Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pakistan upgrades air defence system near Afghan border

Pakistan has upgraded its air defence system on the Afghan border to make it capable of shooting down aircraft, after Nato strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, a security official told AFP on Friday.

“Now we have a fully equipped air defence system on the Afghan border. It has the capability to trace and detect any aircraft,” the official in the northwestern city of Peshawar told AFP by telephone.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said the step had been taken to avert air incursions from Afghanistan and to respond to any future air strikes.
“The system has also been upgraded to immediately respond after detecting any aircraft or helicopter and to shoot it down,” he added.
Pakistan shut its border to Nato supply convoys on November 26, the same day as the deadliest single cross-border attack of the 10-year war in Afghanistan.
The government also ordered the United States to leave the Shamsi air base in the southwest, widely reported as a hub in the covert CIA drone war against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan’s border area with Afghanistan.

Lockheed: Pentagon Order for F-35s Undefinitized

Lockheed Martin has signed an undefinitized contract that establishes a price ceiling for the fifth low rate production lot for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, company officials clarified late on Dec. 10.
THE PENTAGON AWARDED Lockheed Martin an undefinitized contract to produce 30 more F-35 Joint Strike Fighters for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. (Lockheed Martin)
The Pentagon announced earlier on Dec. 10 that it had awarded Lockheed Martin a $4 billion contract to build 30 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.
"Lockheed Martin has signed an undefinitized contract that establishes the funding for Lot 5 up to the level announced by the DoD today," said Lockheed Martin spokeswoman Laurie Quincy in an email. "The final Lot 5 contract amount will not be known until we have a definitized contract sometime in 2012."
She said in a statement that the award is welcome news for the company and its F-35 suppliers.
"This … will help ensure we continue to meet production schedules outlined by the program," Quincy wrote. "This is an important first step in paving the way for full LRIP 5 production contract negotiations with our government customer."
The fixed-price-incentive contract calls for 21 F-35A conventional take off and landing (CTOL) for the Air Force, three F-35B short-take off and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft for the Marines, and six F-35C carrier variants for the Navy.
Broken down by service, two-thirds of the value of the contract - $2.65 billion - is for the Air Force; $937 million, or 23 percent, for the Navy; and $426 million, or nearly 11 percent, for the Marine Corps.
The contract also provides for "associated ancillary mission equipment and flight test instrumentation" for the planes, and flight test instrumentation for the United Kingdom.
The contract was awarded through the Naval Air Systems Command.

Iran's Boasts Over Drone Reveal Inconsistencies

TEHRAN - Iran's boast it downed a highly sophisticated U.S. drone has handed the Islamic republic a propaganda coup while revealing numerous inconsistencies in both Iranian and U.S. accounts of the incident.
A STILL IMAGE taken from the Iranian state-run Press TV shows what Iranian officials claim is the U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel drone that crashed in Iran on Dec. 4. (Ho / Press TV via AFP)
Leading Iranian newspapers on Dec. 10 gave front-page prominence to the story, displaying photos of what was said to be the remarkably intact RQ-170 Sentinel drone in Iran's possession.
One daily, Vatanemrooz, bragged that "Satan's eye has been gouged out," repeating the characterisation of the United States as the "Great Satan."
The ebullient media coverage, which began on Dec. 8 with state television images of the alleged drone, eclipsed other reports, including on the threat of more sanctions on Iran and the fallout from last month's storming of the British embassy in Tehran.
The deputy chief of Iran's armed forces, Brig. Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as warning that "the U.S. government will have to pay a high price for its unacceptable actions."
He added: "Our defensive actions will not be limited to our geographical borders."
Iran has sent a letter of protest to the United Nations, saying the drone's flight was part of months of "covert actions by the American government" against it.
It also summoned the Swiss ambassador, who handles U.S. interests in Iran in the absence of U.S.-Iran diplomatic relations, and the Afghan ambassador to lodge formal protests and demand explanations.
A letter given to the Afghan ambassador said that Iran's airspace had been violated from his country and stressed "Afghanistan's responsibilities as a good neighbor," IRNA reported.
Information given by Iranian and U.S. officials in their respective countries' media since Tehran announced Dec. 4 it had captured the drone has raised several inconsistencies over the affair.
The Iranian military's joint chiefs of staff initially said its air defenses managed to "shoot down" the drone as it "briefly violated" Iran's eastern airspace.
Yet Mohammad Khazaee, Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, said in his letter of protest that the drone flew "deep inside" Iran, close to the eastern desert town of Tabas, according to Iranian media.
"After reaching the northern part of Tabas area - 150 miles deep inside Iranian territory - the aircraft was confronted by the timely response of the Islamic republic's armed forces," his letter read.
And Iranian military officials were now saying the drone - displaying little damage in state media images - had not been shot down as first asserted, but rather had its controls hacked by a Revolutionary Guards cyber warfare unit.
U.S. officials have also added to some of the mystery surrounding the incident.
Although none has spoken on the record, several told U.S. media anonymously the drone had been on a CIA mission over Iran - and not on a U.S. military flight over western Afghanistan, as the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force initially tried to suggest.
The officials were skeptical of Iran's claims that it had broken through encryption technology to seize control of the aircraft, hypothesizing that the drone suffered a malfunction.
But none was able to explain how the drone - programmed to either automatically return to its base in Afghanistan or possibly even self-destruct - was recovered by the Iranians.