third Department overstepped its area of responsibility. It is possible the PLA has consolidated computer and network attack missions with electronic warfare into an "integrated Network electronic warfare" activity under the Fourth Department, responsible for electronic countermeasures, said Desmond Ball, a SIGINT and cyber warfare specialist at the Australian National University's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre.
"Use of the doctrinal concept of 'integrated network and electronic warfare' implies an attempt to link computer network attack and jamming," Stokes said.
Both the Third and Fourth Departments are said to jointly manage a network attack and defense training system.
Though the U.S. continues to blame China for alleged intrusions into U.S. government and defense industry computer networks, the Chinese believe the U.S. is the attacker.
"Chinese analysts believe that the United States is already carrying out extensive CNE activities against Chinese servers," Stokes said. "Therefore, from the Chinese perspective, defending computer networks must be the highest priority in peacetime."
Ball points to massive internal problems with malicious hackers and possible intrusions from foreign governments. Chinese officials have said that China is the biggest victim of network hacking.
The Beijing-based National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Coordination Center released a report in March claiming that more than 4,600 Chinese government websites had their content modified by hackers in 2010, an increase of 68 percent over the previous year, Ball said. An incident in 2000 involving a series of high-technology combat exercises by the PLA was suspended when a computer hacker attacked the military's network.

Vietnam In Talks to Buy 4 Sigma-class Corvettes

TAIPEI - Vietnam is in talks with Dutch-shipbuilder Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding (DSNS) for the purchase of four Sigma-class corvettes, a U.S. defense official said.
Two of the ships will reportedly be built in Vietnam, where the technology transfer will be an "important contribution" to the country's ability to develop its navy and a "national capability for warship repair and maintenance," said Sam Bateman from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
In 2005, Vietnam canceled plans to build Project 2100-type corvettes because the task was beyond its technical capacity.
"Vietnam has been able to assembly BPS 2000 corvettes from knock up kits, but was not able to step up to taking charge of the construction process," said Carlyle Thayer of the Australian Defence Force Academy.
But the SIGMA vessels - the acronym stands for Ship Integrated Geometrical Modularity Approach - "represents a revolutionary new modular technology in which ships from 50 meters to 150 meters can be built," Thayer said.
There has been no confirmation on what type of Sigma-class vessel is under consideration.
Vietnam will be joining Indonesia and Morocco in operating Sigma-class vessels. Indonesia began taking delivery of four Sigma-class vessels in 2007; a year later, Morocco signed a $2.12 billion contract for three vessels that are now being delivered.
"This represents a major stride forward in Vietnamese defense industry capabilities," Thayer said. "The SIGMA class represents a major step forward in technology and tonnage."
Vietnam's navy has been expanding both its surface and submarine fleet with new procurements from Russia, including Kilo-class submarines. The modernization effort is part of a response to China's growing military clout in the South China Sea and territorial disputes over islands claimed by both nations.
"The bottom line is that Vietnam is stepping up the pace of acquiring modern ships capable of defending Vietnamese interests in its Exclusive Economic Zone, such as armed escort for oil exploration vessels," Thayer said.
Beijing has thus far used mainly civilian enforcement vessels in its dispute with Vietnam, but now "China will now have to decide whether to accept the new status quo or commit to deploying PLAN [People's Liberation Army Navy] ships," he said.
In May, three Chinese vessels operated by the State Oceanic Administration harassed a Vietnamese oil exploration seismic survey vessel inside Vietnam's Exclusive Economic Zone.
China and Vietnam have been bumping into one another in the South China Sea since the 1970s. In 1974, China took the Paracel Islands by military force from then-South Vietnam, but Hanoi continues to claim the islands. Then, in 1988, China and Vietnam fought over the Johnson South Reef in the South China Sea. China sank two Vietnamese naval vessels and opened fired on Vietnamese troops occupying the reef, killing 30.

Taiwan Says Early Warning Radar Tests Underway

TAIPEI - Taiwan said Nov. 10 it has started testing a billion-dollar early warning radar system, designed to give an extra six minutes' warning of any Chinese missile attack, which is nearing completion.
Deputy Defense Minister Chao Shih-chang said the installation of the state-of-the-art, long-range radar system, supplied by defense giant Raytheon, has entered its final stage.
"The radar system has undergone initial tests lately," Chao said in response to a question in parliament.
"And the results showed that it has successfully linked to the Patriot anti-missile units and the Heng Shan military command," he said, referring to the emergency military command center in the capital Taipei.
Construction of the ultra-high-frequency radar - delayed for three years, partly due to the collapse of the road to the mountainous construction site - will be finished next year, the state Central News Agency said.
"This is the most advanced system of its kind in the world. ... It is crucial as the Chinese communists are aiming at Taiwan with more than 1,000 ballistic missiles," Chao said, adding it is also capable of detecting cruise missiles.
Critics say the system, which will cost more than 30 billion Taiwan dollars ($1 billion), is too costly given it will only provide six more minutes of warning.
Ties between Taipei and Beijing have improved markedly since Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang Party came to power in 2008, promising to boost trade links and allow more Chinese tourists to visit the island. But Beijing still sees the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.
China has repeatedly threatened to invade Taiwan should the island declare formal independence, prompting Taipei to seek more advanced weapons, largely from the United States.

Venezuelan Navy Chases Off Nuclear Sub: Chavez

CARACAS - The Venezuelan Navy this week chased off a "nuclear-powered submarine" that violated its territorial waters, President Hugo Chavez said, without pointing to any specific country.
In a televised call to state TV on Nov. 9, Chavez said naval forces had detected the submarine on Nov. 8 and pursued it, but "it escaped because it was much faster than ours."
"Obviously, given the speed and the velocity, it was a nuclear-powered submarine, but we are investigating," he added.
Chavez said his government had its "suspicions" concerning the origin of the vessel, but said "we are not accusing anyone" at the moment.
"We cannot say exactly who it was, because we have no evidence, but it was certainly a submarine," Chavez said.
He added that "the imperialists," referring to the United States, "have grown accustomed to strolling around the Caribbean and being all over the place, including by using satellites for espionage."
The fiery leftist Chavez has long accused the United States of meddling in Latin America and has cultivated ties with Washington's arch-foes, including Cuba and Iran.

China, Vietnam Vessels Collide At Sea – Literally

TAIPEI, Taiwan - A Vietnam Maritime Police vessel rammed a China Maritime Surveillance vessel within the past six months. Exactly where the incident ensued is unknown, but given the fact that it was a "police" vessel points to the likelihood it was within Vietnam's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The video appeared on YouTube on Nov. 7 and shows a Vietnamese vessel ramming the Chinese vessel.
Sources in the region indicate that if it occurred after the July 20 agreement for the Declaration of Conduct guidelines for South China Sea claimant countries or after the Oct. 11 China-Vietnam agreement on basic principles to settle sea issues, it then raises questions on which country is in violation.
However, Vietnam is clearly the aggressor in the video, and the video demonstrates that the Vietnamese vessel violates safety of navigation and international regulations preventing collisions at sea.
Tensions from overlapping claims in the South China Sea have been rising in the past year as China increases naval patrols in the region and ignores the EEZ of its neighbors.
Since January, Chinese vessels have harassed Filipino and Vietnamese fishing- and oil-exploration vessels with greater regularity, including allegations China has placed equipment near Reed Bank, claimed by the Philippines.
On May 26, three Chinese state-operated Ocean Marine Surveillance vessels harassed the Binh Minh 02, a vessel owned by the oil company PetroVietnam, cutting a towed survey cable. Then on June 9, a Chinese fishing boat rammed a PetroVietnam vessel conducting an oil survey. Both incidents occurred within Vietnam's EEZ.
China and Vietnam have been bumping into one another in the South China Sea since the 1970s. In 1974 China took the Paracel Islands by military force from then-South Vietnam, but Hanoi continues to claim the islands. In 1988 China and Vietnam fought over the Johnson South Reef in the South China Sea. China sank two Vietnamese naval vessels and opened fired on Vietnamese troops occupying the reef, killing over 30.
· Feb. 25: A Chinese frigate fired warning shots at three Filipino fishing boats near the Jackson atoll near Palawan Island, Philippines.
· March 2: Two Chinese maritime patrol vessels threatened to ram a Philippine government energy-research vessel, the M/V Venture, conducting a seismic survey in the Reed Bank area near Palawan Island.
· May: China announces a unilateral fishing ban for the northern part of the South China Sea from May to August.
· May: Vietnam alleges Chinese naval vessels fired on four Vietnamese fishing vessels near East London Reef and Cross Island.
· May: Chinese vessels laid steel posts and a buoy in the Amy Douglas Bank, southwest of Reed Bank within the Philippines Exclusive Economic Zones.
· May 11: Two unidentified fighter jets, said to be Chinese, were sighted near Palawan Island, claimed by the Philippines.
· May 23: Philippine President Benigno Aquino III warned Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie during his visit to Manila of a possible arms race if tensions worsened over South China Sea disputes.