Friday, December 2, 2011

India Launches Major Land Exercise

NEW DELHI - One of the Indian Army's largest land exercises is underway near the border with Pakistan in the northern state of Rajasthan.
Code-named Sudarshan Shakti, the exercise includes more than 50,000 soldiers, 500 armored vehicles, including battle tanks, as well as Air Force fighter jets and combat helicopters.
Indian President Pratibha Patil on Dec. 5 is scheduled to review the exercises, mounted by the Southern Army headquarters in Pune.
In addition to T-72 tanks, the Russian-made T-90 and the indigenous Arjun tank are also participating.
The Air Force is fielding its Russian-made Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jet, MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighter jets, airborne warning and control systems and UAVs purchased from Israel, and a variety of helicopters.
The exercise is being led by troops from Bhopal-based Army 21 Corps, also known as Sudarshan Chakra Corps.
The exercise is using network-centric warfare tactics that have been adopted by the Army over the last two to three years, said a senior Army official. The exercise will test the coordination between the India's air and land forces.

Prosecutor Seeks Arrest of Sudan Defense Minister

THE HAGUE - The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court asked judges Dec. 2 for an arrest warrant for Sudan's defense minister for crimes committed in Darfur, his office said.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked the court "to issue an arrest warrant against the current Sudanese Defence Minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur from August 2003 to March 2004," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.
Khartoum's interior minister at the time, Hussein is wanted for coordinating attacks against civilians in at least six villages in western Darfur.
The villages were surrounded, bombed by the Sudanese air force, and then attacked by a combined force of Sudanese troops and Janjaweed militia.
"The evidence shows that this was a state policy supervised by Mr. Hussein to ensure the coordination of attacks against civilians," the statement said.
If granted, the warrant would bring to six the number of suspects on the run or being prosecuted before the court in The Hague for crimes committed in Darfur.
It's highest profile suspect is Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, wanted on three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of war crimes for his role in the conflict.
The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have died since conflict broke out in Sudan's western Darfur region in 2003, when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated regime for a greater share of resources and power.
Moreno-Ocampo accuses Bashir of having personally instructed his forces to annihilate three ethnic groups - the Fur, the Masalit and the Zaghawa.
The prosecutor says 4 million people have been uprooted from their homes, of whom at least 100,000 died of causes related to their displacement, such as starvation.

Nato plans to quell Pakistan-based insurgents: Guardian

EU May Use Brussels HQ for Horn of Africa Ops

BRUSSELS - EU foreign affairs ministers are considering using a civil-military headquarters in Brussels for small-scale operations off the Horn of Africa.
In conclusions to their meeting here Dec. 1, they say they have agreed "to accelerate planning for the activation of an EU Civil-Military Operations Centre for Horn of Africa operations, at the latest by the next Foreign Affairs Council."
The next EU affairs meeting is scheduled for late January. Currently EU operations have their HQs in individual member states.
According to an EU ministers statement, "When the nature of the operation does not require a national HQ, the Council stands ready to activate on an ad-hoc basis the Operations Centre in accordance with its terms of reference for a specific Common and Security Defence Policy [CSDP] Operation."
The decision appears to signal a U-turn in the U.K.'s stance on the issue. Back in the summer, Catherine Ashton, the EU's high representative for foreign and security policy, proposed an EU HQ for planning and carrying out EU military and civil missions abroad. In July, U.K. Foreign Affairs Minister William Hague said, "the U.K. will block any such move now and in the future."
The EU is currently running two operations in the Horn of Africa - the Atalanta counterpiracy mission and the EU training mission in Somalia. The Brussels' operations center may be used for any new, small-scale contributions to the Horn of Africa, such as building regional maritime capacity, said an official from the EU's Military Staff.
Where the EU has an existing command structure, such as Atalanta at the Northwood HQ in the U.K., an official from the EU Military Staff said "there is no intention of changing a working system on conduct.
"For Atalanta in particular, they are extremely well-placed in Northwood - allowing synergies with the NATO counterpiracy operation - and the scale of the command is far outside of the capacity of the Brussels' operations center," he added.
"We need to help regions [off the Horn of Africa] conduct counterpiracy themselves," Lt. Gen. Ton Van Osch, director-general of the European Union Military Staff, told Defense News in an interview. "A new line of EU action is to help countries develop their own coast guards and navies. Here, the EU military could do the training as part of a civilian mission if the political and security committee decided on a mission."
In the interview, Van Osch gives his views on various issues, including pooling and sharing proposals relating to air-to-air refueling and smart munitions.
On pooling and sharing, ministers recalled "the need to develop cooperation on military capabilities on a longer term and more systematic basis," and stressed the need "to further examine the impact of reduced defense spending on capabilities, including its possible impact on key industrial and technological capacities to be maintained and developed in Europe."
The ministers also encouraged further coordination between the European Defence Agency and the European Commission, "in particular in the field of Research and Technology, in particular regarding the new European Framework Programme for Research and Technology (Horizon 2020)."
They also recalled the commitment of the EU defense chiefs to establish or widen collaborative pooling and sharing projects by mid-2012, urged member states to take on the role of lead nation for concrete projects, and "will assess the progress made in April 2012."
They also stressed "the need to further analyze and address the constraints related to the availability, usability and deployability of existing military capabilities in CSDP operations and missions."
In addition, they bemoaned the fact that, in the first semester of 2012, "only one [EU] battlegroup will be on stand-by" and called for "efforts in order to remedy such shortfalls in the future."

GE, Rolls Royce Stop Funding F-35 Alt Engine

General Electric (GE) and partner Rolls Royce have stopped financing their F136 afterburning turbofan designed for the F-35 Lightning II, the two companies announced Dec. 2.
The pair had been privately funding the developmental effort - dubbed the alt-engine - after the U.S. Defense Department formally terminated the project in April.
"The decision, reached jointly by GE and Rolls-Royce leadership, recognizes the continued uncertainty in the development and production schedules for the JSF Program," the companies said in a joint statement. "Following termination, the GE Rolls-Royce [Fighter Engine Team] had offered to self-fund F136 development through fiscal year 2012, but will now end its development work."
The two companies' decision marks the end of a 15-year effort to develop an alternative to the Pratt and Whitney F135 engine that would eventually be fitted into later F-35 production lots. The process was supposed replicate the so-called "Great Engine War" between the GE F110 and Pratt and Whitney F100, which power different blocks of Lockheed Martin's F-16 Fighting Falcon. Lockheed also builds the F-35.
The Defense Department, however, had been trying to cancel the F-136 program for the last five years because it said it can't afford to fund an extra engine. Until last year, DoD had been thwarted by Congress in those efforts.
Before DoD issued a "stop work" order March 24 for the 43,000-pound-thrust-class engine, GE claims that F136 development was about 80 percent complete. Six developmental engines had accumulated more than 1,100 hours since early 2010, the company said.
The two companies often touted advantages the F136 potentially offered over its Pratt and Whitney rival.
"The engine demonstrated significant thrust margin for much lower operating temperatures than the competing JSF engine," the GE and Rolls Royce statement reads. "This creates up to a 25 percent maintenance cost advantage for the F136 because of the engine's higher airflow design."

Seychelles Invites China to Set Up Anti-Piracy Base

VICTORIA - The Seychelles invited Beijing to set up a military base on the archipelago to beef up the fight against piracy there, Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Paul Adam said.
The declaration came Dec. 2 as Gen. Liang Guanglie is making the first-ever visit by a Chinese defense minister to the Indian Ocean island state.
"We have invited the Chinese government to set up a military presence on Mahe to fight the pirate attacks that the Seychelles face on a regular basis," Adam said.
"For the time being China is studying this possibility because she has economic interests in the region and Beijing is also involved in the fight against piracy," he explained.
Liang, who arrived in Victoria on Dec. 1 with a 40-strongdelegation, had been invited in October by Seychelles President James Michel, when he was on a visit to China.
"Together, we need to increase our surveillance capacity in the Indian Ocean ... as Seychelles has a strategic position between Asia and Africa," Michel said in statement, adding that China had given its army two light aircraft.
The two countries signed a military cooperation agreement in 2004 that has enabled some 50 Seychelles soldiers to be trained in China. They renewed their agreement Dec. 2, with China to provide further training and equipment.
If the Chinese military base goes ahead, "it won't be the first foreign military presence here because the Americans already have a small drone base here that they use in the fight against piracy," Adam said.
After warships started deploying in the Gulf of Aden in 2008 to thwart attacks on vessels, Somali pirates enlarged their field of operations into the Indian Ocean, including towards the Seychelles.
With 115 islands scattered over an area of 540,000 square miles, a population of 85,000 and an army of just 500, the archipelago has been asking for foreign assistance.
Liang flew in from the Ugandan capital Kampala, where, according to Ugandan government sources, he promised $2.3 million in military aid, including support to troops in the African Union force in Somalia.
The Seychelles president also welcomed "Russian support in the fight against piracy" after he met Dec. 2 with Sergey Kryukov, Russia's top foreign ministry official for Africa.
Piracy has flourished off war-torn Somalia, outwitting international efforts - including constant patrols by warships and tough sentencing of the pirates they capture.

Switzerland Investigates Leaked Fighter Jet Report

GENEVA - Swiss prosecutors have launched a probe into a violation of official secrecy after reports related to the purchase of new fighter jets were leaked to the media, a judicial source said Dec. 2.
The federal prosecution office confirmed the launch of the investigation to AFP following reports in local dailies Tages-Anzeiger and Bund.
The probe concerns two classified reports by the Swiss air force that were critical of the Swedish Gripen aircraft, manufactured by Saab, and which were sent to another newspaper, the Basler Zeitung.
The reports were published just days before the Swiss government's decision on which type of combat aircraft to buy.
Despite the damaging reports, the Swiss government opted for the Gripen in the deal worth more than 3 billion Swiss francs (2.5 billion euros), over rival models the French Rafale and the Eurofighter.

Concern Over New Landmine Use as Summit Ends

PHNOM PENH - Over 100 nations hailed global progress on landmine eradication on Dec. 2 but voiced "deep concern" over the fresh use of the weapon in four countries as a large anti-mine summit ended in Cambodia.
Signatories to the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention expressed "deep concern about new use of anti-personnel mines" in a text adopted after a week-long gathering in the capital Phnom Penh.
It comes after campaigners said last month that Israel, Libya and Syria had joined longstanding offender Myanmar in recently laying the deadly explosives.
Their actions pushed the worldwide use of landmines to a seven-year high in 2011, according to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL).
But member states at the meeting also noted "significant progress" made by several nations to live up to the Ottawa Treaty, which bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines.
Burundi and Nigeria both announced they were mine-free after completing their land clearance obligations, while Turkey said it had fully destroyed its stockpile of some 3 million landmines, after missing an earlier deadline.
Finland was also singled out for praise after it said it was on the verge of becoming the 159th state to join the convention. Somalia is expected to follow in the coming months.
Meanwhile, Myanmar, which has not joined the treaty, encouraged campaigners by taking part in the summit as an observer, suggesting the country was open for dialogue on its stubborn use of the weapon.
Experts warned that many challenges remained as landmines and explosive remnants of war caused 4,191 new casualties in 2010 globally, including more than 1,000 deaths, according to the ICBL.
Delegates vowed to keep up demining efforts despite "difficult financial times".
"In the midst of global economic turmoil there is a concern that states will forget they have an obligation to support each other," Kerry Brinkert, director of the secretariat of the convention, told AFP.
Host country Cambodia, one of the world's most mine-affected places, was promised more funding by Austria and New Zealand.
Cambodia received $24.3 million in aid for its demining activities last year, down from $33.3 million in 2009.

U.S. Hands Key Base Over to Iraqi Control

BAGHDAD - The United States on Dec. 2 handed over to Iraqi control the sprawling Victory Base Complex near Baghdad, the main base from which the U.S. war in Iraq was run, a U.S. military spokesman said.
U.S. SOLDIERS LEAVE Al-Fao palace at Camp Victory, one of the last U.S. bases Iraq, after a special ceremony in Baghdad on Dec. 1. The United States handed over control of the sprawling Victory Base Complex near Baghdad, the main base from which the (Khalid Mohammed / AFP)
"The Victory Base Complex (VBC) was officially signed over to the receivership of the Iraqi government this morning. The base is no longer under U.S. control and is now under the full authority of the government of Iraq," said Col. Barry Johnson, a spokesman for United States Forces - Iraq (U.S.F-I).
"There was no ceremony, just a signing of paperwork akin to the closing of a home sale," Johnson said in a statement emailed to AFP.
Lt. Col. Angela Funaro, a spokeswoman for USF-I, said that U.S. troops had pulled out from VBC in advance and that just five U.S. bases in Iraq now remain to be handed over.
"All U.S. troops departed as of last night," she said. "The air base which adjoined VBC has transferred to the control of the State Department, but has some troops there."
At its peak, VBC housed more than 100,000 people - some 42,000 military personnel and more than 65,000 contractors, according to the U.S. army's top historian in Iraq.
The complex includes an area known as Camp Victory, a sprawling collection of canals, man-made lakes, palm trees and palaces from which the U.S. war in Iraq was run.
The top U.S. generals in Iraq lived in the 25,000-square-foot, 20-room waterfront Al-Ez palace in the area, which also includes the 450,000-square-foot, 62-room Al-Faw palace, which served as the headquarters for various Iraq-wide military commands.
Al-Faw was also used to host speeches and ceremonies, including one on Dec. 1 that was attended by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani, and U.S. ambassador James Jeffrey.
"This palace, a grotesque monument to a dictators greed, is totally filled with American and Iraqi warriors, who are bound together by a shared sacrifice in the service of both their countries - an appropriate use of this palace today," Biden said in his remarks at the palace.
The complex also contains two apparently decrepit, bombed-out villas on a small island, which is accessible only by a drawbridge.
While their exteriors would seem to mark them as unimportant, one houses a secret prison that once held now-executed dictator Saddam Hussein, as well as his also-executed cousin Ali Hassan Majid, known as "Chemical Ali" for his involvement in poison gas attacks.
President Barack Obama announced on Oct. 21 that U.S. troops would leave Iraq by the end of 2011, bringing to a close an almost nine-year war that has left thousands of U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis dead, and cost hundreds of billions of dollars.
As of late Thursday, there were less than 12,000 U.S. military personnel, including both soldiers and Department of Defense civilians, remaining in Iraq.
That is down from a peak of about 170,000 soldiers in 2007 at the height of a U.S. troop surge ordered to rein in rampant sectarian bloodshed.
On Dec. 2, eight people were killed and 12 wounded in bomb and gun attacks in Iraq, according to security officials.
Violence has declined in Iraq since its peak in 2006 and 2007, but attacks remain common. A total of 187 people were killed in November, according to official figures.

Pakistan Green-Lit Deadly NATO Strike: Report

WASHINGTON - Pakistani officials gave the green light for the NATO strikes that killed 24 of their troops last month, unaware that the forces were in the area, the Wall Street Journal reported Dec. 2.
The Journal cited U.S. officials briefed on the preliminary investigation into the incident - the worst exchange of friendly fire between the two reluctant allies in the decade-long war in Afghanistan.
The officials told the Journal that an Afghan-led force including U.S. commandos was pursuing Taliban fighters near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border when they came under fire from what they thought was a militant encampment.
When they called in air strikes on the camp, team members contacted a joint command-and-control center manned by U.S., Afghan and Pakistani troops, and Pakistani representatives said there were no friendly forces in the area, clearing the way for the air assault, the officials told the Journal.
The officials nevertheless acknowledged errors on both sides.
"There were lots of mistakes made," it quoted an official as saying. "There was not good situational awareness to who was where and who was doing what."
They also cautioned that the latest account is based on initial interviews with the commandos involved and could change as more details come to light.
The Pentagon has insisted there was no deliberate attack on Pakistani forces, but U.S. officials have stopped short of apologizing over the incident.
Pakistan has said the air assault on its soldiers was unprovoked and spread over a period of two hours, despite Pakistani protests to the Americans.
Relations have long been tense between the two allies, with Washington accusing elements of Pakistan's military and intelligence services of collaboration with the Taliban and other Islamist militants.
Pakistan has in turn alleged that U.S. drone strikes aimed at militants have killed scores of civilians, stoking extremism and bolstering its own domestic Islamist insurgency.
The friendly fire incident over the weekend set off the worst crisis in relations between the two countries since U.S. commandos swooped in to kill al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison town in May.